Tag Archives: goats

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.

Winter Goat Care

Winter Goat CareWinter goat care on our farm means stocking up on nutritious feed, administering supplements, and preparing for kidding season. While there is no milking to do at this time there are still daily chores and special preparations to make. My favorite part of winter goat care is getting ready for the baby goats to arrive!

Winter goat care begins with acquiring and storing high quality hay. During the winter, our goats are unable to get enough fresh, green forage from the pasture so they rely on us to provide them with an abundant supply of good hay. We seek out certain types of hay like clover, alfalfa (which is very hard to find where we live), orchard grass, perennial weeds and Bermuda. Alfalfa is the preferred choice for many dairy goat breeders because it has a high level of digestible calcium and protein. Goats need lots of calcium and protein when they are in milk production. Milking goats can develop hypocalcemia if they do not consume enough of these important nutrients. This dangerous condition, also known as milk fever, can result in death. Therefore, if we can’t find alfalfa hay for our winter goat care, we will feehayd alfalfa pellets. These pellets can be purchased in 50 pound bags from our local Co-op. They are a great source of calcium and protein for our winter goat care.

Winter goat care also means administering oral supplements to every goat in our herd. In our region of Tennessee, the soil does not have enough copper or selenium to meet the dietary demands of our goats. When a goat doesn’t get enough of these minerals in they become anemic and their milk production drops. Signs of copper deficiency include a faded and rough coat, balding tail and face, and very dry skin. Selenium deficiency can cause weak kids and white muscle disease. In years past our goats have experienced these symptoms due to not enough copper and selenium. Thankfully we learned what to do and we now give them supplements that are formulated specifically for dairy goats.

We purchase winter goat care supplements from Valley Vet Supply. We prefer the selenium that comes in a paste form over the inject-able selenium. It is easy to administer and less likely to cause an overdose. The copper comes in capsules. Each capsule contains tiny rods of copper which are released into the goat’s system over a period of time. These are much harder to administer than the selenium paste. We have to load each copper capsule into a contraption called a bolus gun and then Suplimentsforce it down the goat’s throat so the capsule is deposited in their stomach without being chewed. When a goat chews the capsule the copper rods get broken and will not work properly. If this happens or if the goat spits out the capsule, we have to start over with another capsule. Administering supplements for winter goat care can be frustrating but when its finished and every goat has had her share, we feel confident that our herd will have a healthy kidding season when spring comes.

Preparing for kidding season is another important part of winter goat care. Our kidding will start a little early this year. Daisy will be the first to kid. She is due any day now. In the mean time we will be setting up our new video monitor so that we can see what is going on in the barn at night from the comfort of our cozy bed. In the past, when a goat was due to kid, Nate would get up every couple hours and go to the barn to First Kidscheck for signs of labor. Hopefully the video monitor will work out well and he won’t have to go out there in the freezing cold dark night! In addition to setting up the monitor, we will be stocking up on emergency milk replacer, puppy pads (which we put under the newborn kids while their mamma cleans them off), iodine to dip their navels, and treats for mamma goats to have after their labor is over.

Each of these chores is a labor of love because we know we are doing our very best to keep our goats healthy and happy. Like we always say, happy goats make great soaps!

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.

Our Goat Zelda Died

Sadly our goat Zelda died a few days after my last blog about her. The hot, wet weather we had in Tennessee this summer only made the situation worse for poor Zelda. We tried everything we could think of to keep her going but in the end she was just not strong enough to make a recovery.

Zelda was born on our farm in 2012. She was a single doe kid out of Trudy and Blaze. Her mother Trudy, was our favorite goat and was the number one doe in our herd for many years. No doubt with time Zelda would have preceded Trudy as the Herd Matriarch. During her short life Zelda blessed us with three doelings. The first one, Beatrice, is just over a year old now. At her death Zelda left us with 8 week old twin does to care for. We call these girls the “Nuts”. One is named Hazel Nut and the other is Honey Nut.

Our Goat Zelda DiedFortunately our new goat Daisy has graciously adopted the Nuts. They graze with her and find comfort in cuddling with her during loafing hours when all the goats lounge around chewing their cud. Daisy is very attentive to the Nuts and keeps an eye out for them most of the time. Our goat Magic also seems to take an interest in the little orphans. She doesn’t feed them like Daisy does but she likes to babysit every now and then.

It will be interesting to see how the rest of the herd reacts to the gap Zelda left in the group and to Daisy’s decision to take on her legacy. Who will the next Matriarch be? Where will Daisy fit into the pecking order? Will the Nuts inherit their birth mother’s ranking or will they be left on the fringes? Will Magic’s kindness to Zelda’s kids improve her status in the herd? All this will unfold in the months to come as the herd responds to the loss of a sister, mother, auntie and friend.

