Fiona

Oberhasli dairy goat doe grazing on pasture.

Fiona isn’t due til June 7 and is huge already.  She started developing an udder about a month ago, and her abdomen has continued to expand at an extraordinary rate.  She’s so wide you could set a table for two on her back.  She’s a first freshener and has always tended to run on the fat side; in fact, she didn’t take the first time she was bred, probably because she was too fat.  I haven’t given her much grain throughout her pregnancy as too much grain will make for big kids that may be hard to deliver.  But just looking at her she either has very large kids or maybe triplets.  I’m giving her raspberry leaf to help strengthen and tone her uterus in preparation for kidding.  This will be my first Elliot daughter to kid and I’m very anxious to see what kind of udder he puts on his babies.  His dam had a beautiful udder, and I’m hoping that is something he will contribute to his offspring.  He already puts a gorgeous head on his babies and a lot of width of frame.

The Busy Season

Oberhasli dairy goat kids playing on tires

Spring means babies and we have a beautiful crop of Oberhasli kids this year.  All but one doe has kidded and the count is four does and three bucks for the Obers and my one Alpine gave me a doe and a buck.  There’s one more Ober doe due to kid in June with cross bred babies.

Oberhasli goat kid

Elliot puts a gorgeous head on his babies.

Tunis sheep and Oberhasli dairy goats grazing on spring pasture

We continue working on fencing, but it’s a long, slow process with only Jon and our son-in-law working on it, with occasional hired help, and only having weekends to work on it.  And when it rains, like this weekend, it’s a huge setback.  Sixty-five acres is a lot of perimeter fence.  We did get a section done for the milkers and sheep to go out on.  Hopefully soon they’ll have another section done so the horses can go out.

20160712-IMG_2751

We’re expanding our sheep flock and will be adding a ram and four ewes in late May.  I love these sheep, so easy and low maintenance.  We’re also bringing in some new Oberhasli bloodlines with the purchase of two doe kids, one from the Buttin’ Heads line and another from Haycreek Oberhasli.

 

The garden is very small this year but we’ve been eating some lettuce, radishes, kale, arugula and spinach so far.  We’ve planted raspberries, asparagus, fruit trees, blueberries and strawberries.

 

It’s a herculean task starting a farm from scratch basically, but we’re making progress.

Beginning Pasture Improvement

Applying lime to pasture.

Most pasture improvement begins with the application of lime.  We moved here in August of last year and soon after had a soil test done, which of course showed our pastures would benefit from an application of lime.  The previous owners had kept them clipped and used one pasture for hay.  No animals had been grazing on it for I don’t know how long.  The hay field consisted mostly of Johnson grass and was let go to over 6 feet tall before it was cut last fall (we went with an existing arrangement with neighbors who cut and baled the hay).  It was not quality hay by any means.  The remainder of the pastures had “sage grass,” a common name for broomsedge, and a sign of poor soil fertility.  Livestock will eat the young green growth, but as it matures it becomes unpalatable to pretty much anything.  It wasn’t just spotty either, the whole field looked like amber waves of grain late last summer.  So we began research on how to get rid of the stuff.    Apparently it’s not easy once established, but one of the first steps is to restore the pH balance to the soil, thus the application of lime.

Lime ideally should be spread in the fall, but as we were busy getting our old house ready to put on the market and in the midst of our move here it didn’t happen.  It got done a couple weeks ago.  Better late than never.  It takes about 6 months for it to become active in the soil.  Lime is a relatively inexpensive way to really help your pastures.  Here are a few of the benefits:

  • It corrects soil acidity, raising pH.
  • It increases soil microbial activity, which speeds decay of organic matter and releases plant nutrients that may be tied up in roots of the previous crop.
  • It supplies calcium or magnesium.
  • It increases availability of residual and applied phosphorus.
  • It increases fixation of nitrogen by soil and plant organisms.
  • It improves the physical properties of soil.
  • It reduces activity of inorganic substances in the soil, thereby preventing toxicity from aluminum and manganese.

