Humphrey enjoys a wallow

If there’s one thing Sir Humphrey likes when the sun shines, it’s a good old fashioned wallow.  He’s managed to completely destroy one of the water drinkers, and it released quite a deluge of water until I managed to shut it off.  This was much to Humph’s delight, and as you can see, he took full advantage:


As the rain pours down outside, doing it’s best to turn all our fields into muddy swamps, I thought it best to stay under cover and write a general round up of where we are.

Geese – loving this weather.  Still being extra aggressive.  Alex thinks the goose may have laid an egg, but I have not yet seen it…

Hens – another ex-bat died, which leaves us with just the seventeen.  She’d been a little listless for a couple of days, though she was eating a little she wasn’t really getting into it.  I found her dead in their shed on Thursday morning.  The others however all seem fine.  No eggs off the ex-bats, but the original hens are averaging around two a day.  Which is nice.

Lambs – no more lambs since the last set of triplets, which were all girls.  So at this point we have 6 ewe lambs, and two ram lambs, for a total of 8.  We have suspicions that the Mule in with the Borerays isn’t pregnant.  She doesn’t look that heavy, and her udders certainly haven’t filled, though I’ve always found that to be an unreliable indicator.

Pigs – all is well with them at the moment.  Both sets of piglets have now been outside, and Bernard’s lot are starting to explore a little bit.  Soon they’ll be all over the place!

Water sorted – for the moment

With the weather having warmed up somewhat I’ve been able to switch the water back on again.  And then off again quickly as leaks sprung out all over the place.  A few minutes of gentle persuasion however, and the leaks were sorted.  At least those near the main valve.

I walked round to check all the water troughs were filling, and was happy to see that they were.  I knew two of them had slight leaks, which have got a little worse with all the freezing.  I’ll need to sort them out in due course, but for the moment I’m just happy not to have to wheel barrow out 80 liters of water again, and that all my animals will have what they need.

However the change of weather means that we’re back to mud central out there.  I’m starting to see why farmers have such a reputation for complaining, especially about the weather.

Lamb watch:  No lambs yet.  Still a bit early though.

Ex-Bat Egg Watch:  None.

Footrot/Scald in the Cold

One of the positives of the cold is that the ground becomes nice and hard, which means the bacteria which cause footrot and scald have a much tougher time of it, and it’s less likely to spread between the animals as their hooves aren’t sinking into the mud.  On the downside it does not appear to have had any impact on the animals who already have footrot, such as Boris.  She’d started limping again, and was going so far as to not getting up properly on her front feet.  This morning I flipped her over to get to her hooves.

The front two were fairly bad, with typical scald.  It was wet and warm between the two halves of the hoof, which is exactly what the bacteria like.  I trimmed and sprayed the hooves and hopefully they’ll heal properly.  Also, hopefully she won’t get a repeat infection as it’s only six weeks since I last treated her.  While I can handle Boris easily on my own dealing with Ishy, an animal half the size, required the two of us, with Alex holding her and me doing the trimming.  She had some minor infection, which I treated and then we sent her off.

White Face was also limping quite badly this morning.  We managed to catch her, and with Alex once again doing the holding I had a look at her hooves.  I have to admit they looked fine to me, and I wonder if she’d strained her legs in some other way.  We’ve dug up an area next to the animal restaurant and laid the hardcore ready to turn it into a nice big concrete area, which means that the area is quite rocky, so maybe she hurt herself on that?

We also wanted to take a look at Moby, but as soon as she saw what was happening she scarpered, so we’ll grab her at feed time either tonight or tomorrow morning.

Doing the foot treatment in the cold was particularly harsh this morning as it was still sub zero.  I couldn’t use proper gloves, as then I wouldn’t have been able to feel the hooves properly, so instead I wore some blue latex gloves.  While this protected my hands from the worst of the spray and muck, it did nothing for the cold.  Bring on the spring say I!

Electric Fence worries

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been having a few challenges with our electric fencing. It doesn’t always seem to be working.  I have two main methods of testing it, the first is to watch the pigs and see how close to the wire they go.  If it’s live they are very careful around it, though sometimes still get pushed onto the wire, resulting a yelp and the sight of a piggy bottom disappearing into the distance.  The other method is to use a pair of pliers to cause a short and watch the sparks.  Actually, there is a third method where I accidentally electrocute myself, but I try and avoid that.

