Archive for the ‘Goats’ Category

Pure Saanen Buck Kid Free to Good Home

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Update: We Have Found a Home for Him

We found a home for him AND he gets to keep his balls!

We’re taking backup offers in case the initial one falls through.

—End Update—

On 22 November 2011, Daphne had a strong, healthy buck kid. He’s pure Saanen and very friendly with people. He comes over to us and expects petting and adoration like a cat. Becky has been milking Daphne every day, and she goes with our son, Owen, who, I’m afraid, has become quite fond of this goat.

Saanen buck kid, about 12 hours old

Saanen buck kid, about 12 hours old

If you’re looking for a Saanen breeding buck, contact Becky to make arrangements.

Note: You have to pickup the goat yourself. We’re in RD Kaitaia.

Goals for the Year of the Rat

Friday, March 14th, 2008

1. Do “baby yoga” with Owen and have lots of fun. Any goal that relates to our precious baby would have to top the list, of course! I have a couple of neat books, Itsy Bitsy Yoga and Yoga Mom, Buddha Baby, which are helping us get started.

2. Build a chook house and chook run. We have had this on our “to do” list ever since we arrived on the Farmlet. Can’t believe we still haven’t done it. Disgraceful! Still, the extra time has allowed us to understand more about our land and our needs. Our chook run plans have changed and developed a lot over the past two years. It is now high time to put plans into action!

3. Install a solar water heater. Kevin has been doing the research, and has finally found what he thinks may be the right system for us. This will be a big step towards reducing our energy bills.

4. We plan that calves and goat kids will be born on the Farmlet this coming spring. This means we have to hook our cows and goats up with bull/buck, of course. I’ll be writing more on this matter very soon! Calves and kids mean fresh cow and goat milk. Yum! This year we hope to milk Daphne and Lulu (the goats) for the first time.

5. Carrying on from #4: Extend the small goat house and build a milking stand for the goats. The small goat house is all very well for two does, but certainly wouldn’t fit their kids as well. Something needs to be done about this.

6. Undertake some cool cheese projects using fresh cow and goat milk.

7. Make delicious meals using meat raised on the Farmlet. Yes, we have exciting plans for Herman Beefsteak when he reaches “the beefsteak phase of his career”! I’m looking forward to sharing some recipes. It’s especially nice to think that the first meat Owen will ever eat will have been raised kindly and cleanly here on the Farmlet.

Herman Beefsteak

8. Experiment with grinding and cooking cornmeal, including some from our own corn.

9. Save seeds from more of our vegetables, herbs, and flowers. As our garden matures and we discover which varieties of vegetables do best for us, we are committed to saving more and more of our own seed.

10. Continue to battle kikuyu and work on “taming” the house paddock. We hope to work on weed barriers this year, with the aim of reducing the ongoing effort.

11. Attempt to make some more crusty fermented beverages. In particular, we’d like to try making wine from our own grapes. We’d better hurry up with this project, since it’s already grape season!

12. Raise some seedlings of “bushman’s toilet paper” to plant out in the garden. This project was on our list last year, and I can’t believe we forgot all about it. I’m really keen to do this!

13. Last but not least: I want to write at least one update per week for the Farmlet website!

Best wishes to all for the Year of the Rat! It looks sure to be a busy and exciting one on the Farmlet.

The Year of the Pig in Review

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

Best wishes to all for the Year of the Rat!

One year ago, at the beginning of the Year of the Pig, I set out a list of 13 goals for the Farmlet. With the year now over, it is time to review our goals and achievements, and to set new goals for the coming year.

Here’s the report on last year’s goals:

1. Have some earthworks done in the middle cow paddock, in order to create an irrigation dam and level a site for a barn. The cows will be fenced out of the dam area. (The area in question is already swampy and damp — not especially good grazing, but an excellent dam site. The elevation of the site will allow us to gravity-feed water to gardens and stock. We plan eventually to plant the area around the dam with trees, creating a special dam-microclimate.)

Yes, we had the earthworks done. Sites have been leveled for a shed and a large water tank. The dam filled up beautifully and has stayed full of water right through the summer. We have surrounded the dam area with electric tape and planted mustard and lupins in the turned soil to prevent erosion. Still to do: Establish the gravity feed water system and plant trees around the dam area.

