Friday, February 26, 2010


This a picture of Pudge
I've stewed and pondered, emotions getting in the way but the fact is they have to go. I haven't the pasture to put them out on to live out their days. I haven't the money to spend feeding them. They have to go to make room for goats that will produce. The decision has been made and I have to stick to it. Pudge and Leta will sometime this spring no longer be gracing my pens. Leta is dry but I thought of starting to milk Pudge twice a day to pick up her milk production so that I could milk her another year. Then every morning I go out and try to get her to go into the milking shed and we have a tug-a-war of wills and I think do I really want to do this for another year? The answer is NO! She use to be such a nice doe but in the last few months has undergone a personality change. Doing anything with this tank built doe is a muscle building, lung enhancing operation.
The decision began brewing several months back when I started taking the girls over to be bred. Let me rephrase that. I started in November chasing behind the girls hollering, "Wait for me." For you see my two Saanens knock me over or near unto it when I open the gate to let them in to the milking shed. But they don't stop there and take off for the nearest highly perfumed buck. They aren't picky. If he smells terrible and will whisper sweet nothings in their ear for two seconds, then they're willing and ready. You never met two bigger hussies than my Saanens, Pudge and Leta. Some people question if their goats are in heat. And I have to wonder a bit about my Nubian, Chicory, watching her carefully. Not Pudge and Leta. They get this wild look in their eyes and beller. Not bleat, not ma, but a loud panicked sound that can't help but get your attention. If that isn't enough of a clue then the wagging tail at a hundred miles an hour is sure to get your attention for it screams, "Take me. Take me."

I'm lucky if I can divert them into the milking shed to empty their udders before they've plowed me to the side forgetting all their manners and head to Michelle's across the way. It's the nearest location of a buck. I just have to say NO and they're off running again. This time headed for the pens in the opposite direction to the past known buck hang out. All the while I'm chasing behind them snatching for their collars while they frantically search the pens and smell the air. They don't care who the buck is as long as he's peed all over his front legs and is willing, he's their man. Oh I've had does that were real picky about who the father of their kids were but not these girls.

As I was saying this process has been going on for months. They'd come into estrus and off we'd go. Twenty-one days later they'd come into heat and off we'd go again. At first I was taking the does in one at a time and holding their collars while the buck mounted. This way I could control my doe with one hand and the other move the does in the pen with the buck away. Any time there is an introduction of a new doe in the pen it is a call for a butting heads party. It also makes sure that my doe doesn't move out from under the buck as I have a leg in her chest to steady her.

If I didn't know better I would have thought the buck was shooting blanks. Pudge has never gone to see a buck more than once and it is always a shall we say," Slam, bam, thank you mam" event. Here she wasn't settling and I couldn't think what was the matter.

Leta wasn't fairing any better. She has taken twice on a couple occasions before conceiving but cycle after cycle went by and even though I tried a new buck three weeks later they would cycle again. I even tried leaving them over night or for the day several different times but still they didn't take. Once I noticed that Leta was flushed and slightly swollen around her a.... shall we say opening. Nope, my girls were undoubtedly in heat.

Then in January Pudge bred, then a week later came into heat again. I figured she'd aborted so I took her over again to the new buck. Two weeks later with Leta she came into heat again. It is extremely rare that Kirk and I have a cross word with each other but when this past week the girls came into estrus again, he accused me of doing something wrong. He asked if I was taking them too late or too early or not leaving them long enough, not taking them enough times during their estrus. Oh, I got grilled and I got mad. "I know my job! Haven't I managed to get them and all the other does we've had this past twenty-five years pregnant? It has never taken more than two visits to a buck before. It isn't me, it's them."

I then began to wonder about their age so I looked it up. Leta's papers said she was 8 not too old but the year we brought her home she had milk fever. She was really sick and I babied her back to a healthy strong doe producing quite a few more kids and lots of milk. The only effects she has is a bit of creaking in her knees. Plus we have to watch her carefully for weight loss after she kids. Pudge, I delivered and raised. Each of the ten years we've had her she has bred once and only once. I know my job! Can you tell I'm still a bit ticked?

It's just hard to imagine Pudge being that old. Look here, she's not skinny and bony like most old does I see at her age. This is her a a few weeks ago. Pudgy as ever and so you can imagine why people still think this ten year old doe is ready to kid when she's empty. Now I wish I'd taken pictures of her when she was about to kid. People can't believe how she can frolic and play but she'd always been well - pudgy.

This is Leta
Leta on the other hand use to be a more difficult keeper but as she has aged she has retained her weight better. I know how that is. Lately she has begun to look quite a bit like Pudge. In fact she has two large basketball shapes, one on each side like she is very pregnant. How can that be since estrogen is the hormone of estrus and progesterone is the hormone of pregnancy? Surely she can't be pregnant and still cycling time after time. That calls for some really weird hormone imbalance. My does get little grain and it is mixed with sun flower seeds and beet pulp so it's less than what most people feed so they are just plump on hay. When they aren't milking, they don't get anything but excellent hay. That of course is the case with this very plump Leta.
I informed Kirk that I'd ordered another doe. When Karen culls her show herd this spring she said she'd call and tell me what she had. She knows my criteria, calm, quiet, heavy milker, good conformation. I already know the blood lines are excellent. So a new girl is coming and we have to make way. Yet the way the girls look, I don't think I'll get rid of them until the end of April when the new girl will arrive, just in case they are miraculously pregnant. But with them acting the way they have this year I can't be fooled in to thinking they aren't becoming infertile. Their age is against them. Next year will be even worse.

