A Rough Kidding Season

We knew the morning of April 12th that Kahlua was going to give us kids by the end of the day. Her ligaments were gone, her udder was filling and she was getting restless. She showed all the typical signs of imminent labor. We kept an eye on her throughout the morning while we did our usual spring chores – prepping and planting garden beds, harvesting artichokes, feeding animals.

By noon I decided to sit with her and soon noticed she had started having contractions. They weren’t close together so I knew I had a little bit of time. I called my friend, Brande, who has been present for all of our kiddings (it’s always great having another set of hands to help catch and clean kids), and Tom down to sit with me.

And then we waited. And waited some more. Her labor had stalled out. We were all getting restless. 8pm passed. 10pm passed. We were starting to get concerned. In the meantime I was texting goat breeder friends. Lynda at Foggy River Farm said that sometimes the stalled labor is due to a malpresented kid. Fantastic.

11138169_10153210670733826_3950256821857401477_nAt 11pm Tom laid down on the ground to take a nap. Not 30 sec after covering his eyes with his hat Kahlua siddled up to him, laid down and started pushing. Well if that’s all we had to do we could have gotten this over a long time ago…

At first things seemed to be working until I saw a nose. Just a nose. Well that’s a slight problem. Yep, Lynda called it. A normal presentation is a kid in the dive position. Both legs out front with the head following. There were no legs. Just a head and Kahlua was pushing as hard as she could. Progress seemed to be going very slow and there was no room to get a hand in . The best thing I could do was get the kid’s airway cleared so it could breathe in case the umbilical cord got pinched off and try to get that kid out carefully and quickly. I was finally able to get my hand in far enough to grab the kid and add some traction while Kahlua pushed. The next kid shot out with little problem. While being a pound larger the second kid was in the normal position and came out very easily.

Both kids are healthy and growing like weeds now. But that wasn’t the end, unfortunately. Kahlua started to go off feed. We were able to get her to eat using Fortified B injections, which can act as an appetite stimulant but by Wednesday she was yawning a lot which can signal pain. She didn’t have a fever yet so we held off on giving her antibiotics and just gave her some banamine. By Thursday, however, it was clear something was going on. She was grinding her teeth and now had a fever of 104.7 (normal is 102-103). A quick call to UC Davis and the vet was pretty sure we were dealing with metritis (uterine infection). The first antibiotic they recommended didn’t seem to be knocking back the metritis like it should have so another call the UC Davis and they had us switch. 7 days of treatment and she was back to her normal self.

We had just over 3 weeks before we were to expect the next two does to kid. We were only hoping that they would go smoothly. Unfortunately we were very wrong.

Tuesday morning, May 5th, it was clear Maggie was going into labor. She was unusually loud and obnoxious so I put her in the kidding stall and called Brande. Her labor seemed to be progressing a lot faster than Kahlua’s labor, but I noticed something concerning. Her discharge  was an abnormal color – rusty brown and opaque. Not a good sign but nothing I could do about it while waiting.

11150641_10153265043588826_1682489705495265633_nAfter just a few hours Maggie started pushing. The first kid came out quickly with little problem. The second kid shot out like a bullet in the dreaded breech-butt first position. This was exactly how Maggie was born. Made me glad she got her mom’s wide rump and that the kids were pretty small. Unfortunately, my fears were realized when the back feet of a dead kid emerged. Fortunately it came out easily but being the only doeling in the bunch made it even worse.

Because she had two bucklings we decided to just leave them with her for the time being. We were going to get them used to the bottle for when we took Maggie to shows or had milk test. Unfortunately we soon noticed that Maggie had a fishtail teat (looks like two teats fused together and has two working orifices) which is a very serious fault. I put her up for sale as a pet-only and within only a couple of hours she was reserved by the lady who bought her herdmate/paternal half sister, Trouble (now named Ranger).

Just one kidding left and they say that 90% of all kiddings go perfectly fine. The odds were in our favor. Except when they aren’t.

