Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Priorities

I was shocked today to read advice on the internet that one must put the welfare of animals above "everything else". I hope this was hyperbole, but I fear there are people out there that feel exactly that. In the Torah (the Bible), we have a law that we must feed our animals before we feed ourselves, but we would not go so far as to say the welfare of animals must be placed everything else. There are limits. There are legitimate distractions. Is the care of children, the disabled, the elderly not a legitimate distraction?

My goats sustained my disabled child when he could take no other nourishment. For that I am grateful, and I do my best by my goats. But no, their welfare does not come before the welfare of my family. I believe what that Torah law implies is that we understand that domesticated livestock are totally dependent on our care. We do not make them suffer and wait for their basic needs to be met while we attend to our own comfort. Beyond that I think we each have to determine the best way to serve our goats. For one that may mean a great deal of hands on care, for another that may mean selectively breeding hardy animals that can live happily with less hands on attention. To me there is an element of cruelty to breeding goats that cannot kid without assistance or mother their young. I question the wisdom of breeding animals that can't survive the demands of the climate or live off local feed stuff. These are the questions we must ask and answer for ourselves.

There are different animals for different purposes. I once took in a Thoroughbred to live with my Quater Horse. The poor thing was miserable as a backyard horse. He didn't know what do to with himself. While my Quarter Horse was completely content, to graze or munch a round bale and live in a run in shed, this Thoroughbred was used to a stall, more concentrated meals, and more work. In the end I had to pass him down to a family that could provide him with the lifestyle he preferred. It would be useless for me to give management tips to a Thoroughbred racing farm, while the management there would be completely inappropriate for a barefoot backyard pony. So when you look for advice on goat raising topics, I think you have to throw alot of salt around. What some feel is absolutely necessary may or may not be applicable to what you are trying to accomplish.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Rough Summer

It has been a rough summer here at Still Waters Farm.  Texas is having one of the worst droughts on record with record triple digit temperatures.  We have no pasture left.  All our livestock are on dry lots and are eating hay.  Gracias a Dios!  We have been able to get hay.  I'm hopeful maybe we can have another rye grass pasture this winter, but we'll have to see.  I has been harder to sell surplus kids this year, and I suspect the drought and economy have alot to do with it.  The classifieds are bursting with animals folks are unloading.  I did however manage to sell enough to bankroll the aquistion of 3 new Nigerian Dwarf bucks, and 3 new Nubian does.  I forge ahead!

I've spent alot of time contemplating the direction of my Mini Nubian herd.  I've been considering which goals are vanity goals and which are truly important.  For example, is it really desirable to have goats with high production if they overproduce - that is produce more than a set of kids can use?  Or is it better to have goats that produce less but are lower maintence?  What are these goats to be used for?  What is the market I wish to serve?  What are the needs of the market?  What are my needs?

I've been thinking about:
Numbers, Herd Reduction
Bloodlines
Hardiness
Feed conversion
Housing needs
Nutrition
Conformation
Milk testing
Temperment...

In future weeks, I plan to update the website with our goals or mission statement and updated photographs of the herd.  Breeding season is here, and it is time to decide who to breed to whom.  A breeding plan will also be put up.  Farming is a hopeful occupation, even when things are rough, we continue to believe it will be better next year.