I've had three months to get use to the but Kirk is having a hard time with my announcement. The last time the girls came in to heat, I informed Kirk he could take them when he insisted that we try one more time. I fully expect them to be wagging their tails again in another 2 1/2 weeks. When I informed Kirk that goats can't last forever especially as heavy a milkers as ours are. He seemed resigned to the fact. I laughingly told he that I thought they were going through menopause goat style. He smiled and I'm sure he was thinking my wife and now the goats too but he said, "Aw, yes, goat-a-pause" as if that is actually a word.

As sad as it is to turn the page and start with Chicory who arrived last spring and a new goat, I guess one can't hold on to the past forever. We do have Chicory's kids to look forward to. She was bred to a lovely Nubian buck. I hope she took. He was kind of small and her next cycle date I was off celebrating my mom's birthday so this next week I have to keep a close eye on her.
If you've ever heard of a goat cycling for three months and already bred please let me know. I'm rather confused by Pudge and Leta's actions versus their looks.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Feeding Chickens

My father has made the move away from buying feed from the feed store saving himself a bundle. I have been researching if his methods would work in our situation. He has horses, buys and feeds a few steers to have butchered. We on the other hand have a McDonalds farm and so when he told me about the feed he was buying in bulk I hit the internet to see if it was feasible to use it on our own variety of animals.

Since he knew of a successful feed operation that was thrilled with the results, I knew it worked great on cattle. My brother also heartily agrees since he's been feeding it to his calves and has had no scours with the impressive weight gain. So what is this wonderful feed well, its wheat screenings. If you aren't familiar with what that is, it's simply the smaller kernels and some of the chaff that seperates out when they are cleaning the wheat. My research says that it is higher in protein than the larger kerneled cleaned wheat.

I knew I could feed it to my beef but presently they have been on strictly hay for omega balancing purposes. But at around 60 dollars for over a thousand pounds I'm going to run the numbers and see if feeding the beef some of these wheat screening would be cheaper than the hay we buy. I just might combine the two but it would have to be a good move as far as the omegas in the meat. It might be cheaper to combine the two but if it gives us a higher cholesterol level then the health risks aren't worth the money saving initially. We'll pay for it in the end in doctor bills.

Wheat screenings

With the goats only being milked once a day the cost of their grain isn't too bad either so I'll put off rethinking their feed. The pigs are going into the freezer beginning tomorrow and since we don't plan on raising any pigs this year the problem of the outrageous cost of raising them is one for the future. Though I did see some sites that advocate using wheat screenings as part of their diet. What I really want to change right now is the cost of the feed for the chickens. I'm not interested in just cheap feed but nutrition as well since my health, not just theirs, is at stake. They're diet goes into the eggs I eat.

This is the first bucket I took to the chicken coop to poor into their feeder.

So that's where I began. What was the nutritional value of wheat screenings for chickens? The chicken scratch we buy has some wheat in it but what would happen if I raised the amount dramatically? I found a number of studies done with broiler chickens and they recommend from 20% to 50 % of the feed can come from wheat screenings. I've noticed that the ingredient portions in my chicken scratch changes according to what is the cheapest grains available. So why can't mine home-made version do the same.
Then I looked at the label on my most expensive feed which is Layena, some brands call it laymash. The first three ingredients of protein 16%, Lysine .55 %, and methonine .25 % were comparible to wheat screenings. Then I read below in the ingredient section and the first words were processed grain by-products, grain products. That is exactly what wheat screenings is a grain product and would a processed grain by-product be referring to wheat screening, possibly so. Why not skip the middle man I thought do it myself. Remember I never have left the "I do it myself" stage of development.

So what was left on the label was calcium, phosphorus, salt, manganese, Vit A and Vit E. How much the wheat screenings had of those I don't know but since the chickens needed Vitamin E and I was already feeding black oil sunflower seeds to the goats I looked it up to see if it was a good feed for chickens. I found out that feeding them to horse was a good thing and I already knew that feeding that some feedlot operations fed them to cattle. Well sure enough feeding them to chickens is great too. They have a decent amount of Vitamin A 222.48 IU and the Vitamin E at 340.50 IU was much higher than the Layena. Black Oil Sunflower seeds also had a smathering of Vitamin B6 and Vitamin K, along with some Vitamin C which wasn't on the Layena label. As for Calcium it had 527.43 mgs and I could also feed them goat milk, but it didn't say anything about manganese which was the other thing listed on the layena label. What the black oil sunflower seeds did have was a whopping dose of maganesium 1609.57 mg, phosphorus 3205.50 mg, and potassium 3132.75 mg. The Layena didn't say anthing about those nutrients.