10308120_10153271153978826_2074088839621068523_nFriday, May 8th, Rainicorn went into labor. Like Kahlua’s it seemed to take her sweet time. Not a particularly good sign but contractions were strong. When she finally laid down around 4pm to start pushing nothing seemed to be happening. The bubble showed up and ended up drenching me in birthing fluid but nothing was in it. There was a problem. Another fucking problem. I gloved up, and lubed up and went in. There was the issue. 4 hooves and a head. There were two kids and they seemed pretty large, trying to come out at once. Fortunately there were three of us and we got to work. After a quick call to Sarah, at Castle Rock, we had Tom pick her back end up and pushed the rear legs of one of the kids back in as far as we could. After 20 min we realized we were going to have to take her to the vet. The one kid trying to come out correctly was too large.

The question was which vet do we go to? UC Davis or Cotati Large Animal Hospital? We were half way between the two but being that it was Friday afternoon we decided to go to Cotati due to Highway 80 being gridlocked with everyone trying to get out of town.

An hour drive got us there to find 2 vets and 2 vet techs waiting for us. They also attempted to get the kids out vaginally but found it impossible so the only next option was an emergency C-section. Anesthesia is not without its risks in general, but that goes doubly so for goats. They aren’t known for handling it very well. It was incredibly nerve-wracking watching the surgery and just hoping everything would turn out fine.

10996137_947676658596739_6353012140434062430_nThe doctor ended up pulling out a single, very large buckling. The breeder’s worst nightmare is a first freshener with a single buckling. There weren’t two kids like we had thought. He was simply trying to come out with all four feet and his head. Things weren’t looking so great for him when he was laid down in the towel lined rubber bin. He wasn’t breathing at all but the second vet worked and worked on him. She didn’t give up and it’s what saved him. By the time Rainicorn woke up he was trying to stand and had a very good suck reflex. I definitely attribute her smooth and speedy recovery on having him with her.

Our kidding season is finally over after getting progressively worse I’m just happy everyone is fine.

Kidding Schedule Change

Photo courtesy of Castle Rock Farm

Photo courtesy of Castle Rock Farm

I had my suspicions that Maggie didn’t settle. She fought being bred and only let the buck cover her once before throwing a temper tantrum any time he got near. Well, lo and behold Maggie went back into heat. Due to scheduling issues for everyone, we were not able to take her back to Graupel to get bred. That is the biggest downside of not having your own bucks, you can’t breed them without affecting someone else’s schedule. So instead we took her on over to Castle Rock Farm and bred her to Castle Rock Black Oak *S. She fought that breeding too (even though she was in standing heat both times) but Black Oak was able to get the job done not once, but three times. Let’s just hope she settles this time.

Black Oak has some attributes that I really hope he passes along to their kids. He’s long and level with a nice flat, wide rump, which is something that Maggie could use some improvement on. He also has good angularity, brisket extension and front leg placement. His dam, GCH Castle Rock Sarafina 2*M 2*D AR2533 has one of the flattest and widest rumps in the Castle Rock herd. She is a very elegant doe and tied one other doe for the highest “dairyness” score in the Castle Rock herd. She has a very nice udder arch and a capacious udder. Black Oak’s sire is Castle Rock Pound Foolish *S whose dam is SGCH CRF Castle Rock Penny Wise 1*M 3*D VVEE90. I have long admired Penny Wise who got a Top 10 award in 2011 for the 305 day milk test for milk, protein and butterfat. She has a very capacious udder with a strong MSL, large teats and open orifices. She is very, very dairy with good angularity, flat bone, and spring of rib. Penny Wise has also scored high on rump angle and width for linear appraisal.

Fingers crossed that she settled this time so she can make it to Linear Appraisal and REDGA.


Meet Our Newest Addition


I am so very excited to introduce Castle Rock Lady Rainicorn! Not only does she have the MOST AWESOME NAME EVER but she is, hands down, the sweetest goat I’ve ever met.

Rainy is out of SGCH Algedi Farm H Purple Rain 4*M 4*D VEEV 90 by  CRF Castle Rock Harvest Moon +B *S. I have been wanting to incorporate Rain’s genetics into my herd for a couple of years but when she was retired in 2013 I thought I had lost the opportunity. Of course at the worst possible time for us to take on another doe, Sarah at Castle Rock Farm asked me if I would be interested in Rainy. I knew I shouldn’t. I already had more does than I wanted. But then I met her and fell in love with her. I knew immediately that I had to make room for her.

