Saturday, 22 July 2017

Alive and kicking!!

Please can someone explain where the last 4 months have gone??!  Blimey .. what happened there?!  No, we haven't disappeared off the face of the earth but I do admit that it's been a bit of a long time since I managed to sit down in front of my laptop and string a blog together ..  No excuses really - maybe I'm getting busier or older or something but, by the time I finish with those goatie girls, have dinner and do paperwork and email, there's just no time left for blogging and I often find myself face down asleep in my keyboard (and wake up with QWERTY .. imprinted on my forehead)

In my defence, I have managed to keep twittering (when we have had a mobile signal!) so hopefully some of you may have been reading our news up there.  But here I am .. alive and kicking and (hopefully) ready to get back into the swing of keeping you up to date with all things goatie ..

So, a quick waltz through the past few months .... Kidding season came and went.  The usual endless round of babies, new mums, buckets and buckets of milk and sleepless nights.  We had a few weeks with our wonderful vet students - a new lot this year and they were all absolutely fabulous!  So, many many thanks to Joe, Erin, Arabella and Lucy.  Couldn't have done it without you all and we hope to see you again soon!

We ended up with about 150 gorgeous babies .. around 50/50 male and female.  Sadly we did lose a couple on the way which is always gut-wrenching, but we are always happy that we try and do our very best for every single one.  Just that sometimes, there is nothing more you can do ..

Here's a few pics of those bouncing babies for you to enjoy:

And, not to be outdone, the Gracie Moos provided us with 7 lovely calves between them all.  Such gorgeous little creatures who are all growing up very quickly!

Harvest is in full swing at the moment and David is really busy helping out neighbouring farmers with carting grain and baling hay.  Thanks to the good weather and David's impeccable timing, we have already got all our own haylage baled, wrapped and safely stacked ready for the winter.  Those goatie girls have got plenty to eat for the next year!

On a more sombre note, we have had to say goodbye to some of our older girls during the past few months.  Our beautiful Diddi goat died very suddenly one Sunday morning when I was away at market .. David was there with her but I never got the chance to say goodbye:

But I was there when we lost lovely Millie and two of our characters you will be more familiar with - dear showjumping Shares and long-eared Cleo .. As you may remember, Shares was our first mum of the year:

She was absolutely fine after kidding and was happily up to her old tricks, jumping all the gates around the barn.  But several weeks later, she started to go downhill rapidly - she didn't want to eat (not like Shares at all!) and just lay around looking miserable.  A visit from the vet confirmed that she had a serious heart condition which would not improve and so the sad decision was taken to send her to the big goatshed in the sky .. She was a very feisty, stroppy old girl and we miss her very much.

Equally sad was the demise of our beautiful Cleo .. Those of you who follow us on Twitter will have seen that Cleo had a hugely difficult kidding.  It took all our skill to deliver her and, miraculously, her female kid survived the ordeal ..

Cleo was pretty poorly for a few days afterwards but then seemed to pick up and was doing really well, being very attentive to her little Olivia who was doing a great job of looking after her mum.  One afternoon a few weeks later, I started to move the goats across the barn ready for milking and found Cleo fast asleep in the middle of all her friends, with her head stretched out on top of her sleeping baby.  Only she wasn't asleep ...  Poor Cleo.  Young Olivia was gently moved in with some other babies the same age with whom she quickly made friends.  She is a very bouncy, happy little person with the most ridiculous ears!

So, as you see .. a few months of ups and downs.  And in the midst of all this goatiness, the dreadful events at Borough Market and Grenfell Tower which shook us all to the core.  Our hearts go out to all those affected and we will never forget the horror of events which were very close to us and those who work with us.  We were all very lucky .. we remember those who were not.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

30-something .. and counting ...

The new arrivals have been steadily appearing this week .. No major traumas (so far) but there's still plenty of kidding time left!

The glorious spring weather has made life much easier and it's lovely to have all the barn doors wide open with the warm sunshine flooding in.  The girls have been spending a lot of time out in their field enjoying the sunshine and even our two new girls, Lara and Zenobia, were also spotted testing out the electric fence!

David has been busy getting the front field ready for sowing new grass seed.  You may remember he ploughed it .. well, the next stage of preparing the ground is with a power harrow - this breaks up the big clods of earth left by the plough and leaves a lovely fine soil which is then rolled before the seed is drilled in.

