I had a rare experience today where I actually caught up on my copyediting work by dinner time. Well, I chose to skip dinner and, instead, go sit out in the pasture with my old Pentax K10 fitted with a Sigma 18-125mm. The does were all in a good mood, chowing down on grass in their last month of pregnancy. It was a really lovely break.
I am writing this blog post in response to a thread I was participating in on a Facebook Nigerian Dwarf goat group. Some of the comments that people were making had me in absolute shock. They said they did not like the hand-held Udderly EZ Milker because they tried it a couple of times and it did not work for them. Some of them offered to sell their milkers that had only been used two to three times.
Back when I bought my Udderly EZ Milker in 2007 (or was it 2006?), I think I paid $159 for it. That was the cost of a half ton of hay back then. The Udderly EZ is now selling for $189.95. That is still the cost of half a ton of hay. The reason I was in shock by the comments was because I cannot imagine choosing to make that kind of an investment in my farm and just giving up on it after a couple tries. I would be on the phone to Buck Wheeler or racking my brains to figure it out. But, that is just me. My father grew up during the Great Depression, therefore I am frugal to a fault . Or, maybe it's because of my Asperger's? At any rate, it bothers me that people have bought this product, can't get it to work, and then give up on it.
The picture at the top of this blog post is the Udderly EZ that I bought all those years ago. In the center, you see the original two bottles that came with the milker. Yeah, they look pretty sorry after all these years. I must confess that I did put them into the top rack of the dishwasher a few times--even though the company tells you not to. I discovered that is not really a good idea (maybe they knew what they were talking about?) as the bottles became somewhat misshapen as a result. Fortunately, the top that attaches to the extraction tube was not affected. I just have ugly bottles now.
A couple years ago, I bought the 18-ounce bottles that are round. I love them. They hold more milk and still fit under my does, though at a slight tilt. I just checked the product page for Udderly EZ accessories. They no longer carry the original, 12-ounce, square bottles. But, you can see that you can buy the round, 18-ounce, plastic bottles as well as pint-sized bottles in either plastic (hand wash) or glass (dishwasher but hold onto the bottle when you milk -- you don't want that heavy of an object hanging off your Nigerian's teat!).
Let me walk you through the process of milking a Nigerian Dwarf doe using the Udderly EZ Milker in pictures.
When the udder is almost all the way empty, I will often give the milker another pump or two to help ensure the bag completely empties.
The milker naturally comes off the teat when the bag is empty, so hang onto it. I am one who would cry over spilled milk <grin>.
And now, I have a pen full of happy, QUIET kids. Oh, and one very small yearling doe, Virelai, who is bonding with the kids so she can watch over the doelings once they are moved to the kid pasture (and the buckling PayDay is moved in with the bucks). Ah, yeah, that tri-color would be PayDay getting ready to mount his cousin Coffee Bean. He is 7 weeks old and has about another 3 weeks before he has to say goodbye to his doeling friends. The 10-day old baby in the pink coat is Constellation.
My chores are done, and I can head back to the house. I dump all the bottles, nipples, extraction tube, and inflation into some hot, soapy water; wash; and let air dry until the evening milking. Cleanup is amazingly easy!
Pippin the rescue cat has decided to help show you some of my collection of bottles to use with the EZ Milker. At the far left is one of the original bottles I got when I first bought the Udderly EZ Milker. Next, are the wonderful 18-ounce bottles. Then, you see the large, quart-sized bottles that came with my new Ultimate EZ Milker. And, on the far right are the 8-ounce bottles that are sold for collecting colostrum. I used one in this picture tutorial today. I plan to use a pair of them on the Ultimate EZ Milker (which milks both teats at once) on my shorter does. I can just pop a lambar teat on top and have a kid-sized bottle ready for feeding. The flip-top lid (shown on an 18-ounce bottle) is nice for use in the refrigerator for my family's milk.
I am not sure why some Nigerian breeders have had such a hard time getting the Udderly EZ Milker to work for them. There are two possibilities that come to mind:
1) Folks are not massaging the udder to help the milk drop, and thus, they are pumping way too much for the comfort of their doe.
2) Users of the Udderly EZ are unwittingly tilting the pump unit away from the extraction tube, thus breaking the vacuum seal. Watching the video I linked to previously in this blog post will give you a great visual of that, so you will know what not to do during milking. Also, I would suggest ensuring your doe is standing calmly. Give her a treat and some pets before you milk her. If she is kicking and moving about on the stand, it is likely you may be breaking the seal on that extraction tube.
