Thursday, October 16, 2014

Trapping A Problem Skunk On The Farm

We have had skunks here before.  I remember one year seeing a mother skunk and her two little ones.  We had one skunk that would come onto our deck and help itself to the food we left out for the cats when they were outside.  None of these skunks were ever really a problem, and for the past couple of years we have not had any skunks around that I was aware of.

This year we were awoken at night by the nauseating smell of a skunk on more than one occasion.  I am not even sure what the skunk was spraying, they are usually very accurate but none of our cats was sprayed, nor where the sheep.  It seemed like this skunk was just "spraying" so I suspected perhaps it was a male marking territory.  I saw it a few times in the compost, and tried to scare it off, but the skunk just kept hanging around.

Finally I went and rented a skunk trap from the county office.  The charge was $5.00 a week.  I baited the trap with cat food (sardines also work well) and put it in the barn, shutting all the doors to the barn so the cats could not get in.  I knew the skunk was in the barn, it had a hole that it used to go under the tack room floor.

Skunk trap, with skunk in it.

After a couple of nights I did catch the skunk, so now all I had to do was to release it.

I should back up my story here a bit.  When I went to rent the skunk trap I asked the man what should I do with the skunk after catching it, he said to either hook it to my exhaust pipe and gas it to death, or to release it in the yard of somebody I dislike.

As I was not going to gas it, I drove it far away to a park.  I pulled over, set the skunk trap near the side of the road (I had tossed some cat food into the bushes for the skunk to hopefully find later) and waited for it to come out.  It took a few minutes before it moved and left the trap, scurrying into the bushes.

It is fall, and we are expecting good weather for a couple of weeks more so I do hope the skunk will use that time wisely to set up new accommodations before winter.

The skunk as it left the trap and made its way into the forest

According to the guy at the county office this year has been really bad one for skunks, he was glad I returned the trap as quickly as I had, some other people had skunk traps out for several weeks.

Skunks are cute and I have heard of people making them into pets, but this is illegal in my area, and mostly people have to buy them from breeders and cannot catch wild skunks and turn them into pets.  Other than the obvious problem of their smell, skunks are also known to carry rabies so caution should be taken around them at all times.

Just in case you have a dog that has been sprayed by a skunk, here is some information on how to get the smell of a skunk off your dog

Friday, October 3, 2014

What is Heartworm in Dogs?

Heartworm disease is a problem for dog owners worldwide but more so in warmer areas.  Many dogs are infected with heartworm and the owners are totally unaware until the disease is fairly progressed.   Do note that many herding dog breeds are extra sensitive to some medications used for heartworm.

Cause of Heartworm Disease in Dogs


Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite known as Dirofilaria immitis. This is a worm that is spread by mosquitoes and it is most prevalent in areas with large mosquito populations.

Dirofilaria immitis pass through several life stages, starting when they are sucked up as tiny larvae in the blood by a mosquito. The next time a mosquito bites an animal the larval worms, known as microfilariae enter a new animal and start to grow to a length of 12 inches. When these worms become adults they move to the dogs heart and that is when problems begin.

As the worms grow and build up the dogs heart becomes full of worms causing it to lose energy and will eventually kill the dog.  This is not an overnight problem, it takes months to progress to a life threatening stage.


Drawing by author ©

Symptoms of Heartworm Disease in Dogs


-Coughing, particularly after, or during, exercise
-Lack of energy
-Vomiting blood
-Heavy Breathing
*It must be noted that less active dogs may not have any symptoms.

How is Heartworm Diagnosed?


A diagnosis can be made one of two ways. The most common method of testing for heartworm is by a blood test. The blood test can determine if a dog has microfilariae in the blood and adult worms in the heart. The test is often found to be most effective if done in the early spring.

X-Rays will also show if worms are present in the dog's heart or lungs.

Treatment of Heartworm in Dogs


Once diagnosed there is no guarantee that the treatment will cure the dog, but without it the dog will certainly die.

The veterinarian will want to determine how infected the dog is and if there are other problems that may become issues when treatment is started, such as a risk of heart failure, and liver or kidney failure.

The veterinarian will try to kill the adult worms using twice daily injections, for two days, of an arsenic compound.

The dog must be kept resting, and inactive during treatment. The concern is that the dead worms will circulate and cause other problems. If the dog is allowed to rest its body will absorb the dead worms.
The veterinarian will ask to recheck the dog, usually three weeks after treatment and again the following year.
Treatment for heartworm is both expensive and risky, as such prevention is very important.

Prevention of Heartworms in Dogs


The only way to really prevent heartworm in dogs is to prevent the dog from being bit by mosquitoes, otherwise medications which are said to prevent heartworms are not really doing that; but they are killing the larval heatworms that may be in the bloodstream, and as such are preventing the adult heartworms being a concern. 

There are several products, both oral and topical, for prevention of heartworm. Every dog owner should discuss the level of risk in their area and what are the best prevention methods. Again, the risk of heartowrms is lower in colder areas.   Also remember that some herding breeds, including Border Collies, are sensitive to some medications.

