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May 26, 2015

The Announcement We Never Thought We'd Make...

If you’re reading this you probably know the Haute Goat / Debbie & Shain story so far. We left the city searching for our own little piece of heaven and found it just outside of Campbellford...a big rambling old farmhouse on 25 rolling wooded acres. We didn’t think things could get any better, but you know what they did. The incredible animals, the wonderful people we’ve met and starting our quirky, little business – Haute Goat.  Well as it has been growing in leaps and bounds, so have the challenges.  We’ve realized that to keep pace, we have to grow as well.  SO the impossible has happened.
 
And we’re pretty much bursting at the seams to tell you.
 
We’re moving. 
 
And we’re taking the whole gang with us - Yoda, Fast Eddie, Eva Shmeva and every wonderful hairy and feathered beastie….
 


It's not a move made lightly or without a lot of consideration. Our farm is truly a magical place.   When we have visitors here, every one of them marvels at what a special place this is. That magic is what grabbed us when we first saw this place 8 years ago -  and it has never let go. 

 


There are so many wonderful things (and difficult things) that have happened here that it was a real struggle to make the decision. Our first horse baby was born here. Our first goats came home here and had their first babies. Our much beloved bouvier Maggie is buried here…..
 

Campbellford, we love you so much and that will never change. This is where we started our farm adventure that has changed our lives. The community has been so incredibly supportive and we will make sure to keep our ties here alive and strong.
 
But thanks to you, Haute Goat is growing in leaps and bounds. Together with the fact that Shain is on the road so much, that our kids and grandkids are in Toronto, we decided to look for something a little larger and also closer to Toronto. 
 
Somehow we’ve found another magical place just west of Port Hope. We hope that will make it easier for many of you to get there.  We can tell you we have some pretty exciting plans for the new place. It's larger and very different, but the potential for some great new initiatives is limitless.
 
In the meantime, we’re in Campbellford until the end of August and we will give you more information as we get closer to the move. 
 


For anyone who’s ever asked how we managed to live the dream…..finding our Bashert Farm in Campbellford was the first step.  If you might be interested in doing the same, and want information on our Campbellford farm, we’d love to hear from you – just pm me.

-Debbie
 
 

March 23, 2015

If Goats Had Wings


One thing you can count on when you're a farmer, is that part of the 'deal' is saying goodbye.  Although we've been pretty lucky, we've had our share of sadness in losing animals to predators, illness or just plain old age.  But when you breed animals, as we do, there is another 'goodbye' that happens when the young ones go off to their new homes.  I'm so often asked if it's hard to say goodbye to animals that have been born and bred at the farm.  You bet it is.  In the last few years we've been lucky enough to have had puppies,
kittens
goats
 and horses 
born at our place.  I've managed to be there for most of the births - and each and every time it's truly a miracle.  When you've been at the birth, helped clean them up, warm them and get them suckling when necessary, brought them back from the brink when possible - it's hard not to get attached.  
We are 'small batch' breeders.  What I mean by that is we do limited breeding to make sure we can really give enough attention to mom and babies when they're born, as well as get them socialized to people and other animals.  One of my greatest joys is having kids at the farm to play with the newborns.  
To watch the natural connection between them is truly amazing.  It's very much a labour of love for us.
For both puppies and goats, we wean at 8 weeks old.  So almost as soon as they are born, we start letting people know that they've arrived.  We currently have a list of over 100 on our waiting lists.  

It's very important to us where our babies go.  So I spend time talking to and/or emailing with prospective buyers to get a feel for them - to make sure they understand the commitment required and get a sense of what kind of home the babies are going to.  We encourage buyers to stay in touch, ask questions and let us know how its going.  I'm always thrilled to get pictures of how the kids and puppies are doing.  
Sometimes there are heartbreaking stories - a freak accident where a goat lost its life...but those are rare. More often we hear wonderful stories.  This year the people who bought our puppies had all had a recent loss of their Bouvier.  These new puppies were helping to fill the holes their predecessors had left.  
So, when I'm asked if its hard to say goodbye?  You bet it is!  But I've discovered that goats, puppies, horses and human kids do indeed have wings.  And when they fly and are successfully embarked on their new lives, it's a thrill like nothing else. 

