Welcome to 2015 on the Farm

Welcome to 2015 with a Scottish Proverb:

He that would eat the fruit, must climb the tree.

I love the holidays.  It is the one time of the year that I can truly take a break from my job and spend some quality time with the family.   It is also the 2 weeks of the year that I can finish up 2014 tasks and prepare for 2015 farm activities.  It has been a great year, we have finished building fence around the farm and installed automatic waters in all the pastures.  The kids “Goat Kids” just keep coming and the cows all have calves along side.  I am not sure if you could ask for much more.  Well I still am holding out hope for winning the lottery, but I think it is a requirement to actually buy a ticket.

I have not had the opportunity to actually introduce myself.  I am a Trafalgar native and graduated from Indian Creek High School and Purdue University.  After college, I moved to northern Indiana and worked as a vocational agriculture teacher at Lewis Cass High School before coming back to reside in Trafalgar.  When Amy and I were married, we came into this union with the understanding that there was a few things that would take priority in our lives.  We are active members of the Trafalgar Christian Church and spend countless hours volunteering in the community.  We decided early on in our relationship that a helpful giving heart that is full of the lord’s blessings will move more mountains than any man alone.  Sometimes our volunteer activities are hectic, however at the end of the day we are happier and less stressed because of them.  Next comes the family.  I give thanks every day for living on the farm.  To being able to share the triumphs and frustrations of agricultural life with my wife and children is worth any issues that might arise.  Finally my job, I am software architect at IBM and if you would have asked me 18 years ago I would have never thought about computer science as a career. It is hard to believe that when I was in college in the early 1990’s, the job I have today was nonexistent.

2015 unloading bales
Welcome to 2015. Unloading bales


Yesterday was New Year’s Eve and as usual we were out trying to get a couple of things completed.  My daughter, Emma  is thirteen this year and loves being outside doing the whatever we have planned.  We needed to haul 88 bales of hay from a farm about 20 miles away back home.  It started as a joke.  It was cold, very cold and I told her that I would be happy to haul the bales home, if she would unload them that way I could take a quick cat nap before going back for the next load.  I unloaded the first load in the lot and showed her how to operate the skid steer and you know that crazy little girl literally jumped out of the truck each load to unload and stack the bales.  She was so darn fast, I did not even get the opportunity to take my nap.  These bales will be used for the cows and goats as supplemental feed for the winter.
At home, Amy and Levi were caring for the latest set of triplets.  There are so many things that we need to learn about goats and everyday is a reminder that we do not have all the answers.  Poor Levi is fifteen years old and loves all living things.  His heart is so big that he could support a 100 goat kids with just one beat.  However sometimes life does not allow for even the most caring to win the battle.  We lost little “Lucy” last night.  She was a 7 lb beautiful little doe, however she just was not strong enough to make a go of it.  Levi was out in the barn and in the house loving, warming and feeding this little girl all day.   To see him tube feeding and bathing her makes you wonder if maybe he will choose a health care position in the future.

So what do we have planned for the new year.  I have been in enough planning meetings to know that brainstorming ideas and outline goals is a great way to kickoff any new project.  And yes 2015 will be a new project year.  One of the first activities for 2015 will be to finish putting electricity in the barn.  We have lights and some outlets but there is still work to be done.  Gates! You can never have to many gates and so we will continue to build them throughout the year.  This spring we will over seed all the pastures.  Grass is the cheapest most efficient form of feed we have on the farm and it we will be our job to maintain and enhance it in the coming year.  I would like to build a new barn for “kidding” this fall.  Levi will be sixteen and I bet he will be interested in driving.  He will need a place to park his car in the coming year and I need more kidding space, so it sounds like that would be a great opportunity for a double win.  We need to build a new bucket for the mini excavator, so we can effectively clean out the ditches around the property.  The calves need ear tags for identification and the goats need more hay feeders.  Actually there are so many things on the list that it quickly becomes overwhelming, however if you don’t get them down and start setting priorities it will be December 31st before you know it.

