Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Final Four

With the NCAA men’s basketball field released today, this seemed an appropriate title.  And because our goat herd stands at four as of this past week, “The Final Four” seems an even more appropriate – timely, anyway – title.  So, no this post is not about basketball; rather, goats.

Three years ago, we decided we wanted to get goats.  We ended up connecting with a friend of a friend who wanted to liquidate his small herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats.  So in April 2012 we suddenly found ourselves with a mama goat (Cinnamon) and her three kids (Sugar, a female who had been born the previous year) and Merry and John (twins who were several months old).  John was an extremely skittish buck, while Cinnamon and her girls were more social.  We turned John into a wether (read: we castrated him) with the hope he’d settle down a bit.  He didn’t, and we ended up giving him to our farmer friend Mr. Woodward, who really wanted a goat to add diversity to his farm.  (Unfortunately, John was killed by either a roaming dog or a coyote shortly after arriving at Mr. Woodward’s farm.)  Sugar turned out to be not so sweet, and we ultimately gave her back to the man from whom we initially acquired her.  That left Cinnamon and Merry, who we attempted to have bred in the spring of 2013.  They were boarded at a local farm for a couple of cycles (you know what I mean), but didn’t end up pregnant. 

Akea with Merry, Cinnamon, and Sugar in the goats' early days at the farm.
John.  He was a pretty goat, but not too fond of people.
In the fall of 2013, we ended up acquiring three more Nigerian Dwarf does: Bailey, Clove, and Clove’s baby – err, kid – Spot, along with another doe (Clove’s older doe offspring) who we immediately gave to Mr. Woodward.  Bailey turned out to be a sweetheart, while Clove and Spot lacked in social skills.  That winter, we boarded Mr. Woodward’s buck, who the kids dubbed “Stinky” – if you’ve ever been around a buck, you understand their choice of moniker! – along with the doe we had purchased for Mr. Woodward.  Stinky made Merry his girlfriend (again, you know what I mean), but showed little interest in the other does.

Bailey has never met a person she doesn't like -- especially the guy who feeds her.  Clove is the goat with the large horns, and Spot is barely visible in the bottom right corner.
A better photo of Spot.
Our heifer Rachael had no problem spending the winter with "Stinky" (the white goat) and the other goats.
It turned out Bailey had been pregnant when we got her, as she gave birth in January 2014 in a quite eventful way.  Bailey is a rather petite girl and was, it turns out, too small to give birth naturally.  After consulting with our neighbor vet friend, who inspected Bailey and said she was not going to be able to deliver naturally and would die without proper vet care, we drove Bailey over an hour to a livestock vet late that night so the vet could perform a C-section and save Bailey’s life.  Bailey came through the procedure just fine; her baby, a doe we named Louisa, was miraculously alive (the vet said she wouldn’t be) following the C-section.  Unfortunately, Bailey rejected her baby and our best efforts to help Louisa thrive failed.  We followed the vet’s advice to get Louisa euthanized less than 72 hours after she was born.  That was tough to do, as we all quickly became attached to the little thing.

Bailey and Louisa.  Notice the shaved patch on Bailey's fur, as well as her scar from the C-section.
We all loved Louisa.
It turned out Clove had also been pregnant when we got her.  She gave birth in February 2014 to a buck we turned into a wether and named McLaws and a doe we named Andora.  Both thrived incredibly well!  Clove underwent a transformation from skittish to tolerant bordering on friendly and was a great mama!  Nonetheless, we gave her to one of Mr. Woodward’s friends, who wanted a doe.  By the beginning of April, Clove had moved to her new home and Mr. Woodward’s buck and doe had returned to his farm.  We were left with Cinnamon, Bailey, McLaws, Andora, and, as it turns out, a pregnant Merry.  Our herd of five was getting ready to grow to eight!
Andora, McLaws, and Clove the day the babies were born.  Yes, they were sleeping standing up.
On April 17 of last year, Merry became a first-time mama, giving birth to not one, not two, but three babies!  We named the two bucks (who we turned into wethers) Little John and Gremlin, and the little doe Nutmeg.  As had been the case with McLaws and Andora, a farmer friend came over to disbud the babies, meaning they would not grow horns.  Merry impressively nursed all three babies and they thrived.  Also like McLaws and Andora, the triplets developed sweet and loving personalities, and were very fond of humans (including kids!).
Merry and her triplets (Nutmeg is pressed against her mama and has her head on Gremlin, while Gremlin is leaning on his brother Little John) very shortly after the babies were born.
Merry and her babies (clockwise from bottom, Nutmeg, Little John, and Gremlin) at about a week of age.
In the past week, we made the tough decision to reduce the size of our goat herd.  Simply stated, eight goats were too much to handle.  They’re essentially pets, as we’re not using them for milk or raising them for meat.  They’re great for weed control, but it’s a hassle to move so many goats around to the areas that need their attention.  We decided four goats is a manageable number and selling four would be a good way to bring our goat expenses closer to green than deep red.  We decided to sell McLaws and Andora as a pair and Cinnamon and Merry as a pair.  McLaws and Andora joined three does at an area farm on Wednesday; Cinnamon and Merry left Saturday morning to become the first goats at a local family’s farm.  We feel good all four are in good hands.  And we also feel much better about our four-goat situation.  Bailey, Little John, Gremlin, and Nutmeg already seem so much more relaxed.  Or maybe I’m confusing how I think they feel with how we feel.  Whatever the case, four goats is plenty!
It was difficult saying goodbye to McLaws and Andora...
...and especially Cinnamon and Merry.
Oh, and I’m picking Kentucky, Arizona, Duke, and Virginia in the Final Four, with Virginia over Kentucky in the national title game.  Sorry, I had to throw that in there.

