Having Fun

The wethers are having a lot of fun with using the shelter as a trampoline – though it is wreaking havoc with the tarp which now needs to be replaced.

Not the best photo but I was on the deck using the phone camera.

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Este es el fin

I previously mentioned that going into this year I was still uncertain as to the future plans for the farm. After having spent the last week dragging myself out of bed to attend to the livestock, I have made a decision about the farm.

Fix, my young English Shepherd, turns two tomorrow. He is an exceptionally nice dog – very good structure with effortless movement and a wonderful temperament. However, while he has shown a lot of potential as a working dog, he has been very slow to mature. While this was not a problem when I had Tuck and I could afford to wait for Fix to grow up and develop into a useful chore dog, Tuck is no longer around and I can’t wait any longer. Fix on his good days (i.e., when his brain is engaged) has proven to be a useful dog. However, Fix, as is the case with most adolescent males of any species, lacks focus and all too often will start a task and then find something different to engage his focus. Losing focus while moving stock in open spaces can be, and often is, disastrous. So, while there are some tasks that Fix can do, and does, on a regular basis, there are other tasks where I no longer even try to use a dog. The bottom line is that I can no longer effectively and easily raise sheep.

Since losing Tuck last June, I have been looking for another working English Shepherd. After many frustrating months of no prospects, a friend found a litter in Virginia that had potential. Unfortunately, based on her evaluations of the puppies at 5 weeks and 7 ½ weeks, it appeared that while the litter was very nice, it was unlikely that there was a puppy to suit my needs. Finally, in desperation I turned to looking for a litter of working bred Australian Shepherds and found a litter on the ground in Texas from a very well known breeder. After committing to putting a deposit on a puppy, I returned to my search for an English Shepherd, figuring if I could find what I wanted before picking up the puppy I could eat the deposit. After more e-mails with English Shepherd breeders I have finally faced up to the bitter truth – the majority of English Shepherds today are not working dogs and those few breeders of proven working English Shepherds are breeding a dog too large for my purposes. Over the years I have run cattle, hogs, sheep and goats, not to mention the turkeys and chickens, on my farm and never once in all that time have I ever wished for a larger dog than I had. Since it is important to me that I am able, if necessary, to pick up and carry an injured dog, a 60-70 lb dog is just not viable.

I had contemplated getting rid of the sheep when I lost Tuck but several friends discouraged me from making any decisions while I was still grieving Tuck. In hindsight, I should have followed through and off-loaded the sheep last year, but I plan on rectifying that mistake this year.

As soon as it is feasible, all of the sheep, and half of the goats, will be off the property. I will make a final decision about the remaining goats at the end of this year when the milk test I started in February is concluded.

I will no longer need a working dog so I can pass on the puppy and Fix can grow up at his own speed. Este es el fin

Naming Contest

Once I DNA test the goats and determine who the sire is of the below two doelings I will register both. I will need names for each. In keeping with tradition of naming in line with the doe’s name, these names will be spice related. The prize will be a bar of handmade soap. Put your suggestions in the comments section and I will have a neutral party “draw” a name.

Doeling #1

Doeling #2

Not the best photos but both actually have decent structure. Of course both have lost their ear tips due to frostbite but that won’t affect their milking ability. These are out of Quibeyn Spice who is a great milker and regardless of who the sire(s) turn out to be, both bucks have really good milk pedigrees so I have high expectations for these two.

A Look Back and the Present

Last year my forecast for 2018 was pretty simple:

Going into 2018 the only knowns are that the chicks I bought in August should start laying in February or March. The possibilities are that if the does I exposed to bucks were indeed bred, I can expect kidding season to begin in February; if the ewes were indeed bred in November, I can expect lambing season to begin in April; and if the preservation center I pre-ordered from does not suffer any poultry losses this winter, I can expect 25 Icelandic chicks to be delivered the end of May.

In a nutshell, my plans for 2018 are to not have any concrete plans and to see what the year brings.

It was just as well that I had no concrete plans for the year. The chicks did indeed start laying. The does did not kid as planned and I was not able to start a milk test as hoped for in 2018. The ewes did lamb but I was unsuccessful in selling lambs (all were sent to the butcher in February) and I did not get the expected Icelandic chicks (current plans are for delivery the end of April).

I lost my working dog and best dog ever (Tuck) in June last year and with him, lost my enthusiasm for the farm. Going into 2019 I wasn’t – and am still not – sure exactly what my plans are for the farm.

My Morgan mare foundered between snow storms in January and I had her euthanized four months short of her 32nd birthday.

While I did not intentionally breed my remaining ewes last fall (long story about how they got bred) – and all five ewes have lambed. The first lambed with twins without trouble. The second had twins but lost both within a week. The third had a single and the same morning the fourth had twins – both struggling but still alive. The fifth also had twins so I have seven live lambs on the ground.

I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t able to get does bred last year and rebred in August for January kids, hoping I’d be able to put the does on milk test this year.

