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

Homestead News, Volume 3

Even with historic rainfall, it seems we have managed to stay busy on our homestead. There are a number of projects that are either ongoing, getting started or waiting in the wings for next week to arrive. Here is a rundown of some of our recent events.

 

Frank has wanted to put another layer of gravel on the road going up to the barn. We had this road constructed when we bought our place, but it was time to increase the gravel depth and width. This should do for this road for years to come.

 

We also wanted a load of gravel placed in the backyard so Frank could spread it out in our parking areas and in a number of other places. Unfortunately, the dump truck got stuck before it could make it down the hill. This necessitated dumping the gravel by the chicken house, which means Frank will have to make many, many trips up and down this hill to place the gravel in the desired place.

The dewberries are ripening, so my friend Grace came over today and between rain showers, we picked a few berries. I hope to pick many more in the next few days. By the way, yesterday and last night we got another 1.4″ of rain, and then today we got another 0.4″. But! This is supposed to be the end of it. There is no rain in the near forecast. Hallelujah!

We have had some issues with the egg turner in our incubator this year and were afraid we would have a very poor hatch rate. Today, the day before our actual hatch date, we already have eleven, no make that sixteen, new baby chicks. We were surprised and pleased with this development. Frank will fill you in on the details in an upcoming chicken story.

Our house was built in 1983 on a stem wall with floor joists. Over time it has settled in the middle and needed to be jacked up and leveled. It was hard to find someone to do this kind of work, but today two of our friends arrived and began this project. After this job is completed, they will be helping us replace some of our 30 year old carpet with new flooring. We are really looking forward to that.

Next week the window company will be here to replace our windows. Many of them are clouded over on the inside, and one on the north side lets the cold air in if it is very windy. This is another project that has been on the drawing board for awhile.

The pigs are growing, and will be given more room sometime in the coming week when we let them out into the larger pig pen. First we need to add a few stock panels up against the barn. The last set of pigs really rooted out a lot of dirt under the edge of the slab the barn is sitting on. We don’t want to allow any more of this dirt to be removed. All of the pigs are becoming tame enough to pat and scratch while they are eating, and occasionally when they are not. They greet me each time they see me, especially if I have a bucket in my hand. 

Easter on top, Bo in the house

Tomorrow our last two kids will be separated from their mothers for weaning. Easter, our Easter Sunday doe, and Bo, our little bowlegged wether will be joining the adult wethers, the teenage wethers, and the billy goat. The teenage wethers and Patch, another young doe, have been separated from their mothers for eight weeks now. One Stripe is Patch’s mom, and she is no longer being milked, so Patch will be rejoining the doe herd tomorrow. I will be glad to have her back with the ‘girls’ so I can give her more attention. She is already a very sweet, tame doe and I look forward to adding her to the milking line up next year.
 

Patch


Tomorrow morning Faith, our friend that bought Penny to milk, is coming over for a cheese making lesson. We will be discussing how to make soft cheese and making a batch of mozzarella. Faith has been reading a lot, but learns best by watching and taking notes. She is just beginning to put together a list of needed equipment and ingredients. We will have a fun time talking goats, milk and cheese.

The garden is growing despite all of the rain. The zinnias we planted in and around some of the vegetables are starting to bloom. And they are beautiful. 

It seems we are busier than ever, with much to do on our plates. Once the few projects I mentioned are complete there are about a half dozen more waiting to be started right behind them. We’ll let you know what they are and how they go. Life on a homestead always gives you many things to do. Some planned. Some not. Either way, you learn, you work, you live. It’s a good life.

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 1

We decided to start a new feature and call it Homestead News. Every so often we have given you an update of things that are happening around here, and we’re running out of names for those articles. So, now they will just be called Homestead News and be numbered by volume. It may not be very original, but it simplified things for us. We have also added a new page to the list of Things To Read, at the top of the right hand column, titled Homestead News where you will find links to these articles. Now that we have explained our new feature, on with the news.

Pearl wants some attention while I wait for a goat to finish eating on the milk stand.

