A post about posts – not
Graham R. Cooper
“Don’t Fence Me In” *
I was going to write something to herald the start of our summer. We still have four seasons here (well, sort of), despite the vagaries of climate change.
Unfortunately, I’m so preoccupied with the urgent need to get some very secure goat fencing done that it’s blotted out any thoughts of summer musings. I guess I’ll get onto summer soon – before it’s all over for another year!
Bucking the trend
We’ve decided to bite the bullet and get our very own goat buck. After all, we’ve only spent the last twenty-eight years thinking that we didn’t need one: June’s does have always been able to go to a buck within cooee.
Three and a half years ago we gave a buck kid to a friend with goats, now he’s the only adult buck available locally. Mostly, the offspring our does have had from very close relations with that very close relation have been okay, but there have been a couple of miscarriages. It’s inevitable that we’ll start to get more problems from such non-selective inbreeding. A good reason to start thinking about introducing some ‘new blood’.
The aforementioned buck hasn’t got much British Alpine in him either, and June’s become a big fan of the breed. She had a British Alpine-cross doe that could have her kids in spring, and then keep providing us with milk until halfway through a second winter, by which stage she’d be due to kid again the following spring. Minnie, her daughter, can similarly yield enough into the start of a second winter to supply our milk and yoghurt needs.
As far as we know, the British Alpines are the only sure bet when it comes to getting such good winter production out of them. There is such a thing as a ‘milky doe’ however: a Saanen that will keep producing milk without the need to get her in kid. A friend had a couple of those and milked them year round.
In general, the Alpines are a hardier breed than the Saanens and less susceptible to foot rot. Our first goats were a couple of Saanen-cross does. They were good, but higher maintenance than the Alpines. Saanens have a bland whiteness about them too, whereas the purebred Alpine’s black with white markings are quite striking.
It’s great having goats that, after kidding in spring or early summer, have the potential to milk through not just the first winter afterwards, but also into the start of the second. We don’t want them to kid too often – what would we do with all that surplus meat from year old wethers?
Whenever I talk about goat kids like this I wish we Kiwis weren’t into calling our children ‘kids’. There’s kids and then there’s kids. Sorry kids!
We’ll be able to sell dairy goat does but not castrated males. Somehow, I can’t imagine our friends and neighbours in rural South Canterbury queuing up for goat meat. As for our son and his family, they’re vegetarians. And Saudi Arabia’s a bit too far away to send goat meat to our daughter and her family! Whatever – we’ll no doubt work something out.
June’s been making lots of feta cheese lately and she’s keen to get back into making hard cheeses, like your cheddars and blue veins. She reckons she’ll need to go from two to four milking goats in order to have enough milk to make all those cheeses.
There are butts, butts and buts
We located a breeder in North Canterbury who we know and who used to live in our area. One of her British Alpine does had two buck kids in September and we’re buying one of them once they’re weaned at about five months.
He’ll have been disbudded so June won’t have to worry that her other goats (or herself for that matter), will have horns to contend with when he’s in the mood for butting. And it’s quite a tussle to get the horns of a greedy goat disentangled from sheep netting: all the delicacies to be browsed so much tastier on the other side of the fence.
The breeder tells us that the sire and dam have quiet, friendly temperaments. And as long as you handle them that way, things go smoothly most of the time.
Could be fencing myself in!
I like British Alpines too and am almost as excited as June at the prospect. It’s just the small matter of buck-proof fencing that’s somewhat dampening my enthusiasm.
I’ve successfully side-tracked myself from telling you anything about said fencing, but then I haven’t done any yet! Must, must tell you how I’m getting on with it (assuming I am getting on with it), in my next post.
* Lyrics: Robert Fletcher and Cole Porter (1934); Composer: Cole Porter
That’s all on modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully till next Monday. Thanks for your company. Bye for now.