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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
We had 19 chickens yesterday. Tonight when I went around to tuck everyone in there were 10.
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!
*Photo by Judy Anderson
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 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.
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.