Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What Dog Breeds are Best for Herding?

There are many dog breeds used for herding sheep, goats, cattle, and other livestock. Typically these dogs are very intelligent and do not always make ideal house pets because of their love of “work”.
Certain breeds of dogs used for herding are more popular in some areas than in others.

Border Collie


Border collies are one of the most popular herding dogs. They are highly intelligent and have a real desire to please. Movie fans will recognize this breed from the film “Babe” (the talking pig). 

They are sleek dogs with medium length hair. The most popular color for a border collie is black with white, however they can also be tri-colored or brown and white. They stand about knee high. Border collies always have an alert look in their eye, as though they are always looking for cues. If not used for herding, they enjoy agility.

Australian Cattle Dog


Also known as red heelers or blue heelers (according to their color), these dogs are tough and robust. Nipping at the heels of livestock is very much discouraged in other breeds of herding dog (such as the border collie), but the Australian Cattle dog was originally bred to nip at the heels of livestock as part of its herding behavior. Although this is not as common as it was, some dogs will still nip at running kids, or other pets.
These dogs did originate in Australia and were the product of herding dogs crossed with a few dingoes.

Welsh Corgi

photo from wikimedia commons


Welsh corgies are sometimes referred to as “The Queen's Dog” because of Queen Elizabeth's love of Pembroke Welsh corgis. The other type of Welsh corgi is the Cardigan Welsh corgi. The difference between the two is mainly that the Pembroke does not have a tail and is slightly smaller. Welsh corgis were bred to be short so they can avoid getting kicked by an angry cow or steer.

German Shepherd

©B Nelson - German Shepherd dog


Once a popular herding dog the German Shepherd is now more often used as a police, or personal protection dog. In fact most people no longer associate them with being herding dogs despite it being part of their name. 

Of course there are other collie breeds, the Shetland sheep dog, and many other dog breeds which are also popular for herding. Herding breeds should all be considered fairly intelligent and good for people who have lots of time to keep their dog mentally stimulated if not using it for herding.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Breeds of Sheep whose Wool is Used for Carpets

When we look at the kind of wool sheep have there are 4 main types, of course this is not counting the hair sheep.

Of the wool sheep there are those such as the Merino and Rambouillete who produce fine wool; wool with a diameter under 30 microns. There are long wool sheep such as the Lincoln and Romney. There are the medium wool sheep, who are also meat, such as the Dorset, Suffolk, Texel, and Hampshire, and then there are the carpet wool sheep such as the Scottish Blackface, Navajo Churro, Icelandic, Elliotdale, Carpetmaster, Drysdale, Awassi, and Karakul. Certain breeds of sheep are more popular in certain areas.

The carpet wool sheep tend to have wool that has a diameter greater than 38 microns. The wool is considered too coarse for clothing but is perfect for carpets. The sheep that produce this coarse wool often have thicker double coats, and live in cold climates.

Some people may wonder if collecting wool from a sheep for the purpose of making a carpet is cruel, but it is not as cruel as you might think. Wool is sheared from a sheep not only so we can collect it but also so the sheep do not overheat in the summer. A heavy coat of wool on an animal in the summer can cause heat stroke. Removing the wool also helps the farmer identify any problems with external parasites (keds). 

Occasionally a sheep may be nicked in the process of shearing but a good shearer is fast and does not cause undue stress, or injury, to the animals. 

In contrast a “sheepskin rug” is when the sheep is actually killed and skinned for its pelt.

The fleece that is sheared from a sheep is washed and can be dyed 

If you are looking for a carpet be sure to check Carpetvista, with over 15,000 carpets, and roughly 2,000 added each month you are sure to find the right carpet for you. Their prices are great and they have a 30 day money back guarantee. 

Carpetvista is located in Sweden but they sell affordable quality carpets throughout Europe – prices are indicated in Euros.

Handmade carpets probably originated in central Asia and are now best sold under the name of the area in which the carpet was made or by which group of people made the carpet (example a Persian rug).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Disappointing Pictures of Lambs

Well I guess the title is a bit of a giveaway!

A couple of days ago the weather was good so I went to take some pictures of the sheep. There were two images I really wanted to capture, one being the difference in the coat of a wool lamb and a hair lamb, and the other was a picture of Diamond's twins (born on October 17) and Girlie's triplets (born onOctober 8) to show how much bigger Diamond's lambs are.

