Category Archives: Livestock guards

2018 Kidding comes to a close

(I am a few days behind in blog posts.  I keep starting them and running out of time to finish them.  I should have posted this yesterday, Wednesday!)

Big boy

And I am grateful for that!  Eleganza had her two bucklings about noon time yesterday, which was very considerate of her!  She was in the old greenhouse, which the boys and Jingle share with the girls (galvanized panels keeping the two groups separate).  Jingle always has her eye out for what’s going on, and while I was having lunch, we heard her out there making a donkey racket, and knew just what had happened.  She has given us the call for all the girls who have given birth in that greenhouse.  What a good town crier :*)  So even though I never got my little cameras installed, we have had a lot of information without ever seeing exactly what was going on!

Another big boy

And so we finally have Guernsey bucklings!  Two beautiful boys, both weighing in at 8.3 and 8.4 lbs respectively.  Eleganza made it look very easy, and they are all doing well.  It was 50F around sunset last night and then the wind came up and the temperatures plummeted, so I put them in the woolly coats that my friend had made and given to us last year.  I have my fingers crossed for warmer weather, but it sounds like we may have to wait until next Wednesday for temperatures near 50F.  Ah well, when the sun is out, everyone enjoys it no matter what the thermometer says, even today when the wind was gusting.

Now we just have to make sure these little explorers don’t get up to too much trouble!

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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!

Nothing better than a good spreadsheet

Not sure what Pippi means by standing there with her tongue stuck out. Thinking hard about Reddog, perhaps!

When I pulled down the driveway Monday evening on my return from NY Sheep and Wool, I was greeted with the sound of Pippi absolutely bellowing her head off.   My son said that she had been at it all day, and had not really eaten while on the milk stand that morning, just kept trying to go over as close to the boys’ pen as she could get, and mooning about, bellowing.  As I don’t want kids too early in the season, I had been waiting until after the Rhinebeck trip to put the breeding group together.  And so I took the opportunity to get Pippi bred on Tuesday when we moved Twig, Peanut and Betsy to a separate paddock, and moved Reddog in with the 5 moms-to-be.  Jingle the donkey misbehaved badly with the non-breeding group, so we put her in with Hagrid and Fergus the wether.  (Donkeys hate change of any kind, and I think those young girls freaked her out.  She sees them through the fence every day, but she didn’t care for their company at all.  Ah well, it’s a donkey thing).

Reddog is quite the hunky boy!

And so Pippi was a happy camper all day Tuesday.  As it happens, by Wednesday morning it was clear that Saffron was having a good time with Reddog as well!  Now when I sit down at the milk stand in the morning I can have a full dose of buck stink up close and personal.  (Bucks who are courting a doe rub their heads anywhere they can on their intended – and that head has been drenched with all kinds of stinky hormone-filled pee.  Delightful to a doe, not so nice for humans!).

A new spreadsheet makes the coming breeding season seem a little more real!

And so my new spreadsheet has been inaugurated.  First babies due on Friday, March 23, 2018!

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.

RIP Zorro

Zorro and the girls
Zorro and the girls

Our llama.  Our best guard guy.  Died yesterday morning, due to what, I am not sure.  Possibly old age.  He was 16 and was slowing down a bit, but we didn’t see any symptoms in him.

Our Zorro
Our Zorro

I went out yesterday morning to do chores and found Jingle the Donkey on the other side of the fence, bent over with her muzzle to the fence line right where Zorro had fallen over.  And there he was. So my husband got him buried, and we are now without our sweet Zorro the Llama.

RIP Zorro, we will surely and definitely miss you and your sweet ways with the kids, the lambs, and with all of us humans. As well as your awesome skills in keeping the coyotes away.

Many years ago, down in the field (c. 2003)
Many years ago, down in the field (c. 2003)

Paddock moves

Happy llama Zorro
Happy llama Zorro

Over the weekend I worked on fencing and changing the paddocks around a little bit. I have areas that I like to keep the animals out of at certain times, and areas that they have access to almost all the time.

