A Look Back and the Present

Last year my forecast for 2018 was pretty simple:

Going into 2018 the only knowns are that the chicks I bought in August should start laying in February or March. The possibilities are that if the does I exposed to bucks were indeed bred, I can expect kidding season to begin in February; if the ewes were indeed bred in November, I can expect lambing season to begin in April; and if the preservation center I pre-ordered from does not suffer any poultry losses this winter, I can expect 25 Icelandic chicks to be delivered the end of May.

In a nutshell, my plans for 2018 are to not have any concrete plans and to see what the year brings.

It was just as well that I had no concrete plans for the year. The chicks did indeed start laying. The does did not kid as planned and I was not able to start a milk test as hoped for in 2018. The ewes did lamb but I was unsuccessful in selling lambs (all were sent to the butcher in February) and I did not get the expected Icelandic chicks (current plans are for delivery the end of April).

I lost my working dog and best dog ever (Tuck) in June last year and with him, lost my enthusiasm for the farm. Going into 2019 I wasn’t – and am still not – sure exactly what my plans are for the farm.

My Morgan mare foundered between snow storms in January and I had her euthanized four months short of her 32nd birthday.

While I did not intentionally breed my remaining ewes last fall (long story about how they got bred) – and all five ewes have lambed. The first lambed with twins without trouble. The second had twins but lost both within a week. The third had a single and the same morning the fourth had twins – both struggling but still alive. The fifth also had twins so I have seven live lambs on the ground.

I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t able to get does bred last year and rebred in August for January kids, hoping I’d be able to put the does on milk test this year.

The first goat kidded in January with triplets. I wasn’t home and when I got home after dark only two kids were alive – both male. I moved that doe and her surviving kids to the lambing jugs and also moved another doe which appeared to be close to kidding. Nutmeg did indeed kid either late that night or early the next morning – and lost all three triplets. In asking others for possible causes, I was told that it was possibly a selenium deficiency. Selenium has a narrow therapeutic window and I have never supplemented with it before, though I did have a syringe of a selenium/vitamin E gel in my goat supplies. I kept a close eye on Spice but it appeared that although she looked bred, she hadn’t been as the window for kidding based on the dates of exposure to the buck had passed. About three weeks later, when I was doing the evening chores it appeared Spice was in labor so I moved her to the lambing jugs. I checked on her frequently and sure enough about 9:20 pm she started to deliver a kid. It appeared she was in trouble so I went back in to get the necessary equipment and came out in time to help reposition a kid. A second kid followed shortly thereafter and since the other two had triplets, I hung around waiting to see if she was going to have a third. The temperatures this winter have fluctuated wildly and of course she picked the coldest night in several days to kid. By the time I finally got back into the house after midnight the temperatures had dropped into the mid-teens. Spice did indeed have triplets, all of which were very slow to get up. I didn’t expect any to survive but I did dose all three with the selenium/vitamin E gel (and also dosed the lambs that were born about the same time.) I was very happy to see that all three were still alive in the morning, though I did lose the third born a couple of hours later. The two surviving kids are both female and doing very well, except for the fact that the tips of their ears were frostbitten. Since Spice kidded later than expected, I will have to DNA test both bucks, Spice and both doelings to establish parentage before I can register the doelings. Cha-ching.

A selenium deficiency also explains the difficulty in getting the does bred so all the goats are now on a monthly supplement.

I was able to put the does on milk test starting in February. The results are acceptable, but not as good as I had hoped. My hay supply dwindled faster than expected, likely due to me feeding more during the really cold weather, and the quality of hay I was able to get to tide me over has been inconsistent. The first 20 bales were horrible and I ended up discarding quite a bit. A friend then bailed me out and sold me some better quality hay which I have been supplementing with pelleted feeds. I suspect the feeding regimen is largely responsible for the milk test results so far. Unfortunately, my hay supplier can’t provide hay until late May so the milk test results may not be what I expected and hoped for.

Then just because it has been a difficult year so far, in late January my furnace went out. Since according to the model number it was 26 years old I opted to replace it rather than try to repair it. After five days with no heat, I finally was able to get a new furnace installed. Not wanting to be parted from an old friend, I guess, the washer (left behind by the previous owners and also 26 years old according to the model number) quit working in February. It took ten days to get a new washer installed. I went ahead and had them haul off the dryer as I figured it wasn’t going to last much longer either and it saves me from having to deal with the removal as I wasn’t planning on replacing it. Of course the March winds started up a couple of days later so my plans to put up a clothesline have been put on hold and I’ve been using a drying rack inside. Cha-ching, cha-ching.

