By Violet Thorne
Shearing Jacob sheep is always an exciting part of each year. We get to see how each animal has faired over the winter months, see who looks like they are bred, and get LOTS of new wool to work with over the rest of the year.
The sheep must stay completely dry a few days before they are shorn to get a quality fleece.
When you shear the sheep, you want to do it with the least stress on the animal and you. That means that you don’t want to be wrestling with the sheep, so it is really important to hold the sheep in a way that it feels comfortable and does not struggle.
After the sheep are sheared, they must stay warm and dry until their metabolism adjusts to not having a fleece to keep them warm.
We are excited here on Our Father’s Gift farm as we see beautiful animals born with lots of potential.
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No doubt the success (or lack thereof) of your goat farm over the coming year rests on a few short and crazy weeks called kidding season. For many people, this may be the most dreaded time of the year, but it does not have to be that way. By preparing a few weeks in advance and keeping your does in good health throughout their pregnancy, you will have much more time to sit back and cuddle with those cute babies when they finally arrive. Assuming that your does are already in good health, the next most important thing to prepare is a Kidding Kit. The last thing you want to be doing is running out at the last minute because you forgot something that you need for kidding season. Here is a list of some things that we have found important over over the years.
- Iodine for dipping umbilical cords
- Antiseptic lubricant in case you need to feel inside the doe to correct something (we have used mineral oil)
- Disposable sterile gloves
- Scissors to cut an extra long umbilical cords
- Scale to weigh the kids (we have used a kitchen scale in the past, but this year we are using an infant scale and it is wonderful!)
- Pen and paper to record each kid’s birth weight and other notes such as the order of the birth and sex of the kids, and which mommy they belong to
There are many, many more things that are handy to have around during kidding time, but this is just a list of some that we most frequently use. The other just as important factor to a good kidding season is having your facilities ready. That means you are prepared for any weather, and have a plan B and C too. There is nothing worse than losing kids because you did not properly prepare for their arrival. We like to have our does kid as early in the year as possible so that they are big enough to breed the coming fall and do well in shows. That means we have to be prepared for very cold weather. We also like to give each doe a separate pen to kid in and then let them and their kids bond for a few days away from the rest of the herd. Depending on what your facilities are and what time of year your does are kidding, being prepared could look very different for you. It is a good idea to have everything ready at least two weeks in advance of your first due date, so that you are prepared for any early births and your focus can be on the does.
To prepare our does in the last two weeks before their due date, we start to increase their grain ration to what they need during their lactation. They also get the hair trimmed from their tail and udder to help keep them cleaner after kidding. This also helps before kidding to see udder development and the loosening of the tail ligaments and vulva, signs of impending birth. As their due date approaches, it is a best to keep the does in their kidding pen at least overnight and in bad weather. Our experience has been that putting them away far in advance though only stresses them and (consequently you) unnecessarily, so it is best to let them run with the herd as long as they can. That said, if you are not able to check on them frequently, it would be better to have them safe.
The birth itself is the climax of the kidding season. All your hopes and dreams are hanging on this moment. Is it a boy or girl, is it pretty colors, will the birth have complications, how many babies? Soon all will be made known. The first signs of labor can be easily missed to someone new to goats, but there are some things that you can look for. Most does will move away from the rest of the herd and look uncomfortable. In the early contractions, she will stiffen her hind legs and arch her back, moan or groan and sometimes cry out, and she may stretch, which helps get the kid into the right position. This can go on for hours before anything “big” happens, but is a good sign that it is time to put her in her kidding pen if she is not already there and keep a close eye on her. The second stage of labor can best be seen in this video of our doe, Bella, kidding.
After the kids are born, they should have their umbilical cord dipped in iodine, their weight recorded and then they need to be up on their feet and nursing right away. For some of the large-teated dairy does, you may need to help the kid get the teat into its mouth. As a special treat for the doe, we like to give them 1/4 cup of molasses in a bowl of warm water. Most of our does suck it right down and it helps to replace some of the fluid that they lost during the birth. The final stage of the birth comes after the kids are born when the doe sheds the placenta (afterbirth). She should do this in the first few hours after the birth, but you may not see it because most does will eat it. If you do see it hanging out, don’t pull on it or you could cause the doe to hemorrhage.
Now, all that is left for you to do is to cuddle those sweet kids, and praise God for the miracle of birth!
Written by Lenore Thorne
Hartsville TN Christmas Parade 2015
Alfred (Goat) and Sunshine (Carting Dog) lining up.
Sunshine on the go.
Alfred did awesome in this, his first parade, and helped people remember the real reason for Christmas. So many people were surprised and delighted to see a goat in the parade and a dog pulling a wagon. After the parade was over, Alfred stayed and let people pet him and learn more about goats. For some of these people, it could have been the first time in their lives that they’ve petted a real goat. We are looking forward to next year!
Eggplant Mini Pizzas
This recipe is an all-time favorite in our family due to its quick preparation and wonderful taste! Grain and gluten free. Serves 4-6 people.
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Take one large eggplant, wash, then slice into 1/2 inch thick circles. Do not peel. Arrange slices on a baking sheet. Paint each slice with olive oil until it looks wet.
Eggplant with olive oil.
Next paint each slice generously with spaghetti sauce.
Sprinkle parmesan cheese, salt, basil, and onion powder on top each slice.
Place the eggplants in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until well browned and soft.
Herding and Management
The sheep’s predators and protection: Domesticated sheep are rather helpless because for many years they have been bred to depend upon humans. Because sheep were some of the first animals to be domesticated, they need constant care and attention. They are less vulnerable with a guardian animal, such as a dog, llama, or donkey. When a predator appears, the sheep will run because their only protection is in their speed. If in a corral, they might smother each other in their madness to get away. In southern North America, their main predator is the coyote but other predators include stray dogs, foxes, bobcats, and eagles. Sometimes sheep will simply wander away from the shepherd and be killed by a predator. Most of the time, a shepherd’s whole livelihood comes from his sheep.
Orphans: Orphan lambs, or “bum lambs” as they are often called, can be bottle fed but that is a time-consuming business. What would be best for you and the lamb would be to have a ewe who’s lamb has died take care of it. A ewe knows her lamb by its scent, so a shepherd may sprinkle perfumed powder on the ewe and lamb, until she adopts it. Another way to trick a ewe into taking an orphaned lamb is to skin her dead lamb and place the pelt on the orphan. You should be careful when working with orphans though, because if the ewe does not accept the lamb she might trample it!
Homing and flocking: Sheep have a strong homing instinct which means that they will return to the farm that is their home, following those who know the way. They also have flocking instinct, which means they stay in a tight herd, and if one sheep runs: they all do! This can be helpful (or not helpful) if you are a shepherd.
Sheep, as a job: Shepherding is one of the hardest jobs you can have because it takes a lot of time. The shepherd is with the sheep all the time day and night. You don’t just work eight hours a day and then stop! It is also hard because sheep are so helpless. Yet, keeping sheep is rewarding: most of the time, a shepherd’s whole livelihood comes from his sheep. Take care of the sheep and they will take care of you.
The Good Shepherd: In the Bible, Jesus in sometimes described as the Good Shepherd, and Christians as His sheep. We do truly have many similarities to sheep, such as helplessness and wandering away from the Shepherd. One of the most famous passages in the Bible is written by David Psalm 23 states “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” In this psalm, David is speaking as a sheep and calling God the Shepherd. Learning about sheep helps you to learn about yourself.
Written by Violet Thorne