For an inside look at Conception Farm:
Click here to see a picture of one of my Boer bucks
Click here to see a picture me and one of my goats
Click here to see a picture of some goats, the pig, and Pedro the llama at the feeder, with our house in the background.
Updateor Childhood or Immigration or Mme. Vivier or Heavy with Boers or Turn of the Millennium or Year of the Drought or News Flash or Herd Reduction or Record Septembers or Simplifying or In the Bag or Life Goes On
0) Update 2013
2013, and it's time to streamline. A new crop of lovely kids arrive between January and May. I found homes for a number of does and their daughters. Had to keep two gorgeous girls Sparkle and Andromeda from my awesome Boer buck Appaloosa. Hung on to two of his sons to stand stud, as well as two sons of Alpine buck Mountain Dew. Over a dozen people have booked to rent bucks. Something new that I have now done for the third year in a row is: display a pen of various goats (5 to 7, of different breeds, sizes, colours, and sexes) at The City Slickers Agricultural Trade Fair in Stony Plain, which is held primarily for the education of grades 4 and 5 from Edmonton schools. I was roped into it by my neighbour Myrna Coombs. It's always in September, and the goats are a big hit.
I'm happy to say that I've met a number of young families this year that are beginning to raise goats, both dairy and meat. Quite a few of my animals are participating. Only twelve does for me this winter !
And a final note, Her Majesty Soda Pop, the herd leader for most of her life, finally died in October 2013. She makes the record for the oldest goat I have ever had: 15 1/2, born here of Conception Sprite (Nubian dam) and Sanalta Marquis (Alpine sire). Of her copious progeny, Dominique is her granddaughter.
Rest in peace "old lady".
On our Anacker's Acre where I grew up, in Maryland, U.S.A., we had a pet goat. When I was 2, my mother put me inside her fence for my own safety. Apparently I cried. As a 12-year old on my aunt's hobby farm in Pennsylvania, my cousin and I were delegated to lead the 2 milk goats across the creek on a log bridge to the pasture. That was fun. I liked the milk, and I loved the "country life ". At 15, I managed a flock of 25 chickens and sold the eggs. I raised a baby orphan racoon one Summer. My sister and I were 4-H members, and were cooking up a storm. Most intriguing was time spent on a large tobacco farm in North Carolina, 20 miles from town.
In 1970 I came to Canada with my first "French connection", an American I met while we were university students in France. In the spirit of the back-to-the-land movement, we bought 100 acres and began carving it into a "self-sufficient" farm. Within a year I got my first goat, Lady, an old Toggenburg, and her 2 daughters. With the help of Billy-the-Kid, a borrowed buck, they multiplied. In 1972 I joined the Alberta Goat Breeder's Association. In 1975 I joined the Canadian Goat Society and registered my herd name, "Conception ". I took in a few shows. Made some yoghurt and cheese.
3) Madame Vivier
In 1978 I made my second "French connection " and married John, of Quebec roots. We bought registered purebred starter stock in 3 dairy breeds : Toggenburg, Nubian, and Alpine. Later I added Saanens. We put up a lot of board fencing, John became an expert at hay-making, and he constructed new hay-saving feeders. I began raising Holstein calves (2-3/year) and feeder pigs (2-3/year) with the surplus milk. Also orphan lambs, and kids from a sequence of dairies. For 18 months I went on Official Milk Test with 25 does, average butterfat was 3%, same as cows. The herd swelled to 50 head of brood does. In 1992 John, with some help from our sons, built a fabulous new barn.
4) Heavy With Boers
1992 the first embryos of a unique meat-specific breed of goat (the South African Boer) were imported into North America. They were transplanted into recipient does at Olds College in Alberta. It worked. They looked good. Prices skyrocketed. In 1994 we bought 6 expensive embryos which resulted in 3 related bucks. To make a long story short, we got our Boers, but we lost our money. Nevertheless, we built our meat herd by crossing the purebred bucks with dairy does, and upgrading. I also bought 2 registered purebred Boer does. I joined the Canadian Boer Goat Association in 1996. It 's now called the Canadian Meat Goat Association, embracing Kikos, Spanish, and other breeds.
