Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Notes from the Milking Parlor

After all the babies are born and are 3 weeks old,  The Nebraska Prairie Girls starts milking.

I do not bottle feed my  goat babies for mainly one reason,  I need them to do the milking when I cannot.   Most traditional dairies take the babies from momma after they have had colostrum for a couple days.   Once the babies have had colostrum they train them to a bottle or a lamb bar ( a bucket with a lot of nipple attached to the outside).    This is  done so that the dairy can control how much milk the babies consume.  

I leave my kids on the mom until I wean them in the fall.   I separate the kids from the moms at night, so I can have the morning milk.   After I milk  I put moms with the kids for the day and repeat the process in the evening.  In the event that I can not milk in the morning or we go out of town, the kids are left with their moms allowing them to nurse.  So in a way the kids do the milking for me, when I cannot.   This is the milking  arrangement that I have always used and it works out great for me.   Keep in mind the milk that is produced here on our farm is for our families consumption and for use in making bath and body products for my business.   We do not need to milk twice a day as we already produce enough milk to full fill our needs.  

Welcome to my Parlor:

Milking Parlor
I know that it is primitive looking but, it is clean, has cement floors, and is out of the weather.  I just added the stanchion to the left this year.   I bring in two goats at a time, which help to speed up the process.
Supplies I use:  The blue bucket is my wash bucket that has warm water and about a tablespoon of Dr. Bronners Peppermint Pure-Castile Soap and a few drops of Tea Tree oil.  The peppermint in the soap feels nice and refreshing and the Tea Tree oil adds anti-fungal properties.   In my wash bucket I have several wash clothes for wiping and cleaning udders.    I have my stainless steel milking bucket and my stainless milk pail with lid.   I also have a couple dry wash clothes for drying udders once I have washed them.     I used to use paper towels to do all the udder washing.  Sarah, a  friend of mine who has a grade-A goat dairy, saves money and trees by using wash cloths.   I thought if she can clean  fifty goat udders and not use paper towels than I could certainly milk my small herd with out paper products.
July and Rosie ready to be milked

Milking Rosie
Once the girls are in the stanchion I give them their grain rations in the grain holder  by their heads.   When they are happily eating I wash and dry their udder.    At this time I am hand milking though I do have a milking machine.   I do not think it would be worth  digging out the milker since I am only milking four goats at this time. I will not add the remaining goats to the milk line until the end of June.    July to the left is new to the whole milking idea as this is her first year.  Rosie on the right is an old hand at this and is very easy to milk.  July started off being great to milk but as time goes on she becomes a little more, let's say, non-compliant.    I milk one goat while the other is eating and then move to the other goat.  When both are done milking they are put in with the rest of the herd and I go get the next two milkers. 
Look at the udder on Cinder.   Cinder is Rosie's mom and one of the goats who had triplets this year.   I tell you after milking her by hand,  my muscles are throbbing.  (Um,  maybe I should get out my milking machine after all)

Frothy goodness in the milk pail
After I milk each goat I dump the milk into the milk pail with the lid.  Then I go milk the next goat.   You learn from experience not to leave milk in the bucket  in case the bucket gets kicked over or someone sticks their foot in the pail.   

Straining the milk
Once done milking, I bring the milk in the house right away to strain through a milk filter, into a glass jar.    Today, I got 10.8 pounds of milk. Keep in mind that is not a lot of milk to get from four goats.   However,  I am still sharing their milk with their babies and I do not milk them all the way out. 

The milk is then dated and placed in the frig. 

This is not a step by step list of the procedures I use but just a snap shot.  There are many other little steps that go into milking and handling milk.   I figured most of my readers where not going to go out and milk goats,  so there was no need to list everything.   

One thing I did not mention is the time that I milk in the morning.   Can you guess?   5 am. nope, 6 am. nope, more like 9 am.   I know shocking!   I separate the babies from momma's around 8:30 the night before so I give them about 12 hours before I milk.    My friends husband always thought that I was out milking goats at the crack of dawn. (Not this Prairie Girl)   He was very shocked to find out that I did not milk until 9:00 am.

I hope that you enjoyed the tour of my milking parlor.   If you have any questions or suggestions please leave me a comment. 

If you would like to take a look at the products that are made from the milk we produce, it is available at    Double L Country Store   Here is my friend Sarah's Goat Dairy website, if you  want to see Grade A milk parlor check it out.   Victory Hill Farm 

Friday, May 20, 2011


The worse job for The Nebraska Prairie Girl on the farm is de-horning.   I would rather clean stalls and swath grass, than de-horn goats.  I rank de-horning right up there with butchering chickens.   I have gotten better at doing this hated job over the years.   I use to put it off as long as I could, this  made it even harder to do, since the horns had grown larger.   Though my herd consists mostly of Nubian's I do have a few La Moncha's.   La Moncha's are naturally polled (without horns) which is a nice little perk. 

