Christmas is upon us. The goats are listening to me belt out “Drummer Boy”, “Away In The Manger”, “O’ Little Town of Bethlehem”, “Ring Silver Bells”, and many more Christmas songs while I am doing my chores. I adore Christmas, all the colors and Christmas music in the stores. I get into the Christmas spirit the first week of Thanksgiving and on towards Christmas. Oh, I’m chomping at the bit the first day of November, but I really get into the swing of things by the beginning of the week going into Thanksgiving.
You’d think I’d have our house and barns totally decorated with lights and wreaths and Christmas trees, but who has time for that? I’m a goat farmer with a boat load of goats on the place that need cared for during this cold time. I’m quite thrilled to simply go down to the basement and get our two little Christmas trees, about 2 ½ foot tall, already decorated with a large garbage bag over each. Whip those bags off, set those trees up in the living room and we are in business for Christmas. Plus, to feel even more like Christmas, I like sending out donations for all those wonderful organizations that help people at Christmas, like our church, Salvation Army and several others.
And then the presents. Oh my gosh, don’t you love the presents?! You want to squeeze them, rub your hands over them, hug them, feed them. What? Oh, you thought I meant those wrapped presents under the Christmas tree. No, no, my presents are those wonderful pregnant girls that are going to kid in January and February. They are my slightly late Christmas presents.
Use to we’d kid the first week of January, but now I have to wait for those wonderful presents because the 4-H children started complaining that a kid born the first week of January would, in six months, usually weighed at least 110 pounds and those judges didn’t like that. They wanted 80-90 pound kids. So the 4-H children asked for middle of Jan. to middle of Feb. kids and some were even thinking of March kids! How could I take waiting to see my present in the middle of March?!
We only bred around 25 girls this winter, instead of the usual over 50,simply because it’s a lot of work taking care of all those presents! Winter time, heat lamps, individual stalls when the girls hit 145 days in their pregnancy, with individual feeders, water buckets, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. For me, it’s less trouble this way seeing which ones are kidding, knowing another doe won’t be trying to take the babies or stomp the babies or stomp the mother while she is trying to kid. The mother will bond with the right kids and the kids with the right mom and you can spot in a minute if there are any problems when they are in individual stalls. And, when a 30 degree sunny day happens and the kids are at least two weeks old, you can put the family out into the run-in shed with the other little families, with areas for the babies with a heat lamp or two and dog houses in the run-in shed and you’d be surprised how well the kids take the winter. But, if you run into any problems, you can always put the little family back in the barn for a while longer.
Watching all those glorious wonderful presents walking around now and have Christmas on top of it, well, it’s just grand. Sure it’s cold out, warming up to 12 degrees and still snowing at times, but it’s a wonderful time. Some of my pregnant girls love all the special attention they get the last two months of their pregnancy, and they will stand around and go, “Here comes, Connie, I bet she pets me first. I’m her favorite, don’t you know.”
Some of my girls are slightly wildish and soon as they see me, and I don’t have a grain bucket in my hand, they hurriedly waddle off to hide behind a round bale. Looking quite grumpy, they will peek around the bale and say, “I bet she’s wanting to pet me again. I can’t believe the nerve of her.”
Another thing that is so neat about these walking presents is that I didn’t have to wrap them. I’m a terrible present wrapper. It looks like someone who has lost their glasses has wrapped my presents I give to people, which is what happens sometimes. Here, out at the barn, I have all these presents already neatly wrapped. They may be a bit messier when they open up and come out, but at least they are all neatly wrapped now and looking fantastic.
You also get this extra benefit of seeing the presents change, almost before your eyes. The girls are starting to make little udders now. So cute. I don’t know about the rest of you, but it’s also a relief. Then I know they are bred. I know, I know, they have these developing big bellies, but to tell the truth, I have unbred girls in the other herd who have bellies just as big if not bigger because they get free choice hay from the round bales. But, usually the udder tells the truth if they are bred. Though one year I had an old girl kid one kid and come into her milk a week later! Taught me to always be prepared at kidding season to have packaged colostrum on hand and whole cow’s milk and bottles and nipples. Usually though, you get an udder and then you know you have a bred girl, or a nice present in my case.
Oh, got to get back outside. I see one of my presents I forgot to hug this morning. And, I’d better make sure all the ice is out of their tubs. I’m in the mood to sing “Ring Silver Bells” this morning. Oh, I don’t know all the words, but I’m great at going “ta ta ta” in place of words. Have a Merry Christmas everyone!