For a variety of reasons, I had put Zorro the llama in with the boys early in the spring, so they not only have the donkey guarding them, but also our wonderful Zorro. I have been meaning to get him back into the girl’s area for awhile. He has always followed me around, and I have never had a problem standing nonchalantly by a gate and getting him, and only him, through.

But, he is getting older and is not as curious about what I am doing, so I had been unsuccessful up to now. But Sunday, John helped me put some panels in there right around the gate to the neighboring paddock, and that was just enough to pique his curiosity. He waltzed right through!

SnowPea picking between the clover to find her favorite things
SnowPea picking between the clover to find her favorite things

The goats do not love clover (!) and there is a lot of it all through their paddocks, so I have wanted to get Zorro in there to help eat all that goodness up. And I also need to have a guard animal in with the does and doelings.

He is in heaven right now! Everytime I look for him, he is seated in a patch of clover, like a big old fuzzy llama king.

Next job: giving the big guy a trim!

More daylight, less sleep

I adore Daylight Savings. It offers so much more light on the end of the day when I can actually get something accomplished. Of course, it comes with a challenge as well. Crazed catching up on the Sunday of the big changeup!

Jingle moves in with the boys
Jingle moves in with the boys

Already feeling like I can’t get out of my own way this week, today is another gorgeous day and it’s slipping by too fast! Yesterday was in the mid 40s, today a little cooler, but just as bright and blue sky sunny. It must be a good day to go for a walk down the woods trail. And, get a little more work done out in the paddocks.

Sunday morning girls
Sunday morning girls

It’s getting much closer to kidding time and I moved Jingle the donkey out of the paddock with the ewes and the pregnant does. I am beginning to feed the girls some medicated pellets, so by the time the babies are born everyone will have some protection (we hope) against some of the bugs that cause terrible scours (diarrhea) in lambs and goat kids. The pellets also have higher protein which the does need at the end of their gestation. I try not to use much medicated feed, but in our muddy paddock conditions, it’s probably the wiser course, and I do get the higher protein levels as well. Moving the donkey at this point is crucial, because any access to the medicated pellets would be toxic to her. The other reason I don’t like having her in with the pregnant girls is that she kicks when she gets annoyed. Always a little bit of a hazard as the girls begin to have those big baby bellies. Now if I can get the gate open between the two paddocks, maybe I can lure Zorro the llama into the paddock with the girls. Then both groups will have a guard with them. Coyotes can’t be trusted at this time of the year when it’s been so brutally cold. Hope all of them are still finding enough food out in the woods!

Today feels like it is racing by, but we are spending time with our grandboy which is always a lot of fun. We made blueberry pancakes this morning, and I almost forgot to get my pot roast into the crockpot! Time to get moving. I hope the ‘plowable’ snow they are predicting for Thursday does not get to us. Groan.

Day after the downpours

View at chores this morning
View at chores this morning

The big rains kept right on all last evening. It was insane because we knew that the temperatures were headed down below freezing, so it was not a great surprise when we got up this morning to find everything iced over. The wind must have been strong enough to prevent the ice from coating the trees, but it was something else on the ground!

photo 2 (2)But it was a gorgeous sunrise. I feel like I take the same photos over and over again, but the same view is always just a little different. The day is so clear that the light feels like we are dancing on the edge of Spring. But I doubt it. Just a little bit of a tease.

Goatie conga line, with Jingle bringing up the rear (only I think she is resting her head on SnowPea's back and enjoying the sun!)
Goatie conga line, with Jingle bringing up the rear (only I think she is resting her head on SnowPea’s back and enjoying the sun!)

I took the opportunity of the warmth and the breeze to scrape as much bedding as I could out of the greenhouse the girls use. I love our donkey Jingle to pieces, but she will insist on standing in there and pooping to her heart’s content! During the bitter cold, it was frozen solid to the floor before morning, so I have to take these chances to get that out, along with the dirty and damp straw. I hope that the wind will dry the floor up a little, it’s not wet-wet, but it’s damp and some of the ice in the deep bedding has started to melt. Perhaps the wind will do its thing and help us out a bit before I put down new straw.

