The light at the end of the tunnel

More months have gone by, time seems to go quicker than ever.

I had a successful kidding, which means no real disasters, although at times a bit stressful as I started to go back to work when a few where still due. Night-shift and a relaxed attitude are not me!

Some of the kids where rather small at birth, but all by a few have caught up. My adults do a good job raising them.

kids sitting on hayrack

rest before action

It turned out there are resistances to multiple wormers which caused considerable trouble, but at the moment I seem to have it under control. Nevertheless it is a major concern, in this wet climate parasites thrive.

A while ago I made the decision to move again, which is a long drawn out business when land and livestock are involved. At last it seems to be happening.

The main reasons are the missing infrastructure here, my “local” abattoir is 45 miles away. a 1 & 1/2 hour trip one way. By the time I pick up the meat I traveled 180miles! More local abattoirs where just messing me about or did a sloppy job. With these huge distances involved it is very difficult to run a profitable business, not only because of the fuel expenses, it is also the  time spent sitting behind a wheel. To me as well sustainability is a main concern and I can’t really plead to buy local where the cut-off point is about 65 miles.

My animals don’t seem to be very happy here either, so since I love to please them 🙂 I thought to look for  newer and greener pastures…

Details will follow in further posts, I am a bit superstitious counting the chickens before they hatch.

Talking of which, after months of confinement the ducks and chickens can again enjoy their freedom and I was looking forward to some healthy happy and free ranged eggs. Non of the chickens seemed to be laying much until I spotted Gerald my Patterdale to going in the henhouse, taking one egg after another, enjoying a mid-day snack!

Well, I put an end to that…

Since I have made friends in this area, I will be returning every so often, so my valued customers will still have the chance to buy my Boer goat meat as before.

I plan a few changes in my system of keeping and raising them, but more about that later.

At the moment I enjoy watching the kids play inside and out since the summer doesn’t seem to be too bad so far…

kid standing up to wheelbarrow

Oh, hello!

New Year, New Start

Happy New Year to you.

I have been absent for quite some time now, the result of accumulation of ill fate or perhaps just life’s events and the consequential physical, mental and spiritual fatigue on my behalf.

What I thought of the result of other factors was in-fact the Schmallenberg virus which affected my herd of Boer goats in the late summer of 2014. It first shot through my head when my kid “Frances” was feverish and lethargic whiles others where still skipping about and eating. I tossed this thought aside, as I never heard or red much about this disease after the initial surge in the UK 2011/2012 and the odd rumour that this ruminant illness would be about.

When my goats started to abort, losing their foetuses, I asked vets and the AHVLA (animal health department of the government) about the possibility of Schmallenberg which they negated.

Kidding time came and it turned out to be the dreaded Schmallenberg virus, which showed its ugly head with mis-formed, crippled, blind, weak and seemingly healthy kids which started fiting after three days of their short lives. Vets and the AHVLA where not interested, both referring to the other, saying it is not their business. Admittedly nobody could have done anything, but it would have given me some kind of acknowledging support. I basically was alone with all the questions of the world and a loss of 80% of the herd’s birth rate average.

Not very good for mental health I have to admit, and certainly not very good for business health either, especially just trying to re-establish after the move to this place. I had seven live kids instead of the expected 35 or so, three of which are female and one boy was partially blind.  Luckily I had some growers from the previous year to sell as meat, but I had to keep the head fairly low instead of pushing for sales.

With all this I had to find myself a job outside the farm gate to pay the bills and keep going until things would perk up again. I had a lot of help from some friends whiteout which things would have been quite bleak. Micro businesses and or small scale farmers are not note worthy and dismissed as hobbyists with no hope of support. In the mean-time in the West Country some investigating activities are ongoing, so maybe the future will be a bit brighter for those who will be hit by this horrid disease. It is very depressing to watch and I have plenty of questions about the long term effects of the virus nobody wants to answer so far, maybe time will help to tell.

For the moment last year’s kid are growing well and the does are looking good also. I acquired a new buckling who was busy and I can’t wait for the results coming March. 🙂

some goats resting in shed

Siesta for some

 

buckling looking through gate

new boy Bowen @ 11 month

I spent a little time to do some thinking between external and goat-work and I planned quite a few changes this year after my kidding season.

My terrier Gerald found a badger and got battered quite a bit, he needed some patching up. For economical and sentimental reasons, he is on a curfew now. After dark, or even before he has to go on a lead. Thing was, Gerald slipped through a fence and Pinto my Lifestock Guardian Dog (LGD) and I couldn’t follow (we are too big!), we had to go the long way around!

