Ever had the feeling that it is going to be ‘one of those days’….?
Well today, it was.
The old verdigris bell hanging beside the front door was loudly jangled at first light, by the driver delivering the pre-cast tanks which will hold the Dairy Complex grey water. He’d arrived at around 3am & had reversed almost all the way down the drive (not something I’d even want to do in broad daylight in a small car, to be honest); however his lorry was too large to take the last bend & was now wedged firmly between the bank & the adjacent ditch. He was not in the best of moods.
At that moment Paul & his assistant Kevin arrived; so we had a cuppa whilst debating What To Do. Meanwhile a transit van appeared at the top of the drive; on seeing the lorry it reversed gingerly back up the hill – how frustrating, it was our replacement washing machine arriving, unfortunately, unannounced; & not to reappear again today, either.
We called another farming neighbour whose son Gareth thankfully came to our aid in his father’s absence; & the tanks were offloaded onto his yard until we can manoeuvre them into place once we have figured out how on earth we can do so! To be honest I don’t think even if we’d managed to get the lorry as far as the arrivals yard, the driver would have been able to get across to the far edge of the site to offload the tanks: they weigh around four tons each & I suspect the lorry would have sunk up to its axles in the mud with such a heavy load (it was carrying three). So the phrase “not tonight, Josephine” springs to mind…
Whilst Tony resumed the extremely back-breaking & smelly job of cleaning out goat pens I went through livestock paperwork to determine exactly when our first goat kids are due. According to my calculations Ninny & Koo are due on 2nd March; so the earliest we can expect the patter of tiny hooves is 26th February & the latest, 6th March. Goats generally kid after around 150 days following a successful mating although they can vary from 145-154 days.
The gestation period for sheep is slightly more protracted, being 147-151 days in most breeds, although it can be less in some. To aid the calculation process I use an online Gestation Calculator from the Michigan Dairy Goat Society’s website; it’s so quick & easy. I use it for both the goats & the sheep, just knocking a day off the calculation for the sheep which means you won’t be far wrong. Actually last year the majority of the goats were near-as-dammit spot-on 150 days, apart from the odd awkward madam of course!
Anyway for those who would like to take the hard work out of lambing/kidding dates, I’ve put a link to the MDGS Gestation Calculator in the right-hand column’s “Livestock” section; it’s automatic & you don’t need to download anything, unlike most of the others.
As it was so fine & sunny if rather uncomfortably cold, we broke for a lovely lunch in the garden, just a simple pasta dish; chorused by the soft rush of the river & the dry rattling croak of the myriad frogs in the pond, their bulbous eyes poking up like iridescent jewels in the sunlight on the water.
By evening the main pen was almost finished; however the goats, who by now had decided that it was dusk & time they came in for their supper, took it upon themselves to dismantle the line of hurdles in front of their gate & then do a limbo line through the exposed gap. The hurdles came down with an almighty CRASH! just as I was crossing the yard with an armful of straw from the barn as I was rebedding the clean pen. Tony meanwhile was up the ladder changing a fluorescent tube – just as the first goats charged into the pen. Fortunately he managed to scramble down before the ladder was knocked over by the excited goats – & grabbing a feed pail, I coaxed the ladies into a vacant stable with the promise of a ‘meal out’. Once they were all hoovering up the ‘goodies’ inside (& once simple old Froggie had been persuaded to join her chums, being ‘not quite with it’) the door was hastily slammed shut & our strawing-up completed in a thankfully less eventful manner.
Next on the agenda was relocating the more heavily-pregnant goats (nicknamed the ‘Hooligans’) from the far-end pen to the main one, to give them a bit more space & comfort for their rapidly-expanding tummies. This was fortunately less of a challenge than I’d anticipated although the ‘One-Horned Wonder’, Aloe, flatly refused to leave the comfort of her old pen unless I walked up with her, rather like accompanying a nervous child on her first day at school.
Once the gate to their more spacious accommodation was safely closed, we watched them frolick in the fresh straw, much like kids again despite their bulky bodies. After a few minutes’ observation we did drop the hayrack a notch however; as they were clearly uncomfortable scrambling up to full height to get their grub. Goats are browsers by nature; so we have developed a system whereby we can adjust the height of the hayracks to suit the size & situation of each manangement group of goats – anything to make their lives, more comfortable, after all!
We then accompanied the by now highly-indignant senior ladies (AKA the ‘Milkforce’) down to the end pen; they won’t be pleased, as they have less room in there. But they quickly settled to their two-course meal, washed down with freshly-scrubbed buckets of clean, fresh water.
Tony, the odd fly still buzzing round him like Linus from the ‘Peanuts’ cartoon after his day digging out layer after layer of pungent, deep goat litter, retired to the house for a bath & an early night, exhausted from his back-breaking labours & the antibiotics he’s still having to take.
I carried on with the endless round of paperwork, emails etc; thankful that the day had finally reached a less eventful conclusion. In fact the military expression when things are snowballing out of control, is a ‘rolling goat’ – what a very apt description for the day’s trials & tribulations!