I don’t think we have ever really written about one specific goat on our blog before. The story I am going to tell is about a 3 day old goat (who is now 9 days old) that has had more adventures than the majority of our herd put together – unless you count the original 6 and their free range escapades when they arrived at Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm.
Recently we purchased the adjoining 10 acres. It is now fenced and there are a set of gates that connect the two properties. The new property is dense and difficult to navigate – perfect for goats – not so perfect for humans! The plan we are executing is to hold the goats overnight on the original property (behind electric net fences, as always) and then let them onto the new property during the day so they can have the all you can eat option. This will free up a bunch of time for us to do other projects and focus on some very important goals we want to achieve.
While it’s only been a few days, this new set up has been working very well.
Then a goat had a baby.
This little dude, who we have starting calling Dunk, was born on the afternoon of Tuesday, January 31st. His first couple of days went well. Baby goats sleep a lot and they are pretty unsteady on their legs until about 5 or 6 days. It’s hard for them to keep up with the herd, especially so when there is 10 acres at their disposal to free range and wander about. Goat Maa’s also tend to stash their kids in “secure” places to keep them from becoming a victim of predation.
We have our goats conditioned to meal times. They get a morning ration and an evening ration. On Thursday, they were called for their evening ration and when Mark did the head count the newest member of the herd was missing. This isn’t totally unusual, but normally their Maa’s call for them and they come back. Well, that didn’t happen. Mark fed the goats and the goat Maa kind of called for her kid, but he never came back and he didn’t answer.
In farming, you have to weigh your options. Sometimes the decisions are easy to make, and other times the decisions are harder. Mark looked for Dunk until well past sunset and the dark crept in. He’s small, he’s brown, he’s quiet – there really was no hope of finding him on 10 dense acres. Mark made the decision to let it play out overnight and see what the morning brought.
The natural instinct of a goat when darkness settles in is to hunker down, shut up and sleep. There are coyotes and bobcat in the area around our farm, and we’ve seen both very close by the fences. While we would be shattered over losing the little guy, the greater risk and possible loss of the majority of our herd would be far worse and more devastating financially, so he locked the gates, closed up the net fence, put the electric on and hoped for the best.
Mark arrived at the farm just as dawn was breaking. The little guy hadn’t shown up yet and his Maa seemed to be more interested in her breakfast and foraging. She’d call out, but there wasn’t any answer. Mark spent over an hour looking for the littlest goat, and just when he started to think that things were looking grim he sent me a text that he found him. ALIVE! What the…
He wasn’t injured and he was a little cold, but nothing a warm breakfast of milk couldn’t remedy. Life seemed great in the goat herd for the remainder of the day.
Then it was time to put them away for the night.
Guess who didn’t make an appearance? Again.
Mark looked until dark again, and called it another night. This was starting to get tiresome.
It was another early morning on the farm Saturday. Two sets of eyes spanning out and looking for the tiniest goat in the herd. We must have walked in circles for almost an hour when Mark came up with the idea to look for him grid-style. Tucked away, in the crotch of a fallen tree, under a palm frond Mark found our little Dunk. Sound asleep.
I was determined to make sure that kid spent the night with his herd that night, so we took over Nanny Duty for the day. He was a cuddly little dude and didn’t seem to mind the attention. When we left the farm on Saturday night, he was right where he was supposed to be. His Maa got the hint and kept close to him on Sunday, so we were able to get some real farm work done and his streak of sleeping in safety increased to two nights.
It’s too soon to tell what the future holds for little Dunk. He’s pretty special because he was the first goat born on the new property and he survived three (three? keep reading to the end) nights all alone on 10 acres without his herd. He’s also a male and could become a great herd sire to another farm or provide a family a freezer full of dinners (we are a farm here, not a petting zoo, ya'll) or just maybe he could be wethered and remain on Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm for years to come. We’ll just have to see how this plays out.
After writing this, early Monday evening I was informed that young Dunk, less than 10 days old, made the decision that he would spend a third night alone on the 10 acres. The next morning though, when the pans were banged and the goatie call to breakfast rang out, he came a hollerin’ for milk and his Maa!
