Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Last Farewell

I’ve blogged about this at Inside Storey and (as Martok) at Mondays With Martok (http://www.hobbyfarms.com/hobby-farms-editorial-blogs/sue-weaver/absent-friends.aspx), but I have to tell it one more time. On Wednesday, January 20, 2010, Baasha and Dodger departed together for sheep heaven.

We knew Baasha’s time was near but Dodger went down very quickly and unexpectedly, so having him put down came as a shock. I miss them both dreadfully but Dodger couldn’t get up by himself any longer and Baasha was so painfully crippled by arthritis.

I invite you to visit Baasha’s memorial page at my Dreamgoat Annie Web site (www.dreamgoatannie.com/BaashaMemorial.html). I’ll put up a similar page for Dodger (pictured at the left) but have to retrieve more photos from my dinosaur Mac before I can make one and my trusty old Mac isn’t set up right now.

Good-bye old friends—you are sorely missed.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Baamadeus' turn at bat

We trimmed the rams' hooves today and then left them in the yard for the morning. When they congregated by the main sheep fold, it quickly became obvious that Baannie is in heat. After the guys went in and the ewes came out, she hung out by New Ramsgate, so I decided to breed her to Baama.

Baama is Wolf Moon Baamadeus, my youngest and yet-unproven ram. He is Baasha’s love lambie conceived by her son, Rumbler, through the fence, and what a fortuitous whoops! lamb he is. He’s of moderate height but built like a bull, low and massive, with a strongly arched profile, huge eyes and teensy ears. When he was about 10 days old, something injured his right ear and it filled with fluid that resisted draining. It eventually deflated but left him with a cauliflower ear that gives him a roguish air.

Baannie (Wolf Moon Macha) is one of my oldest and best-producing ewes and also a Baasha daughter, so we’ll be inbreeding to Baasha with this mating. We’ve done this before (we’re setting type for the Classic Cheviot breed) but not this close, so it should be an interesting breeding—hopefully resulting in ewe lambs I can keep, as I’ve sold all of Baannie’s daughters and regretted it!

So now they are in the breeding pen. She coos and wiggles her tail and he sniffs and grunts, making noises (I swear) like Tim the Tool Man. Since all the other rams leap on and breed the ewes about 500 times the first hour, I am wondering about the boy. He is slow. He did jump her several times while I watched them, so if his aim is good, we’re in free and looking at mid-June lambs.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

If you’re short of trouble…

I collect sayings and proverbs about sheep and goats and a Finnish favorite is, “If you’re short of trouble, take a goat.” As a goat obsessive I don’t necessarily agree with that sentiment but it’s true that keeping animals, especially much-loved animals, is sure to bring some heartache to your door. I’m presently dealing with having my favorite old ewe put down soon, another ewe with a persistently abscessed hoof, and of all things—a goat whose teeth are falling out!

The lame ewe is Rebaa (pictured above) who has been hopping around on three legs for many weeks. We’ve tried ichthammol and Epsom salts gel poultices; soaking in warm Epsom salts water (I’m still doing that every day); and now, homeopathic remedies. It’s better but still has a long way to go. We’ve used booties designed for dogs (now appropriately referred to as Rebaaks) to hold the poultices against her bandaged hoof and coronary band. She is not amused (and it’s surprising how fast an elderly, three-legged sheep can run) but since she’s tame, this hasn’t been too terribly hard to do.

Then, day before yesterday it occurred to me that Bon Bon has been ‘smiling’ quite a lot these past few weeks. She does that, pulls her upper lip back to expose her teeth, but… Imagine my surprise and considerable horror when I opened her mouth and found that her front teeth are loose and falling out! For those who don’t know this, goats (and other ruminants like sheep, cattle, deer and the like) have lower incisors that meet a hard dental palate rather than upper teeth. Bon Bon, who is only five years old, had perfect occlusion but now it looks as if her teeth are being pushed out. They’re quite floppy—one has already been lost. Pictures and a description made the rounds of the goat and sheep lists and people have offered many observations but we still don’t know what’s afoot. The one vet who examined them pretty much summed things up when he said, “I’ve never seen anything like THAT!”

Friday, January 8, 2010

Worse and worse...

