People per Hour

Wednesday 8 June 2011

A week has passed & still the piglets are not weaned, the goats have not had their hooves clipped, their yard cleaned, nor been vaccinated or drenched. The weather has been quite atrocious. I paced around until nearly midnight last night listening to the rain hammering on the roof of the house and the wind howling through the decks. It’s bitterly cold & there is no let up in the weather this morning. I haven’t checked the rain gauge yet, but it looks like over 50mm in 24 hours. The tops of Sleeping Beauty & Mount Wellington (when not shrouded in cloud & rain) are streaked with snow. Suddenly they seem very wild and remote. The creeks are raging & new rivers flow across paddocks.

The animals are extraordinary hardy. I can see the goat bucks out now foraging for food & nibbling at the bale of hay – now soaking – I put out for them yesterday. Vicky & the piglets are also out & about & wondering when someone is going to come & feed them. I had planned (once again) to tackle piglet-weaning today, but even I’m not masochistic enough to stumble around ankle-deep in mud with icy, horizontal rain driving into my face. I have at least prepared the weaning pen. The last two small goats have been moved out & indeed sold a couple of days later (as pets to a couple guaranteed to dote upon them). I’ve cleared out the straw & goat manure from around the goat feeding station, filling 30 feed bags in the process. There is no vehicle access & a wheelbarrow was awkward, so this seemed the only solution, but it was a back-breaking job. The only thing left to do is set up a pig-proof water container (I might set the one that’s there into the ground).

Other things occupying me include the probable imminent closure of our local abbatoir. This would be a disaster. It is the only abbatoir for hundreds of miles that kills goats & also takes individual pigs from smallholders & hobby farmers like myself. If it does not get sold, it may spell the end of my goat meat enterprise. I’ve met with the agent & talked to the sellers & am putting out feelers with respect to getting together a consortium, should a single buyer not emerge. We have until the end of June. Just from the point of view of animal welfare, a local abbatoir is a must – it minimises the time for which animals must be transported. Talking of which there is currently a big brouhaha here over live exports – an ABC documentary program revealed the hardship & cruelty that cattle endure when shipped to Indonesia for slaughter (although I’ve no doubt that similar conditions prevail in other countries). It comes as no surprise really: live exports are an abomination. Animals should be killed as close as possible to their home farm I believe, without being stressed by long journeys & hours spent in cramped holding pens. The terror & pain of the animals at the slaughterhouse is just the final end to their long trial.

I’ve had an unfortunate death here this week in fact. One of the goats who was got at when young by my rotten young buck & had twins, has finally succumbed to the illnesses she’s been subject to since then. I think her immune system was compromised & she kept scouring & became thin. I thought perhaps she was on the road to recovery as she’d seemed to pick up lately, then suddenly she took a turn for the worse & despite all my efforts became weaker. I went up there one evening to find her unable to walk. I got her to a hut & made her as snug as possible. I determined to use the shotgun in the morning if she was still alive, but she’d died in the night. I was rather sad as not only was it preventable (ie if I’d kept Charlie further away) but she also promised to be one of my best goats: handsome looking, a good mum & stocky like her mum.