Post Post Script:
Dunk spent Tuesday night with the herd and I’ve just heard he’s going to do the same tonight. Maybe he’s just slow to catch onto the herd concept?
Yes, there comes a time when feeding hay becomes a necessity. Periods of drought are the typical periods most people can easily think of when it comes to feeding hay. But, sometimes the weather swings in such a manner that the economics of feeding hay during the green season makes sense also.
Whether it's seasonal or for holding animals for longer periods of time in certain areas, hay feeding is a fact of the farming life. At this time in our area of Central Florida most hay farmers are looking at the reality of a fourth hay cut this year. This weekend our county is looking down the barrel of a possible tropical storm or hurricane. Ummm, lots of rain either way.
These conditions mean that moving our herd into a holding area and feeding some hay while we let the rest of the farm's forage rest and stockpile is a sensible decision. This means we can let the areas we seeded last year mature a bit more before moving the herd across them. It also means we can let the browsed woods soak up all that impending moisture and put a bit more leaf on. Goat farming with heavy browse calls for much different management than grass pasture management. With hay farmers looking at the reality of a fourth hay cut this before Thanksgiving, grass is plentiful and prices are falling. Economics 101; supply and demand Importing plentiful grass from off-site sources while letting our browse rest and stockpile seems to be the right call at the present time.
Again, this is all good news for us at Must Bee Kiddin' Farm while the reality of tropical storm activity has hay farmers shaking their heads. Most of the hay barns are bursting at the seams with second cut hay, whole third cut hay lots still sit in the fields with no available cover. Now, all those round hay bales are getting wet with rain. Those rounds were horse hay, but since being kissed by rain are now cow hay.
So, what's all this mean? Well, horse hay sells for $60 per roll and cow hay, $35. Yep, our goaties like their fair share of hay. At current prices...what my goaties want, my goaties get. Who needs Vegas when you're a farmer!?!
June marks many things on Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm; the halfway point in the year, official start of hurricane season and the end to our goat herd’s kidding season. The last goat kid to hit the ground was actually a couple weeks ago and weaning has started on the older kids. Yes, the farm is again living up to its Must Bee Kiddin’ name. The end to the kidding season simply means preparations for the next season; breeding season, will be starting soon. The marketing of the current kid crop is underway, and before you know it the whole cycle will repeat once again.
June also brings the start of the rainy season here in central Florida. Those afternoon sea breezes start kicking up along the coast and dump more consistent rains on the farm. So, before the year and seasons start getting away from us here’s a rundown of the inaugural breeding season and kidding season results on Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm.
For the fall 2015 breeding season we ran two bucks. Buck 608 “Shadowman” was this season’s primary herd sire buck and MBK Buster was our back-up/clean-up (if necessary). Buster also had three specific side matings assigned. Shadowman was responsible for running the bulk of the herd. Both bucks were unproven and when introduced were still bucklings (less than a year old). At day of introduction (June 6, 2015) 608 Shadowman was six months old and MBK Buster was only four months old. Since Buster was born from within the herd and still young, we knew he would have a harder time running the does. Shadowman provided 100% kiko genetic base we desired. Shadowman was introduced directly into herd and quickly suppressed his junior rival, Buster, as he worked on wooing the ladies.
The herd quickly settled into their new order with Shadowman rising to the head herd sire position as he made his rounds. The year clipped along and Buster grew a bigger and older, ready for his side matings. We moved Buster to a separate buck pen area where we introduced the does for his mating assignments. Daylight waned and the bucks’ wooing intensified. The does became receptive. On each visit to the herd pens a soundtrack dominated by Barry White started playing in my brain. Breeding season was in full swing.
Both bucks performed brilliantly. We had a 100% cover rate by both bucks in their respective matings. Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm now has two proven herd sires. The kidding season started on December 7, 2015 and ended on May 7, 2016. A total of Nine does were bred. Of the nine does bred, three were born on the farm in 2014. This was the farm’s first complete kidding season from matings arranged on the farm.
The numbers look pretty good with the season ending closer to our goals than not. The numbers reveal that our herd fertility is good. Both bucks are capable and fertility issues with our does. Our total (gross) kidding rate is firmly above one. This means that our herd is well on it’s way to producing multiple births per doe. This is important because twinning rate is a primary criteria for selection within our herd.