I was able to get one picture of a wool lamb and a hair lamb but the picture won't be winning any awards for cute lambs because I was never able to get them close together until they were walking away from me. These two are twins, their mother, Blackie sheep is part wool but has a bit of hair sheep in her too. The father is a hair sheep. You can see the lamb with more white inherited more genes for the hair coat, while the other lamb inherited genes for wool, and his coat is much shorter, and the poor guy has a harder time with the colder days.

The other planned picture of Diamond's big lambs next to Girlie's smaller lambs did not happen, the sheep were not cooperative. Diamond is a larger ewe but I think there were also other reasons why her lambs are so massive; she produces the most milk of any of our sheep, and with her lambs being twins it is normal they would be larger than triplets. I think Diamond may have been over due too. The white lamb is the ram lamb and he is bigger than the black ewe lamb.

At any rate I was a bit disappointed with my photography that day, but as the weather has turned worse (today was –12 C with a bitter wind) I will not be going out to take more pictures for a little while.

For my friends and readers in the United States I wish to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. If you are a pet owner I want to share with you this link to awesome BlackFriday shopping specials and deals from many companies. Some of these deals start now, and others are good until December, while a few are strictly for the Black Friday weekend and Cyber Monday (all dates are indicated).

Monday, November 19, 2012

Where to Buy Quality Cashmere Online

Cashmere is a fabric made from the fibers produced by certain goats. Cashmere producing goats originated in the Kashmir area of the Himalayas. The goats are not a breed, as a few breeds of goats do produce this fiber, however of the goats that produce cashmere very little is produced, in fact an average cashmere producing goat might only produce about one quarter, to one third, of a pound of cashmere fibers per year.

Those people who are concerned with animal welfare will be happy to know that cashmere is removed from the animals without killing them or hurting them, it can be removed by trimming their hair, or using a special brush, as normally these hairs shed around the time of the winter solstice. 

Cashmere is graded for quality, with Grade A being considered to be the very finest. Grade A cashmere is when the individual fibers measure 14 – 15.5 microns in diameter and as such is very soft. Because they are so fine cashmere fibers are usually not spun by machine and are hand spun instead.

Cashmere is then made into yarn and then can be made into anything from sweaters, to baby blankets, throws, robes, scarves, and so on. The term Pashmina is often interchanged with Cashmere, and is sometimes specifically used to refer to shawls and wraps made from cashmere. Sometimes the term Pashmina has been used loosely to refer to soft shawls in general with no regards to what fibers are actually used.

Consumers looking for products made from only Grade A cashmere will be delighted with the selection from Cashmere Boutique. Additionally when a product from Cashmere Boutique says “pashmina” you know it is referring honestly to the fibers of a goat.

Cashmere Boutique has many cashmere products and are a favorite of women looking for luxurious feeling clothing, however cashmere is not just for women. Cashmere Boutique has a line of sweaters and coats for men too. They are on trend with all the latest styles and colors to put you on top of the fashion world. Cashmere Boutique even has super soft socks and slippers.

Some of the fashion items from Cashmere Boutique have silk added to make a lighter weight product. These items are always labeled as Cashmere silk blends.

Because they specialize in Cashmere, and only use Grade A cashmere, you know you are getting a wonderful product when you order from Cashmere Boutique.

Keep your cashmere in good condition by hand washing and laying it flat to dry. You can also have cashmere dry cleaned. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lambs at Play on a Wintery Day

With winter underway (although technically it is still fall), the lambs are out in the snow, growing and having fun.  I am bringing them in the barn only at night so the moms can get extra oats and the little lambs are safe.

We did have a horrid cold snap a week ago along with a good amount of snow, but this week temperatures have been warmer - I even got out with the camera.

Here we see Girlie and her triplets that were born in October on Canadian Thanksgiving.  At first I had been worried that the black lambs might not be getting enough milk to drink because at first they were smaller than the white ewe lamb but after a few weeks it seemed the tables turned and one day I had to bring the white ewe lamb into the house and bottle feed her.