CAM00632Before coming to us she will be bred to Castle Rock Triumph *B *S. I met his littermate sister, Castle Rock La Jamais Contente, at a show and she was adorably sweet and had an amazing, well attached udder for being just a first freshener. If Rainy wasn’t available I would have purchased a doe out of Jamais in a heartbeat. Both Triumph and Jamais are out of GCH CRF Castle Rock Tesla 1*M 5*D VVEE90 by SG Fairlea Barnaby Rudge *S. Barnaby was one of the first bucks to earn a Superior Genetics designation from ADGA and comes from a line of capacious, well attached udders. Tesla has a nice high, capacious udder with good attachments that has wonderful texture and open orifices. Her line tends to be one of the friendliest making for good milk stand manners. Tesla’s dam, ARMCH Lost Valley TB Infinity 4*D, just earned her Superior Genetics from ADGA.

We can’t wait until she gets here! And a HUGE thanks to Sarah for letting us have her.

This Year’s Kidding Schedule

Photo courtesy of Castle Rock Farm

Photo courtesy of Castle Rock Farm

This past weekend Dog Island Kahlua N Cream and Dog Island CN MahoganyObsidian (aka “Maggie”) had a date with Castle Rock Graupel *B *S. Which means….Our kidding schedule is up. We only have these two breedings listed right now but hope to add a third soon (which will be some additional exciting news on it’s own) so stay tuned for that.

Castle Rock Farm has some incredible animals in their herd and it was just so difficult to choose what genetics I wanted to incorporate into my own foundation herd. Sometimes you get lucky and have a chance to incorporate a lot of them!

For our last breeding we were fortunate enough to be able to use Castle Rock Clark’s Nutcracker out of CH-MCH-PGCH Cloverdale YJ Blue Raven VEEE 90 by CRF Castle Rock Harvest Moon *S.  I’ve admired not only Raven, but Clark’s maternal half brother, CRF Castle Rock Guy Noir +B +S, who has sired many champion daughters. Clark’s sire, Harvest Moon is also producing very nice finished champions. Harvey’s dam, Castle Rock Once Ina Blue Moon earned a Top Ten award in the one-day milk test.  We hope that some of these amazing traits exhibit themselves in Kahlua and Maggie when they freshen.

This year we’re building upon those genetics with some more awesome ones! Maggie and Kahlua were bred to Castle Rock Graupel *B *S. Graupel is out of one of the highest appraising does at Castle Rock Farm – SGCH CRF Castle Rock Blizzard 1*M 3*D VEEE 91. Graupel’s sire, Castle Rock Cleveland Sage *S, is out of the other highest appraising doe, SGCH-ARMCH CRF Castle Rock Alum Root 3*D VEEE91. Not only are these does high appraising but they’ve also shown that they are very productive in the milk room. Blizzard has been in the Top 10 for the one day milk test more than once. Ali has also held a position in the Top 10 for the one day milk test as well.

Since we can’t keep too many goats we’ll just be keeping one doeling out of Kahlua but any other does from these two breedings will be available.

All About Poop – Using Manure in the Garden

This afternoon while I was prepping a new bed for garlic it dawned on me that I should probably pay attention to which manure and bedding I add to it. Being a root vegetable I didn’t want to add high nitrogen to the bed because that would stimulate too much top growth and the energy of the plant wouldn’t be used for making those big, juicy cloves on the bulb.What I would need is a manure that helps promote root growth. Ideally this would be a manure that was high in phosphorus but lower in nitrogen. Potassium is the third micronutrient and is used by the plant for overall vigor and disease resistance so it would be OK if this was high as well.

One of the benefits to keeping all of our animals in separate housing is that I can pick and choose who has the most appropriate manure for each bed. I can also choose when in the growing season I can apply each manure. In general chicken, turkey and goat are considered “hot” and need to be composted first. We usually put these down right after harvest and let them sit until we plant again. Rabbit, on the other hand, does not need to be composted first so we like to use this during the growing season. Additionally, the bedding that is mixed in with the manures really helps improve our heavy clay soil.

Here are the average numbers for common livestock manures that are readily accessible to us. The numbers correspond with N-P-K (Nitrogen – Phosphorus – Potassium) and are percent of dry weight.

