Tuesday, August 9, 2011

2011 Kidding Season

Now that kidding season is a few months in the rear view mirror, I finally have some time to write about it.  This is the biggest kidding season we have ever had- 41 does kidded with a total of 106 kids.

Whew!  I get a little tired just thinking about it.

When I bred all of these does last fall, Andy's recovery from his back injury was going well- he was progressing along well enough that we weren't sure that he would need surgery.  Then he suffered a set back while at a physical therapy session, and it quickly became clear that he would need surgery to fix the problem.  Surgery, which should have been performed much earlier, happened right before New Year's, and kids started hitting the ground about a month later.  I was a little panicked about going into this kidding season so shortly after the surgery, but it was too late to do anything to change the inevitable.

The first eleven days of kidding were fast and furious, with 67 kids hitting the ground, with two sets of quintuplets back to back.  The fortunate thing was that these kids came during a very mild two week period of February.  The unfortunate thing is that mild weather in early February usually means that we are not even close to being done with winter.

And we weren't.

It didn't stop raining until sometime in June.  The farm was totally squishy and muddy, with dry does, milking does, and bottle babies couped up in the barn.  When it did stop raining, the temperature would briefly go up into the low 80's, which was great for the fly population, then drop back down into the 40's, which is not so great for kids.  As I've mentioned before, our barn is at the bottom of a whole lot of hill, so even when it did stop raining, the barn and barn yard stayed pretty damp.  The back corner of our barn had quite a puddle- and right by the milk room door, which the does just loved to walk through.  While the rain was great for growing the pastures, the constant rain made it impossible to get the goats out to graze it, and meant that we went through a greater amount of hay than I had expected to go through.

As a side note, weather that doesn't allow goats to go out and graze is the same sort of weather that doesn't allow hay growers to bale hay. So even though I had put up around 20 tons of hay in the barn during the summer of 2010, I still ran out of alfalfa for the milkers.  There was a gap of over 60 days between the first cutting of alfalfa and the second, which is almost unheard of around here.

We had four more does kid in February, and the balance of the kidding season was spread out between the first and third weeks of March, and the first week or so of April.  After last year's weird kidding season, which seemed to affect many farms, I'm happy to say that everyone pulled through just fine.  I only had to reposition a few kids, and once I got their noses in the right direction, they popped right out, saving me from having to pull them.  We had a pretty even ratio of bucks to does, and I retained about a baker's dozen doe kids and four buck kids for the year.  It was difficult to narrow down who I wanted to keep kids out of since these days, every doe kid kept means a senior doe will probably have to go.  As my "core herd" continues to grow- those would be my finished champions- the number of does I would consider letting go shrinks, and yet I still try to keep room for those slower to mature does, which can mean waiting until a doe is four years old to see if that's when she finally "blooms".

I doubt that I will try to freshen that many does again any time in the near future.  All kids are put on bottles and individually fed- at one point I had 65 kids on bottles, and we didn't use a lamb bar, so that meant picking up each of those kids three times a day and feeding them, plus twice a day milking (which is the subject of another post).  Usually we bring in the kids we are going to keep for some tv/couch time, but this year, there wasn't any time for that.  Near the end of kidding season, my left wrist was shot and required wearing a stiff brace at night and a soft brace during the day.  Fortunately, it has recovered, but I'm definitely thinking of getting several lamb-bar type set ups to make kid feeding, especially of wethers, take less time and less lifting.  I had originally figured that if I had everyone kid at once, then all bottle feeding and kidding chores would be really heavy for a relatively short period of time.  By the time all of the kids from the first wave of kiddings were ready to be weaned, I was ready to be done, but we still had quite a few more weeks of kid work to do.  The spring was so busy with kids in fact, that by the time I got back to my more regular chore/activity load, I felt like it should be around April, and yet it was already June.

So that was kidding season.  I hope to also write soon about our special session of linear appraisal, show season, and a few additions to what we're producing on the farm.