Hopefully the rest of 2019 will be less eventful and less costly.


New Beginnings

Several friends of mine took care of the farm for two weeks recently so I could travel out-of-state to pick up my next farm dog. I spent those two weeks back east – a week in Vermont and a second week in Pennsylvania. The shades of green in both places were truly beautiful and very different from home. However, things (mostly weeds of course) greened up here while I was gone and while the green may not be as vibrant it is nonetheless a very welcome change from the winter browns.

Before I left I had given considerable thought to where I wanted – and needed – to be with the farm to achieve my original goal of the farm being self-supporting. While I was willing to pay for fencing, maintenance, etc. I wanted the livestock to be profitable enough that expenses for hay and other items directly related to maintaining the livestock were not coming out of my pocket. After several years raising lambs, I finally acknowledged that the lambs were simply not paying for themselves and that my pocketbook was being steadily drained; hence the decision to sell off the sheep. At the current time, it hasn’t been determined whether or not the hogs will pay for themselves once I start selling hogs, although I suspect that the hogs, too, will be a money drain. The chickens are seasonal producers but because I really like fresh eggs, I’ll maintain a small flock of chickens.

In recent years, the only livestock pulling their weight have been the Nigerian Dwarfs. I am also addicted to their milk, another reason to keep goats. As I had started drying off my does prior to leaving on vacation, and expected my does to be dry when I returned, I made arrangements to buy a doe in milk on my return. The difficulties in finding a buck with an excellent milk pedigree whose owner was willing to let me health test and lease him resulted in me deciding to purchase a buckling. After considering the matter I decided to buy two bucklings, from different breeders and with different pedigrees but both out of excellent milking lines.

A well-known Nigerian Breeder was retiring and selling all of her breeding stock so, in addition to the doe in milk, when the puppy and I traveled to Tulerosa to pick up the doe in milk, I ended up buying the last two available does . Both does have been exposed to bucks for fall kiddings.

At the present time the three new does are housed in quarantine, and the two bucklings are also in separate quarters, all awaiting health test results. More information and photographs of the new additions will be forthcoming.

I am currently contemplating different arrangements for new pens which will give me more flexibility in separating dry does from those in milk, weaned kids and so on.

The new puppy has been home for just over a week now and has settled in very nicely. He is accompanying me on chores twice a day and learning the routine. He has also finally managed to get one of the older dogs to play with him a little.

If I just keep bugging her, maybe she’ll play . ..

Chase Games

Bummer Lamb

My first set of triplets was born on Sunday, February 5th. The smallest ewe lamb wasn’t getting enough milk from her dam so I have been supplementing her feeding with a bottle. She had learned she could sneak some extra food from the ewe I had put in the lambing jugs after the ewe twinned on the 12th, but then on February 14th another ewe had triplets and I turned out the two ewes and their five lambs from the lambing jugs, cleaned the jugs and moved the new mom and her three into the lambing jugs. When I went out late that night to check on the lambs and ewes, I found the one ewe with two of the triplets but not the littlest lamb. I finally found her with the other ewe and her twins. However, with the wide open spaces of the working pen, the ewe was finding it easier to get away from the lamb when she tried to nurse and with the dropping temperatures I had visions of the littlest lamb freezing over night. I had lost a triplet the previous year in such a situation when it had gotten separated from its dam and the other lambs. So I brought the littlest lamb in for the night and bedded her down in a dog crate in my bedroom. She turned out to be easier to both crate and house train than many puppies that I’ve raised. Every night since then she has been spending the night in a crate and then going out during the day to spend time with her mom (and any other ewe she can nurse off of) and the lambs. With one exception, she waits to pee in the morning until after I put her outside and she happily follows me back to the sheep pens. She has adapted quite well to her new life.

Two weeks old

Two weeks old

She is growing well on the goat milk and is a similar size to the two triplets the dam is still nursing.