Pinto does his work, because of the set-up here his job is a little unconventional, but he is on patrol at night keeping his eyes on the land and potential trespassers (2 and 4 legged) are warned off.

We had some frost, the weather was fairly kind last autumn and it has been said that things will be better this year. I do hope so, especially the weather, I am a little excited to implement my plans and using some new skills. But for now I will be pursuing my external job and keep things ticking over until the spring…

Another year end

As the year draws to an end, I realize how quick 2014 it has passed.

Not the best of years I have to say, no actual progress and loads of negativity. In October a goat kid was stolen, very sad and again very unsettling. Further unfortunate events mean that my breeding program has been jeopardized and I am not sure what is happening when yet. It looks like kidding will be split in two periods.

I planted a few trees and carried on observing this rush infested land and it turned out to be good to wait. With the strange weather patterns we had I got a good idea what is happening and what I can do now. It all takes time. This patch of land took years, even decades, to ruin by neglect and mindless use of heavy machines and it will take many years to get right again.

This seem to be something visitors and passers by don’t quite see! Constant remarks about the state of the fields and suggestion how to remedy the problems just dragged me down! Pouring and spraying chemicals on vast areas to get me out of a predicament seems to be general consent. I only see them as a quick fix, a sticky plaster rather than a cure. Yes, the state of the land is bad, and I am not sure whether I will have to resort to the chemical solution or whether I will find an alternative. Since it seems to be impossible to find contractors with useful tools and a will to work, the job will take longer doing it myself, but I can take the holistic approach slowly but effectively. At the end of the day I always have done what I believe in no matter how big the opposition or how difficult it was. I try harder not to get demoralized by other people and just hold on to my vision they can’t see!

Not all was bad, after a fashion I had my concrete floor in the goat shed and their yard, and now I see it as a blessing. The whole area is clean and bright, easy to work in and the foot problem seems to be under control. Unsuitable genetics and the constant wet when we moved here, as well as an overaged population of goats contributed to the scald and rot.

So, everything with chronic foot ailments and those beyond a certain age had to go. Removing the infection improved the situation dramatically.

I have, for years, worked hard on developing a herd of Boer goats capable of living on the poor ground and the wet climate. I have made progress, although I sometimes doubted whether the Boers a suitable for anything else than intensive systems with loads of processed feed. I am now left with a small herd of young animals well adapted to an extensive summer system and being yarded in the wet winter.

It is also very interesting to notice that changes are very slow to adapt to by animals. We move them around from one part of the country to the next, to totally different systems of doing things always expecting them to go along and perform their best. The longer I observe their behaviour and learn about their nature the more I see that animals are very rooted in their surroundings.

I have sold a few kids, it looks like to forever homes, I have kept some for myself and I must say that this years was very good, they have done well.

Boer kid on hay rack

Dana

My Fjord horse had a colt foal, now six months old, so she was on maternity leave for part of the year. He will be weaned now and I can carry on with light work with my horse. The foal will come up for sale, there is no use for too many animals on the ground until it has been restored. Also it is sometimes tricky to do everything single handed, so I will leave the training to those who have the time, help and the facility for doing a good job.

Fjord foal

Dag 4mths

My Mastino pup Pinto has almost grown up, he still likes to devastate the place by raiding bins, playing with flowerpots (with and without inhabitants!) shredding anything he can and stealing my shoes. He has stopped chasing goats, he leaves the ducks and chickens alone and doesn’t mind the horses. After the goat was stolen he is out on the yard and at night he has access to all fields as well. Feral cats and foxes seem to be under control so far and he is a good friend for Gerald.

 

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And finally I have started to go to food festivals and selling the meat again. I missed that I have to admit.

I have tried various abattoirs and butchers last year, but I was not satisfied with the work they’ve done. Now I go back to the one I have used years ago and I am happy with the job. They are sadly a way away, there is always a waiting list, but I get my carcasses hung and butchered to specification, and they do a tidy job!

I have more plans for 2015 to add to my product list, but for now I can recommend winter-warming spicy hot dishes with my delicious diced Boer goat meat 🙂

For me Christmas time is a time of reflection, introspection. A time to close a chapter and get ready for the new.

Thinking about life’s lessons, experiences dreams and whatever else has happened this year, it is all in the past. The days are getting longer now, soon it will be spring and a new cycle will start with all its riches, new experiences and new ideas. I am looking forward to 2015 and it is up to me to make the best of it.

I wish all of you, dear readers, a happy new year, health, prosperity and that your dreams come true!