Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Our Farming Responsibility

Any time you breed and raise animals for any reason, you will have to deal with excess animals. Whether breeding chickens for eggs or goats for milk or horses for pets, you will have to responsibly take care of the extra and unwanted animals that may happen from planned or unplanned matings.

When hatching chickens, there is always a chance that you will get roosters. Roosters aren't very useful to the small farmer because roosters don't lay eggs, they can be noisy, and they tend to fight with each other or harass the hens. Hens are more desirable because they are the ones that lay the eggs thus producing something in return for their upkeep. Many people decide to forego the chance of hatching roosters by ordering sexed chicks from a hatchery. This way you are mostly guaranteed to have only hens when you want them. The farmer circumvents the responsibility of taking care of unwanted roosters by laying that responsibility on the hatchery. The hatcheries deal with their extra roosters by either selling them at a discount price or euthanizing them humanely. Any roosters that remain after the orders for the day are filled get euthanized because they cannot be shipped after they are 48 hours old because they will die during shipment.

When hatching chicks on the farm, the farmer has to be prepared for the possibility of high percentages of roosters. The most appropriate way to get rid of extra roosters is to butcher them yourself. Unfortunately most egg laying breeds and almost all ornamental chickens are not good candidates for eating. They take a very long time to mature to any size and the meat can be tough due to the age at which the roosters are mature enough to identify them as roosters. They will provide meat if you are willing to work for it. If you want more robust roosters that might make better broilers or roasters, consider crossing your egg laying or ornamental hens with larger breed roosters. The chicks will be a mixture of the two breeds and may have more meat on them than the purebreds. If you are trying to produce purebred hens that come from smaller breeds then be prepared to have lots of low quality rooster meat to use that will take more time to butcher than it may be worth. Have a plan in place for this problem. These roosters may only be good for stews or chicken stock. Some farmers turn their unwanted roosters into homemade dog biscuits or cat treats. Taking time to consider what you will do with any possible roosters produced is a responsible thing to do before hatching chickens.

Unwanted animals in goat dairy farming are common. Does are the only ones that can produce milk. They must be mated and have kids in order to produce that milk. Bucks are needed for mating but they are not needed for anything else. Wethers can make good pets but are totally useless and can be quite a hassle to feed and house with very little return on investment. Since goats need to have kids to produce milk, there will always be an excess of goats on any farm. Dealing with this excess is very important.

The farmer should take care to breed only as many does as milk is needed. If you want milk for your family of 3, then you really only need one goat to produce more than enough milk. Don't breed ten goats because you will be stuck with lots of extra kids and lots of extra milk, which is a waste. When considering breeding your dairy goat, you should carefully think about will do with those kids when they are on the ground. If you want to sell them as future milk producers then you should breed your doe to a buck who will bring in good genetic qualities that will make the kids good producers. If you want your kids to be for meat then you should breed your doe to a meat buck so your kids will grow fast and beefy. Buck selection is just as important as doe selection with every mating. Don't just breed your does to whatever buck you can find or else you can be stuck with a lot of useless kids. Be careful when mixing breeds of goats.

Be sure to analyze the goat market in your area before you start breeding. Do people want purebred goats who are registered or do they want mixed breeds who produce a decent amount of milk? Is there a goat meat demand in the area? Also figure out what people expect from the goats. Do people want them tame and bottle-fed for family farming? Do they want them dam-raised and wild for brush control? Do they want them disbudded or wethered? What disease tests do people in your area demand? Do the goats need to be CAE negative? Do some planning ahead of time so you don't have dump your extra goats on Craigslist when you need to get rid of them. Watch the markets in your area and talk to other local goat people to see what is most desirable. You may want to raise purebred Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats but if no one in your area will pay the price you want for them then you may have to change your plans a little.

