goats, goats, goats

goat breath

Just in from hoof trimming, and sheesch does my back ache. Let’s just say if the goats were on facebook, they would not “like” a newly created “2012 Hoof Trimming” page.

I don’t know how professional horse farriers bend over hooves all day, it’s such an akward angle, and the struggle attached to the hoof has alot of get and go. Goats, luckily, are smaller and have less weight to throw around than a horse. But goats still have alot of force and alot of will to resist.

Today was a perfect day to trim, as the huge amount of snow we got yesterday is melting and all the hooves have softened with the moisture. Attacking mature goat hoofs after a dry spell is only asking for trouble and struggle. It’s quite insane how thickly the hoof walls get as a goat ages. May’s hooves remind me of my Mom’s disgusting “corns” that developed on her big toes. This solid keratin hoof wall means I have to use both hands to cut through with the hoof shears. And you know how many hooves a goat has? 4. And each foot actually has two separate toes which need sharp attention. By my simple calculation, each goat has 8 points needing work, and I have 10 goats, which means I have 80 individual hooves to trim. I won’t brag, because I didn’t do all of them today. Two of the youngsters are most likely not pregnant and two of the new goats came with nice trim hooves- so I got to put those four goats off til next month. Pheeeew!

For some reason, goats absolutely love to smell your breath. I really haven’t a clue why, unless they are comparing notes on what was for lunch. This breath huffing happens whenever they can get their face close to mine, and hoof trimming day is a great chance for them to get their fix, the little weirdos. I don’t care, I mean, if they don’t mind I forgot to brush my teeth this morning….but it’s terribly frustrating when I can’t see what I’m doing due to my hair falling in my face as I bend over nearly upside down with a goat leg between my knees, the leg and the goat yanking, twisting and bucking to get away, while I hold very sharp pointy shears and attempt to complete my objective. But this breathing my breath thing while I do this? Come on! Then the goats start taking liberties. My hair gets nibbled, then chewed and then tugged on, Metallika rubs her face on mine, proceeding to burp and then cough up fermented-cud-breath right in my face. I appreciate the snuggliness of what they want to do, but it’s just bad timing for me. They are such opportunists, those goats, taking advantage of me in my compromised scenario!

beautiful milking

After a perfect morning with the animals (have to enjoy, these don’t come often) we headed off to the east to go visit a local dairy farm I’ve been in touch with on Facebook for some diversion and perspective. Getting out and seeing how others do their thing is mighty refreshing. Heidi & John of A Wise Choice Dairy and Farmstay graciously gave us an in-depth tour of their farm, milking parlour, barn and lovely lovely cows. These two are totally new farmers, like us, and they jumped whole hog in dairy farming from scratch. I so admire their honesty, dedication and good work. I especially love their honesty and sharing, it’s been a rough road for them to learn milking cows at their new farm, but they are doing it. It’s heartening to know other newbies are trying to make a go of farming, in a time when so many farmers are nearing retirement, or pulling out of the business because it is such a hard business to make a profit (a living) in. They took part in Farm Beginnings through the Land Stewardship Project back in the early 2000’s, and now in 2012, they own and operate their own dairy farm—it’s just so exciting to know these dreams can come true, but also very real to see it can take YEARS for it those dreams to come to fruition.

When we came home, it was nearly my own milking time. We had an exceptionally warm day today, and the snow is melting big time. I had a cup of homebrew in hand after chores, wandering around and observing our space. Little Valentine, Metallika’s daughter who’s our bottle baby, ran around in the softening snow with Belle, who mobbed her with wet puppy mouth at every chance. They are quite a pair, and no doubt Valentine will soon be headbutting Belle into the ground when she grows bigger than her puppy playmate. The sun is up so much later than a month ago, how very wonderful! As I washed and dried udders and teats, I thought about the cow dairy setup we saw today, which was far more advanced than me and my lean-to milkstand, one-at-a-time goatmilking setup. I feel grateful for our simplicity here, and I love the close personal interaction with each goat. They do drive me crazy sometimes, but we are getting into the swing of things nowadays. It feels good. I don’t ever want to be milking so many goats I don’t have this time and attention to detail, even though lately I’ve been conspiring to someday have a professional goat dairy and cheesemaking operation. I love sitting on my oak stump next to my goat as I milk, hearing the chorus of ducks in the background, and smelling dinner cooking through the walls. As Brenna came up to the milkstand, I heard some curious honking noises, and scanned the horizon. From the East came two pristine white silhouettes and the noise of clowns honking their buggle horns, or something similar to that. It was a pair of trumpeter swans flying low over our farm, and I felt that rush of goosebumps to see and hear them so close. What magic can be absorbed in my outdoor milking parlour!!

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