Goats, Milk & Cheese

We have written many articles about our goat adventures. You will find them in the archives under The Goats That Feed Us & The Things You Can Do With Milk. Just a reminder – most of our archives go to the old blog over in Blogger. If you want to leave a comment, make sure you do it here, they have been turned off at the old site since we don’t check things over there anymore.

We have continued to downsize our herd. We currently have four adult does, three of which are in milk. Kids were born to them in January and are being weaned and sold now. The cycle continues. One of the does I am milking is a first freshener, what I call a first timer. She has been very easy to train to the milk stand and to hand milk, which is great. Some in the past have not been near this easy. I’m not sure if it’s the temperament of the animal or the years of experience training a goat to be milked. Maybe both.

My favorite milker before she had her triplets in January.

We have one more first timer to birth in May. I don’t really like this goat, and have thought about selling her pregnant, but want to see if she will hold us in milk through the winter until the others have babies again next January. We haven’t been successful in having year round milk because most goats won’t breed in the off season. This doe didn’t breed at all until we got a shot from the vet to force her into heat. We were told if she was pregnant and very far along, the shot would make her abort, but we had never seen any signs of heat or breeding and she had been with the buck for months. The shot worked and now we await her first kids.

This year we are keeping two adult does in milk, the third will be sold after we have our cheese supply stocked for the year. We will keep two young does for replacements, just in case. In years past we have tried to keep does from separate blood lines within our closed herd, but not this year. There has been one ‘family’ of does that consistently out performs the others with temperament, udder size and production, and ease of milking. That’s who we are keeping.

The buck we had, on the other hand, after breeding all of the does including the late one, started losing hair until he was practically bald. It happened over a number of months. We treated him a number of times according to the vet’s directions to no avail. He still ran around when he wasn’t freezing in the cold weather, ate well, hollered like the rest, but looked horrible. He is no longer with us. This was the goat with the strange story of purchase we wrote about on the other blog in this article – Goat Tales & the Stench.

Young buck

This leaves us without a buck, or billy goat, except for the three that were born here in January. We’re on the look out for a new unrelated buck, but if necessity mandates, we will use one of these young ones for future breeding. We will ban two of them for wethers for meat, but keep one for a buck.

We have started making cheese for the season, two batches of mozzarella so far. We ran out of our cheddar a while back and bought some in several different stores. It all tastes the same, kind of like what we remember Velveeta would have tasted like. It’s the first cheese we have bought in years, we don’t remember the last time we bought any. The plan is to make a dozen wheels of cheddar and set them to age while eating fresh mozzarella for now and freezing a whole bunch. We are spoiled to our own cheese, to me, it is so much better.

Mozzarella

You can find the beginning and progression of our cheese making experiences in many of the archive articles. I still make & drink kefir everyday. Frank has always been a milk drinker and prefers goat milk to any other he has had. We did appreciate Braum’s (a regional ice cream store that also has burgers and now some fresh market foods) going to A2 milk. When our does were dry, we bought milk there, usually six to eight gallons at a time since the store is 25 miles away and we don’t like to go to town very often. If you’re not familiar with A1 & A2 milk, look back in the archives. We were very glad we discovered the difference years ago and have tried to share the information far and wide. Our vet can’t drink cows milk without ending up on the floor with cramps. He can drink the A2 milk from Braum’s with no issues. If you don’t know the difference, check it out, it’s interesting information.

Now is the milking, cheese making season along with putting in the garden. As Bear Claw, from the movie Jeremiah Johnson would say, March is a green, muddy month down below, fit for farmers and such (or something like that – we have watched that movie many times, just not in the last decade or so). He’s right. It’s a busy time of year. A good busy. We planted blueberries and strawberries yesterday. Today we made bread and planted a few more things before a rainy spell comes upon us. We do the normal chores, milking the goats, feeding the chickens and gathering eggs, preparing for the rainy weather, planting more seedlings in the greenhouse. The things that make up our daily life.

It’s a busy time and that’s great. I’m glad we have this time to continue our chosen way of life. The choices appear to become more narrow with each passing day, with each new executive order, and attempted legislation. I have no way of predicting how the next few months or years will turn out, but the folks out there saying local, local, local are correct. Frank has made more contact with neighbors in the last few months than we have in years. It’s a good thing. We’ll give you an update on the garden soon with thoughts about planting every square inch with way more than we need.

