Humble Garden

ReSkilling for future food independence

Archive for the ‘goat’ Category

Baby Goats 2013

Posted by Nika On March - 8 - 2013

This is a video of our first batch of babies for this year.


Posted by Nika On November - 1 - 2011

This October surprise snow storm dump 2 feet of wet clingy snow on the northeast and particularly on us. The
Night of the storm our goat shed collapsed and crushed/trapped one of our goats.

We found her weakly crying and slipping away. We pulled her out from under tons of shed and snow – was pushed down into muck. We rolled her onto a bed sheet and slid/pulled/lifted through 2 feet deep snow many yards and then into our dining room onto blankets. We covered her in blankets as well and fed her molasses water until she rehydrated enough to drink on her own. She began to eat grain and hay. She menaces passing cats who she doesnt like. She can not stand on her own – her back leg is not working, might be dislocated.

We now have to take her to the vet and i hope its a simple matter of joint reduction. Will share photos of that when it happens.

Am also sharing some photos below of a tiny bit of the vast amount of storm damage here. We have no power, no internet so i am having to post by iPhone.






Goat babies can be obnoxious!

Posted by Nika On July - 24 - 2010

Dairy goat management includes psychology, trust me.

When baby goats are born you need to separate out the babies and bottle feed them until they are weaned and then you can return them to the herd.

The video above shows what happens when your kids are piggish, dont wanna stop nursing, and the momma goat refuses to push them away.

The kidding has begun

Posted by Nika On March - 3 - 2010


Meet Nibblet! One of our new LaMancha baby goats.

Our goats have begun to deliver their babies. We had 3 arrive yesterday alone. Sort of tiring! I have posted a Flickr slideshow below for your viewing pleasure.

To get rid of the tiny thumbnails along the bottom of that slideshow, just pass your cursor over the display.

If you can not see that, click here to go to that flickr set.

When kidding goes easily, its all fun and games. Problem is, there are always possibilities for things to go terribly wrong. If you have read this blog in the past you might have seen that we lost one of our does last year, see this post: RIP Wheatie, our sweet goat girl.

Well, this year, we had another trying time. You may remember Felicity, who we treated aggressively to save her life from a nasty illness. For details on that see: Listeriosis.

She healed well with a lingering twist to her head. That went away as she exercised and romped so that you cant tell from looking at her that she experienced these challenges.

She is a small doe, so is her sister Calliope. Calliope didnt get pregnant this year but Felicity did.

We could tell by the development of her udders that she was indeed pregnant.

One day I went out in the morning to check on the goats for babies and I find Felicity licking a baby that had been stillborn, definitely premature. It was very small and had almost no hair but was perfectly formed.

I took the baby away and all seemed well with Felicity other than her calling out and looking around. That maternal instinct is so strong!

The next morning my oldest daughter went to check and then flew back into the house telling me that Felicity has prolapsed.

Indeed, Felicity had suffered a prolapsed vagina and cervix. You can see what that looks like below.

I had read about how this could happen but I was worried that this mean that Felicity still had a baby inside, stuck.

As you might also know, we have been un- and under- employed for some time so we cant just call the vet, just not an option.

I do not recommend that you be the same way. You have to be really intrepid and have guts of steel to wing it. You have to always be ready to put the animal down if things go badly so that the animal does not suffer. I can not abide by suffering. We are all animals and I feel their pain like I do that of my human kids.

I knew that one can stitch the vaginal opening closed but I was worried about the possibility that:

  • she could still have babies inside and stitches would be catastrophic if I wasnt there when she went to push them out
  • i had not done this stitching before and I didnt have time to get trained by my goat mentor who was busy with her large herd and some 14 new babies being born A DAY

I also knew that sheep have a tendency to prolapse and that there was such a thing as a ewespoon – a device (shown below) that you use to reposition the vaginal tissues and then it is held in place until:

  • the babies are born in which case the ewespoon is pushed out
  • or the vaginal muscles retain the tissues well enough to remove this support

I thought it might be of use to show images of all this for those of you considering homesteading with dairy goats so that you can see the realities of these animals and the birthing process.

The following set of images might be disturbing to some. Please note that Felicity didnt seem to be in great pain (even tho it might look like it “should”). There are not many nerve endings in the vaginal canal and none in the cervix really. Same goes for us.

MOST importantly, Felicity healed and is quite back to her normal self now!

The first snow storm of the new year

Posted by Nika On January - 2 - 2010

Humble Garden 2010: my boots

Enjoy a few shots in and around our humble homestead – silent raised beds, munching truculent goats and hesitant chickens as well as an aloof and rather disgusted llama.

