Just another February week, beginning in sunshine and ending in snow at the coast! We have over ninety of Elvis's babies; there are only 15 more pregnant older goats. The younger goats will give birth later on in spring.
Baby girls leave for our nursery annex, where Annie is hand-rearing the fifty girls already born this spring
Our annex is private, so that Annie has the peace and rigorous routine necessary to keep an eye on each baby
Osa must sniff each new, unsteady arrivalat the annex
Four-star accommodation with extra blankets for newborns
The oldest babies are drinking formula, which means we have fresh milk
Fresh milk means fresh goat milk ricotta
Rebecca makes the first batch of our highly anticipated 2011 ricotta
Life and death on the farm. Our accountant and her family buried Napa, their cat of 15 years, in the garden
It was a soft, warm February day for our first farm tour of 2011. We had a friendly group of visitors, and most of our tour guides, to hear the farm's history and day-to-day work schedule, to meet the pregnant goats and watch the first babies swagger in Tony's Pen, to nibble a fresh chevre on sourdough in the hayloft.
Getting ready for the first farm tour of 2011
Ryan pauses to inspect the babies in Tony's Pen
One of our most enthusiastic tour guides
She saw how we make cheese from the milk of our goats, and in a minute she'll eat some and ask for more
Our shop has tempting spring goodies and all our seasonal cheeses
The chickens are laying again!
Baby Bath and Baby Bum Balm for your own spring babies
This is Sam, one of our most exuberant guides. On her first tour - Valentine's weekend - a visitor proposed to his girlfriend on bended knee, and she accepted. Everybody cried!
Our first baby of 2011 was born last weekend. She is that luckiest of combinations: a single, female kid. Lucky for her because she got all her mother's resources and will be big and healthy, lucky for us because we keep our does and sell our bucks.
Primavera, our first baby of 2011. Her mother is Unicorn, named for obvious reason - she's magical - and her father is Elvis. Primavera takes after Elvis in coloring
We are bottle-feeding Primavera with her mother's colostrum, before weaning her to goat-milk formula. Primavera will grow up with the next few girls to be born, raised by Annie at our Baby Goatland annex, before returning to the farm to begin their summer on our pastures. Primavera's mother, Unicorn, is back with the pregnant older goats, marked with a band so that we remember to milk her by hand to obtain that precious first milk, full of nutrients and antibodies for the babies.
Rachel teaches Primavera to suckle Unicorn's colostrum. The baby's fur is damp from dribbling her milk at first, but she becomes adept very quickly, and will learn to drink from teats on a bucket of formula soon
Our veterinarian Dr. Andrea Mongini was back with us at the weekend to ultrasound all of our yearling "child brides". Like many larger dairy farms, we track the pedigrees of our herd and make an estimate of how many babies we're expecting and when they'll arrive.
Andrea and Annie check the tattoo ID on our yearling's ear
Checking her pregnancy with ultrasound
Just like a human baby ultrasound.
All of our 65 yearlings and 66 mature does are pregnant. If any of the yearlings were not pregnant, we would probably give them to families seeking pet goats. There's virtually no possibility that they did not have the chance to get pregnant, because bucks introduced to does on heat take their work extremely seriously, barely pausing to eat.
Andrea was enthusiastic about the healthy condition and size of our yearlings, which is great news for their babies and our expanding herd, and the result of Ryan's hard work over the year. We'll raise all the babies in the same way as Ryan raised the yearlings, in small groups sorted by age and personality. Each baby will be tattooed on the ear, so that we can track their pedigree over time (they mostly get names, as well as numbers, and yes, Ryan and Annie do know them by name!).
Our whole herd of milking goats is tubby and slow, the older goats due to give birth in only three more weeks. We give them special treatment - plenty of clean, dry bedding in the loafing barn, plenty of delicious, fortified grain for them to try and squeeze into their distended tummies.
She's expecting twins, at least
We're thwarted in our tender care, though, by rampaging clouds of birds who anticipate the fresh buckets of feed in the troughs, swoop down to feed themselves, and spoil the grain for the goats, who won't eat birdshit, pregnant or not.
I could eat a little more if the birds had left any
Caramel the farm cat is way out of her depth here. A pride of hungry farm cats wouldn't deter these birds. We've tried a hinged cover, made of sawn-up pipe, to protect the trough from bird attack while leaving a space for goats to nibble, but goats like to see where they're going and what they're doing, and are naturally reluctant to feed with reduced vision.
The trough cover, effective against birds but upsetting for goats
Annie and Ryan saw plenty of English farms and orchards with dangling CDs over the Christmas holiday, the flashes of light in the sun seemingly scaring the birds, so we've decorated the barn. They look like nursery mobiles for the baby goats! I doubt the birds will be fooled for long, though, so send your bird-scaring ideas to us. Meanwhile, best wishes for a happy and healthy 2011!