It's been quite the busy kidding season so far. Cuddling our baby goats is by far the best part of managing a certified organic goat dairy...
The “Ides of March” are upon us. We have goats freshening in the barn producing seven babies to date (3 doelings, 4 bucklings). I relocated our bucks to their shed and pasture by the creek to allow my does to freshen in peace and to prevent that “buck smell” from being present during milking. Our chicks will be arriving next month and we will raise these organically from day one. Hemlock, spruce, and elderberry saplings will be planted this spring, while our laying hens will be turned onto pasture soon.
I’m writing a Nutrient Management Plan currently that will address the manure concerns on our farm. The plan includes composting our manure and bedding material to a near soil quality before spreading it onto our pasture. We have minimal manure management concerns due to the solid nature of goat and chicken manure. Any manure that isn’t directly dropped onto our permanent pasture is mixed with bedding material and then piled and composted for a year before we turn it to increase aeration. Once it has been turned we then allow more time to pass before it turns into soil. We then load it onto the trailer and spread onto our pasture.
This summer we plan to create walkways for our livestock to tread on when leading them to pasture everyday. Gravel will be delivered to create these paths, and we will clean up the milking parlor and barn entrances by constructing adequate drainage. We only have small distances to lay these paths, about 200 feet total. Therefore, our summer will entail a greater effort in milking a larger herd and making dairy products, rather than improve our farm’s infrastructure. My goal in the next two years is to learn how to perfect my yogurt and cheese recipes before contemplating moving forward with a potential cheese making business.
Our farm is growing and slowly etching out a purpose in this world. This passed May (2010) we bought 60 chickens (unsexed) and were given three baby ducks. We raised the baby chicks in our 100 square foot shed with heat lamps for about eight weeks. Two “pasture pens” were built and used for our laying hens once they were old enough to be put outside at around eight weeks. Once the chicks were around 13 weeks we butchered all the roosters. At 13 weeks the roosters started practicing their calls early and we didn’t want to cause a Rooster Ruckus in the neighborhood.
Our baby ducks were raised in a utility sink indoors until they became too big to fit. Aidan and Reece had a great time feeding them, changing their water, and cleaning out the sink everyday. I would fill the sink once a day to give them their duckling bath. Right around the time our chicks were put in their “pasture pens” we were able to transfer the ducks to the chicken shed for the summer. The ducks were trained to walk a few yards to the Buffalo Creek, where they’d spend the day. At dinnertime, they walked back to the shed with a little help using a long 2x4 to guide them. I was able to find a permanent home for the ducks in the fall of 2010, because we weren’t able to keep them over the winter due to space constraints.
The summer of 2010 became hectic quick. At the end of June (2010) when 1.5 acres of permanent fencing was installed to allow our goats to graze rotationally. We then built and installed a solar powered, water system to pump creek water to all of our pastures using a gravity fed cistern. We also dug up our backyard to lay piping and installed two frost-free hydrants to address winter water concerns in our barn and shed. All of this work was completed by September of 2010, right on time for everyone to go back to school except Mom. I stayed home to milk the goats and practice making cheese and yogurt. I kept myself very busy selling eggs, doing chores, and working part time at a local horse farm in the fall of 2010.
Soon winter was upon us, and we had to buy and store our winter hay, move animals around, and prepare for my bi-lateral foot surgery that I was scheduled for two days after Christmas of 2010. The surgery went very well, I recovered sooner than I believed possible. During my six-week recovery, I was able to hunker down and fill out a lengthy application to have our farm “certified organic.” Believe me, I had my doubts whether foot surgery was possible while transitioning our farm to a “certified organic” operation in 2011. But in hindsight, I’m glad I did it now, rather than later. Our future will soon bring much excitement and haste that I couldn’t dream of scheduling elective surgery a year from now or even five years into the future.
Now that Eric and I have applied numerous green principles to improving our health and creating a toxic free home environment, we are concentrating our efforts on building a sustainable future for our children and future generations. In large part, our farm and it's mission encompasses the idea of environmental stewardship that eventually leads and contributes toward future sustainability. Our original dream for starting our farm will add to the growing trend of sustainable farming practices in our local community. Moreover, the goals we will accomplish while farming include working our land in an ecologically sustainable manner and providing highly nutritious and pesticide free food. Thus, buying local, organic, and sustainably produced foods is a great way to build on future sustainability for our planet. Additionally, buying locally produced foods is healthier because nutrients haven't been lost in a lengthy shipping process and are picked when mature producing food with a higher nutritional value. Buying locally also saves energy by eliminating the need for costly food transportation. As an added bonus, it also keeps money in our local economies by supporting local farms.
We, as an average American family household are responsible for at least 10 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. Eric and I have agreed to lower our 'carbon footprint' through changing various energy practices in our home and with our transportation. By applying green principles to energy use and conservation in our home, we've lowered our annual carbon emissions substantially. You can calculate your family's carbon footprint using various sources online. Last spring 2009, we decided to trade in our 8 year old Toyota Corolla for our very first hybrid vehicle. Since Eric commutes to work about 40 minutes each day we wanted the smallest hybrid vehicle available. We have been very pleased with our Toyota's performance over the last few years and therefore choose a Toyota Prius for our hybrid. At an average of 50 miles per gallon we are so elated with our Prius purchase, not to mention it contributes greatly toward our goal of a 'zero carbon footprint.'