Humble Garden 2010: raised beds, asleep

Humble Garden 2010: boots in the snow

Going out to feed the goats, chickens, and llama.

Humble Garden 2010: garden, bedded down

Humble Garden 2010: tracks

Snowy llama – her name is Misty but we are calling her Snowy right now.

Humble Garden 2010: misty the llama

Goats eating hay.

Humble Garden 2010: eating scrum

Maisy the goat, eating hay and saying hello to me.

Humble Garden 2010: maisy the goat, eating hay in snow

The milking stanchion frozen over – so glad we are not milking right now.

Humble Garden 2010: frozen stanchion

Chickens and duck.

Humble Garden 2010: poultry

Old english game rooster, dozing his way through snow.

Humble Garden 2010: rooster in snow

How is it where you are?!

A tighter knit local food economy

Posted by Nika On December - 13 - 2009


I recently made an arrangement with a local grocery store (owned in MA but a BIG chain) to get some of their produce scraps for our chickens and goats.

The majority of their scraps go to pig farmers who drop off big oil barrels for the lettuce remnants that the pig food trader/merchant/dude picks them up later.

Permaculture Inputs: Free "waste" lettuce from grocery store

I love that we can take something considered waste and give it to our animals.

They LOVE these fresh greens!

I love it all because it fits in with the permacultural ethic by using a resource effectively and in a humane holistic way – Free inputs.

In the case of the goats – the yields are manure, growing babies (9 does are pregnant) and later fresh raw goats milk!

Witness the goat-silly feeding frenzy.

Permaculture Inputs: Free "waste" lettuce from grocery store

Permaculture Inputs: Free "waste" lettuce from grocery store

Permaculture Inputs: Free "waste" lettuce from grocery store

Permaculture Inputs: Free "waste" lettuce from grocery store

Permaculture Inputs: Free "waste" lettuce from grocery store

Permaculture Inputs: Free "waste" lettuce from grocery store

Permaculture Inputs: Free "waste" lettuce from grocery store

Chickens LOVE the greens a whole lot too.

Permaculture Inputs: Free "waste" lettuce from grocery store

Permaculture Inputs: Free "waste" lettuce from grocery store

Permaculture Inputs: Free "waste" lettuce from grocery store

Permaculture Inputs: Free "waste" lettuce from grocery store

Permaculture Inputs: Free "waste" lettuce from grocery store

Permaculture Inputs: Free "waste" lettuce from grocery store

In the case of the chickens, the yield is manure, bug-eating, meat and eggs! Free range and very yellow yolked eggs!

Permaculture Yield: free range eggs from backyard flock fed on free "waste" lettuce from grocery store

Another reason I like this is that it knits our food production tighter into the local fabric. It also brings vitamins to our animals that they would not usually get in the winter. During the summer our animals eat tremendous amounts of leaves and trees in the case of the goats and endless bugs and grasses and weeds (and MY GARDEN) in the case of the chickens.


Posted by Nika On October - 7 - 2009


(Some of the contents of this post might be disturbing to the more gentle or delicate reader. I do not mean to offend you, please accept my apologies. I dont mind if you stop reading and visit other of my posts that are much less gory!)

Make no mistake, if you get goats, you will get your hands dirty, less sleep, more manure, lots of broken fences, some broken hearts, and some experience pretending like you actually know something about goat health and veterinarian practices.

If you are a long time reader, you will remember the excitement of this last early, snowy spring, when we had our kidding season. We lost one goat (RIP Wheatie, our sweet goat girl), gained lots of goat babies and some modicum of caprine midwifery experience.

I even got to reach into the back of a screaming goat momma, up to my upper forearm, to pull out what I was certain to be a dead goat to find it perfectly healthy and I didnt kill the momma either (was certain I would do that too). As I was holding that baby, feeling more alive myself although also a bit shocky, I re-learned something I always know as a scientist – I know little but in knowing that I know little I am open to learning a bit more. As I knelt there, holding a strong little buckling and watching the momma goat de-stress, I knew that I had no idea if she still had another kid inside. I palpated her tummy but it all felt like a round tummy and I had no objective concept of what another kid might feel like.

Our goat mentor arrived and kindly helped re-assure me that we had done well and that the momma had only one kid.

I have been trying to steel myself for the next kidding season since. We have been breeding the girls up in recent weeks so it seems we will go through that hell again!

But, of course, I always have something new to learn. One is that its not just kidding season that can bring medical emergencies. About a week ago last Saturday we noticed one of the 6 month old kids was acting odd, tilting her head, acting dizzy, eyes sort of vibrating around in their sockets, back and forth.

