Heating Up

The temperatures have consistently hit the 80s over the past week or so. As hogs don’t sweat, they have to be provided with shade and a way to cool off – most commonly by coating themselves with mud. Setting up a wallow for the pastured hogs was simple enough. I spliced into the irrigation tubing that delivers a constant supply of water to the hog waterer and ran another piece of tubing off to the side where I installed a spot water emitter. All I had on hand was a 2 GPH (gallon per hour) emitter so I set that up and ordered a packet of 0.5 GPH emitters. That meant that I had to remember to turn off the water after a couple of hours or else flood out the wallow and the adjoining pen.

The 0.5 GPH emitters were delivered the other day and I went out to replace the 2 GPH. When I turned the water on and then went back to check to ensure it was working I was appalled to find that the 0.5 GPH dripped faster than the 2 GPH. So I am back to having to turn on the water for a few hours in the AM, then off, and then remember to turn it back on for a couple of hours in the PM again. (If you double-click on the photo you can actually see the water dripping.)

The wallow will be covered with a tarp for shade as soon as the permanent pen is built

The wallow will be covered with a tarp for shade as soon as the permanent pen is built

The two hogs still in a small pen within the working pen are another problem. Bok Choy has been unwell for the past couple of weeks. It started with her not eating or drinking but no other signs of illness. After syringing water down her to ensure she stayed hydrated, she started to eat and drink on her own again a couple of days later but then began to be uncoordinated. After reading a 400 plus page veterinary text on pigs, there really wasn’t anything that fit her signs so I opted for supportive care. While I toyed with the idea of giving her penicillin, since I wasn’t able to give her a vitamin B-12 injection (she might have been unsteady on her feet but she was still stronger than me when I tried to restrain her) I decided that twice a day shots just wasn’t going to be feasible. She has continued to eat and drink and would stagger up to the fence to say hello every morning and evening and I finally started to see improvement in how she was moving. So this morning, I opened up the hog pen and let Hoggle and Bok Choy have the run of the working pen while I cleaned out their pen. This afternoon I went out to make sure they still had water and after emptying their water trough in the middle of the working pen to clean it, I carried it back to their pen and refilled it with clean water. I looked back to see Hoggle and Bok Choy enjoying a new wallow so I added more water (and sprayed them down as well.)

If Bok Choy continues to improve, I’ll keep to my plans of relocating Hoggle and Bok Choy out to the pasture at the end of June.

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Dinner on the Farm

After much angst, one of my acorn squashes finally matured. It certainly didn’t look like what you can buy in the store . . .

Odd little acorn squash

Odd little acorn squash

It sat on my counter for a few days until I finally remembered to pull a package of frozen ground lamb from the freezer out in the pump house. Last night I opened the squash up and scooped out the seeds.
Ready to stuff

Ready to stuff

While the oven was preheating, I sauteed some onions with the lamb burger and then added a few more ingredients. I then filled the squash with the ground lamb and baked for about 50 minutes (which was probably about 15 minutes too long as the squash basically pureed itself.)
The final product

The final product

Dinner was excellent. (I had saved the outside of the squash for the hogs after I had scooped out squash and meat, but one of the dogs decided she really liked baked squash and ate most of it before I caught her.)

Plus Five More

I was hard at work this morning when I heard some cheeping. Since the two chicks in the brooder with the hen are too far from the house to be heard, I figured I was hearing things and ignored it. However, when I heard cheeping again a couple of hours later I went out to investigate. I found a hen with five chicks in the area between the drive and the pump house. After a couple of abortive attempts to catch the chicks I went back to work. Tonight when I went out to feed I found the hen on the outside of the run attached to the chicken coop with all five chicks under her. I had opened the brooder into the run this morning so the other hen and her two chicks were in the run. Therefore, my goal was to get the second hen and five chicks into the brooder. However things didn’t go quite as planned and I ended up with four chicks in the brooder and the hen and one chick into the run. While trying to get her and the chick into the brooder, the other hen and her two chicks went back into the brooder and all six chicks ended up with the hen. Some fancy shuffling managed to separate the hen from all the chicks and I was able to finally catch the four chicks and put them out in the run with the hen. Four black chicks and one yellow chick.

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Branding cattle

This morning I headed out to meet a friend to ride. However, when I arrived I found everyone finishing up with vaccinating cows and getting ready to brand, vaccinate, and for one calf, castrate calves. So I spent my morning helping vaccinate and brand instead.