You should dehorn goats around the age of 1 1/2-2weeks.  I usually wait 3-4 weeks,  I hate dehorning really little kids.   (just my personal feeling)   I do not dehorn any of the buck kids unless I know that they are going to be sold as pets.  

Why dehorned or disbudded?   Horns are dangerous to the handler and other goats.  I have been hit in the head by a horned goat before and I ended up with a huge bruise on my face and it about knocked me out.   Horns can become broken, causing blood loss.  They can get trapped in fencing or vegetation.    I have heard of many goats getting their horns hooked on fencing and feeders and breaking their necks.   I have also heard of getting their horns stuck on a fence and becoming easy pray to predators.  

Why remaining horned?  Horned livestock are better able to defend themselves  and their young from predators.  Horns are traditional in some breeds of goats.  Dehorning requires the right equipment or a visit to the vet. 

Whether to dehorn is really up to you as the goat owner.   For me it is much  safer for me as the handler to have all my goats dehorned.    Since  my goats are active dairy goats and are up close and personal  with me on  a daily basis, it is much safer for me if they are hornless.  I also feel it is much safer for the goat and her herd mates if they do not have horns.   I have never had a goat injured or killed  because it did not have horns to defend itself.  I am sure that there are instances like range goats that horns might benefit their survival. 

So let's begin......

Kid Box Torture Chamber
You will need:  A good quality dehorner and a fire proof holder
                           A kid holding box
                            Ice Pack
                            leather gloves
Goat specific Dehorner

Chicory after clipping around her little horn buds.
I usually let my dehorner heat for at least 15 minutes before I dehorn my first goat.    Make sure to place the dehorner in or on something fireproof.   I placed mine on a cinder block this time but a lot of time I use a old metal coffee can.   I usually do a test burning on a board to make sure that the dehorner is good and hot and does a complete circular burn.  The last thing I want to test my hot dehorner on is a baby goat.  

Next,  I catch my most unwilling victim and place in the Torture Chamber (Kid box).   If you trim the hair around the horn buds prior to dehorning there is less smoke and smell. 

Make sure to have your gloves on before handling a hot dehorner.

Yes, I am wearing a farm girl dress.
Now place the dehorner around the horn buds pressing down and moving the dehorner in a circular motion.  I usually do this to a count of five.  I then pull the dehorner away checking to see how much more I need to burn and give the baby a break.  The baby will scream and scream as you are applying the iron.  (this is what I hate)  Of course, I apologize the whole time I am doing this.   The goal you are shooting for is a nice copper ring around the horn bud.    If the copper ring is not circling the entire horn bud I go back and touch up those areas with the hot dehorner.    

 Her hair color matches the color of the copper ring and her horn bud.   As you can see there is a nice copper ring around her horn bud. 

I always have an ice pack on hand in case I come across horns that are a bit bigger and take more time to burn.   I will use the ice pack to place on there horn bud and head to cool it down before dehorning again.   Once you are finished with both horn buds you can give the baby back to its mommy.    The baby will tell her all about it and then nurse for comfort.   If you vaccinate your kid goats for CD&T this would be a good time to give the vaccine since you already have them caught.  I do not give this vaccine as I try to keep my herd free from antibiotics and vaccines. 

As a mentioned before I do not dehorn my buck kids unless they will be pets.   I do castrate them the same day that I dehorn the girls.  I usually castrate in between dehornings to give my dehorner time to reheat before the next goat. I do not keep any of my buck kids.   Once they are castrated the are called wethers.

As you can see  in this photo  all the girls are dehorned and despite all the stress and drama they have already forgotten what happened.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Just Kidding Update

Another ordinary day in the life of Sage, the goat. 

Sage is one of those animals that does not require a lot of attention.   She is a pretty low key, a do herself kind of gal.    She is a pleasure to milk because she just kind of goes with the flow.

Sage with her daughter Senna
I knew that today was going to be  delivery day for Sage.  She did not eat her grain this morning and did not want to come into the barn.   I felt her tendons and they had dropped, so I knew she was ready to deliver.   With in 2 hours she was deep in labor and was pushing, within 10 minutes her twins were born.   Just as she  lives her life so went her delivery, low key, and without drama.  The only thing unusual about Sage is the fact that she has one horn.  (A mistake on my part of de--horning)

This is the third year Sage has kidded  and each time before has been just as uneventful.   She choose to have them outside in the sunshine,  pretty smart considering it was about 65 degrees out.    She must have been waiting for just the perfect day to have her babies, as I had her due date figured for the 30th of April.    She was 10 days later than I had projected, go figure.  