5) Turn of the Millennium
Our 2002 hay crop yielded a shocking 1/10th of what it's given in a good year. Good thing we're downsizing. From a peak number in 1997 of 65 does, now 44. Two of the January kidders produced again in August, and 5 more of them gave birth in December.
7) News Flash
Seven of the January 2003 kidders repeated in July. Highlight event (for weirdness) was the two-faced kid " Billy- Bob", born by C-section. Alia's baby had a normal body, one neck, 2 ears, 4 horns, 4 eyes, and 2 muzzles! No lie, I have the proof. He lived 4 days.
8) Herd Reduction
From 40 head in 2004 to 35 goats in 2005, a dozen dairy types, the rest meat types. I milk the Boers too. Everybody has to have a decent udder and behave herself. The new season started in December '04, and by October '05, five of those early kidders produced another 11 babies.
9) Record Septembers
Another season started in early December 2006, and by June, three moms repeated. April '06 marked the death of 14year old "Aspen". The only other 14year old I kept that long was "Aeowin", also a Togg, back in the ' 80's. In September 2007 , an UNPRECEDENTED 7 does had 12 kids (2 sets of triplets). Then in September 2008, two does kidded, and another in November.
No more exhibiting goats, no more running goat shows, no more 4-H, no more petting zoos. Enough of raising steers (too big) and pigs (too naughty). In July 2009 our loyal LGD of 9yrs, Maremma "Lad" dies. Reduce herd from 24 does to 21 (14 dairy, 7 Boer). Taking the out-of-season and double-duty kiddings in stride. " Ginkgo", a 3/4 Boer, popped 2 bucks in May, following 2 years of September events. A January mom came again in July. And good old "Aphrodite" (my spooky goat, an Alpine) had twins in February, then another one in October!
11) In the Bag
Yes, we are slowly retiring. By August 2011, I'll be 40 years a "goat lady". Here's an interesting tidbit. I have found that the majority of my goats seem to give birth at "respectable working hours". Well, this season, the first ten goats all kidded at suppertime! Go figure! My hard working goat Ginkgo, now 7, had 2 beautiful doelings on one wintery day (March 24, snow & -11c) in the middle of an extraordinarily early Spring. Aphrodite, now 10, kidded in late April - AGAIN - 2 girls this time. The prognosis for the Fall (after another Summer drought?) is to feed 16-18 does (including 12yr old herd leader, Soda Pop, an Alpine), a buck or 2, good old Pedro the llama, and our new Maremma pup, Kimik. Plus the 5 cats and 50 heritage chickens. Maybe a lamb or 2 will arrive?
12) Life Goes On
Well, we fed 18 does and 2 bucks. Old Aphrodite, age 11, died in the fall, and Almond Acres Mushroom, the Boer buck, died in the spring. 5 does kidded in January, producing 3 keeper-kids: 2 fine daughters of Mr. Mush, and an Alpine granddaughter of Aphrodite. We've recovered from drought-mode with big snowfalls and plentiful rains. The herd stays stable at 18 head, with a Mushroom grandson on order from JST KDN Goats. Kimik the dog is over 100 pounds now, and loves his job. Also enjoys a refreshing dip in the river.
Not a business person at heart, my approach to farming has less to do with economics and more to do with the life of the livestock under my care.
I do have a general perspective that the animals I keep should have a function. Thus: the steers make beef, the lambs make shish-kebabs, the pigs make bacon, the goats make milk and chevon chops, the chickens make eggs and Sunday dinners. The Great Pyrenees dogs chase coyotes, the cats catch mice, and the 3 ducks are mobile ornaments.
As for their care, my prime objective is that they have sufficient freedom of movement: the space to function in a natural way.
Second, they must have the basics of "food, clothing, shelter" : good quality feed summer and winter, access to salt, minerals, and clean water; ( they have their own coats), dry bedding; and protection from the elements-both extremes. And third, they need to be handled enough to be secure with their human, which translates into co-operative manageability, especially important in regards to milking goats.
