It’s official! We did a blood draw last week, and the results confirm that our Gemma is finally pregnant! Her due date is May 20th. We will be doing an ultrasound in the near future to determine how many kids we will be expecting.
Thelma and Louise were re-bred about three weeks ago. We will be running a test on them next week. If all goes well, we will have a very busy spring at Sage Meadow Farm!
We’re not absolutely certain if Thelma and Gemma are pregnant, but so far so good. All of the signs point to successful breeding. I guess I should say ‘lack of signs’, in that neither have shown any indication of coming back into heat. We will do a blood test next week to confirm. If all goes well, Thelma will kid on May 6 and Gemma will kid May 19.
If our calendar is correct, Louise should be in heat on Tuesday. This time we are not taking any chances. She is going for a ride to Valley View Farm in Topsfield. We are hoping that presenting her to another Nubian will bring success this time.
Our last breeding attempts with Louise were a bit of a debacle. By request, we had tried breeding her with a Nigerian Dwarf. The doe is usually smaller than the buck, but in this case they were equally matched. We’re not sure if he was beneath her standards, or perhaps the poor buck just didn’t know what to do with the ‘Amazon woman’ that we put before him. Louise wanted nothing to do with the buck, and he just stood there making noises. This time around we will present her to a more favorable suitor.
I knew that something was up with Gemma last night as soon as I pulled in the driveway. The “guardian goat” that would normally announce my arrival just laid there in front of the loafing pen door. She very casually rose to her feet when I got out of the car, chatted a bit, and then started wiggling her tail. This was not a good sign - she was flagging and obviously in heat. Unfortunately, after all of our efforts last month, Gemma was not pregnant.
I guess we weren’t surprised that her first breeding didn’t take. We had been expecting that we might have to take her for another ride to New York, but this time it was Joe who rose to the task. After a short conversation with the breeder it was decided that her breeding window was at hand, and we would have to present her to her mate within hours.
We didn’t have time to put the cap back onto the beater-truck, so we put Gemma and some hay in the back of Joe’s Escape, which is gated off in the back for the dogs. At 8:30pm, Joe, a goat, and a couple of energy drinks headed off to New York. They ended up hitting the snowstorm that blew through last night, but they arrived at the farm, intact, an hour before midnight.
It looks like the driveway rendezvous was once again successful. Gemma was quite a bit more receptive to the buck on her second date. The two goats wasted no time and got down to business right away. Joe and Gemma were on their way back to Massachusetts within an hour. They arrived home, safe and sound, around 2am.
Lets hope that the second breeding attempt will take. This pushes Gemma's due date out to late May.
Gemma came into her second heat this past week. As luck would have it, this was the weekend for Open Studios in Easthampton, which is our busiest soap-sales weekend of the year. Fortunately, with the help of the good doctor, we were able to manipulate the timing so that we could breed her on Friday.
As a side note, goats have a relatively short window for breeding. They start coming into heat in the fall and will go in and out of heat every 21 days into mid-winter, or until they are pregnant. The cycle lasts for three days, but the actual breeding window is only about six hours. This window can be manipulated somewhat with an injection of Lutalyse. It helps to have an onsite veterinarian to get the dosage and timing just right.
Our window of opportunity was 8-11am Friday morning. We found an acceptable Saanan breeder three hours away. So, at 4:30am, Gemma and I hopped in the truck for rendezvous with her date in New York.
Initially, Gemma wanted nothing to do with the huge nasty smelling buck that greeted us when we arrived at the Patina Dairy Goat farm. She didn’t seem to care that he was 2012 ‘Best Buck’. I thought we had missed the breeding window, and that I had driven three hours for nothing. But a little coaxing got the two to mix it up, and we hopefully had a successful breeding. Ten minutes later, we hopped back into the truck for the three hour drive home.
We will know in 21 days if Gemma is pregnant. Hopefully, she will not come back into heat. If we were successful, her due date is April 29!
Now that the leaves have been cleared and the gardens have been winterized, one would think that we could settle in for a cozy winter on front of the fireplace. Actually, fall is when the all important breeding is set in motion on a goat dairy farm. It’s rut season.
This is the time of year when a buck spends most of his waking hours trying to entice a doe. He does this chiefly through the scent he emits by coating himself in a sticky urine substance. The girls love it! This incredibly strong odor is the reason why we will not have bucks on our farm, however that odor is needed to encourage the heat cycle in the doe. So how do we get this scent onto our farm?
The solution is a buck rag – a cloth that has been simply rubbed all over a buck in rut. Our friend Jess, from Healthy Herds, dropped one off a few weeks ago. Anyone visiting our farm would be well advised to stay from that smelly cloth hanging from the post. Even after a few weeks, the cloth still smells rank, and that musk will rub off onto you if you touch it.
Success! It has served its purpose; Gemma is in full heat this weekend. Hopefully, Thelma and Louise will follow her lead. This should set us up for breeding after Christmas … which means new kids in May!