Our New Goat Daisy is Helping Out

New GoatOur new goat, Miss Daisy, is being a foster mom to Zelda’s twin baby does. We bought Daisy a couple of weeks ago from our friend Bridget. Daisy is originally from South Dakota but she has been a Tennessee girl since she was just a few months old. We are happy to have her as the newest addition to our little goat farm. Thankfully our new goat, Daisy, is a great milker and we have been able to put Zelda’s babies on her for their morning breakfast ever since Zelda got sick.

Zelda hasn’t improved very much since yesterday’s post. She is still grinding her teeth and turning away from everything we offer her to eat and drink. She did like her nutrient drench with extra iron. We are going to try to build her iron back up because the worms have caused her to become very anemic. We gave her an injection of iron in addition to the drench. She is still enjoying her fan and I keep her water fresh and cool for when she is ready to have a drink. If we do not see her drink on her own we will have to syringe it into her mouth to keep her hydrated. She will not get up by herself either but she is able to stand for a few minutes if we help her get on her feet. It is a very touch and go situation and it is hard on all of us emotionally. It is hard not to get discouraged.

Daisy, the new goat, is a bright spot for us during this difficult time. No matter what the outcome is for Zelda, we know Daisy will take care of Zelda’s baby does. Zelda’s doelings still know and love Zelda as their mother but they are no longer dependent on her for milk. That has given Zelda much needed time and energy to focus on getting healthy again. Miss Daisy couldn’t have joined us at a more critical time. We are grateful for her smiling face and all the nutritious milk she provides.

We Have a Sick Goat

Sick GoatWe’ve been nursing a sick goat for a week now. Poor Zelda has been in the barn, away from her other goat friends and her baby goats, trying to bounce back from a bad case of worms. Despite our routine of checking the herd for early signs of parasites, Zelda seems to be suffering from an overload of what are commonly called barber pole worms. Here in Duck River, Tennessee, July has brought a mixture of humid, rainy, and extremely hot days. This type of weather can be tough on dairy goats in our area because it creates the perfect condition for barber pole worms to proliferate. These tiny beasts get into the guts of their hosts and rob them of nutrients, causing anemia and many other complications. Usually proper goat management can prevent sickness but sometimes problems arise as a result of worm overload. That is the case with Zelda.

We were surprised and concerned when Zelda didn’t go to the feeding bins last Sunday. Instead she stayed in the barn away from the rest of the herd. Zelda is our largest and greediest goat of all so we immediately knew she was a sick goat. She seemed depressed and was grinding her teeth, which is a common symptom of pain. Nate checked the color of her bottom eyelids. If a sick goat has worms, her eyelids will be pale pink or whitish instead of a deep reddish-pink. Sure enough, Zelda had pale eyelids.

We gave her a dose of de-wormer right away. She’s also been having symptoms of acidosis, a condition, that could have been caused by the worm infestation, and which caused the ph of her rumen to become unbalanced. To combat this problem and hopefully prevent further complications, we’ve been giving her regular doses of baking soda, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medication, probiotics, vitamin b, fluids, and a nutrient drench.

Right now, our biggest battle is to lift her spirits. Attention and pampering are critical to a sick goat. We bought some all natural fly repellant that really seems to keep the flies from bothering her. I also plugged in a small fan so she has a nice breeze. She loves her fan!!! Companionship is also critical to a sick goat. Goats really need the company of their buddies or they will sink into depression. A depressed, sick goat has a much harder time bouncing back. Depression can cause them to give up on eating and they will lose their drive to survive. To lift Zelda’s spirits, I’ve been spending time with her and giving her treats every hour. She’s slowly beginning to eat fresh leaves and will even eat some hay every now and then. She likes her Tums which help calm her belly and taste good. She also likes her baking soda. Lately, I’ve been giving her raw goat milk yogurt too. She really likes it! It has good bacteria in it and lots of protein. She had made a lot of progress as of yesterday but today, she seems sad and doesn’t want to eat much, not even her treats!

Zelda is a sick goat. Please send some good thoughts her way. She needs lost and lots of positive energy and love. We are not giving up on Zelda, even if she’s a greedy pig, hahaha. Her babies need her and the rest of the herd misses her too. Hopefully, with enough TLC we can get her on her feet again.

Join us on the Arts & Ag Tour!