I'm handling the head gate

I’m handling the head gate

In the squeeze chute

In the squeeze chute

The brand

The brand

By the time that was finished, it was getting hot so my friend and I hit the Tumbleweed Equipment Auction instead. In all the years I’ve lived here, I have never made it to an auction. It was interesting. In addition to equipment (vehicles, trailers, tractors, etc.) there were stacks of building materials and then a lot of miscellaneous items ranging from tools to household goods to furniture to odds and ends. There was an auctioneer in a trailer being towed by a truck auctioning off trailers when we arrived. Another auctioneer, also in a trailer being towed by a truck, was handling the miscellaneous goods. An employee would stand with a large pole on or next to the item being auctioned and would work his way up and down the aisles as each item was sold. There were several items that went for significantly less than I would have expected and some items that went for amounts that astounded me – like 45.00 for a fleece blanket that could have been bought for less than 10.00 new at Wal-Mart. The next time I am in the market for a farm truck or trailer, the Auction will definitely be on my list. A nice four-horse gooseneck stock trailer sold for 1,000.00. I don’t envision myself going again though unless I have something specific that I’m looking for.

The Second Most Beautiful Sight

Rain (or snow) is the most beautiful sight when you live in a desert. The second most beautiful sight is a barn full of hay.

I had one third of my hay delivered tonight – 210 bales of wheat hay. My barn has four sections. On one side I have several dog kennels up and on the other side is a long bench with storage. That leaves the two middle sections to store hay. The other 400 bales of hay – alfalfa – is supposed to be delivered next week. I’m not sure I can fit 400 more bales into the remaining section of the barn.

Space for hay

Space for hay

Wheat hay

Wheat hay

Hay stacked to about six feet from cattle panel closing off front of barn

Hay stacked to about six feet from cattle panel closing off front of barn

First chicks of the season

After an early spring with lots of eggs a few weeks ago I started finding fewer and fewer eggs in the nesting boxes. While I found a couple of nests outside the coop with eggs, egg production was still drastically reduced. I wondered whether a hen had gone broody but was never able to find a nest with a broody hen. I got home tonight and ran out to the chicken coop in between rain bursts to collect eggs. While in the chicken coop I heard the very distinctive chirp of young chicks. A quick scan of the area revealed two chicks huddled outside the chicken coop. I dashed around the coop and found the two live chicks and a third one, dead, but no signs of broken shells or of a broody hen. I picked up both chicks and carried them to the brooder side of the chicken coop. After settling them in the brooder I hooked up the lights to keep them warm and cleaned and filled a waterer. However, what to feed them was an issue. The feed store was closed and I don’t keep chick feed on hand unless I have chicks. I finally decided I’d make some instant maple syrup oatmeal and a hardboiled egg to tide them over until I could get to the feed store in the morning. When I took the mix out to the coop and filled a chick feeder for them, I scouted around the chicken coop one more time to look for any other chicks or signs of a nest. I found neither, but I did find a hen hunkered down making distress calls. Hoping she was the broody hen, I caught her (at which time her vocalizations turned into seriously pissed off chicken sounds) and carried her around to the brooder. She did settle down over the chicks so I turned off the lights and left all three in peace.

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Hen with chicks

Hen with chicks

First Milking

Thyme kidded out about three weeks ago. She was (unintentionally) bred way too young and is very small. She is a first freshener and only has one kid. First fresheners don’t have the udder development that they will (hopefully) develop with subsequent kiddings and does produce milk to meet the needs of their kids, so does with singles generally produce less milk than does with multiple kids. Therefore, when I decided it was time to start milking Thyme and Spice and separated them from their kids last night, I wasn’t expecting much from Thyme on the milk stand this morning.

Thyme

Thyme

Here is Thyme’s udder approximately 12 hours without nursing. Not fantastic but she gave me 14 oz of milk (a quart is 2 lbs or 32 oz) which isn’t bad given everything. I also didn’t completely milk her out as she has very small teats and was NOT good about standing quietly. Peak production is 8 weeks after freshening (kidding) so what she produces then will give me an idea of the milker she is likely to be in subsequent kiddings.

Spice kidded about two weeks ago and has twins. She is a first freshener but older and larger than Thyme. Here is her udder.

Spice

Spice

She gave me 20 oz (her twin Nutmeg gave me 22 oz on her first milking). Her teats are smaller than Nutmeg’s and she isn’t as easy to milk, but she was quiet on the milk stand. I’m anxious to see what she produces at 8 weeks as she looks almost identical to her mom, Joey, who was an exceptional milker.

Addendum: to see what Nutmeg’s udder looked like on her first freshening: Got Milk?