A Little Help

Monday morning the smallest triplet was hunched over and when I put a finger in her mouth, her mouth was cold. Both are signs that the lamb isn’t nursing. I had seen all three lambs nurse shortly after birth on Sunday morning and, obviously, since the smallest lamb was still alive on Monday morning she had to have nursed at some point during the night. I wasn’t sure if the lamb wasn’t doing well because of a congenital problem or if she simply wasn’t getting sufficient milk from the dam, so I figured I had nothing to lose by offering a bottle. While I won’t bottle feed a lamb per se, I am not opposed to offering supplemental feedings so I came into the house and found the extra nipples I had bought when I was bottle feeding Joey’s kids after she died. However, I didn’t have a bottle so had to make a run into town to buy a soft drink. I warmed up some goat milk I had in the refrigerator and went out to offer the smallest lamb some milk. The first couple of feedings I had to open her mouth and insert the nipple but it didn’t take long before she was eagerly accepting the nipple. From there, she has started bleating and coming to the fence every time I go out to the pens even though I am only offering a bottle four times a day. She has also not been shy about letting me know she prefers the milk straight from the goat as opposed to milk I have refrigerated. She is doing well with the ewe and other lambs and apparently nursing at night when I am not offering a bottle so I have high hopes that she will survive. Here she is at feeding time tonight.


18 Days. . .

Nutmeg kidded on September 24th. She is 18 days into her second lactation. This morning about 10:15 I pulled her from the lambing jugs where she has been residing with her three kids and put her in the doe pen for the day. Around 5:15 – about 7 hours later – I put her up on the milk stand.

2nd Freshening at 18 days lactation

2nd Freshening at 18 days lactation. She gave me 22.55 oz.

On her first lactation she gave me 22.0 oz after having been separated from her twin kids for about 12 hours.

Slopping Hogs

I repositioned the trough in the pig pasture the other day and then secured (I thought) it to the ground. I set it up away from the fence but close enough that I could use a section of PVC pipe to deliver milk from outside the fence. It worked well in the first use . . . .


Accessible from either side and accommodates the five hogs without fighting.

Unfortunately, despite driving U-bolts through the feet and into the ground, it only took a short time for the hogs to turn it upside down. On to Plan B (once I think of Plan B.)

What to Do with Goat Milk

With four* goats now producing milk I’m having to be more and more creative on how to utilize it. Unfortunately, most of my goat milk “projects” – soap making and cheese – take more time than I have to spare currently. Ice cream is quick and easy but it doesn’t take long to run out of freezer space. I love milk but even I can’t consume more than about a quart a day. Luckily I have hogs and dogs, both of which are also getting milk on a regular basis. So, in an effort to reduce the overload in my refrigerator, from now through the end of October I am offering a special on goat shares. Please contact me for more information.

*will be five in another couple of weeks when I start milking Nutmeg again.

More information on goat milk (the highlighted phrases are links to the source material):

Here are 5 reasons goat milk is better than cow milk.

1. Goat’s milk is less allergenic.

2. Goat’s milk is naturally homogenized.

3. Goat’s milk is easier to digest.

4. Goat’s milk rarely causes lactose intolerance.

5. Goat’s milk matches up to the human body better than cow’s milk.

between goat and cow milk:

Fat composition – The fat globules found in goats’ milk are typically smaller than those found in other animal milks, this makes them easier to ‘break down’ and digest in the gut. Furthermore, there is a higher amount of ‘medium chain triglycerides’ found within the fat globules present in goats milk when compared to cows’ milk. Medium chain triglycerides are a type of fat that is digested, absorbed and used within the body more easily than fats with longer structures.

Protein composition – The proteins found in milk can be divided into two main groups: caseins and whey proteins. For both cows’ milk and goats’ milk, around 80% of the protein present is casein based and around 20% is whey based. The casein proteins found in milk can be divided into four major types: alpha, beta, gamma and kappa caseins. There is a subtle difference in protein composition between the two milks with regards to the proportion of each type of casein they contain. Goats’ milk contains more beta caseins than cows’ milk, whereas cows’ milk contains more alpha caseins, particularly alpha-s1-casein which is understood to be one of the proteins responsible for cows’ milk allergy*.

Prebiotics – Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that encourage the growth and activity of the ‘friendly’ bacteria in the digestive system, therefore supporting normal gut health and function. Oligosaccharides are a type of naturally occurring prebiotic found in a number of food stuffs. There are thought to be 4-5 times more oligosaccharides in goats’ milk compared to cows’ milk.

Why is goats milk easier to digest than cows milk?:

There’s a difference in fat molecule size – The fat molecules in goats’ milk are much smaller than the fat molecules in cows’ milk. Think about it this way: imagine boiling a big pot of water and adding broccoli to make soup. If you were to add large florets vs. small florets, your body would have to work a lot harder to digest (bite, chew, and swallow) the bigger chunks of broccoli vs. the smaller ones. The simple difference in the size of the milk’s fat molecules makes it easier to digest.