Results? Here’s the 2015/2016 kidding season by the numbers:
Herd Sires: 2
Total number of does bred: 9
Total number of viable kids born: 12
Total number unviable or aborted kids: 2 (one doe twin set)
Total twin sets: 5
Total viable twin sets: 4
Total buck/doe ratio: 50/50
Net buck/doe ratio: 58/42
Total kidding rate: 1.5
Viable kidding rate: 1.3
2016 stillborn rate: 0%
2016 miscarriage/abortion rate: 11%
Historical herd miscarriage/abortion rate (2 seasons): 7.7%
Although the numbers are good, the season was far from flawless. The glaring disappointment this season was the unfortunate aborting by a first time kidder of her twin set. That is a hard pill to swallow, but that’s farming. Although the exact reason for the aborted pregnancy will never be known, we strongly suspect it is was due to a first time kidder that is low within the herd hierarchy. Rough-housing lower status herd members is a fact of goat life. Since our herd is on pasture 24/7, 365; herd dynamics are always in play these things happen.
So, there’s the results. Not a flawless season, but definitely a successful one. So, as the calendar rolls off another month to the year’s halftime mark, it’s time to get the market kids weaning done and the replacements grown. Time to make and log final herd notes. Culling decisions need to be made and completed. It’s time to arrange the 2016/2017 season’s matings and get ready to do it all over again. Must Bee Kiddin’...//mr
A new year is always a great time to make a new start. With a new calendar ideas blossom into dreams and plans hatch with excitement. It's no different for us here at Must Bee Kiddin' Farm, but before we get to those great new ideas started we must finish out 2015's hatch.
One of our biggest goals from the first machete chop on Must Bee Kiddin' Farm was to get our vehicles off the very dusty lime rock road. Getting off the road was pretty easy, but in order to avoid the dust bowl clouds we needed to take it further off road with a driveway. We also wanted the driveway to offer some privacy so Mark carved out a winding path into the heart of the farm. With a significant investment in sweat equity and some prudent chainsaw work the driveway slowly took form. Finally on March 10th, the final push was made. A stump grinder was rented and after a solid day of grinding we were able to drive our vehicles all the way up the drive and into the center of Must Bee Kiddin' Farm. With this monumental project completed, we have easily shaved an hour a day off walking distance. Talk about productivity gains!
Going into the fall and winter of 2015 we bred the Must Bee Kiddin' Farm goat herd. One doe kidded in December, five more were due in January/February and the final three in May. January ended and the month-long kidding season started. As each week passed another kid or two dropped. In our good fortune we were attentive and lucky enough to witness two complete births and missed the rest by only a couple of minutes each. Everything went well. All does kidded in the field with no assistance. All babies thrived and are growing strong. At the end of this first round we had six bucklings and four doelings.
On the Must Bee Kiddin' Farm poultry front, the first quarter of 2016 saw eggs being laid daily. The poultry division is up and running. Yes, the hens do a fantastic job of cranking out these little jewels in array of colors that, I'm sure, make the Easter Bunny proud. In the first quarter of 2016 we achieved a MAJOR GOAL; eat fresh food produced off the farm. We are eating farm fresh eggs daily and have enough to share and barter for necessities.
Turning the page on that calendar means a new bee year as well. First quarter in Central Florida means serious bee work is in order. The honeybees really started buzzing. Mark spent time making new queen bees and stocking nucleus hives. With good weather and a solid nectar flow these will grow into full hives by summer. If the weather is good and favorable these hives might even make enough honey for a fall honey harvest.
One of our biggest joys on Must Bee Kiddin' Farm is that there's always something new happening. First quarter of 2016 is now history and the farm provided us with new life, new food, new visitors - all of which was a joy.
Spring has sprung and it's time to keep the herd moving on Must Bee Kiddin' Farm. All the paddocks are flush with green and the last of the yearling does is due to kid any day now. Yes, things are busy down on the farm and it's time we talk grazing and grazing tactics.
