Friday, August 8, 2008

Paying their way.

I got into goats a little over a year ago. I'd been reading up on nutrition and foods and cooking and got hooked on the idea of raw milk. Raw milk is nearly impossible to get legally in most of the US, so I decided I would have to tackle the problem directly. Enter milk goats.

I lucked into my LaManchas. It's a longish story, but you just need to know the ending - I have LaManchas that were bred for taste (non-goaty) first, production second. They produce enough that I'm not wasting my time milking, but since my husband refuses to drink the milk, eat the cheese, or eat the meat, he doesn't think they justify their feed. You know, the weeds and bushes. (OK, so they eat a little bit of grain, and hay in the winter, but still...)

I've finally managed to convince him that goats are worthy animals now. You see these little girls? They did the convincing.

We bought them from the organic pig farmer we just bought some finished hogs from. These girls had a bit of an eye infection that he couldn't treat with drugs, so we got them inexpensively, mainly to have around when my sister's son, the Great Pig-Boy, visited. He's obsessed with pigs.

Their infection healed up nicely here with individual attention and lots of goat milk. One thing I had to do was wash their eyes out twice a day for a few days. Have you ever seen greased pig wrestling? Why do they grease the pig? It's not necessary. Truly. Those little buggers can wriggle out of anything. I tried to explain the process to my sisters, but it got too involved, what with the squealing, Houdini piglets, the horrified horses looking on, the curious goats and disdainful sheep checking the situation out, two girls insisting on talking to me from outside the pen and demanding answers right then, and my border collie. My dear, sweet, infuriating border collie whose brain and listening capability go right out the window when he hears a piglet squeal. He was begging me to just let him take care of it. Eye-washing-time was a circus. This has gone off track...

Back on track...

I read in a homesteading book that one pound of milk is equal in nutritional value to one pound of pig feed. Pig feed is $25 for a 50 pound bag right now. The goats gave me at the least (Physion and Ariel) two pounds of milk per milking (twice a day) and at the most (Tamari, Tiffany, and the recently departed Fifi/Wonky Teats) four to six pounds per milking. That was more than the piglets needed, but they slurped it all up and grew big and fast and cheap. I fed the goats one pound (for the light milkers) or two pounds (for the heavier milkers) of a grain mix ($10 for a 50 lb bag) at each milking. The savings was enormous.

After two weeks of feeding the pigs so cheaply, my husband noticed I hadn't bought any pig feed and asked what was up. I told him what I was doing. Now he thinks the goats are ok. He's trying to plan out how many calves I can feed with the goats next spring. Oh dear. But he's further on the goat wagon than he was before.

I hope I haven't lost you, because you'll want to see this.

Remember Fifi/Wonky Teats? I mentioned her earlier. She was on our farm for a few months but had to be rehomed to a family where she would be the only milk goat. Her temperament demanded it.

Fifi wouldn't get on the milk stand. I could find no physical reason for it, but she wouldn't do it and she stood so nicely out on the pavilion that I didn't push it. I would just stick the grain bucket in front of her, sit down beside her and milk her out. She got the nickname Wonky Teats because her teats were, well, wonky. You couldn't control the dem things. Just when you got one aimed consistently for a few squirts, it would change direction. My cat, Ghandi, took to hanging out by me when I milked Fifi because he got to clean up the misses.

Once when I was milking her, the pigs were squealing right by the fence. See?

One of the squirts landed smack on the nose of the smarter piglet. She liked that.

Every morning after that, she'd see me come out to milk Fifi and she'd come running.

Pigs are smart, smart creatures.

And here's a video for the Great Pig-Boy. Enjoy!


Nita said...

Did you get high speed? I love the bigger posts and higher quantity of pictures!

Love the story of hubby and the pigs. They can be stubborn creatures, can't they? (hubbies not pigs, haha)

We poisoned a batch of pigs with ranunculus (common buttercup) because we thought it would be safe, since it was OK for the cows graze it, well the roots have a large amount of toxins, and pigs like to root. We only lost one out of 7, and we used raw milk, and homeopathic Arsenicum Album. I think the homeopathic alone would not have given us such a good outcome, those pigs were sick. I think the raw milk was the real savior here.

Sarah said...

Oh, thank you Nita!

Our internet here is so spotty. We live only five miles outside of the nearest town, but internet's still very much a "bonus" out here.

I had no idea that buttercup roots would be toxic to pigs. Glad to know that. I think you're right that the raw milk had a lot to do with healing your pigs up. These two girls made leaps and bounds in their health once I started getting the milk to them.

Cindy said...

The Great Pig-Boy LOVED your photos! Those are really great shots of one smart pig. So where is Fifi now?

Sarah said...

Wonky Teats is now living with an older lady who wanted one goat, just one to give her enough milk just for her. She has ten cats and a goat now. If Fifi dries up (not likely), I'll breed Fifi back to my buck and then take the babies off her hands once they're weaned so that she doesn't have to deal with babies. It was a win-win-win situation for her, for Fifi, and for me.

Danielle said...

Oh too funny! I love the photos and even made Jim watch the video with me. Gotta love farm life.

Bryce and Candice Blood Family said...

Ha ha ha! Sounds just like Matt. I've been catching up on all your new posts and love all the new pictures. Your kids are growing so fast and I love all that they are learning about farm life. Brings back a lot of memories from my childhood. So fun! I did notice that their aren't many pictures of mom...

Bryce was doing chores for his boss all last month and he missed where one of the hens had been laying and she just hatched 3 adorable baby chicks. They are so cute. We love watching them grow (we live in their guest house, or the farm house/barn house as the girls call it).

KB&kids said...

Thats funny. I'll have to show the kids they will love it.