October 1, 2014

Breeding Goats

It's autumn and my goats are ready to be bred. More than ready to be bred. My buck has been "in rut" since late June. His face is sticky and dirty and he stinks. (I won't go into detail about why his face is sticky and dirty. You don't want to know.)

My does began cycling about a month ago. I know who's in season: the goat that's standing next to the buck's fence when I go out in the morning to feed, with the buck wishing he could get over or through that fence. The cool mornings and shorter days signal the does to begin cycling.

Goats (and cows, and all other mammals) only produce milk if they are bred and bear young, so a dairy goat must have a kid in order to produce milk. A goat's gestation period is five months, from breeding to kidding.


When should you breed your goat? I like March kids. Some breeders prefer January kids, or winter kids in general, still others like fall kids. I prefer spring kids, born when the weather is more or less decent, but it's a personal decision and every breeder has his or her own reasons for when they breed and when their goats kid.

My reasons include the weather and the fact that I no longer have a barn to protect newborns from the worst of the winter's cold. Also, I have an annual weekend away from home in the summer, and I want the kids to still be nursing so that I don't have to ask someone to milk goats while I'm gone.

So, with a five-month gestation period, I count back from March, and breed my does in October.


When can you breed a doe for the first time? It depends on her size more than her age. Many goat owners breed their almost-yearlings. A friend told me she does this so that the doe will kid for the first time while her bones are still soft, and I see the wisdom in that. I personally wait until the doe is about eighteen months old. I prefer to let her mature a bit more before she kids. Again, it's a personal decision.

Several years ago we had an "oops" breeding. One morning when I went out to feed I found a tiny infant goat when I wasn't expecting any. I checked everyone's tail end and discovered that Wish, barely a year old, had kidded. I hadn't even known she was pregnant, and I felt terrible that I hadn't given her any prenatal care and special feeding, especially since she was so young. She grew up to be just as big and healthy as her herdmates though, in spite of it all, and the baby was healthy. So I know I can breed them earlier, but I still prefer to let them mature a bit more than that.


How long can you milk a goat? As soon as a doe kids, or "freshens", she begins producing milk. The first milk is colostrum, full of antibodies for the newborn kids. You can milk her to bottlefeed the kids if you wish, or to relieve her overfull udder, and to get her used to being milked, but wait a minimum of three days before you begin consuming her milk. I've found that milking her right away helps her to accept me as one of her kids, and helps her to think that I have a "right" to her milk. I leave plenty for the babies, of course.

When her kids are three weeks old, I separate them from their mother overnight, with their own hay and grain to nibble. I prefer to have more than one kid, so if there's a single kid, sometimes I wait an extra few days or a week until there is a "buddy" old enough to keep the other one company overnight. Then I milk the mothers in the morning, and reunite the moms and babies during the day. The kids nurse all day and I don't have to milk in the evening. If I know I'm going to have an early morning without time to milk, I just leave the kids with their moms overnight and don't have to milk.

The accepted rule is to dry off a doe two or three months before she is due to kid again, so that she can focus on growing a healthy baby instead of producing milk. So, since I breed in October, and my does kid in March, I can milk my does from March until December or January, about nine or ten months.

Here's hoping for beautiful doe kids and plenty of milk next spring!