P.S.  Most recently I loaded my 2 fillies, Willow and BonBon and sent them off to their new home.  These 2 horses had been playmates since BonBon was born last June and were almost inseparable.  So when Jennifer asked about buying one of them, I asked if she would consider buying them both so they could stay together.  And I'm thrilled to say she did.    
Signing off with a great big heartwarming picture of Jennifer, Willow and BonBon in their new home... 
February 23, 2015

PECKING ORDERS AREN'T JUST FOR CHICKENS

I'm endlessly fascinated by the social goings-on in the barnyard.  There's no end of real entertainment, both comedy and drama and sometimes even tragedy if you're willing to just sit back and observe.  It often takes me twice as long to do chores because I'll become engrossed in watching our 2 year old filly Willow get right up in the face (do they have faces?) of one of our chickens.  Its almost as if she wants them to play.  They of course, could care less because they're engrossed in looking for bugs and other goodies in the rich, sweet smelling horse poop Willow and her friends leave so liberally in their paddock.

This year I was really smug because the goat breeding seemed to go really well.  And then it was time to get the bucks out of the doe pens.  Ideally, the 3 bucks can live in the same pen together.  But its always a crap shoot.  So many things influence whether they will get along as well as they had before breeding season.  At first the boys seemed to be happy to see each other.  But within a day or two I came down to the barn to find Mr. T. bleeding from his head.  (No pictures of that).  As it turns out, though I thought T was being picked on, it seems he was the picker and Rudolf Valentino was the pickee - so to speak.  

Ordinarily, things settle down within a day or two and after some scuffling the new pecking order gets established and the only butting happens at dinner time.  This time, Rudolf was being beaten up so badly he was seeing stars.  And I've no doubt he would have been killed had we left him there much longer.  
So he got moved to another pen, on his own to recover. But he was lonely. So we put Emmy, one of the does he bred in with him.  I guessed that pairing wrong too.  They didn't hurt each other.  But Emmy was really missing her girlfriends.  She spoke to me all day long and every chance she got to say she'd had enough of Rudolf and wanted to get back to her posse.  I thought she'd settle in.  But after 5 days she was still prattling on at me.

So we moved her back with her friends and it was as if she'd never left.   I'd resisted putting any little ones in with Rudolf because he could really hurt them if he weren't pleased.  But at this point there wasn't much choice.  So I put Yoda and Fast Eddie - who are great buddies - in with Rudy.  And although Yoda was a little unsure about this big fellow, it wasn't long before he and Fast Eddie were dancing circles around the old man and even he started getting into the fun of it all.  

 

If you've gotten all the way through this recounting - here's a link to a video see how they're doing today.
http://youtu.be/6wmN36pOPtg 
January 20, 2015

Got Your Goat? You Might Think Twice!


One of the things that never gets old, is seeing reactions when we tell people that we raise goats.  Without exception, it makes people laugh, smile and feel good.  They want to hear the stories, see pictures and know more.  It seems that there are a lot of people who dream of getting goats one day and I'm all for it - if you're sure of what you're getting into.  There is nothing more fun and rewarding and sometimes more heartbreaking and difficult, than raising goats. It's hard to be in a crappy mood when you're surrounded by these gentle, inquisitive, opinionated little creatures.  

I'm often asked how hard it is to take care of a goat. Its actually more complicated than you'd expect.  In some ways they are such hardy beasties.  They can live very happily in -20 degree weather, as long as they have access to a shelter when needed.  They grow adorable furry coats which seem to keep them warm enough.  Its usually more of a problem keeping their water thawed, than keeping them warm in winter. They are ruminants and have 4 stomachs.  If you've ever had stomach issues - imagine the possibilities if you were dealing with 4 of them - each with a different function?  

Keeping the gut balanced is critical to the health of a goat.  And figuring out the right mix of feed, grains, nutrients to keep it all on track feels pretty close to rocket science sometimes. It's taken me 6 years to find a mix that I'm happy with - and even so, I'm always working to improve it.  

Then there are vaccinations. Just as in humans, vaccinations are meant to avoid a whole raft of potential ailments, many of which are specific to goats. The lovely complication is that very few medications are made specifically for goats.  There just aren't enough of them to warrant the drug companies developing goat-specific meds and vaccines.  So we goat owners are left to figure out how to adapt meds made for sheep, cattle and sometimes horses (or even people) for goats.  Furthermore, because goat metabolisms are much faster than most of these other animals, doses often need to be doubled, tripled or sometimes even quadrupled to be effective. But not always. So you see the tricky waters we goat people sometimes have to navigate.


There are loads more things to think (and worry) about when you live with goats.  And I'm always learning and they're always teaching.  And no matter how hard it is, what heartbreaking thing has happened, there isn't a day I'm not incredibly grateful for the love and happiness they generate at our place.

So after reading this, if you are STILL interested in raising goats - don't hesitate to send me an email.  I'm happy to discuss goats all day long. 

