Saturday, November 28, 2009

That'll do, donkey

It's been a while since we've blogged. New job, winter preparations and lots of school functions - you know the drill. But, we have many stories to tell you, so we'll just jump back in the game.

In mid-July, Maddy saved her pennies and bought herself a donkey. For a whopping 40 bucks and some hard labor loading him into the trailer, she brought home a scruffy little guy that we named Don Quixote. We call him Don Qui for short. He spent a couple of weeks at Mom and Dad's in the round pen being castrated, wormed and semi-tamed.

After he healed from his operation, we brought him out to the farm and put him in the maximum security isolation chamber (ok, an old stock trailer frame with a tarp on the top) so that he and the other critters could get used to each other without being able to tap into the fight side of "fight or flight". He didn't spend long in there before Maddy coaxed him out with a few oats.

A hug for reassurance and he's golden.

The Boers came to investigate and were initially interested in donkey, but being goats they are easily distracted by food.

The cow girls gave a disdainful glance his way and resumed chomping. This aloofness was all for show, as they did spend the rest of the day following Donqui around while ignoring him at the same time. It's a skill only a cow can perfect.

The Nubians were petrified and spent most of the time hiding behind us and screaming. Which isn't really out of the ordinary for the Nubes.

The expected major drama of integrating him into the motley herd never really played out, and Donqui settled in to grazing with the rest.

There was one incident later that day that almost caused me to lose my cool. (Yeah, I'm so known for my "cool"). I had gone out to the back of the big pasture to find Donqui for a little bit of brushing, bonding and lead training. I didn't realize it at the time, but Jake (Lab/Great Dane mix) had managed to squeeze through gate after I had already traipsed across the field and was making a bee line to me. Abby (Great Pyrenees) doesn't really like it when Jake is in her field, so she was loping after him. Jack (Great Pyrenees/Corgi mix (don't ask)) saw two other dogs running and figured there must be some great adventure happening so he was chasing after both of them. Donkeys in general despise dogs and much prefer fight to flight. This is something I wish I had known before I left the gate unlatched at the bottom.

Donkey saw what he interpreted as a pack of wild dogs heading straight for him at top speed and assumed a fighting stance. He let out a series of ear-splitting hee-haws, which are much more formidable sounding in person than cartoon donkey hee haws. This brought all the goats and all the cows running over to see what the heck was going on. So now I'm waaaaaay in the back of the pasture, alone, with 40 or so critters with a combined weight of around two and a half tons running straight at me, three freaked out giant dogs and one very angry donkey. And me without a stick, whip or self-defense weapon of any kind. Kinda scary. Donqui ran off all the dogs, who were absolutely gob-smacked by an animal that didn't run from them but ran AT them. Donqui's pretty impressive when he goes into fighting mode. Head down, ears back, teeth bared and hooves ready to kick at any moment. After my heart rate slowed, I managed to drag Jake out of the field and made a mental note to remember to latch the gate at the top and bottom in the future.

It seems to be taking Donqui quite a bit longer than a horse to pick up his training cues. He will certainly follow Maddy anywhere, though. Must be all the hugs.

He has adjusted a bit to the lead rope, as long as there are oats involved.

And he's leading much better.

I hate having that old nylon halter on him all the time because I'm worried about him getting tangled up in something and getting hurt. So I thought I'd introduce a rope halter that I could use for training time.

Yeah.. no. For a little guy he's pretty strong.

After some Clinton Anderson-style approach and release, he'll tolerate me holding the halter by his head. I still can't get it on him, but we'll keep trying.

I think he likes us, and we certainly love him. But all in all, he'd rather just be hanging out with the cows.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bovine Mobile Home

We didn't think far enough ahead when we built the cow shed, and the site we chose ended up being a giant mud hole after each and every rain. In addition to being nearly impassible with boot-sucking mud during feeding time, all the muck isn't very healthy for the cows.

So - we had to move the barn. To accomplish this, we decided to make some skids out of cedar logs, attach them under the posts of the barn and pull the whole kit and caboodle to high ground with the tractor. Although plenty of people scoffed, the plan worked perfectly.