Our Goat count is now 6 Doelings
                                          4 buckling
                                          12 Does
                                            2 Bucks

We have one more 2 year old and 5 yearlings to kid in June.   I am not really looking forward to the yearlings kidding as they usually are a bit more dramatic, with all their inexperience. 

We keep all the Doelings and add them to the herd,  once  they are a  year old ( yearling)  we decide which ones we are going to cull.   (Never an easy decision)   All the Bucklings will be castrated and sold in the fall once they are weaned. 

So goes another day in the life of the Nebraska Prairie Girl and her Dairy Goats.

Monday, May 9, 2011

My Nebraska!

Well if Sarah Palin can have her Alaska then I can have "My Nebraska", right?

I hear so many times from people that have driven down I-80 through Nebraska say, "Why would you want to live in Nebraska?" "There is nothing there."    Well I just say well then you really have not seen Nebraska.   However, the straw that broken the Camels back, was when Fox 31 news anchor Kellie MacMullen compared Nebraska to North Dakota.  She said something like," Driving through Nebraska is like driving through North Dakota, there is nothing to see."   Well that is it,  I decided to let out one of my best kept secrets,   "My Nebraska"

Cliffs by Ft. Robinson
So the story begins with my family moving here from Colorado eleven years ago.   We loved to  go camping at Ft. Robinson and Chadron State Park.  This was a time before the drought, you saw beautiful green grass for as far as your eyes could see.   Well to make a long story short, we well really I,  kept looking in the paper for farms for sale.   I have to admit the prices of farms in Nebraska  compared to that in Colorado, was amazing.   You could buy a place in Nebraska so much cheaper than you could in Colorado.  I know that upset a lot of Nebraska Farmers but it sure was a blessing to us.

On one of our trips back from camping we took a detour to look at a farm for sale.   When we finally got there, YIKES.   It was so run down and needed so much work, Dave said, There is no way!!!"    We just drove right on past it thinking we would have to be crazy to take that on.    To make this story short, the Realtor talked us into coming back a few weeks later and looking at the inside of the house.    Well I fell in love with the house and all its possibilities, well in love with everything except the fact that is was stuck in the 70's.  Anyway,  we sold our house in Colorado and moved to Nebraska one year later.   I really have to give my husband kudos,  he was willing to  give up a good job,  a home that he and I owned  in for 13 years, to follow his crazy wife dreams.    Not that he did not dream of a bigger place in the country.   Dave  was just a little more apprehensive to do it on a wing and a prayer.  A lot of prayer!
This is when I went from being a Colorado Prairie Girl to a Nebraska Prairie Girl.

The move itself was crazy, you see not only did we have to move our personal belongings, but livestock and all their equipment.   I will tell you right now the only way I will move again is in a pine box, on my back, with my arms folded across my chest.   Not only because I hate to move, but because I love "My Nebraska.    The farm does not look anything like it did when we moved in, there has been a lot of blood sweat,  tears  and love poured into this old farm.   But the move has been such a huge blessing to our family,  we have never looked back. 

This is the beginning of a canyon 1 mile north of our farm.
I wanted to share with you what "My Nebraska"  looks like.   It is not flat,  like I - 80 would suggest, but filled with rolling hills and canyon lands.  

Rock out crops in the canyon
More cliffs in the canyon

These photo's where taken about a mile and a half from our farm.  This is the scenery my children get to see out the bus window every morning and night.   When they get off the bus in the afternoon they always have stories about the wild life they have seen.

Not much straight and flat to this road.
Gabe Rock.
  I know that these photo's don't compare to those of the Rocky Mountain in our neighboring state of Colorado, to some folks.  However, to me they are just as beautiful.    Wildlife  is abundant here and ever present, well except when you have a camera.    We have elk, mule deer and white tail deer,  big horn sheep, moose, bob cats, mountain lions, coyotes, wild turkeys,  an occasional bear that wander to far down the river, and we have had wolf sighting.    Watch out Yellowstone National Park!     So you see,  that "My Nebraska"might be one of the worlds best kept secrets.

Oh and by the way "My Nebraska" can be exciting as you can see from the next photo.  Warning: This next photo does contain something, some of you might find disturbing.

