Thursday 26 September 2013

Hugo's fan club

So after yesterday's miserable jottings, let us have a little more fun with our blog!

Several days this week have started as those wonderful early autumnal misty mornings:

David took the goatlings out for a trot into the mist and I was entertained to see them all slowly reappearing as they all ran back in for their breakfast.

Hugo is having a wonderful time with them all and he seems to be a bit of a hit with the older girls as well.  He has a constant queue of ladies admiring him over the fence:

But he is taking it all in his stride and has settled in really well.  He is a lot calmer than when he arrived and is getting used to just enjoying life with his new girlfriends.

Many of our goaties have odd little habits and Cilla goat is no exception.  Outside the milking parlour are two large blue troughs which we fill with water for the girls to have a nice drink as they come out from milking.  For some reason best known to herself, Cilla cannot drink unless she stands up on a concrete block.  It means that it makes it more awkward and she has to bend down further to reach the water but that seems to be the way that she likes to do it.  Strange little goat!

Valerie and her little chap were snapped fast asleep the other day:

Meanwhile, at the babies' house, there is one particular little man who will not stay in the barn.  He is the last kid born this year (along with his sister) and he just climbs in and out through the metal barriers as the fancy takes him.  When he sees us turn up, he knows that it is breakfast time and he is quick to climb into the back of my van or, as here, into the back of the truck in search of buckets of food.

Such bad behaviour!

Wednesday 25 September 2013

A thoroughly miserable week

I'm afraid that you will have to forgive my absence from blogging this week but it's been a truly horrendous few days. 

It all started one morning with a half-dead rabbit outside the dairy which David was called upon to dispatch.  The same lunchtime, I returned home to find a crippled (and exceedingly annoyed) weasel on my kitchen floor which I then had to send to weasel heaven ..

And then we lost our beloved GinnyPink very suddenly that same evening.  You may remember that Ginny had suffered a serious bout of pneumonia last year and, although she had recovered well, she did seem to suffer a little chestiness whenever the weather turned cold and damp.  And so it was that last week she was not quite herself. 

Our vet was booked to visit the following morning but suddenly, in the middle of evening milking, we heard a shout from the barn.  David rushed in to find our beautiful girl collapsed and struggling to breathe.  The emergency vet was with us within minutes and confirmed that there was really nothing that could be done.  And so, amidst tearful farewells, our lovely great big black girlie was put to sleep.

Bad things always happen in threes.  So I thought that was my quota for a while.  Just shows how wrong you can be ...

Mitzy cat did not return home that evening and, despite my calling her late into the night, she was nowhere to be seen.  Not entirely unusual, as she was a great hunter and often stayed out quite late.  But she would always appear on my bed sometime during the night.

When I awoke early the following morning to find that she was still not home, and that her food bowl had not been touched, I immediately got up and went out searching for her.  Hopefully the neighbours weren't up too early as I was wandering around the garden and up the road in my pyjamas, peering under bushes with my torch.

As I walked back towards the house I saw something at the side of the road and, stomach churning, rushed over to find my poor lifeless Mitzy cat who had obviously been hit by a car.  In all the years I have lived here with cats, I have never lost one so tragically.

She was only here with us for a few months but it seemed like she had been here forever.  She was a lively and funny young cat who had come through her experience of being dumped in a box with her new-born kittens.  She was beautiful and Marmite and I will miss her very much.

But it was not to end there.

Every year, there are a few goat kids who tug at your heartstrings as they are so tiny.  One such little man this year was a tiny black kid who came to be known as Ronnie (think Corbett!). 

Small but perfectly formed, Ronnie and I used to have a nice cuddle every day.  I would pick him up and tease him about how tiny he was and, in return, he would bite my ear.  It was that kind of relationship!  But, as often happens with tiny people, Ronnie became poorly and was clearly struggling to keep his spirits up.

As he needed extra attention, I brought him home with me for several nights and he slept in a big cage on my lounge floor where he was warm and cosy.  I slept next to him on the sofa so that I could keep an eye on him.  But sadly it was not to be a happy ending.

On Monday he took a turn for the worse and the vet confirmed that he also had a serious heart condition as well.  Even if he made it through this illness, he would almost certainly have further problems for the rest of his life.  And so, for the second time in a few days, I held one of my beautiful goats as it slipped away at the end of a vet's needle.

Seriously doubting that I could cope with any further tragedy this week, I went over to see all my hordes of lovely babies to try and cheer myself up.  But when I got there, I found one of the larger girls lying on her own and looking very sorry for herself.  She had been absolutely fine a few hours earlier.  I moved her into the main barn where we could better keep an eye on her, but she was dead within minutes.

Checking through all my kidding records, I discovered that her brother had died very suddenly (of unknown causes) when they were both young kids.  So, maybe that was the result of some abnormality or genetic defect.  We will never know.

Will it never end??  I know that the more animals you have, the more you lose.  But we feel the loss of every goat as keenly as when we only had a handful.  Sometimes it's just unbearable but we have to carry on.

