Friday, January 7, 2011

Sausage Candidates

This is one of the maternity wards. The doe on the left standing on the beam will end up on someone's table soon, guaranteed. Why? See the baby goat on the right? That's hers and she refuses to feed it. So far, I've managed to get colostrum into the kid by holding the doe by the head every few hours and allowing her baby to suckle, but even that has become a challenge as she continually attempts to kick it, step on it, push me around, horn me and even bite me. I'm trying to graft the little doeling to another fresh goat otherwise it will end up as a bottle baby or die.

Welcome to a livestock farmer's version of crop failure.

It's one thing to have a hail storm take out a season of peaches or the deer come through and decimate the soon-to-be-picked lettuce patch for a CSA. I'm not belittling my produce producing brethren, but their crops don't cry.

Nothing is more heart-wrenching that the hungry wail of a baby. But just like there are plenty of bad human mothers, piss poor mothering skills is often the price we pay for domesticated livestock. Look at Holstein cows that routinely need assistance. Heck, they even make calf pulling devices.

Animal rights activists bemoan farrowing crates for sows, but just yesterday I was talking to a fellow farmer who raises pigs. "I'm all for the heritage breeds, but when I did the numbers, I figured out I'd have to wean ten pigs per sow in order to pay for her upkeep and the extra two months of feeding it takes to get the slower growing heritage piglets to slaughter weight and make enough profit to make this work. And the truth is I could be raising pigs on pasture for twenty years and never hit that average. It's just not going to happen."

Therein lies the make enough profit.

I love my goats and I love having goat babies, but the reality is I should be raising them just like beef stockers--buying in a young kids, raising them and then harvesting, similar to how I raise veal calves.

Over the years I've worked diligently to create a rotational browsing system on the farm and culled the breeding does for parasite susceptibility, bad feet and stupidity. But this kidding season is going to take a toll on the herd for stupidity...bad mothers who walk away from the kids as soon as they're born not even offering so much as to clean the mucus from their newborns' faces or who lay on a gorgeous set of triplets smothering them to death despite my hourly vigilance.

On days like these, switching back to my original plans for a fruit orchard or vineyard are mighty tempting.


  1. I agree with Christine, and I want to encourage you by saying what was said to me at challenging times in my life, "This too shall pass." Which is really true. I've known you 10+ years now and for whatever reason, you always end up on top girl. Hugs!!