Two Prairie Rattlers on one of the Cliffs.  
When I was out taking these photo's for my blog I did see plenty of deer but they were to far away to get a photo. (I need a better camera).  However,  these two rattle snakes were close enough to get a photo of, go figure.   They did not want to smile and say cheese,  they were very happy to rattle their little rattlesnake tails at me.   I hope you enjoyed some of photo's of  "My Nebraska"  but it is much better in person.  So if you live in Nebraska you already know about its best kept secrets.   If you're not from Nebraska take some time get off of I-80 and head north on HWY 71 you will be glad that you did.   Because just beyond all the farm ground,  tucked away there is the most amazing landscape and scenery. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Chick Days!

As I mentioned before we run  a camp for Special Needs kids on our farm throughout the summer.   The Camp Grace Board of Directors approved the purchase of an incubator to hatch chicks out for camp.  Since I have never used this particular incubator before I decided I better do a trial hatching.  Here is how it went.
Here is the incubator.  I know it looks like something an astronaut would wear.
Back on the 12th of April I set 14 eggs from my hen house in the incubator.  You have to be very selective in the eggs you choose.  They have to come out of the hen house clean, the right shape and size.  You can not wash the eggs before you incubate them or it washes off the protective coating on the shell.   I try to make sure the eggs are from newer hens, not hens that are old and laying extra large eggs.  
Just set in the incubator.

The incubator has a automatic turner,(the black box to the right) and water for humidity, (the long plastic bottle on the left).  This is the most automatic incubator I have ever used.  My old one was just a cheap Styrofoam one I bought many years ago at a farm and ranch store.   I had to check the water level every day and turn the eggs buy hand.    I have hatched many a chicks in that old Styrofoam incubator, but this was much easier hands down.   

The eggs have to stay at a constant temperature of 100 degrees with a humidity of  86%.    With the temperature and humidity set, now it was time to wait, 21 days in fact.    Being the broody hen that I am I checked the temperature and humidity of the incubator every time I walked buy it.   The incubator sat on the kitchen counter in one of the corners.  Since I am in and out of the kitchen all day those little eggs never went unchecked.   I was a little concerned that my rooster to hen ratio might not be good.    I have two roosters that are in charge of about 27 hens, not too bad.  But you have to realize my chickens are free range, meaning they are able to roam as far and wide as they desire.    This can be a problem for those two roosters. They have to do a lot of running to keep up with all those hens.  

( Government description of free range is, if  they have government certified access to the outdoors. The door may be open for only five minutes and the farm still qualifies as “free-range. ) (A great topic for another blog, some other day)

After nineteen days  it is time to turn off the egg turner.  The chicks are moving around at this point getting themselves in the proper hatching position, so the turner is not needed.

You can see the pips if you click to enlarge

All  of my days of brooding paid off after 20 day of being in the incubator the eggs started to pip. We noticed that they had pipped about 8 pm.    When the chick pip the eggs means they have put a little hole in the egg and have started to consider hatching. 

My almost seventeen year old son watching the eggs very closely after they pipped.   He was amazed that you could hear them peeping in the shell.   He sat there a very long time until I told him they probably would not hatch for another 8 hours.   He decided to give up his egg watching and opted to go to bed and check in the morning. 
In the morning we woke to two chicks already hatched and a flurry of excitement by the chicks and the humans.  (Do you know how hard it is to get your kids breakfast, dressed, and on the bus when there is hatching going on?)
A black chick hatching. (one of only two blacks)
The second chick to hatch.  He looks a little upset.



When all was said and done we had 11 chicks hatch out of 14 eggs.  Not too bad considering those poor running roosters.   (The last three eggs were not fertile)  By mid morning 9 chicks had hatched, but there were still 4 more pipped eggs to go.     After dinner the four pipped eggs had still not hatched, so being the broody hen that I am I decided to help them.   I knew that they were alive, I could hear them peeping.   I also knew that if they did not hatch they would die, and I knew that if I helped them hatch they could die.    I decided that if I did nothing and they never hatched I would feel bad, so................    I very carefully peeled back the shells and exposed the chicks.  Two of the chicks came out and started to move a peep right away.  The other two were very week and did not move much.    I put the two thriving chicks in with the others under the heat lamp and left the two weak chicks in the incubator over night.    I did not know if I would come down in the morning to live chicks but that was the chance I decided to take.   Well, low and behold they were both very much alive and ready to move to the heat lamp. 

I know this is a bad photo, but as you can almost see there are the baby chicks.  They are under a red heat lamp all snug and warm.   My friend Lori is going to take the chicks home to raise and  add to her hen house.   The Nebraska Prairie Girl  has concluded that this incubator and the hatching were a big success and I am now ready to set eggs on May 7th,  to have May 27th for our first day of Camp Grace.   Happy Hatching.