We are now milking five does twice a day. That sounds like a lot of milk, but really it’s not…..yet. Copper and One Stripe have been providing us with the bulk of the milk so far since their babies are being weaned. Our three young does have only been giving us a little, morning and evening, until this morning. Last night was the first night I penned up the young babies away from their moms since the youngest, Easter, is now two weeks old. The young does are developing their udder capacity, which will continue to increase over the next few months. This morning from a full milking with all five does we got a gallon and a half of milk. Tomorrow will be less because this morning I wormed Copper and One Stripe. I will still milk them, and keep their milk for the animals for five days before we keep it for human consumption again. In the meantime, we will be getting the milk from the young does.

 

With all of this milking we have been making cheese two to three days a week. Now that we have plenty of milk we use four gallons every time. That makes a double batch of cheddar and a quadruple batch of mozzarella. So far we have six wheels of cheddar waxed and aging and two more in the cheese presses on the kitchen counter that we made today. There are several batches of mozzarella in the freezer. Our plan is to make 30 wheels of cheddar for the season. Mozzarella? Well, we always eat some fresh when we make it, then freeze the rest. I separate each batch into three pieces of cheese that are probably around half a pound. The supply in the freezer is building, and that’s okay. We are eating more cheese on our low carb diet and there is nothing like homemade, just like with any food.

In our efforts to successfully grow cabbage for humans instead of insects, we are trying something new this year. Our first batch of green lacewing and praying mantid eggs arrived in the mail today. I’ve already had some friends tell me that it sounds weird to order bugs or to get bugs in the mail. That’s okay, though, because they already knew I was weird. And they’re still my friends! The bug thing will be an ongoing process and I will do an article about it as we get farther along.

I’m kitting a few dishcloths for a wedding shower gift for a young couple at church. I think it’s always nice to get something homemade.

We spent half a day trying to program a radio scanner that we can’t figure out. That was very frustrating. It is now in a box on a shelf. But we do have another one we are going to take a look at. 

Frank has been talking to a young man at church about survival radio. They are now working on setting up a class that Frank will teach for some of the folks in the area. This class will provide information about getting a ham radio license at the Technician level. But even more than that, Frank will provide information about using CB, GMRS, FRS, MURS, scanners and shortwave radio more effectively. They will be talking about how to use a small solar panel to power the battery in a car, or any battery, and allow continued use of radio communications when the power is out. Frank feels very strongly about trying to set up a network of local people that will be able to communicate via radio if there is a natural disaster, emergency or collapse situation, whether it lasts a few days or indefinitely. We really look forward to this class and the relationships it will build with people in our surrounding area.

Cowpeas
Cushaw winter squash


The garden is growing, so the masterpiece has begun. We have had so much rain that it is still hard to get into the garden and get a handle on the weeds, or plant a few more seeds. So far, the old pinto bean seeds I planted have not made an appearance. I don’t know if they are too old, or it has been too wet. There are many people around here that haven’t started their gardens yet because it is so wet. We are grateful that we have so many things planted and growing.

 

I am very excited to see the wild blackberries blooming. We now eat berries every morning with our breakfast, and I look forward to serving fresh berries we have harvested instead of having to buy them at the store. I will be picking every berry I can get my hands on this year in an effort to freeze enough, so we won’t have to buy any. I don’t know if I can do that or not. I would also like to can more peaches and pears, but I’m trying to figure out if I can do it without sugar. I know in some recipes, sugar is a sweetener, but it also provides part of the preservative properties. I’ll have to do more research on that.

We have been picking a variety of things from the garden and herb bed to include in a salad about three to four days a week. I’ll be doing an article on that before long as well. I have to tell you, the herb bed is doing wonderfully this year. I hope to actually start harvesting and using what’s out there. Instead of only growing the plants, it’s time to learn to preserve and put them to use. The new comfrey bed is doing well. I pick comfrey everyday now for the chickens and the goats. 

And Frank the funny photographer took some beautiful pictures after one of the latest rains. We had a nice double rainbow for a short time.
 


There is always a lot happening on a homestead in the spring. It’s the time of increased activity after a long winter’s rest. Now, if it would just quit raining for a day or two we might get to mow the grass before it gets knee high.

April 13th

April 18th

April 19th

Keep an eye on Yemen. It looks like things are heating up in the Middle East. We just pray it doesn’t boil over.