And, a third possibility was just suggested to me by someone on the Facebook group:
3) You will get a better seal on the teat if it is still moist from wiping it off when you clean it beforehand. Buck Wheeler advises rubbing a bit of olive oil on the teat right before placing the Udderly EZ Milker.
Enjoy your Udderly EZ Milker. If you have questions, I know Buck Wheeler is anxious to attend to them.
There are other systems out there if the Udderly EZ does not work for you. There is an electric milker that many Nigerian breeders like that costs a bit over $600. Personally, it didn't even occur to me to change brands, so I just bought the Ultimate EZ Milker, which is also an electric system, for $549.00. I tried it out last night and was pleasantly shocked that I don't have to wash the tubes as you do with all other milking systems. I only have to wash the same elements on the Ultimate EZ that I currently wash on the Udderly EZ. Life just doesn't get any better than that!
Here we are at week 3 since I planted these baby greens. The mini-aquaponics system is on the left, Kratky-method non-circulating hydroponics on the right. I lost a cilantro on the left and an arugula on the right. My bok choy is bolting on the left, and the arugula is bolting on the right. I am still not happy with how things are going on the Kratky side though.
(p.s. That is one of my Nigerian bucks, Dusty, on the picnic table outside. I didn't even notice he was in the picture until I put it up here.)
Let's take a closer look at the two planters.
Here is the aquaponics system (below). The plants are healthy and ready for me to start harvesting leaves.
Now, here is the non-circulating hydroponics system. I'm not impressed, and I actually feel a bit sorry for this crowd of plants.
I'm even less impressed with the root growth. Yuck!
Shown next is the root system of one of the greens from the aquaponics side. Most of the roots are inside the pot, but look at the lovely white primary root coming out of the bottom of the pot. Keep in mind that I used 2-inch net pots for the Kratky setup and 5-inch ones for the aquaponics. And, the pots in the aquaponics system are not suspended. I just set the pots on the floor of the planter and allow the flush-and-fill system to water/aerate them.
Here are the things I did to try to get the Kratky side to fare a bit better:
1) I flipped the piece of foam insulation over so the silver, reflective side is no longer facing up. Maybe there was too much radiation causing plant stress?
2) I drained the planter (saving the nutrient-filled water to use on my outdoor plants). I filled with fresh water and nutrients to a TDS of 1200 above my initial water reading.
3) I moved the spindly, bolting arugula plants as well as one of the smaller greens to the aquaponics side. I just set them in the planter in their tiny pots.
4) I planted 5 bok choy in the vacated holes. Bok choy can be happy anywhere, so I will be surprised if they don't thrive.
Here is the adjusted setup:
That is a sodium lamp on the left, thus the yellow tinge. Wish my baby greens luck!
Her name is Constellation, and she is a Nigerian Dwarf. She is out of S'Mores Pi, who I had sold and have rescued back (along with her daughter) because the lady who had her does not always feed the goats. The breeder has no income, so often has no food for the over 50 animals on her property. Two of my goats have already died of starvation there. It is sad, but S'Mores and Constellation are going to make it.
Hey look, I have color-coordinated pets. Tom's brother, Huckleberry Finn, is fine with baby goat as long as she is in her box. Once she is out for playtime, Huck is in a bit of shock that I would inflect this upon him. Ah, and yes, she is wearing a diaper. Our carpet is 30 years old, but we still do not wish to have it stink. I put a newborn diaper on her, but it wouldn't stay on. Baby goats don't have hips like baby humans. So, I decided to buy a XS dog harness for a dollar. But, upon trying that on, it was not long enough to reach. Baby goats have much longer bodies than puppies. So, while holding a baby goat who is bouncing about like popcorn popping, I fashioned a fix with one hand: a strip of canvas patch held on each side with a safety pin.
Pippin, another rescue cat, does not seem to realize that he should be disgusted with Constellation. Pippin is our special needs cat. I honestly believe he suffered some sort of brain injury before we adopted him. But, it is working to our advantage here because Constellation has found a playmate. She seems especially interested in Pippin's twitching tail. Don't worry, I'm staying close to play mommy referee in case play gets rough.
Well, I am typing this while trying to peddle on my FitDesk. This is not working because Constellation is trying to nurse off my ankle. So, it's time to put her back in her box for a nap. And, I need to get peddling!
Update 6/10/2015: Connie has gone to live at my friend Penny's house. Constellation had a umbilical abscess due to poor sanitation conditions at the farm where she was born. The abscess has subsided, but it is still not clear if Connie will be able to be anything more than a pet. Penny does Goat 911, so she knows how to handle this sort of situation much better than I do.