The followng images shows you a bit of what it was like. She essentially had no control over one side of her body because the bacteria were attacking her brain stem. The movements or the odd positions you see were involuntary and also very painful for us to watch.

This first shot shows the improvised enclosure we made for her.

Goat Listeriosis: Felicity in throes

Here are a few positions of note.

Goat Listeriosis: Felicity in throes

Goat Listeriosis: Felicity in throes

Goat Listeriosis: Felicity in throes

My first and relatively long lasting response was to feel panic, panic I KNEW was counter-productive but which was there anyways. Panic because we have no way of affording any vet care at all. Period.

I looked in our goat health books and realized how hard it is to do a differential diagnosis while in a panic and also while looking at these diseases for the first time. I googled her symptoms and was able to triangulate closer to the possibilities.

I finally settled on two diseases which are commonly co-diagnosed because they are so similar: Goat Polio (thiamine deficiency – easy to treat) and Listeriosis (HARD to treat and bad prognosis).

What is Listeriosis? Its a bacterial infection, run away infection of listeria. It occurs in goats, cows, all sorts of animals including we humans.

Wiki says this about this disease:

Listeriosis is a bacterial infection caused by a gram-positive, motile bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes. Listeriosis is relatively rare and occurs primarily in newborn infants, elderly patients, and patients who are immunocompromised.

The symptoms of listeriosis usually last 7-10 days. The most common symptoms are fever and muscle aches. Nausea and diarrhea are less common symptoms. If the infection spreads to the nervous system it can cause meningitis, an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms of meningitis are headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions.

Listeriosis has a very low incidence in humans. However, pregnant women are much more likely than the rest of the population to contract it. Infected pregnant women may have only mild, flulike symptoms. However, infection in a pregnant woman can lead to early delivery, infection of the newborn, and death of the baby.

In veterinary medicine, listeriosis can be a quite common condition in some farm outbreaks. It can also be found in wild animals; see listeriosis in animals.

More specifically, in non-human animals:

Listeriosis is an infectious but not contagious disease caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, far more common in domestics animals (domestic mammals and poultry), especially ruminants, than in human beings. It can also occur in feral animals—among others, game animals—as well as in poultry and other birds.

The causative bacterium lives in the soil and in poorly made silage and is acquired by ingestion. It is not contagious; over the course of 30-year observation period of sheep disease in Morocco, the disease only appeared in the late 2000s when feeding bag-ensiled corn became common. Moreover, in Iceland, the disease is called “silage sickness”.

The disease is usually sporadic, but can occur as farm outbreaks in ruminants.

Three main forms are usually recognized throughout the affected species:

* encephalitis, the most common form in ruminants
* late abortion
* gastro-intestinal septicemia with liver damage, in monogastric species as well as in preruminant calves and lambs

Listeriosis in animals can rarely be cured with antibiotics (tetracyclines, chloramphenicol) when diagnosed early, in goats, for example, by treating upon first noticing the disease’s characteristic expression in the animal’s face,[4] but is generally fatal.

The Merck Vet Manual describes the symptoms as follows:

Initially, affected animals are anorectic, depressed, and disoriented. They may propel themselves into corners, lean against stationary objects, or circle toward the affected side. Facial paralysis with a drooping ear, deviated muzzle, flaccid lip, and lowered eyelid often develops on the affected side, as well as lack of a menace response and profuse, almost continuous, salivation; food material often becomes impacted in the cheek due to paralysis of the masticatory muscles. Terminally affected animals fall and, unable to rise, lie on the same side; involuntary running movements are common.

I called my goat mentor and she has had the great fortune of never dealing with this disease in her 20 years and 100s of goats (she has a great business – Shepherd’s Gate Dairy). She cautioned that the prognosis was poor if it was listeriosis. She suggested I call Tufts Vet.

I did a postdoc at Tufts Vet and have had animals vetted there so I know how massively expensive they are. I was profoundly fortunate to be able to talk, on the phone, for free, with a vet who was able to tell me some things about this disease.

The consensus was, put her down. I have grown an aversion to killing and I do not own a gun or injectable drugs to do the job so I chose to do the treatment and see what happened.

At that point I was less worried about the sick goat and MUCH more worried that my son was going to get it from the does in milk who might have it and be asymptomatic (we drink – drank – their milk raw). My son has seen enormous healing strides from a non-verbal autistic child to a verbal intelligent child who just started preschool today. He got almost a year of daily one-on-one ABA therapy and gallons upon gallons of raw goat milk with I think was instrumental in his progress.

