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5 Must Haves for Your Kidding Kit

Life and Adventures at Diamond W RanchWe raise Miniature Nubians, so kidding season is always a very busy time for us. In order to help keep things a little less chaotic, we have a kidding barn. We have worked very hard on this barn, and are pretty proud of how it has turned out, especially considering what it looked like when we started.

Kids playing

Each doe, when she is near her time to kid, is moved into her own private stall in the kidding barn. Each stall has clean straw, an elevated water bucket, a heat lamp, and feed/hay areas.

Pretty Zapata

The kidding barn is equipped with a propane forced air heater to use if needed, a feed/hay/straw storage area, a tool bench, a storage cabinet, and various cleaning supplies. Another very important feature kept in the kidding barn during kidding season is the all-important kidding box. There are many useful things in that box, but there are five things I am never caught without!


1. Digital thermometer – Find one with a flexible tip, and one that reads as quickly as possible. A baby goat’s temperature should be at least 101℉ (normal range is 102 - 103℉) before it eats or it will not be able to properly digest milk.

2. Clean towels – These are a necessity for drying off newborn kids. They come in handy for wiping off hands, too! We use old ones from the house (you know, the ones with holes or stains) and we pick some up at garage sales or auctions.

Baby Lucy

3. Hair dryer – We use this to warm up the newborn kids if needed. The towels are used to make a tent and the hair dryer blows warm air into the tent, but not directly onto the kid. We monitor the kid’s temperature, and once it is able to maintain at least 101℉ under a heat lamp, we can do without the heat tent.

4. Honey and whiskey – This is my Grandpa’s method of giving weak lambs a boost, and it works for weak goat kids, too. Mix about 1/4 cup honey and 1 tablespoon whiskey. I keep it in a small jar in my kidding kit, and make it fresh before kidding season starts. If you have a weak baby, dip your finger in the honey/whiskey mixture and rub it on the baby’s gums. This can be repeated a few times every few minutes until the baby perks up (do it while warming the baby up). The sugars in the honey/whiskey help give the baby a boost of energy. A small amount (about a teaspoon) can be added to 2 ounces of warm milk to help give the baby an extra boost. There are other ingredients that can be used (such as blackstrap molasses and cayenne pepper), but this is my family’s tried and true method.

Baby Star

5. Bottle, nipple, and empty butter container – These are a must have. If the kid is unable to nurse in a timely manner, or must be moved away from its dam for one reason or another, a bottle and nipple are essential to have on hand to ensure the baby gets much needed nourishment quickly. I usually try to milk the dam so the kid gets colostrum, hence the empty butter container. If the dam is not able to be milked, we use whole cow’s milk rather than milk replacer if at all possible.

Some other items I keep in the kidding box include a bulb syringe to clean fluids out of nasal passages, Selenium/Vitamin E gel to give to kids with weak legs (if you are in a Selenium deficient area), Colostrum gel, a feeding tube (in case we need to tube feed a weak kid) with a 5 cc syringe to fit, a kid puller, a drench for the doe in case she needs extra energy, a drenching syringe, injectable Vitamin B complex, 3 cc syringes with needles, iodine and small disposable cups (for dipping navels), Vetricyn spray (in case of small wounds), notepad and pen, non-latex gloves, baby wipes, lubricant, and an extra thermometer. There are lots of other things I have on hand, but those are the things in my kidding box.

Brae and triplets

Also note, I do not keep my kidding box in the kidding barn year around. During the rest of the year, it is kept in the house in a climate-controlled environment to keep things from temperature extremes and to keep the box from getting too dirty. Each year prior to kidding season, I go through the box and discard anything that is outdated, replace anything that is damaged, and make new honey/whiskey syrup.

Lastly, be sure to have your veterinarian's phone number available, and a back up veterinarian's phone number as well. They can help talk you through a tough situation, make a farm visit, or recommend treatments, and are an invaluable resource!

Curious Baby CC

Icky Ticks

Life and Adventures at Diamond W RanchIn my neck of the woods, ticks are a way of life. Summertime is all but here in the Midwest, and we are already on tick patrol after every outing.

I don't remember ticks being such a nuisance as a kid. Sure, we had one every so often, and the dogs always had a few. But they weren't as common, and tickborne diseases were a rarity.

However, tickborne diseases have tripled since the 1990s. Diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever that 20 years ago were considered rare, are now almost commonplace in some areas of the United States.

New diseases such as Heartland disease and Bourbon disease (named for Bourbon County, Kansas, where it was discovered) are emerging as well. The symptoms and possible long-term effects of these diseases is downright terrifying.

lone star tick
Photo by Getty Images/Anest.