This is the soap that I made Sunday evening using the sample of Crisp Cotton fragrance from Brambleberry. I did an in-mold swirl and used three colors: natural indigo, titanium dioxide, and aquamarine blue oxide. The soap "mold" I used is a silicone bread pan.
There isn't any goat milk in this batch as I don't have any to spare at the moment (Constellation is getting it all). I changed my recipe to use more affordable, more readily available ingredients (and to get away from palm oil). As I generally get massive brain-fog during kidding season, I wanted to test my new recipe well in advance. Things went well. The soap is very soft right now; it will be interesting to see how it does as it cures. Kidding season for me starts in June this year and runs through July. This is so I don't go into brain-fog phase during the homeschool year. I should be making soap like a squirrel storing nuts starting about mid-July through the end of 2015.
The bars need to cure for six weeks. If you are one of my egg customers, expect a bar of crisp cotton with your egg delivery on May 5. Shoot, if I had planned this better, I would have created some sort of salsa bar for Cinco de Mayo!
It's been a couple years since I made soap. After I closed my soap business in 2009 (Sable's Soap), I've only make small batches of goats milk soap here and there to keep my family supplied. Because I've only been milking one doe, I haven't had excess amounts of milk, which was fine during those years. I was so busy going to college to get my copyediting certification that there just wasn't time for anything extra. I'm not sure that I have the time now! But, I will be milking six to seven does this year on milk test. Our family will never be able to use that much milk for our table. And, it's illegal to sell it in the state of Washington, unless you have a licensed dairy. So, I came up with a new recipe with more affordable ingredients (as I'm not sure if I will be selling any or just stocking up for family and friends). I pulled my soapmaking equipment out of its box in the basement and ordered some new supplies as well.
Brambleberry sent me a sample of their Crisp Cotton fragrance. So, I thought I'd use that for this test of my recipe. On their website, they describe the scent as follows: This compex, super clean scent is a combination of Juicy Blood Orange, Sea Berry and Passionfruit notes, laced with Raspberry, Starfruit and Rosewater; and underscored by Violet Leaf, Thyme and Musk. Um, maybe I'm a hick, but it just smells like fabric softener to me. But, folks are raving about it in the reviews, so maybe it smells better after cure.
Fun, fun. Here is the soap in the mold. I poured the indigo, then most of the white, then almost all of the aquamarine blue. I used my little whisk to do some in-mold swirls through the layers. Then, I poured a thin layer of white and dotted a bit of the aquamarine blue over that. The last step was swirling the blue into the white just on the top layer using a bamboo skewer. Now, the soap has been put to bed. I can cut it in 24-48 hours. I'll have to see how long this takes to set up. Someone is going to think I did laundry today by the smell in here! Ha, ha. Oh wait, I did get to one load of towels. Yay!
I walked around my house and barn and took pictures of all the supplies that I use for my herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats. Taking pictures was the easiest way for me to catalog all the items I use. I have things stored in different places. Please don't let all this stuff scare you if you are starting out and deciding what to buy. I've been raising goats since 2004, so I have accumulated a lot of things. But, that also means I've gotten a good idea of which things are actually needed. There are some items, like the long plastic sleeves for kidding, that really aren't necessary, but we buy when we are new to the hobby because we see them in a catalog.
These are items I keep in the kitchen. Everything except the Valbazen and LA-200 are kept in the refrigerator.
These are my clippers for giving summer trims and also for shaving udders. I've had them for almost a decade and use them all the time because I also have Angora rabbits and a Llasa Apso. I've only had to have the blades sharpened once in the time I've owned them. My Aesculap red clippers are one of the very best investments that I have ever made! I keep the toothbrush to clean the blades. I take good care of both my clippers and the blades. I have sent the clippers back once for maintenance. I had the insides cleaned out well and new bushings installed. The little Fiscar scissors are great for making tails look perfect.
These are my milking supplies. I keep them in the kitchen.
Ta-da! Here is my brand new Ultimate EZ Milker. I am so excited. I will have six does on milk test this year (instead of just milking one doe for our family), so I splurged. I also bought some small bottles and lambar nipples. These lambar nipples are black, but they are the same as the grey ones in the previous picture. The idea here is that I will collect the milk directly into the small bottles, which will fit better under the smaller Nigerians, and then pop a lambar nipple into the top of the collection bottle. I can feed the kids out of the same bottles that I use to collect milk! We will see how well that actually works in practice.
