In the middle of the night while making rounds early, early Tuesday morning at the farm and when the coyotes calmed down, Mark heard a low grunt. Further investigation found our largest doe in labor. She was very composed, and produced two Boer-colored babies.
Just a little tidbit of what happened on Monday. It was a long day, especially for Mark, who has been at the farm for the last 24 hours and is still there. He's been standing guard, bottle feeding, and giving me the blow by blow via text - 3 am goatie labor!!! Will give you all the details soon, just a couple of pictures to give you an idea of what's been happening.
it's been 8 days since we picked up our goaties. It's been 8 days since two of our goaties found the taste to freedom across 10 acres. It's been 7 days since the rest of the herd joined their sisters at large in roaming around the entire property.
I've learned a few lessons in 8 long days:
We spotted them one last time for the day around 12:00. They were on the ridge and took off into the dense brush after spotting us. Our afternoon job consisted of deploying one of the net fences in kind of an L shape. Our ultimate plan is to get them contained in the moss meadow area - where they are currently eating at the feed station - before the first doe drops her kids. With the first net deployed we will continue to watch the trail cam, food and water levels and study the times they are around that area and then we will be able to set forth the next part of our plan. We shall see.//tr
Now, roll that beautiful goat footage:
Not a lot to tell. The "trap" in the south meadow has been ixnayed in favor of a more central location. We know they have been bedding down off the central line, so their food, water and shelter has been located to that area. We think they have been sampling the all-you-can-eat buffet because their food has been barely touched.
They were not sighted yesterday, but Mark heard them quietly crashing about in some of the thickest parts of the property, which is a good thing because that will help open things up for us. The trail camera has also been moved, so hopefully we'll have some more goatie pictures.//tr
I work a town job, so I am only able to be at the farm on weekends or in the evenings. This week it is especially frustrating, because I so badly want to be out there helping to figure out what to do with our wayward goaties. Today I had to settle for text messages.
Mark was able to spot the gals right away. Of course, they scooted off pretty quickly. After checking the fence battery, he strolled down to the south line where we laid out the food and water inside our "trap". The goaties were there! They poked around the area, but never completely fell for the bait. Next thing he knew, they were bugging the dogs on the opposite side of the property. Those things can really get around.
Mark spent the day putting up their lean-to shelter up in the moss meadow where they have been hanging out a lot. This area is centrally located off the Fridge Line. After putting up the lean-to he made a goat homeless camp with a tarp, rope and saplings. This will ensure that they are able to get out of any bad weather. The tarp will serve as a rainwater catchment system. He left their food and water on the south line tonight, but will bring part of it to this new area tomorrow while leaving food and water on the south line.
We'll continue to brainstorm. We have a few ideas up our sleeves.
The one thing that did go right was that Mark set up the trail camera. So here are some pictures of the goaties for ya'll.
Okay, this shepherding stuff is proving to be a tad bit more challenging than planned, BUT things are improving. So far shepherd school score is “N”. Remember that grade score from back in Mrs. Brown’s second grade? That’s right, “N” = “Needs Improvement”.
Since our shepherding “Needs Improvement”, the one thing I am grateful for is the inherent drive for goats to herd. With all this being said, today all the goaties are accounted for. That’s right, all six have been sighted multiple times and they are herding well. They are hanging together towards the middle of the property in a live oak thicket that is surrounded by sparse woods. This location gives them security with all the cover and affords them good sight.
While trying to gain their confidence I was able to note a couple interesting things. The neighbor to the north of the property has two “deer” dogs. He’s got a bloodhound and a young walker. Both dogs have excellent noses and our goats smell, well, like goats. Now, I just mentioned where the goaties have chosen to hunker down and it’s about fifty yards away from the kennel run on the neighbor’s dogs. When a good breeze carries the whiff of goatie past the dogs they start baying and going absolutely crazy. Once the dogs get all lathered up the goaties perk up. As the dogs’ antics reach fever pitch the goaties actually start gravitating towards them. The farm we purchased the goats from used two border collies to work the goats and two Annatolian shepherd mixed dogs as livestock guardian dogs (LGD). The conclusion I’ve arrived at is that the goats know what a barking dog is all about and that these dogs are not the dogs they know, but they must seem to feel that getting closer to a barking dog is better than being far away. This makes perfect sense since coyote pressure on goats can be pretty high and a barking guardian dog would be an alert for the herd to gather close, not scatter. So, the neighbor’s barking and baying hound dog might be driving the neighborhood crazy, but it’s keeping the goaties herded up nicely.