-Debbie

January 15, 2015

Moving Day for the Haute Goats

Well, all good things come to an end....and so it goes with our goats too.  The does were in breeding groups from November 16th. Each group had one buck - Rudolf Valentino, Mr. T. or Don ChwAAN.  They were together from November 16th through 2 heat cycles (they cycle every 3 weeks).  We were a tad late because of the cold weather and moved them last Sunday.  There was some readjusting while pecking orders were re-established.  The bucks were all back together again and there was some bloodletting in their pen.  But they've now all settled in again and seem glad to see each other.  Here's a link to a short video I did in the doe pen just after they were re-united.

 

December 30, 2014

A million things go through your mind...

We had 19 chickens yesterday.  Tonight when I went around to tuck everyone in there were 10. 

There have been 2 foxes stalking us lately.  Farmer Dan ‘took out’ one of them after they’d poached 2 of our chickens (we won’t post pics as they were gruesome.  But suffice to say, the shotgun he used was loaded with “varmint buckshot"). Its an ongoing debate whether to keep free-ranging the chickens, or to have them in an enclosed outdoor pen.  Its such a joy to see the chickens come all the way up to the house each day and have complete free range.  They particularly love the horse poop (oh the fabulous goodies they find in there…yuck!).  But I have to believe they also love having no boundaries. Don’t we all? I suppose that’s my perhaps-too-liberal anamorphic interpretation.  Maybe its enough that they can eat well and survive.
 
Typically, for the evening chores, I feed/water/grain the goats, make sure the horses have water (they live outdoors 24/7 and have a big bale of hay in their round bale feeder), then feed/water and close in the chickens.  Tonight I found only 10 and my first thought was that the other 9 had been poached by the nasty remaining fox.  Sure made me feel lousy.  
For some reason, I took a minute to say goodnight to the horses who had wandered into the run-in in the barn.  And then I heard a subdued, but ‘group’ chicken noise.  It was some (but not all) of the missing chickens.  The horses (I’m willing to bet it was Fabeina) had found a way to shut the door to the chicken coop - which is in their paddock.  And so these chickens had been left out in the cold.  In every sense of the word.  I was totally thrilled - and can only imagine the relief those poor chickens felt.
 
So I scooped them up - one at a time, and put them back in their coop.  What would have ordinarily been a very chaotic, difficult job, was unbelievably easy.  My theory is - they knew they’d been saved.  And truthfully?  I was thrilled to have found them and been able to put them back in their coop so they can live at least another day.
- photo by Judy Anderson
October 30, 2014

The Buck Starts Here

It's getting close to a very interesting time of the year - breeding season! It's really all a mix of science and careful consideration, figuring which buck to breed to which doe.  There are so many things to consider and I'll start by looking at this year's babies and see where we can improve on certain genetic traits.

It is desirable to have doelings, so first I will look at which breeding combinations brought the most does last year.  We also want good conformation, good body capacity (room for lots of milk), well attached udders (longer lasting), good teat placement (easier to milk) and good personalities.

We have three bucks who we will use to breed eleven does this year. Don ChwAAN is our original herd sire. He's bred his share of prize-winning babies and he's a strong buck, with good physical traits. Our other two bucks, Rudolf Valentino (Rudy) and Mr. T. both came from the U.S. to expand the bloodlines. They're also hunky and strong in their traits. Four of our does are 'first fresheners' - which means they will be first time moms.  Six are 'old hands' and the last is the Nubian, Feta.

I am milking seven does at the moment but In prep for breeding, we're drying up Eva, Emmy and Sheila.  

Some people 'hand breed' which means they take the doe in to be with the buck when they know she's in heat. We let the bucks run with the does for 6 weeks - which means they will cover 2 cycles and gives the best chance of catching. We'll run the breeding in 2 cycles so that the births are also in 2 cycles to make it less overwhelming.  

Goat gestation averages 165 days - or about 5 months. We'll breed mid-November and December for April/May babies. We think spring is the best time to have babies - warmer for the kids (and us) and buyers generally want to start their herds in the spring.

The Nigerians are different from most other goat breeds because they cycle year round.  Most cycle only until winter and pick up again in spring. We're just figuring out our housing for breeding season.  Besides the breeding does/ bucks, we have six kids - two wethers and four doelings.   

Let me know if you have any questions about the whole process and hopefully we'll have some news of pregnant does soon!

 

-Debbie

 

*Photo by Judy Anderson


October 07, 2014

A Small Farm Gets Ready for Fall

Every time a new season arrives, it means another step forward in the circle of life. The changing of the leaves (and they are just magnificent here in Northumberland County and will get even better over the next couple of weeks), tell us its time to prepare for winter.

