Category Archives: Livestock guards

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.

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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!

It was here a minute ago…

Snacking before breakfast (SnowPea in front, Bonbel sneaking a peek over her back)

I have to give those goatie girls a lot of credit… they made short work of our friend’s Christmas tree.  I went out bright and early to get the girls fed this morning, and this is what I found.  Not much left, and they were hard at work on it even then.  And when Zorro the llama got up close and personal to get first dibs on breakfast, it was actually a very pleasant experience:  instead of his usual llama breath, he was breathing lovely, piney scent at me!  So I guess we now know how to make camelid breath mints :*)

(Zorro’s breath usually smells like a cross between cudded grass or hay with a hint of eau de stale corn chips.  Not bad at all, but the contrast was amazing!)

Ewes on the road

Ewes wait their turn for a ride home

This weekend was designated as “get the sheep home from the pasture down the street” weekend.  I am always tempted to put this off as long as possible as I always think of it as an exhausting activity.  It’s really only an hour or two of work, but I can’t do it alone so I need to have our son lined up for the move.  Yesterday turned out to be the day, and JD and I got the ewes penned with some feed and then we haltered them and put them in the car two at a time.  The difficult part is getting them into the car…  but once they are in there, it’s a breeze.

Sheep tushies in the back of the Subaru

We didn’t have time to get Jingle the donkey back yesterday so she stayed one more night by herself.  On the way back from a quick trip to town this morning John jumped out of the car and got her out of the pasture.  She walked like a champ down the road until the line where it turns from pavement into gravel.  She did not like that at all!  I went home and got a bucket of grain, but that didn’t help much.  All in her own time she decided that she could get going, and then we didn’t have  a problem until just before the winter paddock at the house.  It wasn’t pretty, but nothing we did made a difference.  Donkeys definitely have their own mind.  We ended up penning her in front of the open gate, and when we stopped hovering, she just walked in.  It’s always the way!

Coopworth ewes assert their independence, film at 11!

Another crazy 24 hours here at the Ruit Farm.  Yeesh!  It hasn’t stopped since 3 a.m.  Yesterday I separated the last buckling from his mother, so when I went to bed at 10:30, there was some calling and baabaa-ing and maa-maaing, but I ignored and went to sleep.  Around 2:30 a.m. I began to come to consciousness and realized that something was not going well outside.  All the mama ewes were bellowing and sounding frightened, and the goaties were chiming in with their chorus of noises as well.  By the time 3 a.m. came around I was really alarmed and got my husband up (I am sure he appreciated that!) and we debated who should go out and check on what was happening while he diligently got dressed and picked up the big flashlight.  I watched from the bedroom window as he walked the 100 feet up the driveway to the turn-off into the paddock area.  When he immediately turned around and started back down to the house, coming along pretty fast, I knew something was up.  All the ewes were out and Zorro the llama was very agitated and on patrol.  I initially thought it was just a chance breakout, but we have since found out that the coyotes have been very active on this section of the road in the past few nights.  We now think that Zorro pushed his way through a cattle panel that probably had some less than new baling twine holding it together, in order to go after a coyote.  He left a lot of his fiber on the fence so we know that he went over and/or through it.  The ewes were initially happy to have gotten into a section of grass that I was saving, but then began to be afraid, I guess.  They met John as he walked up the driveway, and he said that the field of weirdly fluorescent eyes were a little scary!  As soon as I went up the majority of them followed me right into the paddock, back in with their lambs.  Only a couple needed to be seriously baited and rounded up.  Zorro refused entry and spent the night on patrol.  He wouldn’t even come in this morning, he kept patrolling the perimeter fence all day.  Around 4 he finally walked into the paddock area and went very sweetly into the fenced section.  It was exhausting.  Wish I had some photos… the moon gave us some light, but otherwise I basically stumbled around with a grain bucket in my hand, trying to lure the ewes back.  Raven was the only one I had to catch by the leg and put a halter on.  Pretty scary, but thanks to Zorro, not one ewe or goat was sacrificed.  It sometimes feels like he is a superfluous presence here (and a crazy eating machine as well!), but I really do appreciate him!  He needs a llama treat :*)

As for the rest of the day, I worked on getting our roaster chickens into the section of grass that the ewes cut down during the night, and then my son helped me get the majority of the ewes into the pasture, a half mile down the road.  Then I walked the donkey down to join them.  I am absolutely all done in!  It is way too hot and humid for me.  I guess I have to put up with it for the rest of the week, so I hope things let up a little bit!  We missed the Round Pond 4th of July parade again, but with the heat and humidity, I am not sure that I would have enjoyed it anyway.  Sigh!  After all the water and electrolytes I drank today, I think I may have a glass of wine.  The chicken that I had intended to barbecue is still in the oven, my husband is in bed, and I suspect that I am soon to follow.  Tomorrow is another day.