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Saturday 20 August 2011

We’ve now got four little goat kids – twins Esther & Ditsy were born to Dusty yesterday and Ginger had tiny Coriander a few days ago. Looking up the hill this morning I see that Super-White has a little mite with her that I need to ear-tag and whose navel needs disinfecting. The mums all have to be drenched once they have kidded too. I try to give the babies names that either rhyme with their mum’s or has some other connection. That way it is easier to remember which kid belongs to which doe without looking it up.

It’s a rather less stressful enterprise this year because I’ve gradually weeded out the rotten mums or those that have required help with kidding. I had one doe that would always reject one of her twins, going so far as trying to squash it against the wall of a hut, such that I had to restrain her until she accepted both. Even then one would never get as much food as the other. Another doe refused to feed her babies at all – I tried my hardest but in the end had to put the kids down because her milk dried up & they wouldn’t drink from a bottle or lap from a bowl. This time the only uncertainties are the two young maiden does and the two does I bought in kid a few months back.

I’m having a lot of trouble with the goats’ feet at present, owing – presumably – to all the rain & the ground being so soggy underfoot. Three of the young ones have persistent problems despite all my efforts with betadine and formaldehyde. The problem is there is nowhere dry I can put them to recover. At first I could see nothing wrong with their feet, but when I looked more closely it was the gap between the cloven hooves which had become sore. Unfortunately it is the most skittish of the young goats that are suffering, hence it is a nightmare catching them for treatment.

It’s been a while since I updated the blog, as we had a guest from the UK staying with us for a few days & then Bronte & I succumbed to an evil stomach bug that she’d brought with her from Brisbane. She arrived somewhat under the weather, saying she’d had food poisoning, but it turned out to be of a very contagious kind! So last weekend was a complete write-off with both of us groaning and incapacitated. My stomach’s still feeling rebellious despite copious amounts of probiotic and Quickeze.

Before the bug struck, our guest and Luke & I (Luke fortuitously had a ‘pupil-free’ day), went to Pelverata Falls. Despite being here 7 years we’d never done this walk before. It turned out to be quite a marathon and extremely muddy. Towards the end the path was quite treacherous involving scrambling over rocks with a steep drop-off to one’s right. However, it was all worth it as the Falls are quite spectacular. We anticipated a good flow given all the rain we’ve had but hadn’t imagined the setting itself to be so awesome. The first glimpse of the Falls is on arrival at the look-out point – from there you look up and left to a towering escarpment, from which the Falls thunder down 114m to the valley floor. The walk was signposted as 3hrs return. Luke and I managed it in 2 – but we’d kept up a fairly fast pace to achieve that. Even Rosie-dog was a little weary! She accompanies Bronte on his fitness runs and never breaks into a pant.

Slippery Falls - visible just before getting to Pelverata Falls

My current project is making a double kennel for the dogs, which can sit on the deck outside the laundry door. I am so fed up with clearing up poo and pee in the mornings I plan to banish them outside as soon as the kennel is complete. Rosie seemed to get much better but then Bruce suddenly started up (I’ve since treated him for worms and he seems to have improved) and now Rosie has started again. They will sleep outside now until next winter when hopefully they’ll be better behaved. However, like all my constructions the kennel is turning into a mammoth labour of love. I decided to make it double-skinned for insulation, which seemed so simple a concept, but turns out to be decidedly complicated in execution. Oh well, I shall persevere. I haven’t told Bronte yet, but I’ve incorporated the slats off an old pine double bed of his which was stored in the garage. Frankly, I thought that if we hadn’t missed the bed in 7 years, we never would.

I thought I had sold Vicky & Connor, our main sow and boar. However, it seems that the purchaser now doesn’t want the boar and can’t take Vicky until the middle of September. I’m wondering whether it is worth selling them at all now, since Vicky is due to farrow mid-September and I’ve already had to feed them for a month since the sale was agreed. I may as well just keep on. I could always sell Vicky after the babies are weaned. The main problem (besides not getting more time to spend on the goats) is that their pens are decidedly boggy. I don’t have a spare pen since destroying the pear-tree paddock with the ute (see earlier blogs) and don’t want to spend time making another when I should be concentrating on goat fencing.

Talking of pigs, I’ve been listening to various debates about meat and the long-term sustainability of eating meat in the quantities to which we are now accustomed. There is an interesting concept of ‘default meat’, ie meat from livestock which are grown without using feed that could otherwise be used to feed humans. For instance, there is a great deal of waste food that can be fed to animals plus there are grazing animals grown on rangelands which are not suitable for any other sort of agricultural production. The argument is that as a rule it takes many more resources (land, feed and carbon) to grow animals than it takes to grow the equivalent nutritional value of vegetables or grain. Therefore, growing meat is depriving the world of extra food that could be used to feed the starving millions. But if you can grow animals using waste food (or byproducts from other industries) or use land fit for no other purpose, then you are adding to the world’s food harvest, not detracting from it.

Our pigs fit neatly into this category. They take up little space and are fed almost entirely on waste products – mostly potatoes and apples that would otherwise be dumped, supplemented by dairy products past their sell-by-date and cast-off salad veggies. What wonderful creatures pigs are! The goats, however, do not yet fit into this category as they consume a great deal of grain grown on land which could otherwise be used to feed humans. Once I have more paddocks and they are feeding off the land, we’ll be more eco-friendly, because our land is virtually unusable for growing crops.