As with all boys' toys, a power harrow is a big bit of machinery that fits on the back of the tractor ..

The plough turned the soil and left the field very rough ..


And it's interesting to see where the worms have been hard at work in the newly turned soil .. Their casts show up as darker soil where they bring everything back up to the surface .. We like our worms!


The power harrow breaks up the soil and you can see the difference here ..


In between arrivals this afternoon, I had a ride in the tractor with him, just to enjoy the view and watch what was going on.  


This is all so important for us - getting everything right now means that we will have great forage for the goats to eat and that means we will have lots of lovely milk!

Anyway, enough about fields ... We want pictures of baby goats!!

So, here's a quick selection of new arrivals for you to enjoy ..

Many more to come yet!

If you use Twitter, keep an eye open for our postings on the new arrivals (when we have a mobile signal!!)  @elliesdairy

So, that's it for tonight .. I'm back off to my little caravan at the side of the goat barn .. Another night of listening and waiting ... Night all!

Thursday, 9 March 2017

I now declare the kidding season officially open!

Over the past month there have been many trials and tribulations .. but, as usual, we got through it and the kidding season has now officially begun!

As happened last year, the Gracie Moos beat the goats to it again as our oldest and (in my opinion) loveliest Gracie quietly gave birth to a beautiful little bull calf.  All by herself with no fuss and bother .. he was there all clean and ready as we arrived to start morning milking yesterday morning.

He's a stocky little chap and is happy with all the attention he is getting from mum and all his aunties.  Shouldn't be too long before he is joined by a few more little people.

Meanwhile, David spent a busy few days mucking out the goat barn and moving gates around to put everything into kidding mode.  There are a lot of very large goaties around at the moment ... here's  Poppy and Pippi looking slightly rotund ..

But our main contender for the Dolly Parton Award 2017 was our dear Shares who was sporting rather a large udder yesterday evening:

Due to kid today, she looked absolutely nowhere near this morning.  But early this afternoon as David walked into the barn to investigate a strange growling noise, he found Shares fighting a crowd of goats who were all eager to see the first new baby of the season!

And here she is ..

Every year I just marvel at how tiny and perfect the new babies are .. Just gorgeous!  Our first baby looks strong and healthy and hopefully there will be many more to follow.  It remains to be seen how mummy Shares copes this year .. regular followers may remember that we had to leave her two boys with her permanently last year as she kept on jumping gates to get to them!

Next week promises to be a hugely busy week with many girls due to have their babies .. My little caravan is cleaned and ready for habitation as I prepare to spend the next couple of months sleeping (I use the word very loosely!) outside the barn.

I will do my very best to keep the blog and twitter updated with all those new arrivals, so watch this space!

Saturday, 4 February 2017

A night of scanning

Yes folks, it's that time of year again when the scanning man came to call to check which goaties are pregnant and which are just fat and lazy!

We decided on a different tactic this year and ran them all through the milking parlour so that Michael did not have to crawl around on his knees to get under their ample stomachs ... It all worked very well (helped by a little extra bit of food in their troughs), although there was a bit of ear-pointing as they came running in for the second time that evening!

So, I have still yet to collate all the information, but it looks like we are due to have around 160 babies starting around mid-March.  Only a few sets of triplets this year - mostly twins.  And some of our older girls are due to be mums again as well.  But the best surprise of the evening was one of our stroppy new girls, big brown Zenobia goat ..

In kid with twins!  Very exciting as, although she is over 4 years old, she has never been put in kid before by her previous human and we were not sure that she would take ... the stress of the move to our herd could well have affected her but it seems that she and Hilton did indeed have a little romantic encounter when noone was looking!

Husky remains purely ornamental because of all the problems we had with her horrendous udder last year .. but her daughter, young Monkey goat, is having twins.  So, Husky will be a grandma once again!

On a more sombre note, towards the end of last year I noticed that one of our older ladies, Dusty, had a very swollen jaw ..

Lovely vet Peter came to check it out and was concerned that something nasty was going on in there.  So I took Dusty for a little ride up to the surgery where Peter x-rayed her jaw.  And this is what we saw ..

This is a picture taken of the laptop screen and the image appears in the middle.  You can see the roots of her teeth coming down the screen in the centre (under that bright white line) .. below that there is a white line which runs across the screen from left to right (curves upwards) - this is the normal jaw line.  But, as you can also see, there is a lot of stuff around this line - some kind of mass in the middle of the picture.  This is abnormal bone growth and, unfortunately, it looks like Dusty has some kind of bone tumour in her jaw.

