Saturday, December 5, 2015

What You Did Not Know About Black Beauty

Most horse lovers know the story about Black Beauty.  The story is about a horse who changed owners many times, some cruel, some kind, and eventually finds his way back to his original owner where he has a good life for his final days.

There is a lot more about the story that people do not know, there is a story behind the story.

Anna Sewell wrote Black Beauty over the years 1871 and 1877, it was the only book she ever wrote, and she died shortly after it was published.

As a young girl Anna had a fall on her way to school, injuring her ankles.  She was not treated correctly and left permanently crippled as a result.  She frequently traveled about in a horse drawn carriage which started her love for horses and also allowed her to see the cruel ways many of the carriage horses were treated on the streets of England.

One of the first improvements to animal welfare credited to the story of Black Beauty was an improvement to the horse drawn taxi licensing and fare system worked as previously the license fees were so high it forced taxi owners to work their horses long hours, and many days.  Another change was in doing away with the over use of the “bearing rein” or overcheck, as it is now known as, which at that time was often so over used that it made breathing difficult for the horses.

cover of Black Beauty book
Black Beauty was written differently than most books of the time; the tale was narrated by its main character, who happened to be a horse. His breed is never mentioned, but is often assumed to be Thoroughbred.

Black Beauty was born on a quaint farm but his life takes on many turns as he passes through hands of both good owners, and bad.  Along the way Beauty also meets many horse friends, including Ginger, a horse who has had a bad life.

Interestingly enough Black Beauty was not written as a children’s book.  While it was written with the intent to showcase cruelty to animals it was also Anna's desire to showcase cruelty of people towards other people, as Anna herself had been teased following her own injury.  Black Beauty was originally written as a book for adults.

Some of the issues of cruelty to horses mentioned in the book were, as mentioned, over use by taxi drivers, the bearing rein, tail docking, steeplechases, hiring horses out to people who did not know how to handle them, dangers of putting away a hot and sweaty horse, running horses on cobblestone (hard streets), and so forth.

Black Beauty, the book, also inspired other books to encourage awareness of animal cruelty issues, such as Beautiful Joe, about a dog.




Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Basic Guide for Hunters in North America

This is a basic guide on some of the animals that a hunter may encounter in Canada or the United States which should not be shot.  This article is meant primarily for awareness and is mostly directed at hunters who come out from the city and are less familiar with common livestock and farm animals.

These are cows and calves


Cattle are large, they have a fairly rectangular look to them, they are much larger than deer, and are not quite as tall as moose.  Cattle tend to gather in herds.  Cattle come in different colors, brown, black, white, and all sorts of combinations of color.

Full sized horse and miniature horse


Horses are large, but ponies are smaller.  They have a slightly rounder shape than cattle do.  They are often in herds but not always as some people might just keep a single horse. Horses come in many colors.  Horses tend to me less afraid of people than cattle are, but they might run from strangers. 

Similar looking animals include mules and donkeys.

This is a hair sheep




Sheep and goats are small.  They sometimes have horns.  They can be many colors and are nearly always in herds or flocks.  Most sheep distrust people and will run if approached but goats can be friendlier in some cases.

Click here to read about the most popular breeds of sheep in the USA.







2 Llamas and an alpaca
Llamas and alpacas have smaller bodies, long legs, and a long neck.  Farmers sometimes keep them to guard sheep or goats.  They come in many colors and could easily be mistaken for a deer when grazing, but they tend to have thicker coats.




Recently just north of me a hunter shot and killed a child's pony.  Every year there are stories about hunters shooting cattle by mistake, or other farm animals.  There is really no need for this.  If you cannot see an animal clearly enough to identify it, you should not be shooting in the first place.

Also note that in most areas if you are hunting on farm land you must have the farmer's permission.  You cannot hunt from the road, nor close to a road, and you cannot hunt after dark.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Best Places to Sell Sheep

I have only had sheep for just over 10 years and learned a lot about buying and selling them in that time.

When we bought our first sheep we found them for sale in an advertisement in the local newspaper, and as such that was our first thought when it came to selling them.

Selling sheep via advertisements in the newspaper is not something I would recommend, and we stopped doing it after a couple of tries.  This might work in some areas, but even though the newspaper went to all rural homes in the area, it did not really pan out for us with great results, and there is always a fee involved and no sale guaranteed.

