Community Philosphy Blog and Library

HOMEGROWN Life: A Rough Kidding Season (or How Trouble Always Comes in Threes)

 

HOMEGROWN-LIFE-LT-GREENWe knew the morning of April 12th that Kahlua was going to give us kids by the end of the day. Her ligaments were gone, her udder was filling and she was getting restless. She showed all the typical signs of imminent labor. We kept an eye on her throughout the morning while we did our usual spring chores – prepping and planting garden beds, harvesting artichokes, feeding animals.

By noon I decided to sit with her and soon noticed she had started having contractions. They weren’t close together so I knew I had a little bit of time. I called my friend, Brande, who has been present for all of our kiddings (it’s always great having another set of hands to help catch and clean kids), and Tom down to sit with me.

And then we waited. And waited some more. Her labor had stalled out. We were all getting restless. 8pm passed. 10pm passed. We were starting to get concerned. In the meantime I was texting goat breeder friends. Lynda at Foggy River Farm said that sometimes the stalled labor is due to a malpresented kid. Fantastic.

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At 11pm Tom laid down on the ground to take a nap. Not 30 sec after covering his eyes with his hat Kahlua siddled up to him, laid down and started pushing. Well if that’s all we had to do we could have gotten this over a long time ago…

At first things seemed to be working until I saw a nose. Just a nose. Well that’s a slight problem. Yep, Lynda called it. A normal presentation is a kid in the dive position. Both legs out front with the head following. There were no legs. Just a head and Kahlua was pushing as hard as she could.

Progress seemed to be going very slow and there was no room to get a hand in. The best thing I could do was get the kid’s airway cleared so it could breathe in case the umbilical cord got pinched off and try to get that kid out carefully and quickly. I was finally able to get my hand in far enough to grab the kid and add some traction while Kahlua pushed. The next kid shot out with little problem. While being a pound larger the second kid was in the normal position and came out very easily.

Both kids are healthy and growing like weeds now. But that wasn’t the end, unfortunately. Kahlua started to go off feed. We were able to get her to eat using Fortified B injections, which can act as an appetite stimulant but by Wednesday she was yawning a lot which can signal pain. She didn’t have a fever yet so we held off on giving her antibiotics and just gave her some banamine. By Thursday, however, it was clear something was going on. She was grinding her teeth and now had a fever of 104.7 (normal is 102-103.5). A quick call to UC Davis and the vet was pretty sure we were dealing with metritis (uterine infection). The first antibiotic they recommended didn’t seem to be knocking back the metritis like it should have so another call the UC Davis and they had us switch. 7 days of treatment and she was back to her normal self.

We had just over 3 weeks before we were to expect the next two does to kid. We were only hoping that they would go smoothly. Unfortunately we were very wrong.

Tuesday morning, May 5th, it was clear Maggie was going into labor. She was unusually loud and obnoxious so I put her in the kidding stall and called Brande. Her labor seemed to be progressing a lot faster than Kahlua’s labor, but I noticed something concerning. Her discharge was an abnormal color – rusty brown and opaque. Not a good sign, but nothing I could do about it while waiting.

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After just a few hours Maggie started pushing. The first kid came out quickly with little problem. The second kid shot out like a bullet in the dreaded breech-butt first position. This was exactly how Maggie was born. Made me glad she got her mom’s wide rump and that the kids were pretty small. Unfortunately, my fears were realized when the back feet of a dead kid emerged. Fortunately it came out easily but being the only doeling in the bunch made it even worse.

Because she had two bucklings we decided to just leave them with her for the time being. We were going to get them used to the bottle for when we took Maggie to shows or had milk test. Unfortunately we soon noticed that Maggie had a fishtail teat (looks like two teats fused together and has two working orifices), which is a disqualifying trait. I put her up for sale as a pet-only and within only a couple of hours she was reserved by the lady who bought her herdmate/paternal half sister, Trouble (now named Ranger).

Just one kidding left and they say that 90% of all kiddings go perfectly fine. The odds were in our favor. Except when they aren’t.

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Friday, May 8th, Rainicorn went into labor. Like Kahlua’s it seemed to take her sweet time. Not a particularly good sign but contractions were strong. When she finally laid down around 4pm to start pushing nothing seemed to be happening. The bubble showed up and ended up drenching me in birthing fluid but nothing was in it. There was a problem. Another problem. I gloved up, and lubed up and went in. There was the issue. 4 hooves and a head. There were two kids and they seemed pretty large, trying to come out at once. Fortunately there were three of us and we got to work. After a quick call to Sarah, at Castle Rock, we had Tom pick her back end up and pushed the rear legs of one of the kids back in as far as we could. After 20 min we realized we were going to have to take her to the vet. The one kid trying to come out correctly was too large.

