Cooper

Our 100th post!  Who knew we talked so much?

I blogged recently about the change of direction we are taking with our goats.  Having sold the meat breed goats, we still needed to get our dairy does bred and explored many options.  Not keen on getting another buck – they are stinky and frankly, our last one was a lovable butthead.  (Pronunciation guide: The first three syllables of “lovable butthead” are silent.)  We looked into artificial insemination (AI) but technicians are few and the ridiculously brief period of receptivity( 6-12 hours) ensures that even if you detect the heat, it will be finished before the AI tech can arrive.

I investigated learning how to do the AI myself, but courses are expensive and halfway across the country.  Then would be the challenge of keeping semen onsite ready to be thawed for that narrow window of opportunity – which could occur while we were sleeping!

My does are Oberhasli – a Swiss breed that we have since learned are somewhat rare in this country.  I have two friends each with registered Nubian does – another dairy breed – who were also without bucks.  You see where this is going…. a shared problem becomes a shared venture.  So, we agreed look for a registered, purebred Nubian with good conformation.  After looking for some time, we found the perfect candidate, named “4RS Minima Cooper”, but we instead purchased the large dalmatian dog seen below.

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And just in case you don’t think he looks tall in a picture by himself, here he is beside one of the Oberhasli does.

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So far he has been a perfect gentleman – gentle with the goats and respectful of people.

Kilo and Karina’s response to the new animal in the herd they guard was interesting and, ultimately satisfying.  Both initially barked and growled at the large, unfamiliar intruder.  Kilo, who is older, bigger, and calmer, rather quickly accepted my assurances that this animal was now one of their own and the two of them experimented a bit to see which of them would yield way to the other, but were amicable soon enough.  Karina, on the other hand, frankly didn’t agree with me; she barked at him intermittently for a couple of days, before grudgingly accepting that he belongs.  Now they both watch and protect him just as they do the other goats and sheep.

We are excited to see the kids born out of this combination!  Per the partnership agreement, Cooper will live at each farm approximately four months each year, servicing 2-3 does at each farm.  He is a lucky buck!

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Urinary Calculi

Earn a reputation for being a crazy sheep lady and life gets even more interesting.  Recently I was contacted by a complete stranger, asking me to take a look at her sick sheep.  She thought it might be urinary calculi and, seeing the animal, that was clearly it.  Urinary calculi – aka kidney stones – are a common problem in young, castrated male sheep and goats. If the stone actually causes the urinary bladder or urethra to rupture, this problem is called “water belly” because of the accumulation of urine in the abdomen. Stones can also form in the female but very rarely cause a problem because of the large size of the urethra. Males that are castrated at a very young age have a much smaller penis and urethra, leading to easier blockage of the urethra by small stones. Caught early they can be treated but this poor lamb had been suffering a long, long time – his bladder had already ruptured and formed the classic “water belly”.

The only humane thing was to put him out of his misery, which we did immediately.  The owner just wanted him gone so, rather than have his life go to waste, we brought him home to process.

Between our concern and the coming storm, we forgot to get pictures of him.  However I found an image on the web that is very similar to what we saw:

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While skinning, bloody urine leaked, tainting much of the carcass.  The hind legs, which were suspended above the abdomen when hung, were fine, however much of the rest of the meat became dog food.

We can only hope the owner learned from this experience to seek help early, to avoid needless suffering.  Meanwhile, I am thankful none of our sheep or goats have had this problem.

And if you enjoyed this post, you won’t want to miss next week when I describe, in detail, the symptoms, progression, and common complications  of  malignant rectonasal inversitis.

Meishan Pigs

Don’t judge me!  (At least don’t find me clinically insane.)  I’ve always wanted pigs.  But pigs root and dig mud holes so I’ve managed to successfully talk myself out of them for years.  But this week that changed.

A friend attended a sale and saw Meishan piglets – a rare breed from China that has large floppy ears, giving it a unique – and rather appealing – look.  I tried to resist but by the end of the auction, I was the owner of these two boars.

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They are unbelievably tiny.  For size reference, here they are next to Dizzy, the cairn terrier (who is himself not a big dog).

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Their names are Felix and Oscar, a reference that may be lost on the younger generation.  Felix will walk away from the food bowl to potty while Oscar keeps right on eating as he goes, and is the first to get his front feet in the bowl.  So they are aptly named.

Is bacon in our future?  Time will tell.  Despite starting out small, they will grow to an edible size, so it will all depend on how much they root and how bad the mud holes are.  In the meantime, I’m enjoying watching and playing with them.  I had no idea they will play together like little puppies!  And, if it later turns out that pigs are not a good fit for our homestead, we can always eat our mistakes.

Groceries by the Pallet

We buy groceries by the pallet-load, but we don’t eat them.

Our goal when starting our homestead was to produce more of our own food.  Initially we had eggs and the occasional chicken meat.  We’ve since added animals (for turkey, duck, lamb and goat meat), established the veggie garden, and added dairy animals.  We were also fortunate that the previous residents planted an apple tree that has produced an abundant crop of apples all but one of the years we’ve been here.

Consequently our spend at the local Kroger has reduced tremendously over time.  In September I spent $38.20 at the grocery store, on items like bread, cereal, spices and condiments that we cannot produce here.  It wasn’t an unusual month.

I wish I could truly say that is all we spend on “groceries”.  The reality is, instead of buying human groceries, we now buy animal groceries by the pickup load because, in order to provide us with good quality food, they need to eat good quality food themselves.  In summer, the cows, sheep and goats are able to graze almost 100% of their nutrition (they get a small amount of grain as a treat for standing nicely while being milked).  But, in winter, when they are heavily pregnant or nursing babies, and at the same time the grass is dormant so they have to eat hay instead, they consume more purchased calories.

We tried an experiment this year with the poultry.  Commercial pelleted feed is a relatively new invention; old-timers didn’t feed their chickens – they got by foraging/scavenging everything they ate.  So, this year we reduced their feed substantially, to encourage them to get out and find more bugs and greens of their own.  I expected egg production to reduce, but if it did, I couldn’t tell.  I had just as many broody hens trying to hatch and raise chicks as ever, and was still inundated with eggs at the peak of the season.  Meanwhile, the hens look healthy and our property has very few bugs.  I call that a win-win-win.

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However we are approaching the time of year when our grocery bill will increase again.  Maybe not for the people – the freezers and canning jars are full and will take us through the winter easily – but expenditure on groceries for the animals will increase.  Nevertheless, I’d say we are where we hoped one day to be and it is satisfying.