Saturday 9 September 2017

Jazz' story, and introducing Jester.

We were in the middle of a heatwave, a Tuesday - it was to be the third day in succession with temperatures of at least 30 degrees. Blossom's due date was three days earlier, and Elstar's due date was on the coming Friday - both had raised cria last year.
When I fed the nursery group in the morning, they all came to the troughs, there was no unusual behaviour which might have suggested a birth to come. But at 8.00am after feeding the rest of the herd over the hill, and on my way back to the house to answer a call of nature, I saw two feet coming out of Blossom, and ran to tell Joy who was cooking breakfast for B & B guests. By the time I got back, a brown male cria was on the ground, the rest of the herd had gathered around, Blossom was standing by, and Elstar was sniffing and licking him.

I stayed and watched and the rest of the herd drifted away. He was a bit raspy, so we cleared mucus and membranes, but it didn't clear completely, so I gave him a 'swing'. He was slow to sit and we helped him to stand up, he was down on his pasterns, and didn't stay up for long. The placenta was delivered swiftly, and appeared normal. Elstar remained intrusive, and I told her that she had to wait, as hers wasn't due until Friday (!), so we moved Blossom and her newborn into a pen in the shade of some trees. It was as if Elstar thought he was hers.

The temperature was rising to the upper 20's, and as he wasn't showing the usual urgency or energy to sit up, stand, and then walk, I didn't go to work, but watched, and waited. After around three hours he hadn't managed to feed - Joy checked Blossom's teats for milk, and noticed that they were particularly large - she is a large-framed girl - there was milk, so we put him under mum, but he didn't suck. So we started thawing plasma and called the vet to check on his chest and also administer the plasma. The vet was fairly happy that his chest would clear with exercise, and gave the plasma by tube, orally into his stomach. After allowing an hour and a half for that to absorb, we gave him about 100ml of goats milk, and he was getting more active, and searched under mum for her milk.

We named him Jazz - we name all cria after an apple variety, and this year we are on the letter 'J' - already having used Jupiter and Jester - I went to work at 2.00.
After a while, Joy allowed them out of the pen, and allowed the rest of the group back into the paddock. Elstar went straight to him, and he went straight to her, and went under her, so Joy separated them all again. After separation, Elstar's behaviour indicated that she clearly would have preferred to be with them in the next paddock.
He became more active, and Blossom was attentive, he was less interested in the goat's milk, so we were happy that progress was being made.

In the evening, they had moved to the top of the hill, and I went to take some photographs of Jazz - he was sitting in the long grass, and I moved around him, taking pictures from different angles - as I crouched for the fourth photo from a different angle, my heart sank as, looking through the viewfinder, in the background beyond him I saw, what I immediately knew was a dead cria..............and things immediately fell into place - Elstar had given birth to a stillborn during the night, and was grieving, and maybe thought Jazz was, or could be, hers! It all started to make sense - she must have had it very early during the night, we searched the long grass but didn't find a placenta, and there was no blood staining her legs - because our attention that morning was closer to home, and the shade of the glade with the temperature reaching 32deg, we had no need to go up there. Elstar came to feed with the others at breakfast time, so there was no odd behaviour....except for her interest in Jazz after his birth. There was nothing to suggest that she might have given birth.
We were naturally very disappointed - it was a solid brown male, a good size, and would have been the first offspring of our stud male, Fortune (since then, some lovely cria sired by him have been born to females at other breeders).
We immediately let them all get together, Elstar went to Jazz, Blossom didn't mind, and when checked after dark, the three were sitting together.

The following morning, I went up the hill at 7.00am, and amazingly, Elstar was feeding Jazz! It seemed like Elstar was using him to get over her loss, and it appeared that Blossom understood and accepted it! We offered him milk that night, but he wasn't interested. Our neighbour baled our hay that night, so the following evening, with the help of friends, we got the hay into the barn.
He naturally lost weight in the first 24 hours, but the following day he had gained a little, and he continued to gain 200-300 grams per day. In the following days, we only saw him feeding from Elstar, though we may have missed him feeding from Blossom, because on the 16th, 18th and 19th days, I saw him feeding from Blossom. Blossom is a much larger animal than Elstar, and we have wondered whether he found her teats too large.