Once the kids are on the ground, you must have a plan for what to do with them. If they are does, decide if you want to keep them or not and where you will sell them if you don't want to keep them. If they are bucks, decide if they are good enough for breeding or if they need to be wethered. Even if you are raising bucks for meat, I recommend wethering them quickly so you can avoid any problems with them breeding your does when you aren't looking.
Try not to sell wethers as pets. Too many people buy them when they are cute and cuddly, then the wether grows up into a large goat who eats too much and takes too much time to care for. The people then either sell the wether to the next unsuspecting chump or butcher him or shoot him or dump him. A wether's life is not an easy one!

Butchering kids is a great way to deal with unwanted goats at home. They can be butchered as newborns and dressed out like a rabbit or chicken. They can also be milk fed and raised to 3 - 6 months old to be butchered out with a little more meat on them. Goat meat is very similar to venison and can be quite delicious. Many foreign countries rely on goat meat. Call your local butcher or slaughterhouse to find out if there is an ethnic demand for goat meat in your area. This may help you decide what to do with the goats you produce.

Unwanted horses are a real problem. If you want to find a free horse, just look on Craigslist on the first day of autumn. You will see hundreds of ads for free or very cheap horses that people are trying to get rid of before they have to feed them through another winter. Horses are a particular problem in farming because they aren't butchered to eat (or at least Americans frown on this practice for some reason) and they usually serve no real purpose. Horses are large and eat a lot of grain, hay, and pasture. They need daily care and usually desire consistent handling. They also can live a very long time. Most farmers do not use their horses for anything that pays for their upkeep. Some horses are used for work on the farm but most are merely enjoyed for recreation.

People like to breed horses because the foals are cute and they dream that they can make money selling the babies. Unfortunately the foals grow up into unruly horses that need to be trained, fed, and cared for. Also horses are a dime-a-dozen in this economic climate so no one is going to pay big bucks for a horse anymore. This leaves us with tons of unwanted horses and no one who wants them. Very rarely is a horse born on the same farm that it lives on and dies on. Most of the time a horse is passed from owner to owner until it finally dies from poor care, starvation, lack of veterinary services, injury, euthanasia, or (rarely) old age. Not many people want to deal with the increased demands of an older horse. Usually about the time the horse becomes 18-20 years old the current owner is trying hard to dump it somewhere where they won't have to pay for its special feed, special hay, and special vet care.

Being a responsible horse owner means being very careful about producing unwanted horses. You may have a wonderful mare who would make wonderful babies but if no one wants them then you are really condemning them to the least humane and most inconsiderate form of life. I believe that no life at all is much better than a life filled with horrible experiences. Take care to decide if you can care for another horse before breeding yours. If you can't keep the foal, why assume that someone else will care for it??

As farmers and caretakers of animals, it is our duty and responsibility to take care to honor those animal lives. We need to carefully consider each life that we create. If we take the responsibility to create that life then we must take the responsibility to care for that life, even if it means that we have to end that life in a humane way. We cannot assume that someone else will care for the lives we create. Thus we must believe that the creation of that life in the first place is our largest responsibility as a farmer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Harvest time.... ugh!

I like to classify myself as a bad gardener. I do all the things that bad gardeners do: I don't weed, I won't thin plants, I never plant anything on time or like the books say I should, I believe all seeds should be sown the same way regardless of being bush beans or pole peas or hill squash, I never water the garden no matter how little rain we've had, and I almost never venture into the garden until it's so full of vegetables that people driving by stop and comment on them. And yet, my gardens grow well in spite of all my lack of efforts. I try to show the plants that I am a bad gardener by neglecting them and leaving them to the wilds. They just keep on growing and producing and coming back next year. I wish they would get the hints sometime.

