Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Offseason Activities

Well, due to the economy, we don't really have an "offseason" this year.  Three years ago we went to Hawaii for seven weeks and sold goat cheese at the Hilo Farmers Market in January and February.  We rented an actual MIL apt., cooked meals, earned a little money and learned to live off the land, buying fish at the docks and bread from the rack behind the bakery at midnight.  Fruit was cheap and life was good.  We came home to kidding, milking chores, cheesemaking and then markets.

This year, we aren't going anywhere.  Maybe to Seattle for a few days to see the folks.  But, all the markets are expanding into late fall and very early spring, and several more are going all winter.  We have four markets to do this weekend:  Oregon City, Portland Park Blocks, Montavilla and Corvallis.  Lane County will start in another month too. 

Even though we are not vacationing and we are still marketing, we are not actually milking or cheesemaking.  What we are selling now is cheese made earlier in the season.  The goats like a rest while they are pregnant so that all they have to do is grow babies.... not grow babies AND make milk.  Milking in the rain?  Muddy goats?  Yuck!  It's basically a part of being such a small operation.  Our setup is fairly modest.  It's clean and efficient but nothing is clean on a farm in the rain in winter..... and I don't think that makes for the best quality cheese. 

However, we continue to bring the goats in for much smaller portions of grain to supplement their forage and hay.  Grain is limited in the early part of gestation so that you don't end up with overly large kids, especially in multiples.  But we increase their grain and it's frequency as the gestation proceeds.  Bringing them in from the barns and onto the milkstand gives us a chance to check and trim hooves, observe their eyes and condition, replace collars.  Every January we give yearly vaccinations, booster shots, to every goat.  CD &T vaccine.  CD helps prevent Enterotoxemia or overeating disease by helping to control harmful bacteria in their gut and keep it in balance with the good bacteria.  T stands for tetanus which is just like for humans, in case there was a skin break where the tetanus bacteria, which lives in the soil, could enter.  We'll also worm them all mid-gestation and again right before kidding to make sure all the nutrition is going to the kids instead of to parasites.  Finally, the newly pregnant does will get BoSe supplements and then will get them again right before kidding.  BoSe is Selenium in a suspension that is injected.  Selenium is essential for muscle development.  It's normally in the soil and therefore in the hay but not out here in the Northwest.  We are very very selenium deficient here so we give them Selenium in several forms:  a loose granular salt with trace minerals and selenium.  They love it.  David set up a little "salt bar" where they can stick their heads thru a fence to get to the round pans of red salt.  We also have salt blocks with trace minerals and SE that they like to lick.  And four times a year, before being with the buck, after breeding, before kidding, and several weeks after kidding... they get a bigger dose of BoSe.  The OSU vet who specialized in ruminant nutrition gave us this schedule and told us that most cases of weak newborn kids are due to Selenium deficiency.  Most spontaneous abortions also.  When goats just go down unexpectedly, it's often Selenium deficiency.  He said it's worse to give too little than too much.  If they get too much, they just pee it out. 

Anyway, spending time watching movies, progressive political shows, great documentaries and silly stuff just cause we actually have the time to do it.... sleeping in and taking naps, keeping the stove going and the house warm.  Baking lots of bread.  Watching football.  Markets and orders.  And herd health and maintenance.  That's our offseason!

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