One of the reasons that I raise Alpines is that they come in a variety of colors and patterns. I would get so tired of looking at goats that all look the same. Every year I hope to get spots and stripes and bands, and am disappointed when I don’t. Any goat that is born on my farm with spots or splashes has a guaranteed place on my farm. Forever. Even if she is fat and non-productive. I yearn for the goat with the Mickey Mouse pattern on her side. I pray for a Virgin Mary image. A map of Maine would do.
I am constantly tempted to add Nubians to my herd. Not so much for the butterfat, and certainly not for their hideous voices or frost-bite prone ears, but for the possibility of spots and frosting and new colors. I need to be able to look out the window and see a canvas of patterns in the herd.
Last year we added a Nubian buck. Of course we claimed it was for the butterfat his daughters would add to the milk. Secretly, though, I was hoping for those spots. His kids turned out to be oh, so cute, and oh, so marketable. Of course, those kids went first, and we’re left with monochromia (if that’s a word). So, this year, we’re adding a Saanen buck. Perhaps next season we’ll have little white babies running around. With spots or an image of Jesus.
But our farm is still not open to the public, so the faithful need not stop by to check.
I have no idea why we named her Little Pea, other than she was only 4 lb. when she was born. Smaller than a peapod or a peanut? She was so little, I bought a special bottle for her. And of course she was spoiled rotten. She became our farmers’ market mascot, riding in the truck on Claire’s lap. Customers adored her.
We lost Little Pea last week — the saddest loss this year. She struggled so hard to deliver her first kid, and we tried hard to help her. We took her to the vet, a caesarian was indicated, against my better judgement, and she didn’t make it. She never got very big, and her kid was 10 -1/2 lb. Way too big for that little body to deliver. I’m so sad. All the yearlings miss her. Another disturbance in the force.
Kidding is stretching out longer this year than it has in previous years. We’re into week three now, with 47 kids on the ground, and at least eight more does to kid. Spring itself seems to be stretching itself out as well, giving us a tiny gift each day. This morning, I heard the first peeper! On Sunday, the bees were swarming in the newly blooming crocus, and the chives are peeking out. The snow has receded gradually over the last week, with only isolated pockets left here and there. The snow and hay pack which has been burying the hay feeders has shrunk enough that the goats can stand and eat their hay again, instead of kneel. And the best part so far this spring is welcoming apprentices Jamien and Jeff. Welcome all!
March did not depart gracefully. We shipped off the first batch of kids to their new home on the last day of March, and then it started to snow again. This endless winter just doesn’t want to let go. More snow predicted for Friday. Such an April Fool.
The first kid of the season was born on March 19. We’re now up to 46 kids, with just five does left to give birth. We’ve gone from not milking to milking almost 30 twice a day, from no kids to feeding them all. We’ve already shipped off 24 to their new homes, so the kid peak has passed. In the meantime, the girls in the barn get their spring beauty parlor treatments: hooves trimmed, udders clipped. They have to re-learn milking parlor etiquette: no crowding please! no bullying! please use the In Door! And I have to remember how to make cheese again after a long winter’s hibernation.
The kids shipped out on Saturday, to Easter Auction. This is the dark side of dairying, and most people usually don’t make the connection. For every dairy animal that gives milk, she has given birth to at least one offspring. It’s an even chance it’s a male, which makes it useless as a future milker. These unwanted males have to go somewhere, and that somewhere is usually an auction, sooner or later. I don’t make any money on it. I never get back the value of the milk it has taken to raise these kids. It’s just one solution to the issue. I would rather have them take a short trip to the butcher and end their life in a useful fashion on someone’s Easter table, than the longer trip as a possibly abused pet tied to a tree or chased by dogs.
In any case, it’s much quieter and calmer in the barn, and I’m getting lots more milk to make into cheese. I don’t miss them — I still have my bottle babies that will be next year’s milkers. The moms don’t even miss them. Fiona just surprised me by saying that when the kids ship out, it’s like Jody Foster’s character’s experience in Silence of the Lambs, and that made me sad.
Every year we have a kid or two that needs special attention. This year is no different. One little twin, born to a first freshener, was abandoned shortly after birth, so I’m bottle feeding him. Of course, he has now bonded to humans, so whenever I go out into the goat barn, he glues himself to my feet and follows me around. But lest I get too attached to him, he’ll do this for any set of legs walking into the barn. The other day he followed Brad down into the woods when he was checking the fence. He got stuck in the snow so many times, Brad had to carry him out. Somebody stopped to take pictures of the goats the other day, and the next time I went up by the gate, there was a polaroid photo of him left for us.
These kids always get goofy names. This guy has been dubbed “Teeny little super guy” after the long-ago Sesame Street character. A couple of years ago, we had Peggy Eileen, who had a broken leg, and stumped around on her peg leg, with a definite tilt… Last year’s was Moaning Myrtle, who would try eating anything once, and managed to rip a piece of rubber off Laura’s rain pants.