Barely Enough Milk

And it’s all our fault. Well, maybe partially our fault. We’ve been trying to have year round milk for several years now. This is the closest we’ve come so far, and if we make it this year, we will barely squeak by if we do. There are a number of factors that contribute to having year round milk, or not. Here is a run down of our situation this year.

We had four does in milk this year, starting in January, two experienced and in April two first fresheners. As a general rule a doe will not give full capacity milk the first year since her udder is developing. The second year will be a better indicator of full milk production for a particular animal.

Obviously, if you want to have year round milk, there have to be animals capable of producing at particular times of the year to meet your needs. We have tried to accomplish this by breeding at least two does in the summer to provide the ‘carry over’ milk during the winter. A lot of folks don’t like to milk in the winter. It’s cold, it requires more feed, and it means scheduled breeding and birthing twice a year instead of once. All of this has to be considered to see if it will fit the lifestyle you choose to live.

We attempted to breed two of our does in July. Yes, it’s hot then, but we’ve had animals breed then before, which resulted in surprise babies we weren’t planning. Our Nubian does originated in Africa and definitely prefer hot weather to cold, so summer breeding is not out of the question for them. Our July attempt didn’t work, so we tried again in August with success. One oldest doe, who is seven this year, bred and is due in January. We planned to breed a first freshener as well, but it didn’t take. We found this out three weeks later when she came back into heat. On a whim, we also bred our other older doe when she came into heat thinking we would have three does due in January and three due in April. What we ended up with is two experienced does pregnant, dried off and providing no milk, and two first fresheners not bred and providing very little milk.

These two first fresheners may be producing more milk than we are getting, though. The problem there is that they are still letting their seven month old kids nurse. Yes, I know, they should have been weaned months ago. The pasture we use to wean the kids has now turned into the pig pasture. The first set of kids we had in February were weaned there successfully. The second set of kids we had in April were there for one month, but then we had to get ready for the pigs and they took over the pasture. We crossed our fingers and put the kids in a pasture next to their mothers with an adjoining fence, but that didn’t work. The does let their kids nurse through the fence. We temporarily put the does in the pasture that now has the water storage tanks, but it wasn’t long enough to break that cycle of allowing the kids to nurse.

So, why are we getting barely enough milk? We ended up relying on two first fresheners that are still letting their kids nurse. Not a good choice on our part. We have already discussed successful weaning with the next kids that will be born in January. Now that we have become familiar with the pigs, the weaning kids will go back into that pasture with them. We will pen off the kids at night, with their own little barn and feed them there. In the mornings we will let them out to graze with the pigs. Training Liberty, our gilt, to go into a pen by herself to eat has worked out very well and gives me confidence that we can juggle pig and kid feeding just fine. I will feed the pigs first and get them situated, then feed the kids in their pen and close them off from the pigs. Then we won’t have to worry about competition for feed, housing or water between the kids and the pigs. That’s the theory for now anyway.

I hope to get these two first fresheners to provide enough milk to get us to about January 10th, which will be five days after the first doe is due to kid and the milk will be drinkable. The second doe’s milk will be ready for consumption around January 16th, which means we’ll have more than enough then. That may be perfect timing since we are guesstimating that Liberty may have piglets by then. Some of that extra milk, especially the first milk with colostrum, will be excellent food for Liberty and her babies. There are some things that work out just right.

There are always so many things to learn when raising livestock and trying to meet certain goals. Sometimes things work out just like you want them to, and sometimes they don’t. Speaking of barely enough, our 17 hens have been giving us around 5 eggs a day for a while now, which isn’t enough. We’ve had to buy eggs to fill in the gaps. Sometime this month our young hens should begin laying which will be great. After their production becomes enough to keep us in eggs, the older hens will fill up more jars on the shelf. It all usually works out in the end, one way or another.

Lessons learned, whether from successes or failures, are always valuable. The more we learn now while failure is still an option, the better off we will be. 

Until next time – Fern

Bo’s Crooked Legs

You may want to pull up a chair and pour a cup of coffee or tea, because this story will take a little time. If you are a very soft hearted individual, you may also want grab a box of tissue. No, Bo didn’t die, but he had some struggles, and I won’t tell you the end of the story until we get there somewhere down the page. Now if you’re the kind of  person that turns to the end of the book to see how it ends before you even start reading it, you can scroll to the bottom of this article and see what happens. Otherwise, here is how the story began.

On Thursday, April 2nd, right on schedule at 150 days gestation, Cricket went into to labor. Cricket is one of our first fresheners that I have high hopes for. Her grandmother, Katy, was one of our first does. She was a good mother, good milker and all around very good doe. Cricket’s mother, Ivory who we sold last fall, was also a very good doe, except for that very irritating hollering that she refused to stop doing. It’s the only reason we sold her. 

Our friend, Faith (pseudonym), came over to watch and participate in the birth since she plans to start her own goat herd very soon. As the kids feet presented during labor, I realized the legs were crossed. At this point I wasn’t sure whether these feet belonged to different kids or the same kid. Even though I had not seen this presentation before, I didn’t feel I should intervene, instead I waited to see how Cricket would proceed.

