Babies are Here!!!

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It’s tuff being born

The babies where born March 11th !!! I barely had to do anything, it was amazing, the bad after Nymeria’s and Summer’s birthday, her own babies where born, this is great for me, because I have a really hard time remembering dates.  I was so excited the whole week leading up to the due date, checking on her three times a day, and fussing with her, of course it was when I went of to lunch that she had her babies. I walked down there, and a little orange fluff ball was wobbling about.   The first to drop was a little baby girl, I was personally hoping for just one, but my friend was right and she had another in there, he needed a little help getting out, but nothing crazy. With two babies on the ground, Nymeria showed how good of a mommy she it, licking and cleaning both, urging them to drink, and best of all letting me fuss with them.

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So Nymeria is the proud nanny goat of a doeling and buckling.

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Who doesnt love a goat video

One small assignment I decided to do for my senior project, was watch some goat videos, and reflect on them, not only on what is going on in the video, but also use that reflection time to look at what I will be doing with my goats in the future.  So below are four that I found really interesting, with my reflections, and one poem (I couldn’t help myself).  Watch, read, enjoy, and comment below

I was so excited to learn that this video and farm was based in Provence France, because at one point my father lived there and I went to visit him when I was maybe around 12 or 13. Granted we didn’t see any goat farms and I was really picky back then, so most likely didn’t try any of the cheeses, but I do remember the beautiful country side. The short video shows this rare breed of goat, being let out to forage and eat the native plants, one of witch is an herb that is later used in making a soft raw milk cheese. This really started me thinking about the near future, when Nymeria will be milking and what wild herbs she might get into, that I could later use in cheese making, or pair with when done.  For my last semester I’ll be working out in the woods during woodlot, and we will be in an area with alot of cedar to cut for fence posts.  As we were walking through our cutting spot I couldn’t get out of me head how cool it would be to bring the goats down there to brows on the cedar.  Jasper Hill makes a cheese wrapped in it, but I don’t think they let their cows eat it (even if they would on thier own).  I’m excited about the cedar this winter, and then come spring the ramps spring up, and feeding Nymeria a hand full of those to spice up the milk before cheese.  The terroir of Provence they said in the video was found in that cheese, soon I will have the terroir of Sterling in mine.

This video, has no narrative, and is only a minute long, and I listened to it more then watched it, but I still wanted to reflect on the sound.

The giggle of bells,

The clacking of horns on another

The clipping of hooves on hard dirt

It’s the sounds of a goat herd coming up the mountain

The sounds of a nanny goat crying to be milked,

I hear her bell miles down the field

I hear her bell down the city street

I hear her bell, but when I look up she is not there

She is on the green pasture miles away

But I milked her once, warm udder in hand

Herd her cry once, calling for me

Held her close once, as she pushed new life into an old world

I fed her, and in return she fed me, from body and spirit she fed me,

Now when I hear a bell, I look up waiting,

Waiting, for horns to peak over the hill,

The clipping of hooves over hard packed earth.

The opposite of the Alpine video, this one was silent, showing a group of men putting gas masks of goats, and milking one, during WWI. First its so funny that is takes four guys to milk one goat, two to hold her, one to milk, and one to hold off the baby (not very well). Not to mention the other two to supervise. Anyway, I think a lot of us forget about the animals that get involved in wars, and the very important part they play. Seeing this, I realized I might have known about the horses used in WWI, how that was the last time horses were ever used in combat, and when I was 12 I read a book “War Horse” about a horses perspective of WWI, but I never thought about the livestock. Where did this goat come from, and how did she get there? The Golden Guernsey goats where hidden from the invading Nazi army in WWII.   This video says nothing about who these solders are, or where they are. Even this short silent video gets one thinking about the unsung hero’s, that fed an entire army.

I started reading and writing about the domestication of goats, around the same time I watched this video. At one point I was reading in Brad Kessler’s book, Goat song, and he made a reference to Fridrich Engles idea that with the breaking of the bull to plow, came with in the “pivotal point in human society”. That with the domestication of animals came with it a class system. I guess I always understood that, but this video about livestock’s role in parts of Africa like Ethiopia, really put the visual to it. Here in the United states, especially where I grew up in the city, someone’s wealth is measured by maybe education, and material ownership or expensive goods, not by how many cows you own. In fact most people in the city probably have never seen a cow before. The way these animals play such an important part in the cultures depicted in this video was fascinating, not only can livestock show wealth like in the case of the dairy farmer, but also show poverty. The type of animal seemed to matter as well, those that where rich seemed to mostly own cattle, and they were all men, where women and the poor, where seen mostly with goats and sheep. I forget where I read this, but when cattle started to become domesticated, they became the bearers of wealth status, and the goat was the poor mans cow. Not only did animals show wealth, but connection with other people, they said many discussions between elders, or family different family groups, wouldn’t be started until after a trading of animals. This connection to me shows, the dependency our ancestors all had at one point, even those of the city slickers I grew up with.