So, please forgive me for not blogging.  But maybe now you will understand why.

Hopefully a better week lies ahead!

Wednesday 18 September 2013

The final student of the year

Yesterday morning we bade farewell to our final vet student of the year - Elena.  Hopefully she has enjoyed her 2 weeks working with the goaties and I am certain that she will have relished her lie in bed this morning instead of having to get up around 5am!

Although only a second year student from Bristol, she has already done a huge amount of work experience all over the world including Bolivia, Australia, India and Costa Rica.  Amazing stuff!

Anyhow - she was very popular with the goaties, as you can see ...

And also with the cats ... Mitzy decided that Elena would make a very comfy place to sit ...

Mitzy always manages to find the best places to sit - here she is snuggled up to one of my bears ..

Looks very cosy to me ...

Saturday 14 September 2013

Meet the new boy

So, as I mentioned in our last blog, the goatlings have a new boyfriend.  Meet Hugo:

Looks a bit grumpy in this photo but he is a lovely Anglo-Nubian buckling.  Very handsome and rather well bred.  He was living near Canterbury with a lady who found that he was getting a bit too big and strong for her to handle and so he has come to live with us.

Hugo has lived on his own away from female company for quite some time and so he was VERY excited to be confronted with a yard full of pretty young goatlings!

Unfortunately for Hugo, the goatlings have never seen such a big chap at close quarters - especially one with such huge ears - and so they were all very wary of him to start with.  As he ran into their area, they all ran to the other end and just stared at him:

Unperturbed, he sniffed around for a bit on his own

As the goatlings' curiosity gradually got the better of them and they started to come a little closer

Meanwhile, the milkers were trying to get a better view over their gate (which we had shut as we walked Hugo through the yard)

And, it has to be said, his arrival has caused the other boys to sulk.  Badly.  They can smell and hear that there is a new boy in town but they haven't yet met him.  But they know that he is out there with THEIR goatlings.  Not happy.  Not happy at all.  In fact, the boys sulked so much that they all refused to eat for a whole day.  Couldn't even be tempted by a nice banana.  Now that's a serious sulk.

However, like most things goatie, their grumpiness was short-lived and they are now back to their usual selves, snorting and blowing at the other girls in the barn.  Their turn will come!!

Monday 9 September 2013

Musical chairs

Just when you think you have everyone sorted, the music starts again and all the goaties move around!  Doesn't seem 5 minutes since kidding but we are now starting to get everyone ready and in position (no pun intended!) for mating season. 

Oh yes ... it's that time of year again.

So, the goatlings are now outside in the cattle yard, waiting patiently for their new young man to come along.  Hopefully, I am going to collect a handsome chap tomorrow but more on that in due course. 

All the babies are now in the barn that the goatlings used to inhabit ... all 170 (ish) of them!  It's quite a battle of wits and speed to get food in to them every day but I think we all have fun doing it!

Here's a bunch of them at their hay rack:

But who is that black goat with the long ears??  Looks too big to be a little kid ...  Yes indeed, it's our lovely Cleo.  As Cleo will have a special boyfriend (with long ears), we need her to be moved away from the rest of the goatlings and their boyfriend.  However, there is also someone else who has had to be moved away as we can't let her become pregnant ...

Little Fizzy.  Fortunately, she and Cleo are best friends and so they are perfectly happy together with all those babies.  And, as you see, Fizzy is around the same size!!
So that's the girlies sorted .. what about the boys?
Well, my 6 little stud boys have all gone off to their new home in Somerset: 
And the big chaps are temporarily back in the main barn waiting to go to work with those lovely girls:
The smell level has risen ever so slightly with their arrival .... and they are well into the swing of things.  Blowing raspberries and snorting over the fence at all the girls and other such unpleasant habits that are characteristic of male goats ... Trust me, you don't want to know!

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Life in the slow lane

It must be the season for our old goats to start showing their age ...  Betty goat (sister of our dear Wilma goat) had a bit of a funny turn yesterday evening.  Her face was swollen and she was having problems with her breathing .. looked almost like some kind of allergic reaction as she did start to settle down after a while. 

Our lovely vet Peter came over this morning to check her out and agreed that it could have been a wasp sting - apparently, he has seen the same problem recently in a couple of sheep.  However, having given Betty a thorough examination (much to her displeasure), he was more concerned that she may be anaemic.  He took a quick blood sample and took it back to the surgery to check it out.

A couple of hours later, he called to say that she was indeed seriously anaemic.  There is a supplement that we can try but it is important that she is kept as calm as possible and doesn't get stressed by anything.  He was chuckling as he advised that Betty now needs to 'live life in the slow lane'.  No more excitement for old Betty goat!

Needless to say, this advice was completely lost on Betty who appeared at the gate trying to balance a bit of hay on her nose!
So it looks like our very first two goats are now retired.  No more babies.  No more milking.  Just trundling about and enjoying extra titbits of food .... Life in the slow lane for Betty and Wilma!