Monday, June 19, 2017

Goat Score Card Part One

I have been having this same conversation for the last month, “Could you plea…, perty please slow down our lives an itsy bit? No, but I’ve got cold sores from stress and I’ve had to double my cortisol medication to stay functional -- well, semi-functional. Still no? Could you at least tell me what to do? I’m in a hard place. Our income is not in the same category as our expenditures and we have some really big expenses coming up. Our present roof is coming off, our siding is bowing and bubbling, and we have three windows that leak like a sieve when it rains and many more that they suspect were put in wrong. We are in deep do, do Lord. Oh what oh what would you have us do?”

The answers, well, they are still coming, but I feel impressed to make some changes. What I was told was to keep careful records and solutions would be revealed. I checked out the Internet to see if others had charts that I could use but gained only a little help there but other information on feed ratios was helpful as a starting point. I found some wonderful things like tips on feeding ducks in the winter but no record charts. I learned a little about how much to feed the average size chicken, not our over sized girls but it gave me a starting place.
  One gal had a pretty good chart for chickens in which she keeps track of the egg numbers produced and how many hens are laying and molting, with a spot for feed costs. But an even more business -like approach would determine how much feed it takes to produce what size of eggs. Is it more economical to produce large eggs versus extra-large or jumbo?  Can I really get a dual purpose chicken that produces eggs and meat economically? I’ve seen the industrial charts for such things but I’m raising free range chickens in the far north not in enclosed pens and so only part of the information applies. But it is food for thought that can be tweaked outside the box of industrial thinking.

What prayer, meditation, and research have made clear is that I need a more business-like approach to projects. What I’m after is fewer hours expended with an increase in the family’s health and of course less money spent. With records, goals, and a vision for what we want to accomplish in hand, I’ve begun to shape our course. I’m building detailed record sheets applicable to us. What I’ve learned already has been eye opening. We’re culling to the bare bones. There is just too much waste of time, money, and product. We are starting with the goats. We need to learn to use our milk far more cost effectively for too much is going on the garden for fertilizer. It is not the best fertilizer we could be using. 

Now is a good time to start as we have found a heifer bull to borrow for Ellie, the Brown Swiss / Normade  and so a large amount of milk will likely be coming in just a year from now. I need to get some basic cheeses down whose preparation is second nature. My butter making is just not what it should be and many other areas could be perfected.That means two does and one buck so I have less milk to master and less time spent caring for goats leaving more time to learn to handle the milk. 

Those that did not make the cut are Commitment who went back to her previous owner as her leg was not recovering.  Since we already sold 3 whethers and a yearling doe this spring, there are four doelings needing new homes; our Nubian buck, Jubul; and Belle, a 4 year old doe which means ten goats gone.
I'm going to share with you one record sheet that was instrumental in deciding our cull list. This one is on Hannah, our yearling Nubian.

After the basic information on the particular goat, there are scored categories. Number one receives top scores but if they excel they can gain pluses or on the flip side minuses. Number 2 above average. Number three is average. Sounds like grade school doesn't it, well where did you think I got the idea.

Hannah – born 2016

( She is a twin – two does) 

Score for 2017 - Age 1

(2) Personality – Good and calm but at times a bit noisy.

(1+) First kidding  -2017 – twin doelings , Abbey is black with brown markings and the second doeling born is Amy, who is brown with an attractive splash of white.

(3) Birthing Process – Abbey was born without a problem but Amy had to be pulled. She was tangled up inside.

 (2) Size of Kids - Quite small but not too much so since they were born to a yearling.

(1) Mothering Ability- Attentive with her own kids and good with other goat’s kids. Hannah is raising her own young.

(1) Milking Behavior – Hannah can be milked in the middle of the pen standing free. Good on the milk stand.

(1) Udder –Good teats and nice escutcheon, and linear attachment. Good fore udder.

(3-) Body – Shoulders a bit rough and posty back legs.

(1) Milk Production – Feeds her doelings to fat and happy and gives a pound or more extra a day.

(1) Good sized orifices and milks out quickly. High production for a yearly.   

