Spring Kidding and Other Adventures!
Our spring kidding began, actually, in the midst of winter (Feb 20), but as April passes the half way mark we we are nearly complete! 98 goats have "freshened" (given birth) since those cold February days and just over 200 kids have been born.
Generally, our barn stays warm due to hay stored above and the body heat of 100+ goats, so the cold is not usually an issue for us. Not unlike all mammals, goats must have a baby to begin lactating, and it is perhaps the most stressful time for an animal, as well as their caretaker (in this case the author), but also the most miraculous and life-affirming! When a doe freshens she goes into a pen with her kids so they can bond and the kids can get a good start by getting the first milk- called "colostrum"- which has all of the antibodies that the kid needs to thrive. You can see here the new moms are very wary of our dog, Boomer, sniffing up the aisles...hormones are running high the first day after freshening!After a couple of days the moms are eager to get back with the herd, and we take over bottlefeeding the kids.
This creates a strong bond between us and the kids, as well as among the kids themselves. The bonds that kids create among each other in groups can last a lifetime! We also ensure that the kids are getting properly fed and cared for. We don't select for good mothering, after all!Another reason for separation is that when left to nurse, kids can be extremely rough on the udders. They tend to feed on just one side and can permanently damage the sensitive mammary tissue by nudging the udder to get the milk to let down. You can see here, our goats mean business when it comes to milk production, and gentle and consistent milking is key to their health and to the bottom line of the farm. We do that best!We shower lots of love on our freshened does through good nutrition, clean bedding, space inside and out to lounge, and of course our unwavering affection. Our commitment is that our goats live the good life as reward for working hard.
Once the milk flows, the cheese is made, and here is a great shot that encapsulates what it means to be a "farmstead" cheese producer: The goats who make the milk play outside while the cheese drains just through the window! Our farmstand is open for the season (10-6 daily), the fields are greening up, and we look forward to a busy, full summer season. We hope you can swing by our lovely corner of Vermont!