Tuesday 30 July 2013

Highs and lows

As I have said many times before, the life of a livestock farmer has huge highs and equally huge lows. 

Let us start with the lows ... yesterday we lost one of the Gracie Moos.  Number 1 Gracie Moo was the first calf born to our little herd of pedigree Sussex in 2009.  She was a lovely big girlie and, like the other cows, has never had any health problems at all.

So, I was shocked to find her suddenly extremely ill in the field when I went to check on them on Sunday night.  We did what we could for her but she only got worse and a very early visit from our wonderful vet on Monday morning only confirmed what we already knew.   That there really was no hope and she would have to be put down.  Doubly tragic as she was in calf and, at less than halfway into her pregnancy, there was absolutely no way the calf would be viable if we could even try to save it. 

Unlike goats who are usually euthanased by the vet, the best way to deal with a huge animal like a Gracie Moo is, unfortunately, to have her shot.  Not pleasant at all but something all livestock farmers have to face.  All done professionally and quickly.  Poor Gracie Moo.

But tonight came the high point.  Ellie's Dairy Fresh Goat Curd has won a Silver Award at the International Cheese Awards in Cheshire.   Hurrah!!!

We had, as usual, entered a few classes just for the excitement of participating in the World's Largest Cheese Awards.  Judging took place today and I was scanning the results to see how many awards our friends at High Weald Dairy had won when I came across our name!  Amazing!!  Didn't expect that to happen.  We will get a certificate and everything ... how exciting is that?! 

Doesn't make up for Gracie Moo but it did bring a smile to the face :-)

Saturday 27 July 2013

All on the move again

Yet again we are moving everyone around!  The 6 little stud boys were moved out into the cattle yard a few days ago in preparation for some of them going off to Somerset:

We let them settle in for a couple of days and then we moved The Boys back outside as well:

It's coming round to THAT time of year again .. and having already seen a suspiciously waggy tail on one of the girls the other day, it was time to get those big chaps back outside and away from the ladies.  They are quite happy out there as they can talk to the girls over the fence.  And they are very gentle with the little chaps as well.  All boys together!

As I went out to feed them this evening in a thunderstorm and torrential rain, I did wonder if it was sensible to be wandering around in the middle of an open yard wheeling a metal wheelbarrow through metal gates ....

David has modified the big hayrack slightly to lift it off the ground. 

That's spoilt poor Kitty's game as she can no longer jump on top of the bale, but it does mean that more goats can get round/under it at any one time.

It always makes me laugh to see them rushing back in to eat their hay after morning milking.  They have a lovely field outside to graze but they all have to come dashing back into the barn to get a tum-full of that yummy hay first.

At considerable personal risk, I shot a little video on my phone yesterday morning as I opened the gate to let them all back in.  I managed to keep my balance ... just ...

My little Husky is growing bigger every day but she still likes to sit on your lap at coffee time.  Methinks she is getting just a little too big for this now ..  But she does like to try and drink the water as it comes out of the tap instead of waiting for the bucket to fill up:

Thursday 25 July 2013

Pacemakers and generators

Betty and Wilma were our very first two goats:

At just over 9 years old they are now considered to be 'elderly'.  In fact, show goats are classed as 'veteran' when they reach 6 years old!  However, both of them kidded well this year and have been looking very sprightly for their age.

However, over the past couple of months, Wilma has begun to look like an 'old goat' and also seemed to be having problems eating properly last week.  As she was starting to lose weight quite rapidly, I decided that it was time to get our wonderful vet Peter to come and check her over this morning.

A thorough examination of Wilma's mouth revealed that she had recently lost a large back tooth, so possibly had been suffering from toothache or a wobbly tooth.  But it also seems that she has a bit of a heart problem as well.  In a human, this would be corrected by a pacemaker but apparently these have not yet been developed for goats!

So, just lots of cuddles and squishy food for a while to try and build her back up again.  Keep an eye on her heart condition (you can feel the irregular heartbeat with your hand) and see if she improves, though there is nothing we can actually do about it.  I think she is looking forward to a good supply of bananas!

And how did you all fare in those storms the other night?  We had an absolute corker up here.  Unfortunately, one of the transformers in the field was hit by lightning and so we had no power for most of the day on Tuesday.  That created a few challenges! 

After numerous phone calls and searching around in other farmers' barns, we finally managed to locate one of these:

A generator.

But a generator with a difference ....

A generator that runs off a tractor.  Fantastic!