There you have Hannah’s report card.  6 number 1’s, 2 number 2’s, and 2 number 3, to make a total of 16. The lowest total score of is the best doe. Of course even with the score total you have to keep in mind the age of the doe and you future goals. Hannah is only 1 and kidding is more difficult the first year traditionally so her score in that category carries only so much weight. Since she had twin doelings her first year that makes us look toward a steady pattern of does. For the 34 years we've had goats, our does have fairly consistently had a pattern of what sex they give birth to. For instance Belle had twin doelings for two years and then a single buck but this year two does and one buck. See, three of the four years she had two girls. Doelings score higher than bucks for us. Have you found the same pattern?

More goat record keeping charts will be coming. Sorry so slow with the blogs but things are speeding up not slowing down.Why oh why does the Lord keep taking us to the breaking point.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Hen's Eggs Change Color

In pondering about how to set up a chicken record chart that will tell me whether or not I'm reaching my goals on how to save time, and money; I've learned an interesting fact. A hen's eggs become lighter in color as her laying cycle advances. I have an Australorp hen and a Rhode Island hen who are both two and just started up laying again. Good thing because I was going to put them in the stew pot if they didn't get a move on. Indeed their eggs are much darker than the majority. I have a couple, I'm guessing, that are at the end of their laying cycle because the eggs are very pale. This works great because I have hens that though they are not all the same breed, they do lay about the same shade of brown egg when they are at the same time of their cycle. If your eggs are all white then it is pretty hard to tell a white egg from a whiter egg. 

But if you know what hen lays what egg which is easiest if you only have a few hens, then you can keep track. Of course that only works if you camp out and collect eggs as they are laid and the egg shape is distinct. I don't have all day to do that and I'm sure you don't either. But there is that chance that comes once in a while where you peg a hen for the unique egg shape she lays. 

That is why I want to build nesting boxes again. The last ones were for normal hens and only a few would bother to squeeze in. Hens use the same nests each time so that would narrow down the number of hens I'm watching in a particular nest. Also an interesting fact. Hens lay in a twenty-five to twenty-six hour cycle. Which means they lay later and later in the day until the circle comes back to morning again. That I have definitely noticed. Easiest to do when you hens do not all look alike.
Look at the difference in the color of eggs. No, I do not have a hen that lays white eggs. I'd guess she is just about ready to molt. The one on the left won't be too far behind and the one on the right is just getting started, either it is the Rhode Island Red or the Australorp. 

I've also noticed that the same hens are on the nest almost every day. My two Australorps crossed with the mystery breed rooster are two of my prolific layers. There is one more of this cross but I need to check her out. I don't think she has every laid an egg. She is always just too pretty. 10 and a half pound Pearl looked this pretty  and I had no idea until she died on me that she probably never laid an egg in her life. She is the one who started my research on being able to tell when in her egg laying cycle a hen is. It is those pale, pale legs  and pretty feathers that has me suspicious about this one hen. I'm in the culling mood since the present work load is far too steep. Watch out girl you might just be on the chopping block next week. This girl was always going to become chicken noodle soup because she is quite light weight compared to her other relatives but I never got it done.Then this spring it was because I did not want to pass on her genetics. Does that happen to you. The not getting things done part? Now I'm desperate to lower my work load and financial drain on the budget. Great motivation.

 So that is what I plan on learning to do - keep track of who is laying, molting, and setting. The last one of course is easy. She sits there and hardly ever gets up. The tricky part is to figure out who is laying and not laying. I researched to have a  more scientific idea on who that is. We'll talk more about what I've learned later. I want to try out the information on the girls first. That means nighty night so I can get up and check the girls while they are still on their perches.  Easier to catch that way. I've got twelve to catch so if it takes me a couple or more days its okay. Just as long as the task gets done.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Fish Hatchery

To help motivate the girls in doing their chores during the week. I have promised to do something special on Friday afternoons. This week it was a trip to the fish hatchery just five miles away. We love feeding the fish.

Eggs at the hatchery.

Breeding fish in the pond.

