Tag Archives: farming

Kidding Season

Kidding SeasonIt’s kidding season on Tottys Bend Soap Farm which means spring is just around the corner and new baby goats are bouncing around in our field. Kidding season is exciting and there are many things to anticipate. Will the deliveries go well? Will everyone be strong and healthy? Are we going to have to get up in the middle of the night and assist with a difficult birth in freezing cold weather? These are all things we worry about during kidding season. But so far so good! Our first two does have had successful and relatively stress free deliveries, blessing us with two girls and two boys. Our does will continue kidding from now until the end of May. When our last doe has kidded we will have between six and twelve new baby goats on our farm. Baby goats are just about the most adorable things you will ever see! The cuteness overload of kidding season makes up for all the worrying we do this time of year.

We kicked off kidding season with the birth of two beautiful does, Godiva and Gucci. Godiva was the first born and is the more outgoing of the two. She is brown with white ears. Gucci was born within minutes of her twin sister. She is the first solid white goat kid to be born on our farm. Gucci is a little shy. Daisy is their momma. Daisy is four years old and is an experienced momma. She gave birth on a Saturday afternoon while I was at home and Nate was at the Franklin Farmers Market. We knew Daisy’s due date was near so we were keeping a close eye on her. You can determine a goat’s due date by counting 150 days on your calendar from the time of their breeding or you can use an online due date calculator programmed for goats, assuming you know the exact date of the breeding.

Gucci & N8On our first day of kidding season Daisy ate grain for breakfast and then went out with the herd to nibble on some grass until about noon. That is when I saw her go into the barn by herself. Goats rarely leave the rest of the herd so I knew this was a sign that the babies were on their way! I went to the barn to keep her company and to make sure she didn’t need any help. I sat with Daisy for a couple of hours as her contractions came and went. Soon the contractions were getting pretty close together. She stretched and yawned, pawed at the floor, and began to push when the time finally arrived. Both of Daisy’s does were born in the diving position which is one foot in front, then the face and then the other foot. This is the ideal position because it allows their head and shoulders to pass through the birth canal easily. I was relieved because I didn’t have to reach in and reposition either of her kids which can be very stressful for everyone. As the babies were born I picked them up one at a time and placed each one in front of Daisy so that she could clean them off. This is an important part of the bonding process for momma and baby goats. They learn how each other smells and this will be how they recognize one another. Within ten minutes both babies were standing and walking. Soon they found their momma’s teats and had their first taste of colostrum. I was extremely proud of Daisy for bringing us two healthy, beautiful does. When she was ready I gave her a treat of warm water with molasses and a big basket of hay. She and her new babies stayed in their special stall for a couple of days until it was Windy’s turn to kid.

RockyWindy is two years old. This is her first kidding season. We anxiously anticipated the arrival of her babies because Windy is very shy and does not like to be handled by people. It is always hard to predict how new mommas will react to their first babies, and to us if we need to help. Sometimes new moms get confused and do not want to accept their babies at first. When the time came Windy delivered two bucklings, who we named Rocky and Jimbo. Her baby boys were delivered in the diving position without any complications. It took Windy a few minutes to get warmed up to her new babies but soon her instincts kicked in and she began to clean them off. This was a relief. The next step was to get the boys to eat. This task was more of a challenge because Windy’s udder was very small and the boys couldn’t find her teats on their own. We had to help. Helping newborn goats eat for the first time is extremely tedious! They are clueless and will nibble on just about everything except for the teat that you are desperately trying to place in their tiny mouths. Eventually each of Windy’s new bucklings had a taste of her colostrum and we knew Windy had bonded with them. It took a couple more days for Windy’s udder to fill with milk. In the mean time we supplemented Rocky and Jimbo’s diet with goat kid formula which we fed them from a bottle. Rocky was the first born and was a little bigger than Jimbo. He seemed to be getting enough from his momma and wasn’t very interested in the bottle. But little Jimbo happily took his bottles until Windy had enough for both baby boys. We are still keeping an eye on the boys to make sure they are getting enough to eat and growing like they should. We are also supplementing Windy’s afternoon grain with a top dressing called Mo’ Milk. This supplement is formulated to increase milk production. We haven’t used it before so we are interested to see how it works.

Now the babies are a couple of weeks old and they are running, playing and getting into everything. One of their favorite games is chasing each other around the oak tree. This is the time during kidding season when we are the happiest and most proud because we know our goat herd is healthy and their offspring are starting their little lives off on the right foot.

Fall Leaves

autumnleavesHere in Duck River, Tennessee, we are having one of the most beautiful displays of fall leaves I can remember. The view from our back deck is a kaleidoscope of color. The oaks are showing their deep red, leathery foliage. The thin, crisp fall leaves of the maples turn bright yellow and orange while the poplars and sweet gums are covered in magnificent golden yellow fall leaves. Even the fiery red leaves of the sumacs add touch of beauty to this year’s fall splendor. The peak time to see fall leaves in Tennessee usually begins in mid to late October in East Tennessee, reaches into Middle Tennessee in early November, and spreads to West Tennessee by mid to late November.

