Saturday 30 March 2013

Clean milk, raw milk and pasteurisation

You have to milk a goat or a cow by hand to realise just how difficult it is to produce clean milk.  Examine the milk filter, you'll find  bits of hair, straw, crud and dirt. even machine milking isn't 100% hygienic. What to do? You can make sure that the animal is as clean as possible with clean bedding, regular brushing and cleaning the udder with an antiseptic wipe helps, but stuff you don't want still gets into the pail. This is removed by the filter but the bacteria that you don't see are still in the milk.
Heat to 72C or 150F for 15 seconds

Sixty years ago when I was at primary school children got diphtheria, scarlet fever and even TB, these things aren't such a problem now because of pasteurisation, heating to 72C for 15 seconds followed by rapid cooling. Potentially food poisoning with E.coli. Salmonella spp., and listeria is a bigger problem in 2013 and pasteurisation will kill 99.9% of these bugs. This is why you can't sell unpasteurised milk in Scotland. If you produce for your own consumption you have a decision to make.

Cool quickly and refridgerate

Raw  milk enthusiasts claim that the pasteurisation process destroys beneficial bacteria, enzymes, vitamins and minerals. It does to some extent, but if your milk is part of a balanced diet you'll get them elsewhere and you really don't want food poisoning. So, on balance I am in favour of pasteurisation; it can be done in the kitchen with bits of kitchen equipment. You need a large saucepan or jam pan, a container for the milk, a dairy thermometer, a stove and a kitchen sink. Do it carefully and it really doesn't taste any different either.

Clever goat

We started milking Pia ten days ago and already she is giving nearly half a gallon ( two litres plus) a day. To make things easier for the milker we use a milk stand, the goat jumps up on to it, sticks her head through the yoke where there is a bucket of food and the milker is seated comfortably behind.

You'd think it would be difficult to train an animal to jump up there and stand still for twenty minutes ( we're still a bit slow at milking) but following Fay Ogden's advice we got her doing it within two days. Now when the pen gate is opened she shoots out and jumps up.....clever goat. she does have two incentives, food in the bucket and relief from the pressure of a litre of milk in her udder. Before milking her teats are wiped with a medicated tissue and after milking they are dipped in another medicated concoction to prevent mastitis organisms from entering the teat canal.
Spectator in the viewing gallery

Despite the distractions; the kids jumping about in their pen and occasional cars on the road Pia is patient and milker friendly although she does get a bit bored towards the end if we're too slow.

Saturday 23 March 2013

Instant energy drink

As at least half of the adult population know;  labour and childbirth are exhausting. Its the same for goats and some of the older books on animal husbandry recommend a reviving energy drink. Alistair my neighbour can remember when it was routinely given to cows after calving so I mixed some up for Pia. I can't tell if it did any good but she drank half a gallon and seemed very appreciative.


A handful of oatmeal mixed to a paste with warm water
Add a kettle full of boiling water and a tablespoon of molasses
Stir well and allow to cool
Drink half a gallon

Intensive care again

You may remember that this time last year we brought a lamb back from the dead. It was hypothermic, immobile, wet and cold but an injection of 20% glucose solution into the peritoneal cavity before warming saved it. Last night it happened again after a day of biting cold only this time there were two frozen lambs.
the "Oban Times" isn't essential any quality newspaper will do

After last year's episode when the revived lamb skipped around my kitchen peeing on the floor I made an alternative lamb warmer. Its just a wooden box with an infra red lamp but it does just as good a job as the Rayburn. Glucose, then colostrum via a stomach tube and finally a drink of warm goat's milk brought them both round within a couple of hours and they were back with their mum in a windproof, dry shed.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Pia's kid

Things didn't turn out as we had hoped yesterday. Pia did start to give birth yesterday afternoon so I brought her in, to a clean pen with new straw and easy observation. As the contractions grew stronger and stronger but no kid appeared I decided to investigate. Her kid was coming backwards, a breech presentation. Normally this isn't a problem if the hind legs are coming, but I could only feel the tail, the feet and hind legs were folded under the  foetus. Despite swinging the kid once it was delivered there was no sign of life, I was too late the kid was dead.

Keeping animals does mean that from time to time you have to confront their death, its very sad. Loss of a ewe or lamb is sad and an economic waste but with a goat its different we have a more personal relationship with the animals just as others do with horses, dogs, cats and even cows.

Pia was exhausted afterwards but a bucket of warm  water with oatmeal and molasses in  revived her a bit. Today the east wind is bitterly cold so she has been kept indoors to recuperate.

Monday 18 March 2013

Pregnant goats and pineapples:Pia takes her time

Pia was mated on 11th October and goats have , on average, a 150 day pregnancy. Today (Monday 18th) she has gone 7 days over the due date (10th March according to Mackenzie). She has a good appetite, she doesn't have a temperature, she grooms herself and is ruminating so is a normal healthy goat. I explained this to Nan Maclachlan this morning over coffee and she said that the, "old folk" used to administer pineapple to induce parturition. My first reaction was that this is another of Nan's wind ups because the, "old folk" probably never saw a pineapple in their lives and even if they did they'd probably think it was a mutant turnip.
Pia yesterday, a normal healthy goat just taking her time

Later in the Post Office I bumped into Jim Stewart a retired obstetrician and told him about this remedy. His response was surprising," there are so many different chemicals in organic things, something like pineapple could have an effect".

Dale spoke to Rebecca the Vet in Ft. William who concluded that everything is normal just keep a close eye on her, have a look every two hours. I didn't think she would appreciate the pineapple story.