They jump right up out of the water to eat the pellets.
Some of them are huge. One of the employers said they had had a hundren visitors by 4 oclock that day alone. The weekends they get far more.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Empty Udders

Udders are fifty percent of the linear appraisal score card or conformation points on a dairy goat. Makes sense since milk equals udder and it is a DAIRY goat. So since I have not blogged in a while and I am going crazy with end of the year school events and babies, babies, babies as our eight year old says. I thought I'd give you a brief lesson while I wait for the five year old granddaughter in the bathtub. Then it is clean stalls, feed the Nubian twins born last night once again, check on the baby bunnies and chicks being born, cook, and clean house.  Oh yeah, and plant the baby pine trees that will hopefully grow and become a wonderful wind break to protect the north side of the house.  

 This is Comedy and she won her Permanent Championship in the ADGA association. Her strongest area is her udder. It is a gem! Wish I could show you it full BUT it does not presently get full -adjustment problems. She was set in her ways and then she arrived here where everything changed. We had to modify the milking stanchion to her liking, work out disagreements in social status among the herd, and figure out a feed she will eat. So far it is this one this night and that one another night or morning depending on the day. Her score card for us today must have been good since on the way to pasture she dodged and dived; bucked and leaped and maa...d with joy. With a great improvement in her emotions we hope the milk production follows. This girl when first freshened this year gave 2 gallons of milk and before she arrived she was milking 11 pounds morning and night. Now we are lucky to get 3/4's of a gallon a milking.  It happens. The production will return next year if not in full this one.

So empty udder is the lesson today. The Nubian on the left is about the same age as Comedy. Note how much fuller Belle's udder is than Comedy on the right. 

Belle has dense tissue in her udder. In a woman this puts her at a six times greater risk of developing breast cancer. Keep in mind there are all over dense breast and denser in a few areas type. Density makes it harder to detect cancer since it blends in. Belle has the dense in the top region but it is a good sized area. You don't hear of many goats getting udder cancer but you do hear a lot about mastitis which is harder to detect when there is a lot of tissue involved. Dense tissue takes up room and that is area milk will not be in. Hence same size udders can store quite a variance in the amount of milk. The same holds true for women. Breasts not udders in their case.

Belle had mastitis at one time before I bought her. I assumed the infection was treated immediately since I had pointed it out at an early stage. Obviously it was not since when I brought her home and milked her, I discovered a substantial rock hard knot. The entire one side of the udder can be lost to mastitis. The greater the amount of scar tissue, the less milk produced and stored. So the best udder is one which when empty is a wrinkled empty skin sack. 

When you have your goats linear appraised, the judge scores them full and empty. When you milk tonight. Check your girls. Also feel to see if the udder is soft and supple, another thing scored. You don't want thick, tough skin. It doesn't stretch well.

So tell me. What have you got? No, I'm not referring to ;your personal breast tissue. But at your next mammogram be sure and ask. There are four different tests that can be run and which is best for you is in part determined by your breast density tissue. Keep your doctor on his toes. It is your life on the line. 
So keep an eye on yourself but what I'm asking is that you to take a good look at your dairy cow or goat when you milk tonight. What kind of udder do they have?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

New Arrivals

 What a crazy time of year. So much to do and the kid's school is wrapping up with concerts and activities galore. I'm crazy busy fencing, building new structures, and trying to slip in some gardening as well. Changes are huge on our list this spring and summer. Problems have come to a head and either we make change or quit. So the first huge change is the goats.
Meet Connie. That is what I'm going to call her. Her professional name is Comedy but I like Connie. She is built like a tank. Broad as a barn and stout. She has her ADGA Permanent Champion award. You can see why. Look at that top line. Almost table top but what won her the most points is her udder. Wish I could show it full BUT Connie is emotional right now. Her production dropped from 11 pounds to 4.5 from the trip from Carpenter, Wyoming to here. From birth to 5 years old she lived with her adopted human mom and now everything has change. Her previous mom is upset and she is upset. It was a rather emotional parting. BUT if you have a show herd, you have to let go and Connie is at the end of her show career.

Everything has changed for this poor girl. The other Nubian does have been amicable. There was for the first few hours the, 'Who is the alpha doe in the group?' but nothing rough. I won't have a biddy in my herd. They now remain separated. No antagonism but just no interest. I really feel for Connie, I can't help it she is so... sweet and I try to love on her as much as possible letting her wonder around with me as I work outside. I am confident she will enjoy her new home as my animals never wonder off. They would if it wasn't a great place to live, so it is not unusual to see the whole motly crew of them let out to wonder the place while I'm outside doing my thing.  