The second observation I made while trying to gain the goaties’ confidence was their reaction to the perimeter fence. At one point I made it to within twenty or so feet of the herd and they simply trotted off towards the northwest corner of the property. All the fence lines are nice and clear, but the goats decided to shy away from the easier walk along the fence line. At one point the neighbor’s dogs started barking and the goats trotted towards them, but once they sighted the fence the goats doubled back and actually came within ten feet of me before they trotting back to their previous bedding position amongst the live oak thicket. The conclusion I came to with this behavior was that the goaties have obviously experimented with the fence and FELT IT. That’s great! The whole point of electrified fencing is the added psychological deterrent the shock instills in addition to the physical barrier. It appears that a couple of the goats have sampled the power of Thor and don’t like it.
Although the goats have yet to be fully contained to the “planned” level, they are providing a good lesson in goat behavior. All we have to do is be patient and take the time to observe and gain their confidence. The good news from the second day of shepherd school is that all the goats are gathered together and safe in the middle of the property. A good day of observing and learning goat behavior to boot. Not a bad day at all.//mr
SUBTITLE: Double Secret Probation
We pulled down our road bright and early this morning and saw a crowd standing around the front gates. My heart sunk into my stomach. We pulled up and the crowd started chattering away. It's all kind of a blur now, but basically two of our goats were spotted by the passers-by and they were in need of rescuing. They were rescued and they are okay.
Back Story: Before starting on this farming adventure, we decided that we wanted to use a 7-strand, high tensile fence for the perimeter of the property with a big charge on it. We would further contain our goats with net fencing that also had an electric charge. We practiced with the net fencing and made sure the electric going to it would work a few weeks ago. Friday evening we set up the area we wanted the goats to start working on when we unloaded them. The net fencing was not able to hold a charge due to the tight space, thick underbrush conditions and undulating terrain. Well, you all know how that went. We left the four goats in what we had hoped would be a safe and secure area that again, did not have electric running through the net fencing.
Disclaimer: While this is a blog and everyone's intent is to want it to be sunshine and lollipops all the time this blog also serves as our personal (albeit public) journal. We want to share our experiences even if they are not all positive. Everyone can learn from the trials and tribulations of others. I hope to serve that purpose for anyone that wants to take on the challenge we have.
Today: After chatting with the wonderful neighbors who scaled the gates (and didn't get zapped) and cut two of our goats from the net fencing that was NOT electrified, we decided we needed an entirely new game plan. We gave our name to animal control who had been called, profusely thanked the neighbors, exchanged phone numbers, and slowly took in the new reality that instead of two goats bounding around our 10 acres, we now had all 6. Animal control? Yes, animal control was called by the good samaritans, who thought they might need back-up or extra hands. I think the animal control lady was happy she didn't have to shag down 6 goats bounding across the county.
Our barely passing average from yesterday at 66% dropped to Double Secret Probation. I could hear the goats echoing, "Toga, Toga, Toga" from deep within the farm.
Regroup: We took a quick walk around the area where they had been sort of contained. The damage was minimal and easily repaired (net fencing is designed to be cut and repaired easily). We took a longer walk around the main arteries of the farm trying to see if we could spot any goats roaming about. Unfortunately, we didn't see any signs of them. Our hopes were that because they are herd animals, they would gather up and feel safe in one group.
Thinking: The goats we purchased were basically on an open range/pasture. They spent their time in a herd and interacted with humans for food, worming and being sent off to auction. This is fine. This is in our future plans, but like I said in yesterday's post, we didn't have a clue. You make plans, you have a vision in your mind of how things are going to be, and then like the quote from the infamous Mike Tyson: "Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth."
Plan Roll Out: What had once been an undesirable place to work, was now the best area to try to trap our wayward herd - the south line! We took one run (160 feet) of the net fencing, heavy metal t-posts and fiberglass, step-in posts (to sure up any sagging) down to the meadow and set our plan into place. We set up a "trap" of sorts. Our hope is that they will seek out food and water and this is the area that they will find all they need. We shook the food can, hung out for about an hour after everything was set up, and still didn't see any sign of the ladies. We left the farm with high hopes they will hang out with the food and we can hopefully trap them into the properly laid out net fencing.
I guess we can always change the business plan from farm to wildlife management area...//tr
Today, all the hard work has paid off - all the sweating, the ticks, the crawling around on our bellies, the manual labor, the ignored family and friends, the chiggers, the daily work regiment that usually left us exhausted at the end of the day was made worth while, because our property has officially become a farm. A FARM!!!!