Next I went to my dad's and scooped out a couple buckets of the screening to take home and see how the chickens liked them. I fed them exclusively for a week. They ate them well but were more aggresive when presented with a grain mixture. From this I knew it would work as part of my feed program.

I found out in my research that the striped sunflower seeds were the kind meant for humans. They're shells are much harder and the digestive system of animals and birds can not break down the shells and digest them. So I'm going to be on the internet looking up the black oil sunflower seeds and choosing a kind to grown. How many plants it takes to get enough seeds to make a difference in the cost of my feed for the chickens, I don't know. I don't know if it is conceivable to raise enough to make a difference since I know I can't raise enough for the chickens and goats. I'm about to find out since the old red raspberry bed against the fence will become the sunflower patch and the raspberries will be moved to the main garden. I figure the fence might be handy to tie up the sunflowers to.

Then I plan on putting the two, over a thousand pounds, feed bags of wheat screenings in the back yard on a wooden shipping pallet covered with a tarp when they arrive sometime this spring.

My dad and I talked when I picked up the two buckets of wheat screenings about how we were going to have to continue to keep up with different ways of feeding our stock. Maybe wheat screening won't be major cheap next year. Maybe we won't have someone who just happens to make trips to North Dakota and can pick them up for us. Things are ever changing and we need to be alert to ways we can too. What's available to us in our area may not be in yours. We don't live where we can buy locally grown products unless your referring to cattle or sheep and gardens are few. Organic is something you do yourself or buy at the store.

Each of us lives in a unique area with different opportunities and we need to search them out. I have few resources but I do have a garden and I plan on raising more than sunflower seeds for my chickens but I'll discuss that further next week. Meanwhile, I'm going to go check on my huge seed order I placed. It has many of the goodies I want to talk about and I'm waiting for it to arrive so I can photograph them for you.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Butterfat Goat Facts

I found some interesting information from the University of Florida's IFAS Extension web-site. What they didn't include were the Oberhaslis which I found the butterfat percentage on the Fias Co. Farm site and I had to go to a couple Nigerian Goat sites to get the butterfat levels for that breed. Frankly, I can't remember how I stumbled upon the Kinder goat butterfat level. You know me and the Internet. I'm flitting about everywhere.

I've combined the information I found into a chart.

Kinder - 5-7%

Nigerian - 5-6%

Nubian - 4.61%

American La Mancha 3.80%

Oberhasli 3.6%

Alpines - 3.56%

Saanen - 3.52%

Toggenburg 3.38%

All these percentages change as the does progress through their lactation. The Nigerian goat's are reported to reach up to 10% in butterfat towards the end of their lactation. This is somewhat true of all the breeds I'd guess as I've noticed my Saanens and Nubian's cream production escalates with the passing of time throughout the milking calendar. I'm getting loads of cream right now but not as much milk. The scientist have only said that the butterfat goes up significantly as the lactations progresses. Of course individual goats vary.

With this information, my brain then began journeying off on to its own tangents. It appears that the dessert breeds of goats produce more butterfat and less milk than the mountain breeds. WHY? Probably will never know the answer to that one. Then I wondered if you had a Nigerian goat which gives on average 2-3 pounds milk per day and a standard dairy goat gives 6-8 pounds then surely you would be getting more cream from the standard breed goat than the Nigerian but a Nigerian is smaller and would consume less feed. So then what is the difference in feed consumption for the amount of milk and cream your getting? Which is truely more economical? They have those facts with the dairy cow industry. I was visiting with my son-in-law's, step-mom and she use to run a 1200 cow diary with her dad. She said had she to do it over she would not have used Holsteins. They were not an efficient feed to milk converter.

I just finished glancing for facts on that idea but instead of a nice chart I found a scientific study on Holsteins versus Friesann versus Jerseys. I'll admit I just skimmed the study out of Australia because after all I do have a post to get up today but it was fascinating. It said the Jersey had a much larger rumen compared with the Holstein and could consume more food for its size. It then was an efficient converter and used more of this energy towards milk where as the Holstein used more energy toward body weight retention. Also the Jersey lost less of this energy toward feces, urine or methane.

But like I spoke of in the dairys for goats where you had a higher cost outlay for a goat dairy than a cow dairy. Jersey dairy farmers in order to stay competitive must have more animals. The study said 1.2 more Jerseys to Friesan. This is because the Jersey is smaller and produces less milk. More animals equated to the need for more land, more fence, more time spent because there is more animals to handle etc. etc. So what's the answer? The Australian study recommended that a dairy should have Holstein/Friesan/Jersey cross cows. They said that dairys were not using scientific studies as they should and hence the Holstein cows dominated the dairy industry.

What does that have to do with us goat folks. Well, it looks to me like we should have Jerseys not Holsteins or Friesans because we only have a small number of animals. So what is the Jerseys of the goat world? Who has that big rumen that converts the most efficiently into milk for their size without wasting the energy on feces, urine, and methane? Who can do more with less? We'll probably never know the answer since the goat industry does not have the money behind it to do the studies.