For us that means checking the fencing, making sure we’ve laid in enough hay, straw and grains, double checking the watering systems (pretty antiquated, but they still work) and doing a final clean up of pens before winter. We use a system of bedding for our goats in which we leave the bedding over winter and add to it as needed. This allows the urine to sink to the bottom and drain out and the manure (small, inoffensive pellets) to remain. The heat from the poop also helps to keep the pens warmer in winter. At some point over the next few weeks we will put in heat lamps over the water bowls to keep them from freezing.

It also means getting serious about breeding season! We breed our does in the fall to have spring babies. We will breed half the girls in mid November and half in mid-December. With a gestation of 165 days (approx.!), that will bring babies in April and May. What a great way to celebrate spring. We spend a lot of time figuring out the ‘matches’ – ie which buck to breed to which does. We’re looking to strengthen strong traits and lose weak ones. Easier said than done, but we’ve had some good success in our Tripping Billies herd as the years go on.

 
In the next blog, I’ll show introduce you to our breeding bucks!
-Debbie
September 11, 2014

Realizing Our Dream

 

In the fall of 2007, we left the city to find our own little piece of heaven.  We found it just outside of Campbellford - a big, rambling old farmhouse on 25 rolling, wooded acres.

When Shain retired in 2009 and was was able to be at the farm full-time I said why don't we get goats and he said, "What are you insane? Why would we get goats?"

To his credit, he was supportive and I did a little bit of research and discovered the Nigerian Dwarf goats who are unbelievably cute - the first important reason to have them. As it turns out they also have the highest butterfat content of all of the goats at 6% which is incredibly rich. I make all the Haute Goat lotions, lip balms, skin-care products and other non-edibles with it.

We also wanted a small breed because we love to have children visiting the farm and the Nigerian Dwarf breed is a perfect size for kids. We started with four tiny, perfect caprines - Pearl, Eva, Sally and Butterscotch who promptly made us fall in love with them and changed our lives forever.

We now have almost forty goats on the farm who keep us busy and remind us every day that we are living our dream.

 

August 28, 2014

The Epic Story of a Wee Goat Named Yoda

It's hard to believe I wrote this more than 4 months ago, on April 9th, late into the night...

"Delighted to report that our first goat kids have arrived! First freshener (first timer) LIBERTY delivered quads last night. Nearly unheard of in FFs!. Unfortunately, one arrived stilborn. There is a doeling and 2 bucklings. One of the bucklings was quite weak when he was born so we have him in the house in our 'Goat ICU'. That means he's under a heat lamp and being pampered beyond belief. He's just under one pound and has lots to say if we don't pay enough attention to him. I've named him YODA because he looks wrinkled, wise and kinda funny in an endearing sort of way. The other 2 are Bessie - who looks like a Holstein cow and Jo, named after our good friend.

 


Yoda was born one of quads to Liberty....he was just about 400 grams when he was born - weak, not able to hold up his head....This video was taken when he was about 5 hours old. Apologies for the quality - it was taken under a heat lamp we used trying to get his body temperature up.

Today, when I look back, I can still remember the terror I felt that this sweet little thing might not make it.  But something about him screamed - 'help me, I'm gonna make it'....and so I did everything I could to help him make it.  Bear, our Bouvier, took him under her wing and licked him back to health every chance she got.  When it got to be just a little too much, we put him in the pack 'n play in the kitchen so he could see and hear us.  I also gave him a little box in the pack 'n play to 'hide' in when he needed a bit of quiet.  And at night I took him upstairs so I could feed him every 4 hours.

 

 

During the day, I'd put him on the floor in the kitchen to 'participate'....but he could hardly stand up.  His 4 legs would splay in every direction and I'd follow him around to pick him up to start again.  My brother's girlfriend (who is studying to be a vet) spent a lot of time with him, getting him confident on his legs....Within the first week she had him walking carefully, but staying upright more than he was losing his legs.....

After about a week, I figured he needed to be with his herd. But you can't just 'drop him off' there.  So I took him down to the barn, out to the pen and hung out apart from him while he got to know his herd.  For a pipsqueak he was pretty ballsy.  He didn't hesitate to go up to the other goats - adults and kids alike - though he was still figuring out goat language.  It didn't take him long.  Its interesting that after first left the barn, his mom never recognized him as hers.  Mother Nature is so efficient if you let her be.....But he did start to engage with the other babies.....including his brother and sister. Within about 2 months, he'd outgrown his brother and sister and in fact towered over them! 

Today he's great buddies with Fast Eddie and is 'mentoring' the younger kids in his pen, Haatchi and Merlin. He's also now become a house goat and pretty much part of the family.

 

 - Debbie