Until next time – Fern

Easter Is Here

Lady Bug decided to choose Easter Sunday to present us with a beautiful little doe. In keeping with the celebration of birth and new life the Easter season brings us, we decided that would be a great name for the last baby goat we had arriving here this spring. Please meet Easter.

Isn’t she beautiful? Goats come in many different sizes, shapes and colors, but this is one of our favorites. The only color she has besides a dark, soft red is the black on the front of her legs and the end of her tail.

Lady Bug did very well for a first freshener. Once she decided to have her baby, she did so without any assistance and without complaint. These short videos show the birth. We started weaning our older kids the day before, and you will hear them in the background. Some of them obviously aren’t happy to be separated from their mothers. The noise you hear, did not come from Lady Bug or Easter.




Lady Bug wasn’t sure what to think of Easter at first. She spent the first 10-15 minutes smelling and nuzzling the baby, but did not lick or clean her at all. I was beginning to become concerned, but after a while, her instincts kicked in and she made up for lost time. Since the weather was cloudy and cool, I used some towels to dry off and stimulate Easter while she was waiting for her mom’s instincts to start.

Easter arrived healthy, active and ready to eat. As I do for all of our newborn kids when I attend their birth, I helped Easter get her first meal shortly after Lady Bug stood up. Lady Bug has a good milk supply, nicely formed teats and udder for a first freshener and a great attitude. She is attentive to her baby and is exhibiting the signs of a great doe. We are very pleased. There has been something about Lady Bug that Frank has really liked, ever since she was born. That she has presented us with a beautiful, healthy doe her first time to give birth, has increased her value in our eyes. We look forward to watching the two of them grow, one kid into a doe, and one doe into a mother and milk producer.

Grace, a friend of ours who came over to see the newborn baby goats recently, told me something that has really stuck with us. As we all sat visiting and laughing in the barn while she was holding a soft, newborn baby goat she said, “You have a great life. You really do.” You know what? She’s right. And we give thanks each and every day for this wonderful life we’ve been blessed with. Is it perfect? Not even close. Does it have it’s frustrations, difficulties and challenges? Regularly. But it is truly a wonderful life.

 

Easter, the time of celebration, the time of rejoicing over an empty tomb and renewal of life. Easter, our little doe, will be a constant reminder of these blessings.

Until next time – Fern
 

It Was a Very Good Day

I guess I could say our day started at 2:00am when I went to the barn to check on Lady Bug to see if she was in labor. She wasn’t. It always takes a little while to get back to sleep after a nighttime trek to the barn. I intended to get up at 6:00am to check on her again, but I just couldn’t talk myself into it. We’ve been at this middle of the night routine for three nights now with no end in sight. It does wear me down. Anyway, I rolled out at 7:00am, got the milk buckets ready, enjoyed a swift cup of coffee and headed out to the barn and the morning.

One Stripe and Copper enjoyed their typical morning routine. Penny now likes to stand around and talk very loudly to anyone that will listen. I hope she becomes more content soon because she has an irritating voice, and she needs to turn the volume down. Especially in the morning. But this morning was especially noisy because once I finished milking One Stripe and Copper, I did not let their babies out of the baby pen. They remained there awaiting their move to the weaning pen.

Penny was next up on the milk stand and so far has been very cooperative. She was followed by Cricket who is doing well at day two post delivery. I have some concerns about her boy I will share in a few days after I see how things work out. Lady Bug got to eat in her birthing pen, the lone pregnant doe now. She is pretty interested in the other babies. 

After the milk was strained and breakfast was cooked I debated about starting a batch of bread and a batch of cheese. I’ve been waiting for Lady Bug to deliver so I won’t have to worry about cheese sitting in the pot too long, or not being able to work or bake the bread when needed. Today we decided we had been waiting long enough. The sourdough starter has been out on the cabinet being fed for at least a week in preparation to make bread, and the frig was overflowing with over five gallons of milk.

So I ground some wheat and stirred up the sourdough bread and set it to proof on top of the frig where it’s warm. Then we started a double batch of cheddar cheese using up four gallons of milk. One thing about cheddar, is it needs attention in frequent intervals all day long. It’s now set to press for 24 hours and will be ready to remove from the presses tomorrow evening to dry for a few days before it is waxed. This is our first cheddar of the season. It won’t be ready to eat until about the middle of July at the earliest, for a very mild cheddar flavor. 