2. Build a barn/shed in the cow paddock for milking, storage, and keeping calves. We need to have this in place by July, when the cows are due to calve. (In due course, we plan to collect rain water off the roof of the barn. We will install a water tank next to the barn, from which water can be gravity-fed down to to house.)

The barn/shed project was shelved. We have been grazing our animals down on our neighbour’s pasture, in the middle of which is an old milking shed. Having the use of this shed took the urgency out of our need to build our own. We still plan to build the shed eventually, but other projects now seem more pressing.

3. Fix the fences around the goat paddocks. We need to reinforce the fences and put in more electric wires, so that the goats can be kept in the paddocks without their A-frame collars on.

Kevin fixed the goat paddock fences, with the result that they are much more goat proof. What a relief!

4. Extend the goat houses to give the goats more space, and better access to dry feed during the winter.

We have not done this yet. Now, with the goats expected to kid this coming spring, this project needs to move to the top of the priority list!

5. Build a chook house, and get some chickens. We plan to start with a small movable chook house in the house paddock. This way, the chooks can help us to clear kikuyu and create new garden areas. (Eventually, we would like to have a larger number of chickens ranging on the pasture up the hill.)

Alas, we still have no chooks! Over the past few months, Kevin and I have started to change and refine our chook house/ chook run plans. We are determined to tackle this project soon.

6. Plant fruit trees. Build supports for passion fruit and kiwifruit vines.

We have planted some more fruit around the place — a guava, a naranjilla, a boysenberry, a couple of tropical apricots and a grapefruit. I have also propagated seedlings for more passionfruit (both purple and yellow varieties), cherimoya, plum and guava, and we have been given a small fig, a raspberry, a thornless blackberry, a blackcurrant and a macadamia nut. We have to find places to plant all these! The passionfruit have supports to climb on, and we have just been enjoying the first fruit. The kiwifruit still need a pergola to climb on. They are looking a bit wretched after getting a rather fierce pruning from Daphne — naughty goat.

7. Continue to expand and develop gardens in the house paddock – including barrier plantings to keep out kikuyu.

We expanded the gardens by a considerable margin this spring, clearing the area that we are now using to grow corn and beans. We also worked on improving the soil structure in the existing beds. I didn’t do much work on barrier plantings in the end.

8. Experiment with making kefir, quark, and various cheeses. (This will be happening after our cows have calved and we have a good supply of fresh milk. We also hope to continue making yoghurt and butter.)

We have enjoyed making kefir, kefir cheese, Caspian Sea yoghurt, and butter using milk and cream from our own cow, Coco. I have to admit, though, that since Owen came along, I’ve really only kept going with the yoghurt (we get through several litres of this every week), having killed off our poor kefir grains soon after he was born. I’ll have to get some more! We’ve also been buying butter, which saves time, even if it’s not as nice as making our own. I’ve had several attempts at quark, and all have turned into yoghurt. The yoghurt culture has obviously taken up firm residence in this house and seems set on colonising any milk that I leave out at room temperature! Not good news for my quark mission.

9. Experiment with making assorted fermented beverages — perhaps using herbs from the garden.

I have had a lot of fun with fermentation over the past year, including growing a ginger beer bug and making ginger beer using our own lemons. I’ve also made water kefir using lemons and herbs from the garden. Sadly, the water kefir grains got very sulky quite some time ago, and nothing I could do would revive them. I am now looking to purchase some more. We continue to brew kombucha.

10. Grinding flour and making sourdough bread has become part of our routine by now. I’d like to get into the habit of using the sourdough in some other creative and delicious ways.

Yes, during the past year I found some delicious sourdough recipes in “Full Moon Feast” — sourdough pancakes, crackers and scones. I have also used sourdough to make fishcakes and pizza crust. By now, these recipes have become old favourites.

11. Start growing some “bushman’s toilet paper.” We plan to start seedlings and plant them out in the garden when they are big enough.

Ah. . . ! I’d forgotten all about this one. But it sounds like a neat idea. We should do this!