Then there's harvesting time. Normally this is a time of year when all the better gardeners are singing the bounties of their green thumbs with joy and many adjectives. For me, it's a time of year that is stressful and regretful. I stress over trying to carve out a few minutes each day to pull the stuff from my gardens. Then I stress over the work involved in cleaning and storing the stuff for later use. Then I stress over finding recipes to use the stuff and remembering to buy the right ingredients to make those recipes. Then I stress over the left-overs and making sure that all the wonderful garden stuff gets eaten properly. I also spend a lot of time each harvest season regretting things. I regret that I planted arugula and not radicchio. I regret that I didn't make the garden bigger but instead just crammed everything so close together that I can't find me peas under my cucumbers. I regret that I didn't get out soon enough to harvest the beans before they turned chewy. I regret that I didn't use all the broccoli before it got shoved to the back of the freezer and hopelessly freezer burned. Suffice to say, harvest time is not a very fun time for me.

Maybe someday I will become a better gardener and actually take care of the plants. Hopefully my care will lead to the plants to get the hint and stop producing so much so that my harvest time is nicer. Maybe...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Elite Farmers

I find that sometimes there is hostility between the different types of hobby farmers in the world. I define "hobby" farming as keeping and raising animals without making a profit from them at the end of the year, and without managing the animals as units of business that are subject to consideration due to profits and losses. The hostility I see is between hobbyists who believe that the only way to raise an animal is to do so without shortcuts, chemicals, or modern interventions. The other side believes that the only way to raise animals is to use modern everything and fill them full of chemicals. I try to stay in the middle of those types. I have been attacked by people who when I mention using a milk machine or using chemical sanitizers are taken aback by my losing contact with the natural rythms of the farm. I have also been attacked by people who think I need to drown my animals in chemical dewormers and chemical pesticides every two weeks or else the animals will drop dead.

The reasons why I like modern shortcuts and some chemical formulas are: I have to work full time, off the farm in order to support my family with adequate health insurance. My husband has his own business which, although he makes plenty of money to support our family, he has no access to good health insurance for us. So off to work I go. Also I have a child. She's 1 year old and in to everything. Because my husband has his own business, he is very busy and so the childcare is my responsibility for the most part. I don't mind it because I can still get stuff done around the farm, but that stuff either gets done very slowly while I watch the kid or very quickly when I cram it in after bedtime for baby or during nap time. There have been projects on the list for weeks that need to get done but they just haven't gotten too. If I can find a shortcut or modern intervention that can help me speed up these projects, I am going to jump on it!

I don’t mind using chemicals when I have to. I quite like many modern chemical products. Bleach is one of my favorites and very important if you run a hobby dairy farm. Bleach and other sanitizers are very helpful at getting milk and animal products off of your dairy utensils. It is nice to have clean and sanitized dairy equipment to work with. Nothing is worse than walking into someone’s milking area and smelling sour milk that never got properly cleaned out of the cracks and corners. Bleh!

Also some chemical medicines can be very important when raising animals. Parasites, bacteria, and viruses have great mechanisms for infecting animals and making them sick. Sometimes the only way to kill these germs is to use harsh chemical medicines. I always keep several types of chemical dewormers and several different antibiotics on hand. These have been literal lifesavers in some situations.

The reasons why I shun modern shortcuts and some chemical formulas are: Not everything new is good for you. At what point do you save your animals by treating them with chemicals and at what point do you kill your animals through liver failure and chemical overdose? There’s a fine line in that situation. You want enough chemicals to kill the parasites but not so much that you kill the goat instead.

Some modern shortcuts aren’t really short at all. Using a power saw at the barn to cut some boards might be a great time saver but if getting the saw set up and running power to it takes more time to cut the board, then you might as well get out the hand saw. The same goes for milking. If cleaning the milk machine after use takes more time than the actual milking of the goat, then you might as well stick to the bucket and hand milk.

