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.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Is it Time to Sell The Sheep?

My husband and I have been keeping sheep since buying the 10 acre hobby farm.  The sheep are important as they do keep the grass chewed down and as such they prevent it from becoming a fire hazard.  In the fall tall dry grass is a real concern, but equally so are the risks in the spring, in fact a farm near us had a big fire caused by a fire in their burn barrel that got out of control.  As far as I know they lost their house, barn, and garage.

As such getting totally out of sheep is out of the question, but we are toying with the idea of selling all the lambs and the younger ewes and not getting a ram this fall.

This last winter was very hard on me physically.  Not only did we have a ridiculous amount of snow to deal with this winter but my back went out on two occasions and I could hardly move for days.  We lost 4 lambs over the winter, which really was not too bad considering the winter we had.

Mrs Dark Brown Barbado and her lamb

Some of our ewes are getting older, particularly Diamond, who was one of our first ewes, and Mrs Dark Brown Barbado, who we bought at auction very early on.  It is time they got a break from having lambs.
As such what I am thinking is to sell the lambs and the younger ewes, keeping the older ones and just letting them have a "retirement home" more or less.

I will still have to buy hay and oats for them in the winter, and will no longer have the benefit of selling lambs to offset the costs of feeding them, it will will still be some work, but less worry.

So I have the summer ahead to consider what to do with my sheep.  My daughter thinks it would be great to get horses instead, and while I would love horses, they are not exactly cheap. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

What a Crazy Winter on the Farm

It has been an exhausting winter.

We had more snow fall this winter than we have had in years, it set records, and people started wondering where they were going to put all the show every time they shoveled.  Our truck was completely buried under the snow for most of the winter.

We were lucky to have such great neighbors, one was driving by taking some hay to his cattle up the road and saw us with our pathetic shovels and on his way back he cleared the drive and parking area with his tractor.   When the next massive snowfall happened, he did it again.  Another neighbor had a smaller snowplow and did our driveway a couple of different times too.  We gave them both gift certificates to go out for a good meal.

Our bird aviary under snow, partway through winter.
The snow made life pretty rotten for the sheep too.  Normally, even in the winter, they wander around most of the pasture, making trails in the snow, but this year the snow was so deep they never ventured off their one trail that went to the barn, shelter, water trough, and feeding area.

We had 18 lambs born, but 4 died, so we have 14 lambs remaining.  

I hurt my back twice, partially due to the shoveling, but also due to having to do excessive heavy lifting at "work".  I think the excessive cold weather may have also contributed to my bad back.

Right now I am rethinking breeding the sheep this fall.  Some of our ewes are getting older and we do not really have a place to keep them separated so they would not get bred if we had a ram.  As they are more like "pets" I do not have the heart to get rid of them, other than the lambs which we would sell anyhow.

Diamond and her triplets, all survived.

By some miracle the donkey is fatter than ever...

Here it is, nearly the end of April, and there is still snow on the ground in places, and lots of runoff.

So now we are all hoping for a glorious spring, we need it.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Katahdin Hair Sheep Ram Cross

Rams, male sheep, are sexually mature at five months of age.  They are not physically mature for another six to twelve months, as some sheep breeds grow faster than others.

Katahdins are relatively slow growing sheep, the rams mature slowly in terms of their physical size and appearance.  By the time they are a year they are pretty impressive, but at the age of two they can be quite stunning.  I remember at one auction a 4 year old Katahdin ram entered the ring and people gasped as so few had seen anything like it, he looked like a miniature cow, wide nose, strong appearance, and he was brown too. 

6 month old Katadhin cross ram. 


This (photo above) is a young Katahdin cross ram, he is not purebred, his mother is a Barbado hair sheep cross.   Hair sheep have many advantages and they are becoming more and more popular in the United States and Canada, where wool is generally not as valuable as it was even 20 years ago.  The photo gives you a good idea of how hair sheep look in the winter - as he does have a thicker coat.  He is only 6 months old in this picture and will get a longer mane as he gets older.

You can see his tail is a bit shorter than the natural tail of a wool sheep breed. Hair sheep do have shorter tails, and they are less likely to become dirty with feces.




Hair sheep do not need their tails docked, do not need to be sheared, are more parasite resistant and there are claims that their meat tastes superior, even in older animals.  I personally do not eat lamb or mutton, this is just what I have heard and read.

I try not to treat the rams as "pets" as I find if they are too friendly they can also become dangerous.   I like my ewes to be tame and friendly, but if a ram is a little bit scared of me that is okay!