Goat 1.5 – 1.5 – 3.0

*Horse 2.3 – 0.9 – 1.7

Poultry 3.2 – 5.2 – 1.8

Rabbit 2.4 – 1.4 – 0.6

Steer 1.7 – 1.2 – 3.0

If you want to get really technical determining how much of each type of manures you should add you can do some calculations. Since growing food isn’t a business for us it’s not really worth it to have all the manure sent out to have it tested and then weigh everything before applying the manure. For home garden it can be more of an approximation based on the needs of different crops and what the different manures contain.

What I chose to use for the garlic was the old bedding from the goat yard that also included chicken manure from when the chickens were housed with them. This will be what I use for root vegetables. Once it runs out then I’ll mix the poultry and goat manure together to reach the same numbers. For other crops here is what I’ll be using where. (Nutrient requirements based on info in The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible)

Nutrient Requirements” N=high; P=high; K=high

Combination of poultry and rabbit manure (or poultry and horse)

  • Artichokes
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Dill
  • Lettuce
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes

Nutrient Requirements” N=high; P=moderate; K=moderate

Rabbit manure (or horse)

  • Asparagus
  • Mustard
  • Summer Squash
  • Winter Squash

Nutrient Requirements” N=high; P=low; K=low

Rabbit manure (or horse)

  • Carrots
  • Parnips

Nutrient Requirements” N=moderate; P=moderate; K=moderate

Combination of poultry and goat manure (or poultry and steer)

  • Garlic
  • Chives
  • Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Parsley
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries

Nutrient Requirements” N=moderate; P=high; K=high

Goat manure (or steer)

  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant

Nutrient Requirements” N=moderate; P=low; K=low

Rabbit manure (or horse)

  • Fennel

Nutrient Requirements” N=low; P=high; K=high

Goat manure (or steer)

  • Melons
  • Watermelons

Nutrient Requirements” N=low; P=moderate; K=moderate

Goat manure (or steer)

  • Bush Beans
  • Pole Beans
  • Beets
  • Swiss Chard

Nutrient Requirements” N=low; P=low; K=low

Light on the goat manure (or steer)

  • Arugula
  •  Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Horseradish
  • Marjoram
  • Oregano
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Rhubarb
  • Sage
  • Sunflowers
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Tarragon
  • Tomatillos
  • Turnips

Of course nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are not the only nutrients plants need, nor are they only nutrients found in manure. Manure also contains calcium, magnesium, zinc, sulfur and various levels of other nutrients. Composted manure also contains a lot of beneficial microorganisms which help break down nutrients and make them available to plants. The addition of carbon (bedding) makes the perfect mix of nitrogen and carbon for composting. It wasn’t until we got chickens and started adding their bedding to our compost pile were we finally able to get it hot. Our livestock manure is actually mixed in with composted kitchen scraps and yard waste to add another level of nutrients.

It’s not just about nutrients when it comes to manure and compost. The addition of it greatly improves the soil structure such as loosening heavy clay soil or increasing water retention in sandy soils. In my opinion adding compost and/or manure is really the only way to go when trying to improve your soil. You just can’t have healthy, nutritious food without healthy soil.

*Horse manure is commonly available for free or very low cost at boarding stables. Be aware, however, that if the animals are pastured it could be high in weed seeds unless it is properly composted at a high enough temperature.

Meet Your Farmer – Castle Rock Farm

Our meet your farmer posts feature a small family farm that we feel exemplifies the type of food system we all need to support. They show passion and dedication to raising and growing food sustainably.

Andy & Sarah

Not all sustainable farmers sell food.

This month post is on Castle Rock Farm in Vacaville, California owned by Sarah Hawkins and Andy Pestana. Castle Rock Farm is well known for their high quality Nigerian Dwarf Goats and it’s where our girl Sedona is from.

But Castle Rock Farm is so much more than just Nigerian Dwarf Goats.

The Birthing Clip

When we pulled up there was a family there and on the grass were two very happy kids, of the four legged persuasion, bouncing around like popcorn. They really don’t get any cuter than that and I was starting to miss having kids around here. The family scooped them up and got in their car and left. Over on the stanchion stood a very pregnant doe who was getting a birthing clip from Andy. The clip is to help streamline the doe and keep all the goop from getting stuck in her fur when she kids. It also allows you to monitor the changes in her body that occur right before kidding.