After the feet but before the head appeared, Cricket got up and laid down several times, which is normal during labor. But one time when Cricket started to lay down again, she landed on a pile of hay. She had pawed up some of the hay in her birthing pen in a nesting type of behavior, which is also normal. This is kind of hard to describe, but as she lay down, she landed on the downward slope of this pile of hay, which caused her to roll all the way over on her back, then onto the other side. I was worried what might happen to the kid’s legs during this accidental roll over.

Shortly after this event, Bo was born. As his head emerged, we realized one of his legs was quite a bit ahead of it, while one of them was not. After he was born, Cricket took a few minutes to decide what this thing was she had just expelled from her body. Even though it was a cool day, we gave her a few minutes to adjust because the umbilical cord had not yet broken. I wanted her to be the one to break the cord, instead of us. I moved Bo up toward Cricket’s head as far as the cord would allow, to encourage her to begin licking and cleaning him. Faith removed the mucous from his mouth, and some of the birthing material from his body. A little while later, I cleaned, dried and stimulated Bo with some towels. Then a short time later, Cricket stood up, broke the umbilical cord and began investigating her new son.

After Cricket began licking and talking to Bo, I made sure the wax plugs were removed from her teats, and helped Bo get his first meal. At this point, all appeared to be well. A few hours later, as Bo began to get up and try to walk, we noticed his front knees were not straightening out as he stood. He had an awkward look to him, but still was getting up and around and trying to nurse on his own, just like any newborn kid. I hoped his awkward knees would correct themselves over the next few days. The first things that came to mind were the way his legs were crossed and being compressed with each contraction during the birthing process. The next thing that came to mind was that while his legs were crossed and outside of Cricket’s body, she rolled all the way over during labor. Now, I’m beginning to wonder about birth trauma to his legs.

 

We decided to give Bo a few days to see if his legs would strengthen and straighten out on their own. They didn’t. These videos are at day three and are the ones that really got to me. We knew that we would either need to try to do something to help Bo’s legs, or put him down. Other than his legs, though, he is a strong, healthy animal.

Off to my goat books I went. This is the only book I have that really dealt with birth trauma, as opposed to nutritional deficiencies. I read all about nutrient and mineral deficiencies and bent leg, but none of these maladies matched up with Bo’s predicament. In the book, All About Goats, on page 131 it says, “Contracted tendons, particularly of the forelimbs, are common in newborn kids resulting in an inability to straighten the leg. Mild cases with a partially bent leg will often resolve on their own as the tendons stretch with movement; more severe cases may need splinting to stretch the tendons and allow weight bearing on the foot.” After finding this, I went to the internet to find out how other people have splinted baby goat’s legs. There are many different ideas out there for the looking. Armed with this information, Frank and I decided to use stiff cardboard and duct tape. Here is what we did on Monday morning, when Bo was 3 1/2 days old.

Cardboard, socks, duct tape and scissors

Start off with a sock for cushioning and protection for Bo’s skin

Wrap in preformed, stiff cardboard

Duct tape cardboard in place, then fold the sock over both ends

Duct tape the sock in place over each end

Then do the other leg

One of the first things Bo did after we finished his splints, was nurse. That was one of our concerns, and he had no difficulty at all. Good. That was step one. We encouraged him to walk, just to make sure he could get around on his own. The next thing he did was try out his “new legs” and play. Yea! So far, so good.

Bo quickly got used to using his “new legs” and began to play with the other kids much more than ever before. We planned to leave the splints in place until Friday, which would have been four days. But, Thursday evening, when I went up to milk, I found this.

Since one of Bo’s splints had worked it’s way below his right knee and was no longer serving any purpose, we went ahead and removed them both. The encouraging sight I saw, was that his right leg was straight and he was using it normally. Now to see how the left leg was doing.

 

His left leg was awkward when he tried to walk on it, even though it was straight. We hoped a few days time would improve it’s use. 

This morning, two days after removing his splints, here is Bo. We still feel his shoulder stance is a little wider than the other kids, but he now looks and acts like a ‘kid his age’, so to speak.


I have to tell you, it chokes me up a little and does my heart good, to see the improvement Bo has made. Frank and I both have soft spots in our hearts for animals that struggle. Bo has given us another great learning opportunity. We had never splinted anything before, animal or human. It gave us the chance to research, brainstorm, experiment, discuss improvements and what worked, and gave us a successful finished product – straight legs. All of this will still eventually lead to food on our table. Bo is destined to become a wether, like the other young bucks, which we will raise and butcher in due time. Does this make me sad? No. We raise animals for the purpose of providing ourselves with good, wholesome food. 


We were fortunate that this story had a happy ending. Not all of them do. We have had baby goats that were not able to overcome the obstacles they encountered at birth and have had to put them down. I didn’t know how this story would end, that’s why I have postponed telling it. But now I feel fairly certain that Bo will do fine. And as for Cricket? She has the makings of a fine milk goat. She has trained to the milk stand and milking routine well. I still have high hopes for her. And if I attend another birth where the kids legs are crossed, I will do my best to reposition them correctly in the hopes that this will not happen again. There is no guarantee that this was caused from birth trauma, but that is what my gut instinct tells me from all of my reading and research. Sometimes there is no way to know why some things happen. But this time, we were blessed with a successful solution. I am grateful.

Until next time – Fern