We set out just as the sun was rising to a see a man about some goats. A man we met two years ago, who was gracious enough to give us a wild ride on a golf cart through his 25 acre goat pasture. A man who we told, that we'd be back to buy some of his goats. A man who probably laughed at that, but today, helped us pick out and load up 6 goats on a borrowed livestock trailer. A man who is probably still laughing, but I will get to that in a minute.
Here are our 6 ladies:
It was kind of overwhelming to pick them out. They were all corralled into a little area and we started pointing out the ones we liked. Before I go any further, he tried to schlep off this little one to us - for free - before we even turned off the truck. As cute as the little one was, we had to say no.
After the kicking, the bleating, the running and the wrestling we ended up with 6 pretty nice goats. One is really pregnant and will probably give birth in a few weeks. One is definitely pregnant and a third might be. One is a tiny little young doe and the last is also young, but not a baby. They traveled well, and we got them back to their new home.
Our plan was to photograph each one as we pulled them off the trailer and make sure we had their ear tag number written down. Number one came off the trailer without a hitch into the interior net fencing.
Number two had a mind of her own and leaped over the net fencing into the depths of our 10 acres. Numbers three, four and six (who is a climber) bounded off to where they were supposed to, while number five didn't want number two to be lonely wandering around alone also leaped off into the wild. They are herd animals, you know!
If we were being graded according to school rules, we would be passing, barely, at 66%. The two little buggers that are literally bounding around the property will be caught and integrated back into the herd...we just need to figure out how.
The goats we purchased are not "people" goats. They are livestock with numbers and if not purchased by us, could have been purchased by anyone at any time or sent off to the livestock auction. I think this might be why the farmer we purchased them off of is probably still laughing, because he knows how wild they are, and while we had an idea, we really didn't have a clue.
Regardless, the view in the rear view mirror this morning reminded me that we really should always be looking forward instead of back. We aren't going to be expert goat farmers on the first day, and we are going to encounter obstacles and problems along our journey. The important thing to always remember, is that we are achieving our goals and enjoying every step of this wild journey we are taking.
We left two wandering girls some water near the rest of their herd before we departed for the evening. The four who were in the net fencing were getting to know their surroundings and calming down.
As we finished up our busy day on the farm (FARM!!!) we saw the two wayward goats on the south line in our future meadow. Our last view was one of them bounding like a wild deer into the setting sun.//tr
If setting the property’s corner posts was declared as the first milestone, then completing the perimeter fence must be the second milestone. With that logic chain established I make the OFFICIAL announcement that we have completed the property’s second milestone. The perimeter seven strand high tensile electric fence is DONE.
Yeah, I know it’s kind of anticlimactic since it was detailed as the main feature in the September Wrap-Up, but you know player...that’s how we roll. The Internet crowd is the last to know. Heck, there’s barely enough time in the day to get all the work done and catch the latest episode of the Walking Dead (thank goodness for the DVR). Hmmm, I wonder what effect 9 kV would have on a walker?
Yes, the fence is finished and has been juiced with a consistent charge of at least 8.5 kV on all five hot lines. The deep cycle marine battery powering the fence is doing a good job and needs to be rotated for charging every 6 days. Not bad at all. The plan for now is to simply rotate the battery out and bring it back home for recharging. A solar charging station on the property is planned, but not in the works as of right now. Of course I’ll be detailing all the fencing particulars in detail one of these days in an article. I hope to detail the labor involved as well as disclose a full accounting of the costs. You know, get some real-world information and data out there for the folks actively researching this fencing stuff like I was for about the last 18 months. What I will say is that high tensile fence installation is very affordable and can be installed with limited labor (yep, a single person sure can run all those lines as long as they don’t mind the miles).
Since completing the MAJOR fencing project lots of people have been asking, “what’s next?”. Well, we’re chomping at the bit to get a bunch of smaller projects started. But, our main focus as of right now is getting some help with the land. Land clearing efforts are still in full force and can be a daunting task. Well, we’re happy to say that everything is full steam ahead and we’re actively recruiting workers right now. That’s right, we’re scouting recruits for help with land clearing efforts and we’ll update that exciting search as it unfolds. Stay tuned, this farming thing is about to get out of hand!//mr
In 2014 a couple of 40-somethings decided to make a change. The purchase of 10 raw, pine scrub acres along Florida's Nature Coast started it all. This is that story.