The Bee Garden

Our tour began with the bees which were nestled back amongst the oak trees. The bees provide not only honey for the farm but also beeswax and propolis for Sarah’s main business, English Hills Soap Company – soaps and skin care products that utilize the goat milk that her goats provide. She’s currently working on rebranding to English Hills Naturals to include some new products. I’m a HUGE fan of handmade skin care products. They don’t contain all the chemicals that the drugstore stuff has and they are generally much easier on your skin and hair.

Surrounding her hives she has a California native garden, which is another passion she has. It was so much fun talking plants with her. It’s not something I get to do very often with people outside of my field. Their mission for the property is to only grow natives or edibles. Both of which open up more income possibilities. Sarah is also starting a native plant nursery and even possibly selling herbs and tea in the future.

One of the many birdhouses

Walking around the property we got to see the buffer she is creating around the edge with native trees and shrubs. There’s the greenhouse that contains cans and cans of native plants inside and out and a small fruit orchard. While caring for and revitalizing  the flora on their property, the are also providing homes for the local fauna as well, including multiple birdhouses.

Lazy Goats

Of course the goats have the biggest part at Castle Rock Farm. It was a beautiful warm afternoon between rainstorms when we were there and most of the goats were lazily laying in the shade for their siesta. The ones that weren’t sleeping were chasing each other and one doe was teasing the bucks on the other side of the fence. The blubbering was some of the best I’ve heard. There was even a “la la la la la” from one of the bucks (I think it was CRF Tanzanite).

A very pregnant Infinity

Seeing some of the pregnant does made me start to question Sedona’s status. She only had about 5 weeks left of her pregnancy and didn’t look pregnant at all while some of the does that weren’t that far were huge. After talking with Sarah and Andy separately about it, I felt reassured that she was pregnant (and now it’s quite clear). We talked a lot about goat health in general and I learned a lot from them.

It was fantastic spending most of the day out there. Before we knew it we realized we had to run. They were very gracious hosts and we thank them for being so generous with their time and knowledge. I meant to buy some of her products while we were there. I’ll just have to make sure I pick some up the next time we go over there.

If you’re interested in checking out what their skin care products, you can find them online or at the Davis Farmers Market. They may possibly also be at the Vacaville and Napa Farmers market in the future.

Saturday’s Farm Diary – Novella Carpenter & Urban Goat Raising

This past Sunday Tom and I joined a group of like-minded people at Biofuel Oasis in Berkeley for their Urban Goat Husbandry Class. The class was taught be the well known Novella Carpenter who wrote one of our favorite books, Farm City. If you haven’t read Farm City I highly recommend you read it. It’s not a how-to book but a charming story of how she created an urban oasis on someone else’s vacant lot – her own squat urban farm.

Novella demonstrating how to trim hooves.

The 3 hour class was incredibly informative and I HIGHLY recommend anyone contemplating goats to take it. I wish we had taken it before we got goats. I don’t regret the decision of getting pygmy goats (as opposed to a dairy breed) at all. I’m just not very happy about how we got them as it makes our ability to breed them very difficult at the moment. I’m hoping the situation corrects itself very soon so we can get going on the task at hand – to start breeding them. Either way, we need to get them to a vet and get them tested for CAE, CL and Johnnes. We don’t have their previous vet information right now, but they need to be tested once a year if we are to take them onto someone else’s property.

Tom’s turn to trim hooves

The best part of her class was the hands on hoof trimming. We had NO idea how to do it (fortunately Bella and Daisy’s hooves are pretty good) and pictures online and in books just aren’t the same as real experience.

Novella’s quickly put together stanchion

Novella also showed us how to quickly put together a stanchion. Of course Tom will use his handy woodworking skills to make something a bit sturdier, but I was amazed at how simple it seemed to go together just from scrap wood she found around the station.
She also quickly went over how to make yogurt and also how to make cheese. We got to sample some of her cheeses which were fabulous! I am really looking forward to learning more things about goats.
She also teaches a Complete Rabbit Class that we really want to try. Her next class probably won’t be until September so we’ll just have to be patient. Urban homesteading can’t happen overnight even if we really want it too.