The neighbor’s dogs wanted duck sooner than Saturday

After months of what appeared to be decent fence training, two neighbor dogs banded together and rushed our barn to “play” with our last two ducks.  The Khaki did not survive this playtime and the Cayuga hurt a wing and may not survive long enough to be killed and parted out for supper tomorrow.

We did not have the best luck with ducks, clearly.

As I’ve probably already noted, we just didn’t really think about the prep that poultry needs for safety.  It isn’t a lot of work initially, but it’s a different kind of work than we were expecting.  Lining a fence with hardware cloth, for example, wasn’t really on the list, but by all accounts it’s five extra minutes and a lot of saved poultry.

It’s certainly humbling to see how despite growing up “with animals” for much of my childhood, I’m still pretty inexperienced at the basic nuts and bolts of homesteading.  Mostly what is missing is a mindset of ordering the environment to meet your goals first instead of ordering the environment based on minimums of cost or time.  I mean, if we were getting half our food from the old homestead, losing those ducks would be a pretty big deal, and since our goal is to work towards getting foods we like to eat easier, we’ll have to plan better.  Books, the internets and talking to local people with animals are good, but we really haven’t done enough plotting out exactly how to arrange the land we already have to meet our goals.

So that’s the approach we will aim for this coming year.

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Lessons learned

–Account for spoilage/wastage when purchasing feed.  Spills, accidents and mice happen even if you think you have a good way to avoid them, nothing is 100%.

–Do not buy culls as a newbie, even if the culling is for color or some other minor reason (as opposed to culling for health issues or deformity or poor conformation).  Even if the animal’s genetics and conformation are super and it’s just a case of “I have twelve brown cows, wanted to get rid of one”, it’s not worth the stress for a newbie.  An experienced homesteader or farmer can take a chance on that kind of soft cull because they have an established process, but newbies are still trying to figure things out and it’s just not worth it.  We are keeping our cull purchase, but no more culls until we have the hang of things.

–Predation comes in large and small sizes.  Gotta cover all the angles, within reason.

–If you have money and not time, use the money instead of waiting around on that time you won’t ever have.  Obviously taken far enough, this would mean not homesteading or farming at all, but paying 50 or 100 bucks for a coop when you are never going to get around to building one is not a false economy.

Those are the biggies, just trying to get a better handle on total costs and specialization.

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.

We found the hoof trimming shears…at the feed store.

Yeah, we searched everywhere and as it turned out, they can’t be found anywhere in the house, barn or garage.  So I picked up a new pair and we will do the deed for all the animals on Saturday.

Having the goats and sheep contained together is pretty nice.  They are not as a group racing through the hay right now, but in fact are still working on their original bale, so I’m hoping we are good to go for the time we need to give hay.

And that is a thing we’ll have to figure out. We have a ton (literal ton) right now, we’ll see how it goes.  We’re getting in more fencing so we can expand their range.  Right now we’re not going to obsess about the best grazing strategy, we just want to get onto a maintenance schedule and hopefully make it to a lambing season with a half dozen or dozen lambs (the latter would be a banner crop of pure tripletness).

Unfortunately, because of our own illnesses and the whole fencing fiasco, we have to trim this weekend when the ewes might be a little bit pregnant, which is not the best time to do it (right before, but not once they conceive).  OH WELL.  Chalk it up to a learning experience.

Hopefully it goes ok, we get all the animals caught up on trims and the ewes conceive and carry to term with no hassles.  They’ll be on deep litter as we head into winter, so that will help reduce stress around first time pasture lambing.