We soon found auctions for buying and selling livestock.  I am in Alberta, and there are several auctions where a person can buy or sell sheep.  The odd and unusual auctions are twice a year in my area and are closer to me than the bigger livestock action in which sheep are sold by weight.  At the odd and unusual livestock auctions all sorts of livestock are sold, everything from chickens to bison.  The animals are sold individually, by the animal itself, not by weight.  As such you never know what the prices will be like and I have (regrettably) had good, young, sheep sell for under $100.

Sheep at the Innisfail auction

What has proven to be good is selling online.  At first I used a Canadian site, kijiji.ca and had sold several sheep this way.  The main problems I encountered with kijiji was that it took ages to get a sale.  You would post the ad then it might be a week before a seller would contact you.  They often would try to talk me down in price even though I set my prices low (typically below market value as I wanted fast sales on the ram lambs as I had no where to separate them from their mothers).  Most of the buyers I found on kijiji were people looking for meat sheep.

Selling at auction means you know your sheep will be sold that day, but you do not know the price, and you have to pay commission.  Selling online means you can set your price but have no idea when your sheep will sell.

Then my daughter encouraged me to try selling the sheep via Facebook groups.  Wow, we had some bottle baby lambs one winter and within minutes of her posting them for sale on Facebook we had interested buyers.  As with selling on kijiji, buyers sometimes asked for a lower price, but not always.  I found more of the buyers on Facebook were hobby farmers, like myself, who just wanted a few sheep for pets, 4H, or lawn control.

Overall if you have some sheep to sell I would suggest listing them online first, with plans on taking them to an auction later if you are unable to sell them online and need them gone by a certain date.  I would rather sell online for a lower price than have to drive to an auction (consider your time, gas, commission, and so forth) and not know what price I might get.

Other Reading
The Innisfail Odd and Unusual Auctions

Friday, September 18, 2015

Do Ducks Make Good Pets?

When people think of pets, “ducks” are not typically one of the first things they think of but many people enjoy keeping ducks as pets.



Ducks are considered to be waterfowl and are less aggressive than geese. There are whistling ducks and “other ducks” with the “other ducks” being divided into three groups; diving, dabbling (surface birds), and perching ducks. Most pet ducks (other than the Muscovy which originated from perching ducks) derived from the Mallard duck, which comes from the diving group.



Ducks are noted to being beneficial to their owners not just for providing eggs, but more so for controlling insect pests, such as flies, slugs, ticks, and so forth. Muscovy ducks are probably one of the best to use around the garden for pest control. Other ducks are often kept as ornamental birds, or show birds.



One interesting thing about ducks is that it is the female who is the noisy one; males make a quieter raspy sound, while females quack loudly. Some duck breeds, such as the Call duck, tend to be noisier than others, with Muscovy ducks noted for being the quietest.



As with all types of pets, certain duck breeds are friendlier than others, with Rouen ducks being noted for being calm and Pekin known for being more nervous. Ducks that were hatched in incubators and held at an early age may be imprinted on humans, and thus be a better “pet” than naturally hatched ducklings, but ducks soon learn that you bring them food and can become quite friendly. Hand raised ones can even come to enjoy sitting on a lap or being carried around. Certain breeds are more likely to fly away so most owners do clip their wings or keep them in covered aviaries.

Four Call Duck, Duckings



The main thing with ducks is that they long for water to swim in (Muscovy ducks a bit less) and actually require access to clean drinking water at all times, in fact they can get very sick if they are without water for even a few hours. They tend to be messy with their drinking water, often spilling it.
There are commercial duck food rations available for them but if given enough space they will eat vegetation and insects and wont require other food except perhaps through the winter, but feeding them a ration once a day does help keep them tame and friendly.

Obviously ducks are not legal as pets everywhere, in fact most cities won't allow them as pets (even if they do allow chickens). Always check your area's by-laws before getting any unusual animal as a pet. Speak to your veterinarian about health concerns for ducks in your area.



I have only kept Call ducks as pets and we quite enjoyed them. We let them lay eggs and hatch ducklings. We did learn (the hard way) that until they are 3-4 days old, ducklings can get water-logged and can drown. Other than that we had good experiences with the ducks, but they were more work, and messier, than chickens.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Taking Pictures of Donkeys

If you own a donkey you know the same thing that every other donkey owner knows... they are nearly impossible to photograph unless you have help!