Here is my tired, old tattoo kit. A very exciting event for me was when my husband found this piece of Styrofoam that I could fit into a small plastic bin. I used to have all the letters tangled up in a Ziploc baggie. I usually also keep a piece of cardboard with it for testing the tattoos before I apply to the goat. Believe me, it so very much worth the extra step. When you are putting those letters and numbers into the clamp, everything is backwards. So, it's easy to make a mistake. I have some rubbing alcohol down in the basement to use for sterilizing. I also hang on to old toothbrushes to use for rubbing the ink into the holes in the ear. Those get tossed after all the tattoos as they get stiff from the dried ink.
In the basement bathroom, I keep a bottle of molasses. I haven't ever moved it. Where ever you put your kidding supplies, don't move them. If you are like me, you will need to be able to do things without thinking too hard during kidding season. You will be tired. I can be in the middle of copyediting a book on nanotechnology or some other highly technical subject and hear some newborn noises over he intercom. I find it is hard for me to be consistently successful in immediately changing my thought pattern from copyediting to kidding. That is a fancy way of saying that I get scatterbrained. Anyhow, each doe gets a bucket of warm molasses water right after she kids. Molasses is full of wonderful nutrients to help her regain her strength, and the does love the treat. One year, I went out early in the morning when Poetry kidded, cup of hot coffee in hand as I had just poured it when I heard the baby noises on the intercom. I thought I could sit down, enjoy my coffee, and watch the baby goats nurse for a few minutes. Poetry was mad that I did not bring her warm molasses water. She came over to me, screamed in my face, and then proceeded to drink all my coffee. Who was I to argue?
It is also wonderful if you can install a utility sink in your basement, garage, or barn. There are often things you need to wash that are either too big or too "barnish" to want to clean in your kitchen sink. Here, I really need to get to this week's rabbit dishes.
While we are still in the house, my order from Jeffers came today. Here are a few things that I needed to replenish:
Now, we are out in the garage. I keep the goat coats out here, but they are buried, so no picture of them. We had a very mild winter and never had to pull them out this year. But, here are some things I keep in these bin shelves. I don't use these items on a weekly basis (those sorts of things are kept out in the barn). I have a blue tote that I can fill with items from here to take out the the barn if needed.
This is the shelf in my grooming/milking pen. One of the shelves is empty: That is where I put milking supplies like extra bottles and teat wipes during milking season. There is also a fishing tackle box full of goodies that I will show you in the next picture.
This is my "go to" tackle box that I keep at hand. Some of the items are just for kidding season, but I leave them where I can find them close by (as I mentioned before--scatterbrain-itis during kidding season). The items I use all the time are those for monthly grooming. I'll list approximately from top to bottom, right to left.
Here are the contents of the orange tote:
Here is a shelf in the doe barn. There really isn't any reason why these things are here rather than in the grooming/milking area other than I forgot to put them away.
Water is a very important supply for your goats. Did you think about that one? Please do. I keep these barrels filled with water (add a splash of bleach) in case of emergency for the goats and our livestock guardian dog.
Ignore the kiddie pool. I don't store water there. We had a frog lay her eggs in our pool. I made my husband rescue all the tadpoles before he the treated the pool with chemicals. Yes, I am a freak.
This is my wellness command center out in the rabbit/kid barn. I bought that portable stand at a rabbit show. The scale is wonderful for keeping track of kid weights to ensure they are growing well. There is a baby goat coat there as well as the leather gloves I use when disbudding. The disbudding box (created by my handy husband from plans bought at Hoegger) and the iron are in the lower left. I have a metal cup for measuring grain and a pair of scissors for trimming the nails on the rabbits. In the small compartment behind the scale, I keep ball-point pens and a sharpie marker. Sometimes, I will use the sharpie to write in someone's ear for ID purposes. There is a handy roll of paper towels and a thermometer mounted on a post. The thermometer is mostly for the rabbits. If the temperature gets below freezing, their water bottles will freeze. So, that is when I bring in my electric oil-filled radiator to heat the room up just enough to keep the drinking water liquid.
Well, there you have it. That is a complete tour of all my goat stuff. I hope it was helpful.
This is part 2 of my answers to Travis, a young, aspiring farmer in Minnesota. Today, I will show what kind of housing we have for our herd of 15 dwarf goats. I will also bring some pictures out of the archive from our barn back in Oregon for comparison.
Basically, we've bought properties that already had some sort of barn structure on them, and then we've made adjustments and additions to those structures over time (usually in reaction to some need, e.g., baby goat found a way to fit through the gap between the gate and fencepost). We are not wealthy people. And, I was raised by a WWII hero who grew up during the depression. So, I re-purpose and recycle like nuts. I am very fortunate to have a husband who thinks along the same lines as I do. And, it is also good <chuckle> that we have different hobbies, as I will get on his case a bit about how many motors and tools he has all over the place, and he will get on my case about all the livestock equipment I've left all over the lawn and garage...so, we keep each other from becoming pack-rats.