It’s naturally homogenized – Homogenized simply means “to make uniform in consistency.” Fresh cows milk, if left sitting on the shelf, will naturally separate where the fat will float to the top – something that we find to be less desirable. To avoid this lumpy texture, we process our milk to homogenize it. The great thing about goats’ milk, is that it’s naturally homogenized – smooth and consistent without it undergoing a man-made process.

It contains less lactose (milk sugar) – Our bodies produce enzymes to help break down our foods, especially sugar. Goat milk contains less lactose (milk sugar) than cows’ milk, which makes it easier on our stomachs simply because we need less of a particular type of enzyme to break down the lactose.

It’s less allergenic due to the protein contents – One of the most common allergies in children under the of age of 3 in the United States is a dairy-allergy and it has a lot to do with a particular protein in the milk called Alpha s1 Casein. The levels of Alpha s1 Casein are about 89% less in goats’ milk. – which is one of the main reasons why people who have dairy sensitivities may get away with consuming goats’ milk as an alternative.

Hog Wild

I have a surplus of milk right now. The logical use of the excess is to feed the hogs but feeding in the small round feeding pans causes a lot of friction and fighting. I have been looking for a pig trough for several months and have visited several feed stores with no success. None of the on-line sources I have used for livestock supplies carried troughs and an internet search wasn’t productive either. Out of the blue a few weeks ago a farm/ranch catalog for a company I have never heard of before showed up in my mailbox. I flipped through it and lo and behold, discovered a steel pig trough that was affordable (even with the high shipping and handling charges that come with something heavy and oversized.) I ordered it and the trough was delivered this week. I’ll need to figure out a way to secure it, but in the meantime I poured some milk into the trough this morning. Now if I can just convince the hogs not to stand in it, it should work fine . . . .




I’ll move it further from the fence when I secure it so that the hogs can access both sides and then use a piece of PVC pipe or gutter to transfer the milk without having to enter the pasture.

Seldom Herd RTW Aurora (Joey)

The below is a draft post I started months ago. Then Joey unexpectedly died – leaving me with three week old twin kids to bottle raise. I consider myself pragmatic when it comes to the livestock – while I believe I owe all my animals food, water, shelter and try to accommodate behaviors natural to each species; i.e. free range, pasture, browse, etc. – I don’t believe livestock are “pets” the way I consider my working dogs (or even my horse) to be. However, losing Joey left a hole that may never be completely filled.

Why a Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goat

Years ago, before I moved to the farm, I had a little more free time and took up spinning and weaving. I was renting at the time in a rural location so then the obvious next step was to obtain animals that would provide the raw fleeces. I found some colored Angora goats that were also a good weed control measure and kept those for a couple of years until the shearer I used decided to retire. After I moved to the farm I needed some serious brush clearing but didn’t have the time to deal with shearing myself and could not find anyone local to shear so I opted to buy some grade goats that were various types of dairy goat crosses. Most of these were crossed with Boer goats (a South African meat goat). A year or two later I bought some Navajo Angora goats with the intent of returning to spinning and weaving. A few seasons of sometimes being able to find a shearer and sometimes having to do my own shearing, combined with not having sufficient time to actually process the fleeces convinced me that fiber animals really were not in my future. I had been toying with the idea of soap making and decided that perhaps a dairy goat would be a better choice. I had already replaced the grade goats that I had not lost to predators or accidents with Katahdin sheep so started researching dairy breeds.

I had a list of things I that were important to me and some that weren’t. I had tried goat milk products, primarily yogurt and cheese, in the past and found the taste to be “goaty” and unpleasant so I wasn’t planning on utilizing the milk other than for making soap. Therefore, the amount of milk was not as important to me as other criteria. High on the list though was that the goat was easy to handle. I had had my fill of goats that had to be caught and physically restrained to do any husbandry and wasn’t interested in having to do that twice a day over the long haul.

While I was still in the consideration phase, I happened on an ad on Craigslist for a couple of Nigerian Dwarf does in milk. In speaking with the seller, I discovered she wasn’t the type of poster I’ve come to expect from Craigslist, but someone with a lot of experience in dairy goats who actually had a planned breeding program. I explained that while I had previous experience with goats, I had never owned a dairy goat before and didn’t know how to milk. After asking which of the two does she had for sale would be best for a novice (and whether she would teach me how to milk) I made arrangements to visit her place. I showed up at milking time in the evening. Christine hand milked up to twenty does twice a day and was downsizing, hence the does for sale. She brought out Joey who hopped right up on the stand and proceeded to give me a lesson in milking. An hour later she finished stripping out Joey for me (I’m a slow learner) and we discussed her breeding Joey to one of her champion bucks before I picked Joey up the following weekend. Joey wasn’t the most attractive little Nigerian, but she made up for her appearance in all the ways that counted with me.