Making cheese means washing all of those jars the milk was in.

And washing up the cheese press that hasn’t been used in a while.

After the cheese reached the point that we had about a 30 minute window, we went up to the barn and moved the babies into the weaning pen. There was still some commotion, but not a whole lot. We have weaned babies before that screamed and hollered for their mommas until they were so hoarse they didn’t hardly have a voice left. These guys were running around playing some of the time and didn’t seem to be very stressed, which is great.
 

Frank drilled a couple of holes in each of these so the rain would drain out.


Frank had a great epiphany recently about the garden. We have kept enough room between the garden and the house to drive around the house if we needed or wanted to. He was standing outside looking at something the other day and thought, why don’t we forget about driving around the house and expand the garden into that area? It will make the garden a third again as big and allow us to grow a whole lot more food for us and the animals. Great idea! We have been thinking about how to incorporate an ‘animal garden’ into one of the pastures, but we use them pretty regularly. We have four pastures that connect to the corral at the barn and right now there are goats in three of them. When we add pigs to the mix, that will use them even more. Frank’s idea of increasing the garden size where it is will give us another way of increasing food production now.
 

This green grassy area is now becoming part of the garden. 2014 picture


So with that in mind, as we were leaving the barn, Frank brought the tractor down to start tilling up the ‘new’ garden spot. Right off the bat the shear pin broke on the tiller. So we replaced it. He went back around to start tilling one end of the garden which is very, very rocky, and immediately broke the shear pin. So we replaced it. This time he started at the other end of the garden down by the herb bed. He made it the whole length of the garden back into the rocky area just fine. Then he turned around to come back down the other way and immediately broke the shear pin. That’s when he announced that he was finished with the tiller for the day. We still have at least one, but now we need to get some more shear pins.

While Frank was busy breaking shear pins instead of the soil, I was trying to get some manure tea started. There is a new piece of garden we have already tilled up in front of the herb bed where I planted turnips, spinach, lettuce and swiss chard. This area has not had all of the great barnyard, ashes and such added to it, so it is not very rich in nutrients compared to the garden. Some of the spinach leaves are turning yellow. I wanted to give this bed a boost, so I took a couple of five gallon buckets to the chicken house, collected a deposit of manure and hay, filled the buckets with water, put on the lids and set them out in the herb bed where I will be using them. I’ll let them steep for a number of days before I begin side dressing the plants with tea. I won’t water them directly with this tea because I don’t want to burn the plants. I will also give them some wood ashes we have saved in the ash can from the woodstove, and some whey. 

After about 35 years of mowing our lawn with a push mower, we finally broke down and got a riding mower, which is a pretty green color and runs like a deere. It arrived yesterday but we were too busy to do anything with it then, and it was trying to rain. Today after Frank returned the tractor to the barn, he brought the mower down to try it out. In the meantime, I’m in the house working the cheese again. When I got to the point that I had a few minutes to go outside, I tried out the mower as well. It’s interesting, and since we have never had one before, it’s different. I do like it though. It will make it easier to keep some areas from becoming a jungle and needing to be brush hogged with the tractor in the summer. So I played on the mower for a while. Then I went back in and worked the cheese. Then I mowed a little more, returned it to the barn, checked on Lady Bug who refuses to have babies, and went back to the house to work the cheese.

Now one of my goals today was to get some more things planted. I didn’t. It’s all still sitting there waiting on me with rain coming tonight and tomorrow, and a chance of more every day this week until Friday. But maybe I can still get a few things planted over the next few days if it doesn’t get too wet.


Since we are weaning the older babies that means I will now be milking One Stripe and Copper twice a day and getting two gallons of milk a day instead of one. That means every two days I will have enough milk to make a double batch of cheese. But I still need to get things planted…… And then when Penny, Cricket and Lady Bug’s kids, if she ever has them, are two weeks old and I start penning them up at night, we will get more like three gallons of milk a day. Am I sure I need or want to milk five goats every day? Hmm……something to think about. But before long we hope to get those pigs and they will be happy to drink milk or whey everyday.