Those of us who farm, care for livestock, hunt, garden, or take part in any other outdoor activities daily are especially at risk for getting tick bites. Preventing this from happening is our best defense against getting sick. The obvious and first advice given for prevention is to avoid areas where ticks are found.

However, for most of us this is not possible. Our daily routine brings us in close contact with tall grass, brush, trees, and livestock — all places that ticks frequent. So, what do we do?

One of the best methods we have found in our personal use on our farm is Permethrin spray on our clothing. Products with at least 0.5 percent Permethrin are quite effective in keeping ticks away. We choose two or three outfits, hang them out on the clothesline, and spray them down with the Permethrin spray until they are damp.

The clothes are allowed to dry before we wear them. Boots, shoes, and gloves are also treated. This will last up to 6 washes before the clothing must be re-treated. So far, this is the best method we have found in keeping those nasty beasties at bay.

This spray may be used on dogs and other livestock as well. It's a good idea to check with your veterinarian first to be sure of safety for your animal.

kate and smoke
Photo property of Jacqueline Wilt.

After you return from working outside, you should bathe or shower as soon as possible. This will help remove any ticks that may be crawling on you, before they have a chance to bite. Put clothing in the dryer and tumble dry on high heat for at least 10 minutes to kill any ticks that may be on your clothing.

Use a hand held or full-length mirror (or your significant other) to do a full body check for ticks. Be sure to check children over carefully as well.

If you find a tick attached, don't panic. They are easy to remove. I admit, I usually just pick them off and kill them with my fingernails. This isn't the best way, though.

They should be removed using a pair of tweezers or other tick removal device. The tick should be grasped as close to the skin as possible, and then pulled off.

Avoid squeezing the tick's body. It is not recommended to apply things such as petroleum jelly or finger nail polish to get the tick to let go, as this can increase the chances of disease transmission.

Ticks should be removed as soon as possible after they bite to reduce the chance of disease transmission. It is common for tick bites to itch, similar to a mosquito bite.

However, if there is significant swelling, any rash, or any other symptoms after a tick bite, you should see your doctor. Be sure to let your doctor know you have had a tick bite so they know what symptoms to look for and the proper course of treatment. Most tick-borne disease are treatable if diagnosed early.

There is a world of information about ticks, their prevention, the diseases they cause, and how to manage them. Every geographic area has different species of ticks that bite humans, and different diseases transmitted by those species. The CDC website is a great resource for more information.

What are Sika Deer? Raising Rosie: Part 1

Life and Adventures at Diamond W Ranch 

We purchased two sika deer last weekend. My fiancée, Tim, and I have always wanted exotic hoof stock, so when the opportunity arose to get them, we jumped at the chance. Rosie is a 6-week-old doe and Bruce is her older brother who is about 2. Since sika deer aren’t very common, I thought I’d share a bit about them and their attributes as additions to our farm.


Sika deer are the smallest members of the elk family and are native to parts of East Asia and Japan. They were first introduced in the United States in 1916. They are one of the few species of deer that maintain the distinctive white spots usually associated with fawns. They can range in color from sandy brown/red to dark mahogany. Most have a distinctive darker dorsal stripe. They also have a tail and a white rump, which they flare when alarmed, much like elk.

Sika deer are medium sized deer that can be from 20 to 43 inches in height at the shoulder. There are different sub-species that can grow to weigh as much as 240 pounds for males (stags), but the Japanese sub-species is smaller and usually grows to 90 to 150 pounds for stags and 65 to 90 pounds for females (hinds). 

Rosie licks milk off her nose

Stags grow antlers averaging 11 to 18 inches, and can grow to as much as 30 inches. Hinds do not have antlers, but will have dark bumps on their heads.

For the farmstead, these deer are fairly easy to raise. They do require special fencing since they are agile jumpers. We built ours 8 feet high just to be on the safe side. Sika deer will graze readily, enjoy browse and many weeds, and grow well with many commercially available feeds.

Sika venison is often compared to elk in taste and texture. Their smaller size makes them ideal for small farm use. They are adaptable, intelligent, and relatively docile. Sika are legal to own in my state of Kansas since they are not a native Kansas species. However, if you are interested in raising them, be sure to research the laws in your area first.


Little Rosie is currently our house guest. She has a dog crate in our living room, and is convinced she is a dog. Our dogs have all met her and she loves being in their company.