One last quote for the day.

 It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan. — Eleanor Roosevelt 

The Bucket List

I would bet that everyone has a bucket list.  Top on my bucket list is driving to Utah.  I have wanted to do this activity for 20 years.  I want to drive to the state line and touch it and come back home.  I know, it is a little weird but it top on my list.  Today, however I am going to visit about a different type of bucket list.  You see this is kidding season at Spurgeon Farms and we trying to be a little more proactive this year than in the past.

Amy, my loving wife, actually bought a bucket. Now that sounds crazy to me as we finished building the house and have approximately 100 drywall mud buckets around the farm.  But she bought a special magic bucket for the kids.  Maybe I can see the reason for such a purchase.  This magic bucket came with no prior ingredients and a fancy lid.  We actually washed the bucket a couple times prior to installing the contents to make sure things were as sterile as possible.  In a nutshell it is just a 5 gallon plastic bucket to put all the essential kidding prep tools into for our trips to the barn.

The “Magic Bucket”  

IMG_0609 (1)  So what is in the magic bucket, that is going to save the lives of countless kids and bring record keeping to new levels for us.  The first thing in the magic bucket is latex gloves.  I am a proud member of the Trafalgar Volunteer Fireman and we would never check out a patient without gloves on our hands.  The same thing is true with the goats.  We have worked hard to reduce/eliminate disease from the farm and one of the best methods for disease and parasite control is a clean environment.  We are probably a little obsessed with the use of our gloves, but better safe than for us to infect a doe or kid with some germ the children brought home on the school bus.

Unscented wet wipes, “the unique cushion texture and mild cleaning solution leaves your baby extra clean and refreshed”.  What???  Wet wipes are an important part of the magic bucket.  There is nothing better for wiping the face of the newborn kid then a wet wipe.  It will pull the mucus and foreign material away from the kids mouth and nose, giving the kid that extra kick it needs to start being a goat.  Now if all is well and the little guy/girl is starting to make a little noise, we can head back into the house for an hour or so to let mother and kid(s) get to know each other.

One of my favorite tools in the magic bucket is the Iodine squirt bottle.  You can make a white goat red with this stuff not to mention clothes too.  We use the Iodine on all the kids navel cords.  We will clip the cord and cover it with Iodine.  Basically, Iodine is a disinfect for superficial wounds or cuts.  If the kid is a buckling and is going to be a 4H animal, we will castrate him.  Any of the kids that we sell for meat or to the local auction are left intact, however 4H kids must be castrated and doing it at birth is the least stressful time.  Within the magic bucket, we have a box of disposable scalpels.  TSC has a sterile box of 5 scalpels for less than $10.  To perform this task, we will cut the bottom of the scrotum off and pull each testicle out, tearing the cord to prevent excessive bleeding.  The bottom of the scrotum should remain open to allow for drainage after castration.  As you except, we cover the wound with Iodine.

All the things in the magic bucket are in some special way used for the health and well-being of the animal(s), however this next item is really for me.  We are expecting 20 – 30 kids between December 15 – December 30th.  I love all my kids, however sometimes it is difficult to identify them quickly and/or correctly.  Everyone has seen this fancy NSEP ID tags from the USDA on goats at livestock shows or while visiting local farms, but how do you obtain them and more important what is the cost to the producer.  In 2001 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) initiated an accelerated program to eradicate scrapie from the nation’s sheep flocks and goat herds.  The National Scrapie Eradication Program (NSEP) coordinated by the USDA is a joint effort that includes participation by state governments and industry, particularly producers to provide FREE of charge ID tags and ID tagging tools to all producers.  All you need to do is call the scrapie toll free number 866-USDA-TAG (866-873-2824 Select option 7 for Epidemiologist officer) to request official ear tags at no cost.