 I returned her to the barn that night and over the next couple of days I continued to bottle feed her, then I noticed one of the black lambs was also not looking good.  For a few days I was bottle feeding two of them.  Then suddenly the white lamb started refusing the bottle, for days I tried to feed her and she refused - the black lamb was fine and insisting on his bottle.  I was quite concerned about the white one so started putting her in a stall by herself with lamb starter crumble so she could eat it without being pushed out of the way by the larger lambs (we have 2 sets of twins born after her but they are larger).

As it is now I am just bottle feeding the black lamb twice a day, the other black lamb is fine on his own, and the white one simply refuses the bottle but is eating lamb starter twice a day.  She is now the smallest of the triplet lambs but is otherwise looking healthy overall.

To note - you can tell if a lamb is doing poorly and needs bottle feeding because it will often stand humped up.   If you think your lamb (or any pet) needs veterinarian attention  you can ask a veterinarian for free help by clicking the logo above.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How to Help a Horse Gain Weight

One problem for some horses is keeping weight on.

If you have rescued a thin horse, or your mare is having a hard time putting on weight after having a foal, or you have a performance horse that just cannot keep weight on, or you have an older thin horse, there are some things that can help.

Typically people try to help their horse gain weight by offering it more feed, and while this can help it wont always do the trick. Additionally some horses are prone to colic by eating too much grain and others just become too “hot” when their grain ration is increased.

Arab mare and foal
You should worm the horse and make sure its teeth are in good condition. A horse with poor teeth may need them to be “floated” which is where the sharp edges on teeth are sanded down by a veterinarian.

Additionally you should be aware of some supplements for helping your horse to gain weight. sells a large range of supplements including those for thin horses. One of their most popular products is Farnam Weight Builder. Below we will look at some of the top products for helping horses to gain weight and stay in shape as sold by

Farnam Weight Builder for horses provides horses with extra protein, fat calories, fiber, and minerals. Not only does it help a horse to gain weight but it improves their skin and coat too.

Start to Finish Cool Calories 100 is specially formulated to add more energy to a performance horse without making the horse become high strung. This is a product that many Olympic riders feed to their horses and recommend to others.

AniMed Weight-Up offers additional support beyond just adding calories to your horse's diet. It contains healthy bacteria to improve your horse's digestion. This is a great product for all horses and particularly those who may have had issues with malnutrition.

These three feed supplements for horses are just a small sampling of the many products available for weight issues in horses from (or at your local feed store).

If you are a horse owner, or somebody involved in horse rescue, and weight issues are a concern for you, then I encourage you to worm your horse, examine its teeth and consider adding a supplement to your horse's feed, such as those mentioned above from To help you out here is a link you can click on free shipping (or use the above banner link for discounts and other savings).

Also with if you sign up for “Autoship” you receive a 10% savings bonus on your orders.

To see the foal in the picture as she grew up read her story here.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Deer Almost Trapped in a Bird Aviary

A few summers ago my husband built two starplate aviaries for us to use to keep pet birds in.  We have used the aviaries for ducks, pheasants, and pigeons.  This past fall we sold the pigeons and since then the aviaries were left open, I figured the cats would enjoy going in there.  I never bothered to clean out the last of the pigeon feed as I thought that eventually chickadees and other birds would come along and eat it up the seeds.

I did not expect to see a deer eating the bird seed though.

That was until a few days ago when we had a small snow fall and in the early evening my husband happened to notice there was a deer in one of the aviaries.  We often have deer visit in the winter, they come to steal the hay.  However it appeared this particular deer somehow realized there was oats and seeds in the shelter left over from the pigeons and she was standing in the aviary eating quite happily.

The deer was aware of us watching her, but we were in the house, and she clearly was not worried about us, I got worried though.

I know horses can get founder from eating too many oats when they are not use to it, and once had a lamb swell up after getting into the chicken scratch and eating a handful (the lamb lived), so I was concerned that deer might have problems too.  I chased her away.

The deer was a white tailed deer as that is what is common in the area.  Sorry for the poor photo quality, my husband took the picture from inside the house.  

Get $20 Off Any Order $150 Or More At Today! Use Code PFDSAVE20!