I cannot believe that we are just a month away from shearing. And after that it’s a hop and a skip right to kidding in early April. I must get my supplies in order… it will be here before we know it!

(Pippi and SnowPea showing off their growing bellies in the sunlight)

The Heat is on

It feels as though someone hit the ‘hot’ switch and now we are having a week of the hot and humids.  It is almost July, after all, so what can we expect!

Jingle is groomed and happy
Jingle is groomed and happy

This morning it was Jingle the Donkey’s turn to get some pampering.  We had an appointment with Farrier Fred, and so after I fed all the sheep and the goats, I took Jingle out of the paddock, haltered her, and took her to a nice grazing area near one of the greenhouses.  She got a little bit of shade there, and while she munched, I finished grooming what was left of her winter coat off of her.  She loves to be groomed, and I don’t do it enough.  This should be the last time this season that I need to comb her for shedding, though!  So she was ready for the farrier.  He came on time, as usual, and they worked in the shade of the driveway.  She is good to go until late August, so that is another thing off my summer list!

We had some little breezes blowing through the house earlier today, and other than cleaning out some long overdue items from the fridge, I have not done that much.  It’s in the ’90s outside, and I am guzzling ice water until it’s time to go to the grocery.  Not in the mood for anything hot tonight, so we are going to put our leftover steak onto salads.  I think that’s about all we may be up for :*)

Tesser the Chihuahua, not sleeping in the sun
Tesser the Chihuahua, not sleeping in the sun

And Tesser has even given up sleeping in her sunny windowsill and has taken up her napping position on top of one of our shorn fleeces in the corner.  I am sure she was not happy to find out that the windowsill was even too hot for a naked little chihuahua belly!

A Donkey tale

Jingle, a much happier donkey!

We have had our Jingle the Donkey for many years now.  She is a fantastic guard animal and she tolerates most of what the sheep or goats throw at her.  When we have her down in the field over the summer with the ewes she is a formidable guard.  Even when deer run through the electric net fence and a side or a corner is down, she will stand as a sentry until we arrive and fix the problem.  If anyone new approaches the enclosure that she is in, she takes it personally and checks out what is going on.  If she has the tiniest scent of something that may not be right, she will run the perimeter fence and pound the ground as hard as she can.  I guess it sends out the signal that she is on the job and no canines are tolerated at any time (which lets me sleep better at night with the number of coyotes and dogs off leashes that we have in this area)!

Having an equid requires a few special arrangements.  When we got the donkeys (we had two for awhile) we didn’t understand just how difficult it would be to get a farrier to take care of their hooves.  What a dilemma!  In the beginning we had a wonderful guy who lived just a few miles away and he would stop by every two or three months on his way home and just check and see if they needed trimming.  He would leave a bill in the feed can, and everything was good.  He never trimmed and charged for it if it wasn’t necessary, and we were extremely grateful.  But then he got injured and got out of the business.  The man he sold his equipment to has never answered my calls, even though he lives only a few miles away.  It’s one of the biggest problems we have had with farming, and it has caused me an uncountable number of sleepless nights of worry.

For a few  years a friend of ours who was a farm manager not too far away was taking very good care of Jingle’s hooves and we were very blessed to have the help.  She has since moved farther away, and we are again in the toilet without a farrier.  Now donkey hooves are not as involved as horses are, they require no shoeing.  But we have no knowledge of how close to trim the foot, and how you trim the foot determines how a donkey stands, and if they are off-kilter it can be painful and affect their whole body.  So we were extremely relieved when we found a farrier to come down from Augusta and take care of our one and only equid (after many weeks of my calling and leaving messages with other people, I might add)!  I suspect that is the issue with a lot of folks we have called, that there is only one animal to treat, which may make it less desirable a stop in a busy work day.  But this farrier came 46 miles to do one job of trimming, and even though it is a more expensive job, we are extremely pleased that he is willing to come down.  And I daresay that Jingle the Donkey is pleased as well!