The old way to store whey.


And speaking of whey. Frank had a great idea. In the past when we made cheese, we put the whey in old peanut butter jars and sat them on the floor in the kitchen. There is way too much to fit in the frig with all the milk coming in. We feed one jar to the dog and cats each day, and two jars to the chickens morning and evening. Frank recommended we get out the water bath canner and just put all of the whey in it and dip it out into a jar as we need it. Great idea. Simplifies things. If we get overrun with whey, I will use it to water some of the garden plants. They love it, too.

So, now the animals are fed and tucked into bed, the cheese is doing it’s thing in the press, the bread is baked and sampled, and this blog post is now written. It has been a very good day. We enjoyed the warmth of the sunshine, each other’s company, the quiet peace of a country life and the blessings that work brings. Peace, joy and contentment. We pray that the season of Easter, with the renewal of life, brings much joy and happiness to you and yours.

Until next time – Fern

Milking Challenges, Horn Scurs & More Lore

Remember when I told you Copper has been a dream to train? And that I expected some challenges along the way? It’s true. Every doe I have trained to milk has come up with some behavior somewhere along the way that had to be corrected. Cooper has been no exception.

After I had been milking Copper for a while, she got use to having her leg moved back and out to make room for the milk bucket. There have been several times she kicked at flies and caught her hoof on the edge of the pail, but only once did she end up with her foot in milk. That’s a pretty good record for me and a new milker. The flies are really bad right now, but the does have figured out how to kick the flies and miss the bucket, usually. 

The problem Copper developed is a rather intense dislike of having the teat dip applied after I finished milking. The best way I have found to correct this problem is to hold the goat’s leg way up in the air. I doubt if this position is very comfortable, but it is not painful. It is very awkward, and doesn’t allow the goat to kick at all. The only thing they can do is kind of hop up and down on the remaining leg. It makes it very easy to apply the teat dip and totally eliminates any competition for cooperation. The first few times I did this it kind of scared Copper a little and probably confused her. It didn’t take her long to realize that she had no choice, but to cooperate. Now it is not a problem.

The other behavior she has developed is yelling at the top of her lungs whenever she sees us. Unfortunately, she has learned this behavior from Ivory. Now both of them are going through some adjustment periods of being taught not to yell. Regular, quiet goat talk is one thing, but bellowing is just not in our acceptable range of noise levels. We will see how we fare with this behavior. Ivory is already sold and will be leaving here the end of September. If Copper doesn’t calm back down then, like her mom One Stripe, she will also be finding a new home.

Bill, our new buck, is doing well. He is still low man on the totem pole with the older wethers, but he’s doing fine. The only problem he is having is his horn scurs. The folks we bought him from had taken him to the vet several times to have his horns worked on, but he still has some scurs growing out. One of this horn buds is growing scurs out of both sides of the base. We are hoping these are the kinds of scurs that he will eventually knock off, kind of like Copper. She will grow a small rounded horn bud looking thing about one to two inches long. Then one day, she will have a small bloody spot where she has knocked it off again. I am hoping Bill will do the same thing. We will see.

In preparation for Frank’s surgery, we tried letting the weaning kids back out into the herd after they had been separated for three weeks. Copper didn’t let her babies nurse, but Ivory did. So, back to the drawing board on that one. The first year we kept does and kids and had to wean them in separate pastures, we kept them separated for six weeks and that worked fine. Last year we kept them separated for four weeks and that worked, too. Three weeks just didn’t work. So, now we will keep them separated for about another three weeks and see how that goes. We were trying to get down to animals in two pastures, his and hers, instead of three, his, hers and kids.

The other goat thing we were wanting to accomplish is breeding Bill and One Stripe, but neither appears to be interested yet. At one point we thought One Stripe was going into heat, but nothing ever came of that. Since we are using three of our four pastures, and we only want One Stripe to breed, and not Copper or Ivory, we will put Bill and One Stripe in the fourth pasture during the day and return them to their usual pasture in the evening. This will only happen if all is well with Frank and we have the time to mess with them. So, our breeding schedule may be a little later than we originally planned, but that’s okay, too. That’s why they’re called plans, they are subject to change or the whim of the planner.