Always do what you can for yourself, your family and any you deem worthy of your efforts. Work is not a dirty, four letter word. It is what feeds the body and soul. Literally.

We would love to hear what you think. Ideas that will help us all. How to raise animals, grow food, where to buy supplies. God knows we all need help at this point in time.

Until next time – Fern

Goat Tales & the Stench

We have reduced our goat herd quite a bit recently. It’s part of our downsizing to reasonable levels in the animal kingdom. We’re also downsizing in many other areas, too. This year we had five does give birth resulting in 14 kids, which was way too many. One, we don’t like keeping up with that many kids, and two, we don’t need to milk five does. That is way too much milk.
 

We always debate whether to keep any young does and if so, how many. This year we went from thinking about keeping one, then two, then three. In the end? We sold them all and are glad we did.

Patch


One tale for this year is that our four year old doe, Patch, had triplets. She is a good mom and everything was going great until her kids were about ten days old. She went off her feed in the morning and by evening wouldn’t get up. Turns out she had a retained placenta, which we had never had happen before. We thought she was going to die, called the vet, got antibiotics and anti-inflammatory shots, force fed electrolytes, vitamins and probiotics with a syringe and held the babies up to her teat to nurse as she lay there. She got up very weak after a few days, the babies were nursing, but not enough, so we enlisted the help of Patch’s older sister, Copper, who was also raising her own triplets.
 

Copper


At two weeks of age we started penning Copper’s babies at night to keep her milk. But instead of us getting the milk, I brought Patch’s two little does in on the milk stand and let them nurse from Copper each morning. Their brother was getting most of the milk from Patch because after her time down she ended up with mastitis on one side of her udder, another experience we have never had before. To make this long story shorter, we continued with this routine until all of the kids were either weaned or sold. We also sold Copper this year. She is six years old, born here, and a little hard to let go of, but she went to a couple that really appreciated the milk supply.

Copper had to have her ear fixed when she was born.


Now, I am still milking Patch on both sides of her udder, discarding the mastitis side and keeping the small amount from the good side. I have turned her in with the buck in hopes she would breed and give us winter milk, so far no luck. The vet thinks her udder will recover and be productive on both sides after she births again. We hope so, and will just have to wait and see. 

The boys – buck and wethers


We have one older wether and three younger wethers that need to be butchered and put in the freezer, along with four new young wethers that were born this year. When we were banning the young wethers, on one of them we missed one testicle, which is now up in the body cavity since the scrotum is gone. He will have to be butchered this year since he is still able to breed. Once we get these five animals in the freezer, that will be a good reduction in the male herd, as well as more meat to eat.

We have placed our current buck for sale since we recently bought a new one. That purchase is a tale all by itself. In some ways it seems like a tall tale, but happened this way, none the less.

We had been checking Craigslist every so often looking for a new buck. We didn’t keep any of our current buck’s daughters, so there was no big hurry getting a new one, we could use him for another year, he is only two years old. But as we checked Craigslist a few weeks ago, we saw a young buck we were interested in, made contact, arranged a day, and drove the two hours to look at him. We liked what we saw, bought him and brought him home.
 

Gerty


As per our usual routine when bringing a new animal onto our land, we isolated him right away, gave him worm medicine, a copper bolus and an antibiotic shot. The next morning we went to the vet and picked up a vaccine shot which we gave and will give another booster in a month. Over the next few days he got two more antibiotic shots and continued in isolation, with the company of one of the young wethers, to finish out his quarantine time.

Well, the day after we brought him home, we got a voice mail from a lady that said we were in possession of her property. That her husband sold us her young buck while she was out of town and that he shouldn’t have. She wanted her property back. What??? We were very surprised. I’ve never heard of such a thing, let alone experienced this. We didn’t call her back, and the next morning we received a text message from another phone number insisting return of the animal with the offer of reimbursement of the purchase price and gas money for the return. Our response? I’m sorry. The sale is final.

Not only was the whole situation strange, in some ways I felt like this was some kind of scam. I’m sorry the man sold his wife’s goat while she was out of town, but that is between the two of them, if that is actually what happened. I really have my doubts, but that doesn’t mean I’m right. This is just another example of you never know what may happen in any situation. Something that appeared to be a normal everyday transaction that occurs all over the country everyday, turned out to be very strange indeed. We’re still not quite sure what to make of it.