But, before we start looking at the structures, here is something to think about: Choose a location for your barn (or buy a property that is so setup) that allows you to maximize your enjoyment (and your watchfulness) of your livestock. I am very blessed in that I can watch my goats throughout the day from my kitchen window. Yes, even though I am Editor Melinda and a homeschool teacher, I am also a housewife. So, I am in and out of the kitchen all day. In fact, I spend soooo much time in my kitchen, that my husband and I worked like dogs remodeling it ourselves. I just snapped these two photos of my happy view:
Now, here is my huge disclaimer to any folk that did not grow up on a farm: I just picked up my camera and walked about my property snapping pictures during homeschool "recess." I did not take the time to clean things up or stage them to look nice. So, if you see poop or stains or whatever, and if that offends you, too bad. The dirt gets cleaned on a regular basis, but none of my livestock areas are all the way clean all the time. If I had taken the time to clean things up first, I never would have gotten these pictures taken.
Let's start with the doe barn. It appears the former owner mounted an old mobile home on stilts that he made out of smaller cut trees. I am guessing that he kept his hay stored up there. We don't because it's not weather-proof enough to prevent mold (which leads to Listeriosis). Most all of the area beneath the mobile home was filled to the rafters with cut wood for the wood stove. The footprint of the entire building is around 50 x 35 feet.
The former owner did have a small area for some livestock. We have re-purposed that area for the does. It is about 20 x 30 feet inside. The space gets larger as we use more firewood!
Here are my boys--Mac, Thundrstorm, and Dusty--in their daytime lounging spot in front of the doe barn. And, another view of the barn.
After each set of pictures, I'll point out a few things. Here, do you see that while sticker on the window? That shows the name and phone number of my vet. In case I'm not around and something happens to my goats, I would hope someone would call that number. There are pallets for sleeping inside when it's raining. The back wall is shared between the does and bucks. The former owner just had some old wire fencing and a wooden gate. We wired the gate shut and added lattice panels (that we found on the property) along the back to prevent unwanted mingling. If you notice over to the right side of the back wall in the second picture, there is a section of hog panel. As we used more firewood, this opened up. We have a sleeping cubby carved out into the woodpile from the buck side so the boys can sleep close to the girls. There is a slight overhang of the roof to help keep them dry. And, when the demolition on our old driveway was being done, I found old cinder blocks, which I arranged into sleeping decks for the boys.
We have a number of places for the does to eat. Plan for a manger for every 3-4 goats. The former owner had this short wood fence. That won't work with goats. We found lattice and plastic corrugated sheeting on the property and mounted that to keep goats in and the wind out. By the way, we really don't have to worry about wind through the rear wall because the barn is on a hillside, and the ground slopes steeply up from that wall into the forest, creating a natural windbreak. In the corner, I have a portable kidding pen that my every-so-handy husband made for me. In the second picture, you can see a protected area I made for the goats to go into in case of severe weather, which rarely ever happens in the Puget Sound. The goats don't like to sleep there. They prefer to sleep near the bucks or in the main doorway on all the lovely, fresh hay that they pull out of their other manger each day. Also notice the sleeping deck in the background. Goats absolutely love sleeping decks. Just realize that you will have to sweep or rake it often. Pallets are nice for allowing poop to fall through the cracks.
Now, let's take a look at the doe yard. It is around 18 x 36 feet. We certainly would have made it larger if we had time to plan things out. When we moved in (and it was a military move = 45 days to sell house in Oregon and be settled in new house in Washington), my husband just slammed up some old wire fencing as fast as he could do in one day as he had to start a new job the next day. There was no pen fencing of any kind when we moved in. Later, as money allowed, he made the fencing look nicer by creating the wood picket around the existing old wire fence.
Right now, because the weather is nice, I have the pallets lined up around the edges of the yard so they can spread out and sunbathe. During the winter, I had the sun shelter from the kid pen in the middle of the doe yard on top of the large pallet as a separate feeding station for the bottom-rung does. It still gets pretty muddy so I have smaller pallets for walkways to keep their hooves dry. In 11 years, I've not yet had hoof rot in my herd...knock on wood!
Don't they look happy? I would love to be a goat. Reverie is lounging on a grooming stand because we lost part of the headpiece and now it is fancy goat furniture. Goats don't usually like to sleep on the ground. They like to be up.
And, there is one of our bucks, Thundrstorm, who asks, "May I please come in to the doe yard with you?" Ah, no. But, I will show the people your housing now.