This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


~~~~~

My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a
simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can follow me at: 
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September 30, 2014

A Slice of My Life



From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
Psalm 113:3 (NIV)

September 29, 2014

The Herb Garden in Late September

September has just streaked past and October is nearly here. A week ago I let the vegetable garden go, since the only things still growing - kind of - were the pepper plants. On the next nice cool day I'll be pulling the dead tomato and pepper plants and will begin winterizing. I have a heavy load of goat shed bedding to spread on top, to decompose over the winter. Hopefully it will improve the soil for next year. Gardening in Oklahoma is challenging.


The herb garden is winding down as well. Before the first frost, I'll take the pots of perennial herbs indoors for the winter. Rosemary, mint, catnip and oregano will have to fight for space in the few windows that the cats can't reach. The kitchen windowsill is already full of lemon balm, lavender, aloe vera and a few houseplants.

Cinnamon basil

The cinnamon basil has gone to seed, but I'm still harvesting leaves from the dark opal and sweet basil plants. I've dried lots of it, and am now freezing leaves in ice cubes trays with water, to use in soups and sauces over the winter. The purple basil never grew taller than four inches. It has a different smell and taste and I've not harvested leaves from it.


I've been harvesting the calendula flowers and air-drying the petals, but I've also left some flowers to go to seed.


The zinnias are still blooming profusely. I've left the old blossoms so that they can produce seed; I'd like to plant this variety again in the spring. It's probably a hybrid, so next year's plants may not be the same type and color as this year's plants, but hopefully it will still be productive and colorful. It has some sentimental value too. I don't know the name of the variety so I can't go buy seeds.


In the past I've had trouble keeping rosemary alive, but look at this plant. It not only survived, it's thriving. There's a lot of new growth and I hope to propagate a new plant or two.


This is the second planting of oregano. I planted seeds in spring, and although they sprouted, the seedlings never grew any taller than an inch. Eventually they died, and I planted more seeds about a month ago. The tallest of these is four inches tall now. I'm glad it's a perennial that I can take inside for the winter, so that it can continue to grow.


Although my outside cats ignore the catnip, my inside cats love it. Several times I've brought in a sprig of it and watched Tink, Collins and Colby roll on the floor and play with it, their eyes glazed. I'll dry a lot of this and use it to make cat toys. This pot is too big to bring indoors, but I will try transplanting one of the smaller plants into a smaller container.


In the tubs near the garden, the cayenne peppers are rapidly turning red. This one plant has been a really good producer. The paprika peppers are still growing and haven't yet begun to change color; I hope they will before we have our first frost. The lettuce I planted has been eaten by something - a caterpillar or snail I think - the leaf veins remain but the leaves have been eaten away.


Nearby, the Arkansas Traveler tomato continues to grow, and the number of green tomatoes increases daily. One smallish tomato is finally turning red. I hope I can taste a vine-ripened tomato before the first frost. I know I can take them inside and ripen them, but they taste so much better when they ripen on the vine.

Since my other tomato varieties have already died, this one tomato plant will be my guinea pig this winter. Once again I'm going to take some cuttings and see if I can overwinter them in the house so I'll have a jumpstart on spring. I've done it before, but last year the cuttings died off rather quickly. This is a different variety; we'll see how they do.


How did the container herb garden work out this first year? Great! I will definitely do this again next year. I have a list of more plants I'd like to add next spring. I've learned that some plants can't handle the hot sun in this location, so I will try them in new places next year. The lemon balm and lavender preferred to be in the house all summer. Gardening is definitely a learning experience.

Paprika

What are your favorite herbs to grow in the garden?


You might also enjoy:
The New Herb Garden
The Herb Garden in June
The Herb Garden in July
The Herb Garden in August
The Herb Garden in Late September - this post


This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


~~~~~

My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a
simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can follow me at: 
  Facebook | Pinterest | Bloglovin | Subscribe via email

September 28, 2014

Silver Sunday and Being Thankful

I am thankful to the Lord, my God, for:

- a fragrant load of just-baled hay
- autumn, my favorite season
- visiting with friends, neighbors and family
- a chance to be of service to a stranger
- a surprise
Silver Sunday

When the hay is removed and new growth appears
and the grass from the hills is gathered in,
the lambs will provide you with clothing,
and the goats with the price of a field.
You will have plenty of goats’ milk to feed your family
and to nourish your female servants.
Proverbs 27:25-27 NIV

~~~~~

September 26, 2014

Friday Follow-Up

This week:

-- I picked the last of the peppers and a few little misshapen tomatoes, and called it quits for the main garden. On the next cool day I'll pull the plants and begin getting the garden ready for winter.

-- The herb garden is still going though. I'm letting several plants go to seed so that I can collect them for next year. I've dried another batch of basil leaves and am now air-drying calendula flowers.

Air drying calendula petals

-- My buck Phantom is incredibly anxious to get in the pen with the does. I'd like to wait another week, or even two weeks, before I open the gate and let him in with them.

-- Our neighbor's cows have been in the hayfield again. That black-and-white-spotted Holstein heifer with them is a dead giveaway; everyone else has black Angus. I called our neighbor, who came over later that day and said he'd spent the morning working on fences and hoped his cows would stay put for the winter. I hope they will too.

I hope you have a lovely weekend!

~~~~~

My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a
simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can follow me at: 
  Facebook | Pinterest | Bloglovin | Subscribe via email
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