Our electric fence has four main roles:

  1. Protect the poultry from foxes
  2. Stop the pigs getting out
  3. Stop the cows and sheep from getting into the south facing slope field, and thence potentially to the road
  4. Generally protecting the physical fences from the animals – the electric stops them challenging the fence and slowly breaking it down

Of these the first is the most critical, as an extended lapse could see us lose all our chickens, again, and maybe even the ducks.  So I generally keep an eye out for the fence operation and try and fix any shorts as soon as I spot them.

The fence didn’t seem to be operating at all and I walked round several times to try and identify the cause.  The most likely seemed to be the pigs, who’ve mounded up quite a lot of the earth against one of the fences, and that was connecting with the wire.  When it was still muddy it was particularly bad (you can see the wire going into the mud on the left hand side) :

The frost has meant it’s not quite so bad, but there still have been some lumps touching the wire.  I’m trying to feed them a little further away from the fence to stop them doing this.

However, this still didn’t fix the problem.  On another trip round I found that some of the barbed wire round the top of the poultry orchard had become caught up with the electric fence, and that was definitely shorting it out.  I fixed that, and had another look.  Everything seemed good, but I still thought the wire wasn’t working.

It wasn’t, because I’d turned it off while fixing the wire covered in the mud!  So I turned it back on, and finally it seemed to be working.  I’m still nervous about it though, so I’ve been checking it more carefully than I usually do, just to make sure I catch anything early before it turns into a major problem.

Goats Hooves

I went out to fix the electric fence today, just the three points where it was touching the wooden posts, as mentioned in my post a few days ago.  While I was out I saw Howard, Boris and Moby down in the lower field enjoying the slightly longer grass which is still there.  I knew Bertie still wasn’t up for a trip of such distance, it must be four hundred yards or so, but it was a little strange not to see Ishy.  When I was back up at the animal restaurant I saw Ishy sitting in some straw looking a little sorry for herself.

Meanwhile Bertie was up and about, which is great.  He’s been getting himself up without help for the last few days.  I have hopes he’ll be out in the field soon.

Looking at Ishy I was worried she might have scald problems, so I grabbed my trusty foot clippers, some blue spray, and a latex glove for my left hand and went to catch her.  She’s a feisty little customer is Ishy and as soon as she saw I was trying to grab her she scarpered.  It took me a few minutes to slowly back her into a corner, and then I managed to get hold of her.

I flipped her on her back on a pile of straw to soften the blow, though she particularly dislikes being on her back and still struggled a lot.  I started to check her hooves.  The first thing I realised is that we hadn’t looked at them for some time as they were all rather overgrown, and caked with mud.  We’ve been having to deal with the goats hooves quite a bit recently with all the scald problems, but clearly we’d never had to sort out Ishy.  All four were in real need of trimming, and despite her struggling I set to.  There didn’t seem to be any signs of scald which was a distinct positive.  Twenty minutes later and I let her up, and then gave her some food to make her feel a bit better.

Goat hooves grow much faster than sheep hooves, and need regular trimming as they aren’t worn down by our nice soft pasture.  I’d say probably every two months is about the right sort of frequency, and I’ll need to set up a reminder for myself so I don’t let them grow so much again.

Morning excitement

It was rather unpleasant outside this morning as I fed the animals, the wind and the rain added a certain je ne sais quoi.  And the mud.  It’s reached a new level of horridness.

Two events stood out this morning.


First of all I decided to move Bernard in with Humphrey.  It’s time he had some female company, and it will mean we should get a litter around late March early April.  Bernard was the chosen one as she’s looking the most fit out of the three (not that we’re planning on putting Gaffer in with him as she’s his daughter, and grand-daughter).  I had the bucket of feed with me and had prepared by opening Humphrey’s gate.  He was off on the other corner eating so I knew he wouldn’t give me any problem.  I then opened the sows gate, and tried to move it round and out of the way.  While I was trying to secure it, Hacker bit me.

On the bottom.

It hurt.  A lot.

I shouted at her, but she only backed off a bit and opened her mouth again.  Partially she was expressing her hunger, and partially she was reminding me of her big sharp teeth.

I scattered some food down and backed away a little.  It seemed to calm them and hacker started rooting around for the pellets.  Bernard decided I had more on me and started following me, which was exactly what I wanted.  I had her half way into Humph’s area when Gaffer started to follow her.  I quickly closed the gate, bumping Gaffer back into Hacker, who was still concentrating on the food.  Bernard was now rather insistent that she was hungry, so I quickly spread some pellets for her.