Here is the buck housing, which we are slowly carving out of the wood pile. You see Mac walking out the gate, which is often open because the bucks like to be between the house and the does. Bucks are incredibly social, more like puppy dogs. They love their people. At our next property, I'll find a way to better accommodate their nature.
You can see the black mineral feeder (maybe?) on the wall above Mac. The gate is an old hog panel that my husband mounted. I use an old cinder block as a doorstop. You can see one of their sleeping decks behind Mac. It is mounted on cinder blocks to keep it from being covered in hay that they drag out of their manger.
In the next picture, you can see their bad weather retreat area. It does not usually look like this. Thundrstorm (yes, Mr. Personality) has taken to climbing the wood pile and knocking parts of it down. Under all that hay that they pull out of their manger is a lovely sleeping deck that I was so excited to install...that they hardly ever use. It's got to be pretty darned blustery before they sleep in there. They prefer their sleeping cubby near the doe's barn. You may notice that we had to install pieces of hog panel in the back of this sleeping area to keep them from getting into the hay storage and the doe yard on the other side. We did not want to put solid wood up because you really want all the ventilation you can get. Someone recently asked on one of the groups, "What is the difference between ventilation and drafts?" I would say that air movement up high, which allows the ammonia fumes to rise and leave the building, is ventilation. Drafts are air movement down low where the animals are sleeping. That's just my take on it.
Here is the buck's yard. We found some old chain-link fencing and t-posts to build it. It is about 70 x70 feet and has some lovely old maple trees to provide shade. There is a ramp over near the doe barn that they like to show off on. I wish we had more climbing toys for them, but then again, they prefer not to be back there.
Here is Mac where he likes to spend his days, on the picnic table between the house and the doe yard. It is often wet here. But, when the grass does dry out for a while, the boys really love to lie on their sides on the grass near the doe yard fence.
Now, we go to the nursery:
We used to have more rabbits, but they have been slowly aging out, and now we are down to five. We had the rabbits in the rear section of this barn and my grooming/milking area in the front. This past fall and winter, my husband and I have been busy redoing some things. I moved the rabbits to the front of this area and my husband put in the little fence here. I laid down a deep layer of sand to keep the dust down (always a problem in the past in here). And, we found some more of that lattice lying around and used that for a divider wall. I should mention that all of our goat areas have hanging fluorescent shop lights. In here, we also have clip-on barn lights that always stay on so we can turn off the overhead lights at night. The sleeping deck in the back is an old rabbit cage stand that my husband fitted with an old piece of plywood.
In the second picture, you see the gate my husband installed so I can leave the big slider door open for ventilation most of the time. It only gets shut when the wind really blows. But, we need that gate closed during the day when the bucks are out so they don't eat all the food out of the rabbit feeders. After I put the bucks away in the evening, I open this up so our LGD can sleep in there. He loves to be near the bunnies and his baby goats.
Here's the front section of that part of the barn. Behind the bunny is where we store a couple tons of hay. You can also see I have one of the heated buckets sitting up there, as I only put it out in the doe barn when the temperatures go down to freezing. By the way, the bunny has a nest box because she is an Angora wool rabbit that was just shorn. Sorry, no kits. And, the metal on the side of her cage is to keep the morning sun from baking her. Angoras are very sensitive to heat. You can see the rest of the rabbits on the other side. I've got an empty cage up on top. Why? I don't know. I think I just set it there for a minute and then forgot about it.
Oh, notice the pet carrier beneath the rabbit cages? I like to store one near the baby goats in case of an emergency when I've got to quickly evacuate animals. In fact, I have carriers all around the place for this reason. I don't know if you can see it or not, but there is a high shelf above the kid nursery where I store rabbit carriers for that reason. My family's house was flooded in 1972, and we had to quickly evacuate. I remember my dad paddling his canoe into the house to grab my sister and I who were perched on top of the back of the couch. So, I guess that stuck with me.
From the baby goat nursery to the kid pasture. This pasture, which we keep the adult goats off so it stays parasite-free, runs along the entire back side of the house. See that window in the upper right? That's my office where I am sitting now typing this. So, I can keep a good eye on the babies when they play.
The second picture shows our LGD's house. A big doghouse for a very big dog! This building was here when we bought the property. My husband has re-purposed it for him and his dog. Yes, our dog really does have a carpet for a bed. Dog beds are just not big enough for him. It is nice that Kenai's doghouse is next to the nursery/rabbitry barn.
Ah, I forgot something. Let's go back to the other barn.
Here is the new grooming/milking area that my husband built for me last fall. It was my 15th wedding anniversary present, and I can not think of anything more wonderful and romantic! I'm serious.
