Tag Archives: Goat

Birth and Death


February brought new babies to our goat herd. (See Goat genetics) We started with the birth of Brownie (girl, little ears, campanitas (bells)), to Shortie. The next day Moya gave birth to Peanut Butter (boy, pinto, no campanitas, little ears.) Then Caramela gave birth to Pumpkin( boy, little ears, no campanitas.) The fourth day had Vaca producing twin girls (little ears, campanitas, and pintas.) We haven’t come up with proper names for them yet, we’ve been toying with Cookie and Galleta, or maybe Bessie and Bertha, but it remains to be seen. Then the fifth day, Short Ears, our oldest goat at 4 years, also presented us with twins, a boy, and a girl, (little ears, all-white, the girl has campanitas, the boy doesn’t.) We’ve named them Sugar and Salt. Queenie also presented us with early morning twin boys (short ears, campanitas) tentatively named Chocolate and Vanilla.  That leaves Venada waited nearly a week before delivering twin boys.  I guess she wanted them to make an entrance.  One is brown, the other white, both with little ears and campanitas.  And much to our astonishment, Princess is also pregnant, although less than a year old.  We aren’t expecting her to deliver for a few more weeks though.


Short Ears has never had any sort of problem giving birth up until now. She varies the number of babies she has. The last birth gave us Princess, (pinta, short ears, campanitas.) The time before, she gave us twins, Duke and Duchess (white, no campanitas). This time, at first, she seemed to be just fine. We arrived home right after her second baby had been born. She had already expelled the tripa, (placenta) from the first baby and was in the process of cleaning baby 2. As she had a boy/girl set, there were 2 placentas, unlike Vaca, whose girls arrived in the same bag. This second afterbirth took its sweet time in detaching. The next morning, there was still a sizable section attached. So, my husband, had me consult the “book.” Otherwise known as Keeping Livestock Healthy: A Comprehensive Veterinary Guide to Preventing and Identifying Disease in Horses, Cattle, Swine, Goats & Sheep, 4th Edition

goat kid

What I found in my research was that she had a retained placenta. Typically the placenta is expelled 30 minutes to 12 hours after the birth, but, that if it hasn’t, you should by no means pull at it as that might cause internal bleeding and death. Okie, Dokie. So we decided to wait it out. As long as there was no infection, there should be no problem. We separated Short ears and babies from the other new mamas and mamas-to-be so that she could rest and eat at her leisure. She seemed listless and tired, which again was not normal for her. Additionally, her stomach remained inchada (swollen), and we wondered if perhaps there was a third baby as yet unborn. My husband treated her to a corn handful, which she ate up with gusto, and some plants that he remembered might help in expelling the afterbirth. (Emergency Procedures First Aid and Nursing Care for Goats)

Much to our horror, although Short Ears had successfully expelled the second placenta, the next morning found us with a dead sheep. I haven’t mentioned the The Roof that Almost Wasn’t). Flaca la borrega (Skinny) had just given birth to Jack when they arrived. She was so weak that she couldn’t stand to eat. We were concerned that she might not recover. However, it wasn’t Flaca that had died, but Panzas (big belly).


The second female and heavily pregnant sheep we named Panzas because of her girth. Since the moment we got her, she was a bleater. She bleated when we arrived, she bleated when we left, she bleated when she caught sight of us in the window, she bleated when she didn’t. We often remarked that we wished we understood sheep because she was obviously trying to tell us something. We hadn’t noticed much of a difference the day before, what with our focus being on Short Ears. However, in the afternoon, my son and I had remarked that she was breathing like she’d been running. The week prior, due to births and imminent births, we hadn’t taken the goats or sheep out of the pens but kept them in feed. In the morning, we had brought back a special treat, a bag of orange rinds from a juice vendor, and distributed it among the ladies. We were completely clueless as to what might have caused her sudden death.

My husband had me consult the book again, but I didn’t have enough information to determine the cause of death. Our concern was that it might be something contagious and we would loose our precious newborns. We estimated she had died in the very early morning. My husband found her around 5 am. We decided that just maybe we could save the baby. I convinced my husband to take the body out of the pen before he cut it open just in case there was something contagious involved. So he hauled her bloated corpse out and cut her open. The baby had already died. Since she was already opened, he performed an autopsy. In her stomach, he found a 6-inch long rope, the kind that is often used to tie up pacas (hay bales). So with this, we think the cause of death was bloat.

I believe that the previous owner knew that she had eaten the rope and did not tell us. My husband thinks everyone is his friend and that “he wouldn’t do that.” We know she did not ingest the rope while she was in our care. The alfalfa bales that we buy are bound in wire. Furthermore, my husband is meticulous in checking the food for bits of debris. When he dumped the orange pieces into the trough that morning, he removed every little bit of plastic and paper napkin.