Rosie loves the dogs

She follows them around, sucks on their ears, and carries a rope bone around like a puppy. She recently discovered dog food, which has become her favorite treat. The dogs aren’t sure what to think of her, but they all seem to get along just fine. She’s even pretty much house trained, choosing to use her crate as a toilet.

Charlie and Rosie

Bruce is learning the ropes at his new home. He is still nervous, but is getting more acclimated. We are excited for the future of our new venture into exotic livestock. Plans are underway to build more deer-safe pens for future additions!

Easily Peel Hard-Boiled Eggs

Life and Adventures at Diamond W RanchMy mom got an Instant Pot — an easy-to-use digital electric pressure cooker — for Christmas and loves it, so I’ve been thinking about getting one. But do I really need yet another kitchen gadget to clutter up my counter or take up valuable pantry space? She loaned it to me so I could see for myself if it was as life-changing as the internet bloggers would have you believe.


Well ... it is. I’m pretty sure this is about the best thing to happen to a working mom’s kitchen since the crock pot. It’s better than my crock pot! Why? Well first off, you don’t need to put the meal in the pot before you leave for work. I usually return to find the meal very overcooked, the meat dry, and the vegetables near mush. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my crock pot, but it has its issues. It cooks just about anything you can think of in record time, even if the items are frozen!

The Instant Pot cooks in much less time and meats come out nice, tender, juicy, and full of flavor! But the best thing so far? INSTANT POT HARD-BOILED EGGS! I don’t know about you, but I have a heck of a time making hard-boiled eggs that I can peel without losing half the egg in the process. Especially since I have my own chickens and fresh eggs are notoriously difficult to peel after boiling. I’ve tried all the tricks they say to try online. None have worked very well.

The Instant Pot has changed that. You put your eggs in, set the timer, walk away, and return to find perfectly cooked eggs that the shell just slides off of! Here’s the how-to:

1. Place eggs in the bottom of the Instant Pot, on top of the metal rack that comes with it. You can put as many as you want in, just don’t stack them.


2. Add 1 cup of water.

3. Place the lid on the pot and close the steam seal. Set the timer for 5 minutes, and that’s it!

The pot will cook the eggs and then let the steam release naturally after the cooking process is done, which takes about 5 more minutes. Then you can put the eggs in cold water and peel them.


Simple. And the shells practically fall off, even from fresh eggs. These eggs were collected the day of and the day before cooking:


So of course, we made deviled eggs. Yum!


Cleaning Antique Enamelware

Life and Adventures at Diamond W RanchWhile poking around the Kansas City Farmer’s Market last weekend, I discovered this beautiful cobalt blue swirl enamelware (aka graniteware) muffin tin.

Antique enamelware muffin tin in good condition

I have collected antique blue swirl enamelware for years and was THRILLED to find this piece in relatively good condition, and for a great price! The only problem I saw was that the underside had a thick layer of baked-on dirt.

Enamelware before cleaning

Enough that it obliterated much of the beautiful blue swirl pattern.

I wasn’t sure how to get the baked on gunk off, or if it was even possible to do. Enamelware is easy to scratch, can be cracked, and will flake off. I didn’t want to damage my find! My mom and dad have bought and sold antiques for years, and my mom has a penchant for kitchen antiques, so she has had her share of experience cleaning antique pieces. I called her for advice.

Her remedy was surprisingly simple: baking soda. Per Mom’s advice, I soaked the muffin tin in hot water first to loosen the greasy baked-on gunk. Then I sprinkled baking soda all over the back of the tin. Using a soft kitchen washcloth and warm water, I gently scrubbed at the gunk to remove it.

Cleaning antique enamelware

It came off surprisingly easily! The pictures show before and after. I think it looks pretty good so far, and will only get better the more I work on it! Thanks, Mom!

Looking better already

Perfect Bottle Calf Bottles

Life and Adventures at Diamond W RanchI have found (in my opinion) the PERFECT bottles for feeding bottle calves! I recently added a couple of bottle calves to my farm menagerie.  I’ve never raised calves, so this has been a learning experience for me. The internet has offered lots of great advice, but one issue I ran into was finding a good bottle.

At first, I just purchased the simple bottles found at farm supply stores everywhere. You know the ones … opaque white with burnt orange colored nipples at the top. There are two basic types, one with a nipple that just pulls on over the top of the bottle and one that the nipple is fastened with a screw on lid. I purchased two of the latter. They were inexpensive, which made me happy, of course.