 

 

A Timeline

As junior year of high school rolled around, the thoughts and worries about colleges rolled right on with it. It was always expected that I would go to art school, Academics was not my thing. Art class was the only place I got an A. But as the time for filling out applications came near, art school began to look less and less appealing.  I started to wonder what other options I had. What was it that I loved to do, and I started to remember my childhood and the moments I found the most special.  Those moments all happened to take place in the country with farm animals.  I was always fascinated about where my food came from and one evening I asked my mom “what about farm school”?

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My grandfather and extended family in Cuba on thier sugar farm and cattle ranch
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My one yeat stint in the Catskills, my first connection with farming
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I begged to go here for summer camp after a school trip.
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I was a Hawthorne Valley camper until I was 12, I was always upset when I had to leave
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Collecting hay to feed my imaginary farm aniamls

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It didn’t take any convincing, she was right on board. Together we looked up schools, because let’s be honest,  a NYC college counselor who has to have sustainable agriculture defined to them, isn’t the biggest of help.  At one point when she suggested a school with a good ecology program and a garden, my mom had to finally put her foot down and say “Oona doesn’t like plants, she wants to work with livestock”.  That ended up leading to a whole new useless list of schools with veterinary programs, but I digress.

The more I looked into schools with agriculture programs, the more I looked forward to the future of sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, and more.  Living with the land became a dream that I could fulfill, and learn to do, and I started to really want it.  The summer of my junior year I was able to get an internship at Heather Ridge Farm, and that just got me even more hooked.

The moment I received my acceptance letter form Sterling, I didn’t care about any other school. I knew from the moment I stepped on the campus, that this was the college I wanted to attend.  I think it’s because it reminded me so much of Hawthorne Valley Farm camp, and the best summers of my childhood.

It’s funny but when I first learned that a student could apply to have livestock on the farm, I thought SHEEP! I imagined all the sweaters and socks I could make, but then I remembered how skittish the sheep were at Heather Ridge, how friendly the goats where. And then I remembered how much I loved goats and the early days of Shining Star Preschool.

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Rue and Odin’s First day

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Que the Dairy Goats
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More goats
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add 30 more
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My last goodbyes to Rue and Odin
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A New Home
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A New Beginning 

The girl’s far treble, muted to the heat,
calls like a fainting bird across the fields
to where her flock lies panting for her voice,
their black horns buried deep in marigolds.

They climb awake, like drowsy butterflies,
and press their red flanks through the tall branched grass,
and as they go their wandering tongues embrace
the vacant summer mirrored in their eyes.

Led to the limestone shadows of a barn
they snuff their past embalmed in the hay,
while her cool hand, cupped to the udder’s fount,
distils the brimming harvest of their day.

Look what a cloudy cream the earth gives out,
fat juice of buttercups and meadow-rye;
the girl dreams milk within her body’s field
and hears, far off, her muted children cry.

By Laurie Lee

Golden

I had never herd of Golden Guernsey goats before meeting Thomas McCurdy and Bailey Hale from Ardelia Farm a year ago http://www.ardeliafarm.com/goats-1/. We met at the Craftsbury Common farmers market. I brought my goats to the Sterling College farm stand during Farm Animal Day. That is when I met Bailey, and we started talking about goats, and the herd of Guernseys he and Thomas owned. Even then it was my intention to use Nymeria for my senior project and breed her the next year, when she was bigger. I asked Bailey more about his goats. Milk production, and size were concerns, because Nymeria is just like her nick-name “Little Girl”, and I was worried about her size, and birthing a kid that was too big for her. Nymeria is a Saanen Alpine cross. Both breeds are on the large side, Saanen’s being one of the biggest, so breeding her to her own breed would mean a big kid. Bailey assured me that Guernseys are one of the smallest of the dairy breeds. Nigerian goats are a dwarf breed, and Guernseys are just medium sized. Unlike other people breeding a dairy goat, milk production wasn’t my top concern. I don’t have a high demand for my milk yet. It is just for myself, her kid, and to create small batches of value added products, but I was happy to learn from Bailey that he found his Guernsey’s milk to be sweet tasting.