So far we have talked about the good things in the magic bucket.  Oh yes, I forgot about the weight scale monitor.  While we are doing all the other things to the kid(s), we take a birth weight on each kid.  But what happens when things do not go a planned.  Anyone that says they have not lost a kid is lying.  I cry every time wondering if there was something I could have done to make the outcome different.  That is really the reason for the magic bucket.  With any luck and good management skills, we will never have to use the next items however for now they are still in the magic bucket.

One thing I enjoy is a good Diet Mt. Dew.  I joke with the children and say that the only thing better than a Diet Mt. Dew is a cold Diet Mt. Dew and yes we have Diet Mt. Dew in the magic bucket.  Well maybe not actual Diet Mt. Dew, but a Diet Mt Dew 20 oz bottle.  It makes a perfect kid bottle.  We purchased a screw on nipple that attaches to a plastic bottle for providing colostrum and milk to the kids.  A drench gun can also be used to provide colostrum when the kid is too weak to nurse from the bottle.  We try everything we can before moving to the bottle, however the kid(s) needs to have colostrum within the first 4 – 6 hours of life.  Even when we provide the colostrum, we still make an attempt to have the kid and doe nurse.

We do carry a couple of medications in the magic bucket, LA-200, selenium, penicillin (refrigerated), CDT (refrigerated).  In general we do not give any shots to the kids or mother at birth.  The CDT and selenium are given at approximately 30 days old.  One thing that we do provide to all the does at kidding is a dewormer.  We follow the Famacha chart for deworming throughout the year, however at birthing everyone gets a deworming dose.  There is no more important time for the kids and does than that first couple days.  This is also the most stressful time for the animals and the time when parasites like to make their presence known.   You can have a “Optimal” color chart goat on day one and a “Dangerous” color chart goat on day 10.  And with that, we give all does a dose of Cydectin at kidding.  I found a nice chart for dosages of different dewormers @ http://www.acsrpc.org/Resources/PDF/2013goatdewormerchart.pdf.

I understand that I can not save them all, however if the magic bucket saves just one kid on my farm I am glad that we took the time to put it together.  This has been a learning experience for all my family.  I studied Animal Science in college, however at the time I was much more interested in cattle.  The goats are wonderful animals and provide a completely different level of care.  Everyone in the family has enjoyed the learning curve and look forward to an exciting “kidding season 2015”.

Winter Days

Winter Days:


“It’s cold outside” or at least that is what the weatherman would like you to think.  This morning, I took the kids out to the school bus with about an inch of snow on the ground and the most beautiful sun shining through the clouds.  Normally I am not a Norman Rockefeller kind of person, however this morning I could not help but take a minute and marvel at God’s creation.

The cattle are in the east pasture and they were seemed to be playing a game of freeze tag.  The calves were attempting to join into the game, but finally gave up for their own game of hide and seek. We moved the Scottish Highland bull (Duff) into the pasture over the weekend.  He and his mother (Maggie, 23 years old) are purebred Scottish Highlanders and have been a joy to have on the farm.  We were told that the Scottish Highland breed would produce smaller animals, however so far the calves are ranking in the top 15% of our market animals.  The calves are born without any assistance, to which is perfect for first calf heifers, and turn on with excellent rate of gains.  We could not be more excited about our cattle operation.

The goats are in the west pasture along with Max our Great Pyrenees.  I think they might of been watching the weatherman, because they were snuggled in the barn waiting for their breakfast.  We are excepting kids (goat babies) starting mid-December.  Right now they all look like they are carrying a large basketball around with them.  Last year we kidded in late-January and boy was it cold.  We decided that we try for a little bit earlier this year.  Not sure if it is going to work out better or not, but we are going to give a try.

We are truly blessed to be able raise such amazing animals and to do it as a family.  Hopefully we can help provide everyone with a little taste of what the FFA creed statement on the home page means to us.  From the National FFA Website http://www.ffa.org “I believe that to live and work on a good farm, or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny.”