In the end, I think it is important for every type of farmer to support their fellow farmers. One type is not better than the other. Each farming situation calls for its own set of rules and tools to keep the animals happy and productive. All of us “hobby” farmers need to stick together and support each other regardless. And always remember, the animals come first no matter what.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

When "Free" Animals Aren't "Free"

A friend of mine emailed me today asking if I wanted a rabbit. She had acquired the rabbit at the local Family Dollar where at the entrance she was assaulted by two small crying children and their ratty cardboard box with a sign "Free bunny-very loving-loves to cuddle-we cannot keep her". Apparently the children had gotten the rabbit as a free Easter bunny this spring. The landlord of their apartment found out about the rabbit and told the family that they would have to add $40 to their monthly rent to keep a pet in the apartment. They couldn't afford that so they had to give the rabbit away in the quickest way possible (which was to stand outside the Family Dollar and hand the bunny to a random stranger???). The rabbit was thin and full of fleas. The family obviously not only didn't have $40 for added rent fee but also didn't have $10 for proper rabbit food. My friend rescued the rabbit. She took it to the vet and got it started on flea treatment and a proper diet. She can't keep the rabbit indefinitely due to having too many pets in her house already, so she asked me to take the rabbit once she gets it nursed back to health. I agreed and would be happy to have a use again for my empty rabbit hutch.

While I am glad the rabbit found a happy ending to its story, I am sad to hear about how the animal ended up this way. It happens all the time when people get "free" pets and animals, only to bring them home and learn that keeping an animal is nowhere near "free" to do. Animals require lots of things to stay healthy and happy, and those things cost money. First, they need food. They need a food that is designed for them and provides the proper nutrients, minerals and vitamins to keep them healthy. Second, they need a place to live. Small animals, like rabbits, need cages and large animals, like horses, need pastures and sheds for shelter. Third, they usually need some sort of interaction. While rabbits and cats don't usually mind a lack of interaction, horses and dogs need a lot more interaction, some of which may cost money and all of which will cost time.

This is why I don't make a habit of giving animals away for free. I figure that if a person can't pay $20 for a rabbit or chicken, then they obviously can't pay the weekly fee it will cost to feed that rabbit or chicken, let alone pay for the other things they may need that will cost more money. I would rather eat my rabbit or chicken who I can no longer pay for than to give it to someone who can't pay for it either. At least by eating it, I will be making some of my money that I put into it back. Of course, this doesn't work for dogs, horses, and cats but those are animals that need to be carefully considered before getting, no matter whether they are free or not.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer Update

All is well on the farm at the moment. It's the hottest day of the year here. We're very lucky because up here in the North Country, the "hottest day of the year" means that it is 90F, breezy, and cloudy. It's actually very pleasant right now. We've made out pretty well so far this year in terms of weather. It was a snowy, cold winter -- which is normal for up here. It was then a wet, cold spring -- somewhat normal. That gave way to a sunny, cool summer -- also normal. We've avoided most major weather problems. No crazy blizzards, no ice storms, no hurricanes, no tornadoes, no drought (yet), and some flooding. Hopefully the summer will give way to a nice long fall and we can start all over again.

The goats are good. Gloria, Lucy, and Cookie have settled into their lactations. All are being milked twice a day and doing well. They all look pretty good this year. Even the over-achieving Gloria has been able to keep some of her calories out of her udder and maintained good body condition. The kids are good. Most of them have gone to new homes. I have 2 doelings left that have a home lined up but the people aren't ready for them yet. Hopefully they will leave before November. The boys and girls have been separated. The buck, Rosco, has matured quickly and now must stay away from the girls or else there could be some unintended rendezvous! He is happily living in the buck pen with the Angora wether.

The family is good. Tom is busier than a one armed paper hanger right now. He's been building rock walls, doing landscaping, cutting trees, climbing trees, chipping brush, and building septic systems. As long as the weather cooperates, he is out working. People shouldn't complain that there isn't any work out there. If you need something to do, call Tom. He'll give you something to do!

Emily is good. She loves water and swimming! She gets so excited during bath time that she starts to cry because she wants to be in the water right away. Her daycare has a little pool and a sprinkler. It's always a fight to get her to come home from daycare when she is out in the pool. She wants to stay and swim all day!

