Update – Cows – and 200th Post!

This is my 200th post.  It seems only right to use it to mention the cows.

Actually there isn’t much to say.  They’ve been pretty relaxed over the last few months.  As far as I can tell they’re quite happy.  They have an odd relationship with Muga.  When they’re in the same field the three of them hang out together most of the day.  And yet when food arrives and Muga gets a bit uppity, Avarice especially backs away from him and becomes very skittish.  Hours later they’ll be placidly grazing in the same area.

I think we’ve got to a reasonable position with them where they’ll happily come to food, but not if we’re doing anything which might seem out of the ordinary, such as something which might mean catching them.  So we still don’t have a plan to TB test them.  We’ll just need to think upon it more…

Update – Goats

The goats have mostly been OK, except for Ishy.  A couple of months ago she started behaving quite strangely.  At first she was just a little slow.  Then she started eating less, and then after a couple of days she got to the point of just standing and shivering.  It didn’t help that the heavens seemed to be permanently emptying. When she first started behaving oddly I had checked her out, including looking at her hooves.  One of them was pretty bad with scald (footrot), so I treated that.  We got the vet out to see her, and he gave her a dose of antibiotics, and said we should call him in a couple of days if she didn’t get better.

Well, for the first day it didn’t seem to make the slightest difference, and I really thought she was on her way out.  Then it was like one morning someone had switched the light back on, and she was back to, almost, her old self.  Pushing for food, and going out exploring with the others.  It could have been the infection was related to the foot problem, and by treating it both internally and externally, we resolved it.  Or it could have been something else, it’s difficult to tell with goats!  Moby didn’t seem bothered during the whole episode, I think she thought Ishy was just being attention-seeking.

After that scare we’ve had no problems, and they’ve enjoyed the summer.  We had Boris sheared so she wasn’t too warm, and she’s just about at the stage where her fleece looks perfect.  In a month or two, or if it rains heavily again it’s going to look dirty and scraggly, but we can enjoy it in perfect shape until then!

Howard is still being his pushy old self.  He’s a bit grumpy with me as I’m not feeding him at now, during the main part of the summer I’ve only been feeding the pigs.  So he has to watch me walk across the field with a bucket of feed which he just knows he’d like…  it’s a trial for him, it really is.

Sheep Planning

So every year we get to this time of the year and think that we need to separate out the lambs, and move the ewes and Muga around and really get things ready for him to start covering them.  And every year we continue to think about it until around October time, when it’s a little late to do anything about it.

To be fair last year we also had the added excitement of a partially castrated lamb covering the few ewes I did manage to separate out (and I have every hope that this wont recur this year!).

This year, for the first time, not only did we think about it, but we actually did it!  First we caught all the sheep together.  Now as many previous posts have asserted, this isn’t always an entirely easy thing to do.  However we have a new technique.  First of all we get the lambs used to coming into the two fenced areas next to the animal restaurant over a couple of days. Then on the day we need to catch them we close the gates on them while they’re all eating away, and shepherd them into one of the two areas.

This is where we’ve added a new technique to our arsenal.  We get a while bunch of sheep hurdles and create a line across the area, and make sure they;re all on one side.  And then we walk the line of hurdles until we have them in a nice tight area.  It takes a while, but it works brilliantly, and keeps them fairly calm while we’re doing it.

The other challenge with separating the ewes from the lambs, is that the ewes will follow us, and the feed bucket, without trouble.  The lambs however are a lot less excited about it.  So today when we separated them out, we left all the lambs (and the OAPs) in the area surrounded by the hurdles, and separated out the ewes and Muga.  We then led them into the other field by simply carrying a bucket of feed in front of them.  It was then easy to close the gate, and the separation was complete!

Muga is now in with three Mules, four Suffolks, three Soays, and Luke’s sister.

All of the lambs, both last years, and this years, and the OAPs are now in the home field, with the cows and the Alpacas.  This means I should be able to catch them when it’s time for them to go on holiday, or if I manage to sell some more.  Which is great!

Update – Chickens

After our disaster earlier in the year we took a while to get some new chickens.  It was just too depressing, and we decided we needed to get our fencing sorted before we did anything more.

Our two remaining brown hens were fairly reliably laying, so we rarely had to buy eggs, which was positive, but we still wanted more.

We had a man in to redo our fencing properly.  I’ll write more on fencing a few days, but suffice it to say this was the real thing.  He said he thought our fox-proof fencing was actually OK, we just needed to get our electric tightened and add an extra row just off the ground, which he did for us.  It also helped that he fixed the rest of our fencing, as we had much less which was shorting out across the full length.

So last month we decided to get some new chickens, and after looking around, and exclaiming at the price, we decided to go back to bantams.  We started with bantams, and I always felt they had lots of personality, and with their smaller eggs having more doesnt give quite the same egg overload (as I can happily eat four or five for lunch, and it’s the same as three or so normal eggs).  We got five, four hens and a cockerel.

There’s still some debate on cockerels, and I’ve read a couple of articles saying they can be dangerous.  My view is that they make the hens happier, and that all animals need to be treated with respect, if they feel threatened they can become violent.  So I’d still suggest keeping one, and just being aware of them.  Which is not to say that I’ve not heard of some fairly evil cockerels (attacking their own hens and being vile) – but if you get one of those, then there’s an obvious answer, and there are always more cockerels.  We’ve never had to pay for one…

The cockerel is a Japanese bantam, then we had three silver laced wyandottes (reminiscent of Bella Bella, who I describe in my book – see link on the left.  I promise – no more plugs.  Probably), and a brown one.  At first they were very skeptical of us, and hid in our rather large amount of nettles.  After a week or so, and having cut down half the nettles, they became friendlier, and while they’re not yet eating out of my hand, they’re not far off.