On Must Bee Kiddin' Farm we practice rotational grazing with our meat goat herd. We organize the farm's paddocks into half acre blocks and move the goats through them on a seven day rotational plan. With rotational grazing we can better manage the thick brush growth on the farm as well as keep goat parasite loads down.
In the southeast United States parasitic worms are a major concern for goat herds. The longer a meat goat herd stays in a set location, the higher the worm load. By moving the goats across the land on a rotational basis we avoid over grazing and keep the goats ahead of emerging worms. Healthy land and happy goats!
There is a lot more to the rotational grazing plan as a whole, but to get things started we wanted to share how we do it down on Must Bee Kiddin' Farm. Looks like I'm roping myself into a grazing series...
Let's take a look at:
As I write we're in the middle of the 2016 kidding season with the first kids having already arrived and are approaching two month old. We’ve still got seven does left to kid with three of those being due in May. So, before we get too deep into the new year how did 2015, our first full calendar year with goats end? In a word--wonderful.
By the end of February, 2015 the bred does finished kidding. Overall, it was a good crop of kids. In October, 2014 we purchased a total of 6 does, 4 of which were bred. We ended 2015 with a total herd number of thirteen. Of that thirteen only one goat, 608 (our current herd sire) was an outside purchase. Yes, those goaties sure do multiply.
When we started with our herd they were untamed and roaming the farm with reckless abandon. We quickly regained control over the herd by deploying electric net fencing and over the next couple of month tamed them down with daily feedings. They’re a smart crew and quickly figured the racket out; “Chill behind the safety of these fences and wait for the guy with the buckets to come and serve us breakfast in bed. Then loaf around most of the day and chow down on the ample supply of thick brush and get fed again in the evening. Pretty cush!”
By the time February, 2015 rolled around the final kid had hit the ground and we ended up with three twin pairs and a single. Of the seven kids from the 2014/2015 kidding we retained five kids and had one fatality, a buckling succumbed to Floppy Kid Syndrome (FKS). Of the five kids retained four are does and one is a buck. All the does attained our primary retention criteria of unassisted birthing and exceptional mothering which qualifies them for re-breeding. In March we did borrow an unproven buck, Odie, for an attempt at re-breeding. He spent the month with us but was ineffective.
We had some hiccups with kidding due to our newbie status. The first was the making of a bottle baby, and the second was the loss of the kid buckling to FKS. As far as that loss is concerned, I can say that all animal husbandry has its learning curve. They are steep with losses to be expected. The nature of Floppy Kid Syndrome is that by the time it manifests it’s too late. Yes, there are some early detection tests experienced shepherds can do, but that’s where the “feel” of goat husbandry comes into play. Trust me, I’ll be able to detect that disturbance in the goatie Force in future kiddings.
The circumstances surrounding the bottle baby weren’t really anybody’s fault and certainly not due to anything the birthing doe did. It arose out of safety concerns for the herd as a whole. When the doe birthed her twin pair of doelings, the herd was roaming the ten acres freely. That in itself is nothing bad. Our farm is in the heart of coyote country and the decision to pull any kids that were born before the herd could be contained was decided from the start. The herd was gathered and contained later that same day of the kids’ birth except for their mother. Murphy’s law indeed. I still stand by our decisions and actions regarding that does birthing and the decision to bottle baby her kids. It’s just circumstances that led to the longer term bottle baby of one of her kids. At the end of the day it all ended well and was good experience for Tuesday and I.
On December 1, 2015 we sold our first goats which were the first kids born on Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm. Seven days later their mother gave birth to another twin pair. On December 8, 2015 Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm started it’s second kidding season, the current 2015/2016 kid crop season. At this point in time we’ve come full circle. The retained doelings are bred and will be kidding in May.
Our shepherding skills have advanced considerably over the past year. We’ve learned to listen to the goats and trust our instincts. Our actions are now more decisive and our herd is better for it. I’d like to thank our herd for their patience and mostly quiet guidance in our learning. Here’s to a new and better year filled with bouncing and bounding kiddies! //mr
July, August, September Wrap-Up
Twinkling Christmas displays are all aglow and the feed rations for the farm critters were prepared last night, so it’s time to hammer out a Both Feet In blog update. As I write this latest Must Bee Kiddin’ farm update the outside temperature at 5:30 a.m. is pushing 80 degrees. I know, total antithesis to this article’s title, but the dog days of summer; July, August and September are history even though the mercury has yet to settle at consistently lower winter temperatures. Sure, Santa will soon be on his way, but surely he’s packing Bermuda shorts and a cold boat drink for this leg of his deliveries.
