Saturday 31 March 2012

The sad tale of little Hugo

Remember Hugo?  Our little teeny weeny boy.

Remember how he fought to survive when he was born so small and weak?  Remember how he spent several nights with me in my sleeping bag in the caravan to keep him warm through the cold March nights?

After writing last night's blog I returned to the barn to find him lying on his side and crying in pain.  Something was clearly not right.  This was not just a simple case of bloat but something a bit more sinister.  I medicated him for all the usual suspects and took him into the caravan with me again.  We spent a long and restless few hours together before he finally died in my arms around 3am this morning. 

As I have said before - all goats are special but some are more special than others.  Some find a place in your heart and hit you hardest when they fall.  Although he was only with us for a few weeks, Hugo was one such goat.  He was a tiny person with a big personality and we will all miss him.

Friday 30 March 2012

Quick catch up!

Just a very quick catch up for you.  It's very late and I have a stinking cold and am feeling rather subnormal this evening.  Maybe I've got Man Flu.  Good Lord!  Surely nothing so serious ...

Anyhow ... this week has been a little quieter on the kidding front but Francesca and I have been battling with all the existing babies to teach them how to feed from bottles or from the automatic teats.  David and I have had a lot of new milkers through the parlour and, although they are all doing really well, there are a couple who still insist on stamping their little feet.  Don't want those clusters on my udders!  Don't want them!  Won't have them!!  It's a bit of a battle and we end up with bruised hands but eventually they settle down and it's all as though nothing had ever happened.

The latest arrivals have been mostly male and we have almost 100 babies in total now.  More still to come.

Here's a few piccies for you:



  Babies taking it easy

And my lovely Flora basking in the afternoon sunshine.  Notice the crossed legs ... and spot the baby..

Yep - baby is the small brown thing curled up in the red bucket behind Flora.  Comfy eh?!  I am SO proud of Flora - she is doing so well and is really looking after her little foster daughter.  Her leg is coming along great but we will leave her out with the little one for a while yet I think.

Oh yes ... I seem to have thwarted Ginger's attempts at climbing out through the gate by moving one of the feed troughs to a strategic position.  However, she is a very resourceful animal and I am sure that she will find another weak point!

So, back off to the caravan for the night and up early for Balham market.  No rest for the wicked!

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Ginger goat and apprentice Hugo

So I spent yesterday making cheese whilst Monica and David were on goat duty.  Sometime during the afternoon I received a very brief text from David which simply read 'B****y Ginger!'.  Told you it wouldn't take long. 

When I arrived home later that afternoon, Ginger goat was hanging half way out of a gate in an attempt to get back out into the barn again.  Although she has slimmed down again, her udder is now full size and she struggles to get it all through the gap comfortably!!  Needless to say that she does eventually manage to get out, with a bit of a wiggle ..  As David said - B****y Ginger!!

And it would seem that someone else has followed her bad example.  A small goat by the name of Hugo.  As he can see the rack of feeding teats on the automatic machine from his pen, he has decided that if he squeezes himself out through the bars, he can go and have a sneaky feed whenever he likes.  So, Francesca spotted this and moved the rack to a higher position.  Not to be outwitted, Hugo stands right up on his tippy toes and can still just about reach:

Sadly for Hugo, the machine is not switched on all the time and so all his effort is for nothing.  Poor Hugo!

And here are some of Hugo's friends enjoying the sunshine in their pen this afternoon:

And what of the goatlings in the other barn?  They are no longer the babies!  And see how tall they have all grown - we have raised some of their hayracks to make feeding more interesting for them:

Seems only yesterday that they were all born ... and in a few months we will be putting the males in with them to get them in kid.  Time seems to go so fast these days!

Sunday 25 March 2012

Sleep at last!

I love Monica.  She is wonderful.   And she wears a silly hat.

Whilst the equally wonderful Francesca is having a couple of well-earned days off, our acupuncturing vet Monica has come to stay.  Not only does she help out during the day, but she is also spending 2 nights sleeping in the caravan outside the barn.  Which means that I get 2 nights off to sleep in my own bed at home with Marmite cat.  I love Monica.  So does Marmite.

And, check out the photo above .... don't be distracted by the silly hat.  See how big that kid looks?  Guess who?  Yep .. little Hugo goat.  How much has he grown?!

So, having got the busiest two weeks out of the way, hopefully next week should be a little more sedate.  I think we have a total of 93 kids at the moment - latest two little chaps arrived late this morning to mum Coye who decided that she wouldn't wait until her due date of Tuesday.  Coye is a great mum though - always diddling with her babies.