So, now we have two bucks, eight wethers, three does and one old lady goat, One Stripe. We get enough milk for our needs and to make some cheese every so often, and that is enough.

I think the lesson I have had reinforced from this tale is to beware the unexpected, whether it is a retained placenta and mastitis, or a shady deal from an unexpected source. Always remember, things are not always as they seem, from strangers, from people in positions of power, even from people you think you know. 

The wolves are howling all across the country, from every walk of life, position in society and cultural background. There are people now that will run you down with their car, punch you in the face, throw your food across the restaurant, or stage screaming mobs outside of your front door, not to mention shoot you while you worship. Things are not as they seem. The veneer is cracking and the seething, maggot ridden rot underneath is coming to the surface. It stinks. It’s spreading. Spraying foo-foo dust on it and covering it with a pretty shiny veneer will not deter it’s festering growth or dissipate the stench. This is now. What comes next?

Until next time – Fern
 

Homestead News, Volume 19

 It seems a number of things around here are aging, animals, people and such. Pearl, our Great Pyrenees, is now 10 years old and is showing some wear and tear. She is slower to get around and takes an arthritis medication regularly. Recently she started making this huffing sound, not really coughing, just a quick breath out, everyday. We took her to the vet, did x-rays and found out she has an enlarged heart, which isn’t unusual for a dog her age and size. She weighs about 120 pounds. Now she takes Lasix.  

One Stripe

One Stripe, our old lady goat, no longer gets to have kids. Two years ago she had her last, Two Tone. We had to take One Stripe to the vet to have the kid pulled because of a bony protrusion that had grown down into the birth canal. Without that assistance, they both would have died, I just couldn’t get the kid out. We really thought the kid was dead, but she wasn’t. The challenge then was to keep them both alive since neither could walk for about a week. One Stripe because of the trauma of birth, and because when we were loading her in the trailer to go to the vet, I pulled her leg out sideways trying to lift her hind quarters. Two Tone had front leg trauma from the long birth process where first I, then the vet, tried to pull her. We splinted her front legs for about two weeks before the ligaments were strong enough to hold her upright. It was a long haul to recovery, but they both finally made it.

Two Tone

This year Two Tone had her first kids. I have only been milking her for about three weeks, but it appears she will be a good milker.

There are a bunch of turnips still in the garden. Last fall we picked and canned a batch, then picked, cooked and froze about eight quarts. Now we plan to till them in and plant some more. We are going to try a perpetual turnip bed. We don’t eat the turnips, by the way, only the greens. I have found a type of turnip seed that doesn’t make a turnip bulb, just mostly greens, that I will try this year. The vast majority of my seeds come from R.H. Shumway’s. The turnips I grew in the greenhouse last winter did well enough for us to pick and cook a batch every week or so. Then, when I planted them out in the garden in the spring instead of taking off and giving us a head start on greens, they surprised me, and went to seed. I saved the seed, but let them cook in the greenhouse too long while they were drying, killing off most of the viability. Now, our experiment will be to establish a turnip patch, let them go to seed the following spring since they are biennials, and see if they will reseed themselves. That is the theory anyway, we’ll see how it works out in practice. 

We’ve been working on getting the barnyard to the garden when we can get into the corral through the mud. This past late summer and fall were exceptionally wet, and the trend has not changed. We are tired of the mud and would like a little more sunshine.

After Frank’s bypass he was anemic for about nine months. We tried iron pills, which he could not tolerate, we ate lots of liver and spinach. During my research at that time I found out turnip greens are much more nutritious than spinach and are higher in iron. We were surprised, and since turnips grow much more prolifically here than spinach, which just doesn’t tolerate our hot summer weather, we are now even more determined to have turnip greens on the shelf and in the ground. 

 

I’ve started the Pot Maker routine and have planted some carrots in the greenhouse. Next will be beets. I’ll wait until later in the month to start tomato, pepper and squash seedlings. The new garden map is planned and awaiting warmer weather to put into action. 

 
We have started the cheese making season with mozzarella, which we had run out of in the freezer. We still have chevre and cheddar from last year, so mozzarella was first on the list.

From mozzarella comes pizza, of course. The difference now is using sourdough for the crust instead of the previous white flour recipe we used before.