Just before we took them up to the hill this morning she (Pia) was offered some tinned pineapple but wouldn't have anything to do with it. Hebe and Acorn the kids gobbled it up. However, her tail ligaments have softened, her udder is filling up and her right side is markedly smaller so it looks as if the foetus has moved into position for birth.

We are in for a busy day..... watch this space.

Thursday 14 March 2013

Thinking like a weasel...a high security brooder house

During the last forty years I have had ducklings, ducks, chicks and hens killed by: weasel, mink, pine marten and fox. Each time it was some security lapse on my part that was to blame.  Now I design poultry houses that look a bit like Securicor vans without the wheels. The first batch of chicks in 2013 has just hatched and they are moving into the new high security brooder house which I designed by trying to, "think like a weasel, a mink and a pine marten."
High security brooder house: Still some tidying up to do

Weasels can go anywhere that a mouse can go and a mouse can get through a gap the thickness of a pencil so even the smallest gaps have been filled. Pine martens are great climbers so the walls are made of plywood with no purchase for claws.The bigger holes under the box section roof have been filled with polyurethane foam and welded mesh. Throughout the materials are tough enough to withstand a pine marten's claws. I have had a mink open an electronic door so the pop hole is solid wood and difficult for me to open.

Dull emitter lamp ( in daylight
For the first time I have installed a, "dull emitter lamp" these don't give any light so that the chicks have normal day and night, well almost normal, a fourteen hour day is best so there's a light inside to extend daylight.

Forty two eggs were set 21 days ago and we now have 27 chicks with three more eggs "pipped". Just over 70% of the eggs set have produced a chick which is pretty good, sometimes you get more sometimes fewer......don't count your chickens.......

Sunday 10 March 2013

Tree surgery


During the last five years I have sat at the kitchen table looking down sound of Mull and thinking......".if that lower branch was removed the view would be much improved," Today we carried out minor surgery while completely ignoring the EU working at height directive.


The images are taken from slightly different viewpoints because by the time we had finished the sun was lower and reflecting off the unwashed kitchen window, But now the view down the sound is framed by a nicely curved bough.

Friday 8 March 2013

Snares and delusions

After April 1st there is new legislation in place to ensure humane fox and rabbit snaring in Scotland. All Gamekeepers, Shepherds and Crofters who control foxes by snaring have to have been trained in humane trapping and the requirements of the new legislation. Today we had had the course at Kilchoan "Learning Centre", we were assessed (all of us) as competent and now we can apply to the new National Police force for Scotland for our unique ID numbers. Snares have to be tagged with our numbers, records kept of where snares are set and there are rules covering how snares are made and set.
Is the snare legal?

You may think that this is just another bit of government or EU tomfoolery where you have to have a licence to do anything. Like NVQ Level 1, which says you are capable of walking from A to B , and Level 2 which certifies you to tell someone else to walk from A to B. It isn't. This is a genuine attempt to reduce unnecessary suffering by foxes, rabbits and non-target species some of which are protected.

The course was brilliant; an Instructor who knew more than the trainees who were themselves very knowledgeable, fit, weather beaten, intelligent and  good looking even though they weren't all from West Ardnamurchan......... If you didn't already know it.....Kilchoan is like Lake Woebegone..... the men are strong, the women are beautiful and the children are all above average.

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Moon gardening

Full moon   Jon Haylett
As the moon orbits the earth, on average every 27.3 days, the sun illuminates the that half of the moon facing the sun.  On Monday 11th the moon will be between the earth and the sun and will be "new".  I checked in my ,"Tide Tables". This is the phase of the moon when I should be sowing lettuce and brassica species. Because, according to the ."moon gardeners" the moon's gravity pulls water up in the soil and aids seed germination.

Beeson in an extensive review; The Moon and Plant Growth, Nature, 158, 572 - 573, 1946, found no such effects exist or that if they do, they have no value in agricultural practice.

I have always thought that this is a load of unscientific baloney, "faith based gardening" if you like. You could achieve the same end with a watering can and warm soil.

Friday 1 March 2013

St. David's Day...finish ploughing, sow seeds..

Beinn Hiant 8.00am St. Davids Day
The last two weeks of February brought blue skies, and twelve hours daylight, well almost twelve, the cock is crowing at 6.30 in the morning and the ducks don't go into their house until 6.30 in the evening. Medieval farmers tried to finish their ploughing by the 1st March because the soil is warming up. Its the month to sow seeds and to tidy up the kitchen garden neglected since the Autumn.

The only crop that I'm self-sufficient in is garlic, it grows well here and the bulbs keep until the summer if they are strung up in a dry corner of the porch roof. Homegrown garlic is also the best quality, better flavour than the Chinese imports in the supermarkets and its so easy to grow even in pots if you have limited space.

Too many salads, May 2010
From Easter until Christmas, about nine months I can grow all of the salads I need in the poly-tunnel and outdoors. When December comes around I've had enough of Pak Choi and stringy lettuce so supermarket bags make a nice change. Salads are cheap to grow and expensive to buy, a few packets of seeds of different varieties are enough for the whole growing season.  Its easy to grow too many salads so I make successional sowings once a month, uproot the mature stuff and feed it to the goats, that way we get small, tender leaves.

Its the day for planting a few early potatoes in plastic containers in the tunnel, main crop tatties take up too much ground but earlies are a real treat in June.

One other essential that I'm self-sufficient in is hen, goat  and duck shit. When the stuff is incorporated into the compost bin it speeds up composting. The result is a  long lasting soil improver that retains moisture, provides all of the plant nutrients and its cheap.

The weather in W. Ardnamurchan has been too good recently. Dormouse complained this week about the lack of good stories; living has been too easy, no hardship and deprivation, no drama or disasters.