It should be noted that all canines are at risk of  heartworms (in case a person owns an exotic canine such as a Fennec Fox) and cats can get them too. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Selling Lambs via Private Sales

As there are no regular sheep auctions near me and as I only have a few lambs (so not worth it to drive to a farther place where there are regular sheep auctions) I sell my lambs privately if I can, taking them to the odd and unusual sales if I cannot.  I prefer the private sale, you get the money yourself (no worries about unknown prices and commissions) and there is less work.

I have had ads for my lambs for sale for a while now and had only a little interest.  However since yesterday I have had at least 4 people call and ask about the ram lambs for sale.  One person has already come for two, others have asked if I would hold them until this Friday, or next.  I generally do not like "holding" sheep for anyone, even if they pay in advance, it is just not worth the hassle.  So many times people insist they are coming and do not show up.

I have had people say they would send me the money in advance, but what if they do, and then something happens to the sheep I have reserved for them (a coyote, or if they suddenly cannot make it to pick the sheep up).  There are also lots of scams in which supposed buyers pay by check, then cancel the check, or make an "overpayment" and ask you to give them cash back due to their "error" then cancel the check too!

Now my rule is cash only, first come, first serve, I will not hold sheep for people, nor take advance payments.  If you want it, get here, pay for it, and take it!

Ram lamb in front, some of my older ewes behind.

Some buyers come prepared, with a couple people to help load. That is always the best, or at least people should ask if they should bring help.

I have had people call and ask if they can butcher the animals on the farm, even though my ads always say they cannot.

I have had people call and ask if they could "fit the sheep in the back of their SUV" to take it home!  When I say "NO, he has horns and will break your windows", they say "but we will tie it up!".   Of course I would not allow an animal to be transported like that.

For sure selling sheep privately, off the farm, is easier in some ways, but there are complications a person needs to be aware of when selling their own animals and not using an auction market.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sheep out in a Summer Snow Storm

This week Alberta was hit by a freak summer snow storm. I do not recall getting snow so early before but I do have memories of late snows in May and June.

The trees still have leaves and many are bent over and some are breaking. The animals are not particularly happy about it either. The roosters are not even smart enough to go inside and are roosting on a branch with no shelter above heads. The cats are unimpressed.

The sheep are pretty well adjusted, the snow is not too much for them, they can still dig through to the grass. 



It is that time of year to sell them though. I had a buyer who was all lined up to come two weeks ago, but when he went to leave his place he noted something was wrong with his trailer, I think he said an axle was broken. He was going to fix it and come the next day. The next day he had bought the wrong axle and was going to have to try again a few days later, but after repeated trips to Canadian Tire, or wherever you buy new trailer axles, he was having no luck getting the right one and eventually said for us to go ahead and sell to somebody else.



This was frustrating, but understandably not his fault, unfortunately I had turned 3 other buyers down in the process, two of which I did not get their phone numbers. Thankfully I did get the e-mail of one guy and he is coming right away for a ram lamb. Well, I should say, he is waiting for the weather to improve then will be here. He has selected a nice brown Katahdin ram so we are holding that one for him, but we do have an interesting bunch of rams this year including one with four horns and a really neat looking tri-color hair sheep.



I am not happy with the weather, I am not a big fan of the cold. I have aches and pains, and it is hard to take. It is one thing to get winter weather in winter, or even in the fall, but again, this is still summer and we have 2 more weeks go to before it is fall.

I love Alberta, but sometimes I think I am crazy to live here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ram in Altered States

One of our first rams was a beautiful Barbado hair sheep ram.  There really was nothing much to fault him on, he has a great hair coat and shed fully in the spring, fantastic horns, he was not aggressive at all so we never felt afraid of him.  The only problem with him was that he was totally sterile.

We had purchased him at an auction and after keeping him for a year without getting any lambs it was pretty clear that perhaps he was past his prime.  We never did have a vet check him, we just sold him at auction with the suggestion he be used as a pet.



As he was handsome I one day did a painting of him using acrylic paints. I really liked the way his horns looked in the painting, I have painted horses and dogs before, but never painted anything with horns.  I love how the horns turned out although I am not particularly happy with the mouth, but never mind...

So today as I was a bit bored and looking through some of my older photographs I came upon a picture of the painting of this Barbado hair sheep ram and thought I might mess about with it in Corel Paint.  I am not really familiar with the program all that much, I just sort of play with it, doing this or that, seeing if I like it and if not I do something different.



I sort of like the image I created today, so wanted to share it with you.  Digital art can be very interesting.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

How to Care For Bottle Fed Baby Goat Kids

Sometimes a doe (mother goat) has more kids than she can care for, other times she dies while giving birth or shortly there after, or she may just reject one of her kids. Either way the result is a kid that must be raised by hand.  These are often called bottle baby kids, or bummers.

When a doe is overwhelmed with her kids, not feeding them all, or does not have enough milk, one or more of them will start to look poorly, typically standing hunched up and generally not thriving.  If a doe is not producing enough milk, but is not being aggressive against the youngster, the kid may be left with the doe and will require bottle feeding. If she is being mean to the kid, it should be removed and treated as an orphan.

