Our old goat, Harriet, passed away peacefully in early February.
She struggled with arthritis for the last couple of years and despite taking anti-inflammatory and pain medication, the cold during the polar vortex was too much for her to handle and we made the difficult decision to have her euthanized once it was clear she was suffering.
The average life expectancy for an angora goat is believed to be only 8 to 11 years. Harriet was at least 16 years old (ancient in angora goat years). She lost her front teeth, had her horn cut down when it was threatening to grow into her skull, and still kept ticking.
We will miss her gentle nature in the flock and her unique color out in the pastures.
We had her cremated and plan to spread her remains around the pasture once spring arrives.
With the expanded flock, we needed to make sure all of the goats (especially the kids) could get out of the weather all summer, no matter which pasture they were in. While we already have the barn in one of the large pastures, the other large pasture only had a single run-in shed.
While the goats could all fit in our original run-in shed if they stood fairly close together, in practice they would fight a bit and push some of the goats out of the shed at least some of the time, even before we added Treat and her 2 kids to the flock.
So, we decided to add a second run-in shed so they could all be under cover at the same time without pushing each other around.
We wanted to put it relatively close to the current shed so all of the goats could be near each other. We ordered a custom built shed from a local Amish building group.
First, we had to clear a patch of grass where the shed would go. I used the loader bucket on the tractor to clear out a dirt patch slightly bigger than the base of the shed.
Clearing the grass for a spot for the new shed.
After clearing a spot, we had a load of gravel delivered to create a good base for the shed that would allow good drainage. With the gravel leveled and compacted, we were ready for delivery.
Tessi and Tori, our 2 goat kids, needed a series of vaccines at ages 1-month and 3-months. Our local vet did a on-site farm visit for the first round of vaccines at 1-month old but all of her farm-call openings were booked at the time for the 3-month shot.
So, we took them to the vet’s office in the nearby town instead. It is only a 10 minute drive away. As the kids hadn’t been weaned from their mother yet, we took their mom along as well to try to limit the amount of screaming and crying.
Treat, Tessi and Tori visit the vet.
They were mostly curious to be in a new area with new things to chew on and new rooms to explore.
As we have been married for at least a few years, we occasionally get comments or questions about when we are having “kids”.
Well, that time has finally come – and it’s twins!
We picked up twin goat kids from a local farm last week! They were just born in mid-April. Their assigned names are Testarossa and Torino, but we have taken to calling them Tessi and Tori. Tessi has a white spot on her forehead and Tori has a white spot on her side.
Tessi and Tori cuddling together.
In addition to the twins, we also brought their mother along. Her name is Treat (her home farm has been using food themes for many of their names – other goats from that farm include Applesauce, Lasagna, Taffy, Cabbage, and Poptart). That farm is now using car names also, such as Testarossa, Porsche, Audi, Delorean and Prius.
Without their mother, the twins could need bottle feedings every few hours. With their mother present and taking care of them, they need a lot less supervision and help. However, we hope to spend a lot of time with them and play with them frequently so they get used to people and are easier to handle when they grow up.
Goat kids Tessi and Tori with their mother Treat in the background.
Both of Harriet’s horns had already broken off before we bought the farm – long time readers will remember that Harriet was one of the 2 original goats that came along with the farm from the prior owners.
However, the prior breaks did not completely stop the horns from continuing to grow. Pieces of each of her horns are still growing slowly. The remnant horn growths are called scurs.
Unfortunately one or her scurs was growing but curving back towards her head and was close to touching her skull. It needed to be cut or removed to prevent the horn from pushing against her skull.
We asked the vet to perform the procedure as we hadn’t previously cut or removed a horn ourselves (though we did deal with the aftermath after another goat broke off a piece of his horn). The vet’s initial plan was to just remove a small portion off the tip of the scur so it wouldn’t be touching her skull. Given Harriet’s advanced age and slow growth of the scur, it would have been unlikely that the horn would grow enough to touch her skull again.
However, not everything goes to plan. While the vet was beginning to cut the tip of the horn, the entire horn scur broke off!
The vet had already numbed Harriet’s head all around the horn so Harriet was not in immediate pain. But we needed a way to seal the horn and stop the bleeding.
A local charter school hosted a farm animal day during their day camp over the summer. As one of the few farmers in the area raising fiber goats, we were asked to bring one of our goats to show and explain to the children. That meant another chance to transport one of our goats off the farm.
When preparing to transport a farm animal directly in the car outside of a crate when you don’t have a pickup truck or trailer, it is important to have the right set up so everything goes well and doesn’t ruin the inside of the car.
In our case, we used the cargo area of our Subaru Forester. Here is a picture before goat preparations.
The cargo area before goat preparations.
First, we placed a waterproof tarp over the entire area, folding up the sides where necessary so any fluids remain trapped on the tarp. Then, we installed the temporary pet barrier so the goat couldn’t jump over the back seat. Finally, we placed towels on top of the tarp so it was more comfortable and absorbent if necessary.
You may recall that last year we built a movable goat hay feeder. However, the goats were eating the wood at the corners of the hay feeder so we had to pull the hay feeder out of service temporarily to make improvements.
Using some spare metal flashing, I covered the corners where the goats were most interested in chewing during the first attempt.
Here is a close-up of the repaired corner of the hay feeder.
The second try was more successful. The goats focused more on eating the hay and less on eating the hay feeder.
We used the hay feeder throughout the entire winter of 2016/2017 so far. It is still working well. The goats have chewed and rubbed against a few small areas of the feeder but overall there is very little damage.
The hay feeder in place for the winter.
The new issue that has arisen is the tray underneath the feeder collects a lot of hay dust that needs to periodically be cleaned out. After the winter, we might try drilling holes in the tray to help the hay dust fall out on its own.
After a mild winter, our goats had full, heavy fleeces that needed to be sheared off before the summer heat. With the milder than normal temperatures, they were able to put less energy into staying warm and more energy into growing longer and thicker fleeces.
The local shearer stopped by earlier in the spring to shear our goats.
Here is a quick look at the start of Ruby’s shearing this spring. He likes to start with the stomach first and then move on to the legs and back. This video shows the first few passes across Ruby’s stomach area.
Click through to see more videos and photos of the spring 2016 shearing.
The goats have had free run of the 3 biggest pastures since late September – able to go in and out of the pastures whenever they felt like it. When the new tenant cows arrive this spring, we will need to rotate the goats into different pastures opposite the cows. While this isn’t a problem in terms of the amount of grass they will have available to eat, it does present an issue with trying to feed them a little bit of hay over the summer while the cows are here.
The outer barn has ample space to spread out hay in various locations so all of the goats can feed at once without fighting over it. Once the goats are rotated off of the pasture with the barn to the other pastures, there are many fewer places to spread out the hay. We decided to design and build a new homemade goat feeder to feed them their hay.
Here is a video of the goats testing out the new goat feeder:
Unfortunately, the first test was only partially successful. The goats successfully ate some hay from it and were not able to knock it over or lift up the roof. However, they began to eat pieces of the wood off of the feeder itself around the corners. We had to remove the feeder from service until we can make some small tweaks before trying again.
Click through for a more detailed description of the goat feeder.