I think we need to ask ourselves how much of our operation is emotional and how much makes sense nutritionally and financially? The bottom line is how much money are you willing to waste? With the printing of paper money from the US Treasury beginning to flow like a river and no gold or silver to back it all, we are headed for much more difficult times. Europe is seeing it now.

If a bank isn't suppose to give a loan without sufficient collateral in case the loan defaults putting their own business in trouble, then what is America doing printing money without collateral. In other words gold and silver to back up the paper. Franklin Roosevelt took us off the gold and Richard Nixon took us off the silver. If things get tough and many wise men believe it will, how much will paper money be worth after all it's just paper?

These thought have made me seriously rethink my whole self-sufficient operation. Am I too like the government throwing my money around spending far more than I should? Am I not only producing healthy food but am I doing it in a cost effective way? I would have to answer yes to the first question and no the second. Things need to change and that change needs to start with me. I need to spend less money on feed and have animals that are more efficient. If my family is to weather the difficult days ahead, I'm going to have to use scientific studies available to me. I'm going to have to buy the goat equivalent of Jersey's not Holsteins. I'm going to have to rethink feed. Less dependence on the feed store and buying in bulk for them as I do for our own family.
I need to think of more ways to produce a little of their feed myself for I have little land to produce it on but I have some. Change is in the wind. How will I weather it? Will I glide along or will I be buffeted and battered. The choice is mine.
Don't forget there was a fun game yesterday and a chance to enter a give away so check out yesterdays post.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Part I - Animals and their Tracks - Drawing

Yes, I'm holding my very first Easy Living the Hard Way blog contest - giveaway -drawing or whatever you want to call it. What I'm asking you to do is match the animal to its tracks in the snow. No you don't have to figure them all out to enter. Just do your best and match at least two animals to their tracks. Even if your wrong your entered anyway because in this drawing effort counts.

You live in Florida you say and don't know about snow, well, think of the shape of the animals, paw, hoof, or feet and then do your best. I don't think it will be too hard. Okay, if it is and this Wyoming native doesn't have clue then just make a wild guess on two different animals and their tracks and comment, "Holly you have no idea." and I'll be sure and put your name in for the drawing. You don't have to be correct to enter and you have two opportunities to put your name into the drawing doubling your chances of winning. Enter once anytime this week from today's post February 30th, and then again next week from the March 2nd 30th post. That day will have a whole new set of animals and tracks. I've been planning this for weeks, waiting for the book to arrive and photographing every time there is a skiff of snow. More snow than that and the tracks are distorted. Oh yeah, I forgot, the prize is one of my favorite gardening books. I'll have my husband draw the winner and I'll post who it is on Tuesday March 6th.

So be sure and enter twice so you'll have your name on two different slips of paper for the drawing and make sure and check back in two weeks and I'll announce the winners. Your comments will come to my e-mail account and then I'll post them or if you wish, you can simply e-mail me at I'll contact each of you by hitting the reply button and telling you that I got your entry.

Feel free to enlist the assistance of your family and friends at figuring out the answers or better yet get your grown children, extended relatives, or friends to enter and promise to give you the book. Spread the word and if you know of anyone that might enjoy my blog, let them know about Easy Living the Hard Way. I'd love for them to join us. The more readers, the larger the pool of people that can comment and then we can spread our wisdom and experiences around. We've all have things to teach one another. I learned from Jenny last week that not only can you can make angel food cake in a bread loaf pan but muffin tins work great also. Just think, the cake is already made up in individual serving sizes. So the more the merrier, spread the word.

By now you might be wondering what the animals and their tracks have to do with a gardening book. Well, I haven't the foggiest notion but it was all I could think of to give as a prize. I'm new to this thing you know. Get your pencil and paper and get ready, get set, go...

1. Rabbit This is our first volunteer. Well, not this exact rabbit for you can see the green foliage underneath it and you know since its winter that I photographed him or is it a her, last summer. At the speed in which these critters populate the tracks are sure to be from one of this rabbit's relatives.

2. Beef This is the second volunteer. His name is Pedro and he likes to untie your shoe laces and groom you with his slimy wet tongue. I've yet to convince him that I take a shower regularly and don't need his assistance. Not to mention that at fifty I've tied a few shoe laces in my time and don't need more practice. Okay, I admit it, my shoes never stay tied. Just ask my family who have come up with every way they can think of to keep them tied. No matter which way their done they come undone by the time I walk the 3/4 miles to the corrals or long before that. They certainly don't need the help of Pedro or the goat's in untying them.
3. Horse Bess here is very shy and the minute you pick up the camera to take her picture she runs off. I've been trying all year to get more than this one good shot.
4. Chicken You guessed it, this is Mildred, our Cochin. I've built her a new home out of small square hay bales and put a lovely soft nest of hay inside. The round bales are all gone and I can't tuck her in at night anymore but so far I've only seen her perched on her new home, not in it. I've made design adjustments but no change.

