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

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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.

Fall Surprise

I staggered breedings on does this year, expecting kids in March and August. March came with no kids so I rebred those does and reconciled myself to having all the does kid in August. Then August came and no kids. At the end of the month I rebred all the does for kids in January. One of my does escaped a couple of weeks ago and I found her parading in front of the buck pen — obviously not bred and back in heat.  I did  go ahead and expose her to a buck again, making the appropriate notations in my records.

So imagine my surprise when I went out this morning and found . . .

The gestation period is 150 days plus or minus three for goats, which would mean that this doe was bred the beginning of June. Except she wasn’t. I have no explanation for how I ended up with a kid this morning – and of course, it is a buckling. While normally I prefer doelings, in this case, a buckling is fine. Rather than spend the money verifying parentage which would be necessary before registering the kid, I will just wether him at the appropriate time and plan on butchering him.

So now I just wait to see who else surprises me. . .

Sunday Snaps

The squash is doing well and after several days of only male blossoms, I finally started getting some female blossoms. I currently have three squash developing.

Spaghetti Squash

 

 

 

 

In ten summers I have yet to actually eat a single apple . . . this year looks to be no exception as I can’t reach the apples that the squirrels and birds have left.

Apples

 

 

 

Finally, not all UV protection is equal. I put a “farm” tarp from Harbor Freight on the sheep shelter last October. I replaced the billboard covers I had on the goat shelters a couple of months ago because I wasn’t able to secure them during the high winds. I used tarps from the local True Value which were (allegedly) UV protected. I removed the shreds of both tarps a few days ago and replaced them with “farm” tarps from Harbor Freight this morning. The tarp on the sheep shelter looks almost new.

 

 

Seldom Herd DA Cosmos’ First Kids

I bred Quibeyn Chai (Joey’s last daughter) to Cosmos in hopes of getting a doeling to carry on Joey’s milking ability. Chai had snuck in with a buck I was borrowing when she was six months old – way too young for me to want her bred – and she had a kid in June 2016, a single buckling. Since Chai was small and only had a single, her udder development wasn’t as good as I would have liked, but she nevertheless produced a respectable amount of milk and I kept her in milk for almost a full year, drying her off only because I went on vacation last year.

I held off breeding her again until this past fall, wanting her to grow up a bit more. I had put her in with Cosmos at the same time I put Pearl in with Cowikee but a month later Chai went back into season. Cosmos was pretty small at the time so I hadn’t been surprised. I put her back in with Cosmos for another week and he managed to breed her the second time.

I was expecting her to kid on Sunday, but she had other ideas. When I went out to feed Friday morning I found two kids with Chai and after entering the doe pen, discovered a third kid lying next to the fence. I thought the third kid was dead until I picked it up and it cried. No muscle tone and no sucking reflex but since it was a doeling (and the other two bucklings) I wanted to try to save her. First order of business was to try and warm her up. I put her in a sink full of hot water (holding her head up) to bring her core temperature up and then dried her off well with towels. (I don’t own a hair dryer but that will change here shortly.) She was placed in a box with dry towels next to a space heater while I went out and milked out some colostrum from Chai. Since I couldn’t find my kidding supplies, I put her wrapped  in dry towels and a syringe full of colostrum in the car and made a run into the feed store. My usual feed store didn’t have a feeding tube the correct size so I tried the newly opened Tractor Supply. That was a joke and just reinforced my unwillingness to shop there. The next stop was a local vet clinic where I was able (at a very inflated price) to buy a catheter to use as a feeding tube. I tube fed the kid in the car before making one last stop to buy a bottled soft drink (nipples don’t fit on water bottles). I continued to tube feed her throughout the day without seeing any improvement at all and I finally lost her in the early evening.

Chai, thankfully, is doing well, as are her two remaining kids.

Having a Little Fun

I was expecting Chai to kid out Sunday or Monday so was planning on moving Pearl and her doeling into the newly kid proofed pen this weekend. However, Chai had other plans and kidded Friday morning so I had to move Pearl and her kid out to free up the lambing jugs.

The still un-named doeling is very happy with her new accommodations.

 

16 hours (plus or minus)

In the daylight, after being cleaned up and dried off, the doeling is actually a tri-color. She weighed 3 lbs when I weighed her this morning.

The dam is Blunderosa Minnie Pearl and the sire is CBF KS Cowikee. I generally try to name kids in a theme with the dam but in this instance will just use the “Pearl” — so the doeling needs a gem name. Suggestions are welcome.

A day early

I was expecting Pearl to kid anytime between tomorrow and the end of the week. However, this evening as I was heading out to feed (later than usual) I heard her crying. Hoping that didn’t indicate she was in distress, I swung by the barn to fill the hay cart and then stopped at the house to pick up a headlamp as it was already dark. As I approached the goat pens I heard a kid – with very good lungs – crying. Pearl had kidded and didn’t appear to be in distress though she was definitely unhappy with Fix bouncing around. After filling feeders, I filled a water bucket for the lambing jugs and went back to the barn for another flake of hay. I then put the dogs back in the house and milked Charmin. After finishing milking I put Charmin back in the pen and picked up the kid. Pearl did not follow me to the lambing jugs, though her two pen mates did. I went back for Pearl and put her in with her kid and caught the other does and put them back in their pen. After a quick dinner I went back out to see if Pearl had a second kid. It looks like just the single, but it is a doeling so that is good.

It looks like she is black and white like her mom but with more white. I’ll have a better idea in the morning when it is daylight and she has been fully cleaned off. I’ll also weigh her then.