Sunday 25 November 2012

Field shelter for goats

Calf hutch field shelter

Goats aren't as hardy as sheep. A sheep's fleece stays warm when wet and its thick and windproof. Domestic goats are covered with hair that doesn't have the same weatherproof properties if they are subject to cold wind and rain they are susceptible to pneumonia so they need a shelter.

Feral goats are more weather proof because they have a layer of cashmere underneath the outer guard hairs. This is analogous to the "warm when wet" merino wool underpants sold to walkers and mountaineers and not a suitable subject for after dinner conversation.

Cold on its own isn't a problem  goats have central heating, the ruminant digestive system. In the wild they find a cave to shelter and sleep in, years of dung build up on the floor provides a well insulated bed and they are really comfortable. Toggenburgs are probably the hardiest of the domestic goats, in summer they can stay out 24hrs a day if they have a shelter.

We have fixed steel rings to the top of the shelter at each corner so that it can be tied down to the mountain side. I don't want to have to fetch it back from my neighbours croft or the village.

Observant readers will have noticed that the goat on the left isn't a Toggenburg. It's "Pia" the British Toggenburg she belongs to Dale, is 18 months old and in kid.

The field shelter is based on a Canadian plan for a plywood calf hutch. Many dairy farmers rear calves outdoors in portable boxes like this, it is much healthier reducing the incidence of scour and pneumonia. It should be fine for goats if it doesn't blow away.

Monday 12 November 2012

Pia arrives

Pia pronounced "Peeya" arrived in the dark last night from Monikie. She's the British Toggenburg that Dale decided to buy after last week's shopping trip.  As BTs have been selected for milk production over the last 90 or so years she's bigger than the Toggs. Bigger goats generally produce more milk just as Holstein cows were bigger than the Friesians they replaced in many dairy herds.

Pia was mated to one of the Guilden bucks about four weeks ago and hasn't come back into heat so it looks as if she is in kid and due early in April.

She is looking wistfully out of the window; its drier and sunnier on the east coast. Socially she has already established that she's the boss and the two kids have to get into line. We need another pen really otherwise the kids will have a hard time this means  more joinery. During winter they will have to come indoors at night while the field shelter should be be enough protection during the day.

Saturday 10 November 2012

More trees in the landscape

If you look at photographs of the W. Highland landscape taken up to fifty years ago there are very few trees in the landscape. They were felled for fuel and building and I suppose people got used to the treeless view as they have in Orkney and Shetland. I need trees in my landscape so this winter will take advantage of the Scottish Rural Development Programme that grant aids small woodland creation. This is very small woodland, only 0.09ha or 900 square metres.
Craigard around 1950
There wasn't a mature tree anywhere in sight around the house in 1950 when my neighbour Alasdair took this photograph. Since then sycamore, hazel, birch and oak have flourished along the boundary and on the hill behind the house providing shelter, amenity and drifts of dead leaves in autumn.

Craigard 2011

There's still a bare patch ( on the right) behind the house below the Hill Park. If planted it would shelter the house and the hill from the south and southwest.

The proposed planting would merge with the trees on my neighbour's land.
At spacing of 2.5m I'll need 160 bare root trees; oak, birch and hazel. Ash was included in the original plan but with "Die back" disease its not possible to get plants. The main problem will be finding 160 places where the soil is deep enough, spade depth, to plant.

View 2012
View 2052

This is a rather feeble attempt to do a, " before and after" picture. I'll have to learn how to use PHOTOSHOP instead of scissors and paste but you get the idea. Its a big improvement in the landscape and wildlife habitat.

Sunday 4 November 2012

Shopping for goats

My friends in the village, Dale and her partner Rob want to keep a goat but don't have enough land or a building. So I suggested a kind of co-operative venture. They could keep a goat with mine share the expense (pro rata) and from time to time some of the work because keeping goats is quite tying and its difficult to get away.

Yesterday we went looking for an in kid goatling. First to the Guilden herd north of Dundee. Gordon Smith and Gordon Webster have been breeding top quality, Royal Highland Show winning British Toggenburgs and Saanens here since 1971. They had an in kid BT goatling for sale because it is too light a colour for showing. This is "Shorty", not her pedigree name,  lying just inside the gate and looking relaxed. She has been mated and if she doesn't come back into heat she will kid in March 2013.

 After Monikie we drove up towards Glenshee and Denise Ferguson's Toggenburg herd at Bridge of Cally. This is one of her "boys" a model for the original "billy goat gruff" perhaps.
Denise had two beautiful and well grown Togg goatlings ready for mating
After 14 hrs and 380 miles on the road the final decision is up to Dale. Watch this space!