Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fox Song Farm

I have finally found a suitable name for the farm. I have never been very good at coming up with imaginative names. My soap company name has always been "Rose's Goats". This isn't terribly imaginative. If you think that is lame, I named my barn cat "Kitty". The vet made me change the cat's name because he felt it was too lame. I changed it to a somewhat less lame but still pathetic "KC" for Kitty Cat.

I had always hoped to find a good moniker for the farm. Something that conjured up good images and had a story to it. My husband's company is called "Woods-Edge Forestry". Thus "Woods-Edge Farm" was always a contender for the farm name. The farm is technically at the edge of the woods, so it is an accurate description. And yet, that farm name never really held the mystique I wanted it to.

Last night I figured out the farm name. The farm shall be known henceforth as "Fox Song Farm". This name was decided upon as I received my annual springtime serenade from the family of foxes that live across the street. Every year the foxes come back from wherever they spend their winter and they signal their return by a cacophonous series of nightly serenades. A fox's singing is best described as the noise a pig makes when you hit it with a baseball bat. It's not a pretty sound and it is actually quite startling to hear at 2am when you were fast asleep.

Upon hearing the cacophony, my husband recommended that I go out at 2am in the dark and check on the chickens to make sure the fox wasn't bothering them. I mumbled something about if he was so damn worried about the damn chickens, maybe he should go out there in the damn dark and check on them, and then promptly rolled over and went back to sleep. In the morning, in the daylight, I did check on the chickens and they were fine. All of them were not the least bit upset by the fox songs throughout the night.

One of the reasons I don't mind naming my farm after a varmint is that the fox family that lives across the street have never been a problem (other than their annoying midnight serenades!). They have never broken in to any of the chicken pens or goat pens to harm the animals. They don't even bother my fat, lazy barn cat. He pays them no mind and they return the favor. The foxes have taken advantage of some of my chickens if I left them out to free range without locking them in at night. I have actually used the foxes to rid my coop of certain pain-in-the-butt chickens. If I leave the bothersome chicken out for a few nights, eventually it disappears and I don't have to worry about it anymore. The foxes and I have a symbiotic relationship in that sense.

So "Fox Song Farm" shall be the name of my farm from now on. I am not totally sure where I will use the farm name but I have it set if I should need it.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Being Un"reasonable"

I hate when people put an advertisement up looking for some service or item and they say they want it at a "reasonable price". I have found that most of these people don't really mean that they are willing to pay a "reasonable price", they actually mean they want the item or service "dirt-friggin-cheap or better yet, free".

My definition of "reasonable price" as the seller of the item or service is different than their definition as the buyer. As the seller, I want to get the price that is closest to the actual retail value. If I am selling a service, I want a payment that will cover my time, travel, and materials at their fair market value. I am usually not interested in giving away an item or offering a free service unless I feel the item or service is not worth value to me.

The buyer, on the other hand, wants the lowest possible price. I understand this. I am a cheap person and want to buy stuff for the least price possible. It bugs me when people who are looking for a product or service don't put what they are willing to pay on their ads. I have no way of knowing how much they are willing to pay unless I spend the time to contact them and find out. It is a waste of my time to contact someone who has no desire to pay close to what I want. I just wasted my time giving them a price quote and they wasted their time waiting for my response. I look like a scammer to them because I gave them what they believe is an unreasonable price and they look like cheap bastards to me because they are unwilling to meet my demands. This can certainly hinder future business for both the buyer and the seller due to the gridlock. It can tarnish both peoples names and reputations for sure.

If you are going to post a want ad for an item or service, please put a range of what you are willing to pay for that item or service on the ad. If your stated price is too low, I may be willing to work with you to agree to something we both can feel happy about.

Friday, May 4, 2012


Kids! Kids! Kids! I have too many kids this year on the farm. Since having my own human kid two years ago, I am finding that I have a lot less time for my goat kids. This year I bred three goats. So far I have gotten two sets of triplets. The third goat is set to kid right now. I am already overwhelmed with the kids I have so I am not looking forward to adding more to the mix.

I do love goat kids and enjoy taking care of them. But, I am realizing that I enjoy 2 goat kids more than I enjoy 10. The more kids I have to deal with, the less joy I get out of it. I like having time to play with each kid and get to know them. If I have a lot of kids then I lose that ability because the time I have to spent with each one gets divided by 8 or 10, depending on the number of kids. I only have a certain number of hours each day to play with my goat kids so if more of that time is spent feeding each one and cleaning up after it, then there is less them to spend playing with them and having fun. I enjoy playing with the kids and they enjoy it as well.

My biggest problem with too many kids is the looming dread of figuring out what to do with them all once they are grown. Finding a buyer for goat kids can be hard and getting the price you want for them is even harder. I would like to get a slightly higher price than before because this year all the kids are on CAE prevention. That means I have to pasteurize all the milk they drink and take care not to contaminate it with raw milk. Last year I just dumped the raw milk straight from the bulk tank into the kid bucket and didn't worry about viral contamination. It was a lot less work. I would like to get paid for the added work this year.