Other Reading

How to Keep Deer Out of your Garden

Monday, November 5, 2012

How to Keep Cats Warm in the Winter

Domestic cats came from Africa and Asia, although they can tolerate the cold it can take its toll on a cat.  Learn some tips for keeping your outdoor cat warm this winter.

Cats can get frostbite, their ears and tail are the most likely places to suffer from this.  The cat, Binx, whom was left here after his owners moved away had suffered frostbite at some point as the tips of his ears were missing.  Even large animals such as horses have lost their ears due to frostbite so you can only imagine what it could to to the thin ears of an outdoor kitty cat.

Old cats, and of course the very young, are particularly vulnerable to the cold.  In the old cats they also have aches and pains due to arthritis, and they really need to be kept warm because the cold weather makes their pains worse. For these cats a heated cat bed can really help.

Cats who are outside in the winter need extra food, they should not be on a restricted diet.

I have couple of cats who stay outdoors in the winter, they have a warm barn and several other outbuildings they can go into, but I have run into a few problems with feeding these cats.  It is a good idea to leave dry food out at all times, but I have had skunks come and eat their food at night, and blue jays steal their food in the day.  As such I have had to find a few places to leave cat food where neither the skunk nor the jays can find it.   I have some cat food in a stall in the barn, and some on a ledge in the garage, as well as the bowl on the deck that I can take in at night.

When it gets very cold outdoor cats benefit from the extra energy that canned food can give them.  Try to give them a little bit every day when it is cold out.

If your cats are outdoors in the winter and you do not have warm outbuildings for them to go into you can get a small dog house and the cats will use that, be sure to put down straw or towels to add warmth, or consider getting a heated blanket for outdoor use.

Also make sure your outdoor cats have fresh water as they should not be made to eat snow.  You can buy electric heated water bowls to make sure your cats stay hydrated.

Keep your cats warm all year with Heated Cat Beds! Low Prices & Free Shipping!

Monday, October 22, 2012

New Lambs and a Heart Attack on the Farm

As you may recall, fall is not the normal (or best) time for lambs to be born. However that is what my husband and I have been going through for the past few weeks. Although Diamond sheep was the biggest, Girlie had her lambs first, and then Blackie did. Thank heavens it was only the three ewes that got bred in the spring, but we still were waiting for Diamond sheep.

On Wednesday, October17, Diamond had twins. My husband found them outside in the afternoon and got them into the barn (they were in a shelter in the pasture). She had one large white lamb with black tips on his ears, nose, and legs, as well as a slightly smaller, but still large, black lamb. 

My husband had to pick me up from work that day and upon returning home I went out to see the lambs and sex them; the smaller black one was a female, and the larger white one was a male. I was putting the tarps back on the bales of hay, as they had blown off, and my husband came out to say he suddenly was not feeling well. It had been such a good day and this puzzled him, I told him to go inside and I would finish with the tarps.

When I came in from fixing the tarps my husband said he still did not feel well and actually thought he was having lung problems from the wind, but asked to go to the hospital, about 40 minutes away.

When we got to the hospital they said it was a heart attack and that he would be sent to a hospital in Edmonton (over 1 hour away) by Ambulance.

To make a long story short, the hospital determined that his heart attack was probably stress related and not due to diet or other things. But what I must point out here is a warning to all readers. My husband was able to walk around and talk while in pain. My daughter was puzzled saying “That cannot be a heart attack because on television the heart attack person cannot walk.” This is very true and a problem in that many people do not think they are having heart attacks when they are.

Many people can even continue working after having a heart attack only to drop dead later. If you experience chest pain it should be taken seriously and women are at risk too. Do not assume a heart attack is like what you see on television, tv goes for the dramatic.  In life a heart attack may be only a sharp chest pain, my husband thought it was his lungs.

My husband made a great recovery and was just released on Sunday, however his hospitalization delayed me from being able to share the pictures of Diamond's lambs until now.
Both her lambs are already bigger than those born earlier, Diamond was so big we thought she was having triplets for sure (as she often has in the past). 

Her white lamb is plenty spunky, but her black lamb and week fetlock joints in her front legs making it hard for her to stand and walk. I spent a few minutes daily stretching these joints out (and my daughter did too) and today she is showing great improvement and is eager to play... too bad it snowed!