A summation of my philosophy is: I must care FOR my animals and I must also care ABOUT them.
From a valley in Switzerland, a compact dairy breed, chocolate brown with white tips including a pair of stripes down the face, with erect ears, and often bearded. My first breed, I've had great luck with the Togg's - excellent udders, nice disposition, easy kidding, hardy, good mothering and adopting.
I still have descendants from my first goat. Actually they got converted to Nubian, then Boer! 9 generations over 25 years.
First registered doe: Caithness Brown Owl. Bucks: Shunda Ajax, Caithness Hallmark, Althea Meridian Micah, Conception Prophet Isaiah.
From the province of Nubia in Egypt, usually a dark-coloured goat, black or red, often with spots or patches. They have a "Roman nose", long lop ears, and a shorter coat than most Swiss breeds. Before Boers, they were the ones used to improve meat-production. They have high-butterfat milk and frequently bear triplets.
Original registered doe: Sinklairity Wild Rosebud. Bucks: Lazy Daisy Acres Aquarius, Lazy Daisy Acres Clyde, Sinklairity Capricorn, Palowen Morning Star, Lonesome Dove Vodka.
From the French, Swiss, and German Alps, a large-frame goat, often in black and white, greys, or tans, typically with black points, small ears, sometimes with wattles at the throat. Attentive mothers, good milkers, very graceful.
First registered doe: North Wind Bor Lotte Shawniece. Bucks: North Wind Rocky Mount, Edelweiss Midnight Smoke, Edelweiss Sir Lovealot, Norsha Acres Duke, North Wind Tina's Jerry Jr., Conception Prince.
Big-boned, all white Swiss " Holstein of goats". I raised these majestic, methodic milkers for 15 years, but decided to phase them out when I got into Boers. Too many white goats! The last year I bred them Nubian, to lengthen the ears and get a colour gene. Now these crosses are having half-Boer kids, retaining the good milk lines, mothering, and adopting.
Foundation doe: Dawnsdales Kinakin. Bucks: Heidi Saturn, Renown Bound for Glory, Conception Pyramid of Glory.
"Boer" meaning farmer, developed in South Africa, the meatiest goat in the world. Traditionally white with red head, ears, and neck, a white blaze on the face. They have long lop ears and horns that curve close to the head.
Our first Boer was a purebred buck, Keri Rose Subaru. He bred starting at 8 months and produced 7 half-blood daughters the first year. The second year he gave 13 half-Boer doelings. Meanwhile the South African transplants arrived: Conception Diamond Simba, Sabula, and Suzuki. They first bred at 6 months.
First purebred Boer female: Amigo's Ranch Trail Blazer. Other bucks : Borst O'Confidence ("Fido"), Almond Acres Mushroom.
Our quarter is very hilly, along the river. There are only so many building sites. So the 20 by 30 foot insulated barn opens into the barnyard facing north-east, and backs to the driveway southwest. Sliding doors, also insulated, open from a 16 by 16 foot sleeping area which can easily be cleaned out by the loader-tractor. 9 pens border the other 3 sides, with large windows in the south-east and south-west walls. The milking parlour and feed room are along the north-west wall. The 6 by 7 foot feed room is only accessible from the outside. The 6 by 13 foot milking parlour has an outside door, plus entry and exit doors from the barn interior. Two milk stands are built in. Another small door from the road accesses the main barn. One large pen is outfitted with a 9 by 8 inch opening and serves as the kid creep. A treated 2 by 10 inch baseboard fronts all the pens. The dirt floor is bedded with straw, topping daily. The shelter is open year round; in winter the doors are closed to the width of a pregnant doe, and a canvas curtain covers the opening. The goats are fed and watered outside.
The fenced corral attached to the barn is for overnighting in the summer and loafing in winter. A full acre, with a small bog and several trees, comfortably accommodates the 50 to 150 goats (depending on kid count). The water trough is in a corner, and covered box feeders line the fence near the barn. The manure mountains are piled near the adjacent fence. These riches are spread on the hayfields annually. The kids love to play on the ever-changing mountains.