Generally, all three moved around the paddock together, and would sit close. When Elstar is feeding Jazz, Blossom's ears are back, as all breeders will recognize, a sign of dissatisfaction with a situation, and the sight was a little bit heart-wrenching as you wondered what she was thinking - there have been times when Blossom would try to direct Jazz to feed from her, using her nose, but he would wander away - nevertheless, we have not seen any animosity between Elstar and Blossom. At almost six weeks old, the threesome are still often closer together than the rest of the herd, though not always, but Jazz will always be near Elstar unless he is playing with the other boys.

A fascinating arrangement unfolded before us - on reflection, we felt we handled the situation satisfactorily - had we known about the still-birth earlier, we would have recognized what was happening, and perhaps dealt with it differently, but we did separate them twice on that first day - however, the choice was made as much by Jazz, as it was by Elstar, and he has thrived. Elstar and Blossom have been re-mated and we look forward to next year.
Apple Vale Jazz - dam: Apple Vale Elstar (sire: Van Diemen Qjori of Patou) sire: Wimmera Skies Class Act of Reddingvale
 With all this attention to Jazz, the birth of Jester to first-time mum Florina three days earlier became somewhat over-shadowed. Florina wasn't due to birth for three weeks, and when our son shouted', "there's a cria in the paddock!", we were surprised to see Florina proudly standing behind a wet black male cria.

Florina (sire: Van Diemen Qjori of Patou) has generally shown herself not to be the sharpest tool in the box, always the one to get stuck in the corner of a paddock on the wrong side of the fence from the rest of the herd, but she took to him immediately, and hasn't let him go astray once.
As the temperature headed to 31 degrees, we erected the gaazebo, and carried him back when we wandered away into the sun for too long. Jester was sired by Urcichillay Avalon.
Jester ('Whiskers' or 'Catweazle', as I sometimes call him)

Saturday 2 September 2017

A newly fenced paddock.

After three months of hard graft, interrupted by shows, births, hay-making etc., we have created a new paddock for the breeding herd, surrounded by Tornado badger-proof close-wire mesh, trenched into the ground.
First I had to remove all of the old fence, a mix of stock fence and barbed wire, and all of the old posts, over several evenings and weekends.
I then dug the trench, 18" deep, using my neighbour's antique wheeled digger (JCB type). Then we drove extra-long posts (7 feet) using his tractor-mounted post tapper.
Gateways have two lengths of 9" x 3" on edge buried between the gate posts, which are 8 feet long.
Because of the closely-spaced wires and the height of the mesh to allow for burying, each roll is massively heavy, and impossible to lift - it has to be rolled across the paddock! Once rolled into position, we rolled it out, cut it to length (generally up to 30m between strainers in this case), plus a bit for tensioning -  then we folded the apron, and could pull it into the trench.
Next we stapled it to the straining-post at one end, and loosely stapled it in the vertical position, before  fixng a length of timber to the other end, where we fixed a winch and haulage ratchet strap top and bottom, wrapped around the digger arm, and tensioned it up, whereupon we could staple it to all of the posts, and finally staple to the straining post next to the digger arm. The final job for the fence is to open out the apron in the bottom of the trench and backfill the soil - this has been done by hand (!!) as the digger (being old) would be too clumsy and likely to damage the fence.
Joy and I have done this, one 3m bay each evening, and we still have fifteen to go, but last weekend took a big step forward, when my sons, and sons-in-law came for my birthday party, and I enlisted them for a morning to backfill a whole 30m side of the paddock.

The gates were then hung and meshed, and hinged panels made, and fitted to suit the sloping profile of the field.
With our other paddocks, we had made them badger-proof, either by doubling-up standard stock fence, and/or adding 2" x 2" mesh to stock fence - all methods are effective, but this was an opportunity to start afresh. Now we have gained a paddock only previously used for our neighbours sheep, and hay-making, and which gives us more scope for paddock-resting and rotation.