*Update - the lamb's fetlocks are now strong and they are going outside for the day.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Blackie Gives Birth to Twin Lambs that Look Like Calves

A few days ago Girlie gave birth to triplets. The next two days it snowed and we were quite concerned as we knew Diamond and Blackie were also due.

Normally it is best if sheep lamb in the spring, or at least later in the winter, but this spring we had an incident and did not quite get rid of our ram when we should have and he happened to breed three of the ewes while they still had their lambs with them from this past spring. We were not aware of this until a few weeks ago when it was quite clear that three ewes were getting udders.  Diamond was the largest.

On Monday, October 8, Canadian Thanksgiving, one of these ewes, Girlie, had triplets. The next couple of days were bad as the weather turned nasty and we even got snow. Today it rained. I was at work when half way through the day my daughter called to say that Blackie sheep (who had been a bottle baby lamb a few years earlier) had twins.  

My daughter said that one was a male (ram lamb) and one was female (ewe lamb) and that they were spotted and looked like cows.  The male has wooly hair and the female has more silky hair.  The female has more white than the male. 

My daughter said she knew there were some lambs because she could see Crystal, the llama, standing near the old barn with her head trying to poke into the barn. Crystal loves lambs, whenever there are new lambs she wants to get near and smell them. My daughter picked up the two lambs and carried them to the proper barn (where Girlie and her triplets have been kept indoors because her triplets are tiny and the weather is cold), Blackie followed well, which is good, sometimes the ewes panic and run around looking for the lambs.

When I got home from work I saw them, my husband tried to get some good pictures but the lambs were a little nervous. They are four days younger these two new lambs are larger than the triplets. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Surprise Triplets Born on Canadian Thanksgiving

In my last blog post I mentioned we just got a ram for the fall breeding season and had suspected some of our ewes were already pregnant... well as it turns out we were right!

Canadian Thanksgiving was October 8, 2012. Thankfully I had the day off work. Just days before we had got our new ram as normally sheep come into heat in the fall and mate to produce lambs in the spring. In the last month though I have been observing that three of our ewes appeared pregnant. I suspected they had been bred in the spring before our last ram was sold, while they still had their lambs with them.

Sure enough on Thanksgiving day one of the ewes gave birth, not just to one or two lambs, she had triplets. Earlier in the day I had seen the sheep and was just about to go looking for her as it appeared she was not with them, but she was there, just a bit behind everyone else, so I gave it no more thought. Then later that day I went out to check the sheep and noted her missing. I saw all the others, so went to the barn to look for the missing ewe (her name is Girlie). I found Girlie in the old barn with two lambs (one black, one white) standing at her side and a third one (black) laying down. 

 Even though it is fall and the weather is okay (breezy but not as cold as winter) I did not want to leave them in that barn overnight. Small lambs are an easy target for coyotes and some have been coming around to get our crab apples (and possibly even killed a cat a week earlier). The old barn is small, leans to one side and does not have a door. Instead I picked them up and their momma followed me to the newer barn (which is still old, but at least it has a door, and proper stalls). I put them into a stall that as coincidence had it I had just prepared the day earlier in expectation of fall lambs.

My daughter came out to help dry the lambs off (in the top photo) and make sure all were doing well. We gave them water, hay, and then came back inside where my husband had our Thanksgiving dinner ready and waiting.

Further reading

Supplies needed for Lambing

How to Care for Newborn Lambs

One down.. two more to go.. and today it is snowing (lightly - but windy).

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It is Fall, Time to Get a Ram

Normally rams are only put with ewes for breeding and as we do not have enough space to keep rams separate from the ewes we do not keep them and instead buy one in the fall and sell him in the spring (or sooner if we have a buyer).

We had a bit of a problem this year, first we bought a truck to pull the trailer but when we went to hook it up we found that the connector for the trailer lights was different. When we got to the auction we found it had been canceled (the owner of the auction market was in hospital). 

So we phoned the guy we have gotten rams from in the past, and he said he had a nice one for us, but did warn us the ram was young, and small. We prefer rams with a bit of color or unusual markings and he did say this ram was well marked, being black and white. He is a Katahdin – Dorper cross. For those of you not familiar with these breeds, they are hair sheep, and will not grow a proper coat of wool but they do get thicker coats for winter.  

