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  • Kendra R. Shatswell

Hefty Goat Holler Farm 2023 – A Recap

I blinked and it was December. It is hard to believe it’s been a year since the last blog post! Though I did manage to keep the website up to date, the blog was, sadly, neglected. But not without good reason! While I didn’t add another Hefty Goat Holler blog post, I did spend some time in 2023 writing a few new magazine articles, including one all about miniature LaManchas, published in a summer issue of Goat Journal. I also continued to design, edit, and write for MDGA’s Mini Goat Notes, a quarterly digital newsletter for members.

But, frankly, this year didn’t leave a lot of room for creativity. Winter was spent feeding cattle and goats and calving and kidding. I went into 2023 with a total of 37 goats, BEFORE kidding. I had a “regular” kidding season in February-March then a second, smaller kidding season in May. A total of 31 kids were born in the holler. Yup, for a while, I had 68 goats!

baby goat long ears nubian boer kinder

I did end up drastically reducing the herd. I intended on selling out of Kinders entirely, save for a few special girls and one buck. I went so far as to list them all and talk to several potential buyers. This was in part because I have many issue with the current association and I didn’t intend on supporting it so why breed the goats….But for many reasons I am not interested in re-hashing, I did not sell out of Kinders entirely. I did sell many, including my senior buck Shiner, who went back to his breeder. I sold many does just because I had one or two full sisters. Ironically, this was the year I saw my second Hefty Goat Holler Farm Kinder in the winner’s circle. Hefty Goat Holler Farm Thistle, then owned by Derek Eddy, took Jr Grand Champion at the Missouri State Fair. Thistle is a Topaz X Shiner daughter. It was bittersweet.

miniature lamancha kid goats

I sold my beloved dual-purpose “mutt” girls and a couple miniature LaManchas, too – many of these were families. For the first time, I did not keep a Kinder doeling back – which turned out to be fairly easy since only three were born – quite the buckling year. I intended on keeping only three mini doelings but after a buyer back out, my favorite doe Toot FINALLY giving me a doeling that turned out to be twin doelings, and milk testing...well...I may have kept six Miniature LaMancha doelings. I also unexpectedly got the chance to bring home a special doe that was born here, Anastasia! I simply couldn’t pass it up. You can read more on her on the website.

Overall, my minis were my focus in 2023.Kidding season was a series of highs and lows. Two does needed assistance – triplets and quads – but came out well with two live kids each. The first doe, Pearl, had a sideways DOA kid and was pushing too hard for me to rearrange. During an ice storm. Because everyone likes to make a trip to the vet on roads that are a sheet of ice! The quads I was able to fish out myself – a breech DOA doeling was halting progress but one I moved the kid up just a fuzz, Rhea gave one push and delivered that baby breech before I could do anything else, bless her wide pelvis. The other kiddings were thankfully normal.

While I was on milk test in 2022, that year was nothing compared to 2023. I stuck with it this year! I started MUCH earlier and milked much longer. (As of 12/20, I am still milking two) I had as many as 6 does on test; one left after her 5th test. Instead of entirely dam-raising and only milking on test days, I did a hybrid version...If a doe wasn’t quite empty, I would milk here and there. As kids got closer to weaning and were starting to take less milk, I milked the doe more. I sold bucklings young this year, just to get them off of the pasture, and so I milked those does even more consistently. It sure made me learn how to milk with my previously nearly-useless left hand. I even got pretty darn fast! I learned a lot about the does’ lactation curves and I feel like I gave them a fair chance to prove themselves. I am very proud of my girls and am impatiently waiting for the holidays to be over so I can get my final doe sheets!

But milking wasn’t ALL cupcakes and rainbows. A few minor issues popped up – some cuts on teats, some staph – even on a few of the kids- and of course the occasional spilled bucket. But nothing could have prepared me for Beryl’s ordeal. Before 2023, I’d had exactly one case of mastitis on the farm. A mild one at that. But on the day of the second milk test, Beryl was noticeably ill. It progressed quickly but was hard to pinpoint what exactly I was dealing with. Soon, it was apparent that something was seriously wrong with the right half of her udder, though I don’t necessarily think this was the issue the whole time. I will write more about it later, but a short summary for now: Gangrenous mastitis. She was VERY ill for several days. With prayer and treatment, she turned a corner. Her right half stopped producing anything, eventually. Later, it started getting soft again. The tissue very quickly developed holes and the entire hardened milk gland fell out! It healed amazingly fast. Beryl is one tough cookie, to say the least. She decided to live and she did. Not only lived but she looks and acts amazing and is still milking on her left side.

Miniature LaMancha doe

If all that wasn’t enough to keep me on my toes, life outside of the holler was pretty busy, with some big projects, too. My parents traded properties and now live just a few miles away! We spent all summer building fence and all fall building a house – it is still in progress, but it is beautiful and I love that we now live just a few miles apart.

I didn’t do any big on-farm projects this year. Just some small things here and there. Added some more 9 bar portable panels and another metal hay feeder. Implemented some sand bedding in the long shed and the largest stall. Discovered reused vinyl billboards and have used them to replace tarps! Apparently, 2023 was the year all the trees decided it would be great fun to fall on all the fences, so that’s just been loads of fun. Last count was 5 large trees…

tree on fence farm barn goat farm

I am ending the year with still too many goats but nowhere near 70, at least...unless you consider the fact 14 of those are bred...Ah, you know how it goes!


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