5. Mouse The last animal or rodent shall I say, wasn't exactly a volunteer but had to be conscripted for the contest by Bibbs. Yup, this photo was also taken last summer.
A. Never mind the little track to the left and the drag mark is just a sign of laziness - too lazy to pick up her foot. I'm referring to the track on the right. Who made this?

A. Having trouble guessing? This one is may be a bit easier to tell. The neighbor's critter of the same species came over and left this print along with a big chunk out of a hay bale.
B. This one is a bit fuzzy. Sorry, it was taken with the old camera but I think you can still tell by the elongated print who left this print in the snow.

C. Having trouble guessing?

C. He, I can't tell you who, insisted that I give you this shot also so that you city folk could have a fighting chance at guessing his hoof print. He is always so kind.

D. Look carefully. The tracks are tiny and that is almost a give away as to who made them.

E. This one should be easy.

Now that wasn't as hard as you thought, was it? Put the numbers which belong each animal and put them next to the corresponding letters that denotes their tracks, send it to me, and I'll enter you into the drawing, contest, thing-a-magig. You'll have made your first entry into the contest for the gardening book prize. Next Tuesday I'll have a whole new set of critters to match with their tracks. Meanwhile, check in tomorrow I'll be talking about chicken feed or maybe it will be the post on goat-a-pause. You heard me, goat-a-pause. It's a new word my husband came up with for the problems we are having with Leta and Pudge.
Don't forget, spread the word Easy Living the Hard Way is having its first give a way.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Every year I set goals. Not always in January for I'm never quite sure when I'll get around to all of them and often they sit on my wish list for several years before I have the opportunity to work on them. My list is quite long and you can bet that a number of those goals will involve food. Usually, it is something that we presently buy from the store and I wish to start making ourselves. One of those goals is ice cream. I've made it off and on throughout the years. It was always a sporatic treat. The rest of the time we bought our supply from the store. That changed when we bought a new ice cream maker and before that a milk separator. It has been the most yummy goal. My husband and I are just loving the process as I develop different combinations.

My basic recipe that involves 1 cup of milk, 1/2 cup sugar, and three egg yolks, whipped and cooked until thickened and then 2 cups of cream added with a pinch of salt and then usually a tablespoon of vanilla has taken on a variety of additions and changes. I told you about how I altered my recipe to make cheese cake ice cream. That was stretching it far out of shape. Where most of time it has been just a slight variation. Chocolate ice cream is a good example. I just dropped the sugar by a 1/4 a cup and added a 1/2 a cup of melted semi-sweet chocolate chips. I put a touch of milk in the saucepan when I melted the chips. I've thought about doing Rocky Road but haven't gotten around to making the marshmallow creme. Yes, I make my own marshmallow creme. I'll have to tell you about it sometime. I was going to add it and some chopped chocolate just before I put the ice cream in the freezer. At this point it is at the soft serve stage, perfect for stirring in additions.

This weekend, I made cherry nut. All it took was replacing two teaspoon of cherry flavoring for the 1tablespoon of vanilla and then I added chopped marchino cherries and chopped walnuts. YUM!!

But I couldn't stop there. I made another batch of ice cream the next day and substituted peppermint oil that I had in the cupboard for making candy, which I never seem to get done, for the vanilla. Then I threw in lots of mini-chocolate chips when the ice cream was just about done. That was so they didn't all sink to the bottom. These two ice creams were so good I think I'll take another trip down the ice cream isle at the grocery store, it's sure to spur some ideas. If you've got any kinds you think I should try feel free to chime in. I'd love some ideas on what to make next.

Then one of these days I'm going to start making yogurt again. I haven't done it in years if you exclude the time a couple weeks ago when I tried making it in the crock pot. It was all the rage on the blog posts I was reading. It flopped. My crockpot was too big and it didn't hold the temperature steady enough. I'm wondering if the difference is that every one I was reading about was using cow's milk not goat milk. I've found goat milk just a tad fussier about temperatures that cow's milk. Anyway, I'll tell you about all the ways in the past that I've made yogurt but not today. When I do make yogurt again, I want to make yogurt ice cream. That I haven't done before.

While in this experimental mood, I made my artisian bread with the addition of a cup of mashed potatoes.

It was a hit too. The biggest change I noticed was in the texture. The crumb was finer like in American breads. It also wasn't as chewy.

This is the last slice from the artisan bread without mashed potatoes so you can compare. Tonight I'm starting a sponge with whole wheat. It's a different recipe. I've halved it for we like to have just one fresh loaf at a time since there is only the two of us. Then again, the loaf I made yesterday is gone after making French toast for the grand daughters this morning and peanut butter and jam sandwhiches at noon before they went home. Sometimes I could use more than one. Kirk will be disapointed it's all gone.
When I've made this whole wheat loaf, I want to try another recipe that has whole wheat, and rye in it. I want to start making more whole grain recipes using the sponge method.
But before I close, be sure and check in tomorrow for I'm doing a give a way that has a fun matching barn yard game. I've beenphotographing every time there is a dusting of snow in preparation for the event. The lucky winner gets one of my favorite gardening books. Spread the word and get the whole family involved.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Workings of a Milk Separator

