Life in the Farm Lane...

Such a happy group of girls chewing their cud. Valentina, Fern, Sable, Desdemona, Clover. 

If you noticed (or not) I haven't posted much the past couple of months. Let me catch you up...

One of the reasons is the goats are dry, except one, Izzy, who is only giving about 3 lbs a day. Not enough to do much cheese making. There are a few girls who definitely look pregnant (never got them tested) 'crossing fingers'. First due date is January 11. Five due in January. Five due in March.
We hope.

I counted 17 roosters here the other day. OMG. They're all gone to dinner, felt awful, but that is farming. They take up too much space, food, and its a whole lot quieter here with them gone. Imagine, rogue bachelor's in the height of their ... um... you know... amorousness? The hens are happier. Egg production down -- could be the weather, or just time change, or getting beat up by the 17 boys. Duck production is back on track though. Duck eggs for sale again.

Bees are holding their own.... I'm at two hives down from 4 at the beginning of the year. I should have split one before dearth hit, I didn't. One absconded in October. One died from pesticide spraying.  It's all still such a learning curve. My honey addiction is still strong, though purchasing from a local farm. I can get you some for you,  if you let me know.

Sadly, Buster brown my new buck just purchased in August, died Monday. He came here thin and recovering from long term problematic parasite issues. I just couldn't turn it. Although loved by his last farm,  I'm thinking he had just one too many close calls and one too many owners.  He was 8 years old and to many, long past his prime.  He went into rut, couple that with my own 2 month long odyssey of appendix bursting and recovery, my lack of attention to his special needs during it all,  he just couldn't turn. He was wormed 6 times just since August. And still nothing changed. I'm sad, he was a sweet sweet buck. He wasn't here very long but he was special. I hope he gives me some kids to carry on his line.

My appendix.... well, it burst, while filming a short documentary for PBS show Victory Gardens. How is that for best / worse case, all in one day? The fateful day started off fine, though towards the end of day, I kept thinking I'm too old to keep up with these filmographer's. I slept the next day, in pain. Woke up a day after that, called a friend to feed for me, and she insisted I call 911. I guess, I didn't look too good. It must have burst while showing off for the film crew. I'm very curious to see if it shows how sick I was on camera.

PBS with Edible Magazine  is doing a series called 'Victory Gardens' and they were in Florida for a week to shoot various people. I was lucky enough to be chosen. We'll see if it makes TV or online viewing or both. We filmed from morning to evening chores, and everything in between. It truly was fun. And awesome. Despite the next month's nightmare.

About the appendix....Recovery is good and I'm almost back to normal. It was a mess in there the doctor said, and the surgery took about 3.5 hours to fix me up. There also was an abscess found 4 days after the appendix surgery.  The abscess was drained. After 9 days in,  I had had enough and started my campaign to leave, they wanted me to stay another 4 to 5 days. Not a chance. The stress was just too great... With drains in, still stapled, I walked out of the hospital (barely). I got home, and stayed on the couch another 10 days.  But at least I could start damage control, call clients, order feed, see the animals, and manage with some help ( I will never be able to thank all my friends that came daily to care for me, help with goats, and do chores)... I've never been away from my animals for more then 2 nights, even then I saw the effects of not being there and what it does to them. 10 days and well....  If I'm not working then no money is coming in. If i'm not milking they decrease. If I'm not on the computer, I lose touch with customers, and clients. I felt better, I was recovering faster then most and kept telling the doctors this will ruin me, let me go home and recover. They only cared about protocols, lowest common denominator, general patient recovery and covering their ass. Which I respect. But, in my instance, not being home was going to drown me. They just wouldn't take into consideration me, my personal recovery rate, or my personality. They weren't dealing with a normal person. So, I walked out, drains and all.

The goats decreased all milk production during this time by half, most if not all should still be in milk and are not. Design work had to be re-routed to others, or pulled altogether, income on both fronts, gone. I have no idea what is going to happen next, or if i can pull out of this, I'm lucky to be alive, the goats are pregnant, design work is starting to come back, the market season is starting again, hopefully, we're getting back on track. January can't come soon enough. But this profound point of farming that one little setback can break you. 10 years of working my butt off, finally to see that light of recognition, and then possibly all could stop.

Sept 16 started out as one of the highlights of my farm life, and in one fell swoop became the worst... Life in the farm lane.


Late Lactation. What is it?

Inevitably, I post about things and forget that the terminology is for those in the field and can be confusing to lay persons. In this instance, I might tell a milk customer that during late lactation I get a higher butterfat then in in early.  They look at me like I have three heads. Or we're slowing down and the girls are producing less and less every week.

Late lactation is just saying that the girls have been milking for about 9 months or longer. They milk generally 305 days, 10 months. You can push it. I do with some of the girls that look good.  I sometimes can milk 12 months or more but generally their bodies know it, show it, and milk comes out accordingly.  It's why I start off with so many and by the end of lactation I might only have a few milking. This year I started with 11 in milk. Today I'm milking just one. It's the  eleventh month of lactation.

In late lactation they will also decrease in production. Goats don't start out at day one of milking and give the same amount till the end. They peak on a grand curve from day 1 to day 305. My girls peak at the 3 or 4th month mark in that timeline. Then they level out for a few months. Then start the decline. As well in that time, one might get sick and get pulled from lineup. One might have no desire to milk that year, i pull etc. They are just like us. Some have great years some don't. the curve average gets lower and lower.

Of course, they also peak and wane within the months as well. During times of stress, heat, estrus. And their ages are important. This year I was milking 5 first fresheners. (ah, what is that?) A first freshener is a young goat in her first year of giving birth and milking. It's like a 15 year old getting their learner's permit. They're not quite proficient, need lots of patience. Don't know the ropes. Don't expect much from them,  but expect to spend more time on them. They can't compete with a seasoned pro.

This time of year is frustrating for me, my milk customers demand doesn't decrease, but the milk does. One of the things I've been trying to do is get only half pregnant for January, and then the other half for March, or even April. This way there will always be a sufficient supply of milk.  The last two years haven't worked out that way. The weather, the goats, their ages all come into play and there is never a hard and fast rule to this.

The chart below helps me since I'm a visual thinker. The line (green) is just approximating from this years production. Brown is what I expect to see since they would kid out in warmer months and height of lactation would be at height of a Florida summer. Expectations are lower. I think it gives a good idea what a lactation curve is, how, when, etc. See how it plummets around October? November? this is my late lactation if they were bred in August and kidded out in January.

The best I can do is just estimate as the year unfolds. I'm always thinking ahead to the next month. But its never set in stone. It's all dependent on outside sources you have no control over. But that is what its like with animals.

Goodness Gracious More...

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