Wednesday, June 12, 2013

It Sure Feels Like Summer

Here on an island in Puget Sound north of Seattle we have a saying that summer starts July 5th.  This year May was wonderful (but wet at times) and June is like summer.  Most days in the 70's and some reaching 80 or more.  We have not had any rain this month at all.

My job away from the farm is selling real estate and as most of you know the market has picked up.  This has kept me busy and put me behind on my farm work.  I took the day off from most of my real estate duties and finally got the duck yard fixed.  Last year the little ducklings kept escaping from the yard so I built a new fence between the duckling yard and the goat (buck) pasture.  The goats living in there destroyed the last fence so I beefed it up and put hardware cloth along the bottom to keep the ducklings in.  I don’t mind them going into the buck area but then they go under the gate into where the does live – and where our dog that lives with the goats also resides.  He likes to eat ducklings, so that is not good.

Momma Duck and her 24 Ducklings in their new house
We had two ducks hatch 24 eggs last month.  The first batch I moved into our chick brooder room, and then 10 days later when the second batch hatched I also move them in.  The two mother ducks fought and I had to remove one of them (the one with blood on her).  The remaining duck had no problem raising all 24, so that worked out.  Today I moved them all to the duckling yard where they can feast on bugs and weeds and get sunshine.  They will stay there until they feather out and then be moved into the regular chicken/ duck yard.  Late fall I’ll butcher all but three of the girls who we’ll keep for next year’s crop.  The Muscovy duck is very low in fat and we love the breasts marinated and then grilled.  Most of the meat on the Muscovy duck is on the breasts so I have been just cutting out the breasts, skinning them and disposing the other parts.  Kind of wasteful but I can butcher 20 ducks in an afternoon, vs. spending an hour on each one skinning them.  Forget trying to pluck them, I’ve tried that and it is nearly impossible.

The new fence separating the duckling yard from the buck yard
We had five goats kid this winter/spring.  Surely, my favorite goat of all time, kidded in January, one doeling and one buckling.  They are 50% Nubian (Surely is Nubian) and 50% Boer.  The Boer bucks are from South Africa and are raised for meat.  I have been told that a 50%’er will hang at 20% more than a pure Nubian, which is considered a “dual purpose” goat (meat and/or milk).   We sold Surely’s doeling (for $200) to a person wanting to raise meat goats.  More and more goat meat producers are going to this hybrid and then breeding the 50% Nubian/Boer doe back to a full blooded Boer buck.  The results are a good tasting goat that grows fast due to the rich Nubian milk.  Surely’s boy we have kept and will have butchered next spring.  His name is Icy – as he was born in a frigid night in January.  When he was born he seemed fine, then crashed.  We had to take him in the house, stomach feed him twice and let him sleep by the wood stove.  The next morning his mother rejected him and I had to bottle feed him for three months.  My mistake was not getting him dry enough, fast.  I now use a hair blow dryer to get them worm and dry.

Starshine at three months
Alure had one kid, a little girl that I named Starshine.  She was born in March on a very cold, clear, star-filled night.  Last year Alure had three kids and we thought she would again this year as she was huge.  Starshine was interesting as she wouldn’t eat.  For 10 days I had to hold her and pry her mouth open to get the bottle in.  Once it was in her mouth she would eat.  Then we had to train her to nurse on her mother as I hate bottle feeding goats.  That took another week of prying open her mouth.  After getting her fill of milk she would tuck her head under my arm and go to sleep.  She is the sweetest kid I’ve ever raised.  We now have her for sale for $200.  She’ll make an excellent pet as she is so friendly.

I have a love/hate reaction to bottle feeding goats?  The first three days (and nights) I go up to the barn every TWO hours to feed them.  By the end of the week I'm a wreck and usually come down with a cold.  What I love is holding them when they are young, watching them nurse on the bottle and they look up at me with their big eyes and you can see and feel their love.
We bought a new Nubian goat last winter – Spots-a-Glow, who we call Glowy.  Glowy kidded in March, one boy and one girl.  The girl went back to the breeder that we got Glowy from as part of the deal and we kept her boy and are raising him to be our Nubian buck.  I’m not happy with Glowy – she doesn’t give a lot of milk and her teats are small, so I now have her for sale for $200.  If you know anyone who wants to buy a cull have them contact me.  The problem with buying an adult goat is “why are they selling her?”  Farmers don’t sell their prize animals and I only want prized animals.
The way to buy a good goat is to buy from a top breeder, usually a kid as they are in the business of producing prize kids.  You take the risk that she’ll grow into a fine animal but if the breeder has a good track record, the risk is worth it.  After my experience with Glowy we went to a local breeder (the one we got Surely from six years ago) and bought a doeling from her.  Actually paid for her before she was born, and we paid top price ($600).  We named her Willow Rose and so far we are really pleased.

We have one more goat to kid, Daisy Mae is due this Saturday the 15th.  Her mother is Surely and she is a 50%’er.  We bred her to a Boer buck last winter so I’ll find out if the theory is correct.

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