Friday 28 March 2014

"Kidding Live" : Blow by blow competition for BBC2

The nation appears to be gripped  by, "Lambing Live" on BBC 2  at the moment; so here's the alternative a blow by blow illustrated account of Pia's kidding. The attraction of the lambing programme isn't just the rear ends of ewes, its the beautiful countryside around Peebles and a "fly on the wall" story of a farming family.

I was loafing in the sun on Wednesday morning, D Day plus four you'll remember if you are keeping up with the programme, when I heard Pia groaning in the goat house. Here's what happened.

Midday     Goat groaning, getting up, lying down, pawing her bedding looking behind her.

 12.10     Candle like string of white mucous appears, this usually means birth is imminent, i.e. within 30minutes.

12.20     Nose and forefeet just visible, much groaning and contracting

12.25     Kid number one flops on to the straw, Pia starts to lick and clean her, part of the bonding process. We know she has two because of the scan in February.

12.55 Much straining and contracting but no kid appears so decide to do an examination, kid is upside down with feet back and head forward so rotate and withdraw feet and head together. Kid number two ends up on the straw.

13.00     Second of two oatmeal coloured kids is well licked and soon on her feet. We have two more female but strangely coloured Toggenburgs.

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Pia's pregnancy : D Day plus 2.

It's 10.00am, it's raining, I've already had too much coffee and I'm still waiting for Pia to produce her twins. She was due on Saturday (Day 150) now its Tuesday (D Day +2). Last time she went to day 155 which is the upper limit for goat pregnancies.

Ruminating, grunting and belching a happy goat.
At 2.00am there was nothing. When I milked the others at 6.30am  there was a small mucus discharge so things might be moving but she is as unconcerned as ever; ruminating, grunting and belching from time to time.

There is a pretty regular sequence of events in the last two or three hours of pregnancy. This may be too much information for some people, if so look away now.

Three hours to go; Goat becomes agitated, calling out, the udder is filling up with milk and may appear quite tight. She may appear to be smaller because the foetuses have shifted and there's a hollow in her flank. The tail appears to be carried higher than normal with hollows either side where the ligaments have gone soft.

Less than an hour to go: Fidgeting even more, breathing more rapidly, standing up then lying down, scratching bedding, doesn't seem to be able to get comfortable. Straining begins and increases in intensity.

Half an hour to go: Thick white vaginal discharge (like egg white) when you see this parturition has begun and you could have kids born within 20 minutes. Straining can become quite violent accompanied by shrieks and loud screams. I thought that Hebe was going to wake the village last time. There is more mucus discharged followed by the water bag and the kids hopefully with fore feet and noses first.

As my colleague Fergus once said, " that's all very well in practice Tom but does it work in theory?". What actually happened will have to await the next post I'm off out to check on her again.

Saturday 22 March 2014

The hill of happiness : Beinn Tallaidh sparkles in the snow.

If you have traveled to Iona by road you will have caught a  glimpse of Beinn Tallaidh (Gaelic: Hill of Happiness) from the A849. I see it full on, almost every day, thirty miles away down the Sound of Mull, from my kitchen window.

In the heat and light of mid summer it is grey and solid , a struggle through knee deep rank heather to the top. Today it's a glittering, epic, alpine peak.

Curtains of snow have swept across the north face during the day, momentarily obscuring all but the highest point . Then after each new layer its back,  brilliant and glistening. It may be just a "Corbett", less than 3,000' more than 2,500' but today, from the kitchen its a colossus among Scottish mountains.

I think I got a bit carried away there, its now disappeared completely in the murk

Goat rodeo : Acorn kicks the bucket!

Super mum Acorn doesn't like being milked.
I started milking Acorn on Monday morning, its been a battle all week. She doesn't  realise that in return for food, veterinary care and comfortable housing she is supposed to provide milk. After each attempt to milk her this week I've been exhausted, she has jumped, kicked and squirmed continuously. I thought she would calm down after a day or two and get the idea that milking,  removes the pressure in the udder and she gets to eat top quality rations while it happens. No way! this morning ended with her hind foot in the milk pail.