- Byron

Thursday, March 5, 2015


I started to title this post "Cows," but that would have been a bit inaccurate.  A cow, of course, is a female bovine that has had a baby.  Or maybe that's not accurate either, given many farmers call female cattle that have had only one calf "first-calf heifers."  So with this said, maybe the title should be "A Cow, Two First-Calf Heifers, Three Heifers, and a Pair of Steers."  Or...  Never mind.  The point is to put a fitting title in place and that has been accomplished, albeit in a non-catchy way.

To date, we've now had 16 different cattle at the farm.  It all began with the Holstein steers we raised back in 2011.  We then got a black Angus cow and her heifer calf two years ago.  In September 2013, the mama cow (the kids named her Flower) had a bull calf, which we gave to family friend Mr. Woodward as a thanks for all he has done for us.  In the spring of last year, we sold Flower to Mr. Woodward, after he had kept her for the winter so she could be bred by his bull.  Flower was a bit too aggressive for my taste and Mr. Woodward really wanted her.  She's since had another baby.

Flower and her bull calf in the fall of 2013.  Just look at her eyes; you can tell she doesn't like me!
We also purchased my friend Melvin's two old cows and their steers in September 2013.  The steers were not weaned and our attempt to wean them resulted in serious damage to our hoop house.  (The steers went THROUGH the hoop house to get to their mamas!)  We decided to sell the steers at market; they weighed 755 and 815 pounds -- way too big to still be nursing!  The cows had been with a bull into the spring of 2013 and we hoped they were pregnant; however, as nine months from the time they had been with the bull came and went, it was obvious the cows were not pregnant.  As we hit December, we decided they were too old to have bred and that it wasn't worth it to feed the large ladies hay throughout the winter.  Off to market the cows went.  They weighed 1,605 and 1,210 pounds.  Big!

Cinnamon and Merry inspect the new arrivals in September 2013 -- two cows and two big steers.
The cows we bought from Melvin were friendly enough -- especially if you had a treat for them.  (In this instance, they were lured in by an alfalfa cube.)

We still have Flower's heifer -- the kids named her Rachael -- who is now nearly two-and-a-half years old.  She's been spending this winter at Mr. Woodward's with his herd, including a bull; as she's been there since September, Rachael should have her first calf in June or July.  (So will Rachael become a cow or a first-calf heifer?)  As we bottle-fed Rachael and have always been very hands-on with her, she has a great disposition and I'm really looking forward to having her home in the next month or so.  Hopefully she hasn't adopted her mama's disposition!

Rachael at Mr. Woodward's farm in December.  She should have been about three months pregnant when this photo was taken.

We also purchased six black Angus cattle this past December from a farm in a neighboring county: a three- or four-year-old cow, two two-year-old cows (or first-calf heifers, or whatever!), a young heifer, and two young steers.  As they all came with numbered ear tags, we just call them by their numbers (instead of giving them proper names).  So, we have #15 (the cow), #14 and #10 (the first-calf heifers), #1 (the young heifer, who is still nursing her mama, #10), and #5 and #6 (the steers).  On January 20, #15, who we were almost certain was pregnant when we bought her, had a heifer calf (the kids named her Cedar, as she was born under a cedar tree).  So, we now have seven cattle at the farm, plus Rachael who is just a couple of miles away at Mr. Woodward's.  We're definitely going to sell some of the cattle in the fall and will post more on that later.  For now, we're waiting to see if #14 is pregnant (she looks it), as well as #10.  Yes, we need to wean #1 off of #10, but are waiting for the grass to start growing before doing so.  We just hope the hoop house doesn't once again become a victim!  - Byron

The six cattle we brought home in December settled in right away.  They were with a rather large herd at the farm from which they came, so having more room was, I'm sure, a pleasant change for them.  #15 is furthest to the left.  She's the most friendly of the bunch and will almost definitely be one we still have next year at this time.
#15 with her baby, Cedar, immediately after she was born on December 11.
Cedar at nearly two weeks old.

I'm back...

... sort of.  Actually, this is Byron.  With Laura back at work full-time for the past couple of years, time for blog posts had all but disappeared.  We've been talking about it lately and have decided to work together to try and start posting with some degree of frequency.  Much has changed at the farm in the past nearly two years (one year, 359 days, to be exact) since Laura last posted, but much remains the same as well.  It's our desire to try and bring our farm to life in the posts to follow and give you a vicarious farming experience, if that's what your seeking -- or, at a minimum, a window into our world at Green Legacy Farm.  Given we both work full time and continue to follow pursuits that take us off the farm with more frequency than should occur for a truly sustainable farming experience, it's probably fitting the photo accompanying this post was taken this past fall in Colonial Williamsburg, 100 miles away from the farm.  But, appropriately enough, there are cattle (American Milking Devons) in the background, if you look closely.  On behalf of Laura, Akea, and Charlie, welcome back!  - Byron