Summer is rolling on, all is well.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Teasing out the Truth

I got in a debate with someone over the safety of a particular medication used in goats. During the course of the discussion, the person quoted from a website that sells a homeopathic alternative remedy. The website had all sorts of information claiming that the chemical medication was bad news and that it can cause brain damage. Now, I am not saying that this information was wrong or that it wasn't the truth -- the problem I had with it was a) it came from a website that was trying to sell an alternative to the product in question, and b) the website contained no references, citations, or sources for their information. Nothing at all in the text of the website hinted in the least from where this information had come, or what date it was produced. When I questioned the person who I was debating on the accuracy of their choice of quotation, their rebuttal was that this was just a copy of the information that they had seen in multiple places on the internet -- thus it must be the TRUTH!

The problem I have with that logic is that just because it is copied on multiple websites all over the internet, that doesn't make it truthful or accurate information. Millions of people can "cut and paste" whatever they want from wherever they want. Copyright infringement means almost nothing in the land of the internet. The amount of times a particular piece of information is repeated does nothing to make it more correct. I urge everyone who is doing research on anything via the internet (or any other media form for that matter) to be sure to check references, look for citations, and go to the source of the information. If the theory in question does not have any substantiated scientific proof to back it up, then you should keep on moving. Of course, there are some ideas on the internet that aren't scientifically researched. Those ideas should be examined very carefully and numerous sources should be looked into.

It's incredibly easy for one piece of terrible information to be "THE TRUTH" and live a life of its own on the internet. Look at the whole idea that vaccines cause autism. This idea has be debunked so many times and the original creator of this massive falsehood actually had his medical license revoked and his journal publications rescinded due to the misleading nature of his research into the matter. There isn't one shred of scientifically-backed proof to lead to this idea and yet, it continues to live and breath to this day on the internet. It's taken on a life of its own to the point that parents actually refuse to get their children vaccinated for such horrible diseases as mumps, measles, polio, and hepatitis.

I behoove you to be skeptical when looking up stuff on the internet. I behoove you to look closely at your sources before you use them as proof of your argument.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What is a farm?

What is a farm?

What qualifies a piece of land as a farm?

Does it have to be a certain number of acres? Or located in a certain area of the country?

Or have a certain number of animals on it? Perhaps a certain type of animal or a certain percentage of different types?

Does a place with only 70 chickens count as a farm? What about a place with only 5 horses?

To be a farm, is livestock required? What if you only grow fruits and vegetables but have no animals, does that count?

Or maybe you have to make a certain amount of income from the land to be considered a farm?

What percentage of food consumed needs to be grown at home to qualify as a farm? What if you don't grow anything but you have six pet goats, two horses, and a duck? Is that a farm?

Do you have to breed the animals to be a farm? What if you buy the animals and have them neutered or just don't feel like breeding them?

What if you breed the animals but only live on 1/4 acre in town?

Do you have to come from a farming background to be considered a "farmer"? Is there a genetic or familial qualification that makes people farmers? What if you grew up on a farm but don't have animals or grow food? Are you still a "farmer" because of your background?

How long do you have to have animals or a garden to be a "farmer"? Is there a number of years that makes you qualified to call your place a farm?

What is a farm?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Emily Turns 1!

Emily turned one year old on Monday, June 6. She is a big girl now. Here she is ready to go to the mall and do some shopping. All she needs is a little push to get her going! Before long she really will be going to the mall and not hanging around boring-old-mom and dad!

Emily had a party and I got her special made cupcakes. I had to get them with farm animals on them, of course.

Here is a close up of her goat cupcakes!

Here's the birthday girl ready for her party!!

It all goes by too fast!!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


I really shouldn't procrastinate but I can't help it. I have no reason to put things off, especially considering it has not rained in the last 2 days and it may not rain for another 2 days. I really should be out planting the garden each night and making soap and weeding the garden and sorting the recycling and cleaning the barn and doing fecal sample tests on the goats and walking the dogs and, and, and, etc... I don't know why I am procrastinating. I just seem to not get anything done when I am home in the evenings. Well, other than doing the dishes, doing laundry, doing chores, taking out the garbage, feeding the child and the husband, and tidying up. I really need to do more. Time is a wasting and I need to get on with it! Summer is here! The sun is out and the plants are ready!