Shortly after bringing Joey home I decided to try a taste of her milk. I wasn’t expecting to like it and was surprised to find that there was no goaty flavor at all – it was sweet and creamy and the best milk I had ever had. I have always been a huge fan of milk (well, except for a few years after I spent time in Vermont and had occasion to visit several dairy farms) but haven’t bought or drunk cow’s milk since I first got a dairy goat.

Joey could cop an attitude with the other animals on the farm. She terrorized my dogs – even my working dog avoided her whenever possible. When I bought a second dairy goat, Joey made it absolutely clear that Joey was going to be the top goat. (Funnily, according to Christine, Joey was a very quiet doe that stayed out of trouble in her herd.) On the milkstand though, one couldn’t ask for a better goat. When let out of the pen, she would run up to the milk stand and immediately jump up. When I first started milking it could take me up to an hour to milk Joey out and she would stand there quietly and patiently the entire time.

I milked Joey for three months and then dried her off two months before she was expected to kid out.

Drying her off was not easy. Even when I was only milking her every three days, Joey would still be giving me a 2 lbs of milk. Joey kidded without assistance, giving me two little doelings, and within a couple of weeks was back to giving me 2 lbs a day in addition to nursing her two kids.

Since I wanted milk and not necessarily goat kids, I decided to wait on breeding Joey again until she started to slow down on her milk production. As it turned out, I bred her again about 17 months after she had kidded and that was because I had to go out of town and had to leave her with her former owner where she could be milked. She milked out for me for another three months and then we had the long process of trying to get her dried off again before her next kidding.

In December 2013 Joey kidded twin doelings (Nutmeg and Spice). I didn’t rebreed her until February of 2015 so she stayed in milk from December 2013 until I dried her off the end of May 2015, producing on average about 2 lbs of milk on a once a day milking schedule. Her high was just shy of 4 lbs of milk.


Joey had twins again in July 2015 – the buckling was enormous and for the first time I had to pull a kid. When I had run back into the house to clean up and get fresh towels, Joey delivered a second kid – a little doeling. I kept a close eye on Joey following her kidding. She was eating and drinking normally and did not have any discharge. In other words, she was showing absolutely no signs that anything was wrong – until I went out one Saturday morning three weeks later and found her dead.

Joey was an exceptional dairy goat. The problem with starting at the top, is the only direction you have to go is down. I retained Spice and Nutmeg as well as Joey’s last doeling, Chai, and am hoping that the genetics that made Joey such a wonderful milker have passed down to her daughters. Time will tell. But Joey will remain the standard by which all my future goats will be judged.

Seldom Herd Aurora (Joey)

Seldom Herd RTW Aurora (Joey)

Joey with Nutmeg and Spice (December 2013)

Joey with Nutmeg and Spice (December 2013)

Second Addendum:

Nutmeg kidded out last July, just a few days before Joey’s last kidding, and gave me twins. I retained the doeling, Thyme, who is now in the milk rotation herself. I dried off Nutmeg the end of July as she is due again the end of September. Nutmeg, as a first freshener, gave me, on average a little over 1.5 lbs per day during her first lactation (milking once a day most of that time).

Spice kidded out for me for the first time this past spring. Spice not only looks like her dam, but it appears inherited her phenomenal milk production. Spice, as a first freshener, is consistently giving me over 3 lbs a day, on a twice a day milking schedule, and has on a couple of occasions given me 4 lbs.

Quibeyn Spice

Quibeyn Spice

I just weaned Ash, Chai’s kid, this week. Chai, as a first freshener who snuck into the buck pen and got herself bred much earlier than I would have bred her, is on the small side but still giving me an average of 2 lbs of milk a day since I started milking her twice a day.

So far it appears I’m on the right track and that Joey did indeed pass along some very nice milk genes.

Quibeyn Chai

Chai is the last doeling out of Joey. My intention had been to breed her in June this year, but she, like Thyme, had other plans. Chai kidded out on June 21 with a single buckling. Last night I separated the two and put Ash in with Garfunkel, Thyme’s buckling, and left Chai in the doe pen. This morning I put Chai on the milk stand for the first time. She needed a little assist to get on the stand, but once on it she stood quietly and let me milk her.

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Chai is small but her teats are a decent size and she was easy to milk out. She gave me a very respectable 1 lb .3 oz on her first milking.