I awakened at 6 a.m. to find our water pipes frozen. It turned out they weren’t frozen between the well house and our dwelling—a 14’ wide trailer we bought to live in until our cabin is built—as we initially thought, but that some critter tunneled under the skirting alongside the pipes, exposing them to overnight 3 degree temps and freezing them solid. John used a hair dryer to thaw the pipes (an act he never expected to do again in this lifetime) while I fed and by the time I was ready to tote buckets of hot water to the animals, I could fill some.

Everyone seems to be faring well. However, we ran out of our thought-to-be winter’s supply of rectangular bales of grass/legume hay yesterday morning just when everyone needs lots of hay. And apparently the goats think the fancy, $6 a bale Tifton 44 Bermuda grass hay John bought at the feed store stinks. I fed them enough bagged alfalfa to keep their rumens generating heat while they decide it’s the gourmet Bermuda hay in their feeders—or else. To complicate matters, four of the last load of big bales are too coarse for sheep and goats and packed with foxtail. Oh joy.

Temps are up to 14 degrees this afternoon but a strong wind (will it ever stop rocking the trailer?) is pushing wind chills to -4. Tonight the actual temperature is supposed to be zero. Too cold!

The animals, in fact, are holding up better than we are, though Bon Bon’s adolescent twins, Jadzia (pictured above) and Curzon are mightily tired of being shut in the dairy goat shelter. The coats of the ones like Meegosh (to the left) that live in Port-a-Huts, are as fluffy and thick as plush toys.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Baby, it's COLD outside!

Last January we were without power for three weeks due to the epic Southern ice storm and hundreds of downed power lines in our county alone; this year our teeth are chattering. What gives? This is Arkansas; northernmost Arkansas, but still…

It’s 2 p.m. as I write this and 17 degrees F. out there with howling wind that drops the wind chill to -2. Area meteorologists are calling for wind chills of -16 tonight and a daytime temp tomorrow of 7 degrees!

Most of our animals dine outdoors, so we’ve moved their feed to more sheltered areas and the ones we can feed inside are inside. I’m carrying multiple buckets of steaming hot water three times a day, pouring it over ice frozen in their buckets.

Fortunately we still have the warm winter outerwear and water tank heaters that we needed to cope with life in Minnesota. But we were set up for blistering cold when we lived near Pine City and we sure aren’t here. It makes a difference. We’ve become Southern Sallies since moving down South!

The animals seem to be taking the cold in stride but I worry about them just the same. We kept horses and donkeys in Minnesota, not floppy-eared Boer and Nubian goats and a water buffalo.

Even the sheep are huddling inside their Port-a-Huts (we returned Rumbler—pictured above—and Ursula to their respective quarters yesterday morning before the big chill moved in). The only one who stood by his outdoor hay rack, despite the fact I’d already given the boys bagged alfalfa inside their Port-a-Hut and pitched long-stem grass hay to the back, this morning was—Mopple! When I filled it, Edmund tiptoed out, hesitated a heartbeat with his ears flying in the gale, looked at the snow, and then he scampered back to bagged hay in the Hut. Mopple tucked in to the hay in the rack. He’s one tough little sheep!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Aiah has a snit

John put three big bales of hay out in the pasture so the horses and cattle are covered for the upcoming super low temps tomorrow through Friday night. The horses tucked into the first bale, so Aiah and Ludo moved away (the horses, even the minis, dominate both of them).

When John came through the gate with the second bale, Aiah (my Jersey-Holstein future riding steer) rushed up to it, obviously saying, "Stop! Stop! Put it down right here!" But John was taking it over into a more sheltered area, not leaving that one too close to the first bale. As the bale and tractor passed by, Aiah became quite frantic (keep in mind I forked about a ton of loose hay over the fence this morning—he was definitely not hungry) and started side passing alongside the bale. He side passed as beautifully as a dressage horse almost all the way across the width of the field and he'd have gone all the way had he not been purely focused on the hay bale and stumbled over a large tree branch that one of the oaks dropped last fall. I wish I'd had the camera! Anyone who thinks cattle are awkward should've been here. I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it myself.

Then, when John set the bale down and Aiah caught up, he punished it for not stopping. He whipped around, repeatedly stabbing it with his horns while dancing and flinging his head. There was hay flying everywhere! John stayed on the tractor until he got over his snit. Once he'd made his point, he was fine.

