Fancy city thinking, fancy city problems

To keep this very simple, it is pouring rain right now, we’re utterly wiped out and we didn’t get everyone’s hooves trimmed.  Still two ewes and one of the rams left to take care of.  We will probably have to try tomorrow or even have to push it out to a random day next week.

But the way hoof trimming works if you don’t try to think like a fancy city person is that goats go in stanchions and sheep are sat up on their butts, either by a second person who isn’t the trimmer, or a sort of hammock/chair thing that does it if there’s no second person available.

We put sheep in the stanchion and oh how we paid for it.  In the stanchion you have bucking, frightened sheep that you have to hold down in addition to the stanchion.  Sit a sheep down, though, and you have a calmer animal that is UNABLE to freak out enough to cause trouble and you have an opportunity for the animal to know that you aren’t a predator or a jerk so they will be easier on successive maintenance days.

For some crazy mixed up reason we thought since the stanchion works awesome for goats it would just be dandy mcdandy for sheep.  Even though I can’t recall anyone local using a stanchion for their sheep and none of the sheep books mention stanchions for basic maintenance like hoof trimming.  Yeah, when your references don’t say to do a thing you think is more “logical” and provide an alternative that is easy and fast, they know of what they speak!

We were quite foolish to think changing it up would be easier or better.

Anyway, of the goats and sheep trimmed, the goats were easy, the sheep were hard until we sat the last one down and then it was easy (last one was little bramble-filled Shaft, his hooves were in nice shape and there wasn’t much bramble left to clear, but his fleece has a few burrs in the top layer, not near the skin, that will make spring skirting an adventure).

One sheep got cut (our gray with one udder because a shearer took out the other nipple), and she also has some kind of hoof issue on her front left hoof.  It is neither red nor stinky, the twin signs of rot, but there’s a lot of random hoof badness that isn’t hoof rot, so we’ll have to include her in the roundup of the three sheep remaining and get a better look at it.  It may just be a lot of impacted material from delaying a trim so long.

So we’re not done yet and we may be stuck waiting until next Saturday to finish the job, but we will definitely try to carve some time out ASAP and then we basically have to be very treat-happy for several weeks straight to get everyone used to us, since, you know, we (possibly) knocked up the ewes already and then proceeded to spaz them out.  We really planned this one out with thought and care, you betcha.


Homesteading Diary, Monday October 28

Husband and I: completely wore ourselves out putting up fencing this weekend, eight hours of manual labor.  We also went ahead and put the hay out.  Timing was pretty good, we’re getting frost warnings this week, and my husband wanted the hay out with the first real frost or a little before.

Goats and sheep: Now that we’ve got the fencing in and electrified, neither the goats nor the sheep have tried to set themselves free.  So in all likelihood the goats will stick around until spring and lambing season.  But it’s only been a couple days, we’ll see where the week takes us.  The goats were sad, but they get to eat hay during midday while the sheep hang out in the pasture being relentless in their consumption.  The sheep eat a bit of hay in the very early morning and later in the evening.  Due to exhaustion and not knowing where the trimming shears are, we didn’t get the hoof trimming and wool trimming in, but Shaft’s wool has in fact almost all the bramble I was really worried about.

The girls are calmer around Bucky and Shaft.  Shaft has not gotten the memo that he is too immature to breed and keeps trying to make it happen.  We will have a ram pen and stricter breeding protocol next breeding season.  But it is highly unlikely that Shaft at 4mo is going to father anything this year.

Ducks: Cayuga still not laying, greatly hoping it’s not a drake.  The other three lay just fine, but cannot decide whether they should lay in their nest or in the mud, so I have to walk carefully when taking care of their food and water to avoid stepping on the egg(s) they lay in the mud before I gather them.

Kids: They enjoyed a recent visit to one of the local pumpkin patches and acquired two adorable little pumpkins.

General local stuff:  We ordered more fencing and price-shopped a little and found a better deal with a local branch of a megachain of farm stores.  Said branch also has more reliable delivery than the co-op.  We’ll still use the co-op for hay and some other things, their prices are good for a lot of basics, they just have elderly delivery truck issues right now and can’t do the big stuff deliveries we really need this year.

Also, cattle panel fencing is ugly and this makes me sad, but it would make our neighbors sad if our livestock kept getting out because we chose prettier fencing that was less reliable.

Well, off to find those shears so we can get our hoof maintenance and condition checks on.

There’s more than one way to not kill a goat.

Today we found out you can not kill a goat very effectively by using a kitchen knife.  The blade didn’t even hold an edge long enough to break skin.  We were starting with the oldest and biggest, the doe Jewel and she just kind of looked at us like “Are you trying to tickle me?  You dragged me out here under this tree to tickle me?”  It was embarrassing to stand there in front of the goat with a dull knife and a few neck hairs.