And, as promised, here are some of the latest arrivals:

  Evie's son & daughter

  Quince with her babies

And yes, Ginger goat .. Who had triplets.  Here she is with her 3 little white babies:

The problem is now of course that Ginger is slim again.  Which means that she can probably fit through the gates again.  We wait in anticipation to see just how long it takes her to start her escaping tactics.  David is really looking forward to it!

And, more importantly - here's Flora with her little mountaineering foster daughter:

They are just so happy together.  The little one has really done wonders for Flora and given her a purpose to get better.  Flora is starting to get up on her own now and can walk around slowly.  She had another acupuncture treatment today as well.

Here she is standing up to feed the little one.  Notice how she still dangles that sore back leg though ..

But I think she is now well on the way to recovery and so hopefully we will have her back through the milking parlour in the near future.

So, just back to the barn to check on the goats for the night and then I get to come back home to sleep.  Utter luxury ..

Thursday 22 March 2012

And they just keep on coming ....

So, what was the last count?  76??  Can't remember the exact figures but we are somewhere around 90 now I think ... Babies everywhere.  Pens everywhere.  Buckets everywhere.  It's chaos in the barn, but it's a happy chaos .. 

I got a nice blurry action shot of Betty's two babies launching themselves off her yesterday - notice the front one in mid-air!

Milking is starting to take longer now as we have more and more girlies coming through the parlour every day.  There are a lot of new first-timers coming in and they are all doing really well.  A bit of foot-stamping at first but they are pretty well behaved.  I think it really helps that they come into the parlour as a big group (of 12).  Safety in numbers.  The new ones are mixed in with the old ones and so they just follow on behind whoever is in front.

I always feel for the goatlings at this time of year as it's really tough on them.  A couple of weeks ago they were still teenagers with not a care in the world.  Suddenly, they are responsible mothers with new babies (sometimes painful and traumatic) and then they have to come through the parlour for milking.  It's all so strange and noisy and frightening for them but I am very proud that all my new mums are doing very well so far.

I'm a bit behind on the photographic front as we have been just so busy with the new arrivals.  I will try and get some more pics over the next few days ... Especially of Flora goat standing up!!  Yes, she managed to get to her feet unaided several times today.  Amazing what the promise of a nice banana can do ...

So, back off to the barn for the night ... sleep would be good but it depends on what the goaties have in store for me!

Tuesday 20 March 2012

How many babies?????!

So, where did we get to with all these babies??  Just for your info, we have had 14 new arrivals in the past 24 hours and this takes our current total to 76.  Over half way through now!

So far, we haven't had any further traumas and all mums and babies are doing very well.  It's impossible to take pics of everyone, but here is a little selection for your viewing pleasure:


Daughter born to Cerys at 2am this morning


Patty with son and daughter - born 11pm last night

Maternity pens everywhere!


The two goats in the centre of the photo are actually bedded down in an alleyway that is supposed to exist between the main pen and the maternity pens to the right.  I ran out of pens in the wee small hours of this morning and quickly filled the alley full of straw for these two and separated them with a straw bale - seemed to work very well!


Older babies


Expectant fathers

And what of Flora and her tiny foster daughter?  Well, both have come on very well in the past couple of days and Flora is starting to look a lot better.  We moved her out of her pen this morning and after hauling her to her feet, she walked right across the barn and into the hay barn.  We thought that we would give her much more space so that she could walk around if she wanted to.  So far, she has stayed in the same place and not really moved at all!

Tiny foster daughter is doing great.  She has also developed the knack of feeding whilst Flora is lying down so that she doesn't miss out on her meals!

I'm back to the barn shortly to see what this night brings.  Last night saw very little time for sleeping and I have to admit that I'm feeling a bit secondhand at the moment!  It would be nice to have a loooonnnngggg sleep, uninterrupted!!

Sunday 18 March 2012

Back from the conference!

Well, it's been a bit of a long weekend since I last wrote you a blog ...  We have had many more new arrivals and David has been holding the fort this weekend as Jane the Cheese and myself spent the last two days at the fabulous Wise Traditions Festival for Traditional Nutrition.  Organised by the Weston A Price Foundation, this conference was extended to a 2 day event this year and was held at the amazing Epsom Downs Racecourse.

Here's a view of the main grandstands taken on our way in this morning:

Our conference was in the Duchess's Stand which is the one to the right.  As you see, we (uncharacteristically) got there quite early:

And here's the view over the racecourse:

As it was quite expensive to have a stand for the whole weekend, Jane and I shared a table.  It all works quite well as we both sell each other's produce and can happily talk about all of it to customers.