In the second picture, you can see into a space where we keep some of the feed. I have three galvanized cans of grain for the chickens and goats. And, you can't see it in this picture, but there is a pallet where my husband brings two bales of hay a week from the other barn. This saves me a bit of labor and walking around (often in the rain). Notice the wood frame around the grain cans. That is so a goat won't knock them over, thus spilling their contents. Even though goats are not allowed in this area unsupervised, never say never when it comes to finding goats in places where they are not supposed to be. Plan for everything!
Oh, and behind that green wall is the chicken coop. Let's take a look:
For whatever reason, the ground in this part of the barn structure is made out of recycled concrete test cylinders. I guess the previous owner was just as weird about re-purposing things as we are. Having a concrete floor made this the perfect spot for the chickens as it not only helps to keep things cleaner, but it also makes it harder for the rats to get in. Ah yes, there are more of those re-purposed lattice panels and corrugated plastic sheeting being used for divider walls. The hay storage is on the other side of the left-hand picture. The buck's manger and sleeping deck is on the other side of the right-hand picture. We have LED Christmas lights in here, and the lattice allows the lighting in the chicken coop to shine into the buck's area as well.
The nesting boxes are old cabinets that we found on the property, turned on their side. They have a wooden ladder up to their roosts on the other side of the coop. In the back of the right-hand picture, you can see the chick nursery. It is essentially a box with a screened lid that swings up. I keep the chicks in our basement on top of the dryer in a plastic tote for the first few weeks, and then I move them out to the nursery.
This is our pasture. Other folks might call it a front yard. Doesn't it look so marvelously green? Don't let that fool you. It's garbage grass with no nutritional value. My vet told me to limit the time my goats spend out here so they don't get full and not have room for the quality hay that will actually provide the nutrition they need. I do have to admit though, I will miss the almost electric green grass of NW Washington.
In the second picture, you see our orchard. It is nice in fall because the goats get to eat the fallen apples. Right now, it is March. So, there is very little foliage on anything yet. We have a very short growing season in the Pacific Northwest.
It's now time for the details. I used to work for a landscape architect. We always had a "detail sheet" that accompanied the blueprints. So, here is my version of that for the goat housing.
Here is a wonderful gate latch that my husband invented for my grooming pen. it is just a piece of 1x1 lumber with a handle screwed onto it. It fits into a groove on the top of the gate and you can either lift if up or slide it over to be behind that taller upright 2x4 near the white trim to lock the gate (the gate swings out). It's goat-proof!
Oh and leave it to a goat to be a goat for the picture when I'm not paying attention. That would be Dusty "perfuming" himself before he goes over to the doe fence for his daily lolling and grunting exercise.
On the left is my new grooming/milking pen. On the left side is a table where I keep feed dishes off the ground. I try to pick up the dishes pretty soon after everyone is done eating so they don't get soiled. Goats seem to have no idea, or maybe it is no care, as to where they are pooping. On the right is where I keep some supplies. In the middle is my grooming stand (purchased years ago from friend Darlene Chambers of Peppermint Pastures in Albany, OR). There is a bar that is just above the top of the picture where I store clean feed pans that fit into the grooming stand, as well as extra clean buckets. I also hang my milk scale there during milking season. There is a simple roof made of recycled metal corrugated roofing to keep the goats and I dry.
On the right is the gate to the doe pen. Notice the little piece of metal sheeting in the lower right? That is to remind you that little baby goats can fit through amazingly small spaces. Just as a parent gets down on their hands and knees when child-proofing their home before their first child, you also need to keep a keen eye out for places where baby goats can get out of their safe area or stuck somewhere. We have bald eagles that would be very happy for a little Nigerian to get out to the pasture on its own. But, that won't happen on my watch!
Now, we are in the kid pasture. Recently, the city required us to switch over from septic to city sewer. The former owner had this little shed over the septic tank. We moved it into the pasture for a small shelter. This is fine for a number of young goats or even for about 3 mature goats if this is all you can do. Please realize that goats do not need anything fancy. They just need to be kept out of the wind, rain, and snow.
In the second picture is the little sun shelter that we put in the doe yard during the rainy season for another feeding station. it is built out of materials we found on the property in a junk pile. There is a mineral feeder screwed to one of the cross-bars (hard to see because there is a black pot behind it). I also have a hay feeder that hangs on the cross-bars. The large nursery pots are for the baby goats to lounge and play on. We had those wonderful big wooden spools at our farm in Oregon, but we couldn't fit everything in the moving truck.
