A lot has happened over the past few months. We’ve been so busy that I haven’t been able to keep up on the website or post on the blog. But here is the quickie version…
With the birth of Ragnar and Lady Sybil came lots of milk. At the peak, in early fall, Louise and Gemma were producing two gallons a day. Joe took the morning milking, and I milked when I got home from work. With no dairy license yet, we had to come up with some creative uses for all of that milk.
We mastered the art of making Chèvre – and we had plenty of it! We also took a cheese class in October and learned the basics of making and aged cheese. We even produced our first ‘Blue d’ Auvergne’, as well as an aged Chèvre. We were impressed with our first go at it; the cheese was not only edible, we thought it was quite good.
We also stocked up on frozen milk for next year’s soap supply. Quite by accident, I discovered a new saponification process which consistently produces a soap that is far superior that what we had been making. With this new process, we’ll be restocking our supplies for sales in stores in Easthampton, Westhampton, Northampton and Whately. We are also looking forward to developing a better ‘soap page’ on the website for online sales. And just like last year, we sold out of all of our soap stock at the Open Studios event in Easthampton.
One of our ongoing efforts is to acquire a dairy license so that we can sell our milk and cheese. We took a business course, through the Valley CDC, and we’ve visited other small dairies. We've also been intouch with our dairy inspector and various health and planning boards. It’s a bit daunting, and it’s a huge investment, but we want to be certain that we know what we are doing before we dive in.
We are currently wrapping up milk production and, hopefully, the girls will be dried off this week. Louise has some kind of skin issue, so we will not be breeding her this year. Thelma is finally pregnant with at least one kid, and we believe we saw at least two in Gemma when we did the ultrasound. Yes, having an on-site veterinarian comes in really handy!
Have a great 2014!
Wow! It’s been quite a while since my last blog post. I guess the farm life has been keeping us really busy. A lot has happened in the past couple of months.
“Lady Sybil” arrived around 2am on June 15. She was the first kid out of Louise, and the first Nubian kid born on our farm. She was pretty small when she arrived, so we kept her crated in the house for the first couple weeks.
Unfortunately, on one of her first trips to the yard she managed to fracture her ankle. Its a good thing she has the best vet in town. She ended up having to wear this lovely cast.
She became accustomed to the good life with the dogs and we had to wean her into her new life in the barn. However, just as she entered the barnyard, Ragnar left for his new home.
Ragnar was a sweet buck with a seemingly good confirmation. Unfortunately, we aren’t yet set up to keep bucks on the farm, so we had to find him a new home. He is now living on a farm in Hollis, New Hampshire. We are told that he is slated to become that farm’s new herd sire. Just after he left for his new home we found out that his Grand Dam, “Klisse’s Chocolate Cupcake” won Grand Champion Sable at ADGA Nationals. For those of us in the goat world, that’s equivalent to a dog winning Best of Breed at Westminster. It turns out that Ragnar’s mother, Gemma, shows pretty well too.
Joe decided to take Gemma to a show in New York a couple of weeks ago. He trimmed her up and put her in the back of the truck in the wee hours of the morning. After a three hour drive, “Klisse’s Chocolate Gem” entered her first show. She ended up winning ‘Best in Breed’, ‘Champion Sable’, and two other first place ribbons. Not too shabby for her first trip down the runway!
While Joe was showing Gemma, I was painting the inside of the barn. We’ve decided to take the next steps in obtaining a dairy license. Once the milking room is painted, we will have to decide on how to develop a ‘milk room’ and a ‘cheese room’. We are conferring with the Dairy Inspector, the Health Inspector, the Planning Board, and the local small-business admin. We are visiting other farms and dairies, discovering that the process can be rather daunting and expensive. But we’ll plug away at it. Hopefully, we will have the license so that we can start selling milk when the new kids arrive next spring.
Almost forgot ... The local newspaper also included us in a weekend article about small farms!
New kids can be lots of fun.
However, there is one unpleasant task that has to be taken care of within the first couple of days of their lives - disbudding.
A goat with the horns can be difficult to control. A horned goat could gouge another animal or person. They could catch and break their horn; a broken horn could actually cause an animal to bleed to death.
Disbudding a kid involves using a hot iron to burn off the newly formed horn buds, before the all of the nerves are formed, and before the horn has a chance to take root and grow. It sounds pretty gruesome, but it's actually the most humane way to take care of what could become future problem with an adult goat.