Panzas’ progressing pregnancy also masked a swollen stomach symptom and put more pressure on the stomach, which is probably what she had been trying to say with all her bleating. The hard breathing was also a symptom of the impending death that we overlooked as it could have also been pregnancy induced. (Bloat in sheep and goats: Causes, prevention and treatment)

As we didn’t know she had eaten a foreign substance, we didn’t even know what to look for or where to look for it. We feel sad that she died under our care, but I personally feel angry about the previous owner’s negligence. We knew that he did not care for his animals with the same compassion that we do, which is why Flaca arrived in such a state. And now he is the new owner of Beauty, whose condition has deteriorated to such a state that she is unrecognizable. We have some vague thoughts of buying her back. My husband’s done that before, sold her and bought her back. I guess we shall see what happens.

But then, Flaca died the following afternoon. She had a rectal prolapse like what took place when we had the piggies staying with us who ate chicken intestines. (See Miss Piggy didn’t bring home the bacon). My husband tried various things when she noticed she wasn’t up and ‘attem, even went to the vet to see if there was something more to be done. The vet said that the oranges were what did it. However, we asked around to other borrega (sheep) owners, and they said no. We have given oranges to them before with no ill effects. I checked the books, there wasn’t anything listed about oranges. I went to the internet and found that no, oranges were ok for sheep. ( Effects of feeding ensiled sliced oranges to lactating dairy sheep Australian oranges being fed to the sheep Citrus pulp, fresh Citrus Pulp in Formulated Diet)

So then we thought maybe the oranges we got were bad, but no, none of the goats got sick, besides Short Ears who was already sick prior to the orange snack. And we had fed them oranges before, ruling out bloat caused by sudden change in diet. ( Rectal Prolapse in Sheep Rectal prolapse)

We continued our collection of information in the days following the sudden deaths.  My father-in-law told us that a sheep can be “deflated” in the event of bloat with a knife hole in the back stomach, right at the hipbone juncture.  He’s convinced the oranges were too warm and caused the bloat.  Another borrega owner told us that giving the sheep beer will force it to burp and take care of the problem.  So armed with new knowledge, we blunder on.  We knew that sheep were more troublesome to care for from previous experience (See Separating the sheep and the goats), but we’ve never had any livestock die on us, except of course the rabbits, duck, and chickens that were killed by various dogs (See 101 Perritos)

So this has left poor Jack an orphan. We hope that he’ll find a buddy in the myriad of new kids on the block, but so far he bleats for his mommy, and we are helpless to comfort him.

bringing in the sheep

Jack, Flaca and Panzas

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Filed under Animal Husbandry, Homesteading

Our Family Hobby

Welcome to the April 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Fears

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about family pastimes.


A family hobby? Us? We are so busy in our day to day lives that we don’t often have time for leisure activities like travel or bungee jumping or arts and crafts. But we spend time together as a family and we enjoy the time we spend together as a family. So what do we do together as a family? Our daily discussions, activities, and lives are centered around our animals. Animal husbandry is our hobby.

We play around with animal husbandry, not in the Wikipedia definition of Animal husbandry as “the management and care of farm animals by humans for profit,” since we certainly do not realize a profit, but more as the now obsolete meaning of the word husbandry as a “steward” of a household. We are definitely stewards.

Since moving to Mexico, we have been involved in purchasing, raising, caring, breeding, healing, feeding, selling, butchering and sometimes burying all sorts of animals.

Afternoons will often find us settled on the back steps watching some aviary antics.

Mrs. Macho setting on the eggs.

Mrs. Macho setting on the eggs.

We have been host to domesticated pigeons escaped from the tiro de pichon (shooting range) and watched them raise generations of babies in the eves of our animal area. Eventually, Mrs. Macho moved on when we had to change the roof slant, but it was fascinating to watch the love and care both Mr. and Mrs. Macho took by sitting on the eggs and feeding the ugliest little broods. We enjoyed watching the babies growth and their first practice flaps and then rejoiced as they left the nest one by one.


Codornices are small, native quail.

We have also had codornicess, which are a small native quail. We noticed most how the little guys would come to greet us at feeding time, even pecking at our shoelaces when we were slow to acknowledge them, hopping up and hooting just like in the cartoons.