So, what to do?  No real treatment for this kind of thing sadly ... so, put her to sleep or leave her and see how she gets on?  Well, at the time she was still very happy and healthy and was eating well.  And, there was also the chance that she was also in kid .. So, we decided to keep a close eye on her and see how things progressed.  Obviously, at the first sign of distress, she would be put to sleep ..

So, now we are a few months down the line ... Dusty is still happy and healthy and eating well.  Her jaw has not grown any bigger and we have also now confirmed that she is in kid with twins.  So, the right decision we think!

And finally ... when Shares is not busy standing in buckets ..

She is constantly demanding attention ... Here she is in the parlour tonight ..


Oh .. and she is having twins as well!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Spiced tea and Ivanhoe's hairdo

Well, it's been rather a glorious week for goaties!  Hard frost and sub-zero temperatures have meant that all that horrid wet ground and squishy mud has gone hard ... great for little goatie feet!  And so, for the first time in ages, most of the herd went running outside yesterday morning to enjoy the winter sunshine.

Plenty of people in the field..

Some playing up their mountain ..

While others took advantage of the peace in the barn to tuck into that delicious haylage..

A bale of pea straw ..

Or the freshly scattered barley straw ..

So much choice!  No wonder there were a lot of fat goatie bellies tonight!

Our oldest lady, Tammy, often trots round to the back of the milking parlour hoping to be let in and given a treat.  Like many of the older girls, she is very partial to the odd banana but lately she has taken a liking to spiced black tea for some reason.  She has tried to help herself to my cuppa on several occasions and I have lost a couple of nice mugs as she brought them crashing to the floor.

So, this morning when she started hunting round for her morning brew, I made her a mug of her own. Nothing like warm spiced tea on a cold January morning ..

David has been away at a farming machinery show for a couple of days, so I have been milking solo in the evenings.  On the whole, the girls were pretty well behaved, but there was the odd naughty person who took full advantage of a single human.

The empty stall has been vacated by a naughty goat who jumped off ... So, only natural that the girl next door has to check out if there is any food left over ..

Finally, I would like to introduce one of our little stud-boys-in-waiting .. Ivanhoe.

We decided that we would keep 2 youngsters this year - Ivanhoe and Magellan.  They are growing well and hopefully will be ready to work next year with our lovely Hilton.  Ivanhoe was quite nervous to start with but, as you see, he is now very friendly and keen to come across and see you.  He has quite an interesting hairdo going on .. I need to get a good photo of it .. Sadly easier said than done!

Friday, 13 January 2017

A night of weather

Well the weather certainly came in with a vengeance last night!  Part way through evening milking the snow began falling quite gently .. and then within minutes we had a raging blizzard. Unsurprisingly, those goatie girls were very reluctant to go outside and milking did become a bit of a battle towards the end.  Once out of the parlour, the girls have to run up the outside of the barn (very briefly) to get back inside .. not happy.

Inside the barn, the snow was blowing in and there was a lot of consternation and ear-pointing going on .. As David and I battled to shut all the doors, block gaps and clear drifts, the goats gradually settled down into their cosy beds for the night ahead.

Fortunately, it did not last more than a couple of hours.  Sadly for David, it did not last long enough to warrant getting the snow plough going ... Which was a shame as we have a brand new shiny (and bigger) one this winter ..

This morning was very icy and driving up to the farm was interesting to say the least .. even with 4 wheel drive!  As the sun rose, the fields glistened and it was all rather pretty:

And I just love all those little footprints around in the fresh snow.  Looks like the rabbits were busy picking up little bits of barley last night!

Our two new arrivals, Lara and Zenobia are bravely venturing into the parlour every day now.  Lured in with buckets of food, they are happy to stand and eat while everyone else is being milked ..  Notice how they are careful to place those enormous ears outside the bucket!

Some girls continue to find the whole milking experience too much like hard work and just prefer to stay asleep as long as possible before they have to come into the parlour.  Coco goat curls up next to her much naughtier sister Beanie while they wait until almost the very end of the session ..

And for those of you who have been missing Husky in action .. she still prefers to drink her water straight from the tap ..


And, back for the winter, the Gracie Moos are content in their yard.  Oodles of lovely barley straw and fresh hay .. beats standing in a field in the cold and snow!