The question was, which vet do we go to? UC Davis or Cotati Large Animal Hospital? We were half way between the two but being that it was Friday afternoon we decided to go to Cotati due to Highway 80 being gridlocked with everyone trying to get out of town.

An hour drive got us there to find 2 vets and 2 vet techs waiting for us. They also attempted to get the kids out vaginally but found it impossible so the only next option was an emergency C-section. Anesthesia is not without its risks in general, but that goes doubly so for goats. They aren’t known for handling it very well. It was incredibly nerve-wracking watching the surgery and just hoping everything would turn out fine.

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The doctor ended up pulling out a single, very large buckling. The breeder’s worst nightmare is a first freshener with a single buckling. There weren’t two kids like we had thought. He was simply trying to come out with all four feet and his head. Things weren’t looking so great for him when he was laid down in the towel lined rubber bin. He wasn’t breathing at all but the second vet worked and worked on him. She didn’t give up and it’s what saved him. By the time Rainicorn woke up he was trying to stand and had a very good suck reflex. I definitely attribute her smooth and speedy recovery on having him with her.

Our kidding season is finally over after getting progressively worse – I’m just happy everyone is fine.

MORE FROM FROM RACHEL:

Rachel-Dog-Island-Farm1Rachel’s friends in college used to call her a Renaissance woman. She was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. She still is. Instead of crafts, her focus these days has been farming as much of her urban quarter-acre as humanly possible. Along with her husband, she runs Dog Island Farm, in the San Francisco Bay Area. They raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. They’re always keeping busy. If Rachel isn’t out in the yard, she’s in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!

PHOTOS: RACHEL

HOMEGROWN Life: What will be the future of agriculture?

 

HOMEGROWN-life-bryce-logo-150x150Drones, robots, and humans collaborating from a control room monitoring the wheat crops? Vat-grown “meats” in factories? Drinkable nutrients for the on-the-go “consumer?” People swinging pitchforks and scythes at compost parties? Tomato plants floating atop tanks of tilapia in greenhouses filled with solar-powered lighting systems?

It’s all possible, and most of the scenarios above could likely be on their way. I am torn about it.

That’s because I struggle with the concept of a technological “fix” for how we produce and process and distribute food. Technology and science and innovation are clearly one of the most important investments in how to move forward for modern society (I’m tempted to say “civilization” here, but I’m holding back). And yet, the direction of that complex of innovation investments can lead to some awful outcomes.

Take the scientific fix of how to solve the problem of sick pigs when you put thousands of them in enclosed factories. Give the pigs a steady stream of antibiotics so they don’t get sick. It’s a logical scientific response to a very narrowly defined problem. But then, years in the factory farm pig production system with people and pigs bio-accumulating the antibiotics, scientists and society have raised real concerns about the utility of our antibiotic strains remaining viable. Viruses and bacteria have evolved to become more resistant to our antibiotic supply. What happens if there is a disease outbreak and we need those valuable medicines? Too late. We used up the biological supply to prop up factory farm pig production for past thirty-odd years.

I suppose we all have our favored notion of what’s to come, what’s preferable, how we should move along the path. Mine is more people on the land farming a mix of crops and livestock, minding the recycling and biological renovation of nutrients while producing healthy food for people, and leaving room for the wildlife with whom we share the planet.  That’s already a mouthful, I know, but there also needs to be something said for economic fairness, decent pay, and incomes sufficient to support these food producers and conservationists.

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The swirling of these issues comes crashing home sometimes when a news article or study or something comes along. Yesterday was such a day for me, reading a new study that offers up some interesting data for those of us wondering if our dream of local food systems could actually meet the food needs of modern America. Turns out that the answer is pretty much, “Yes.”

Professor Elliott Campbell, with the University of California, Merced, School of Engineering, discusses the possibilities in a study entitled “The Large Potential of Local Croplands to Meet Food Demand in the United States”. Dr. Campbell’s new farmland-mapping research shows that up to 90 percent of Americans could be fed entirely by food grown or raised within 100 miles of their homes.

It’s an interesting piece of work. It turns out that most metropolitan areas (other than some parts of the New York-New England Megalopolis) have plenty of productive land around that can be used to produce most of the food.

Here at home in West Missouri, just outside of Kansas City, that potential is clearly evident. Lots and lots of land lies in an “unproductive” state. Most of the land is grazed by herds of cattle, the nursery for the beef industry. Some land raises corn and beans and wheat. Some is bottom land hardwood forest. Very few acres are used to produce actual food for people. Instead, our local area provides raw material for the industrial economy (feed and calves for the feedlots out West, corn for the ethanol plants, etc.).