I'm making ice cream this morning and so yesterday I whipped up a custard and put it in the refrigerator to chill. But before I could do that I had to separate milk so I'd have some cream. I got out my bowls, one is about a half inch shorter than the other one and a couple inches narrower. I thought I might show you how much cream I am getting since it is toward the end of our girl's lactation. You need to know the differences between the bowls so you can gauge.
The larger bowl is in the back and the smaller bowl is in the front. This view is after the first time the milk went through the separator. Note how the two bowls are filled to the same height though they aren't the same size.
Here is an aerial view.
This is after I put the light cream that was in the smaller bowl back through the separator so I'd have heavy cream.
When finished, I had a large bowl full of skimmed milk plus one quart of milk that isn't shown and one and a half quarts of heavy cream. The pigs, cats, and chickens will get the skimmed milk. We had intended to butcher pigs this weekend but the freezing temperatures in the day time and the forecast for single digits (Fahrenheit) at night put a halt to that project. If we hung the meat in the garage it would freeze solid. So instead I'm going to make two kinds of ice cream. Not that that makes a whole lot of sense considering how cold it is outside but our grocery store owner told me that she sells by far more ice cream in the winter than in the summer. See, I'm not completely strange, I have company.
While I was separating milk I thought some of you who aren't familiar with the machine might like a sneak preview into how it works. This is the separator without the big bowl on top. See the little hole in the center for the milk to run through? A float, which is a quarter inch hollow plastic disk sits on top of this to slow down the flow of milk from the bowl. It makes a big mess if it isn't in place. No, don't ask me how I know that? You can probably guess.
When that layer is taken off you have this section which the cream collects in to. Remember cream is lighter than milk and rises so the top section is the cream collection area. That's how I know to put the smaller bowl under this spout.
The milk flows down through the hole in the top of the metal piece you see sticking out of the cream collection piece.
This metal component is made of of ten separate discs that you see on the left. They sit on the structure with the hole in the top where the milk flows through. As the milk flows down through this hole it squirts outward through the four holes at its base and then into the discs. I should show you a separate picture but I haven't one and I'd take one but my post today is being a bear to work with. Moving pictures it will barely do and not always where I want them.
So please look at the piece next to the bowl in the upper left hand corner. See the hole part way down. That's where the milk flows out of. You will see holes in the sides of the discs for this milk to flow out from.
This metal piece when all put together sits on top of the cone you see in the middle of the milk collection plastic piece. The motor in the base of the machine causes this cone to whirl rapidly which causes the metal section to whirl. Centrifugal force causes the lighter cream to separate and rise into the higher collection reservoir while the milk sinks into the lower one.
Our old hand crank antique, worked when we had all the kids to help keep it cranking but they're gone. It had eighteen discs instead of the ten that is in this small electric table top model. What difference ten versus eighteen makes, I don't know. I'm not fond of the idea of all these plastic parts but it is the only model available last year when I bought this one.
Now if we only had the yak cow my husband wants then we'd have more cream than ever. There cream level being much higher than goats or dairy cows. Not sure what it taste like but since we have a couple herds in Wyoming, I'm going to find out someday.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

To Milk Once or Twice A Day

You are keeping me busy answering all the questions that you have. I appreciate your vote of confidence that I can be of assistance. I'm still behind but I'm pedaling fast so readers please be patient and Barb, this post is specifically for you. The rest of you readers please chime in with your opinions and facts if you have them. As you know I'm quite opinionated and I can't always be right. lol So keep the comments coming. It's up to you to keep me in line.

Today's question is whether to milk once or twice a day. Actually, I do both. Part of the year I milk twice and part only once a day. Let me explain. When the goats first freshen, I milk twice a day as the demand for milk is high. I feed the kids all the milk they can hold. I've yet to have scours with this method. In fact, one blog post I just read said they have scoured calves on cow's milk but never on goat's milk. I don't know about cow's milk since I don't have a cow but as for goat's milk, I haven't scoured a calf giving all I had. I've fed up to 10 quarts a day to a single stout hungry calf. The goat kids on the other hand eat until they can't eat anymore up until they are six weeks and then I ration their amount of milk so they will start eating more solids hay etc. I figure a kid eats all they can get off their mom. I feed four times a day to weak kids which includes a night feeding and then quickly taper off to three times a day and then twice a day by a week and a half. Those night feedings and three times a day takes more out of me than it use to.

After the goats, I'm usually feeding a calf and later when it's weaned, I might feed pigs with the milk. This year, I don't plan on feeding a calf or pig and hope to get more in to making cheese. I'm not very skilled as my experience being mozzarella a few times, Feta - lots, a Mexican cheese - quite often, cottage cheese - sometimes and that's about it. Oh, yeah, rubber cheese once. I didn't use a recipe from a cheese book and tried one out of a self-sufficient cookbook. Casein in cheese is what gives it the rubbery texture but mine went way beyond to rubber ball level. The kids had fun throwing it at each other and bouncing it around the room. This year, I want to learn to make an excellent cream cheese, perfect my cottage cheese, and learn to make a thicker yogurt if it's possible to do without adding powdered cow's milk-YUCK, (tried it once) or gelatin. My experiment last week with making goat milk yogurt in a crock pot, I'd consider a failure but that's another story. And that's not including making as much butter as possible. So Elaine yes, I milk twice a day most of the year.