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Graphics by Nicole Lewis

We are so excited about the Arts & Ag Tour which is coming up May 22nd -May 23rd. The Arts & Ag Tour has become a Memorial Day weekend tradition in Hickman County, Tennessee. This special event is a two day, self-guided tour of Hickman County’s scenic back roads with over 24 stops along the way. Each stop features a combination of farming, art, music and southern hospitality. Taking the Arts & Ag Tour is completely free! You can pick up a free copy of the beautiful, full-color Arts & Ag Tour Guide at Wild Duck Soup Emporium on the Centerville Square or download the digital version from the Arts & Ag Tour website.

Arts and Ag Tour-1Tottys Bend Soap Farm is going to be Stop #11 on the Tour. Visitors will be able to tour our small farm where we raise registered Nubian dairy goats. Our milk parlor will be open for visitors to see where Nate hand milks our goats each morning. Folks will learn all about our sustainable farming methods and how we make small batches of handmade goat milk soaps using milk from our own goats. Our friend Miss Pam will be at our farm to offer hands-on goat milking demonstrations. She will also have a booth with her Star Brite soaps for sale.

Just a short ways up from us on Tottys Bend Road are two more stops on the Arts & Ag Tour. Stop #12 is the Tottys Bend Community Center. This historic building once served as the community schoolhouse. It is also said to be the location of the longest running regular potluck in the United States. Members of the Tottys Bend Community Center have been gathering for a potluck dinner on the second Tuesday of the month for over 40 years. Their monthly potluck is open to non-members as well. During the Arts & Ag Tour visitors to the Tottys Bend Community Center can learn about the history of the building and its members. Light refreshments will be served. Tottys Bend Community cookbooks will be for sale with proceeds benefiting the upkeep of the building.

Arts & Ag Tour signDuck River Rose is Stop #13 on the Arts & Ag Tour. This scenic rose farm is also located on Tottys Bend Road. Owners Larry and Connie Baird are award winning rosarians. They cultivate over 400 rose plants in addition to many other plant varieties. Visitors to Duck River Rose will enjoy a tour of the gardens which overlook the Duck River. Larry and Connie are happy to share information about rose care and how they became interested in roses. Larry will have his handmade garden stepping stones for sale.

The entire Arts & Ag Tour is a family friendly event. There will be a ton of arts and crafts for sale throughout the Tour as well as local, chemical-free produce, farm eggs, grass fed meats, and southern style plate lunches. We look forward to meeting new folks on the Arts & Ag Tour and hope many of you are able to take advantage of this once a year experience.

New Baby Goat Welcomed on Easter Sunday

Maybe we wrote down the wrong due date or maybe Magic really was six days overdue? Either way, we welcomed baby goat Cinnabun into the world Easter Sunday, after several days of anticipation. Cinnabun is our first girl baby goat of the season. Girl baby goats are called doelings and when they get older we call them does. Cinnabun was preceded by five bucklings. The first two, from our doe Casey, are named Bert and Ernie. Then, Orange-y had twin bucklings during the ice storm. They are named Sherlock and Watson. Next, Dot had a single buckling we named Patrick. All of our kids so far this year share the same daddy. He is our herd sire and his name is Blaze.

GoatCinnabun has different coloring than any of the goats on our farm. She is an all over mix of brown and black with solid black legs and a bright white stripe on each side of her body. Her ears are kind of short and flare out like Magic’s ears. Goat breeders prefer long flat ears but we don’t care. We are head over heels for this little goat. Magic is in love with her doeling too! She has kept her new baby goat in the barn since Cinnabun was born, making sure she gets enough milk to eat and keeping her safe. We took mamma and baby out to the side yard for this picture and short video but Magic wanted to take Cinnabun back to the barn as soon as she could. You can see from the pictures that Magic has a very full utter. She makes tons of rich, wonderful goat milk.

Right now we have several of our best producing does in milk. They will continue making milk for the next seven to nine months, reaching peak production in mid-June. Spring and summer is when we restock our supply of goat milk that we use to make our goat milk soaps. We put one ounce of goat milk in each bar of soap we make. Fortunately we use frozen milk when making our soaps. That works out perfectly because we can freeze the milk when our does are in full production, and store it to use later in the year when they have dried off. There is always plenty of milk for the goat kids to eat and for us to use in our goat milk soaps.

We plan to keep Cinnabun in our herd because Magic is such a good milker. We hope she has passed on those genes to her new baby. Over time we will train any doelings we keep how to walk with us from the barn to the milk parlor, how to get on the milk stand and how to behave while being milked. We always want to have a good stock of up and coming young milkers. That way we will always have enough goat milk to make our soaps and lotions.

Come visit us at the Franklin Farmers Market, we are there every Saturday of the year. We are happy to answer any questions about our goat milk soaps. We love our goats and the vital part they contribute to making all our goat milk soaps.

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.