12. Install a solar hot water heater to cut our power bill and increase our energy self-sufficiency.

Kevin has been researching our options in this area, and has finally found one that looks right for us. With any luck, we’ll soon be embarking on this project.

13. Keep a more systematic record of income and expenditure. In particular, I think it will be satisfying to have records that clearly document the changes in our grocery bills as we produce more and more of our own food.

I kept these records very diligently through until October last year. Since our little one was born, my attentions have been focussed elsewhere, to the detriment of my record keeping! I hope the records will remain a useful basis for comparison as the Farmlet changes and develops.

So. . . does that mean we’ve achieved 8 out of our 13 goals? I suppose that’s not too bad.

The Year of the Pig has been a special one for us. Our goats grew to maturity, the first Farmlet calves were born, Kevin learned to milk a cow and shot his first wild pig. I got my firearms license. We had a rough time when Coco’s calf was born dead and we had to mother a new calf onto her. . . and it was hard to say goodbye to our fabulous cow, Esmerelda, even though she was going off to an excellent home. Of course, by far the most significant event of the year for us was the birth of our precious baby: Owen Thom Flaherty, born on the 16th of November 2007, Year of the Red Fire Pig. Our very own dear little piglet.


Now I’ve started compiling a new list of goals for the Year of the Rat. I hope to post this list in the next few days, so please stay tuned.

Questions About Raising Goats

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Recently, I have received a number of emails asking for information and advice about raising goat kids and keeping dairy goats. While I’m far from an expert in this area, we’ve collected some useful information over our first year of having the goats on the Farmlet. To mark the one-year anniversary of Daphne and Lulu’s arrival on the Farmlet, I thought I might post some of this information in question and answer format to make it accessible to anyone who is interested. Some of this information has been given before in other posts. Here I’ve just tried to put it together more thoroughly and in a more consolidated format.

By the way, sorry about the long gap between postings. I accidentally deleted this one, and have had to write it all over again — hence the delay!

How old were your goats when you first got them? What did you feed them when they were very young?
Daphne and Lulu arrived on the Farmlet when they were about 5 weeks old. This gave them time to get a strong start by drinking their mother’s milk. By the time they arrived here, they were already starting to forage and enjoy solid food. We bottle-fed them on formula, giving them up to 1 litre twice a day, though they often didn’t take this much. For the first couple of feeds after they arrived here, we gave them part formula and part goat milk. This helped ease their transition onto formula, and avoided any problems with scouring or other digestive distress. Daphne and Lulu were already used to being handled by humans and drinking from a bottle when we got them, so I can’t really comment on initiating this. We weaned the goats off formula by the time they were 12 weeks old, reducing the bottle feeding to once a day, and then tailing it off altogether. While they were still on formula, we introduced them to having a treat of some barley-maize meal with a bit of molasses in it. This encouraged their interest in solid food, and taught them to come to us to get treats.

Daphne and Lulu, five weeks old, riding in the ute with Mummy

How did your goats become so friendly? How did you train them?
By bottle-rearing the goats, we were able to build a strong bond with them. They really came to think of us as their family. Goats are naturally intelligent and fond of human company. From the beginning, we spent lots of time handling and playing with them, taking them for walks, playing with them etc. We love all this as much as they do, and we think it will make things a lot easier when the time comes to milk them. We started using some simple commands with Daphne and Lulu right from the beginning, and were amazed how quickly they learned to understand “come on,” “leave it,” and (their favourite) “feedies.” I found a neat tip about teaching the “leave it” command on the “Path to Freedom” website: When the goat starts to nibble at something forbidden, say a sharp “leave it,” and then quickly give the goat a squirt of water in the face from a little plastic squirt bottle. After a while, the goat will respond to the command before getting squirted, even when you are standing at a distance. We taught Daphne and Lulu to tether and walk on a leash from an early age, so that they’d be used to it. Generally, though, we let them run loose when we go for a walk (unless we are on the road or near some especially succulent fruit trees). They enjoy the freedom to run around and play, and naturally want to follow their human herd.

What do you feed the goats?
Daphne and Lulu eat mostly rough pasture and a bit of scrub – that’s what grows in their goat paddocks. We also give them plenty of tree branches and prunings, weeds, and overgrown vegetables from the garden. They love all this! We sometimes give them a bit of hay, especially over the winter when forage is poor and the pasture tends to be damp. They also love a treat of a bit of meal mixed with molasses.