We selected fairly straight logs and got them ready to cut:

Then we cut an angle on each end to make sled runners, basically:

It didn't take much of an angle to keep the log from just digging into the ground:

We trimmed off any knots or high spots. We only needed three skids to go under the six posts on the shed:

Once we had the posts out to the field, we measured then shaved off flat spots where the posts from the shed would sit. We had cut the posts off at ground level.

Safety second:

We also cut a notch in the end of the log so that we could attach the chain:

With the help of the tractor, we lifted the shed up and slid the skid underneath:

Some assistance from the jack was also required:

It took some finagling, but we finally got the skids into place:

Oops, now we're coming apart at the seams:

The Nubians were always ready to give us advice:

Applying service patch 1:

Some time (and cussing) later, all the skids were in place.

Then we attached chains to each of the skids and then back to the tractor:

Except for one mudhole that had to be navigated, the actual pull was very uneventful. Randy even had time for some pasture texting:

The tractor worked wonderfully:

Finally the shed is on its new, and hopefully less muddy, site:

We anchored the shed by driving T-posts into the ground by each post and tying the T-posts to the wood posts. Otherwise the shed would have become a giant parasail during any high winds. I don't think the cows would be very fond of parasailing. They're definitely "feet on the ground" kinds of critters.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Ok, so a few more than two!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Libby's babies

Libby brought her babies out from under the house today. There are only two and they're as cute as, well, kittens.

The dreams that you dare to dream

Some days just make you go ahhhhhh.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Workin' Goats

The Boer goat herd is very self-sufficient herd of goats. They get some grain once a day and fresh water, but other than that there's really not much to them this time of year. Of course, I spend a whole lot of time out there, but that's to cuddle babies, not "manage the livestock".

Once a month, though, we do spend a day "workin' the goats". I remember when we were going through the process to buy this place and Steve called and asked if we wanted to come "work the goats" with him. We were STOKED!! Of course we wanted to come work the goats! I remember that now and giggle a little bit at how cute and naive we were. It's hard work. Hot work. Painful, smelly and difficult work. The next day you feel as if you've been trampled by a herd of bison and drug through the mud. That's because basically you have been.

Today was the day for this month's goat rodeo. Sounds like a good time for a blogumentary.

"Workin' the Goats" consists of pedicures for all the goats, vaccinations when appropriate, worming when indicated (which is usually), a general health check and gathering poo berries for fecal exams. (I'll spare you any photos of poo.)

The goat yard layout is fantastic. There are two penned areas, one of which contains a "hitchin' post" and a shelf. The necessary supplies are gathered and laid out on this shelf to be within easy reach. In addition to frosty beverages, the supplies are, from left to right (skipping the thermos lid): CD&T vaccination bottle, an old coffee can of grain (for luring and catching goats until they wise up and figure out our tricks), a goat weigh tape, a notebook and pen to write down weights and anything we want to remember about the health and well-being of each goat, a jug of wormer (which is so expensive that I'm freaked out that it's going to fall off the shelf and spill), a rag-wrapped bottle of stinky messy Koppertox, and a drencher used to give the wormer. What you don't see in this photo (probably because they're scattered around on the ground after being tossed to catch a goat about to bolt away) is a pair of hoof trimmers, a hoof pick, a stiff brush and a rasp.

To get started, we pick up the goat's hoof and begin to trim. BWAH HA HA HA HA!!! The only goat in the whole wide world who is going to let you just pick up her hoof like Craig's doing in the photo below is Ruby...and that's only until she finishes the grain in the pan in front of her. If Craig still has hold of her hoof once she's done with that grain, she'll kick her leg with the power of 10 mules about 50 times real fast so that she jerks her foot away then flop down on her belly, tuck her feet under herself and look at you condescendingly. Ask me how I know.

In real life, we tie the goats to the hitchin' post with a rope around their horns. It doesn't hurt them. They certainly don't dig it, but it doesn't hurt. Here's Angel assuming the position. She looks horrible, I know. Normally she's not so incredibly thin, but she's nursing greedy babies and she definitely "milks off her back" as they say in the cow industry. Once she weans those babies she's back in top condition quickly. She really does get plenty to eat, I promise.