Three rolling pastures, containing both meadows and bush total 50 acres. They are fenced with 4 inch treated posts holding five 8 foot 2 by 4's, spaced closer at the bottom and up to a height of 4 1/2 feet. The does are rotated between 3 pastures. The buck yard has bigger posts and uses 7 rails up to 6 feet high. The bucks and steers share a 12 by 20 foot house and have access to 2 pastures. The 3 pastures open into fenced alfalfa fields which are offered to the herd after the second cut of hay is harvested. We tried electric fencing, we tried page wire, can't afford chain-link; we like the wood.
35 acres of mixed hayland provides ample winter forage, and on a good year, hay for sale. John uses a haybine with a crimper/roller, makes 60 to 70 pound square hay bales, and stacks with a bale wagon. Then they are covered with huge tarps. We have an old wooden granary, and whole oats are delivered 5 tonnes at a time. The feed room houses "goat treat"(my custom mix, blended and bagged by Onoway Feed and Seed), mineral, chicken feed, dog food, etc. We buy square straw bales out of the grain farmer's field, stack a few on pallets , and put 200 bales in the barn loft.
One of my most cherished privileges is witnessing the five-month-awaited newborn kids, all dried off and pure - and getting to name them. Having named hundreds of goats over the years, I've chosen patterns to keep family lines "logical". Sometimes it's a letter of the alphabet, sometimes it's a colour theme, or I create clans of wildflowers, trees, birds, mountains, fruits, nuts, gems, or Biblical names. For example, the red Nubian line: Sassafras, Cinnamon, Sherry, Chestnut. The Toggenburg series: Coffee, Chicory, Dandelion, Cappuccino, Moch-Java, Royal Kona. The French Alpine family: Juliette, Jacqueline, Josephine, Jillian, Marie-France, Marie-Madeleine, Marguerite, Michelle. And the Saanen names: Mirage, Oasis, Crystal Spring, Spring Rain, Brooke, Image.
My house is not far from the barnyard. The East window gives a good view of the animals as they move from the barn to the feeders, or in their explorations.
In the spring , kids bounce up and down playing king of the mountain. New mothers battle it out to re-establish their place in the pecking order. In the summer, lazy goats lounge in the shade chewing their cuds. In the fall, kids experiment with breeding behaviour, and does in heat stroll up to the buck fence and tease the "boys". In the winter, the herd makes trails in the snow, pausing to taste the white fluff, moving more laboriously each month as their bellies swell to term. Every so often I get to observe something really funny or especially endearing.
My favourite time of year is late spring when it's really warm, most of the snow is gone, and the outside hay-bed is dry. I like to sit on the ground and wait for goats to come up to me. There are some extra-bold kids, perhaps bottle-fed or just naturally friendly. If they don't climb in my lap, they do nibble on my boot laces, my jacket, the ends of my braids. Affectionate does come up for a scratch, and we all just soak up the sun. I talk to them about nothing , and they just listen peacefully.
Making notes is important for basic things like keeping track of the age of the goats, recording immunizations, and remembering when does are due.
But it is very interesting to read back over the data to observe trends, such as times of kiddings, birth weight averages, and sex breakdowns.
I use a large spiral notebook, and for each kidding I record (across 2 pages): date, time, temperature (outdoor), name of dam, age of dam, breed of dam, name of sire, breed of sire, details of the birth, sex of each kid, colour of kid, weight of kid, name of kid, state of kid's horns (including disbudded when done), tattoo on kid (if done), and details of sale (purpose, date, weight, price).
In the same notebook I chronicle breeding dates, and list results at goat shows. On barn sheets, I tabulate vitamin/mineral shots, vaccinations, and medications given. Breeding and kiddings are also marked on my kitchen calendar, so my information is very handy.
I've been a member of the Alberta Goat Breeders' Association since 1972, therefore receiving their excellent publication GoatKeeper, which I recommend to everyone interested in "the poor man's cow ".
Christine Anacker & John Vivier
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