Hopefully tonight I can at least get my garden started. We'll see.....

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Adirondack Goat Club

I have decided to create an Adirondack Goat Club. The club will be for all people who have goats or for those interested in getting goats in the future. It's open to all goats whether for milk, meat, or play. Check it out at

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Brain Tumor!

I think I have a brain tumor! If the doctor's were to take a scan of my head they would see a goat-shaped tumor taking up a large part of my cerebral cortex! The reason I think there must be a medical explanation for this is because I can't help myself when it comes to goats and goat-related things. It's totally uncontrollable. It's a tick, an obsessive-compulsive tendency, an unavoidable driving force. There must be a neuro-chemical explanation!

Some of my new symptoms are: Buying a baby Angora buckling to add to the herd; spending 3 hours per day in the goat barn taking care of my goat babies; contemplating keeping a doeling from this year's kids to add to the herd; wanting to start my own "Adirondack Goat Club"; making weird goat-keeping decisions that I wouldn't normally consider (like doing CAE testing and using herbal dewormer).

It's a brain tumor! Eek!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Maybe it's the three weeks of rain we've had recently.... Maybe it's the threat of my employer laying everyone off and moving to North Carolina.... Maybe it's just me and my luck...

I am very discouraged today. It seems like every smug thought I have had lately has blown up in my face. I was just thinking yesterday how well I was managing my goats and how all of them should be very healthy this year with all my good decisions. Karma is a bitch because she reared her ugly head by making my doe, Gloria, sick this morning. She was very lethargic and didn't eat her breakfast. I tested her for mastitis and she tested positive for it in both teats. One teat was worse than the other so I treated the worse one with ToDAY treatment. Hopefully she will be better by this evening when I get home from work. I guess I won't assume that I am doing a good job, just in case karma hears me say it.

Other things have gone that way recently. Every time I assume something is a good idea, it turns out that it isn't. It's very discouraging.

Oh well, thanks for reading about my problems. Hopefully with the promise of sun will come the promise of better things to come.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Baby Goats!

Finally things have settled down enough that I have time to post pictures of some of the new kids.

This is Snickerdoodle. She is one of Cookie's doe kids.

This is Oreo. We call her Double-Stuffed a lot because she is a lot bigger than her twin, Snickerdoodle.

Pepper had triplets all by herself! I was 10 minutes late for the birth and came home to find three cute kids sitting there all cleaned up and ready.

This is Blue Moon. She is the first kid out of Pepper with this coloration. I am considering selling Pepper in order to keep Blue Moon. She is quite a looker!!

This is the buck Rosco. He is very handsome. I may keep him for breeding next year. I love all his gray spots!

Here's all three of the triplets. The one in front is a doe named Silver Dollar. She has a perfectly round silver spot on her side.

There's 4 more Alpine kids in the barn now. I will post pictures of them soon!

Friday, April 15, 2011

That's All Folks!

Kidding season is over now. I had 4 does produce 9 kids. I was there for 1 out of 4 of the births. I missed the other 3 kiddings by mere minutes. Luckily all kids were presented normally and all came out with no problems. Six kids are does and three are bucks. The moms are all doing well and producing milk well.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


The goats are due to kid soon! They can't cross their legs and hold it much longer. Cookie is first up. Being a first freshener, I don't have past gestation lengths to base her due date on. Today she is at 145 days of gestation. Goats can kid anywhere between 145 days to 155 days.

Pepper is next in line to kid. She has kidded twice before at an average of 149 days of gestation. That puts Pepper due on April 7th. She has had two sets of twins for me in the past but this year she looks huge and is already starting to grunt and breath heavy with every movement. I am on the lookout for triplets or quads from her this year.