We had planned to just cut and skin and process immediately, in the manner of people who butcher where it’s too warm to hang after skinning.  We figured not having to shoot might help the first time go faster.  OH WELL.

So we went to Fred Meyer, which is almost but not quite like Wal-mart and bought a .22.  But there is no ammo, and I am not sure where to go to get any.  So the goats will live to party in our driveway and try to walk into the house another few days until we solve the ammo problem.  We solved the knife problem by purchasing an actual skinning knife, which has a very different shape precisely because it needs to get the job done quickly and easily.

So that was our day in a nutshell.

We’ll be learning to kill and butcher on-farm

Since the goats decided to start acting crazy during hunting season, we can’t find anyone to butcher them for us until Thanksgiving or later, so we’ll have to do it ourselves.  My main concern is cutting wrong and spoiling the carcass.  But it is a bridge we’ll be leaping in the next week or so.  It was certainly on our list to learn to process goats, sheep and poultry for personal use– it is worth knowing how to do all the small animals, as they can easily be done solo with enough practice.  We just didn’t expect to *have* to do it ourselves or else have no goat meat.

This is partially a regulatory problem, separate from the goats’ bad timing since we got the big mean sheep that make them fretful.  At least right now they are finally staying put instead of scampering around taunting the neighbors’ giant dogs and dancing in the street.

Sick goat blues

Little Taco, the prettiest and tamest of our three goats marked for death was immensely foolish and ate rhododendron on Friday.  It was pretty awkward seeing a sick, soggy goat vomiting green and red.  We totally thought he would die at first glance.  Then after looking up poisoning, I gave Taco oil and warm tea with some goat minerals mixed in, which was essentially what was listed as “antidotes” when I googled about it.  Even the veterinary recommendation was basically oil+mineral salts+water.

So when it comes to rhododendron poisoning, it appears that you let the animal purge as much as they can, replenish electrolytes and coat their stomachs and then go to bed and hope they survive long enough to get some high-calorie treats the next day.  Taco totally survived that long and in the morning we locked him in the barn with the hay and a few alfalfa pellets and a bucket of clean water so he could get some food without being hassled by the other goats.

The other goats avoided him on Friday as he kept crawling off to a thicket of juniper branches to be miserable (he also thought he was going to die, thus the running off to somewhere hard to get at).  Then on Saturday when he was feeling better, they bullied him because he is now officially “the weak one” and goats are not real nice about that kind of thing in a herd.  So we locked him up for his own safety and health.  Now as I write this it’s Tuesday and he is back with the herd, not getting shoved around too much and looking like his old delicious self again.

We talk much less loudly now in front of the goats about how good it will be to eat them.  Don’t want the others getting ideas.


The goats have got to go

Their herd is too small for them to be relaxed about staying within sight of the fencing.  A herd of 3 is, in fact, too small to contain.  A few more goats and we might be able to rely on the shyer ones keeping the bold ones from straying too far or testing the fence excessively.

But it is not worth getting more goats to test the theory.  The sheep are perfectly contained and don’t test the fence or try to eat greener grass through the fence.  They are completely uninterested in doing such things.  The sheep are not low-grade stressors.  The goats have become such with their excessive wandering and pooping near the house.

So they’re going in the freezer at the end of the month.  The two young wethers will be very tender and delicious and the doe, despite her mediocre breed conformation will be muscular and tasty from all the diverse forage she runs around nibbling.

When all is said and done, we got $500 of brush clearing out of the goats, at what is likely to be a final cost of $700-800 for buying them, plus minerals and sundries and butchering costs.  They will yield 65-80lbs of meat (we are keeping heads and organs, so not sure what the final tally will be when that extra is added in).

It’s not great math, but it works for us.

The sheep cow the goats

They lounge around in the stall entrance blocking the gate, chewing their cud in the good shade while the goats bleat and stand a few feet away in the slightly less cool shade next to the entrance.

It’s pretty funny.  Of course, when I try to take a picture they slowly get up and file out into the paddock, as far as they can get from the barn.  And they do make out like they meant to get up right then and go have a nibble.

In duck news, the weather’s been swinging wildly from cold to superhot and according to the internet, this can stall laying for a few days to several weeks unless the ducks are moved to a more controlled climate setting.  It could also be the youth of the ducks, the most regular laying is after 22 weeks for just about all breeds except the very largest.  So we may just not see any more until they are all older by a few more weeks.

At least one child has had chicken pox most of the week, and I am wiped out, so that’s all for now.