Bit noisy but it is powerful enough to run the milking parlour, the bulk milk tank and all the fridges and freezers.  A lot of extension cables all over the place and a bit of emergency wiring and we were all set .. Milking was very late and we finally finished just before noon.  Some of those big milkers were absolutely bursting to get into the parlour!  Proper power came back on just as we finished evening milking ...

Sunday 21 July 2013

A visit to Winnie the Pooh

Those of you who have the misfortune to use the M25 on a regular basis may be aware that a long stretch of the bottom half is currently being dug up (again).  This means that I have to sit in traffic queues for miles and miles and miles whenever I need to deliver to our wholesaler in Sussex.  After a recent delivery took me over 3 hours just to get there, I have vowed never to use that motorway route ever again! 

So I have devised a much more scenic route which takes me through the beautiful town of Tunbridge Wells and down through the Ashdown Forest, home of Winnie the Pooh.  It's familiar territory to me as I used to live on the edge of the forest many years ago (when I had a proper job!).  I just love that part of Sussex ... so leafy and green.

So instead of staring at the rear of a lorry and endless stretches of motorway tarmac, I now get to look at scenery like this:

Gorgeous eh?!  And it's actually fewer miles ...

As a lifelong Winnie the Pooh fan, it's always a joy to pass through the little village of Hartfield and 'Pooh Corner', the most fabulous Pooh shop anywhere in the known universe.

So today I awarded myself a short break and had a little walk around.  I was sorely tempted by Piglit's Tea Room and the promise of something large in the cake department but duty beckoned - I had those naughty goatlings to visit on the way home and then straight into evening milking.  But I did treat myself to a new bookmark ... I know how to spoil myself!

David had been busy filling up the barn with all that lovely new hay:

and some of the little chaps were catching the last of the evening sunshine:

Not sure what the weather holds for the next few days .. we are promised hot and humid but with the possibility of heavy thundery showers so not too good for haymaking ..  However, we do have to start moving some of the kids around to another barn as we need their space ready for more hay.  It looks like being yet another busy week!

Saturday 20 July 2013

A sea of little goatie faces

After milking the boys have a chance to enjoy a little peace and quiet before the hordes of noisy females all come charging back into the barn.  Here's Daramac, Fremlin and Max tucking into the nice fresh hay. 

Beamish had decided to come through the parlour and so he was outside with the throngs of ladies ...

As the weather is so warm at the moment, we have opened up all the big barn doors and so all those girlies stand around outside, peering in whilst we fill up their hay racks.  Looking out of the barn, there was a sea of impatient little goatie faces staring back at me:

Hurry up and get that hay sorted out!

And make sure you put plenty in all the racks .. there's a long night ahead!

Tuesday 16 July 2013

That was a hot one!

Lordie that was a hot weekend!!  Glorious weather for the Kent Show but a little too warm for most people I think.  Certainly too hot for cheese ... but at least we didn't have as many problems as the chocolate lady!  And our friends at Solley's Ice Cream and Simply Ice Cream were rubbing their hands with glee as they restacked their freezers for the umpteenth time over the weekend!  Made a change from last year when we were in wellies and jackets for 3 days.

Once again I shared a stand with Jane the Cheese:

And we were next to our blue cheesey colleagues from Kentish Blue:

Karen is opening her new on-line shop at the beginning of August and so you will be able to purchase their delicious unpasteurised blue cheeses direct from her.  We will keep you informed of all the details as we know how much you like that raw cheese!

David spent the weekend hay making, although there has also been a lot of swearing going on as the tractor decided to throw a tantrum.  It started to change gear all by itself ... I figured that it was possessed but apparently it was a fault with the electronics.  Multiple engineers and a new 'black box' got it going again but I am not looking forward to the bill for that one ... Wonder if we can pay it off in cheese?!

The goaties have been lying around panting in the heat and are bearing up pretty well, although there are a couple who clearly are not happy to be so warm.  Lots of fresh cold water and damp towels at milking time have kept them going!

Here's a couple of the young milkers absolutely flat out in the heat of the day!

Husky has settled into a routine now as well.  She spends the day in with the milkers and her little boyfriend, then comes into the parlour right at the end of milking (again with her little boyfriend). 

When we have finished milking and bring everyone back into the barn for the night, she comes out of the milkers' area and settles down on her bale:

I think she has got her little life pretty much sorted!

Tuesday 9 July 2013

Goaties in the sunshine

Another glorious hay making day!