The first night we locked them in the ark so they’d know it was home.  Unfortunately it was dark and we didn’t close it properly, so they got out easily the next morning.  This means they’ve found another place to nest, somewhere in the remaining nettles, and we aren’t currently getting any eggs from them.  I’m not sure what to do about that, but I’ll figure something out in due course…

The cockerel, getting in amongst the ducks for food:

Three silver laced wynadotte hens in front of the ark they spurned:

Lafite’s Horn

A couple of months ago I saw Lafite coming to food, but holding back from the other sheep.  It was while we were trying to round up the Mules and Suffolks for their maintenance, so I wasn’t too bothered until I got a bit closer and realised that there was blood on her head.  I tried to get closer but she was even flightier than usual.  The blood was coming down from the base of her right horn.

I kept an eye out for her over the next few days, and while she wouldn’t let me get close to her, and wouldn’t come for food, she seemed OK, and there was no repeat of the blood.  I assumed all was fine, until a week later.  She turned up with just a single horn.  No blood, and she was absolutely fine, if anything she was less flighty and I managed to get within a couple of feet of her.  I think the horn had just been held on by the scab or something.

Still she’s oblivious to her loss, and doesn’t seem to being treated any differently by the rest of the flock.

Update – Sheep

The sheep numbers have been particularly on the increase in the last year, peaking at around eighty this year.  For us to be successful in reducing our animal numbers we’d need to do two things:

1) Get last years lambs off on holiday.

2) Reduce the number of ewes we have.

The first was relatively challenging.  With the numbers as they were the sheep were far less biddable than in previous years.  A bucket or two of feed wasn’t getting to all of them, and the most flighty lambs were never getting addicted to the sweet sweet nectar of ruminant mix.  After some effort I did manage to catch ten of them, get them into the horse box and off to the holiday home.  (They were very tasty).  We still have some left which need to be dealt with, but that requires some maneuvering and acclimatisation.

Getting rid of the ewes was in some ways a little trickier, as we needed to find someone who wanted to buy them.  In the end however that bit wasn’t too bad.  The Soays are popular and a lot of people want to buy them, even if they aren’t registered.  I managed to sell two of the older Soay ewes fairly easily, and then found a buyer for the remaining ewes I wanted to sell, and also many of the lambs.  This was great, I was going to be able to offload twenty odd sheep in one go.

The plan was to round the sheep up in the channel between the pigs, and then load them up in the trailer and deliver them.  The morning came round, bright and cheerful, and Alex and Sue were ready to help me load them up.  I enticed all but five of the sheep into the channel.

And then I got greedy.

Instead of booking that as a win and closing the gate, I tried to persuade the others in.  Disastrous idea as the rest then decided it was fishy and ran out.  We then spent about an hour and a half running around trying to persuade them back in.  Eventually we managed to get eight into the channel, three ewes and their lambs.  And that’s what we took.  I was completely knackered.  But we agreed we’d aim to take the rest about a week later.

For round two I decided two things, a) I was not going to be greedy, b) I was going to acclimatise them a bit more.

Then something happened, the old Soay OAP ram died.  The last of the rams.  It was sad to see him go as he’d been a friendly old boy, and while he’d been looking a little doddery for a while, he was still going strong.  Then one day he didnt come for feed, and I went to find him and he was dead.  I think he’d woken up that morning, and decided it was a good day to go, and then just slipped away.

What this meant was we could now mix the flocks, as Muga wouldn’t have someone he’d have to fight.  This also meant I could use the proper sheep catching area by the animal restaurant.

The day of the second delivery cam, and I managed to entice all but the hard-core OAPs into the areas.  I then closed them down (not being greedy this time), and sorted out the sheep.  Some crutching was required, and a few replacement tags, but it wasn’t too much hassle.  A mere hour after starting I had fourteen or so ewes and lambs loaded up to take for the second delivery, and off we went.

We still have three ewes I want to sell (the OAPs progeny from last year), and quite a few which need to go on holiday, but we’re back below fifty sheep like creatures, which is definite progress!

OAPs (plus interloper):

Mules (White face on left):

Update – Geese

Our geese continue to thrive.  If by thriving you mean scaring everyone who comes to visit and maintaining a generally bad attitude!  To be fair they’ve calmed down quite a lot since earlier in the year.  There was a time when the goose was sitting so much we thought we were going to be blessed with some goslings, but fortunately she gave up before they hatched, otherwise we’d have had to find a new home for them.  Three is definitely enough!

Here are the three of them together, as you can see the goose (to the left) is being a little more sensible than the other two.

And here’s one of the ganders getting up close and personal:

Back…

The last few months have been a little manic, which is why I’ve written nothing.  things have calmed down a little, but I’ll probably still be infrequent, or perhaps erratic, in my updates.

With the animals we’ve been engaging in a more dedicated reduction strategy, and over the past short while have reduced our pigs by 22, and our sheep by 30 or so.  Most of these went to new homes, only a few went on holiday… and the last OAP Soay Ram died which was sad.

We also sorted out a lot of our fencing, and the new stuff is pretty impressive.  It allowed us to get a few more chickens, I’ll take some photos and get them online soon.

I shall try and write an update on each animal group over the next few days to get back in the swing of things.