The position for doing baby hooves is quite a bit different. Usually to work the babies one person straddles and restrains and the other checks and trims the hooves. "Straddle" doesn't mean sit on them, mind you - that would be bad. Rather, you just squeeze your knees together and pretend that your super power is "form of... a squeeze chute!" Most of this year's babies are really tame (thank you, I've worked hard on that!), so one person can handle them.

Here's Elvis having his back feet done. (Pardon me for saying so, but that's an impressive set of jewels. He may have to keep those and become a daddy!)

And his front hooves:

I think Elvis actually enjoyed his pedicure. He wanted to pose for a photo when he was done. My goodness he's a good looking boy! The goats who haven't yet had their mani/pedi are waiting in the other side of the pen for their turn.

Here's a photo of a hoof before it's been trimmed. This has been a really rough season for goat hooves. It's been so wet that the hooves have stayed softer and haven't gotten the normal amount of wear from daily romping around. The rain and wet also causes some problems with "foot rot" that we have to keep an eye on.

Craig starts out his trimming by cutting the "sidewalls" of the hoof. There are two different "parts" of the hoof, a hard outer "sidewall", and a rubbery "insole". I just realized that there may actually be names for those hoof parts instead of the names we call them. If so, I dunno what they are, so I'll stick with "sidewall" and "insole".

The sidewall seems to me to be kind of like fingernails. As it grows longer, they walk on it and it folds over the insole. This has to be trimmed off. We just slide the trimmers under the folded over part and clip it off - just like cutting your fingernails with scissors.

Then the insole is also trimmed. It can actually get too long and fold over as well. That's bad. It has a "quick" just like our fingers and dog claws. And if you cut past the quick it hurts and bleeds and you end up getting kicked and screamed at. I can't stand it, so we make sure to stop if we see the slightest bit of pink. Sometimes we do accidentally cut too deep and make them bleed, but we sure try not to. I can't really describe the texture of the insole. It's kind of meaty, but firmer than meat. It's white unless you trim it too far.

The hooves should be trimmed so that they are parallel to the "coronet band", which is just a fancy way to say "the top of the hoof". Here Craig moves the foot hair out of the way to make sure that both the heel and toe are parallel to the top of the hoof. It's really easy to leave the toes too long or make the heels too short. This rocks the goat back on its heels which makes for weak ankles and stiff legs.

Angel waits patiently-ish for us to get done with her hooves. I sneak them some grain niblets every now and then while they have to stand tied. Poor things.

After the hoof has been thoroughly trimmed, it gets rasped to level it off and smooth it out. The goats hate this part. So does Craig because he's constantly rasping the skin off his knuckles. I try not to giggle, but he knows some really funny cuss words.

When the hooves are all done, the bottoms will be totally white. This goat is having some problems with foot rot, but we were about to make her bleed so we had to stop right here. This will get noted and we'll follow up with her frequently and trim more off a little at a time until we get her back in shape.

After the hooves are done they get coated with Koppertox. Koppertox is sticky, smelly and very messy. I've been wracking my brain trying to describe the smell, but words are failing me. It smells like wet copper that's dusty. Sort of a musty metallic smell. And it's very strong. You can still smell it on your skin after washing several times. Goat-workin' clothes have to go straight into the washing machine or the whole house will smell like Koppertox. And it stains everything. Moral: don't wear good clothes when you're workin' the goats. Koppertox is a fungicide, so it's great for foot rot. It's also like a liquid bandage to keep stuff out of any nicks.

Once the hooves are all done, it's vaccination time. Of course, we only vaccinate when it's appropriate. The babies get a course of three injections, and then all goats get an annual booster. We use an industry-standard "CD&T" shot, which is basically a Tetanus and Enterotoxemia vaccine. There are several other vaccinations that could be given, but it seems to me like they are mostly to allow for poor management. I don't think that's very cool. (I love Craig's Koppertox stained fingernails in this photo - very punk!)

After everything is done, we give the goats a dose of wormer. This is dependent on the last fecal analysis, of course, but it usually needs to be done. I'll do another fecal about 14 days after this worming and make sure we're doing ok on parasite prevention. Once all of this is done, the goat gets turned out into the pasture. Then we go catch another goat (which is a great aerobic exercise!) and start all over again.

We started at 9 this morning and finished hot, sweaty, aching and smelling like copper at around 2:30. Did anyone see the herd of bison that just ran over me?