Perhaps its something to do with the stress induced by separation from the twins all night. They are in an adjacent pen and they can see each other and everyone looks happy enough. Perhaps we had the easiest of all times with Pia who stood still to be milked from day one.

So I googled,"how to milk a difficult goat" and up came several choices, the first an American site, Granny's best" had a very sound suggestion. If you grip a goat's hind leg above the hock, it won't kick, because of the pressure on the tendon. So a hobble made out of Velcro with a band around each leg above the hock and another band connecting these provides enough restraint without causing any pain or damage and it works! According to the blog.

My next job is to find some Velcro or cow leg bands. With the nearest John Lewis store in Glasgow I'll have to go begging around the village visiting members of the sewing circle or as its known here, Stitch and bitch", to find some that is broad enough and strong enough.

You will have noticed that the photograph above is nothing to do with milking a reluctant goat. Simples.... its not possible to take a photograph while trying to restrain her with one hand and milk her with the other.

Have just found a supplier of Velcro cow leg bands in Spalding, Lincolnshire and a pack of ten is on its way.

Sunday 16 March 2014

Weird goat playful kids

 When you live with animals you quickly realise that they have distinctive personalities and that goats have
Super-mum Acorn with three kids
strong personalities.The two who kidded ten days ago, Hebe and Acorn couldn't be more different. Acorn is  quiet, gentle and motherly, Hebe is  a bit weird, flighty, playful and not at all interested in her kid. Several times a day I have hold her while Clover the kid suckles. Still it beats mixing milk and giving bottles up to six times a day.

The kids have a pretty good life, eating, sleeping and playing but tonight things change, they are old enough to be separated from their Mums at night so that I can milk Mum in the morning then put them back together. This way, milking
once a day, I get milk, they get milk and I don't have to wash feeding bottles. during the night they'll have access to some coarse mix ( starter feed) and hay. The sooner they start to eat solid food the faster the rumen develops and they can be weaned probably at about ten weeks old.

There is a slight drawback to this system of rearing, the kids don't become nearly so tame and friendly as when you are bottle feeding them. this can be overcome by spending time with them in their pen, they quickly become friendly but you have to spend the time on them.

Monday 10 March 2014

Horned goats v Hornless goats

If you keep goats you have to decide, horns or no horns? You can't really mix horned goats with dehorned because they aren't evenly matched the horned goats will always win any battle. Horns get stuck in wire fences and they are at the height of a human eye. If you want to breed and sell kids horns are drawback.

Preparing for the op on the workshop bench
Watching our Vet  "dis-budding" the kids this afternoon I did wonder if the disadvantages of having horned goats were out weighed by the trauma to the goat and its owner. There's a second trauma; the bill for the drugs and the Vet's time.

The horns grow from two little buds on the forehead and to stop them from growing the buds have to be removed. Normal procedure, in the UK, is for a Vet to do the operation because the kids skull is quite thin and its a potentially dangerous and painful op. A red hot iron is used to cauterize and burn out the buds. This may sound and look barbaric but the Vet does use anaesthetics, he's skilled  and its a quick procedure.

They were a bit dopey when they woke up but bouncing around again within an hour. I let the Veterinary nurse hold them. I didn't want them associating me with the day's events.

Thursday 6 March 2014

A busy evening, one pair of twins and a single

Acorn's twins at one hour old
Its after midnight and I've been out in the goat house on and off since 9.00pm. At breakfast time it looked as if Acorn would have her kids today, she didn't want to eat, was very restless and her tail ligaments were feeling a bit mushy. She wasn't really due until Sunday but it is 150 days plus or minus five, she had twins male and female  at 9.30.

Hebe, due on Saturday looked totally unconcerned  at teatime but by ten o clock she was screaming and delivered her single kid at 11.30pm. 

Acorn's twins were up on their feet and sucking within an hour. When I've finished this I'll go out again and check on Hebe before I turn in.