Now, I was panicking that the raw milk was also going to kill him. Panic is an evil evil human emotion. Must remember to be more Vulcan next time.

I found this amazing resource on treating listeriosis at Onion Creek Ranch.

So 8 days ago we started injecting our little goat, Felicity, with 3.9 ccs of 300,000 IU Penicillin, subcutaneously, every 6 hours, 24 hours a day. She was almost paralyzed when we started. I pinched up her skin over her ribs and injected the milky white antibiotic into the gap between her lifted skin and the muscles and ribs just beneath.

Our schedule was this (rain, shine, wind, light, dark, cold, chilly, somewhat warm) 12 noon, 6 pm, 12 midnight, 6 am, rinse and repeat.

She was a trooper and continued to eat. My daughter was my vet tech this whole time. She forced water into the goat’s mouth the first few days but the goat has been eating and drinking on her own.

Goat Listeriosis: Q force feeding water

We have likely 2 more days, possibly more, of this schedule. She, against all the odds, is healing! She still seems to tilt her head so we need that to resolve. She is HATING her isolation and she gains strength every day.

You can see her here. She fears me now, thanks to the brutal injection schedule.

Goat Listeriosis: on the mend!

Goat Listeriosis: on the mend!

Goat Listeriosis: on the mend!

We have to be careful when we stop treatment with the antibiotics by treating her with probiotics to repopulate her rumen with beneficial bacteria.

Right now, she is one sick animal but I think she is going to make it.

Before this, I had never given an injection to anything but chicks, rabbits, and mice. Now I am quite a pro at it.

I would prefer to not have to do this ever again.

We love her now, have grown attached.

The rest of the herd seems perfectly fine.

Homesteading is all about the DIY worldview. You may gain some sense of mastery but its illusory! We are now battling a massive drop in milk production due to the seasonality of this breed and we STILL need to get things ready for our -20 F winter days.

Our milking habits

Posted by Nika On August - 2 - 2009

Humble Garden 2009: milk

I have been quite blocked on all of my blogs (technology, weather, misalignment of stars and muses, who knows) but I am hoping that I can start to dig out here.

In my last post you saw how I was having early blight. All 60 tomato plants are now history. I pulled them a week ago but it has been raining steadily and at times torrentially so I have not been able to burn the plants and stakes yet. The dead wilting vines are taunting me.

Today I am going to share a snapshot of our homesteading life and I hope it entertains on some level.

Lets do a census first. Amongst the humans, we have 2 adults, one 12 yo, one 5 yo, and one 2.5 yo. We have 5 cats who kill but do not eat rodentia. We have something like 35 chickens who are threatening to go into molt because of this hideous weather. We have one llama who is hitting the upper limits on tolerating said hideous weather. We used to have 18 goats but we FINALLY sold 6 kids (they were literally eating us out of house and home) and now we are down to 12 goats, 7 of which we milk on a daily basis.

These goats like hay. They dont eat every bit so some of it ends up on the ground. The hay acts like a sponge once it hits the mud. We have an enormous amount of urine/manure/hay/mud that we need to muck out and every day we get more torrential rain that makes this mess even worse.

Humble Garden 2009: hay over unmentionable yuck

Humble Garden 2009: unmentionable yuck

We live with it and await a time (sometime?) when the rain will stop and we will be able to make some headway.

Goats are strangely prissy when it comes to the rain, you would think they feel actual pain when wet. They will do just about anything to avoid it (although that doesnt keep them from laying down in wet muck and soaking their teats in filth right before I need to milk them).

Needless to say, our goats are as close to the edge about all this rain as I am, I promise. I worry we might be getting to a point where pharmaceutical interventions might make sense! (winks)

Our Days

So, some of the does in milk still have their kids so every morning 2 of us have to go out into the knee deep slipperiness that is the goat enclosure and separate the moms from the babies. The momma goats are catching on and come willingly on some days, other days they run away, down the hill (slippery) and we have to track them down.

So, with that done, we feed them all hay and top off water. A bit later we give them some grain, more water, more hay, etc.

In the afternoon or early evening the DH drags out the portable milker which consists of a 50 pound pump and a slightly lighter set of milking claws and reservoir (stainless steel).

Humble Garden 2009: pump

Humble Garden Goats: whole set up

My 12 yo and I do the milking alone. She fetches the girls one at a time and on some days, when the caprine-oriented planets are aligned and the goats are hungry enough, they come running to the stanchion. Other days, the goats will make a break for the garden or the forest and we have to go after them.