Unfortunately my goats aren't purebred and they aren't registered. That is automatically a check against them in the price category. People don't usually want to pay much over $100 for an unregisterable goat, regardless of health or herd status. I do spend a large part of my breeding program on high quality dairy animals. I worry about conformation and udder strength just as much as the fancy breeders with registered purebreds. I want a good quality animal that is going to produce lots of milk for me. Usually that means that it will be very closely matched to what a show quality, purebred, registered goat would look like. Thus even though my goats are not registered, they could compete in the milk bucket as well as the show ring against a more expensive animal.

Any kids leftover after weaning will become chevon in the fall. I don't mind raising up kids for meat. I like goat meat. I am happy to butcher my goats because I know they had a good life while they were on my farm. I don't have to worry about what their lives would be like if I sold them because they will die on the farm they were born on. I do feel bad if a good quality animal has to be butchered due to lack of buyer interest. I hope to sell some of the goat kids. I would love to see them folded into another farm's breeding program to produce milk and kids for other people.

Next year I won't be having as many goat kids. I will only have two does that I will be able to breed in the fall, so that will help me stick to that plan. I might try to breed both does to meat heavy bucks so the kids' futures will be destined to the dinner table. That way I won't have to fret over what to do with my extra kids and I won't have to worry about CAE prevention because they won't be used for breeding. I hope I will have a better time next spring with only 3 - 6 goat kids expected.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Changes in the herd

I have a feeling that this year will be a year of transition for my goat farm. I have six goats on my “keep” list but I know I can’t keep all of them.  Currently I can house and care for five adult goats through the winter. That’s all my barn can hold and that’s all I can handle. This doesn’t include breeding bucks since they get sold or butchered in December. This also doesn’t include any kids born in the spring because they are also sold or butchered by December. 

Normally I breed anywhere from two to four does each fall. This provides me with four to twelve kids each spring and lots of fresh goat milk. I am realizing that while I love goat milk and use it for tons of stuff, I don’t need 3 gallons a day. One gallon of that goes back into the kids. Half a gallon of milk goes into my family. The gallon and half that is left is fed to the neighbor’s pigs or I try to sell it. I am not using almost half of the milk I get each day. This is a waste to me in time, energy, and lovely milk. I could easily just milk two goats all the time and probably get plenty of milk for the kids and for my family. If I have five goats in the barn, I need to figure out which of them I will breed. Thus I need to make some decisions. 

There are currently three goats that I have no plans to sell or get rid of. One is my wether Angora, one is my soon-to-be-retired Alpine doe, and the other is an Alpine kid to be used as a breeding replacement for the retiree. The wether and the retiree will not be producing next year or any years after that. They won’t be making kids or milk. The Angora does produce some mohair but he is more for decoration on the farm than anything else. The replacement doeling is too young to breed this year but I have plans to start breeding her next fall. She should be a productive animal as soon as she is big enough. This helps eliminate three of the goats from the breeding line-up this year.

The three remaining goats in the group are a mix of older and younger, Nubian and Alpine does. There’s one 4 year-old Alpine who produces great milk and has a beautiful udder but she always has twin bucks, regardless of who she is bred with. There’s a 3 year-old Nubian who is really pretty and from good breeding stock but she’s dumb as a brick. Finally, there’s a one year old ¾ Nubian/ ¼ Alpine who is very pretty and hasn’t been bred yet. Being ¾ Nubian makes her slightly stupid but hopefully the ¼ Alpine part is the part responsible for the brains. Due to my barn constraints, one of these (or more) has to leave the farm this year. 

 There’s a shortage of Nubian breeding bucks in the area so trying to breed pure is tough. This makes me hesitate to even have Nubians at all. I could switch to a Boer buck for my Nubian does, but that would pretty much guarantee that I would be eating all of those kids. I would like to breed the partial Nubian to a full Nubian buck to bring in the longer ears. She has shorter ears and if I could get a brightly colored but long eared doe out of her I think I would keep that instead of her.  Although, there is no rush to do this since she is only a year old and has a lot of breeding time in her. The full Nubian always produces beautiful and colorful kids so she is worth keeping productive as a breeding goat. 

The Alpine is a great goat but she always has twin bucklings. She has had twin boys the past 3 times. I have used three different bucks and she still gave only buck kids in return. She has yet to kid this year but I would eat my hat if she has anything other than two bucks. I love her personality and she makes great milk but a lot of joy comes from the different types of kids I get. If she is only going to have bucks then she is losing a lot of her charm in a hurry. (I know that the male gamete determines the sex of the fetus but please explain to me how she can have twin bucks every single friggin’ year!)

In the end, I have a tough decision to make. I have to decide which of my goats is going and which is staying. Hopefully it will work out and the decision will get made easily. If I can find the right happy home for one of these goats, I will gladly watch them go.