Friday, 5 June 2015

Old girls out grazing

Dear old Betty and Wilma goats just love to wander around places where they are not supposed to be.  They come into the parlour and, when noone is paying attention to them, they head off up the passageway and out of the door ...

They know where to find all the tastiest bits and pieces that they both enjoy so much.  So, we always know where to find them when they take themselves off for a little walk..

Up the side of the tractor shed ..

Behind the milking parlour ..

And off into their 'old' field ..

And, here's another couple of old girls out grazing ..

Goatie Anita (on the left) celebrated a rather significant birthday a few weeks ago and so I thought we should have a little outing along with Anita's best friend Nettie (on the right, pulling a face!).

Anita has many favourite things which include floral print, bunting, caravans and cake.  And, believe it or not, I managed to find somewhere which combined all of these things into a wonderful afternoon for the three of us.

There is a little place called Bessie the Caravan .. Run by a wonderful lady called Karen, there are 3 little vintage caravans which are available for various celebrations.  We booked Bessie Buttercup for an afternoon tea.

And what a tea it was!!  Pink bubbly, lashings of delicious tea, sandwiches and lots and lots of cake!

The weather was perfect and the little caravan was just amazing.  Karen's attention to detail is quite stunning ..

And she also looks the part with her vintage clothes, handbag and shoes!

We all had a wonderful time and didn't need to eat for about a week afterwards!  And just in case you get a hankering for some cake, Karen also owns Bessie's Tea Parlour in Broadstairs.  Very popular it is too!

Meanwhile, back in the goat shed, The Big Experiment is underway.  How exciting, I hear you cry!  What can it be?!

Well, don't get too excited ... It's just a little trial to see how a small group of goatie mums and babies get on if we leave them all together.  As you know, we take babies away from mums after about a week - we are, after all, a dairy herd, and so we need the milk.  We continue to bottle feed the babies until they are good at feeding and then we move them to automatic teats so that they can feed themselves whenever they like.

But, as you may have gathered from previous blog posts, this is extremely labour intensive and takes an awful lot of time and effort to do it properly.  Not that we mind, of course ... but we just wonder if there is another way.

We would much prefer to leave mums and babies together until babies are weaned.  This is a much more natural way of doing things and we already know that babies usually do much better with mum than with humans feeding them, even though we do put all our effort into it.  The obvious drawback with this is that the babies take all the milk and so we have nothing from those mums for around 3 months .. not a very commercially viable option.

Or is it??  We don't really know if the goats are capable of feeding their babies and having a little bit of milk spare for us as well.  We suspect that it might be possible .. just to milk them once a day (instead of the usual twice a day) and let the babies take the rest of the milk.  We would have to feed the girls a little more to allow for their extra milk production but this would still work out viable ..

And so, the last few goats to give birth this year are all being kept together in a separate area with their babies at foot.  We bring them into the milking parlour at the very end of milking so that we can measure the amount of milk that they give us ..

These were the first two - black goat Aretha and white goat Sadie started the experimental ball rolling.

They have now been joined by Naomi:

And today, Pippi also went in with them.

All the girls find their own space and generally keep their babies away from the other mums.  The babies, however, do have other ideas and often play or sleep together.  And so far it all seems to be working very well.  Watch this space!

And the last girlie to have babies is our lovely big KitKat goat ... her youngsters seem to like to use her as a climbing frame so that they can reach the hayrack more easily!

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