Getting the 12 yo to simply use a rope every time seems to be more difficult than herding the goats.

My milking experience is one of dual frustrations; between early adolescent misery and goat toddler-with-hooves misery.

Humble Garden 2009: How to milk a goat

Humble Garden 2009: How to milk a goat

Humble Garden Goats: on the goat

When a goat gets on the stanchion I use wet paper towels to clean her teats and then I dry them. I then turn on the pump and put the teat cups on the teats. I stand back, massage my old aching back and watch as the milker extracts the milk. I also watch the goat for signs that she wants to kick the cups off or jump off the stanchion. If she tries to make a break for it, I grab her and HOLD her in place until her udders are empty. One goat, Oaty Goaty, seems to love me ok but HATES to be milked so its always a struggle with her. I can not take my hand off her leg or she will kick the teat cups off (into the yuck).

Since removing her babies, Rye the goat – henceforth called “Emotional Rye” – is fighting the milking process from the gate to the stanchion and back to the gate again. I dont understand why. We have to be consistent and not give up because if we did then it will only continue or get worse.

SOMEONE’s will WILL be broken, just hope its not mine is all.

During this entire process, the baby goats (who are now 5-6 months old, adolescents really) are peering into the milking shed or just making the worst sort of bleating sounds that I am convinced neighbors miles away can hear. The 6 we sold were SO LOUD I feared that the neighbors would call the police or board of health for animal mistreatment. The silly goat babies would stand in the middle of their enclosure, unmolested in any way and with bellies filled with hay and grain, and bleat at the top of their lungs. So very glad they are gone.

(remember, we have this circus every day)

Once all the mommas are milked, my DH will lug it all back into the house, into the kitchen, where I decant the milk, filter it and put it in the fridge or add cultures to make cheese (mostly chevre right now). These days we get about 2.5 gallons a day, which we mostly drink and we drink it raw.

Humble Garden 2009: 2.5 gals/day milk

Labeled and ready to go in the fridge.

Humble Garden 2009: milk

Now the work really gets started.

Now I have to clean the milker and this takes as long as the milking (an hour or so).

Humble Garden 2009: cleaning tubes

First I rinse everything with a cold spray (including the inside of the milk pail) and then I fill the red pot with cold water and flush the cold water up through the tubing into the milk pail.

I dump all that and then flush the lines with hot water that has a special cleaner that removes milkstone (a build up of calcium and magnesium that can really mess up your machinery).

I then scrub the interior of the milk pail and everything else and then dump all that and then flush/wash everything with even more hot water.

By the end my arms are exhausted and I am usually soaked head to toe.

Mind you, this is every day!

As I type this and hit post, I am getting ready to go out and milk. The sky is dark, its sprinkling, and the goats are cowering in the murk. I hope the sheeting heavy rain can hold off until we are done. If not, it will be like most other days around here.

Homesteading isnt easy kids. Being a goat mistress is not easy either. Being a goat mistress with pissy goats, grumpy pre-teens, teething toddlers, and obsessive 5 year olds who want to help but mostly cant – its almost more than any three women can bear!

Video of our goats and kids!

Posted by Nika On April - 18 - 2009

Took this video out in our goat shed in our backyard the other day.


Rye’s newborns!

Posted by Nika On March - 19 - 2009

Kidding 2009: rye babies

So for the past week, we had been watching Rye VERY closely but she seemed to be taking her own sweet time.

Last night my husband had to go to a school board meeting and I was feeding the kids. When he got home he checked on the goats and found that Rye had given birth to two little guys, with no help at all!

She did a fantastic job!

One – who looks just like his dad Flax – is named Flax, Jr. and the other goatlet is called Frederick (I have no real idea why). They are both just too darn cute.

Enjoy the photos!

Kidding 2009: daddy flax

(Daddy Flax)

Kidding 2009: rye babies

Kidding 2009: rye babies

Kidding 2009: rye babies

Kidding 2009: rye babies - Frederick

Kidding 2009: rye babies - Frederick

Kidding 2009: rye babies - Frederick

Kidding 2009: daddy flax

(Daddy Flax)

Flax, Jr. was being shy, will get more shots of him another day!

About Me

We are a family of 5, including Nika, Ed, Q (14), KD (7), and Baby Oh (4). We garden 1024 square feet of raised beds plus assorted permacultural plantings. We also have 13 LaMancha dairy goats, 40 chickens, and one guard llama.



    SEVILLA II Besamanos a María Santísima de la Purísima ConcepciónKristen StewartUntitled Flickr photoHaus-Feldwespe (Polistes dominula)