On the left is the detail of the gate in the kid nursery. See how simple things work so well? This is just a piece of hog panel that my husband attached to a post with some v-shaped tack thingeys. (OK, I am not the expert on building materials.) The spring to close the pen door is actually an old rabbit water bottle holder. I have a small black caribiner hooked at the bottom of the gate to keep the goats from nudging it open with their noses.
On the right is a very important piece of housing equipment: a comfortable camp chair! Hey, don't you raise goats or sheep in order to enjoy them? This is a nice spot for me to escape to with my laptop to get some copyediting done, and being on the other side of the fence from the babies prevents them from helping me type. The cup holder is a wonderful feature for holding an extra bottle of milk for the babies. You notice that PayDay expects that there should always be a bottle of milk there waiting for him?
We are almost done with our details. Let's go back to the doe barn.
On the left is a portable kidding pen. It has no bottom, which makes it easier to keep clean. The latch is just a small piece of wood that spins. I had my husband mount a piece of hog panel on the wall behind it so I can hang a bucket of water above baby goat reach (you do not want newborns ending up in the water bucket). We have clip-on heat lamps that we can hang above as well. Inside, you see a little structure on its side. That is actually a small kid house (think Snoopy dog house) that we put out in the doe barn if I am dam raising. The kids love to have a quiet, safe place to snuggle down together. It's not kidding season for us until June this year, so everything is put aside for now.
On the right is one of our barn intercoms. I bought these from Radio Shack 11 years ago and they finally started dying on me about a year ago. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they still sell them. When the package arrived, I was also pleased to be able to keep the protective wrapper over top of it to keep it from fouling with dust. We just zip-tied it to one of the rafters. It is always in the "call lock" position, so it operates like a baby monitor. I hear everything that happens in the barn when I am inside the house. As you get to know your animals, you will learn to discern an ordinary "I'm bored" or "I'm hungry" holler from a "I need help" one...and your feet will grow wings to rush out to the barn. Heck, I don't even take the time to put on my shoes.
Here are the indoor mangers. The one on the right was very spendy. I thought I was being very clever by investing in one with a shelf at the bottom to catch all the hay that usually gets wasted on the ground. Um, do you see what the ground is covered with? Yeah, that's $18.75/bale bedding. Not what I had in mind.
Now, the manger on the right cost nothing. We recycled an old hog panel, bent it, and hooked it on the lattice wall. Bingo, manger. Works just as well as the spendy one.
Here is the outside manger, same cheapo design of hog panel, but here cleverly affixed to fence using shocking pink baling twine. OK, true confessions: much of my barn is held together with baling twine...not all of it shocking pink. Oh, and do you see all that expensive hay scattered all over the ground outside the doe fence? Hmmm? Yes, my bucks choose to eat out of the back of the doe's manger rather than in their own pen.
On the right we have the watering corner. I place my buckets far away from the sleeping areas. Otherwise, I would be cleaning poop out of the buckets every day. I have pallet walkways to the buckets so they don't get their hooves wet (which can contribute to hoof rot and other problems). Goats hate getting their feet wet anyhow. I secure the buckets to the fence with caribiners so they don't get knocked over during horse play, er, goat play. I use caribiners all over the place. They are much safer than bungee cords that can puncture eyes and such.
Here we are at the last two pictures. This used to be our driveway gate back in Oregon. Now, we use it as a portable wall. I can quickly move it across the big doorway between the barn and the yarn in case I want goats to stay inside the barn. My husband also put hooks inside where I can mount it to section off part of the doe barn. That is useful in case someone gets a sore leg or something like that and you need to keep them confined. I also use it as a way to keep dam-raised kids off mom at night so I can milk in the morning. Then, the kids get to stay with mom until bedtime. But, they don't fuss when I put them in the gated area because their moms sleep against the other side of the gate. Don't ask me why Reverie has her hackles up in the picture. Silly girl.
The second picture is a mineral feeder for loose mineral salt. You need one of these in each housing area. Goats/sheep cannot get enough salt from licking blocks like cows can. Mount it high enough so someone doesn't back up against it and poop in it. Also, use long screws when mounting because the kids will jump up on it their like it's a ledge designed for their play. You see, goats are convinced that everything in their environment is there for their play. As long as you plan for that, you won't get frustrated and irritated with them.
Well, I hope you enjoyed your tour of our goat housing. Keep in mind that simple and frugal is fine. I'd rather invest in quality stock than a fancy barn.
This has turned out to be a very long post, and it's 2 am. But, I would like to show you some pictures of how we had things set up at our old farm in Oregon.
Melinda Joy Weer
Freelance Copyeditor, Farmer, Homeschool Teacher, Retired GIS Analyst, Programmer, Cartographer, Structural Geologist.