Friday, August 29, 2008

Turd Toucher

Parasites are a problem...a big problem. I don't want to use chemical wormer unless I know for sure that the goats are having a worm problem. We practice several methods of parasite control including anthelmintic herbs and pasture rotation to break the parasite cycle.

Occasionally, though, we have a goat or two that begins to show symptoms of a parasite load. In order to find out for sure, we use a few different exam methods. First is just to check for outward signs... rough coat, lethargic behavior, etc. Then we check the eyelids for any sign of paleness, indicating anemia from blood loss due to parasites. Finally, I examine the poo under the microscope for parasite eggs. When I do find evidence, we do worm the entire herd. Parasites are passed along so easily and the herd stays pretty much together, so I don't want to take any chances. Although I'm way not a fan of using chemicals on my animals, this is one of the times when I will. Parasites are gross and very harmful to the little dearies.

I never thought, in my wildest dreams, that I would ever be looking at shit under a microscope, but we do what we hafta!

So, even though my brother has called me a turd toucher for many many years, I can now officially bear the title and carry the turd toucher card!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Burdizzo Escapades

As mentioned in an earlier post, when we tried to castrate the young billies with bands they were too big for their balls to fit in the tiny little rubber bands. Mission aborted, we went back inside and ordered a burdizzo. The burdizzo looks like a pair of horizontal pliers. When you clamp it closed it crushes the spermatic cord and cuts off blood flow to the testicles.

Thus - no blood and no infection. I think I prefer this method because we can wait a little longer to castrate and avoid to some degree the urinary calculus problems that castrated goats (called wethers, by the way) can have.

The way we did it was that I held the young goat on my lap with his back against my chest and his head up by my head. I grabbed his back legs and pulled them upward, leaving his balls dangling down for Craig to clamp. Maddy held their horns so I wouldn't get stabbed in the neck. (yay, Maddy!) Craig would give us a three count so that we would be prepared for the kicking and screaming, then he'd clamp the burdizzo shut and count to five before releasing it. On to the other testicle.

On the very first goat, Craig gave us the 1...2...3... count, but then couldn't clamp the instrument shut out of sympathy. "I cahn't, I cahn't! Not while he's looking at me!" Craig said. :) Maddy and I told him to buck up (pun intended) and get on with it.

So.. 1..2..3... clamp! Oh, my.. that goat screamed with its tongue hanging out and kicked. I had to hold on with all my might until he realized that kicking hurt more than not kicking and calmed down. Repeat on the other testicle and release him. He was then fine and walked daintily away. Another reason that I like the burdizzo over the elastrator bands.

All went well until the final goat. Realize that while we were doing the six billy goats the remaining unclamped goats were watching in dismay from the catch pen. When we got to the last goat, got him up in my lap and Craig started the countdown, the little guy knew that something huge was going to happen at the end of the count. He started counting along with Craig. 1..baaa...2...baaa. This totally broke Craig's stride: "I can't do it if he's going to count with me!" Maddy scritched his face and whispered sweet nothings and the goat calmed a bit. He still counted along, but it seems Maddy's soothing words calmed Craig some too.

I've heard that one of the problems with the burdizzo method is that sometimes the cord doesn't get all the way clamped and you end up with the goat still being fertile. We watched carefully to make sure that all balls were shrinking as they should.

FreezerBoy's balls swelled a bit, which worried me. A close watch was kept on him but it only took a couple of days for the swelling to go down.

It will be weeks before the testicles finally shrink to nothingness, and the boys will get to keep their scrotum as a momento of manliness. In the meantime, they're staying as far away from us as they can get!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Cart before the horse... er... cow before the barn

Today we finished Buttercup's temporary headquarters. The 3 sided "pole barn" will be great for her until the big barn is built, which may be a year or so. This shed will end up being the hay storage portion of the big barn. I couldn't leave it so plain and boring, so I went to work with some spray paint. The silly goats keep trying to eat the painted on flowers. Goofballs.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I got a cow!!!