Right now I’m milking five does and we have way too many babies running around. I’ll do a goat tail story before long and get you up to speed on all of them.

So, how do you like our new Frank & Fern logo? It was Frank’s idea.

Life on the farm is good. Very good. We wouldn’t live any other way. We need your comments positive and negative, we need your ideas. We are all in this together. We need to share. How are things in your neck of the woods?

Until next time – Fern

Watching Our Pregnant Does Grow

This is the time of year that I start keeping a close eye on our does. One Stripe and Copper are due February 10th, which won’t come too soon for me. I have been lamenting our lack of fresh goat milk for a while now, and I miss the daily milking routine. Some folks would find milking twice a day to be a grinding drudgery. There are days the weather doesn’t increase my enjoyment of milking my goats, but they are few and far between for me. My friends have already had to start listening to me tell them again and again how much I love baby goats and having fresh milk. I’m grateful they are patient with me and tolerate my repetitive excitement. So, here is an update on how my wonderful does are doing.

One Stripe tends to get almost as wide as she is long toward the end of her gestation. She is on her way to the waddling stage and her udder is just starting to fill out. Since she lost her babies last year, I am more concerned about her than I have been other years. One Stripe is our old lady goat, she will be seven in May. Except for her mishap last year, she has been a great mom, very attentive, with strong, healthy babies and lots of milk. I have been watching her closely to see if she is showing any signs of aborting early again. So far, so good.

 


Copper will be having her second set of kids this year and is filling out quite nicely. She is already bigger than she was last year, or it seems like it to me. Her udder is also starting to slowly fill. She had twins last year and was also a very attentive, with lots of milk just like her mother, One Stripe.
 

 


The body condition, udder and alert, attentive behavior are some of the things I watch for in my pregnant does. I keep an eye on their skin condition, too. One Stripe tends to get a little dandruffy, dry skin toward the end of her pregnancies. Copper doesn’t. I check the base of their tails to see if their hips have begun to spread, which so far, they haven’t.

 Next week I will start bringing One Stripe and Copper in the barn in the morning and giving them a little extra grain. All of the does get some grain in the evening, but not much. Kids put on most of their size and weight the last month of gestation, so this extra feed in the cold of winter will help keep these does in good, healthy condition. I also make sure to keep minerals out all the time during gestation. The goats are still out grazing everyday and getting plenty of exercise. There are certain grasses and weeds that grow almost all winter here so they have some fresh things to eat each day. If it is cold and wet with rain or snow, we keep hay in the manger. Otherwise, the fresh graze of the pasture is much more nutritional and meets their needs for roughage. 

We have three young does that will be first fresheners, or having their first kids this spring. These does are not due until the first week in April. They are all looking very good, starting to thicken in the middle, while they continue to grow to full size goats. These three does were bred when they were 8 months old. 
 

Penny, December 21st

Cricket, December 21st

Lady Bug, December 21st

There are varying opinions on when to breed young does. Some folks will not breed them until they are a year old. Some go by weight, the common recommendation is 80 to 90 pounds or 8 to 9 months old. Some folks insist that it will stunt the growth of the doe if they are bred before they are a year or more old. Others insist the does will not produce as much milk if they are allowed to wait until they are older to have their first kids. So, if you are interested in, or are getting started with goats, you will have to decide how you are going to handle your breeding and birthing conditions. There are also other goat owners that run the herd together year round, allowing them to breed and birth as they will. We control our breeding times by keeping the buck separated from the does. As I discussed in the last goat article, we tried to breed One Stripe in July, but the buck was not mature enough. So, our breeding schedules don’t always work out the way we prefer. We have also had does breed at times we didn’t think it would ever happen. Like one month after birthing when they were raising triplets. That was one of those learning experiences we wished hadn’t happened, strictly for the health of the doe. I think that is way too hard on their bodies. Some folks let their goats breed anytime, and want them to produce as many kids as possible. To me, that’s just breeding them to death, literally. It uses up the strength of their bodies long before it otherwise would.

Lady Bug & Cricket at 11 days old

 

Penny as a newborn


Since I have already warned you about my repetitious nature when it comes to baby goats, you won’t be surprised when I say, “Did I tell you how much I love baby goats?” I will continue to keep you up to date about the progress my does are making. If you have any questions I can help you with, please ask in the comments. On some past posts, I had some great questions that helped me to learn more, as well as gave me more ideas of things to share here. So, let me know if you have questions. After all, since I love baby goats and the whole birthing process, I’d love to get a conversation going.