And here's a pic of our young man Toggy enjoying the sunshine in his new home with his friend Socks:

Toggy managed to break into the neighbour's garden a couple of weeks ago and made himself very ill by eating some of their plants which are poisonous to goaties.  He was a very poorly boy for several days but with the help of the local vet and lots of TLC from his new family, he survived the experience and is now back to his usual naughty self.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch ... Husky started the day off nicely as she enjoyed breakfast with her dad Daramac (with uncles Fremlin and Max in the foreground):

And one of our little chaps decided that the best way to attract the girls was to wear a considerable amount of hay on your head:

Seemed to work a treat!

Sunday 7 July 2013

First hay of the season

And here it is ... straight out of the baler this evening.  The first new hay of the season. 

It's such a shame that we don't have smellyvision as it smells just divine.  And the goaties could hardly contain their excitement when they found such deliciousness in their hayracks this evening. 

David was under strict instructions to take a photo of one of the first bales out of the new baler.  And he duly obliged ...

I think that the new baler is making life so much easier for him.  And much quicker to bale all that lovely hay as well.  He is going great guns at the moment with around 200 of these huge bales done already.  And plenty more to come yet!

It is such a relief to get fresh hay baled in July .. the last couple of years have been so awful that we have really struggled to get anything decent baled at all.  Haymaking may seem a trivial thing to many people but this is our main forage crop for those goaties and we need hundreds and hundreds of bales to keep everyone full and happy throughout the year.  Plenty of good hay goes a long way to making sure that we keep milking through the winter .... and many of you will remember what a horrendous time we had last year ..

Once again it's been a week of mixed fortunes ... The hot weather is good for haymaking but the goaties are suffering a bit in the extreme heat and we have unfortunately lost one of our little female kids to pneumonia.  Hot days with little air followed by misty, chilly nights are perfect conditions for snuffly noses and chesty coughs to start ... little girlie goat number 495 (she didn't have a name yet) started to look a little under the weather on Thursday and, by Friday evening, was quite poorly despite medication.

She settled herself down in the hay barn for the night and I decided that I would spend the night with her as I wasn't at all happy with the way she looked.  So, it was a long and uncomfortable night snuggled down next her on the straw floor of the barn listening to all the rats rustling about and squeaking.  She finally passed away around 3am after a pretty restless night.

So, you can imagine that I wasn't exactly on top form on Saturday morning!  I made a quick visit to Wye Market to drop off supplies for Jane the Cheese and her mum who were covering the stall for the morning .. then it was back to the farm to load up cheese and goats for our veterinary practice Open Day.

I had selected 5 little girlie goats to take with me ... and they were very popular with all the visitors!

Husky was worn out with all the effort ..

but decided that she would be far more comfortable sitting on top of the bale ..

And while we're on the subject of comfortable goats .... here's Polly during milking this evening ...

For some reason she decided that it would be far easier to kneel down in the wheelbarrow rather than stand next to it ...  bad goat!

Monday 1 July 2013

Haymaking starts in earnest

With a few days of good weather predicted over the last weekend, David has started the haymaking season.  After much discussion, we have also decided that we need to replace the baler for a much larger machine that will do the huge round bales rather than the small conventional size.  We need so much hay now that small bales are just not practical so a new shiny baler should be arriving at the farm in the morning.  Our old one is going in part exchange and the rest of it will be paid for over the next hundred years!  At least with agricultural machinery, you do seem to get something quite large and shiny for your money!

Last week we also had the pleasure of Maddy, a 6th form work experience student who is working throughout her summer holidays to make sure that she has plenty of experience before applying to Uni to study veterinary science.  She helped us out with milking and feeding and also spent some time learning to trim feet .. very useful she was too!

Husky and Ginger certainly took a shine to her ..

She has promised to come back and visit us at kidding time next year.

And while Maddy was here, she was thrilled to see exactly how Ginger escapes from her pen.  Here she comes - through the gate with a last little wiggle to get that udder through!

Husky, on the other hand, seems keen to get IN with the milkers, rather than OUT ..  This pic was taken from the milking parlour this evening.  Look at the centre of the photo ...

Can you see the small white goat lying down in the middle of all the milkers?? 
Then she comes into the parlour and has her dinner ..

Accompanied by her new boyfriend ..

Yes indeed ... Valerie's little man seems to have taken a shine to young Husky and the two of them can be seen playing together in the field.  Wonder if Val wants to adopt her?!