Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Chick Brooding Box

Our chickens are four years old now, and their production is beginning to wane.  We decided it was time for some replacements.

We ended up purchasing Buff Orpington chickens, plus a few that give multi-colored eggs just for fun. Buff Orpington is a very docile breed who are very good layers, and reach a nice size when fully grown making them an excellent multi-purpose bird.

For the brooding box, I used a plastic tote-box.  But that leaves the issue of keeping the cats out.  I cut the center out of the lid, placed a piece of window screen in the open space, and used a staple gun to attach the screen to the lid frame.

The staple gun left staples poking up, which I bent down with a hammer.

So far, this device has worked well.  I have caught the cat sitting on top of the wire mesh without it collapsing in.  I chased him away, but no harm came to the brooding box or the chicks.

This box was inexpensive, easy to set up, easy to clean, and is used to store all the feeders lights, and other equipment we use for chicks.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Chaffhaye Update

I can't believe how long it's been since I wrote anything here.  In any case, I've been using Chaffhaye consistently for about a year now and wanted to share a few thoughts about it.

About a year ago, I had a veterinarian out to my place to give me a routine check-up.  In short, he informed me that I had great genetics and everybody was healthy.  That being said, since my girls were primarily for milking rather than showing, he would like to see a little more meat on their bones and suggested I feed them a richer diet.

I began a search for GMO free alfalfa and came across Chaffhaye.  My explanation is that Chaffhaye is to goats what sauerkraut is to humans.  It's a very powerful probiotic.  Hopefully I have all my facts straight.  I'll post a link to their website at the bottom.  Anyway, the company swears I can feed my goats nothing but Chaffhaye and that the health and overall condition of my animals will improve.

Right now, as I write this, it is February and my goats are in excellent condition after having been fed mostly Chaffhaye.  Their coats are thicker, fuller, and shinier than in past years.  They also have a heavier fat layer over their spines and ribs than last year.  Now I do have to admit that this has been a very mild and relatively warm winter; but, I am very pleased with the results.

If you're looking for an alternative feed and care about the health of your animals, I do give my personal recommendation for this product.  I can't say if I experienced the financial benefit the company claims.  I spent more per animal on feed this year than I did last year; but, I was expecting to have to do that based on the advice to change my feeding practices from my vet.  I can state for sure that there was very little waste.  The goats gobble up every morsel.

When does are lactating, I add a very small amount of whole oats and sunflower seeds to their diet.  About one cup each per doe.  They also get to graze and browse the property year round.

One more piece of advice:  When changing feeds, do so slowly.  Quick feed changes will cause diarrhea, and Chaffhaye is no exception.  Many goat owners quickly assume the worst and think your herd is diseased - During my switchover last spring I lost a couple sales because of that.

So, if you're interested, check them out:

Friday, August 8, 2014

Clean Bill of Health

I was just in to the vet the other day and my herd came back with a thumbs up.  I was actually in there to get the horns removed from Tina & Sika.  Seems I botched the job, a couple times.  So I decided to do the humane thing and have them put under anesthesia this time.  The horn removal was pretty barbaric, and I'm glad the girls were asleep for it; especially since it was followed by yet another burning.

While I was there, I decided to get them tested for CAE, CL, Johne's, and Brucellosis.  It took a couple days to get the blood drawn from the rest of the herd.  It was sent off to WSU and returned negative for everybody.

The vet also said that the goats look great.  That tells me the Chaffhaye and my feeding program are working just fine.  I haven't decided if I'm going to test annually, I'm just happy to be able to move forward with confidence.

CAE - Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis
Causes chronic joint disease in adults, and can kill kids.  It doesn't pass to humans, so it's still safe to drink the milk of a CAE positive doe.  It is transferred through bodily fluids so can easily be passed from doe to kid through milk.  It is not curable, and culling is recommended.

CL - Caseous Lymphadentitis
Causes abscesses near lymph nodes, and is not curable.  It is highly contagious if the abscess is draining and is not a curable disease.  Culling is recommended.

Is a gastrointestinal disease that can cause rapid weight loss.  It is contracted early in life and takes its toll months to years later.

Not common in my area, but causes abortions late in pregnancy.  This disease can be passed to humans through milk, and testing is required for Grade A dairies.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summer Projects

First and foremost on the summer project list is firewood.  We need around 4 cords to keep us warm through the winter.  Unfortunately, a lot of the wood I'm bringing in from clean-up out back is very punky; so, we'll need more than the usual amount.  The rest of the wood I'm bringing in is green and needs time to dry.  Our plan this summer is to get 8-10 cords stacked up so we are one full season ahead of our wood needs.  That should give the wood the extra time it needs to season and be a good source of fuel.  One concern I have is that I only have a few more years worth of wood on my property that I'm willing to cut down and use.  The rest of the trees I want to remain alive so they can be shading/beautifying the property.