The little buck, Bravo, and the doeling, Commitment, love the place already. They have jumped in weight since arriving and we are quite attached to Bravo. He is a hoot. He does not take any guff off of anyone including the full sized does and yet is the sweetest thing - totally confident in himself. A great trait for a buck. That and all the goats like him. Every time we fill the large wheelbarrow full of hay, he leaps on top for a ride. I realize that will have to soon stop but it is so funny and you can't get mad at him as he holds still and just moves his head gazing at the scenery.

As for Commitment on the right. She is a bit iffy. At her previous owners, an inexperienced friend helped give shots and hit a nerve causing her left back leg to lose most of its use. She can't use it unless you Popsicle stick brace it. The yellow on her leg is to treat a sore. She came pretty rough and not sure if she will stay. I think I'll take her to the vet when I have Ellie de-horned once again. They are growing back. I want to see if he thinks Commitment will come out of it. Great blood lines in this little doe and she is a another sweetheart. When Karen called and asked me if I would be interested in Comedy, I asked her to pick the foundation of my new Saanen herd. This is the line up. 

I knew I had missed my Saanens but I'm amazed how content I feel since they arrived. I am just meant to be a Saanen owner. It is funny because my husband said the same thing. He is much more content with them and I catch him out loving on Connie. We have great Nubians but they are just more demanding by nature. Yet they are less demanding than the norm. When they become vocal it is a 'deal with me right now' deep throated beller. The Saanens have a quieter stacato ma, minus the insistence. 

Why did I ever have Nubians? They are suppose to give more cream and that is why I changed. What I got was a lot less milk and lots of drama queens. Keep in mind it does not take much to be a drama queen in my book. I thought I could handle it and hung in there for 10 years. Alas, what I found was that Nubians don't give nearly the amount of milk and I can't help but wonder if the increased amount of milk with Saanens equates to more cream over all. If I can get up to double the amount of milk with one Saanen and have one set of hooves to trim versus two; one goat instead of to feed is less time and money; one goat versus two to pay for to house and bed down versus the expense of two then why am I raising Nubians? I crave calm, not excitement as my life has too much drama in it already. What took me so long to realize this?

My first clue should have been that I've never grew really attached to any of our Nubians. Keep in mind I have some really sweet Nubians. Others comment all the time about how wonderful the goats are that they buy from us. A vet said she had never met such nice personalities for goats. She was not fond of goats until ours. It is just a clash of temperament between the Nubians and us.
We have found our favorite animals are all cold weather breeds.  We love our Swedish ducks. 

 We love our Brown Swiss/Normandy heifer.
We love Saanens and I'm getting more thrill over these three new goats than I have had in ten years of raising Nubians excluding a doe named Jujubee which we did not have very long. All our cold weather breeds are all laid back, quiet, and don't complain about the weather or much of anything. 

We live in a quiet, low population area, and so this comes as no great surprise. I would guess that is in part why there are so many different breed of animals. Some match different locations and owners far more than others. You could say some breeds are better at one thing or another but in the end it most often boils down to personality matches between owner and animal in choices. Have you noticed the same thing? Do certain breeds trip your trigger far more than others?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

More Buttons

 Remember grandma's button box or rather metal tin. That is what my grandmas had, didn't yours? My favorite one was my dad's moms, a round blue decorated (if my memory serves me right) metal tin stuffed half full of treasures. My Grandmothers lived through the Great Depression and 'waste not want not' was heavily employed so clothing, buttons, and zippers were given a second life. 

 I'm feeling that The Great Depression is just around the corner for us as I just completed our yearly budget. Yes, it is four months into the new year but we had to purchase a used Yedi and so I checked and sure enough stretched tight became dong! But wait you say, 'What is a Yedi?' You don't have a Yedi? Well maybe you do but just call it a Yukon. There are lots of them but only one Yedi which is much warmer and more personable don't you think?

That may not make sense but why does naming cut up weiners in corn bread, 'Dogs in a Bog' cause excitement at the dining room table with the grandkids? Or why does naming the bear hanging on our entry wall Cocoa, somehow give him a cuddly protective feeling instead of scaring the grandkids at night when they wonder off to the bathroom in the dark? Sometimes perception goes a long ways.