Rotational grazing should also help, and we’re getting the infrastructure in place to begin doing that ASAP.  But I think it will take awhile to see great improvement.

Green

Green grass.

With all the rain we’ve had this winter and the unseasonably warm temperatures, the grass has sprung up early.  It’s a good 4 plus inches around the barn, and I may string up the electric net and let the goats out to graze on it this weekend.

Parsley reemerging from the ground.

The parsley and chives have come up.

20170124-img_4374

Yesterday was just a beautiful winter day.  Sunny and in the 50s, no wind.

Raindrops on tree branch.

But today we start back with rain… and that means more mud.  But I shouldn’t complain, we’re still considered in a moderate drought by the USDA Drought Monitor with several more inches needed to catch up.

 

Morning Rounds

black cat looking out a barn door

I wonder what she’s thinking.  This is a favorite spot of the barn cats in the morning.  They sit in the sunshine for a bit after breakfast and meditate.

Dog sleeping in a sunny barn aisle.

Scout did some meditating of his own today.  We haven’t seen the sun in ages so I’m sure this was total bliss for him.

Chicken in barn doorway.

The elusive chicken.  The previous owners had a flock of banty hens, and we asked them to rehome them as we didn’t want chickens free ranging in the barn.  This one apparently high-tailed it when she caught wind of that plan and hid in the hay field.  A few days after we moved in she emerged from the field and has been a happy little solo hen, although very elusive.  I see her in the morning and know that she roosts in a tree by the house at night, otherwise I never see her.

Oberhasli yearling doe eating hay.

This is Gertie.  She’s one of last year’s doe kids we kept as a replacement milker.  She was too small to breed this past fall, as my Oberhasli usually are.  They’re a bit smaller than Alpines, Nubians, LaMancha and Saanen dairy goats and grow a little slower.  But that’s okay, we don’t mind letting them take the time they need to develop a strong body.

 

A Warm Week

Cats soaking up sun in a barn aisle

Yesterday we had a bit of sunshine with our 70 degree temperatures.  The cats soaked it up while waiting for their breakfast.

Tunis sheep and Oberhasli goats lying in a field in the sunshine.

So did the sheep and goat kids.  It has been unusually warm this week and record highs have been set.  It makes me wonder if we’ll get a really cold blast in February or March when goat babies are being born and the garden is going in, when we don’t need winter to finally make an appearance.

Horse with head hanging over stall door.

Today we are still warm but rain, rain and more rain the rest of the week.

Oberhasli goat looking over a gate.

Without a doubt, the goats will not be setting foot outside during the rain.  They don’t do rain, ever.  Divas.

Things Don’t Always Go As Planned

farmer positioning electric net fencing

The plan today was to finally get the pastures limed.  We’ve been trying to get that done since November but have been battling rain every weekend since.  When you have a full time off farm job, every single weekend counts.   Finally last weekend was cold but dry and we thought it would be a go, but the Co-op closed that part of their operation for the weekend due to a little snow we got on Friday.  Today dawned warm and dry, no rain in the forecast.  Jon headed to the Co-op again, only to find out they don’t cover their lime and it was wet from the rain we had gotten a few days ago.  Frustrating?  Yes.  Like I said, every single weekend counts for us.  *Note the T-shirt, it was in the 70s today, record high.

So we went with Plan B, work on the fence line.  Up went the electric netting and out went the goats to help clear out the brushy overgrowth.

Oberhasli goats browsing on cedar trees.

This is right by the road, which is a very quiet road, but I stayed out there with the goats just to make sure they didn’t somehow get out.  They got shocked a few times and never came near the fence again.

Oberhasli goat browsing a fenceline

But things didn’t go as planned.  They nibbled on the cedar trees, sampled the brushy stuff in the fenceline, and then did this…

Oberhasli goats laying down in pasture

…laid down and just chilled for the next couple hours.  So down went the fence, back went the goats and out came the chainsaw.  Plan C.