Meanwhile I was minding the gate. Ludo (the water buffalo) came up and stood with me, watching this spectacle unwind (he assumed the cautious water buffalo stance with his head up and his chin raised—apparently he's never seen a thoroughly annoyed steer before either). After Aiah was through flinging hay and John got the mesh wrap off, Ludo ambled over and they both tucked in. These guys are so much fun!

The pictures of Aiah were taken a hour later, when he came up for a drink. The one of Ludo (below) was taken before it snowed. Are these cute faces or what!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Starting the new year with a bang

I’m looking forward to April and May; this year we’re having lambs! The past few years with the economy and small sheep market what it is, we’ve bred only a few of our Classic/Miniature Cheviot ewes. This year five are expecting lambs.

We have five Classic/Miniature Cheviot rams on our farm, three black rams of my own and two white boys belonging to my friend, Lori Olson of Boscobel, Wisconsin. Last year’s beautiful lambs were all by Lori’s white ram, Oran of Shepherd’s Croft, except for Smoke (Wolf Moon Smoke on the Water), who is a whoops! lamb (and now a fleece wether and pet) conceived by parties unknown through the fence (it happens more often than you probably think).

This year I wanted to give my own young rams a chance, so Maxx (Wolf Moon Fin Bheara), a spotted black ram, serviced a breeding pen of three ewes in late November and my favorite, Rumbler (Wolf Moon Rumbler, pictured with his yearling son, Baamadeus, near the top of this entry), bred Maxx’s dam, Baatiste, two weeks ago.

I also wanted Rumbler to breed Lori’s beautiful ewe, Misty Glyn Little Bear, a.k.a. Ursula (pictured below), who, like Oran and his friend Wooby (Misty Glyn Gwyn ap Nud), is staying with us for awhile. Ursula had other plans.

She appeared to be in heat, lounging by New Ramsgate (the rams’ paddock), making goo-goo eyes at the boys through the fence, so I turned her into the yard with Rumbler and Baatiste. Big mistake! She began bashing Rumbler with a purple fury. He, in turn, was focused on breeding Baatiste, so he let her smash him. I finally decided she’d hurt him if they kept it up, so sadly put her in the fold with the other sheep.

A few days later she was flirting with the boys again, so I thought I’d breed her to Oran instead.

I put her in a breeding pen and went to get Oran. Oran usually dashes through the gate when I least expect it, necessitating chasing him around the yard with a bucket of grain. But he refused to budge and I tried to pull him forward (I should’ve gotten a halter and lead but did I? Noooo), he whirled and bashed me in my bad right knee. Ow!

So I said, “THE FIRST RAM THROUGH THIS GATE GETS TO BREED URSULA!” Unfortunately that was Baama (Wolf Moon Baamadeus) and Lori doesn’t care for his very extreme head. So I had to hold Baama back until another ram stepped forward. It was Maxx.

I took him to the pen to join his lady love and she turned on him with a fury. After whacking him a half dozen times it was as though a light went on (“Oh! You’re not Rumbler!”) and she cozied up to him and they got along fine—except that she wouldn’t let him breed her.

After eight days I threw in the towel, returned Maxx to New Ramsgate and Ursula to the rest of the flock.

Ursula spent her day by the rams again yesterday, all day, so I told her, "If you're jerking my wienie again, you aren't getting bred this year!"

I put the rest of the sheep back in the fold and she followed me (and a bucket of pellets) to the breeding pen, then I went to get a ram. I thought we'd go with Oran but once again he hung back and wouldn't come through the gate. The one that DID volunteer was Rumbler. I told him, "Oh, honey, Ursula doesn't like you, she'll beat you up." But he and Baama were the only ones making an effort to comply.

I led him across, put him in with Ursula and you'd have thought he was a giant Tostito (Ursula l-o-v-e-s Tostitos). She ran to him, purring, wagging her tail ("Oh Rumbler, you are such a hunk!") and he leaped aboard and (hopefully) made lambs. They're still cuddling and giggling among themselves and he's bred her about 100 times, so it seems as though her aversion toward him has passed.

So WHY she was cooing at the rams those last two times, I have not a clue! This time she is most definitely in heat. So we're looking at May 27 babies. I put in an order for one or two ewe lambs and considering their lovely parents, they should be doozies!