Yesterday was the main conference day and we were absolutely deluged during the lunch break.  We had a crowd several people deep waiting to buy cheese!  Today was a bit quieter and it gave us a chance to speak to people and catch up with some of those we had met at the conference last year.

As always, it was an excellent conference with lots of interesting presentations.  It worked very well for us last year as a publicity exercise and we gained quite a lot of new business from it.  Hopefully it will do the same this year!

Thursday 15 March 2012

The geriatric maternity ward

Last night brought just one surprise kidding with Beanie giving birth to a chunky boy around 3am this morning. She is about a week early, so wasn't expected just yet!

As Francesca and I were looking at the goats this afternoon, it suddenly struck us that one side of the barn is a bit of a geriatric maternity ward!  The youngest goat over there is Margot at 6 years old.  Betty, Wilma and Flora are all 8 years old and Tammy is 9.  But they all look so good for their age!

That's Tammy standing up at the hayrack.  Betty is in the pen nearest the camera, Flora to her right and then Wilma at the back on the left.

Wilma is due to come out tomorrow and will go back in with the main herd.  I suspect that she may be glad of the rest as her babies are getting very bouncy:

Tammy is our latest mum and produced twin boys with very little effort just before teatime this evening.  Popped them out, cleaned them up, fed them and then went back to the serious business of eating hay!  I was hoping that she would give us another daughter as this will probably be the last time we put Tammy in kid.  But, no matter .. we have a few daughters from her in the herd already so we will just have to be satisfied with them!

Poor Flora is struggling a bit though.  She is still barely able to stand and it is an incredible effort to get her to her feet.  I managed to get our acupuncturing vet to drop by this evening and give her a treatment, but Monica also wonders if Flora may possibly have a problem with her foot such as laminitis or an abscess.  We are also not convinced that she has cleansed properly after her traumatic kidding and so she has had a dose of the same hormones as Footsie had last week to make sure that everything is clear. 

However, she seems happy and not in pain, though obviously uncomfortable.  She is still eating well and looking after her tiny foster daughter who snuggles up right next to her at night.  Here she is keeping a careful eye on Francesca who is giving the tiny girl a quick cuddle.

And, as promised, here's that big chap of Millie's:

So, back off to the barn for me now ... Put the lights on, check everyone is settled for the night, try and spot who may be thinking about doing something during the wee small hours ... and then sneak off to bed in the caravan in the hope of getting at least a few hours sleep!

Wednesday 14 March 2012

More new arrivals and Flora the foster mum

Well, I was right about Millie last night.  Just after midnight we got the most enormous single boy.  Very strong lad - up and about within a few minutes.  Will try and get a pic of him over the next couple of days.  This is Millie's second time at being a mum and so she is quite happy with her new baby.

And some of the older girls are kidding now as well.  We have already seen a pic of Wilma with her two little people.  Her sister, Betty, produced twin boys yesterday afternoon:

Betty and Wilma were our very first two goats all those years ago.  I worked out today that they are now great great grandmothers!  They are 8 years old in May and this may be the last time that they are kidded, but we will see how they get on during the year.

Remember Flora?  Big, fat and not willing to get up off her bottom?? 

Well, she kidded today, a week early.  Sadly, both her kids were dead and she was obviously quite distressed about losing her babies.  We quickly swapped in a foster daughter for her and she immediately took to cleaning her up and feeding her.  This tiny girl is one of triplets, born to first time mum Dusty yesterday afternoon.  Dusty seems a bit overwhelmed by the three babies and doesn't really have enough milk to feed them all.  We had been 'topping up' the smallest girl from another goat's milk but wondered if Flora would be able to 'foster' her.

So far, so good.  Flora has been looking after the new arrival and is happy to feed and look after her. Dusty has not missed her at all and is quite happy looking after her other two daughters.  Flora chortles away to her tiny foster daughter who squeaks back at her.  Flora is not daft though - she knows that the tiny kid is not hers - when we swapped it in, she sniffed at it and gave me a hard stare accompanied by a snort, just to let me know that she realised what was going on!

Tuesday 13 March 2012

So remind me ... what day is it?

Sleep deprivation .. I don't cope well with it.  But hey ho, it's that kidding time of year!  So, did you see us on Countryfile?!  Fame at last ... We were really pleased with the piece - plenty of nice shots of the goatie goats.  We were SO lucky with the weather on the day that they came to do the filming and, as you saw, the goats were outside grazing quite a bit.

We managed to set up a portable TV in the barn on Sunday night so that we could watch it while we were feeding babies. 