Bottle feeding kids is hard work. Ideally family members can take turns caring for the little one, as this will help everyone not become too overwhelmed. Bottle feeding will be especially difficult if you have more than one kid to care for.  Some farmers will give these kids away, or sell them, rather than do the work themselves.

If the doe has died and the kid is newborn, dry it off and keep it warm. In most cases this may mean bringing it into your home. Goats, and especially baby goats, need to be kept warm, you can leave them in a small pen in your barn, but will be making several trips out so this may be inconvenient.  A temporary pen, such as a dog pen, may be used to contain young goats in the house.

How To Bottle Feed Baby Goats


The most important thing, is to ensure the kid received, or receives, Colostrum, which is the mother's first milk. Colostrum contains the first antibodies and the kid should get some within the first 18 hours after birth. It does not have to be their first drink.

Colostrum can be obtained by milking the doe, by milking another doe who has also just given birth, or by purchase. If you have several does, you might want to purchase Colostrum before hand and store it.

Colostrum may be purchased from a Veterinarian, Veterinarian supply store, or a livestock feed store. It may come frozen or powdered. In an emergency powdered calf colostrum is acceptable. Colostrum can be fed by gently squirting it into the kids mouth with a syringe or by using a bottle with a small nipple. Use caution, if you go too fast you risk it entering their lungs.

You will also need to purchase proper kid/goat milk replacement formula. This is a powder that comes in large bags, and can purchased at livestock feed stores. Do not use cow milk for human consumption. If goat milk is unavailable look elsewhere, or get lamb, or calf, milk replacer. You can also buy bottles and nipples from the livestock feed store. Most young goats like the kind of nipple that attaches to 750ml pop bottles.

Larger breeds may prefer a larger nipple. If you don't have a bottle and nipple on hand, use a syringe or even a turkey baster at first. If you need emergency formula, as the case where it is late and stores are closed, you can use canned evaporated milk, adding a wee bit of molasses to give the kid extra energy.

Bottle feeding is tricky at first because the kid will not understand the milk is coming from you. It is their nature to look for a nipple from their mother. Pick up the kid and hold it in one arm. Then use your hand to pry open its mouth and put the nipple in. When using the plastic pop bottles as bottles, you can gently
squeeze some milk into the youngster if it is too weak or confused to suck. After a few days the kid will start to understand what is going on and will be able to drink normally from the bottle while standing. If you have multiple kids you will eventually want to get a system where you can put the bottle in a holder and the kid can drink on its own.

Bottle kids need about 5 oz of milk per pound of weight every day. You can figure this out and then break the feedings down to multiple times per day. In the first 24 hours you will want to feed around the clock, usually every 2 hours in the day, every 3 at night. After one day the kid will be okay over night if you feed as late as possible, and again as early as possible. With the other feedings continue every 3-4 hours throughout the day for the first week. The water used to make the formula should be warm, you can test it on your wrist to make sure it is not too hot.

When it is two or three days old the kid will also want to eat hay and grain. Kid ration is a dry feed that can be offered instead of grain, and contains more nutrition for young goats. This should be offered in small amounts. If the kid is uninterested in eating this, it can be encouraged to do so by actually putting small bits of food into its mouth. Introduce new food slowly so as not to cause an upset tummy which could cause scours.

As the kid gets bigger it will eat bigger meals, but less often. After about 1 week the kid can be bottle fed every 5-6 hours. Reduce this so that at 4 weeks of age it only is feeding twice a day. Of course as the number of feedings are reduced the amount per feeding needs to be increased.

Bottle fed kids grow into friendly adult goats, but in the case of billies (intact males) care should be taken not to allow them to become too friendly or they may be aggressive as adults.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Pictures of My New Friendly Roosters

We just bought three young roosters.  They are Ameraucanas.  Ameraucanas are the ones where the hens lay blue or green eggs.  Our roosters are 11 weeks old, so they are not fully mature.

For the first two days they pretty much stayed in their shelter but by day 3 they were walking around and exploring their enclosure.  We have them in a geodesic dome starplate aviary for now but after they are bonded to the area we will let them out to free range in the yard.

I did not get any good pictures of them on the first days as they stayed in the shelter, but I thought I might get some pictures today.  For a few minutes the sun was out and I gave it a shot, but it would seem the roosters are too friendly and stayed too close to me for me to take a good picture.


Most of my pictures were blurry and totally unusable.  Thank heavens for digital cameras rather than wasting film like in the "old days".  I did get one okay picture, above, but I nearly cut off one rooster's head, and we know chickens are not too keen about having their heads cut off!

I tried for more pictures but mostly got blurry images of them running back and forth in front of the camera.
In fact of the dozen or so pictures only two were not blurry, here is the other.


This is kind of cute as it shows how cute chicken rumps are.  I think a cat walked past the enclosure and got their attention for a moment.

I will try to get more pictures in the next week or so, and of course later when their tail feathers get longer and more showy, by then I am sure they will be out free ranging and eating lots of grass hoppers! 

It is nice that these roosters are friendly, we hope they stay friendly and do not become aggressive.