Our main vegetable garden is putting on quite a show this week. The mammoth sunflower has reached full bloom. The bee balm is just about passed, but is still holding its own. The pole beans, which we never eat, are putting on a fantastic display as they wind around anything within reach. The kale is growing out of control and is overdue for a harvesting.
Like everyone else in the valley, we were recently hit with the tomato blight. Just a week ago we had a raised bed of lush greenery that was shading the many heirloom tomatoes. The blight has reduced the bed to a mass of brown stems that are being weighed down by the plump red fruits. Our friend, Kathryn, suggests that the soil may be lacking the nutrients that the plant needs to stave off the disease. Hopefully, next year we might have better luck because the beds will be fertilized with composted goat poop!
To start the ball rolling, Dr. McCoy preformed Sage Meadow’s first open castration. That’s right, turned a rooster to a hen with just one swipe … well almost.
Our friend Jess, from Healthy Herds, stopped by with an old handsome buck in rut. It’s hard to describe what a buck in rut smells like; it’s a fairly strong musk, in line with that of a skunk, only not as offensive, but still pretty rank. I understand that they achieve this fabulous aroma by peeing on their neck and face. The smell will cling to you like skunk musk if you touch the goat or anything that the buck has come in contact with. You can usually smell if a farm has a buck in rut as soon as you are within fifty to a hundred feet of him. Hence, we have no intentions of ever keeping a buck on our farm.
Anyway, Joe sedated the buck, numbed up the area and removed the two elongated tennis ball sized appendages. As luck would have it, I was working, so I missed out on all of the fun. Having Jess assist Joe was a good thing, because just hearing the description of the procedure made me a bit queasy. All went well, and the brand new wether was sent home happy and healthy ... just a tad lighter.
Then the girls had their first go at a stanchion. They were coaxed up onto the platform with their favorite licorice grain treats. They didn’t put up much of a struggle to having their heads locked into place, since the grain bin kept them fairly distracted as their hooves were expertly trimmed. We will have to start training them to use the stanchion, on a more regular basis, so that it is not such a shock come milking season.
*** We've added more goat milk soaps that have cured and are ready to go!
Gemma loves posing for the camera
When we left for vacation, we had just finished weaning the three kids. Our concern was that it might have been too soon and that they were not ready for solid food. In fact, Gemma had thrown us a scare by displaying diarrhea the day we were leaving. Diarrhea presents a dilemma with goats because you never know if it’s caused by illness or something in their diet … in either case it can cause a kid to go down quickly.
Fortunately, Patrick and Joe got things under control. They extended the weaning process a couple of days and everything returned to normal. The girls took to the grain and hay like champs, and when we returned our little ‘kids’ were no more – we came home to full blown adolescent ruminants.
We also came home to three distinct personalities. It looks like Gemma, the brown sable, has taken on the role of ‘queen’, is quite inquisitive, and will often stand her ground to a perceived threat while the other two run inside.
Louise is, in a word, loud. She seems a bit shy at first, and often stands back while the other two jump up for a petting or a handful of grain. But step away from her and close the gate and one would think a goat was being slaughtered. She doesn’t have a bleat or a ‘baaa’, she just lets out a piercing noise that sounds like a screaming child. We have to wait until a decent hour in the morning to let her out of the pen just to stay on friendly terms with our neighbors.
Thelma, the darker of the two nubians, loves attention. She is the first to the gate to accept whatever hand will pet her. She is the smallest of the three, and still tries to be a lap-goat if you give her the chance.
We are also picking up on distinct characteristics in the breeds. The Sable, Gemma, is quite, calm and confidant, typical of the Saanen breed from which Sables originate. The Nubians, Thelma and Louise, although very friendly and personable, can be a bit skittish and noisy. Maybe this is why they are often referred to as ‘neurotic Nubians.’
We have been back now for about a week. We had an amazing vacation with good friends, fine wine, and wonderful experiences! Too much to post in a blog, but here are some highlights and a few pics ...
We started off in Prague, joining our friends Kevin and Al for a few days of sightseeing. The food was fantastic and the people were really friendly. Lots of meat and beer! They aren't yet on the Euro, so it was fairly inexpensive. We were even able to catch a live performance of Mozart's Requiem.
Joe and I continued on to Vienna by train. There we visited an impressive zoo where the animals were actually treated humanely! We went on to the National Palace, took a walk through Mozart's apartment, and took in another concert that evening. The goulash was fantastic!
We then flew to Florence, met up again with Kevin ad Al, and Mark and Steve for an evening of Florentine sights and food.
The next day we continued on to our main destination, a villa in Sinilunga, for a week long celebration of Al's 60th birthday. At this point we were joined by 16 other friends, and A'ls sister and her partner dropped in later in the week. It was an amazing week of sightseeing, wine tours, hikes and , yes, lots of fabulous food and wine. Joe and I were even able to get away on a solo 5 hour hike to an old castle ruins in the middle of the woods called 'Castle that only God Knows'.
Our final leg of the journey was Rome. We did a whirlwind 'Rome-in-a-day tour' before catching a plane back home to the U.S. the next morning.
Locally Handmade in Easthampton, Massachusetts
Sage Meadow Farm Goat Milk Soap