The complete origins of the Golden Guernsey are unknown, but thanks to DNA testing done by the University of Cordoba (Golden Guernsey Goats and Society in the UK), they concluded that Golden Guernseys are indigenous to Guernsey, which is part of the Channel Islands. During WWII the Golden Guernsey faced extinction, but thanks to Miss Miriam Milbourne, the breed was saved (Golden Guernsey Goats and Society in the UK). During WWII the Channel Islands were occupied by the German Nazis, and they would take farmers livestock to supplement their supplies. Miss Miriam Milbourne defied all and was able to save her herd of Golden Guernsey goats, by hiding them in caves over the island (Croft, Christina). After the war the original Golden Guernseys (GG’s) were imported to England in 1967. In order to save the breed they were bred with British goats to strengthen the bloodlines. They are a recognized dairy goat breed and a British Guernsey Society was created. This British version of the goat is heavier boned (Golden Guernsey Goats and Society in the UK). They might not be the most proficient milkers, but they have a high fat and protein count, not to mention that they are a medium sized goat breed that is very calm and docile, making them a great goat for small scale artisanal cheese production (Breeds of Livestock).

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The golden coat, gives the Guernsey its name, but it can range form cram to bright gold.

The British cross bred pure Golden Guernseys to their own dairy goats, so they could save the breed, but it was done with care, so now the British Golden Guernsey is about 7/8th pure. They are similar in appearance and still hold some characteristics from the Golden Guernsey sire, but in turn also hold features fron the none Guernsey mother. Those characteristics include an increase in milk production, and conformation, and over some years resulting in a variation of the original breed. These same steps were taken by Golden Guernsey enthusiasts from the United States, because we are not able to import livestock from the U.K., we had to (in a sense) create our own. This was done by importing semen from British Guernsey bucks and pure Golden Guernsey bucks, and inseminating U.S. dairy goats. They where even able to import a few embryos in 1996 to Canada. The resulting pure breed Guernsey kids where then imported to the U.S. As a result of the relative newness of the breed in the U.S, they are not yet recognized by the DHIR (Dairy Herd Improvement Registry) or the ADGA (American Dairy Goat Association), but proposals have been made to do so, and those are currently under review (Ball, Christine).

In truth I chose a Golden Guernsey buck for purely superficial reasons, Edgar was small, handsome, and free! But after researching the breed, I’m really happy I used him. Hopefully, the kid will be a girl, and her milk will be higher in butter fat, and she will be on the medium size, perfect for a small homestead.

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Edgar, the Guernsey Buck

Bib

1) Croft, Christina. “Grand Duchess Elizabeth And Other Stories: A Different Kind of Hero.” Grand Duchess Elizabeth And Other Stories: A Different Kind of Hero. N.p., 18 Apr. 2011. Web. 01 Jan. 2016.

2) “Breeds of Livestock, Department of Animal Science.” Breeds of Livestock. Oklahoma State University Board of Regents, 17 June 1997. Web. 01 Jan. 2016.

3) Ball, Christine. “Guernsey Goat Breeders of America.” Guernsey Goat Breeders of America. N.p., 2015. Web. 01 Jan. 2016.

4)”Golden Guernsey Goats and Society in the UK.” Golden Guernsey Goats and Society in the UK. GGGS, 21 Aug. 2010. Web. 01 Jan. 2016.

5) McCullough, Felicity, Golden Guernsey Goats. My Lap Shop Publishers; 2 edition, February 23, 2012

Summer’s Role

Goats were one of the first animals to be domesticated, along with dogs, and the first nonhuman milk came from them (Kessler, 39). As to where this happened is debatable. Archeologists have found evidence of the relationship between goats and humans in caves in Turkey and Greece, but the same evidence has also been found in Northern Africa around the same time, roughly 11,000 years ago (Hinchman, 127). It’s really not hard to see why goats were domesticated, with their curious personalities, it was most likely very easy for humans to interact with their wild ancestors. Today domesticated goat’s DNA can be traced back to 5 maternal lines that were brought from the Near East and Central Asia, to southern Europe, around 5000 BC (Kessler, 40).

, August 23, 2008 Originally posted to Flicker as Nubian Ibex.
The Ibex can still be found in the wild, and are the ancestors of todays lazy barn goats.
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This is a beautiful example of the wild Ibex/wild goat being depicted on a clay jug, found in Greece.