However, one morning one of my calves pulled the top right off the bottle! I ended up with milk down my leg and pooling into my boots. I thought I must have mis-threaded the lid, so next time I was very careful to make sure the lid was on securely. I had the same result. I had to hold the tops on with one hand and hold the bottle with the other. Even then it was hard to keep the lids on. I tried switching lids and bottles, increasing the size of the nipple opening, making sure they were tight, everything I could think of, but to no avail. After taking a bath in milk replacer a few times, I was ready to try something else.

The farm store had milk pails for calves with nipples, so I tried those. Again, they failed miserably. They were difficult to handle, the calves had trouble sucking from the stiff nipples they came with, and when they butted the pails out of frustration, the milk flew everywhere. Now what?

I searched the internet for different types of bottles. I had seen one with a handle on it, but had passed on purchasing it earlier because it was more than I wanted to spend. Now, I took a closer look at it and decided to give it a try.

Speedy Feeder calf bottle

Let’s just say I’m in LOVE with these bottles! They are made by a New Zealand company called Shoof International. The bottles are called Speedy Feeders. They are 2.5 quart capacity and have sturdy screw on lids. The nipples are high quality Peach Teat brand nipples. They have molded handles, making it much easier to feed two calves at once! But the BEST feature of these bottles is the air valve.

Toggle switch to allow air into bottle to control flow of milk

The air valve is a toggle switch conveniently located within thumb’s reach just above the handle. Mine has three “speeds,” slow (0), medium (1) and fast (2). Switching this lever allows air into the bottle, which in turn allows the milk to flow easier. This also prevents the bottle from collapsing and lessens frustration on the calf’s part when they cannot get the milk to flow from a vacuum locked bottle.

The lid of the Speedy Feeder screws on tight

Speedy Feeder nipple and lid

I have found it works best to let the calves suck on the bottles for a few seconds before opening a valve. The milk can leak from the little vent hole, sending an arching sprinkle of milk all over the calves! Another thing I love about these bottles is the large opening. This has made it much easier to fill and clean the bottles. 

Speedy Feeding calf bottle in use

For negatives about this bottle, there aren't very many. The bottles are a bit difficult to keep clean because of the molded handle. I have a bottle brush, but it falls short in getting all of the curved areas clean without some real trial and error. Also, the nipples are difficult to clean. I have just been rinsing them with hot water and squeezing the nipple to expel the water to clean them. I have not found an easy way to remove and clean the nipples from the lids. 

What bottle calf feeding equipment have you tried that has worked well? I’d love to hear about it!

Goldfish for Mosquito Control in Stock Tanks

Life and Adventures at Diamond W RanchThe mosquitoes are terrible around our area this year. With the threat of West Nile Virus and Zika Virus lurking in the news and coming across my desk as a health department nurse, I am doing my best to be vigilant in protecting my family (and my animals) from getting bitten.

However, another thing we can do as livestock producers is to try to reduce the availability of breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes must have still or stagnant water in which to lay their eggs. Common areas around the home are flower pots, old tires, buckets, animal water bowls, tarps or swimming pool covers, and livestock tanks. It is fairly easy to control standing water in most of these items, but dumping and refilling large stock tanks is a big chore, and not very easy to maintain, especially since mosquitoes can go from egg to adult in less than a week.

The solution I have found is to employ goldfish. Goldfish are wonderful tank cleaners! They keep my tanks cleaner longer and they eat mosquito larvae! Every summer I go to the pet store and purchase a bunch of feeder goldfish, which are usually less than 20 cents each. I divide them among my livestock tanks and let them work all summer. The tanks I have are mosquito-larvae free!

Goldfish employees ready for work

I did this earlier this year, about a month ago. But I only purchased about 15 goldfish, and put them in two of my four stock tanks. The two tanks with goldfish were completely free of ANY mosquito larvae. The other two were disgustingly (and literally) SWIMMING with the little blood-suckers-to-be. I quickly went back to the pet store and purchased 30 more goldfish and divided them into the other two tanks. For less than $6.00, I have mosquito control all summer long. And, within 24 hours, the goldfish have the tanks almost 100% free from mosquito larvae already!

Goldfish into the tank

I do not have to feed the goldfish anything additional, they sustain themselves fine on what gets into the tanks. The tanks are still cleaned about every 3-4 weeks. When I clean them, I scoop some of the tank water into a bucket, dump the tank, rescue the goldfish and put them into the bucket while I clean the tank. I have never lost a goldfish doing it this way, except once, when one of the chickens beat me to one of my fishy employees.

The goldfish are an inexpensive, efficient, fun, and chemical-free way to keep my stock tanks cleaner and healthier for my animals.

Goldfish getting to work

Have any of you ever used goldfish in your stock tanks? What other ways do you control mosquitoes in your stock tanks?

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