It’s been a spell since we’ve been able to come up for air and get a formal farm Wrap-Up posted to Both Feet In. Apologies to anyone following along from the start. In an attempt to keep the blog's chronology orderly, here’s the Wrap-Up for the July, August and September; the dog days of summer.
July was a milestone month at Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm. We celebrated our one year anniversary of land ownership and starting the work of creating the farm. Wow, unbelievable! It is true that time flies when you’re having fun. Yes, all the hard work and sweat is still the most rewarding work we’ve ever done. Every day when my feet hit the ground, rolling out of bed after a solid night’s sleep and that first ache hits, I remind myself of what Newton told us…a body in motion tends to stay in motion. Powering through the discomfort still comes easy and with a smile--suck it up, buttercup.
Just before July's heat and humidity turned ridiculous, we completed the farm's first full grazing tour with the goats. The goats are doing a great brush control job and the land becomes more and more manageable with each grazing rotation. This accomplishment also gives a better feel for our land's carry capacity and can now adjust our final stocking rates accordingly.
Early in the month we received the fantastic news that our county tax appraiser had granted us an agricultural exemption. This approval was critical to making our farm work financially. We submitted our agricultural application to the county in December, 2014 and by July, 2015 it was approved. Being recognized as a “bona fide” agricultural enterprise by the “man” helps in so many ways. We not only get a new tax designation for the property, but this also solidifies all the protections granted to us through Florida’s Right to Farm Act. Florida is a state dominated by folks retiring from heavily urbanized areas and the threat of neighbor complaints from crowing roosters or crying goat kids are alleviated with this protection.
In July Must Bee Kiddin' Farm launched its poultry division. We fired up the incubator we purchased in June and by July's end we had thirteen chick chirping away in a storage tote in the bathroom. Now, applying the law of probability to our hatching would mean we should have an even distribution of cocks to hens. Well, I guess it runs streaky then. The birds from that first hatch have grown out and we now find ourselves overrun with roosters. Winner, winner chicken dinner!
The victories of July melted away and our personal life’s fortunes took a turn. The facts of life hit hard in the final days of July and we spent all of August and September dealing with a full-force family emergency. The farm was left on autopilot with not much time for anything other than the daily chores available. Farm development ground to a halt. It was a stress test for both us and the farm. We pulled together as a family and with help from both immediate and extended family members we found our way through the crisis. The good news was that our family's crisis didn’t spiral into tragedy. It’s times like these that make you realized what the expression “at least I have my health” REALLY means.
As an aside, anyone thinking they will move to the country and start farming once they fully retire and are caught up in marking time until then...STOP. Quit fooling yourself. If you’re able-bodied and really want to get on the land, you need to find a way to make it happen sooner than later. The recliner and television are instruments of death from our contemporary life. Their seduction literally sucks you in, placating you with fantasies and dreams until you die. I look back at what we set out to do and have to say that starting Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm in our 40’s was almost too late. There's so much to do. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
The lingering effects of the August scramble lasted throughout September. We powered through and slowly built momentum back on the farm. The final milling of timbers into lumber from felled trees on the farm was completed. That lumber was used to build chicken coops for our poultry enterprise. September also saw our second hatch completed. With the help of a farm neighbor (Thanks Ray ;) with more incubator capacity, we added more heritage poultry lines to the farm mix. The final push for launching the Must Bee Kiddin’ poultry division in the field was complete. By September's end we had two range coops up and running on an electrified paddock.
With working days on Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm cut short due to familial obligations from the August fallout, progress on the farm has shifted to a lower gear. Deeper access into the farm property is the priority. The farm’s driveway started taking shape, but by the month’s end was still far from completion.
There you have it. With Christmas closing in hard we’ve finally updated the blog through September. Life’s ups and downs will pummel you from time to time and things such as blogging get lost in the scuffle. No worries. Tough people outlast tough times.