As a child growing up in the big city I have interacted with a lot of people that sometimes forget, or don’t realize how important animals are to people, and how at one point we were completely reliant on them for food, clothing, transportation, and wealth. Since goats where the first hooved animals to be domesticated it’s not hard to deduce that besides milk and meat, goats would have also been used to pack and carry goods. Goats can carry up to 25% of their body weight which can be about 35-60 pounds depending on the size of the goat.

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This is Rue and Odin, My old goats that I was training to pack and pull.
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Teaching Summer how to pull, part 1, getting him used to the harness.

Once oxen and horses became domesticated, humans could carry more and travel farther, so using goats as pack animals diminished but was not completely forgotten. It has been difficult to find written history about the use of goats in draft power, since that purpose is ancient, but there is quite a bit of photographic evidence showing goats pulling small carts with children in them. And today you can even find fancy goat carts at fairs being pulled by teams.

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The picture above was taken in 1904, and shows children in Goat Carriages in Central Park, in New York City.

 

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1600s Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp (Dutch artist, 1594-1650) Child with Goat
1600s Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp (Dutch artist, 1594-1650) Child with Goat
Goats pulling a cart at a fair
Goats pulling a cart at a fair

It is these images that have gotten me thinking about Summer’s role on the farm, and as part of my Senior project, He can’t have a baby, and he can’t make any, so where does he fit? He is primarily Nymeria’s companion because goats don’t like to be alone. He’s really sweet so I love him, but being lovable and cute doesn’t pay for hay.

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I found some great blog posts, websites, and videos that teach how to train a cart goat, but not really anything about the actual history of goats as draft animals.

The photos in this video show that goats were used for many activities that might have been too small for a horse or oxen to maneuver. Some people (like myself) might not be able to afford to feed a large draft animal or have the room for one. Like most people who raise goats, you end up with a boy or two, and because goats can be so charismatic it can be hard to see them all as just an animal that can provide meat. So because Summer weaseled his way into my heart, he gets a job, and in the past week or so he’s been learning to do it. The plan is to teach Summer to pull, so he can eventually be a functional part of the homestead. He can be trained to pull small logs, firewood, compost and more. By training Summer to pull, he will be an integral part of a homestead along with Nymeria. Even though I will never know exactly what it’s like to live a pastoral life and be completely and utterly dependent on my goats, I hope that with this project I can understand just a little bit the symbiotic relationship that our ancestors shared with goats.

 

 

Kessler, Brad, Goat Song, New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Inc, 20009.

Mionczynski, John, The Pack Goat, Reavis, 2004.

Books

For my senior project, I have a stack of books that are on my to-read list for the rest of the year. I picked them because I think they have a great amount of knowledge for the beginning goat owner and reflect what it is I’m trying to do with my project. Number one on the list is Goat Song by Brad Kessler. The author “Brad” writes about his own first experience with owning a small goat herd, and all the trials and triumphs he and his wife encounter. It’s a great and fun read that also explores the history of the goat and human connection, as well as his own experience raising goats, because no two stories are alike.  This is the second time I am reading this book, the first time I didn’t own goats, it was my plan to get two, but I was still in the phase of gathering information.  Before I read it, my mother did and she loved it so she gifted it to me.  In the beginning I was more focused on the information I could get out of it, sifting through the story for the information on how to make cheese, what to look for in a breeding doe, those types of things, but this time I’m reading the story.  I’m not a literary person in the slightest, and I tend to take things at face value, so I don’t understand going in depth in the books I’m reading, but with Goat Song I think thats okay, Kessler is just writting his story, there is no hidden meaning behind his words, like a goat they are who they are and don’t hide behind masks.

The next book I keep close at hand is The Complete Herbal Handbook For Farm and Stable by Juliette de Bairacli Levy. She is a wonderful herbalist, and although the book has some very old remedies it’s a fun read with great knowledge. I do suggest for a novice herbalist to have backup to this book, because her measurements can be loose. But the stories and history recorded in this book are fascinating.  I got this book for Christmas two years ago, when I first bought Rue and Odin (my first goat project).  I don’t know how to describe this book, or Juliette, so instead I will share a link to a documentry about her, in her last days. She seemed like so a wonderful women and I wish I could have met her.  http://www.cultureunplugged.com/play/8638/Juliette-of-the-Herbs

This is a book that I found really helpful, as an easy read, and that focused on people who ownd ether a single goat or small herd.
This is a book that I found really helpful, as an easy read, and that focused on people who owned either a single goat or small herd.