Since you mentioned that you had four Nigerian goats that means that you will be getting on average according to the Internet 2 - 4 pounds of milk per day compared to 8 in the typical dairy breeds. I'm getting far more than that. Your yearlings producing far less than your older does. I have found the goats peak in milk production between two to three months after freshening. Don't know if that is due to my milking habits or what because I couldn't find out the statistics on the Internet. Okay, I did find information from the University of Florida but I'm questioning the data just a mite since in the same breath they said that at this peak of 45 to 60 days when the goat is producing the most milk, you breed her, and she kids twelve months after having the last set of kids. Moo...! Sounds more like cow to me since the gestation for goats is 145 - 155 days. Everything else that I read seemed correct on the site but I didn't read the whole article.

Can't you just hear Chicory say, "Hello... aren't you going to milk me. Quit taking pictures."

The biggest reason for milking twice a day is the more demand for milk, the higher the production. When my daughter was having trouble producing enough milk for her daughter the lactation consultant said nurse, nurse, nurse every couple hours and drink, drink, water,and that would stimulate production. That's why some dairy's milk three times a day. It uses up the dairy cows far more quickly and the nutrients in the milk are not proportionally greater milking three times a day for it is mainly water output that is increased because of the stress on the animal.

So, I'd say definitely don't milk three times a day unless you are trying to quickly increase milk production. I did just that when one of my Saanens aborted twins. This was just a few weeks before full term and the one twin was normal in size, the other one must have been dead in the uterus quite some time. I milked three times a day to bring her up to production (she milked very little at first) then when she was milking well, I backed off to two times a day. It was this choice or going months without milk since it was April and she normally didn't come in to heat until October or November. Then there was 150 days pregnancy time plus almost two full months of the kids taking most all the milk. That's a lot of time she would be eating and not producing milk.

As the lactation progresses less milk is produced. It is particularly noticed when my goats milk output drops dramatically when they come into estrus. Then again my Saanen's become quite emotional and cycle hard. They about run you over when you open the gate and then they take off on a run to find the nearest buck with me calling, "Slow down!" while trying to catch up. When they've gone across the road to Michelle's and I've made a grab for their collar, they then head across the other way and head out a couple rows over to the last known buck territory. I usually corner them some where in this vicinity.
This dramatic milk production drop lasts from two to three days. Since Nigerians are cycling 12 months a year, I don't know how that effects them. Could be partly why they produce less milk that the traditional dairy breeds if my goats are any indication.

Consolation prize is that as the milk level drops later in their lactation, the butterfat level increases. It can go up to as much as double what it is in the beginning months of production. That is why I love to make butter at this time of the year when my girls butterfat levels is highest and... the ice cream and the... I've some great statistics on this that I will share next week.

In the cold winter months when I breed my does is when I drop my twice a day milking. The girls aren't producing as much and so it's comfortable to skip the night milking. It means I can get back to my warm house quicker since chore time is shorter. Yeah!, especially when the temperature is in the single digits like it is suppose to be this weekend.

My production is dropping now and I'll dry the does up for two months before kidding. Sometimes I do three months on an older doe if she's been producing lots of milk all year. I might change my mind on milking once a day when I learn to utilize my milk better. Especially since I learned these interesting facts from the Journal of dairy Science. When pregnant, a doe does not drop in milk production for the first 8 weeks. Then that story changes significantly at 10 weeks and increases as the pregnancy progresses. The scientists are guessing this is because of the increase of estrogen, also the competition between the kids and milk for glucose. More kids the doe is carrying the more her milk production will decrease. Also, goats bred at 29 weeks lactation decreased in milk production far more if milked once a day than if milked twice a day. I'm sure this has to do with demand.

Chicory is trying to tell you that if I don't milk as often then she gets gypped. In other words she doesn't get as much grain.

Nigerian goats produce 2-4 kids normally and 5 is not uncommon. That's a lot of estrogen increase and glucose demand. Not to mention a goat population explosion. Some breeders I read, breed their does for 3 kiddings in 2 years. Of course with does cycling every month of the year, it might be hard to prevent this. Yup, good thing they aren't a beef. Now that Tinker Bell has started cycling, she's learned to jump fences, out of ours and in to other people's.
Now that I've done my research, I just might change some milking habits around her. Especially when I learn to use my milk more efficiently making cheeses, ice cream, etc. etc. But the best advice I could give you I think is to keep your doe numbers down to where you can utilize the milk best, whether it is feeding pigs, calves etc. or even the chickens and of course the two of you. I hope this gave you food for thought Barb. It certainly did for me. Thank you for asking me the question of whether to milk once or twice a day.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chicken Coop Part II

When I was photographing for this post yesterday, this Wyadotte hen was wondered around me the whole time talking up a storm. I was sorely wishing I was Doctor Doolittle and could understand what all she was telling me because she never did stop until I left the coop.