June was a busy month on Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm. On the cusp of completing our first year of our farming adventure, June had a lot of hard work and a surprise or two in store for us.
This past June saw the arrival of a future herd sire. We had been casually looking for a buck for quite a while, but the search kicked into high gear in May. We did find a nice buckling in Georgia, but before making any “ buck trek” we committed to staying as local as possible with our buying decisions. We believe in trying to support as many other local farms and ventures as possible, and when it comes to livestock, locally adapted is usually a better choice.
In late May and made we visited a local farmer that had some kiko bucklings for sale. Fortunately, we were able to find a good fit for our herd from his current stock selection. This was nice since it saved us from the Georgia “buck trek”.
On June 7th we picked up the kiko buck tagged 608. 608 spent the rest of the month finding his niche in the herd. He’s the ever-present figure lurking the herd fringe among the twisted live oak shadows. 608 is Shadowman.
The bees on the farm have been on quite a ride this year. Several of the nucleus hives that were looking promising in the early spring have crashed. Although this sounds bad, the few that have made it are flourishing and will result in a good foundation for future hive expansion on the farm. Overall, our hives are looking good with our overall hive numbers growing. Early June is the last “easy” period for honey bees in our area. The days become long and hot. Summer’s dog days take over. After the early June honey harvest (not much of one this year) it’s pretty much a waiting game as the summer dearth takes hold. Late June becomes a time of scant blooms, intense heat and waiting, waiting, waiting…
As June turns up the heat and frequent showers drench the afternoons in our area of Florida, the work tends to slow a bit. There’s a solid six hour window where one can get a lot done, but once late morning melts into early afternoon it’s best to play things on the loose side. This time of year Thor welds the skies and uses Florida as his anvil. Making ambitious gains in the larger projects is something that can be hard to come by.
But, with all that being said, we made solid progress on finalizing the driveway into the farm. Several towering pines were felled and the drive’s final shape took hold. Completing the driveway is the primary project on the agenda right now. Once it’s completed we’ll be able to drive right into the middle of the property. This will make things super easy for dropping off any building materials as well as cut down on a lot of the daily leg work.
There’s always a bunch of little things happening and June was no exception. We finally got the bamboo we purchased in late April into the ground. All the varieties chosen are clumping bamboos, not running bamboos. We planted giant timber bamboo (bambusa oldhamii), graceful bamboo (bambusa textilis gracilis), and golden goddess (bambusa multiplex). Bamboo is a foundation planting on Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm which means it will satisfy many roles on the farm. Another good reason to get it in the ground!
The last week of June we were notified by the county tax assessor that the Must Bee Kiddin' Farm property will receive an agricultural designation. This was outstanding news. Obtaining agricultural status for the property was a primary goal for the property in year one. We can now say that goal has been achieved. The agricultural designation was a critical detail that is essential for green-lighting our farm's expansion.
We also purchased an incubator in June and made contact for obtaining hatching eggs. The incubator is a simple table top model, but it's the start of our poultry division plans.
We told ya'll this farming thing was going to get out of hand! //mr
We have divided the herd recently. While this did not go exactly according to plan – more on that in another post – it’s actually working out quite well in many ways. Mark recently built a ½ acre semi-permanent pen. The original plan was for this to be the bachelor pad for our two bucks, but they both had their own ideas and we ended up keeping them in the net fences that we use for rotational grazing. We had to get the youngest doelings away from the boys, so we moved them to this new pen along with one doe – the mother of the twins.
With all the goats in a holding pattern within the new pen, the forage was getting a little thin. So Mark thought we should try taking them out for a walk around the property to graze the grass along the front fence. Not only would it feed the goats it would get Mark out of weed whacking duty along that section of the perimeter electric fence. Since all the goats follow us around the pen looking for hand-outs, we figured a little sweet feed would be just to ticket to lure them along and to a lesser extent control them. What did we have to lose? Well, 6 goats on 10 acres and a bunch of plants that are just getting a good start--that’s what!
This better work!