Lucy is up next. I have her due on April 12th. She has had two sets of twin bucks in years past at 150 days of gestation. I am assuming she will have two bucks this year at 150 days of gestation. She isn't very imaginative when it comes to kids so I would be shocked if she did anything different than this.

After that, Gloria is bringing up the rear. She likes to go late into her gestation with an average of 153 days. She has kidding 4 other times. She had 3 sets of twins and one set of triplets. The set of triplets was a birthing disaster so I am eager to see how she does this year and how many she has. Gloria likes to throw the same color patterns every year -- brown with black trim and white with black trim. She stays true to her Alpine genetics with the color patterns being very classic Alpine in design. I am super interested to see if she gives me kids in different colors than she normally has.

Hopefully the next blog update will be pictures of the new kids! I am praying they all just decide to get busy and all kid this weekend so I don't have to mess around. Here's hoping!!!!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Kidding season is right around the corner. It dawned on me last week that I only have four weeks before the first kids are due. It's time to get everything arranged and be ready for the impending births. This weekend I cleaned all the stalls in the barn so I could move the goats into the kidding pens and get everyone situated. I wanted to put Cookie and Pepper in the kidding pens in the front because those have the heat lamp over them. Cookie is due first on March 31st and Pepper is due a week later. Cookie was living with Lucy in the big stall but Lucy was getting pretty grumpy about that situation so I needed to get Cookie separated ASAP. Lucy was going to have Gloria for a roommate for a while. That would have left the back pen open for the kids to go in. I wanted to use the back pen for the kids since it had been vacant for the winter and the parasites should have starved to death by now. With no goats in there, it wouldn't need as much disinfection to be clean for brand new kids to move into. Well, with Gloria and Lucy not getting along, I had to separate them. Lucy went in the back pen and Gloria stayed in the big pen. Now all the pens are full. I am not sure what will happen exactly when the kids arrive. I will need to rotate Cookie and Pepper out of the kidding pens so Lucy and Gloria can rotate in. Lucy is due when Pepper is. I will probably wind up shoving Cookie in with Gloria so Lucy can have Cookie's pen and the kids can have Lucy's pen. The kids will probably wind up in the house and then the garage for a while, so that will buy me some time before I need a kid pen ready in the barn.

Ah, the joys of goat raising!!!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Myth of Farming

There's a modern myth being supported throughout America today. It's the myth that farming is easy. I have many friends who have decided that since raising animals looks like fun on TV and in magazines, that they are going to give it a whirl. They see pictures of smiling families surrounded by fat and happy cows, chickens, ducks, sheep, goats, etc. They think that farming is as easy as getting some free animals on Craigslist and bringing them home. It's not that easy.

First of all, once you get the animals home you have to have somewhere to put them. I have heard many horror stories of people keeping animals in inadequate enclosures only to have the animals either escape and get killed or have varmints enter the enclosures to kill the animals. It is not usually mentioned in the glossy "farming" magazines that goats can jump over almost any fencing, cows can push through most barriers, and that not much stops a weasel from breaching a chicken coop. Most of my friends that brought their animals home to ill-prepared housing, wound up with dead animals in short order. It's not as easy as just getting the animals to your property and then letting them go to live idyllically with you.

Secondly, once you have secured adequate housing for the animals that keeps them in and varmints out, you must feed the animals. All animals need to be fed on a daily basis. Unless you have a large pasture situation with fresh, free flowing water all the time; you must feed and water your animals daily, if not twice daily. If you live in a location where snow is on the ground for weeks at a time, then you most certainly have to feed your animals daily at least part of the year. They cannot be expected to survive and produce through the winter without gathered forage and fresh water. When considering housing for your animals, you must also consider food storage and water accessibility. If you have hooved animals, then you must certainly have hay. Hay takes up a lot of real estate and is tricky to transport and store. My same friends that brought their animals home to inadequate enclosures, also brought them home to inadequate food and water supplies. The animals that weren't killed from poor housing, died due to starvation or disease related to poor food sources.