She was particularly happy when I put new hay on the communal nest. Here she is checking it out.

I laugh because every morning I put a new layer of hay on the nesting area and

by night, it's gone.

The girls get the munchies when they're setting on the nest. Oh I've tried placing the hay elsewhere but it never gets eaten up like it does when I set it on the nest. I wonder if it is like the magazine rack we have in the bathroom.

Yes, our nesting boxes are old four-wheeler tires. They hold the warmth and the girls love them. I like the fact that there is a hole in the center all the way through and when I clean the coop I just dump the hay and have both sides to work from to remove it. The tires are durable and washable too. Best of all they were free and can be moved around in the coop. Your hens will decide where they want to lay their eggs and it won't always be where you want them to. Ours lay 99.9% of their eggs in one corner. Had I hammered nesting boxes elsewhere they wouldn't of used them and I did try the traditional ones once. The girls ignored them even though they were in their favorite corner. They layed on them and in front of them but not in them. My nieghbor had hens that used hers, so go figure. Normally the girls will pick the darkest corner and in the summer when the sun is bright I lean a piece of plywood against the slanted walls to darken the area.

Our girl's corner is the one on the right hand side next to the Plexiglas door cover for the run.

I use to have a hanging feeder like this new one of my neighbors. Note the open area around the base for feed.

I've since switched to this one. Notice the white plastic slats that extend outward. These keep your hens from climbing in the feeder and flicking the feed out with their feet scattering it all over the floor. You'll have a batch of chickens that won't cause any problems and then you'll get some that empty the container throwing the feed far and wide. That makes feeding them real expensive when the feed becomes your bedding. Hence, the purchase of this feeder. Elevating it off the ground keeps the hens out of the top where they will sometimes roost and poop all over the feed or scatter the feed out from the top. It also makes access a little more challenging for the mice. The mice have to go single file down the rope it's suspended from. This feeder is higher than it looks and is actually just below the chickens neck. I've had mice so bad in the coop that they went through a gallon of feed a night. Now I empty my feeder in the evenings during the winter months when they seek the warmth of the coop. Cleaning the coop monthly seems to help also as they haven't as much litter to bury down in to. My favorite thing we scrounged for my coop is the flooring. It is old disgarded rubber belting from the coal mine and is much better than the broken wood floor below. It cleans up easily and aids in keeping the coop warmer.
They recommend if you wish to hose your coop floor down that you slant it. A good idea but I never hose my down. Down south where you have lots, lots, lots, more bugs it might be a really good idea.

My watering pan is just an old rubber feed pan. It's great to knock the ice out of on a cold morning. It sits near the wall and therefore freezes. You just pick it up and slam it to the ground. When I had it in the center of the coop it only had a skimming of ice most cold mornings. It's near the edge to give the hens more room and they don't seem to poop in like they did when it was in the center. Raising it off the ground helps with that but I use the cinder blocks in the winter to hold the plexiglass door shut. In the summer I change the water a couple times a day so it's fresh, not hot from sitting there. Eggs are 3/4 water and clean fresh water is extremely important to your egg productions. Hens will drink 2 pounds of water per 1 pound of feed. In the hot weather that increases to 4 pounds of water per 1 pound of feed.

There is a waterer in the corner of my neighbor's chicken coop and I've used this kind before. They are great because you don't have to fill them very often. I froze mine and cracked it and after flooding the coop putting it together incorrectly a few times I figured grace here shouldn't be handling such a complicated device. lol I don't use an open pan for my small chicks but I'll show you that feeder another time. My hens seem to drink more with fresh water morning and night but it is a preference thing which kind of waterer you choose. As for the blue bowl it is a dogs watering bowl and since it is electric it is a wonderful idea for the winter months to supply water for your hens. I don't have electricity so it isn't an option.

This is my neighbors coop. The building was free and they added a door and window that were old cast offs along with a new tin roof. It made for an inexpensive coop. The best kind when you're on a tight budget. We might build something similar this summer out of the shipping crates we've been saving but not quite so tall and I'd like to slope the roof a little more to keep the heat down toward the hens. When building your coop always keep in mind the cleaning of it. Years ago I've unwisely allowed my husband to build sheep sheds without my supervision. He doesn't clean them and they ended up a huge pain in my back for me. I've since been on hand for every building project.
Keep in mind that when you construct your chicken coops run that you have access to it. Either a door from the coop into the run or one from the outside to the run. A hen might inconveniently die out there or you may need to catch a hen to treat her. I'd also recommend chicken wire running all the way around encasing the run. We've had wild animals try and dig their way in and I always cover the top too so raccoons can't climb over or hawks descend into the run. My run is due for a new one as our chicken wire is rusting through. We will encase the run in cow panels for a stiff frame and wrap chicken wire around that. I've had my share of run ins with raccoons and skunks when our chicken wire became rusty. I'll tell about that sometime.
What have you done in regard to your chicken coop that you have thanked yourselve repeatedly for thinking of? I'm always looking for better and especially less expensive ways to do things. Next week I'll talk more on crops I'm growing for the chickens.