At one time we quite enjoyed having rams with horns, the horns made good handles, but we found sometimes the lambs would get their heads stuck in the fences because of the horns so now we prefer the polled rams - those without horns.

He brought the ram over in the evening and it was already dark so I called the other sheep over so he wouldn't be alone roaming the pasture and calling for friends. It was a cloudy night so the animals did not even have the moon to see each other. With my flashlight I could make out the donkey, llama, and sheep, as they greeted each other. Assured that the new ram would not go crashing through fences in the dark, I went to bed.

The next morning I was happy to see they had all bonded well. Last years ram took a few days to fit in.
Already this guy has made a pal, as he was hanging close to one of the Katahdins. Later I noticed that Mrs Dark Brown Barbado was hanging around with those two and almost in a motherly way seemed to be watching over him. I assume the Katahdin ewe is in heat and that is why he is with her.

An interesting note is that it looks like 3 of our ewes are already pregnant, we figure this must have happened back in May or June, just before we sold the ram. Sheep are pregnant for 5 months, so I expect anytime soon we will have new lambs. 

So it looks like it might be a busy winter, with some lambs born soon, and some born in March. I will keep you posted!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

About Keeping Chickens and Ducks Together

I have kept chickens, and have kept call ducks, but we did not keep them together, each was in its own pen.  The chickens were also free range - loose, but the ducks had duckings and we knew the cats would find that too tempting, so the ducks were kept in a large pen where the cats could not get in.

I often am asked if you can keep ducks and chickens together.  Many people want to do this year round, but more often it is a consideration for the winter as it is easier to have all outdoor animals together rather than going from pen to pen through deep snow.

One of the main considerations in regards to keeping ducks and chickens together is food. Ducks cannot have medicated chick starter.  The medication is toxic to ducks, so if you are feeding medicated chick starter or any medicated chicken feed, you cannot have ducks in the same enclosure.

Another concern is that ducks need water in order to eat their food.  They will often take a mouthful of food and dunk it in the water to soak it.  They do this because they do not have saliva.  This can make the water very messy for chickens to drink from.

Of course the other concern is that while ducks love to swim chickens cannot swim at all and will drown.  Even in a shallow pool chicken feathers can become waterlogged and will pull the chicken down if it cannot get out.  Ducks do not really "need" water for swimming, and in the winter when it is freezing cold they should not have water for swimming anyhow.

Aggressive roosters can be a concern too, sometimes aggressive drakes can be mean.  Always watch animals when putting them together.  Make sure you provide enough space so animals can get away from each other if they are being picked on.

Personally I would not recommend keeping ducks and chickens together in the same pen, as they are better off separate.

Shop for Farm & Ranch Supplies!

Other Reading

Feeding Ducks and Chickens

Supplies Needed for Keeping Backyard Chickens

Our Binxy Cat has Gone Missing Presumed Dead

Last week one of our farm cats went missing.

Binx was a farm cat left behind by his owners when they sold the property and moved away. We have no idea how old he was but we have had him at least seven years. He was neutered and we kept him vaccinated; but when we would let him into the house he sprayed (this was due to habit rather than urinary tract infection), and as such except on the coldest winter days he stayed outside. Of course he always had access to two small barns, and an old house, and a “dog house” we bought for the cats.  

Binx was an excellent mouser but of course we also keep him well fed.  At some point he must have lost the tip of one of his ears due to frost bite.  He was a little scruffy looking but had a charming gentle personality.

Binx at rest in the yard.

Binx was never one to roam, we have 10 acres and although he might walk to the bottom of the driveway we never saw him cross it. The road itself is very quiet, leading to a campground and a few houses.
As such we were very surprised last week when Binx went missing. 

I walked up and down the road in case he had been hit by a car.  Sometimes the cats like to hang out in the barns but when I went looking for him in the barns all I saw was a skunk (in the barn, it politely backed away from me). In the front of the yard however, I did find coyote feces. 

Although we have lots of trees and I would think Binx could easily climb one if he felt threated by coyotes, it remains a possibility that coyotes may have got him. I still have my doubts about this as the coyotes tend to come at night (to eat fallen crab apples) and Binx would usually be asleep in the barn then, especially as fall nights are chilly.