Chicken hierarchy

Of course, our mini-homestead has chickens and chicken culture is amazing. Their socialization and hierarchy are as intense as any telenovela (soap opera). We have watched young roosters make their first macho challenges to the current head mucky-muck. We watched as Henny Penny gave up the will to live when the love of her life was no longer there. We chuckled at Jovencita’s attempts to adopt every single chick hatched and shook our heads at the poor mothering done by Hilda. We were horrified in the pecking death of Gringa, for the crime of being different from the others. And we are on hand to cluck over the newest batch of hatchlings. (See Why did the chicken cross the road?)

bump head goats

These goats are less than a week old and already playing bump heads!

One of our daily activities is taking the goats out to forage. Some days this is a run for your money if Duchess or Twiddledee get it into their heads to head for the hills. Most days, it’s a relaxing afternoon under the mesquite watching the antics of the goat kinder (kindergarten) as they play king of the rock or a rousing game of bump heads. We have even had kids that wanted nothing more than to sit in your lap, although this tends to be a bit cumbersome as they grow. (See Separating the sheep and the goats)


Beauty getting saddled up.

Sunday afternoons will often find us spending time with our hoofed animals, which currently includes Fiona, the donkey, Beauty, the yegua (mare) and Shadow her colt. It is not unheard of for us to take a family ride up and past La Yacata and back, sometimes further. We have even been known to have donkey races just for fun. (See Donkey Races, A horse is a horse or not, Beauty’s Babies)


Smile for the camera now kitty!

I must not forget to include our long list of puppies and kitties that have come into our lives, sometimes for an extended period, sometimes for just a few days. Their personalities, travasuras (naughtiness) or amiableness, have made them such a pleasure to come home to. Currently, we are hosting 2 dogs, Hershey and Chokis and one cat, Little Miss Licorice Stick, otherwise known as Licky. (See 101 perritos)

Whether we have been strictly observers or had a hand in their daily lives, we have enjoyed our foray into animal husbandry. We have come to know that animals are sentient beings and that our actions and attitudes towards them affect their lives, sometimes drastically. Ahh, a hobby with moral value. What more could anyone ask for?

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • 8 Reasons to Go Camping with Your Kids — The weather is warmer, and it is time to think about taking a break. As you plan your family vacation, Mandy of Living Peacefully with Children, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, explains why you should consider hitting the trails with your kids.
  • Crafty Cohorts — Kellie at Our Mindful Life enjoys crafting with her kids, and the skills they are learning.
  • Helping Himawari — Sophelia’s family at Sophelia’s Adventures in Japan share a passion for helping when a dog is abandoned at the nearby elementary school.
  • The ‘Art’ of Having FunMarija Smits shares some thoughts on family art and fun.
  • How we made our own Family Day — Lauren at Hobo Mama shares how her family celebrates the best day of the week, a chance for connection and adventure and endless possibilities: Family Day!
  • Our Family Hobby — Survivor talks about how animal husbandry has become her family’s favorite hobby at Surviving Mexico Adventures and Disasters.
  • Sowing the Seeds of Passions — Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs wonders if her interests, and her husband’s, will shape her children’s passions as they mature.
  • Harry Potter Potions Party — One of the best activities Dionna at Code Name: Mama has ever done with her family has been a Harry Potter Potions Party. She is sharing the resources she used to create their potion recipes, the ingredients and tools they experimented with, and the recipes themselves. Feel free to use and adapt for your own budding wizards and witches!
  • Pastimes Have Passed Me By — Kati at The Best Things takes a new perspective on projects that never get done.
  • Food as a cultural experience for preschoolers — Nathalie at Kampuchea Crossings finds that food is a good way to engage her preschoolers on a journey of cultural discovery.
  • Pastime with Family vs Family Pastime — You can share lots of pastimes with your family, but Jorje of Momma Jorje discovered a family pastime was much more pleasant for sharing.


Filed under Animal Husbandry, Carnival posts

Separating the sheep from the goats


Our goat herd posing for a picture at our mini-ranch

Mini-ranching on a lot that measures a mere 7 x 20 meters requires careful animal selection. Our animals must be sheltered from the torrential downpours of the rainy season and the staggering heat during the dry. So larger animals like cows were not in the plan. Instead, we opted for goats.

There’s a quite a bit of bad hype about goats but managed properly we have found them preferable in every way to sheep. Goats eat more of a variety of the native plants that grow in La Yacata, are hardier, healthier, give more milk and complain less. They stay bunched around the female boss goat and although sometimes like to dar la vuelta (take a walk) do not startle as easily as sheep.

rainy season foreging

Finding something to eat in the rainy season is no problem at all.

Yes, they like to jump. Duchess is a champion jumper. She managed to spring off the wall and hurtle over the 5-foot fence several times a day. My husband then added another 2 feet of wire, and now she stays put.