I've been reading about Rocket Mass Heaters in the past few days.  Supposedly, one of these should be able to heat my house all winter on about 1 cord of wood or less.  I'm going to continue to read up on these, and create one in my greenhouse as an experiment.

Another project around here is storage space.  We have NONE!  This corner had some old shelves that were inconveniently spaced, didn't look nice, and were really dirty.  The previous owner stored all his extra hardware here, and left it all for me.  Yay!  Thanks for that.

Over the next few weeks, I will wall up that doorway, reside the exterior, insulate, and sheetrock the interior.  That space will be a great pantry.  Costco has some heavy duty metal shelving that I have my eye on to go there.

We finally agreed on a location for some blueberry bushes.  We now have a hedgerow of 20 plants just outside of the garden.  That also means they are near a water source.

I chose Duke for our early season, Olympia for our mid season, and Elliot for our late season.  It will be two more years before we start to realize the investment.  The yearling plants need to have their blossoms stripped off allowing the plant to grow for the first couple years; but, since I'm an impatient type fully acclimated to the age of instant gratification, I purchased two 3 year old bushes as well.  The Duke is done for this year, but will provide berries early next year.  The Elliot will provide some berries later this season.  We also constructed a quick pvc/chicken wire cage to keep the chickens from eating those precious blueberries that will be ready in a couple more months.

The garden is pretty much a FAIL this year.  We cover cropped it in early spring after moving the chickens out.  But then, I didn't get around to tilling under the green cover until just a few weeks ago.

Last night, (Late July) we threw down some seeds and turned on the water.  I may get some radishes, but I'm not really holding my breath.  The major advancement this year is a battery powered automatic watering system hooked up to soaker hoses.  When August rolls around, we get busy with Kettle Corn and back to school leaving the task of watering the garden relegated to an afterthought.  This year, with the automatic system, we might actually be able to keep the garden alive through August and into September.  I'll keep you posted.  Next year, I promise to plant the garden much earlier!

A huge success this year is our fruit trees.  I really had nothing to do with this, which is probably why it is a success.  The asian pears and king apples are coming on strong this year.  I probably should go prop up some of the branches on the pear tree, I noticed one limb heavy with fruit was broken.

I September when the pears are ripe, I will usually eat several right off the tree while doing chores.  This year, I hope to get them preserved so I can enjoy them all winter.  When Tani dehydrates apples, they usually get eaten right off the tray never even making it to the pantry.  Maybe it's time for a bigger dehydrator...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Updated Photos

 On a dry day last winter, I piled up some old logs with the tractor for the goats to play on.  The logs are too old to be good firewood, but still solid enough to provide several years of fun and exercise.

Tina is filling out nicely and gaining weight.
She should be ready for breeding by November.

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Step Backward

Maintaining flexibility is really difficult with animals.  Especially animals that need daily care.  Livestock that is intended for meat can be thrown several days worth of food and water and left for a get-away weekend.  It's not so easy with lactating goats.  With a lot of things in flux at the moment, achieving maximum flexibility with time and minimizing debt load is a current priority.

We are still moving forward with garden plans, but taking a step back on the goats.  One of the doelings is MIA, presumed dead leaving me with two.  I also still have Queen Chilly and both bucks.  I don't have definite plans, but another cut after breeding season is a possibility.  Even with the downsizing, I am still maintaining the core of my breeding program by keeping this year's offspring and holding on to Chilly in order to get does from her.

The number one achievement in this downsizing was the feed bill reduction.  Sometimes you have to take a few steps backwards before you can move forward again...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ascension to the Throne

All hail Queen Chilly
It has been a crazy couple of weeks around here.  At this particular point in time, I only have need for a few does.  Two will provide enough milk for me to drink all I want and make plenty of cheese.  So, with a herd of five senior does and three doelings born this year a reduction was in order.  I don't want to call it culling, because there was something I liked about every one of my girls; but, fact is they were ranked and sorted.

I decided that 5 was a good number to keep for now.  My breeding program begins with the three new doelings born this year, so they are not for sale.  That means I keep 2 senior does, m-a-y-b-e three if somebody doesn't find a home.  Chilly is a complete pain in the rear, but is also the prettiest.  Since I didn't get any does from her this year, she stays.