I then tried to climb over the gate so that I could give Hacker and Gaffer some more food.  The mud meant I was about half a foot lower than normal, and it took me three attempts to actually climb the gate.  Did I mention I was drenched at this point?  So I spread some more food for Gaffer and Hacker, and they ran to it.  No biting this time.  Still, my mission to get Bernard in with Humphrey was a success, if not without some injury (no blood on later inspection, but I expect a bruise).

Chickens running

The door to the ex-bats shed had come open in the wind, and this had allowed several of them to go a-wandering.  I quickly rounded up the few who were close to the door and got them back into the shed.  Counting them (several times as they kept moving) I realised that three were missing.  Looking round the poultry orchard I found them, all by the other chickens’ ark.  Two were under the shelter of it and looked quite happy if bemused, the third was outside it and really wet.  I easily caught two of them and put them back in the shed.

The third one had a bit more energy and led me on rather a chase.  First one way round the orchard, then the other.  No matter what I did she wouldn’t let me get close enough to catch her.  I thought these ex-bats were supposed to be listless and lack energy.  Eventually I left the door open and chased her round again and she decided to get inside with the others.  I was lucky that none of the others had decided to take the opportunity to explore again.

I closed the door and fixed the bar we’d been using to hold it closed.  I then entered again to search out eggs.  There were eight this morning, though two were wet from the rain and need to be used today.

All good fun really.

Mineral/Energy Licks

Every now and again we get licks for the sheep, goats and cows.  These have additional nutrients which might be missing from the grass, and in the case of the ones we’ve been getting recently, a load of sugary stuff to give them additional energy.

We don’t have any specific nutrient concerns, but we’ve always found that the licks do well, and seem to keep the animals happy.  The original licks we got were like sandy foot long cubes.  There was a holder for them, but it never worked particularly well, so the cube would get knocked around and eventually crumble, and quite a lot would go to waste.  Now we get them in orange buckets, and a lot less is lost.  Also the orange buckets are very useful when they’re empty, though the handles are a little bit fragile.

The buckets are really heavy when we first get them.  We put them in the middle of the fields, and a ring of mud soon forms around them from where the animals gather round.

Once they’ve started getting through it a little more it obviously gets a little lighter, and then takes up a peripatetic existence around the field.  One day it’ll be down by the gate, the next near the water.  This is because the animals tend to be a bit pushy around it, and slowly, or sometimes less slowly, they move it.  We know it’s empty when it’s up against a fence lying on its side.

The lamb at the front of the picture is the one I didn’t properly castrate.  He’s rather a pushy little character and has just knocked a whole bunch of other lambs away from the bucket, and then walked away swaggering.

Cows and Mud

Mud is a big thing at this time of year.  It’s everywhere.  Some days I come back in and I’m covered from head to toe in mud (and probably poo, but I try not to think of that).

I’ve already mentioned the pigs and their mud (, but another animal has a fairly heavy impact on the mud.  The cows.

It’s not that quick a process, but if they spend a lot of time in a particular area on our pasture, they tend to churn it up quite badly.  An example of where they spend quite a bit of time, is in the feeding area.

Here they are waiting (and mooing in Avarice’s case) for food:

A few days later this is what the area they are standing on looks like:

To minimise the damage I move their main feeding spots around a few times over the winter.  But I always have to accept one area is going to be particularly bad as when the water freezes carrying the water out to them is such a slog that we tend to pick the nearest convenient area.

This is one of the reasons why many farmers keep their animals inside over the winter.

Pigs and Mud

The pigs tend to churn up the ground more than the other animals.  Partially because they’re in smaller areas, and partially because their trotters are much smaller to the weight they hold than the sheep, or even the cows.  I know this because Sir Humphrey once stood on my foot.  It really really really hurt, and that was before he was full size.  Saying that I’m pretty sure Wrath would cause me a lot of damage as well if I let her step on me.

However even in the pig areas there are spaces which are particularly muddy.  Such as:

This is because the pigs run up and down the fences, for two reasons, firstly for food.  Here’s the three girls on the other side of the alleyway wartching me with the feed buckets:

The other reason, and probably the main cause of the current mud, is that they want to get closer to each other.  On the one side is Sir Humphrey who always wants to be with his sows, and on the other side are three sows who go through stages of wanting to see Humph.  I’ve seen them rubbing their bottoms against the fence in a suggestive manner while the poor boar looks on eagerly, but without any ability to get to them.  Well until he gets really excited, and then he usually finds a way through.  Not yet this year though!

I’ll put two of the sows in with him as a New Year present if the fencing survives that long.