Saturday, 12 August 2017

Big goats, little goats

You may remember the two beautiful Anglo-Nubian girls who joined us last year from an elderly goatkeeper who was suffering from dementia ... Lara and Zenobia


Well, they have really settled in and are truly part of the herd now.  They do like their own space though and, when it comes to feeding time, they won't let any goats with 'normal' ears eat out of the same trough.  Goats with long floppy ears are, apparently, fine to eat next to them!  Goat racism ..

They do actually come into the parlour for their food occasionally and we have discovered that they both enjoy a scratch on their shoulders.  Lara is particularly fond of it and goes all silly ... Allow me to demonstrate with a little video clip:

video

Always brings a smile to my face!

And, at the other end of the goatie spectrum, we have a little white chap who has been a bit poorly recently.  Poor Skippy had a terrible chest infection and, although we managed to sort that out, he was looking very thin and sorry for himself.  So, although all our babies are now weaned, I decided that he should be given a couple of bottles of milk every day to try and build him back up again.  All those lovely natural probiotics and enzymes had to be good for a poorly wee goatie ..

And it seems to be doing the trick!  Skippy is getting bigger and stronger every day but is still looking for his bottle of milk at feeding times ... And here he is:

video

Such a sweetie!

Thursday, 27 July 2017

No ordinary day ..

Today was never going to be just another day.

Today was the day that lovely vet Peter had been booked to come and send our dear old Betty goat to join her sister Wilma in goatie heaven.  Over the past few weeks, Betty had become increasingly frail and, although still eating well and happy, we decided that she should be put to sleep before things got any worse.  Her poor old legs were starting to stiffen up and you could feel her aches and pains whenever she tried to lie down or stand up.  Twice this week we have found her lying on her side and unable to get herself up again.  So, it was time to say goodbye.

I had been hoping for a sunny day so that we could have one final walk together around the farm.  The morning did not bode well, but the sun broke through in the early afternoon and so we set off for a short stroll around her favourite places to have a final snack of docks and thistles.

video

We finished our walk with her favourite thing - a nice ripe banana - and then we waited patiently for Peter to arrive.

But Betty did not make the journey on her own today as we also had to say goodbye to our lovely Dusty - the girlie with the bone tumour in her jaw.  Coincidentally, Dusty was Betty's great-niece.

So, they lie together in the tractor shed overnight, waiting to be taken away in the morning.  It would be lovely to be able to bury Betty in one of her favourite spots but, sadly, this is not the harsh reality of farming.  Betty is livestock and must be incinerated.  All that will be left of her will be an official 'pink slip' and a whole bundle of memories.

Betty and Wilma were our first two goats, all those years ago .. Here is a very young Betty at 4 weeks old when I went to visit them in Essex where they were born:


A couple of weeks later, we brought them back to Kent and that's when the fun began!


 Wilma was always the quiet dependable one.  Betty was stroppy and much more 'in your face'!  As a kid she was always inquisitive ..



And, as a goatling in the show ring, she was unbeatable ..


In 2006 she had her first two babies, Perdita and Morticia ..  The first of many kids she gave us over the years:

In 2014 she celebrated her 10th birthday with a special birthday breakfast of fresh fruit, lovingly prepared by goatie Auntie Anita ..


A few years ago, both Betty and Wilma were quite poorly for a short while and so they got a lot of extra walks and grazing to try and build them up again ..


And so they continued, until we lost our beloved Wilma last year.  Betty always had the air of a wise old goat .. been there, seen it, done it all before.  She was there right from the start and had seen a lot of changes through her 13 years with us.  But even Betty goats don't live forever and so we sadly had to say goodbye.

During milking this evening a young hare appeared in the field - something I have never seen before so close to the farm buildings.  It approached the milking parlour and sat watching the goats.  Then it disappeared, only to reappear the other side of the hedge in the other field.  And later, when I was feeding the kids, it skipped across the yard.  As it disappeared round the corner, the black clouds gave way to a rain shower and the most beautiful rainbow appeared in the sky ..


Strangely enough, hares have a special significance in Celtic mythology and the Celts considered that hares had supernatural powers and a link to the Otherworld.  It's probably the over-active imagination of an emotional old goatkeeper but I like to think that this was Betty saying her final goodbye.

RIP my beautiful old girl.  And our lovely Dusty goat to keep you company.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

The boys ...

Two blogs in two days ... we're on a roll here folks!

We spend so much of our time working with those goatie girls that it's easy to take the other half of the herd for granted ... those lovely boys!

All our boys live together in a separate area - our stud boys:


and our little meat boys:


Big Hugo is in charge, ably assisted by young buck Hilton and stud-boys-in-waiting Magellan and Ivanhoe ..

And, as you may remember, there is also Jack and Babba.  Two of our chaps who never quite made it to the butcher ... Now almost fully grown and catching up in size with daddy Hugo ..

Babba is a beautiful boy with his long elegant ears:


And Jack is a bit of a silly thing ... If you get too close, he will happily lick your nose like a dog!



The big chaps are very tolerant of all the little people and can be found snuggled up next to them at bed time.  Or, like Hilton, surrounded by his sons at feeding time this evening!


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.  



video


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!