Today we brought home the newest addition to the farm, the Jersey cow Buttercup! Her name was Daisy when we picked her up, but Craig wants to be able to shout, "As you wish!" across the field like Westley in the Princess Bride. Thus, the change in moniker. I thoroughly expect her to say, "Farm boy, fill this with grain please" any day now.

She's extremely skinny, her back hooves are so overgrown that they turn up and her tail has been docked because she was raised in an organic dairy. She's not bred and not in milk and she has two huge, ugly white tags in her ears. But... she was only $650 and I can fix all those issues with some good groceries and some tender loving care. The bottom line is that she needed us, so here she is.

I did cut and color her ear tags so that they're not quite as unsightly. With her fancy new earrings she'll be the belle of the ball.

I've gotten the contact information for an artificial insemination technician and will be calling her soon. I so want fresh milk... and butter... and cheese... and yogurt... mmmmm!

She was giving 4 gallons a day at the end of her last lactation, so we may have to get some pigs just so we can use up the excess milk. I suppose the chickens wouldn't mind a little clabber either.

I think she'll end up being a sweetheart once she realizes that I'm more stubborn than she is!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Nerds on the farm

We have learned that book learnin' ain't all it's cracked up to be, and experience will be the best teacher. This has been proven by our latest weekend adventures.

It all started with the spotting of the dreaded coyote - near the goat yard!! After the spotting, we realized that we did not have a gun. We lost a few points on the "good farmer" list for not having a gun. So - I called my daddy... he brought me a 22 and showed me how to shoot it. (push safety button, look through scope, pull trigger... I think I can write a computer program to do that!) I sat outside for a few hours waiting for Wile E. to show his stinking hairy face again. He didn't. I did, however, successfully shoot a paper bag that I sure thought was a coyote. Sad.

With the adrenaline high after my valiant protection of the flock, I decided that I was capable of doing a few other new and exciting things. Like - saving the three guinea fowl chicks that were being hatched and reared by a momma goose. You see, I figured that if I let goose continue to sit on the eggs and hatch the rest of them then she'd be distraught when she took them to the pond and discovered that they couldn't swim. So - me to the rescue!

First step in the plan - get the momma goose off the nest. That took some doing. Daddy goose decided to coming honking to momma's rescue and chased me round and round the flower bed (where momma is nesting) hissing and honking while my entire family stood in the bay window laughing at me. I finally made it inside without getting goosed and told all the laughers that they could bloody well come help me.

With more bodies on the job, daddy goose wasn't quite so brave and just screamed at us from a distance. We got momma off the nest and found that two of the chicks had already died. So I rescued the final guinea chick, stuck it in a cardboard box in the sun room with a heat lamp, water and chick starter feed. It died the next morning. Mother Nature 3, April 0. I didn't need any more guineas anyway, right? Momma Goose is still sitting on her nest hissing at me every time she sees me. However, Craig cut a sapling down to make me a shillaleigh (a big stick to you and me), so Daddy Goose doesn't come near me any more. I'll totally whack him with the stick (oops, shillaleigh) if he does. Totally.

Next task on the weekend to-do list: Weedwhack the tall brush up by the creek that runs past the goat yard. Here's a fun fact...chickens can absolutely turn invisible when they sit in tall brush. Here's another fun fact...they won't move when the weed eater gets near. She screamed... I screamed... she flew to the goat yard missing all tail feathers except one broken one. She looks at me accusingly everytime she walks past with her nearly naked butt. I feel bad.

Up next, time to de-billy the baby billy goats. Mind you, it's well past time for this to happen. We wanted to do so last weekend, but found that their billy-bits were too big to fit in the bands. So, we ordered a burdizzo. I can tell you that nowhere in all of the books that we've read did it tell us that goats can scream like girls at a horror movie. Well, they can... in my ear... really loudly. I also discovered that my rough and tumble husband will cry a small tear of sympathy when the burdizzo clamps together. More on this later - it was too hysterical not to talk about!

Sore and aching, I think we'll take next weekend off!