I didn't get any does from Sandy this year either, but she is downline from Bree and I have those genetics everywhere.  Sandy was actually listed for sale, but she had a miraculous attitude adjustment.  She went from expert escape artist to my most devoted fan.  She is waiting for me at the gate and follows me everywhere.  Hey, I'll take an ego boost from a goat.

Bree is just a solid old dependable girl, and I didn't really plan to sell her.  As I mentioned in a previous post, she was just the right fit for somebody that came out to meet & greet so I sold her.  It wasn't intended, it was just the right thing to do at the right time.  Bree saved her daughter Sandy from the sale block.  It was her final gift to me I think.

Mackenzie is a solid goat.  She doesn't have any defects, but doesn't really stand out either.  She gave me the first doeling of the season and is now sold waiting to be picked up.

Breezy fits the same bill as Mackenzie.  I have several potential buyers for Breezy planning to come this weekend.  Breezy and Mackenzie are separated where I can keep a close eye on them and keep them well protected.  That means the rest of the herd is beginning to settle and find a new norm.

Chilly was already the #2 goat.  So when Bree left, Chilly stepped into the leadership role.  For now at least, I think she isn't quite as mean of a Queen goat as Bree was.  That puts Sandy in the #2 spot.  She was formerly #5, so this is a nice promotion for her.  It's too early to tell where the kids rank yet, that will come this summer.

So, until sold or dethroned, all hail: Queen Chilly

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Goodbye Old Friend

I've had some of my goats for sale on craigslist for a few weeks.  Mama Bree wasn't listed, but she was definitely the best fit for the person that came out to meet the girls.  Ol' Bree doesn't take any crap from any animal, and will easily stake her place among a couple sheep and a young goat on a new farm.
It was a little sad to say goodbye to her.  She was so stand-offish when I first brought her home, but then decided she liked me about a month or two later.  In the 18 months I've owned her, she has given me 3 beautiful girls and her genetics are forever cemented in my herd.

She provided me with fantastic milk all through last spring and summer; but, now it is time for her to provide milk to someone else.  Goodbye Mama Bree.  Live long and prosper.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Maternal Instincts in the Goat Herd

I've been making the most amazing observations this year regarding the mothering of the goat kids.  The first is that the does have "Nanny Shifts".  When I walk out, one doe will be hanging with all the kids while the other four does are clear across the property browsing.  When I go out to the field again later, a different doe will be with all the kids.  I am amazed at the teamwork involved in setting this up.  Not only that, but I appreciate that the goats look out for each other and give each other breaks.

The other observation I made recently is that during feeding time, when the does are eating, the kids will come attach to any available teat.  I'm not sure if it is a result of the does not paying attention at the moment, or a herd teamwork thing; but, I have definitely seen kids nursing from does that are not their mother.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Milking Machine 2

The milking machine I made last year worked pretty well; but, I found that over time the rubber seals I used to seal between the tubing fittings and the jar lid broke down and began to leak.  The leaking seals made it difficult to pull a vacuum, which is what is used to suck the milk out of the goats.

Not only did the seals in the lid leak, but the seal between the lid and the jar leaked on occasion too.

I also noticed that the top of my lid was developing some rust.  In a perfect world, the milk doesn't actually touch the lid.  Nevertheless, it was enough concern to get serious.

Many times, I became frustrated with my contraption.  I even considered purchasing a real Henry Milker; but, I'm not ready to throw in the towel just yet.  I've only given this the college try.  I haven't given it the tenacious professional try yet.

So, I went in search of some better materials.

I went to Ace Hardware and found some nylon fittings.  I used two barbed male adapters, and two hex bushings.  If you don't have a local hardware store, or your local store doesn't carry these items, you can probably order them from here:

The next piece of the upgrade came in the form of half-gallon canning jars with wide mouth lids.  I drilled two holes in the lid, the appropriate size to insert the threaded portion of the barbed male adapter, which was fitted with a nylon
washer prior to going through the lid. Finally, I screwed on the hex bushing and snugged it up.

This lid will now fit on any standard wide-mouth mason jar.

I like the half-gallon size to have milk in the refrigerator, but I prefer to milk with quart sized jars.  You'll have to see what works best for you.

For the original instructions that explain how to make the rest of this device, you can see my previous post here:

I have all the pieces cleaned and assembled.  The goats freshened between two and three weeks ago, so should have cleared their colostrum.  It's time for a field test.