Other books I keep on hand are The Backyard Goat By Sue Weaver, this is, as it states on the cover is a “introductory guide to keeping pet goats”. It has a lot of information on the basics of goat care, housing, breeding, and more. The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks is another book that I have cracked open, its not about goats, but about the life of a multi generational herdsman in the Lake District of Northern England.

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There other books that I sift through that have to do with cheese making and goat packing, just about anything I can get my hands on. There is a surprising amount of books out there that can help the first time goat owner, or entertain the long time farmer.

Edgar

No matter how many books, one reads or videos ones watches, breeding a goat is no small thing. It’s hard, and it smells, and there’s nothing cute or remotely romantic about getting your goat a “boyfriend”. But there are some things that I’ve learned, and hope to share. First off, if you are a beginner like myself, research is your friend!!

This is a book that I found really helpful, as an easy read, and that focused on people who ownd ether a single goat or small herd.
This is a book that I found really helpful, as an easy read, and that focused on people who owned etiher a single goat or small herd.

First thing I found was a buck to service my doe. I was limited in my search because of my lack of a car and finances. Many bucks cost money to either buy, or in my case lease. I lucked out by meeting Thomas and Bailey from Ardelia Farms in Glover VT. They have a herd of golden Guernsey goats, witch are small, with fairly good butter fat in the milk, and a beautiful golden color. Picking a buck is important, and differs from goat owner to goat owner. Behind my decision was to use a buck on the small side so the kid will be small for my does first time having a baby.

Edgar on his way from Ardelia Farm, on his way to meet Nymeria
Edgar on the road from Ardelia Farm, on his way to meet Nymeria

 

Things to look out for when breeding your doe.

-Good body conditioning, you want a buck that is in good health, not to thin and not to fat, with good legs and feet. You can tell a lot about a goat through his or her mother, the same things apply to finding a good buck. The farmers at Ardelia introduced me to Edgar’s dam (mother) to show me that she had a good udder. This is important for the future of the offspring. Avoid does and bucks that have more than two teats, this is undesirable. I knew a goat with three teats, and although she was really nice, milking her by hand was a pain in the butt.

Edgar, showing how Bucky he can get
Edgar, showing how Bucky he can get

Below are some links that I found helpful in understanding what a healthy doe would look like.

http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/raising-sheep-goats/choose-a-healthy-goat-ze0z11zkon.aspx

 

My own experience with breeding my doe was hard, I tried to follow everything that I read online, on books, or what others told me. When a doe is in heat, she acts differently, she might be louder, try to mount the other goats. Other things to look for would be a sticky tail and discharge. Nymeria was really quiet, and calm, so the first thing I learned is to watch your goat like a hawk. I would sit in the pen with them and just observe her behavior so I could identify when she was acting odd. Goat heats happen about every 15 days and can last ether 12-48hrs, so I was really nervous that I would miss it. A calendar is your biggest friend I marked they day I think was Nymeria’s first heat, and then estimated when her next one would be. One farmer told me he always missed heats until he remembered to count the day the animal was in a heat as day 0.

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Another tip is to house the doe next to a buck, sometimes his smell can push a doe into closer heats, because Summer who is a castrated male lives with Nymeria, I had the buck separated and would leave her in his pen for part of the day. This kept him safe from Summer because of his small size and lack of horns. Eventually they became used to each other and he was integrated into the herd. I ended up using Edgar as my heat detector. On a normal day he wasn’t really interested in Nymeria and would leave her alone, but when she was in heat and ready to breed, he would follow her around. A pregnancy test can only be taken 30 days after breeding, so keeping notes on the calendar of when I saw her be bred was very important. I kept Edgar for a little over 30 days to make sure Nymeria was bred and wasn’t going into any other heats. Since she was quiet in her heats, and this was my first time breeding any animal I took the option and bought a pregnancy test, that you can send into a lab. This is where I bought mine: http://bobwhitesystems.com/collections/natural-livestock-care/products/biopryn-pregnancy-detection-for-cows-and-sheep-goats

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I had a teacher help me draw the blood, and I suggest if you have never done this before to get help, by a professional or someone who knows how to draw blood from and animal, and don’t forget your clippers!!! After that I followed the directions in the booklet, sent my blood in and within the day they received it, I got my answer the next day through email. And it was great news, Nymeria is Pregnant!! And expecting a kid in early March.