Third, animals cannot be expected to live on food and water only. Each species has health needs beyond just food, water, and housing. Chickens need to be dusted periodically for lice, they need to be dewormed occasionally, they need supplemental calcium, and they need the right combination of vitamins and minerals to produce eggs. Goats must be supplemented with minerals at all times, they need to be dewormed periodically, they have vaccinations that must be administered, their hooves constantly need trimming, and if they are milk goats they need to be properly milked every day, twice a day. People don't often think of the other things that go into raising animals beyond food and housing. When their chickens mysteriously die due to massive mite infestation or their goats die from worms, that is when they learn the hard truth about supplemental health care. They don't learn it from TV commercials and movies.

Lastly, animals are a lot of work. Beyond needing to be fed and watered daily, their enclosures must be cleaned periodically, their housing must be repaired, the water buckets need to be cleaned, and the list goes on and on. If you have dairy animals, you must milk them daily, twice a day, every single day. You can't skip a milking just because you have something else to do. This can spell disaster for any milk producing animal. If you have meat animals, then you have to get them from living animals to edible pieces of meat somehow. This takes a lot of thought and effort.

In conclusion, I would like to see more magazines show the true colors of farming. I would like to see people who have learned the hard truths of farming tell their friends and neighbors who want to get animals. All animals deserve to be treated well and ignorance of proper animal care is no excuse for the death of the animal.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Farm Stand Coming Soon?

I think I will try to open a farm stand this summer. I have property that is on a major road and it has an open spot that will fit a small barn or lean-to and a parking area. I would love to sell fresh eggs, produce, crafts, soap, canned goods, baked goods, flowers, and meat from the little stand. My neighbors could all pitch in and send in things to sell. It would be a community stand for locals to sell and buy things from.

My friend and I were talking about it this morning. Both of our jobs are currently in jeopardy with recent budget woes and threats of the company moving to Florida. Neither of us are in a situation where we can move to Florida, so we have to think of something different to do in order to survive. Our location doesn't have many other job opportunities, so both of us are facing possible long-term unemployment. We have decided that if we can start our own little business, that may be enough to help us not fall into a hole of debt and poverty. We are both crafty people with small homesteads. I have goats and chickens and make goat milk soap. She has chickens and cows and grows an enormous garden. We could both produce enough stuff to get a little farm stand going.

The farm stand wouldn't be solely dependent on the stuff my friend and I make/grow. We would also take in crafts and food from other local people and sell it there. It would be like a permanent farmer's market. There's many people in the area that produce more than they can eat and also make crafts on the side. They would jump at the chance to have a location to sell at. The selling could work on commission or volunteer time at the store. There would be no limit on how much stuff you had to bring to sell. It could be as little as a few dozen eggs, or as much as a weekly order of beef and pork. We could also get an ice cream machine and hot dog stand going at the same location. The only rules we would have about stuff for sale would be that it has to be grown locally or made locally. No importing of stuff from large distributors. No mass produced products (except for maybe the ice cream mix and the hot dogs). We would have to follow the laws and regulations regarding sales, taxes, and food preparation.

If I built a small lean-to / barn, that would be plenty of space to put up some shelves and tables to accommodate all sorts of goods. It could be like the larger farm stands that dot the Amish country. They sell all sorts of goods and produce with very little overhead. The stand wouldn't need electricity for the first few years (unless we had an ice cream machine or freezer for meat selling). We might even be able to get away with a dirt floor and only 3 walls for a while. If it worked and we made money, we could invest that money into flooring, running water, and electricity. Eventually the store could be open all year round to sell Christmas gifts and other products to year-round residents.

This is the plan for now. Even if I have a job this summer, I would love to start a little farm stand. It wouldn't have to be much at first, but it sure would be nice for my friends and neighbors (and myself) to have an outlet for our products and produce.