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.
A few weeks ago, there was another large snow storm – we got over 30 inches in a couple days.
A picture of the house and main barn a few days after the storm.
We already had over 30 inches in a single storm early in the winter. With this latest storm, it pushed us over our annual average snowfall for the winter.
A panoramic view of the snow from the woods behind the pastures.
Another picture of the pastures from the woods.
Starting a few days after the storm, the temperature warmed up and the snow has been steadily melting since then. We are now down to just a few piles of snow near the driveway. This storm may have been the last significant measurable snow of the winter.
A panoramic shot of the pasture covered in snow.
The animals usually stay inside while it is snowing. The chickens also don’t like to walk on soft snow but they will walk on harder packed snow.
The goats don’t really seem to mind the snow on the ground once the storm stops and the sun comes out – here is a shot of the goats hanging out in the snow next to the barn.
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.
It is now mid-February and we are approximately half-way through our first winter on the farm. The first part of the winter was very mild with limited snow and high temperatures through the holidays. Late January and early February have been much colder and snowier than the early part of winter. The actual temperature hit -23 degrees a few days ago and it was closer to -30 with the wind chill!
How are the goats doing? The goats are doing well! While they generally don’t mind the normal winter temperatures (as they have thick mohair coats), they usually stay inside while it is snowing or if there is a strong wind.
As the fields are now covered in snow and the goats are unable to graze, we have been providing them with more grain than we do in the summer.
We spread the grain around into multiple feeding bins so each goat can get some grain without having to fight for it or wait their turn. The goats typically spread out to separate bins at the beginning. After a minute or so, one goat will decide that another feeding bin is a better option and attempt to move. This often sets off a chain reaction where the goats switch bins to find the best grains. Here is a video of the goats in action:
One morning while tending to the flock, I noticed that Elf’s head was covered with blood. He had broken his horn and was bleeding from the wound in his head.
Goat’s horns are actually a living part of their skulls. As a part of the skull, the horns contain blood vessels and usually bleed when broken. A broken horn can cause significant blood loss, and even death in some cases.
Luckily, Elf’s horns had mostly already been removed earlier in his life and he only had a small scur on his head that broke off. It was a small break so while there was a decent amount of blood on his head, the active bleeding had mostly clotted on its own.
I managed to separate Elf partially from the main herd. By the time I got him separated from the others, the bleeding had stopped. I sprayed his head with a veterinarian antiseptic spray called Blu-Kote. The spray helps prevent infections. It also turns everything very blue to help you tell where it has been applied.
As you can see in the below video, Elf’s head is now blue!
Click continue to see more pictures of Elf’s recovery.
Our most independent hen, Mindy, often spends a part of her day hanging out with the goats. While most of the other hens are either unable or unwilling to get over the fences separating the pastures, Mindy goes right on over the gates to search out the best places to scratch for food.
Below is a picture of Mindy out in the middle of one of the larger pastures as the goats graze in the background.
Mindy out in the field with the goats.
Click through to see more of Mindy with the goats.