Daphne and Lulu enjoying a Spring afternoon

How do you keep your goats in good health? Do they get any regular medicines and supplements?
We buy the goats a small salt and mineral block and make it available to them at all times. As foragers, goats have high mineral needs, so this is important. Since our soil is very heavy and acid, we quite often add some extra dolomite to their meal. Goats can quickly become very sick and miserable if their parasite load grows too large. The people we bought Daphne and Lulu off have been running organic dairy goats for many years and gave us some excellent advice on how to minimise the parasite problem and keep the goats healthy: We have two goat paddock and move the goats between these every 21 days. This is meant to break the life-cycle of the parasites. About 3 or 4 days before each move, I dose each of them with 5ml of concentrated apple cider vinegar, about a teaspoon of kelp, and perhaps a bit of garlic. This is a general tonic, and also helps them expel parasites before the move to the new paddock. Every few months, I give a stronger pre-moving worm treatment of finely chopped tansy leaves – about a handful to each goat. Tansy is meant to be a fairly potent herbal vermifuge. On a couple of occasions, I’ve added a teaspoon of sulfur powder to the dose because I noticed they had ticks. Ticks can be a problem here, as our soil tends to be sour and rather deficient in sulfur. I’ve also read that you can add a bit of extra copper sulphate to the dose if you detect a problem with foot scald or intestinal parasites, or if you know your soil is deficient in this mineral. I’ve preferred not to do this so far, since our soil is not copper-deficient, the goats have not had foot scald or any obvious parasite problems. . . and copper can be toxic. How do I get the goats to swallow all these goodies? Just add them to their grain along with plenty of molasses. It seems as if the goats would think anything is a treat if it has enough molasses on it!

What about trimming their hooves?
We trim their hooves every 6 weeks, or about every second time we move them to a new paddock. Goats need regular hoof trimming to prevent foot scald (a foot rot precursor), especially if they are mostly walking on soft ground. If the job is left too long, the hooves apparently become very hard to trim, so don’t put it off! We trim Daphne’s and Lulu’s hooves with a sharp pair of secateurs. They are quiet enough that I can sometimes just hang out with them and trim their hooves while they are sitting down chewing their cud. When the ground is wet and/or we are in a hurry, we tether them very closely to the gate. Kevin distracts them with treats while I lean against the goat body to wedge it between me and the gate. I then lift up each hoof for trimming. The goats don’t mind this. In fact, I think they enjoy the treats and attention. Sometimes I mix up a tea tree oil solution and dip the hooves in it after trimming as an extra scald prevention measure. I’ve heard you can also use iodine spray, or a paste made of petroleum jelly and copper sulphate. Obviously, these measures would be more important if you noticed any signs of foot scald.

Where do the goats live? How do you keep them out of the garden?
We have two goat paddocks, with standard post and batten fencing and two electric wires. Before we sorted out the electric wires, Daphne and Lulu were managing to escape by pushing through the fence. We ended up using A-frame collars to keep them in the paddock. We were glad to remove the collars once the fence was fixed, since they looked pretty cumbersome. Daphne and Lulu are saanens, and this breed is not known for jumping. Certainly, they have never shown any interest in jumping over their fence. I’ve heard that other goats (especially from other breeds) can be very different in this regard, though! Our goats have a little goat shed in each paddock to give them shelter from the cold and wet. We muck out the sheds fairly often, and leave a bed of hay or dry grass for them to rest on.

The goats have a tendency to choose a play area in their paddock at any given time – and they tend to trash this area! Usually they choose a small, steep area and dance around on it, bunting heads, stamping hooves and playing silly games. I don’t begrudge them their fun, but after a while, the grass gets worn off the slope and presents an erosion problem. I have found that by spreading the litter from mucking out the goat house on any area that starts to get trashed, I can solve this problem. The litter heals the ground and stops erosion while the grass grows back, and the goats (not liking to play in their old litter) find another area for their prancing and head bunting.