This is a laid back time of year with the goats, and that is nice. I am still milking twice a day. We keep the morning milk for us, and the evening milk goes to Pearl and the chickens. We will keep more of it when we start making cheese. For now, this is a nice easy routine. There is always more to be learned, tried, discarded, tried again and figured out. Sometime it’s at a convenient time, and sometimes it isn’t. That’s part of this thing called life. Isn’t it great?

Until next time – Fern

It’s Weaning Time

Weaning baby goats is not difficult if you have good fencing. You just separate them from their mothers and wear ear plugs for a few days. Sometimes babies are sold, making the weaning easy. So far, we haven’t sold any babies this year, and actually, we didn’t have any for sale. Two different families have stopped by recently looking for a new billy goat, which is an oddity. When you raise goats you need to plan on keeping your bucks as wethers for meat, or taking them to the sale barn. Bucks, just like bulls, are a dime a dozen and each herd only needs one. So, if you are planning to start raising livestock, have a plan for the excess male animals you will be raising, whether it is chickens or goats.

We put some extra 2 x 4 stock panel sections along the bottom part of the corral specifically with weaning in mind. Before we had this up, we found that some very determined babies could still squeeze through the pole gate and find their way back to mom and a meal. Now the babies can only stand there and cry. Loudly. Well, only for a day or two until they lose their voices altogether. But it will come back, and by then they aren’t crying near as much.

Copper and Ivory aren’t real happy that their babies can’t come to them when they call. So they fuss at me. That’s okay, because I think that is a sign of a good mother. Their babies are now ten weeks old and more than ready to wean. Some people wean at six weeks, but eight weeks is probably the norm. We choose ten weeks because it just makes for a stronger, healthier baby. It won’t take long, before the does are fine with only being milked and not having big babies nursing. To accomplish the task of weaning we had to do a little bit of goat musical chairs, or ring around the pastures. First I put the does and babies in their pasture and closed the gate.


Then I got all of the wethers and boys to go in the pig pen. (We used this pen to feed out a couple of pigs once and the name stuck.) After they were all in, I sorted them until only the two young bucks that were born here were left. We had put them in with the new buck, Bill, while he was still in the trailer after his arrival. The big boys and Bill, I moved into a different pasture next to the does.


Now I let the does and babies out of their pasture. Next, I put the does in the barn with grain to eat. I was hoping the babies would follow me with a feed bucket into their respective pasture. That didn’t work too well. Copper’s babies cooperated, but Ivory’s didn’t. I ended up luring Ivory into the big baby pen in the barn, then catching her girls and carrying them to the pig pen. They’re getting heavy!


Whew! That was done. We decided to leave the babies locked in the pen for the night. The two oldest bucks are used to this pasture and can show the new arrivals around. That is a plus. The next morning after I fed the babies, I left the pig pen gate open. We thought we would let them out to graze during the day, but pen them up each night for a while. I left them eating and wished them a good day.


When I came back in the evening to feed, all four of the babies were back in the pasture with their mothers! Hmmmmm……they came through the gate into the corral even though we had put 2 x 4 stock panel over the bottom two openings. We were surprised. So now I was facing the same sorting procedure with the babies again, which I was not looking forward to. As I stood there shaking my head at them it occurred to me that there is a much easier way to accomplish this task. Remember how I used the does to lure the babies into the pen when I wanted to pen them off at night to get more milk? This is one of those moments when you think, “Good grief! Why didn’t I think of that yesterday?? It would have saved me a lot of work!” So, this time I just opened up the gate to the pasture, called the does with a bucket of feed, walked around into the pig pen and everyone followed me. Wa-la! The babies were penned up. It was easy to walk each doe out since they are used to that behavior when I milk them. That was so much easier, too bad I didn’t think of it the first time. 


So now, once again, the babies are penned up. I got five quarts of milk this morning. It won’t take long to get enough milk to start making cheese again. I hope to make some fresh mozzarella sometime this week. You know, all of this is a lot of work, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I am so grateful to live in a place that I still can live this way and do things the way I choose. I only pray that it continues to be so. In some places, for some people, the tide has already turned and the heavy hand of government restrictions are at their door. Be vigilant, be resourceful, and above all, be ready.

Until next time – Fern