Donkeys are very curious and if raised well they are also very personable.  If you are trying to photograph a donkey that does not know you it will try to get to know you, getting impossibly close to your camera.  Even if the donkey knows you it will get up close and personal, looking for snacks, pats, or just saying "hello".

She would be even closer if she was not behind the fence!
I have deleted more pictures of donkey noses than anything as my donkey, Aggie, always wants to sniff the camera just to see if it is edible. She is cute though!

In all seriousness if you want to take a picture of your donkey one of the best solutions is to have a friend help you.  The friend can either hold the donkey on a halter and lead and keep it a reasonable distance from the camera, or they can use themselves as "donkey bait" standing just off camera but having the donkey focus on them so you can get your camera in a better position for picture taking.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

How to Stop Hens from Eating their Eggs

Recently we got 6 laying hens from an auction. We separated them, leaving 3 in a large enclosure for the purpose of producing eggs, and giving the other ones to a rooster for the purpose of raising chicks.

In the past we have never had any issues with the hens.  We either had them produce eggs, or raise chicks, no issues at all.

This year, something seemed wrong.  First of all it was ages before we got our first egg and it did seem that we were not getting as many eggs.  Odder still was that the hens with the rooster were not laying eggs at all.

Finally I found one egg in with the hens and the rooster.  Yeah!  I got excited, however after two days the egg disappeared.  I looked around to make sure no predators had gotten into the enclosure.  Then a few days later I found another egg, but it too disappeared after a couple of days.  By now I was suspecting they were eating the eggs.

When chickens egg their own eggs there is no evidence, they even eat the shell. 

A good hen, rooster, and their family!
I tried to combat this by offering them more oyster shell, and also by placing fake eggs in their nesting boxes.  It seemed to do the trick as a couple of days later I found an egg, but not long after that, it disappeared too, so I know they ate that one as well.

Another suggestion was to empty a couple of eggs and then fill them with Tabasco sauce or something spicy, but I have not done that.

The only other suggestions would be to remove the eggs sooner and put them in an incubator but we do not have one, or to take the chickens and make them into soup, which is not going to happen either.

At least we did get a few eating eggs from the other hens, as long as I check them early for eggs I typically find some, but I suspect they are also eating eggs if they are left too long as would be on the days we leave early for work and get home later.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

High Pressure Tactics Used By Livestock Buyers

When many people think of high pressure sales techniques they think of the techniques that sellers use to pressure people into buying things, or into paying a high price.  In my experience selling sheep I have actually encountered a few buyers who use pressure to try to get me to lower the price.

Of course typically I will lower the price a bit on sheep from time to time, but what I am talking about is when I have already negotiated a price and the buyer then comes up with some reason why I should lower it further.

I had one jerk that I actually did let myself get bullied by several years ago.  It was winter.  One of my ewes had got herself stuck in a feed trough and died, leaving two orphaned lambs (about 2 weeks old).  Another ewe had rejected one of her lambs, so I had 3 bottle baby lambs in the middle of winter and I was working away from home at the time too.  It was simply too much work for me.  I had other ewes for sale at the time too because I was very short of cash and needed to pay some bills.  I had negotiated a price for all the sheep over the phone with a buyer.  He lived 2 hours away, and while he was on route to come and get the sheep I actually turned away other interested buyers because to me they were "sold".

When the guy got here he said that I should lower my price because he had to come from so far away.  Then he said I should lower my price because he thought 2 of the ewes were older than I had stated, which I know was false.  I had already caught all the sheep and put them in a pen ready to go.  Catching and separating sheep is a lot of work, not something I wanted to do again.  I did not keep the phone numbers of the other buyers, I was at a loss.  So I gave in.  I was furious at myself for allowing him to bully me like that.

Just recently I had another potential buyer call about the sheep I currently have for sale.  He too tried to bully me.  I only have 3 lambs for sale at this time and he said that since he had to come from far away I needed to make it worth his trip so should lower my prices.  To note I had already offered the three sheep as a package deal for a price lower than if a person bought them individually.  Then he said I needed to sell more sheep to make it worth his trip.   Needless to say, this time I as firm with the guy and said "NO".

I really do not mind being fair to other people, offering a reasonable price, but it is not my fault if a buyer lives far away.  It does not lower the value of my sheep if a buyer lives father away.  I just do not like bullies!