Our friend, Katherin, stopped by and helped us preform the task quickly and correctly. I was able to force myself to stay in the room while she and Joe preformed the procedure. Fortunately, Dr. Joe was able to give the little guy some anesthesia so that the process was less painful.
When the procedure was completed, the resulting wounds were coated with a silver alum spray. Not only does it cool and protect, it also happens to match his fur so it doesn't look bad either.
So in the end, it wasn't exactly a hip-slapping good time and I'm not really looking forward to the next go at it. But I'm glad I didn't run out of the room screaming. By forcing myself to watch the process, I could see the kid bounce back almost imediately. He was jumping around and playing with the dogs as soon as we released him.
Gemma was so large that we were certain that she was having two kids. Well, she ended up having just one kid... a 10 pound buckling. We named him Ragnar, after the famous Viking, Ragnar Lothbrook.
Because he's an only kid, we decided to keep them in the house in a dog crate for the time being. He's getting along great with the dogs, especially the Jack Russells. The larger dog, Bailey, doesn't care for him much - partly because he occasionally tries to nurse off her.
Now that Ragnar is a little bigger and stronger, we plan to try putting him in the stall in the barn this weekend. We hope that this will help him get somewhat acclimated to the barn in time for the next kid, which Weezie will have in a couple of weeks.
Unfortunately, we don't think that our farm is setup to keep bucks at this time. So Ragnar will be going to another farm in the near future. We hope to sell them to a farm that will breed him since he does have a great pedigree. But right now we're just gonna enjoy this cute little guy.
Gemma is set to deliver in ten days!
We are getting a bit anxious as this is our first kidding experience at Sage Meadow Farm. Having a live-in veterinarian is a definite plus. But I’ll be relieved when the process is over and the kids and mum are safe and sound.
Over the past couple of weeks, we have noticed that Gemma seems to be growing exponentially larger as each day passes. We've increased her food intake to accommodate the energy that she needs for her growing fetuses. Her udder started to form about two weeks ago and seems to be maturing daily as well. For those unfamiliar with the dairy goat world, (not that I'm an expert), the udder is of the utmost importance. If Gemma’s development continues on its current course, she should be a super milk producer and a Sable show stopper.
Um … I think the “show” part will be Joe’s gig.
Recovering from ACL surgery has given me a lot of time to sleep, whine, and play on the computer. I prefer the later, much to Joe’s relief. This has given me the opportunity to tinker with programs that I had never before taken the time to explore.
One of those programs is a picture editor. I was able to manipulate this shot of Thelma and Gemma, (taken by Jess at Healthy Herds). I was able to come up with this black & white 'sketch', which I think will work well as the logo representing Sage Meadow Farm.
We will begin milking our goats, for the first time, when the new kids arrive this spring. With the does expecting in a couple of months, we’ve decided to start introducing them to the milking stand. We want them ready to go as soon as the kids hit the ground. It makes sense to have them comfortable with the concept of the stand, and it’s a good idea for them to have an established pecking order as well. This introduction was my task while Joe was away for the week on business.
I find that goats are can be more food-obsessed than our Jack Russell terriers. Just hearing the grain hitting their bowl sparks their interest. Having established the pecking order by their due dates, I call each one into the milking room. They are latched in the stand while they eat, during which time they also have a chance to get accustomed to physical touching. When they are finished eating, they are led outside and the next doe is called to the stand. Pretty simple, huh? Well, it didn't start off as easy as it sounds.
Once they discovered what was in the bowl on the milking stand, the goats would fight each other (and me) to get in the door. This took a bit of wrestling with the does that were not getting on the stand. Then, when I let them back outside, the other does would run me over to get back on the stand. Plus, I had to get them back to their regular grain bin in the loafing area. What fun!
After five days it seems like they are actually catching on. They come in, one at a time, as their name is called. Then they wait to be let back into the loafing pen to be fed when the rotation is done. One of the benefits of all this is that it seems like the girls are learning their names!
It looks like our breeding efforts with Thelma have been unsuccessful this season. After three attempts, she has once again come back into heat. To breed her again now, if successful, would mean that she would kid in July, and we’d rather not have to contend with a birth in the summer.
We have decided that this season Thelma will make a fabulous Auntie! Hopefully, we will have better luck with her this fall.
Locally Handmade in Easthampton, Massachusetts
Sage Meadow Farm Goat Milk Soap