|Buffalo side of the new milk parlor under construction|
The milk parlor in the new barn is coming along very well. Mike and his father, Russell, are putting in the struts, which will define the various compartments of the parlor. The walls will go up over the next week or so and it will make this area look very different, and, of course, finished to its purpose. Included in the design are chutes where the goats will go on their way to being milked—or when it's time for them to receive their injections, be shaved, and have their hooves trimmed.
|New birthing stall for the goats|
Ron and Suzanne’s new home was designed with a four-season room on the west side to accommodate the new kids. The floors are tile for easy cleaning, and like the rest of the house, it is heated with a hydronic system. This means that the water is heated in a boiler located in the firebox of their wood cook stove.
|Russell (top) helps Mike pull up a panel for the milk parlor|
Moist air and drafts are the worst thing for animals because they can cause serious respiratory disease. In this new barn, as the warm air rises, it pulls in air from the canopy that runs up and along the inner surface of the fabric drawing air up and out of the building and through the vents. All air circulation is high above the animals so there are no deadly drafts.
Moisture and odors also rise with the moist warm air and are vented out of the barn. The result is that the floors remain dry.
|Equipment barn (left) and animal barn (right) last October|
The barn's dryness also allows the animals to be cleaner, which translates not only into their being healthier for their own sake but for the sake of the dairy operation. Unclean animals are more prone to disease and they can carry unwanted contamination into the dairy parlor. Ammonia and other gases can harm the animals' lungs. To check on the degree of odor in the barn, Ron actually has us squat down to smell the air at the level of the animals (a la Temple Grandin). In the old barn—despite its good ventilation—sometimes our eyes would water because of the ammonia from the animals' wastes. Knowing what the animals are exposed to is important and you appreciate your task all the more. In the new barn, the air is fresh for all of us!
From a barn cleaning aspect, the dryness prevents poop-slush, which is not pleasant, especially if your boots leak. There is virtually no smell from the droppings or manure pack (see January 2, 2011 posting). Several local farmers have commented on the absence of ammonia and other smells in this new barn.
|Geotextile cloth layed on the dry lot next to animal barn (Oct 2010)|
Geotextile cloth was then placed in the excavation. This cloth is porous and used to make gravel driveways and roads—it holds the gravel from mixing with underlying clay and lets water through. A 6” layer of washed small stone was added and a 6” layer of crushed concrete over that. The crushed concrete got hard but is very porous. When it rains, water seeps through the stone and crushed concrete and through the geotextile cloth. The water then drains south along the hard clay and sheets over a wide grassy area. The dry lot is sloped at 2-4 degrees to insure good drainage. It is important for the health of the animals that they can keep dry, especially their hoofs, to avoid infections.
|Pregnant doelings warm up near the barn with Lil Man on far right|
Ron says once the doelings (those that have never been pregnant before) have been impregnated, their personalities change a bit. That will be an interesting thing to witness since I've known our yearlings from birth and have watched them grow into “goathood.” Mattie, a two-year-old doeling, already seems a little different now that she's pregnant for the first time. She loves being petted and usually hangs around me a lot as she nudges me to pet her. Now, when I'm in the goat pen she still comes to see me, but it's a lot less.
This year it looks like two of the younger and smaller doelings may have been bred. We only want the does to breed if they are at least 80 percent of their adult weight and size. These younger does will need to be carefully watched for any problems. However, they are naturally “equipped” to have babies at this point in their lives. If they were out in the wild, they would probably be pregnant.
One problem with pen mating is that the farmer doesn't have control over who is mated nor does he know the specific due date of a particular doe. The gestation time is approximately 150 days, the Lamancha does are just a few days longer. Knowing the date of breeding allows us to watch a specific doe a bit more closely. We will install a wireless camera in the barn to keep a constantly watch on the does. KalCarbon Acres graciously let us use their camera last year—which made kidding time a lot easier. In the past Ron and Suzanne would check the does every hour or so—day and night.
Although I spent most of my time today cleaning up the water buffaloes' side of the barn, I also had an opportunity to use a new power tool, the battery-operated Dewalt Saws-All. My job was to saw off metal protruding carriage bolts on the outer side of the goat pen dry lot fence.
This fence was built from locally harvested wood. On the goat side we have 4-inch square black locust posts (the strongest you can get) with 2"x6” ash planks attached to the posts with 3/8-inch carriage bolts. Heavy wire stock panels are between the planks and the posts. On the buffalo side, the posts are 6-inch square with 2”x 8” ash planks. The posts are eight feet apart.
Ron showed me how to use the Dewalt. Actually, it felt like machine gun, especially since the battery "loads" like a clip. The “kickback” took me by surprise and made my work awkward and wobbly. I learned to slow down the saw and control it. It took me a longer time to realize that “leaning” into the saw would cut the bolts smoother and faster. Using the Dewalt gave me another testosterone rush experience (see September 5, 2010).
Ron says many times—“we use tools because the tools do the work.” Of course, you have to know how to use the tool!
I was also careful to pick up the metal pieces, put them into my jacket pocket immediately after I sawed them off, and then dispose of them later so the goats didn't get to them. If they were to ingest these pieces, the heavy metal would stay in their rumen--not a healthy thing for them at all. This condition is actually called “hardware disease.” So the proverb, "an ounce of prevention saves a pound of cure," makes a lot of sense on the farm, not to mention the time and expense involved in correcting a bad mistake.
|Momo and goats work the new feed bins in the dry lot|
It was nice to be with the does, especially when they took a break from their feeding bins and "dropped by" me to sniff and request petting. At one point, I tried to pet Momo Tauro, the youngest guardian llama, but he does not like being touched, especially on the toosh with his back turned, so he spat at me. It was stupid of me to bug him and lucky for me that he missed.
The animals never cease to amaze me. Usually, when I first arrive at the farm, I go into the goat pen and say hello to each one. It's been almost two weeks since I last saw them and they seemed genuinely glad to see me. And, even though the water buffalo were way over on the other side of the barn, Ron noted that they recognized and responded to the sound of my voice, too. Animals make such a difference in my day!