Fall Leaves 1While we are enjoying the scenic views this autumn, our goats are loving it because fall leaves are a prized treat. They spend hours each day hoovering up as many leaves as possible. Dried hardwood leaves are a wonderful source of nutrition for goats because they are loaded with many deep-earth minerals like carbon, calcium, silicon, potassium, and trace elements. However, some fall leaves are toxic to goats, especially wilted cherry and azalea leaves. Even a small amount of these poisonous plants can be fatal to goats. Luckily we do not have any azalea bushes and the few cherry trees on our property are out of range. The most abundant hardwoods growing in and around our pasture are white and red oaks, silver maples, hickories, sweet gums, and poplars. We also have a few pines and cedars which make good winter snacks for our herd. It would be awesome if we could rely on our goats to keep the fall leaves from piling up in our front yard. But unfortunately our goats can’t keep up with the huge amount of leaves that fall in our yard each autumn.

Wet Goats 1If it rains on the fallen leaves, the goats refuse to eat them. Contrary to popular lore goats are picky little creatures, as they should be. Too much water in their diet can cause them to become bloated, which is a dangerous condition that can result in death. We’ve had quite a bit of rain lately and there’s nothing our goats hate more than getting wet. They don’t seem to mind the fog or misty fall mornings but as soon as a single drop of real rain hits the ground the entire herd heads for the barn as fast as possible. They will camp out in the barn all day long if it is raining. As soon as the rain stops the goats will come outside again but they will not eat soggy hay nor will they eat the wet fall leaves.

Autumn TreesSoon the fall leaves will be gone, or at least they will have all fallen. Chances are that a good bit of them will stay piled in our gutters and on our “lawn” (a term I use loosely) until spring. We tend to procrastinate when it comes to yard work, especially raking leaves. Right now there are leaves on our roof, on the front porch and the back deck. There are leaves covering the tops of our boxwoods and piled all along our walkway. There are leaves practically everywhere you look. But around here there is always something more important to do than raking leaves, like making a batch of goat milk soap, playing with the baby goats, milking the mamma goats, or enjoying an afternoon view of the autumn trees.

Milking Goats on Tottys Bend Soap Farm

Milking Goats-1Milking Goats is a part of every morning on Tottys Bend Soap Farm. We use milk from our own goats in each batch of our goat milk soaps. Our season of milking goats begins when the first kids are born, which is usually in January, and goes until late fall which is the beginning of breeding season. Making milk requires a lot of protein and the proper combination of vitamins and minerals. That is why when we are milking goats we supplement their intake with a special diet that contains everything they need to produce high quality, fresh goat milk. Our goats also graze and browse outside on pasture all day, every day. The nutrients in their diet is what makes the milk we use in our goat milk soaps so good for dry, sensitive skin.

Of course the female goats are the milk producers. They are called does. Their milk comes in each year when their babies are born. They will produce milk for about nine months. Young females are called doelings. From the time they are babies we handle our doelings every day and prepare them to be good milkers. They learn to follow us from the barn to the milk parlor. They learn to get on the milk stand and to let us handle them. Our goats learn that milking is a time when they get special food and lots of attention which are two of their favorite things. Most of them learn to be patient while we do the milking which usually takes about ten minutes per doe.  Each doe produces about half a gallon of milk at each milking. They are always happy to go back to the rest of the herd when their turn is over (and their food is all gone).

This short movie is about milking goats on Tottys Bend Soap Farm. Watch and you will see how our goats literally run to the milk room for their turn to be milked. You will also see the milking process, which is all done by hand, and some of the special equipment we use.

We make hand made goat milk soap on our dairy goat farm in Duck River, Tennessee. Our soap is made in small batches with milk provided by our own goats. We sell our goat milk soaps in Tennessee at the Franklin Farmers Market every Saturday. Come see us if you are in town!

Barn Cleaning Blues

Barn-Cleaning-BluesWe’ve had several days in a row of beautiful spring weather in Duck River, Tennessee. The goats are loving the warmer days and fresh, green grass. They also really love weeds, which we have plenty of. Some of their favorite weeds are dandelion, plantain, and bee nettle. These and other types of weeds contain nutrients that are very healthy for goats to eat. Goats need lots and lots of protein, carbohydrates, and minerals, especially now that it is kidding season. Kidding season is when the baby goats are born and the mamma goats are producing lots of milk. Here on the Soap Farm, we use that wonderful goat milk to make our goat milk soaps. But don’t worry, there is still plenty for the baby goats too. Dairy goats are bred to be high milk producers, which is the main reason they need so much healthy, nutritious food to eat.

Along with greener pastures and longer, sunny days, spring brings a laundry list of various chores that need to be done. Barn cleaning is our least favorite spring chore because it is one of the toughest jobs on the farm. The hardest part of barn cleaning is breaking up the layers and layers of barn litter that have accumulated over the winter. When it’s cold outside, these layers of manure mixed with wood chips and straw act as a kind of heater for the goats because the layers release energy as they decompose. During the winter we just add dry straw and wood chips when the barn gets damp or stinky. But in the spring its time get rid of all that poo and start fresh again! This year, we had the brilliant idea to put our tiller to the task. The tiller really worked great to break up all of the layers of barn litter which N8 then loaded into our wheelbarrow and dumped in a pile a little ways downhill. Next spring that pile of poo, straw and wood chips will be perfect to use as garden compost.

While N8 was barn cleaning I noticed the other farm critters lounging around enjoying the beautiful spring weather. How nice for them! I also observed the cutest, little inchworm making his way around a fencepost.You can see it all in this short movie we made.