When will you start milking the goats?
Goats generally go into heat seasonally, in the Autumn. Daphne and Lulu were cycling last Autumn, but at only 6 months old were too young and small for it to be healthy for them to get in kid. By this coming Autumn, Daphne and Lulu will be 18 months old — mature enough to go to the buck. If we can find a suitable billy goat for them this autumn, as planned, then they will give birth to their kids and start lactating next spring (goat gestation is about 6 months). So, in about a year’s time we may be able to enjoy some fresh goat milk and goat cheese here on the Farmlet.

Can you recommend any books about raising goats?
My favourite is “Natural Goat Care” by Pat Coleby. She’s an Australian writer who focuses on pasture-based systems and natural approaches to goat health care.

The Grand Goat Entrance

Monday, July 9th, 2007

One fine day, Kevin and I took our trusty ute (pickup truck) to the local quarry to pick up a load of gravel. Our cunning plan was to get several loads of gravel, and drive them up the hill to the site of the proposed cow shed. We’d then spread them on the site to avoid ending up with a muddy bog once the cows started walking over the ground near the shed.

Once the small scoop of gravel had landed in the bed of the truck, however, the plan didn’t look quite so cunning any more. The back tyres were obviously under a huge amount of pressure from the weight of the gravel. Kevin was concerned that the tyres might blow out on the trip back to the Farmlet. We drove home very slowly and carefully, and inched our way up the bumpy driveway. So much for our plans! There was no way we were prepared to risk taking the truck up the hill (over quite rough terrain) to the shed site with all that weight on the back. So, now we had the truck parked in the driveway, with a heavy load of gravel on the back, and no idea what to do next. It didn’t take us long to decide that walking up the hill to the shed site with little buckets of gravel just wouldn’t be worth the effort. The gravel looked too coarse and sharp for dumping on the driveway, and we couldn’t think where else to put it.

Entrance to goat paddock

We wandered off to attend to some other chores as we pondered the dilemma. Eventually, inspiration struck. Plan B: Kevin very gingerly backed the truck partway down the driveway to the gate of the upper goat paddock. After laying down a piece of plastic pipe to form a culvert, he began to unload the gravel into the ditch between the driveway and the gate to the goat paddock. After a good deal of shoveling and spreading gravel, there it was: A Grand Goat Entrance, where before there had only been a damp, muddy ditch. This ditch had irked human and goat alike when coming and going from the goat paddock. We had planned to improve the entrance eventually, but with all the other jobs to be taken care of around the place, it wasn’t a high priority. We never thought that we’d have such a fine goat paddock entrance so soon!

This was a sobering lesson in respecting the limits of our machinery. We think we damaged the front ball joint during the exercise, and were lucky not to blow any tyres. On the positive side: Even though our plans for taking the gravel up the hill fell through, at least something worthwhile was achieved from the whole debacle.

And what do the goats think? Well, frankly, Daphne and Lulu are not very pleased with life just at the moment. It annoys them that we’ve fixed the fences around the goat paddocks such that they can no longer escape and trash various trees around the place. They also dislike the damp and cold of winter, and when the rain starts they bleat pathetically at us as if we are personally responsible for their misery. Since this is their first winter, I wonder if perhaps they can’t even imagine that the cold damp weather will end one day and spring will come again. Poor goats! I’m keeping lots of fresh, dry hay in their goat house, so that they have a cozy place to shelter, and trimming their hooves extra vigilantly to prevent foot-rot setting in as they tread the damp ground. We are also taking them extra fodder whenever we can. Today I pruned the herb garden and one of the olive trees, so they enjoyed sage and tarragon prunings, along with some nice olive branches. Both grunted with delight as they devoured bunches of sage.

The goats are growing up. They are eight months old now, and started going into season a couple of months ago. Now, as well as bleating about the rain and the wet grass, they are also periodically crying out to any passing billy goats. What a din. Just as well our neighbours don’t live too close! We hope no billy goats will respond to their call, since Daphne and Lulu are still much too young to be getting in kid. We need to wait until they are fully mature to breed them.

And yes, Daphne and Lulu do seem to appreciate having a nice gravelly entrance for coming and going from their paddock. They never did like having to put their dainty goat hooves into the damp ground in and around the ditch.