 So now you know what has me clipping buttons off of used clothing once again and thinking about what supplies I have that I could turn into something that would bring in a little income. This stained shirt that refused to come clean donated its buttons yesterday. Yes indeed, my button collection is not reserved to one tin but three organizer bins and yes, the grandkids like to go through it too. And should I admit it......hmmmmm I'll confess, I have one more storage bin in reserve. You know the say, "Build it and they will come" 
I feel no shame for I have used many used buttons and intend to use many more used buttons in the next year. How many use or used did I use in one sentence or is it two sentences? Oh dear, can you tell I had little sleep last night? Late night and a 4:30 am  morning to load goats going to their new home creates a silly me. 

 My latest treasure are these unusual buttons I found on a wool skirt I was taking apart to felt the fabric. I'm referring to the bottom two metal buttons of which there were several more. The skirt had a gross grain ribbon threaded through them and then sewn from the top of the short skirt to the bottom. The buttons fastened the skirt shut. Now this has me thinking that it might be fun making some buttons like this of my own creation. See I will need that extra button tray.

Did I tell you I like to make buttons. You might say I have a bit of a button fetish. Those little scraps of gorgeous woods and Mastodon ivory left over from my husband's knife making just keep calling to me,'Make something from me.' The question is "Will I have time to answer?"

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

My You Have Changed Ellie

 Ellie is loads of help or thinks she is. Kirk was putting up some more fence panels yesterday to block the beef from the pasture so that it could grow without  munching mouths tearing it up. When the grass is short, animals have a tendency to crop the vegetation too short. The plant's crowns die leaving us with dirt. Add hooves on wet ground and what was a little tilling in summer turns to over tilling in spring. Their hooves simply tear up the ground leaving a dead muddy field.  Bye, bye pasture.

Hubby got the job done just in time as this is what today looks like. Not quite this much snow was in the forecast but snow was inevitable. Old Man Winter has to get his last big {Hoorah! for the end of April. Each year there is a BIG snowstorm the last week or two. Well, almost. I can think of a few naps he took over the years but very few. 

This end of April storm brought over eighteen inches of snow with howling winds that closed even the county roads. Ten to seventeen more inches of the white stuff is due in the next few days. Old Man Winter obviously wants winter back.

But enough already. I'm want spring. Again, a picture from yesterday.Weather is cruel and has left me depressed today but thankful we pushed this past weekend to get things done. Old Man Winter is about as reliable as Old Faithful so we know by now to 'getter done' as we say up north. Oh you don't know Old Faithful? I'm referring to the famous sight in Yellowstone Park or Jellystone as we call it from the Yogi Bear cartoon. It is just north of us a little ways.

Last summer we had the stock graze the pasture pretty short in order to clear out the old grass and weeds. It helped kill quite a few sagebrush too. A huge added bonus. This way it opens up the area to more light and clears off the old dead grass. The pasture is really looking pretty now. A little more sagebrush could die but we don't want all the sagebrush gone as on our steep slope, it helps to hold the soil and stops the snow creating a small drift behind each one. Mixing goats and cattle is a proven winner as they forage for differing plants balancing out your pastures.

We had a big shock when we moved here. Our old property was clay, clay, and well heavier clay. What a huge muddy mess that made when moisture came. Here our ground is rather rocky and sandy so an amazing amount of moisture seeps right down into the ground. We see very little mud. Could be why the area has lots of natural springs. We even have a geyser of our own. It goes glub, glub, glub. A little bubble that pops up under the crooked old tree. It makes laugh, I love it!
 But there was something else I wanted to show you. Look at the bovine on the left. That's Ellie, our Brown Swiss/ Normandy cross heifer and then look down below at the photo of her as a young calf. Talk about a color change. Yup, she's black as coal now. Not what I expected. I'm really liking the way she is turning out conformation wise and sweet, oh my! she loves nothing more than someone to pay attention to her. I can rub her all over and pick up her feet. She will even pick a foot up for you if you rub between her legs, cocking it out to the side so you can reach in better. Personality wise, she will make one dandy milk cow.
But what is up with this stark color change. I've never seen a bovine change so drastically have you?