Until next time – Fern

Fixing a Baby Goat’s Ear

We raise Nubian milk goats and they have long floppy ears and they are beautiful, of course. Just ask Ivory.

When the kids are born their ears are folded shut. They usually open out flat in a short period of time, but not always.

One Stripe had a single doe kid (from an accidental breeding i.e. the billy goat got the gate open in July for a few hours) in January. 
 

One of her ears stayed folded over like this. This is Copper. Frank named her. See the copper colored rings around her eyes? 

The fix for this ear called for scissors, a piece of cardboard from a cereal box and some duct tape. We cut a piece of cardboard about the same width as the tape and long enough to fold over and cover both sides of her ear. The tape will only have to stick to some of the hair on the outside of her ear. She is only a few days old and we don’t want the tape to irritate the flesh on the under side of her ear or tear the flesh when we take it off. So we are very careful. If we can get her to leave it on for 24 hours, the ear should be flat.

Here she is, all taped up.

The next day, when we took the cardboard off, she looked great. Two nice flat ears.

Since Copper was born about a month before any other kids, she got to do things a little different. When I started milking One Stripe, I would bring Copper in and let her play on the milk stand

as long as she didn’t mess with my milk bucket. Then she graduated to running around under my chair and playing with Pearl, our Great Pyrenees. They became good friends. Copper is one of my favorites, next to her mom.

Copper is ready to breed now and will have her own kids in December, or so we plan. Obviously, our efforts to control the breeding of our does doesn’t always go according to plan. 

 

I have high hopes for Copper as a milk goat since her mom and sister, Velvet, are great milkers. It’s always fun to see how things turn out. This is Velvet. She had her first kid this March and is a promising milk goat.

Every year is another learning experience when it comes to breeding and birthing goats. It is a very satisfying way of life. Not always easy or smooth or enjoyable, but very satisfying. We will keep you updated on how all of the goats progress. They are an everyday part of our lives.

Until next time – Fern

Here are some of our kids….

We have been raising goats off and on for about eight years. Our first herd of livestock was Suffolk sheep. We learned a lot about caring for farm animals from them. Then we got up the nerve to try goats – milk goats- and milking. It has been a lot of learning, trial and error, and a lot of fun. So – here are our current ‘kids’ which are Nubian milk goats. We love the long ears and the temperament – most of the time.

One Stripe is our ‘old lady’ goat at 5 years of age. She is a wonderful mother and a great milker. She is unusual in that she is friendly with everyone, she seldom meets a stranger. She will be one goat that grows to old age here.

Velvet is One Stripe’s doe from 2012. Velvet had her first kid this spring, so she is a first-time milker.  She is a dream to milk and has trained very quickly to the milking routine. Over the years I have become much better at training the does to milk without much kicking or fussing. It sure makes it easier on both of us. This is one case where experience really pays off.

Ivory is also a yearling from 2012. She had twins this spring and is doing well as a first-time milker. She loves to holler when we go to the barn, which we don’t find very amusing. We lead quiet, calm lives and appreciate animals with the same temperament.

Copper is One Stripe’s doe from this year. She loves Pearl, our Pyrenees. Copper was our ‘accident’ baby this year. We went up to the barn one day last August and the gate to the billy goat’s pasture was open and he was in with all of the does. We didn’t know if anyone was in heat and breeding, but we found out One Stripe was when she had Copper in January instead of March like we planned. 

Here are Copper and One Stripe in the barn after a morning meal. Copper is growing well and will be ready to breed in November. Her first kids will be born next April. Since Copper was a single and the only baby goat we had in January she got to come in and play on the milk stand while I milked One Stripe. This allowed us to handle her a lot and has produced a very tame, sweet young doe. If all goes well, she will be with us for years to come.

We will continue to post more information about our daily routines with the goats. They are an important part of our lives and allow us to harvest pure, nutritional milk everyday. This in turn provides us with the opportunity to make cheese, butter, yogurt and ice cream which will be part of our future posts.
If there are any questions we can address concerning benefits of raising milk goats, we will do our best to answer them.