The first goat kidded in January with triplets. I wasn’t home and when I got home after dark only two kids were alive – both male. I moved that doe and her surviving kids to the lambing jugs and also moved another doe which appeared to be close to kidding. Nutmeg did indeed kid either late that night or early the next morning – and lost all three triplets. In asking others for possible causes, I was told that it was possibly a selenium deficiency. Selenium has a narrow therapeutic window and I have never supplemented with it before, though I did have a syringe of a selenium/vitamin E gel in my goat supplies. I kept a close eye on Spice but it appeared that although she looked bred, she hadn’t been as the window for kidding based on the dates of exposure to the buck had passed. About three weeks later, when I was doing the evening chores it appeared Spice was in labor so I moved her to the lambing jugs. I checked on her frequently and sure enough about 9:20 pm she started to deliver a kid. It appeared she was in trouble so I went back in to get the necessary equipment and came out in time to help reposition a kid. A second kid followed shortly thereafter and since the other two had triplets, I hung around waiting to see if she was going to have a third. The temperatures this winter have fluctuated wildly and of course she picked the coldest night in several days to kid. By the time I finally got back into the house after midnight the temperatures had dropped into the mid-teens. Spice did indeed have triplets, all of which were very slow to get up. I didn’t expect any to survive but I did dose all three with the selenium/vitamin E gel (and also dosed the lambs that were born about the same time.) I was very happy to see that all three were still alive in the morning, though I did lose the third born a couple of hours later. The two surviving kids are both female and doing very well, except for the fact that the tips of their ears were frostbitten. Since Spice kidded later than expected, I will have to DNA test both bucks, Spice and both doelings to establish parentage before I can register the doelings. Cha-ching.

A selenium deficiency also explains the difficulty in getting the does bred so all the goats are now on a monthly supplement.

I was able to put the does on milk test starting in February. The results are acceptable, but not as good as I had hoped. My hay supply dwindled faster than expected, likely due to me feeding more during the really cold weather, and the quality of hay I was able to get to tide me over has been inconsistent. The first 20 bales were horrible and I ended up discarding quite a bit. A friend then bailed me out and sold me some better quality hay which I have been supplementing with pelleted feeds. I suspect the feeding regimen is largely responsible for the milk test results so far. Unfortunately, my hay supplier can’t provide hay until late May so the milk test results may not be what I expected and hoped for.

Then just because it has been a difficult year so far, in late January my furnace went out. Since according to the model number it was 26 years old I opted to replace it rather than try to repair it. After five days with no heat, I finally was able to get a new furnace installed. Not wanting to be parted from an old friend, I guess, the washer (left behind by the previous owners and also 26 years old according to the model number) quit working in February. It took ten days to get a new washer installed. I went ahead and had them haul off the dryer as I figured it wasn’t going to last much longer either and it saves me from having to deal with the removal as I wasn’t planning on replacing it. Of course the March winds started up a couple of days later so my plans to put up a clothesline have been put on hold and I’ve been using a drying rack inside. Cha-ching, cha-ching.

Hopefully the rest of 2019 will be less eventful and less costly.

 

The next morning. . .

Yesterday I ended up with almost 6 inches of snow. Evidently the one goat shelter was flatter on top and didn’t have the right arc. While the shelter is still functional, the sheep shelter didn’t fare as well.

Not a White Christmas. . .

It snowed last night. When I let the dogs out this morning, I had to kick Kip out . . . although she later remembered that she liked playing in the snow.

Heading to the barn

Kip in the snow

This is the view from my gate. . . I am feeding for a friend and was very happy that my new(er) truck has four wheel drive as I actually needed it to reverse.

Kip and Fix

I’m glad someone is enjoying the snow. The sheep, goats and chickens are all sure this snow is totally my fault and they are NOT HAPPY. Since it is still snowing, I’m expecting a total of about 6 inches.

Happy Holidays . . .

While I don’t personally observe holidays, when I remember I like to do something special for the dogs. I have been saving the last package of neck bones for today.

Christmas Day

 

Fix will have completely cleaned all the meat off the neck bones by the time I go out to feed in a short while and then he will carry around the neck vertebrae for several days. Kip, on the other hand, will bury hers after she spends 30 minutes or so chewing on it.  (Which then gives Fix a chance to steal hers as well as he is very good at finding what she hides/buries.) And while Sleet would dearly love a neck bone, her teeth just aren’t up to the challenge so she will get a little something extra for dinner tonight.

New Mexico “Snow”

New Mexico is well known for its windy conditions, usually in spring when the trees are starting to leaf out. However, yesterday morning while doing chores the winds were brutal in stripping leaves off the cottonwoods. There were brief bursts where so many leaves were swirling it was hard to see more than five feet in front of me.

Chickens, chickens and more chickens

Icelandic cross??

This past spring the young Icelandic rooster gifted to me tried to protect two hens from a coyote and unfortunately all three chickens lost their lives.

However, one of my hens hatched out four chicks and successfully raised three. (Clutches are a communal effort so the parentage of the chicks is always debatable.) Two turned out to be hens – one is a dirty white so is likely a Delaware cross – and the third was a rooster. I *think* that my Icelandic rooster might have been the sire of this particular chicken.

 

A few weeks ago, the friend who gave me my original Icelandic rooster gifted me with another Icelandic rooster. This one is older and has gone through a molt. His tail feathers still need to grow back.

New Icelandic Rooster

And finally, towards the end of the summer one of my hens decided she no longer wanted to roost in the coop. Since she could avoid Fix (and me) by going through the cattle panel into either the corral or goat pens, we were never able to move her back to the coop at night. I figured she would have a short life expectancy spending the night outside, alone but she continually surprised me by being present every morning when I went out to feed. Every night after the rest of the chickens were locked up in the coop, I would look for the errant hen and be unable to find her. However, a couple of nights ago I finally found where she had gone to roost.  See if you can find the chicken.

Last night the temperatures dropped to 18 degrees and I was sure the hen couldn’t have survived, but she was hanging out at the animal pens when I went out to feed (though she did follow me back to the chicken coop and ask to be let inside.) We will see if she goes back to the coop tonight with the rest of the chickens. [Note: she did not go to roost in the coop with the other chickens tonight.]