Other steps you can take to reduce their carbon footprints include the following: buy natural electricity, live near work and/or carpool or use public transportation, unplug appliances not being used, change the temperature of your home down a few degrees in winter and up a few degrees in the summer, think globally and buy locally, use power alternatives (for example: install solar panels), bring your car for a tune up and check tire pressure and fluids for increasing it's efficiency (it saves you money too), and lastly go hybrid. Even if many of these choices are not immediately attainable, try to work toward them a little at a time. This will make the tasks seem less overwhelming. You'd be surprised how much change can occur in just a few years of upgrading for energy efficiency, and with the help of government rebates today, the incentives to make these changes happen have risen.
Cami with twins, photo by Kerry Beiter
The melting of snow each winter brings new life to our farm. The birds begin to sing and build nests, newly opened buds allow for leaves to take shape, and wet, earthy smells of spring fill our nostrils as we prepare for the gardening season ahead. Along with new plant emergence each spring we ready ourselves and our beloved goats for freshening season. Our Does are eager to birth the kids they carried all winter long, especially those that carry twins.
It's very common for goats to birth twins, and makes it easier to milk them when they have multiples. When twins are born they each feed from one teet allowing both their mother's udders to be fully emptied. If one kid is born, that kid will tend to favor one teet and thus empty only one udder. The other udder will need to be milked at least twice a day so as to prevent engorgement and possible infections. We prefer to milk our goats twice a day, and we leave the kids with their mothers for at least the first three weeks of life. After three weeks, we separate the kids from their mother's at night only. This ensures a substantial supply for the morning milking. The kids love being with their mothers all day long and can nurse free choice, which generally keeps up the milk supply for at least a few months. I like to wean our kids around 3-4 months of age, when they're comfortable being away (in separate stalls) from their mother's and are eating a full diet of hay. If we continue to milk twice a day usually every 12 hours apart, we can continue milk our Does even after they've weaned their kids.
So, with new babies arriving each spring, we re-energize ourselves to begin the long list of outdoor chores that await us. Electric fencing must be in place and working, water lines must be installed in the paddock areas, and the transitioning of the goats to a diet of hay and grain to pasture vegetation begins. Springtime is truly a wonderful season for us at the farm; the freshness of emerging life (both inside and outside the barn) is warmly welcomed after the long, cold days of winter have left.
The East Aurora Co-operative Market in East Aurora, NY is sponsoring a screening of "Food, Inc." at the Aurora Theater on February 28 at 4:00PM. The East Aurora Co-operative Market is currently in the planning stages of establishing a community grocery featuring locally made and grown products. The Co-op can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Two points on this…
1. We have not seen the film "Food, Inc." but we are looking very forward to this event. With insights from Michael Pollan (author of Omnivore's Dilemma and Food Rules) and Joel Salatin from Polyface Farm, this should be a very intriguing documentary. Not to mention that the event will have an audience supporting ideas from the movie and who understands the current problems with our food system.
2. The creation of a Co-op in East Aurora, NY is very exciting to us. This market will not only provide us with a place to shop for locally produced foods, it will also give us a future market for the food we plan to produce here at our farm.
As parents, we are always in search for a place that can provide organic, local, and sustainably grown food. Finding organically produced food has become increasingly easier over the past 10 years or so. However, aside from attending farmers markets finding locally grown food is not nearly as easy. Regarding sustainably produced food, which in our minds is the most important quality in food production, unfortunatly is the hardest type of food to find. Thus, the opening of the East Aurora Co-op market might just be a reason to celebrate,especially if it can provide foods produced using all three methods; organically, locally and sustainably.
As a farm we are now just starting to think about how we are going to get our products, once produced, to local markets. Our farm is just over a couple years old and still in the start-up stage, but its not to early to contemplate the production and selling of our product. We are indeed delighted with the prospects of the Co-op for the reasons discussed. At this point we have not been in touch with anyone from the Co-op yet so we can't say too much regarding details, however, needless to say our hopes are high.
post by Eric Beiter
We live in Western New York State (WNY) where the effects of Lake Erie embrace all of Buffalo and the surrounding countryside. So far, we've had close to 2 months of severe cold (hasn't managed out of the teens in weeks), along with the usual snow accumulation for this part of the state.
So what happens to our goats in the dead of winter in WNY? They don't get much outdoor exercise, that's for sure. But they really don't need it. Hunkering down during the winter seems to be popular amongst other non-human animals as well. Our goats are more than content staying inside the toasty barn eating hay, chewing their cud, and just lounging on their thick beds of straw.
In the late fall they begin growing their thick coat of fur which, suits them well in the winter. They also put on some weight from all the extra grain given during the milking cycle, which tapers off late fall. Our buck (male breeder goat) ends up loosing most of his extra weight during fall rutting season. He does have a nice thick fur though to help him survive winter. We begin weaning the goats off of grain twice a day to once a day, while cutting their total grain consumption to about a quarter of what they get while milking. When our does are dry (not milking) they require little grain, just enough to feed their daily minerals. Does while dry and pregnant, shouldn't gain to much weight because it can make spring freshening (birth) more difficult. We also make sure to feed first-cut hay (less green in color to richer second-cut hay) which has more carbohydrates in it than protein to help them generate more body heat in the cold weather. I offer my goats all the hay they want during winter to keep them warm and happy.
So when winter hits, out come the heated water buckets for the doe barn and the buck and chicken shed. The goats appreciate having warm, accessible water around the clock. In years past, before we installed electric in our barn and shed, we would be breaking bucket ice every morning when providing our herd with water. Last summer Eric installed the electric and this coming summer we'll be installing a frost-free water spicket inside the unheated barn.