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And the thing that most of us in the local food movement fail to realize is that this industrial commodity system is in place for some understandable reasons. First, the conventional system works in a way. It functions in that there is an understandable system for producing goods (corn or calves) and then selling them into a marketplace with local access points. Second, there is an existing capital system in place to keep the commodity production system chugging along. Third, there are policies and incentives and regulations in place that support this industrial commodity structure.

We can, and should, certainly argue that the industrial commodity system is problematic. It’s dependent upon a steady supply of cheap fossil fuels and lack of accountability for pollution to air and water. It discounts soil health and conservation activities (mostly, but with some exceptions). It tends to concentrate wealth in the hands of the already wealthy and the food processors, and tends to pay farmers poorly for their efforts and risk over time. This corresponding wealth accumulation and capital flight to the food processors leads to lack of economic opportunity and depopulation of many rural communities. On and on it goes.

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So what’s the future of agriculture, then, if we hope to use the opportunity of transitioning agriculture to more of a focus on raising healthy food for people in the cities near us? The technological and innovation engine needs to keep chugging along for sure. But more important than these technological considerations might mean building a policy framework and developing market opportunities and infrastructure.

You know, truly sexy things like food processing shops and developing trucking routes. That along with making sure that the newly developed infrastructure doesn’t steal off all of the income from food production and leaving farmers with too little income once again.

Feeding the metropolitan areas with locally raised goods is a wonderful opportunity and a goal worth pursuing. We can do it if we choose that path. We just need to make sure that when we’re building out that re-localized system we “innovate” with community and ecological health as critical ingredients for success.

MORE FROM BRYCE:

HOMEGROWN-bryce-oates-150x150Bryce Oates is a farmer, a father, a writer, and a conservationist in western Missouri. He lives and works on his family’s multi-generational farm, tending cattle, sheep, goats, and organic vegetables. His goals in life are simple: wake up before the sun, catch a couple of fish, turn the compost pile, dig potatoes, and sit by the fire in the evening, watching the fireflies mimic the stars.

 

PHOTOS: (BARN) EMILY EAGAN; (CORN STALKS) JEAN MARKKO TIKUSIS; CULTIVATOR (SHUTTERSTOCK)

HOMEGROWN Life: Growing Tender Celery

 

HOMEGROWN-LIFE-LT-GREENI’m fairly new at celery as this is only my third year growing it. I guess that’s because I’m not the biggest fan of it. It’s got its place but it’s just not a vegetable I use that often. Tom likes it better than I do so we figured we’d give it a try. Of course our last two years were filled with tough, stringy stalks because I was a beginning celery grower and didn’t know what the tricks were.

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One of the tricks to growing tender celery is to give it a lot of water. Well, I live in California where it doesn’t rain throughout the summer. I’d feel terribly guilty if I had to dump a bunch of our precious water on the celery just to have tender stalks. One of the things I’ve noticed while growing celery is that it doesn’t come out with nice, thick, upright stalks that are all clustered together in the center. It’s more spreading and shrub like. But dumping water on it doesn’t seem to solve the problem of short stalks, does it? No, really, I’m asking because I haven’t tried dumping a bunch of water on celery.

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There is another option though for producing tender celery. A farmer taught me about a trick they use for growing celery. Blanching the stalks with these rectangular cylinders that you slide over the plant. It keeps sunlight from reaching the stalks while forcing the plant to grow straight and bunched, which makes them thick and tender. You can buy these special cylinders or you can use half gallon milk cartons with the tops and bottoms cut off. We don’t drink commercial milk so that wasn’t really an option for us. Instead we used cardboard and the ubiquitous duct tape.

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The process was pretty easy. Just cut 18″x8″ rectangular pieces of cardboard and then fold them in half. Fold each half in half again so that when it stands up you’ve got an 8″ tall cylinder.

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Duct tape the seam closed. That’s it. Super simple.

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The celery should be about as tall as the cylinder or a bit shorter. You just want the leaves popping out of the top. Grab the plant pulling all of the stalks together and slide the cardboard tube over them. Now just wait for the plant to be ready for harvest.

MORE FROM GARDEN HELP FROM RACHEL:

Rachel-Dog-Island-FarmRachel’s friends in college used to call her a Renaissance woman. She was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. She still is. Instead of crafts, her focus these days has been farming as much of her urban quarter-acre as humanly possible. Along with her husband, she runs Dog Island Farm, in the San Francisco Bay Area. They raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. They’re always keeping busy. If Rachel isn’t out in the yard, she’s in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!

PHOTOS: RACHEL