And now for a post from the farming side of the farm. I took the photo this weekend in the goat barn.
That's our Alpine dairy doe Twink, letting her two kids use her as a step-ladder to get to the hay feeder. The first thing goat kids learn to climb is their moms, who are incredibly tolerant of this. Twink had two boys, or bucklings as they're called at this age, and when they were born on March 26 one weighed 11 lbs and the other 8.5 lbs. (4 kg and 3 kg). They are quite a bit heavier than that now, so that's well over 20 pounds of kids she's got standing on her.
(Just a quick goat terminology primer: Breeding age female adult goats are called does; intact males are bucks; young females are doelings; and the bucklings become wethers after they're neutered.)
Here's a photo from a couple of weeks ago, taken in the other barn where we had set up kidding pens. This is Kiwi with her two bucklings:
As you can see in this next photo, they also use mom for a game of "king of the mountain":
We take the does into the kidding pens a few days before they are due to give birth. It's warmer, they each have their own private space, and it's easier for us to keep an eye on them and assist with deliveries if we need to. We leave them in for a few days after they give birth, then move them out to the main goat barn.
This year we were surprised by the male to female ratio that nature offered up: 13 bucklings to just 4 doelings.
You may notice the kids look different from their moms in terms of color. That's because we bred the Alpine does (a dairy breed) to our two Boer bucks (a meat breed), and the resulting kids are mostly white with some tan colors.
You may recall we had a herd of Boer goats as well, but in doing side by side comparisons over two years, we found the Boer/Alpine cross kids grew much faster, were much hardier, and had a lot more energy. Some of that is due to "hybrid vigor," but a good part of it was also due to the fact that these kids were getting much more milk from their dairy goat mommies than the meat goat does could provide for their kids. At four months of age, the Boer/Alpine cross kids weighed as much as 10 pounds more than the Boer kids of the same age. (Same farm, same feed, same management system.) Plus they just had an enormous zest for life that the purebred Boer kids couldn't match.
As a result, we decided to sell the Boer herd last year, keep the Alpine herd and breed the does to the Boer bucks. The Boer genes add weight and muscle to the offspring compared to a purebred Alpine dairy kid, which is lighter framed.
Last year we also sold the cattle herd to near-by neighbors. We had realized that we much preferred working with goats, that the farm habitat and available hay ground was better suited to goats than cattle, and it was a lot easier for the two of us to handle 120 lb goats than 1,200 lb cows. And, as we learned, not only did the dogs like goat meat just as much as beef, so did we. (It's delicious, tastes like a mild, very tender beef, and USDA research shows it is the healthiest traditional meat you can eat: It has less calories, less fat, less saturated fat, and less cholesterol than even chicken, while delivering almost as much protein.)
So now we are focused on raising one herd of goats, which has dramatically simplified our lives and the workload. Over the winter we actually got to enjoy some weekends as, well, "weekends" ... something we haven't been able to do in over a decade.