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.

Weaners for sale

It’s now more than eight weeks since Bernard’s litter was born, and exactly eight since Hacker’s followed.  This means I have fifteen bright little piggies, running around the place.  But it also means they are ready to be weaned, and to be fair they’ve been eating solids for quite a while now, so are probably either self weaned already, or nearly there.

Which means it’s time to start selling them.

We have a few people we’ve sold to before, so we’re hoping to get hold of them again, and persuade them to take some more.  We’ve also put an advert in our local farm shop, and online.  I have high hopes they’ll sell soon.  It’s at this point that you start worrying about the food costs, as each day they’re eating food which I’d prefer someone else to pay for!

Bernard and feed

Bernard recently had a large litter of piglets, of which ten survived, and all seem to be suckling well.  There are no obvious runts which is a good sign.  In the last week or so the piglets have also started eating solid food, though they still like to suckle now and then.

It’s a bit of a challenge keeping the feed levels balanced for the new piglets.  For the first week or so they’re so small that they in aggregate don’t consume very much, but as the weeks go by they grow rather fast, and very soon need lot’s more food.  Before they start eating solids this is all coming from Bernard, and it puts a lot of pressure on her.  She’s lost quite a bit of weight and is starting to look thin, and this is even with me giving her extra food.  I’m just not sure she can consume enough energy to balance the amount being drained out of her.

Fortunately the piglets are now going for the solid food as well, which means the pressure is starting to be relieved on Bernard.  It also means I can put out extra food in the knowledge that it will all be eaten, and not left to the crows, who always flock round when we set out the feed.

I’ll keep an extra eye out on her, and will probably keep feeding her extra until she gets back up to a decent weight.  Hacker by contrast is still looking in good shape, but then she only has five piglets to worry about!

Rats – again

The rats have returned, and are attacking our feed again.  Not a huge surprise I guess, especially after Howard had been in there and broken open a number of bags, therby leaving food all over the place.

So I’ve been scratching my head about what to do, because I really didn’t want to buy the metal bins.  Unfortunately I realised that I didn’t have a choice, unless I was willing to keep feeding a growing rat population.  Having made that decision I did a search today to find the best place to buy some feed bins, without paying an arm and a leg.  I stumbled upon a discussion on a horse related forum where the last recommendation was to use an old chest freezer, on the basis they are vermin proof, insulate and last forever.

Where would I get such a thing?  Well, as last year I bought a nice new shiny freezer, I now have four chest freezers which I will need to get rid of at some point.  Two problems have nicely cancelled each other out, and as a bonus I get to clear some more space in the main barn.  Tomorrow I’m selling some meat, and I’ll use the opportunity to empty a couple of the freezers.

I love it when a plan comes together…

Lazy Piglets

In the morning when I go out to feed the animals I am greeted with a cacophony of farmyard noises.  At every fence there are animals waiting for their food, and demanding I deliver it faster.  This means that when an animal doesn’t come running to the fence it’s generally a sign of concern, unless it’s Boris (who’s deaf), in which case it means she was facing the wrong way and didn’t notice all the animals getting excited.

The only exception is with the piglets.  They’re a couple of weeks old now and so during the day often get out and about, but in the mornings they’re just not interested in coming out.  Sure their mothers are getting fed, but it means nothing to them, their feeding will come along later.  So they lie their in a nice big pile, and snooze away a little longer.  That’s the life.

It’s only very occasionally that I get a chance to get a good set of pictures when the piglets are feeding, as usually they hide away, or the sow gets up to see whether I’ve brought some food.  However the other day I was lucky enough to get some footage (sadly it’s likely to be the last for a while as my camera has packed up):

Bernard’s Piglets Feeding

Sheep Mothering instincts – Mules vs Suffolks

There’s a definite difference between the mothering instincts of the Mules, and of the Suffolks.  The Mules are excellent mothers, and the Suffolks, well, they’re a little more lassez-faire.

When the lambs are first born the Mule ewes are very protective of them, and often won’t move more than twenty or thirty feet away from where they gave birth for at least the first day or so.  It means I tend to have to take food out to them, which can be interesting as when a scrum develops.  Normally the ewe I’m trying to give the extra food to backs away, and then I try and get throw some more to her.  Now I try and distract the others before going out to the new mother.  As the lambs get older the Mule ewes allow them a little more room, and then after a week or two the lambs can reign free and the Mule only looks up now and again to see where they are.  If the lambs are bleating the Mule ewe will stop what she’s doing, even if she’s eating lovely ruminant mix, and look around to make sure she knows why the lamb is making a fuss.  When their lambs start to suckle they almost always stop what they are doing and let them.

The Suffolks have more of a keep-up-with-me-or-else kind of philosophy.  Even when the lamb is barely just been born when it comes to food time the ewes will come to the normal feeding area and dive in.  Even if this means their lambs are left behind, or, sometimes worse, they tag along and get knocked around by the others.  They’ll also ignore the bleating of their lambs while they dive in for the food.  Often when their lambs start to suckle they’ll walk forward to knock them off, especially if there’s the potential of some food.

To be fair, some Suffolks are more motherly than others, and some Mules are less so, but the differences between the breeds are surprisingly wide.

RIP New Lamb

And the spectrum swings back towards death.  One of the Boreray/Suffolk cross triplets was dead this morning when I went out to feed them.  He (all three were boys) had looked a little weak last night during feeding, but was up on his feet and following his mum around, so there seemed no need to intervene.  This morning he was curled up lifelessly next to his brother.

That means we have twelve lambs so far, six ewe lambs and six ram lambs, for a certain symmetry.

It also means that we’ve lost forty percent of our Boreray/Suffolk cross lambs.  I’m wondering if part of the reason the Boreary is so rare is that the lambs die.  I’m going to have to see if there is any information out there about that, though I certainly haven’t seen anything.  Hopefully these two were just unfortunate coincidence, and the rest of Haan’s progeny will be stronger.

Muga wipe out

I have recently started a little ritual when I’m feeding the animals, I run towards the area with the cows.  Basically I feed the goats, alpacas and Muga and his ewes, and then run away from them, carrying a bucket of ruminant mix, a bucket of pig feed, and a chunk of hay.  This generally stops them from chasing me and making me pour out more mix for them.  The two worst are Howard and Muga, but both can be delayed with a reasonable pile of ruminant mix.

This morning I poured a load out on the goat tables, and then started my run.  I was halfway to the next field, with just Mouton in front of me when I saw Muga’s shadow creeping up on me.  He then started running alongside me, and started to cut in.  I foolishly thought I could get a few more feet into the field.  Instead he cut across me and I flew to the ground, buckets half emptied around me.

Muga obviously was delighted and started tucking into the ruminant mix, and the Soay ewes joined him.  I was uninjured, apart from my pride.  So I started to scoop up the pig feed, which I duly did, and I managed to get most of it back in.  I also scraped up most of the ruminant mix and put it back in the bucket, though I had to pick out a couple of sheep poos which had got mixed up in the kerfuffle.  I then trudged on my way.  Surprisingly Muga didn’t follow me, but that’s probably because there was still a load of mix on the ground.  The rest of the feed went without incident.

I’m going to have to work out a new strategy to avoid being mobbed.