The Rhythms of Fall

Fall is blasting through the trees, pouring down from the skies. And with it we are winding down our milk production and slowly integrating our new does while we send encouragement in the direction of our bucks.

With the farm and creamery still in construction, the added numbers of animals (all needing to be quarantined from our herd for 14 -21 days), the need to get the breeding underway, and the desire to de-worm and get all animals into optimum health pre-pregnancy pressing upon us, we are doing something this year that we’ll likely do differently next year. Drying off the animals during the month of October, rather than end of November.

Back in France at the farms I’ve worked and interned at, the typical schedule is to breed the does in September, dry off late November, and expect the freshenings in February/early March. This is then a 10 month milking and cheese-making schedule, with a two month break for the animals during the end of their period of gestation, and the herdsmen and cheesemakers.

This rhythm also permits the person who milks the goats to see a plump and pink vulva, perhaps oozing a bit of goo, and note that 1. she’s in heat and 2. likely to be bred pretty darn quickly by the present buck, and thus to pretty accurately calculate the future freshening dates.

Right now, we’re a bit betwixt and between. We’re following the French style of putting the bucks with the does and letting them do their thing without much intervention. Putting the does one by one in with a buck is simply not practical with the numbers we’re now dealing with. But as we’re not milking every girl every day, we’re not completely certain who’s been bred yet or not. Oh, we see who’s fluttering her tail, we see the boys make efforts to climb up on them, we observe all those wonderful mating rituals of drinking pee and sniffing butts. But, till the vet returns at the end of the month with her portable sonogram… we’re not too certain if/who/when. I must confess to crossing my fingers.

Generally, I like to be in control. I like to plan the year’s calendar, anticipate what we’ll do at what point throughout the year, note the times we’ll need extra help, when there’ll be lots of milk, etc., Letting Nature run her course is rather a humbling and frustrating thing. It’s hard to be sure….

And nor is the weather properly collaborating with us. I’ve put photos from a rare sunny day here, but more typical to this month has been rain and more rain, with one splendid day to startle and delight, before returning to rain again. Am I in the Pyrenees again? (Last April it rained 29 out of 30 days that month!) I’ve reveled in the colors of fall, and even the rank scent of our bucks. And making cheese with rich fall milk is a joy.  So though there’s not much milk, what I have is beautiful. Thus I’ve made a few more tommes (not to be sampled for a few months!), another batch of crème fraîche, a day’s worth of lactics, and one more try at some camembert (but I worry a bit about these last as the space I’m experimenting in was way cold that day!).

It’s time to put all my paperwork in order, register goats, get familiar with the DHI Dairy Herd Improvement milk testing for the spring, go back through receipts and invoices for the accountants, and have all in order as we move forward to the next TO DO list. Though personally, I’m waiting for the next beautiful day to spend time in the pasture with the goats.

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