After taking a deep breath we shoved the holding pen gate open and off we went. I was in the lead position and Mark, along with the previous bottle baby, brought up the rear. Foraging our way down the driveway the goats didn't miss many yummy, tender shoots. All us shepherds had to do was stand in the shade and enjoy the show. Not too bad. There was a small hang up once we got to the front of the property where the truck was parked. One goat caught sight of her reflection. For a brief moment we thought a fight might break out, but all went well.
We made our way along the front property line to the tall grass in southeast corner. We grazed the goats alongside the road and had fun watching both the herd react to the locals driving by and the locals reacting to the herd. Several drivers did a double-take as the kids grazed the fresh shoots along the fence. One driver, a lady, yelled “They really are goats!!!”
Recently we planted some clumping bamboo and when the herd passed by it they didn't pass up the opportunity to swarm the meager planting's fresh leaves. No worries, sweet feed to the rescue as Mark lured them up the path and away from the bamboo. I still have to master my herding skills a little bit and get a better handle on reading the goats, but pretty much all went well. We foraged back up the line, and it was amazing to watch their rumens fill with each bit they chewed.
Through mastering herding and close shepherding, we have started incorporating a new angle into our overall herd management plan--flash grazing. With the ability to walk our goats almost anywhere we want, we can eventually make a permanent containment paddock or barn area to secure the herd overnight, then herd them to the net fences surrounding the foraging paddocks in the morning. Let them graze all day and then return them to safety in the evening. This will make moving the net fences a little easier and if need be, one person can do the job. Not that we've been having problems, but by doing this we can add a layer of security that is essential during kidding – the coyotes are abundant in our area. Also, when our pasture grows as desired, we can then put the goats onto it for shorter lengths of time (as little as a few hours) and get them off the plants exactly when needed, allowing proper regrowth--not destruction. This system will also help with managing parasite load and should reduce the frequency of wormer use.
This flash grazing has become a daily ritual for the goats being kept in the half acre pen (the buck pen that has yet to have a buck in it, LOL), one that I look forward to on the weekends when I am there. The goats also look forward to it and are practically banging on the gate when they feel it’s time to go for their walk.
Now we just have to see if our remedial group of goats will eventually catch on. There are a few wildcards in this bunch. But, best of all, the perimeter weed whacking duties will be a lot less. //tr & mr
Hey June, What Happened to April & May?
Wow, time sure does fly when you're farming! Yes, I know that we've been a little remiss and neglectful of the blog over the past few months. Let me assure you it's benign neglect, LOL. The farm work has been hot and heavy (literally) so the blogging has taken a definite second seat. Remember this is only a one man and woman operation. Yes, progress is being made on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, but sometimes it's slow and tedious. Now, enough with the excuses and on to what's been going on!
April went pretty smooth and was mostly about carrying out the grazing plan with the goats. More half acre paddocks were cut through the thick brush and the goats placed on them to thin said brush. All in all it went swimmingly well considering one of us went down for a week with ankle issues that needed to be rested. As on all good teams, the teammate picked up the slack as the goats took it easy on us with no outlandish antics.
Plans for fencing a half acre with more high tensile electric were put into motion. The purpose of the fenced paddock would be mainly to hold our buck goats while they weren't being put to use running the does. Felled trees from the property that would make good fence posts were gathered and their bark stripped. The buck pen plans were now in motion.
Our comfrey patch at the house needed to be transplanted to the farm. It was as good a time as any to go ahead and divide the strong plants and bolster the comfrey patch numbers.
The goat grazing plan continued and by the end of May the goats are close to completing the grazing of the property's thickest parts. An isolated storm dropped over two inches of rain on the property late one afternoon/early evening. Returning the next morning to feed the goats, the 81 day old buckling had one serious case of scours (goat diarrhea). Coccidiosis was suspected and without delay electrolytes were administered three times daily. A quick trip to the farm supply store for an initial dose of Corid got things going in the right direction. Sulmet finished the job and the buck still made a 100 day weaning weight of 41 pounds.
To finish the month off with a bit of a bang (more like a rush), the mother to the sick, little buckling decided to test the electric netting. Well, she lost. After a sprint through the thicket she was found entangled in the netting receiving a full three joule jolt every two seconds. Needless to say, she and the whole herd were stressed thus ending the month with an adrenaline fueled headache for us.
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.