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!
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.
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.
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!
It’s been awhile since I last posted and I feel like a slacker. Starting the week before Thanksgiving we have had a crazy schedule which is partly to blame, and holidays always kind of knock me out of sync with my usual daily patterns. I dried off our doe Elf, as she was having some shyness about being milked during the whole breeding craziness, and I just didn’t want to fight her! Salsa and SnowPea’s milk amounts dropped, and
Salsa’s appetite wasn’t what it usually is, but that has changed drastically in the last week. So I am down to two goaties on the milk stand and am probably going to start the drying-off process toward the end of the month. I like having some milk coming in so I can make mad batches of chevre and throw them into the freezer for our winter and spring dining pleasure! Choretime isn’t the same without the milking routines, and I miss that closeness with the does, but on the other hand, below 20F temps and howling wind make the whole milking experience less than fun. It’s all part of the flow of the seasons and the year. It’s also been a relief to note that Elvis the stink-o has returned more to his normal self and is not constantly trying to impress the girls. I actually got into the pen with him the other day and he didn’t act as though I needed to be inspected and snurlfed like crazy. Hopefully that means that everyone is bred and all’s right with the herd!
As for the sheep, we disbanded the breeding group that was up at the house with Mr. Big
the week before Thanksgiving. He hadn’t been showing any interest in the ewes he was hanging out with (and hadn’t marked any either), so he went back to the boys’ pen and the girls went up the hill into the group with Zorro the llama. That left our breeding group down in the pasture to handle. Everything appeared to be fine with the breeding: our little Hamish the ram lamb took care of business promptly and they have had what is left of the grass in the pasture in a huge area. I had been getting a little nervous about them being in the field as there have been a very vocal group of coyotes in the area. Around dusk I have been hearing them yapping and calling, and then very clearly, an answering bray from Jingle the donkey, who was down there with those 6 sheep. She had also been doing her perimeter run about the same time of day, so I guess she let them know who is the boss! (That. Or a combination of that and the electric fence). The weather has been so balmy that I haven’t felt the usual frantic need to get them home and into the winter paddock, but the threat of this snowstorm got my attention at last. So with Chloe and our son’s help on Saturday, we made 3 trips down to the pasture and loaded them two-by-two into the Subaru and brought them home. Then Jingle walked with Chloe and I up the street and home at last. Another chapter closed as the year ends and our minds turn to lambing!
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!