Almanzo our rent-a-stud

Yes, the macho goats smell. And smell quite a lot during the breeding season. You see, apparently, male pee is like cologne to a female goat, and a macho goat will want to be at his best to entice the ladies, so pees on his own face in the hopes of a little romance. Male goats, if they still have their horns, also have odor areas behind the horns and in a mature male, it does reek! Most of the stud muffins we borrowed or rented for the breeding season (we don’t keep a male goat all year around) have been dehorned and deodorized, so the smell is not quite so bad. Macho goats are a bit territorial when it comes to their flock of beauties too. Once I thought I’d go in the pen to refill the water that had been accidentally spilled while Almanzo was in residence. Well, he didn’t take kindly to my intrusion into his harem, and when I turned to try and scramble out, he gave me a full head-butt on my backside and knocked me 5 feet or so to the wall. Fortunately, he was dehorned, and the only thing damaged was my pride. Nowadays, when there is a macho gigolo in residence, only my husband enters for feeding and watering.

sheep and goats

Goats have hooves that if not worn down by walking or regular filing, grow into enormous curved claws that cripple them. The terrain in La Yacata is well suited for hoof maintenance. Our goats go out several hours a day, jump around on rocks, play king of the mountain and munch vinas (bean-like crunchy seed pods that grow on mesquite trees).


Vinas (seed pods from a mesquite tree) a goat delicacy!

For the most part, my husband’s “uncha, uncha” keeps them together. My son and I apparently do not have the same authority in our voices, and when it has been up to us to care for the herd for the afternoon, it has been a delight for the goats and a frustration for us. Just like at school when a substitute teacher is in, chaos reigns!

Goats provide milk and meat for our family, although we learned early on not to name those destined for the butcher’s knife. It is awfully hard psychologically to eat the pets! Goat destinies are determined at birth. Girl goats will be breeders, and boy goats are either sold or cooked. After a girl goat’s first successful pregnancy and delivery, we can determine if she is a keeper or to be sold. Keeper goats are those that have good milk production, have twins or are excellent caretakers. Tweedledee, for example, adopted King and Queenie (twins that we purchased shortly after their birth) AND our two little twin sheep whose mother did not have any milk, Vaquita and Torito, in addition to her own kid Princess. Unfortunately, good mothering instincts is not a hereditary trait like twinning. Princess had her first kid this year, but continued nursing from her mother refused to nurse or care for her daughter Spring and managed to find a way to drink her own milk. We sold Princess, and Tweedledee adopted her grandkid Spring.


Vaquita the sheep

My husband has tried twice now, unsuccessfully to keep sheep with our goats. Borregos (sheep) are finicky eaters, so aren’t as delighted with foraging as our goats and thus, require additional alfalfa purchases. They also prefer to eat from the ground rather than a trough but since they won’t eat food that has poop pellets in it, waste more food. Sheep startle easily and then run blindly around. One day, my husband and I left the herd with our son and went up the hill, no more than 5 minutes away, to tie the horses. When we got back, my crying son told us that the 2 new sheep had run off and now were at the bottom of a neighbor’s ajibe (dry well). Fortunately, the water was only up to their necks, but it took some doing to haul them out. And talk about bleating! Sheep carry on whether there is food in the trough or not. Once one sounds the alarm, the rest pick up the tune.


Queenie sounds the alarm when food supplies run low!

That’s not to say that goats don’t holler when dinner is late. Queenie is notorious for it! She decided it is her duty to let us know when food supplies are running low, even with a mouthful of food.

Then there is the problem of housing two machos–one goat and one sheep. Of course, each wants to be head macho and butt heads for the title. And according to my husband, a goat that has been serviced by a sheep, even though no offspring results, becomes sterile. I’m not sure if that is true but necessitates keeping the machos in a separate area and tied which then limits their completion of their husbandly duties for their own species.

the tweedles

Tweedledee and Tweedledum

All in all, we’ve decided that sheep are not for us. So far this year, Princess has given us Spring and Duchess (an excellent mother although without much extra milk) has provided us with Winter. And just yesterday, Queenie has presented us with Rey (King) and Royal. With grandmas TweedleDee and TweedleDum, we have a manageable herd, and once the kids are a bit older, we will have more milk that we know what to do with! For awhile, I was making homemade bread with the excess organic goat milk and organic eggs our little mini-ranch produced and had quite a little business going there. However, at this moment, our chickens are in the off-season (when they don’t lay very many eggs due to the number of hours the sun shines) and the goats all have hungry kids, which leaves us just enough milk for our morning coffee and that’s it.


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Filed under Animal Husbandry, Homesteading, Native fauna and flora