Category Archives: donkeys

Livestock guardians

Jingle mugging for attention

Our Jingle the guard donkey frequently gets overlooked in the social media department, even though she is a very integral part of our farm, and has been for many years.  She is our only guard animal now and lives with the boys.

When we first got our sheep, we added two llamas to the mix as guardians and had a terrible time with them.  Very difficult to handle, they were half brother and sister.  Good deterrents to predators, but dealing with them became very difficult because all they did was fight with each other.  We finally moved the female llama along to another farm, and after that Zorro became a real pussycat with us and just did his job quietly with the sheep and goats.  We always kept him in with the girls and the moms and babies, and he loved those little ones.  He even tried to reunite a stranded new born lamb with his mother, as she was having a very difficult second birth.  Zorro was patient as the day is long with the lambs and the goat kids, and they used him as a jungle gym until they got too big to do so!

Jingle wants kisses

I was very happy to have Zorro with my moms and Jingle the donkey with our boys.  That worked very well for many years, until Zorro died of old age.  I really didn’t know if having the donkey in with just the one group would count with the local coyote population and I thought maybe Jingle should be in with the girls and babies during the spring.  I guess she is in her perfect comfort zone with the boys, because she raised such a ruckus when we moved her, that we didn’t keep her there for long (it became a dangerous situation for us and for the girls).  Maybe it’s been too many years, I don’t know.  Guard animals have to get along with their livestock charges, or the whole thing doesn’t work very well.

Watching for her supper

Zorro has been gone for a few years now, and we continue to keep Jingle in with the boys.  We have a lot of coyote activity in the area, all around us, and we even see tracks right near the goat pens.  So far, we have not had an incident.  I know that wildlife biologists say that if the coyote population is stable, there should be enough to eat for them without attacking domestic animals, and I hope that our situation is in that category.  We have acres of woods with small game and lots of deer, so hopefully that keeps them moving past our goats.  And I think that Jingle’s smell and her presence may count for something as well.

Jingle on a much warmer day

Besides, we love Jingle just for herself!  She is a sweetie.  She begged for soft donkey nose kisses this afternoon and wouldn’t let me stop.  She loves people, and can’t get enough attention.  Even luckier, she is in love with the farrier :*)  She is also the neighborhood alarm clock if breakfast doesn’t come her way at the right moment.  Donkeys are the best!

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Summer in Autumn

Peanut voicing her opinion

I am sorry to have been so long without posting.  Cardiac rehab is still dominating my schedule, but I feel like I have a little more breathing room now.  And the summer weather has continued to shine on us even into October!  We are very dry here, but we have hopes of some rain coming in early this week.  This evening is a misty one, and it’s looking good for some precipitation.

There is a lot to take care of on the farm at this time of year.  I am looking forward to breeding season, which will happen here after I get back from the New York Sheep and Wool show around the third week of October.  (I can’t wait!)  But, in the meantime we are making sure that the does are on a steady and slowly rising plane of nutrition.  Have to get them in shape for their amorous interlude with our stud, Reddog!

Round bale delivery

It’s a difficult thing for me to balance, this nutrition rise.  At this point I have cut back to a once a day milking routine, which means that the milking mamas are getting less grain, so they don’t make as much milk.  And since they are still in milk, they need their calories for that as well as for the energy to get into their breeding cycles.  Sometimes I dry them off before breeding, but this year it’s been so mild I think I will milk them well into November, or even into December, depending on the weather.  We decided to put a second cut round bale in with the breeding girls today, so they have that extra nutrition without the extra grain.  I am hoping that this will be a good plan.

It’s a party around the big bale!

And so it goes.  I will get their Selenium shots to them before I leave for Rhinebeck (as well as their annual Rabies vaccines), and then we shall see what happens.  We have chosen 5 girls to breed this year.  Another full house can be expected in the spring!

Donkey dilemma

Beezus and Fergus watching the new fence go up
Beezus and Fergus watching the new fence go up

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday, whichever you celebrate.  We had a very laid back beginning to Hanukkah, and a lazy Christmas day with the kids and grandson.

But, best laid plans, and all that!  The vet was supposed to be here yesterday at midday, but she had an emergency in Belfast, which is up the coast far enough that she could not get here while we still had daylight.  She came instead this morning, so we finally got the newbies vaccinated for Rabies, and she got blood from all of them for the usual blood tests.

Jingle our amazing donkey
Jingle our amazing donkey

In the meantime, we have been watching things with Jingle the Donkey and the boy group, which is down to one buck now, Reddog,  since Oreo left the farm (we could only have used Oreo the Lamancha buck on the Guernsey girls as the two Lamanchas that we kept are his mother and his sister…  not very useful at this point).

Looking up the new fence line you can see all the icy patches that have made t-post pounding a challenge
Looking up the new fence line you can see all the icy patches that have made t-post pounding a challenge

We have always kept Jingle in with the boy group, back to when we had both rams and bucks.  Even though she is technically a mini donkey, she is definitely on the larger end of mini.  Jingle has always had complete control over behaviors in that paddock, and makes no bones about it.  Everything was quite normal with the bucks until we had Reddog the Guernsey boy come back into the group after being with the does for almost 2 months.  His behavior has changed.  No longer the mild-mannered, shy young buck.  And he has gotten quite aggressive with Jingle in particular, for some reason.  As he has horns, Jingle has begun to avoid him at all costs, which is becoming a very poor situation.  Being chased by a little guy with big horns across icy patches of ground is not how I want my little donkey to spend her days.  She is here as a guard animal as well as, you know, a pet.

I have always said that there is no room on a dairy operation for horns (particularly on the does), but we have had horned bucks in the past who would never even consider crossing the line with the donkey.  I am not sure what is going on here, but obviously we need to address the situation.  If I thought the behavior was only because Reddog no longer has a goat companion in the paddock, I could remedy that pretty easily.  But this behavior began the moment we put him back in after his breeding stint.  And has only gotten worse, Oreo or not (he was terrorizing Oreo as well).

The gap in the fence is being investigated
The gap in the fence is being investigated

To that end, Sam and I have been out there putting in a small paddock area where we are going to have to move Reddog (t-posts through the ice not fun,  but the ground is not really frozen hard yet, and today’s temperatures were a gift).  He will now have a full fence line with his girls, and hopefully, will calm down.  Jingle will stay in her paddock for the time being as I don’t need a pregnant doe getting on the wrong side of her and being kicked.  All the paddocks are contiguous, so everyone will be able to communicate with everyone else, so none of the animals are truly segregated and alone.

BUT, we cannot do this move until we are ok to mix the two girl groups.  Aargh!  It’s Dominoes all over again.  At least I know it will be ready the minute we have test results, or the vet gives her okay.  It’s always something.