Really bad picture in black and white with lines going across the screen but we did manage to get the general idea. I have watched it on the i-player since and it's much better in colour!

David and Francesca feeding babies whilst waiting for Countryfile to come on the TV!

And over the past few days we have acquired quite a few more babies.  I think we have around 35 at the moment and are still slightly ahead on the girls.  Daramac is the father of most of these being born at the moment so there are quite a few white ones.  He also seems to be throwing quite large kids which is giving us a few issues with deliveries ... makes the girls' eyes water a bit, poor things.

But all mums and babies are doing well.  Here's a few for you:




And tiny Hugo is just amazing!  He is doing really well and is full of beans - not poorly any more at all.  Just so small, as you can see:

Here are the oldest kids, feeding from their bottles.  In a couple of days, they will be moved onto the automatic feeder: 

So, I muct be getting back to the barn as Millie is looking like she may do something tonight.  I just popped home to get something to eat and a broadband signal!

Night night everyone ..

Saturday 10 March 2012

Excuses for not blogging ..

Here's one excuse:

and another ...

and a couple more..

Am I forgiven yet? 

So, the past few days have seen a few more babies arrive and everyone, so far, is doing pretty well.

The first group have come away from their mums and are now being bottle fed, whilst the mums are now back into the routine of being milked twice a day.  It's a constantly busy time looking after the new arrivals, taking them to the vet for disbudding (having the horn buds removed) and then training them to feed from bottles.

David took the first lot for disbudding on Monday and I took the second lot on Thursday,  We take them in a large metal cage which fits in the back of the truck or the van - perfect for transporting little people.

And it was while I was loading them up, that I realised that one of Poppin's multi-coloured babies (brown mum and white dad) is not brown at all, but black!  She has a white sister and I thought that she was just a very dark brown.  But having looked at her more closely, she is actually black!

So, where does that come from?  Well .. Daramac is her father and his mother is a black goat.  Looks like the genes skipped a generation!

So, I was fully intending to write you a blog on Thursday night but it all went a bit pear-shaped when I went down to feed the goatlings and discovered that Mamakina, the largest black and white girl, had a hugely swollen face.  The whole of her face was just puffed up and tender.  Her eyes were slits, her nose and mouth were swollen and she looked like she had been in a fight!  It had all happened very suddenly and we could not think what may have caused it.  She didn't seem to be in pain but was clearly distressed by the whole thing.  I spoke with Peter our vet and he said that it was probably some allergic reaction, possibly to a sting of some kind.  He suggested that we just keep a close eye on her for the evening, especially to monitor her breathing, but he said that he would expect her to start showing signs of improvement by the morning.

Sure enough, within a few hours, her face started to return to normal and by the next morning she was fully recovered and shouting her head off.  Phew!

So, having ploughed through Friday, I had planned to blog last night.  But Goblin and Foxglove had other ideas.  Goblin (not due til next Monday) decided that she was going to have her baby early and so duly produced a little female around 9pm last night.

Foxglove started looking a bit preoccupied after milking and so we moved her into her own private maternity ward just as Goblin was doing her bit.  I whizzed out quickly and did my milk deliveries so that I would be back in time for Foxy to have her babies.  So, I came back to the caravan, had something to eat, wrote a quick article for a magazine that had a deadline of this morning and still Foxy had not done anything. 

However, she did look fairly imminent and so, rather than get settled in the caravan, I pulled my very comfy reclining deckchair over to her pen and snuggled down in that for a short while.  Many hours later around 3am this morning, Foxy finally got down to business and produced a male and a female - both came backwards, feet first.

Having sorted them all out, given mum a nice long drink of warm water and made sure that both babies had their first feed, I finally got to bed at 3.30am.  Nice ....  Problem was that I had to be up again at 5am to get ready for market!  Sleep is over-rated anyway, I reckon ..

So, you can imagine that I looked absolutely delightful at Balham this morning!

However, more importantly, our tiny man is coming along really well.  Little men don't generally have names but the odd one does seem to acquire one.  This tiny man is now known as Hugo.  He was doing so well, that we decided to put him back in with his siblings and a couple of other friends.  He is SO happy to be back with everyone - he just loves to snuggle up with the others and seems to have found himself a girlfriend:

Hugo is the tiny chap at the back.  His girlfriend, about 4 times his size, is the much larger white goat at the front.  He follows her round and can always be found curled up next to her.  Young love ..

Anyway, I am hoping that tonight will be a bit less hectic and I'm back off to the barn in a minute.  Maybe I can catch up on some of that elusive beauty sleep tonight!