Another possibility is that an owl got him. Although we seldom see owls there was a great gray owl here in the summer. What a terrible image of a cat being carried away by a bird! If Binx was in the pasture this could have happened.

Perhaps a camper saw him on our driveway and picked him up. Indeed Binx is a very friendly cat. 

Raccoons have been known to kill cats but we do not have them here.  I know the skunk is harmless, we have had skunks here before and they even come onto the deck to nibble cat food without bothering the cats.

I went online to check my local shelter where lost rural cats are surrendered – in this case the Edmonton Humane Society, but no such luck.

It has now been a week since Binx went missing and I have to think he will not be back and is probably dead. Rest in peace Binxy you were a wonderful friend and much loved.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Making Money with Sheep or Not

When I was in College learning about horses, we had some speakers come to talk about how they got their start in the horse industry.  A couple of them mentioned sheep and how they made a lot of money with sheep and then did what they really wanted to do in terms of horses.

When my husband and I moved out to the farm we were told the previous owners of the property (10 acres) had kept 80 sheep.  That number seemed a bit high for the space and indeed we later learned the county rules were 3 sheep per acre.  We knew we needed some sheep at any rate as the pasture was over grown.  We got four sheep, then added six more, and a ram. 

When it came time to shear the sheep and sell their wool we looked forward to our new wealth, but soon learned a hard truth.  Apparently sheep wool was not nearly as valuable now as it was twenty years back when those people I mentioned had made their "fortune". 

Selling their lambs was another way to make money from sheep, but not coming from a "farming" background for the first few years we tried only to sell them privately to people who were looking for breeding stock - and I actually told people "They were already spoken for" when they called to inquire about lambs for butchering....

As time went by I did relax my rules and we sold lambs for higher prices, but still it was not anywhere near the point where we could quit our jobs and just live off the farm.

We thought about having a petting farm, but there were legal issues around insurance, you needed a public bathroom and area for kids to wash their hands.  Also we had concerns about kids chasing the animals and causing them stress, so we abandoned that idea.

We tried adding pheasants and other things to our little hobby farm but indeed none would make us wealthy and were actually just "hobbies".

In the winter, when it is too cold to go outside, I started a blog, I had heard that some bloggers made hundreds of dollars a month from their blog.  I don't think I have even made more than a dollar in week, but it is fun, I guess "sheep blogs" are just not that popular!

I found a few websites where a person can make a buck or two in their spare time.  I want to share them with you in case you also want to make a few dollars more in your spare time.

Triond - You write original articles and poems and they publish them, if you have Google Adsense you can get paid a bit more.  At one time they were paying quite well and I often made more than $100.00 per month, but times have changed and I now make considerably less.  Factual articles pay better than poetry. 

WebAnswers - You answer and ask questions posted by other users or "bots".  You are paid when somebody else views your answer.  This site allows you to link to Google Adsense after you have answered 50 questions - you are only paid on Open (green) questions and Red ones (those where you were awarded Best Answer).   Depending on how active you are and how good your answers are - you can make $100.00 or more per month, but your first months might not be that high. 

Knoji - This site is tricky to get started on but they pay well on certain things - such as writing company reviews and reports.  You must write original, factual, articles.

If you wish to join any site you can click the name of the site and can join via my referral, or you can go to the site and join on your own.  None have made me enough to live off of but they serve as a good way to make additional income when sitting around at home on the computer anyhow!

Other "Add-On" business ideas for farmers include having a farm Bed and Breakfast, corn maze, or going to farmers markets with things made in the winter months.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Angora Goats and Cashmere Goats

Angora Goats do not produce Angora wool, the super fluffy Angora rabbits do that, but Angora goats do produce a fiber, which is known as Mohair.  Angora goats are a specific breed of goat.  At one time they were pretty much only white in color, but in recent years people have begun breeding them in different colors.

The Angora goat originated in Turkey and as focus was mostly on the fiber production they are not a particularly hardy or prolific breed of goat, often having only one or two kids, and tending to be prone to parasites.
Angora Goat - photo from wikimedia

The fleece of an Angora goat grows fast, about one inch (2.5cm) per month and is sheared twice a year.  It is often used for blankets and sweaters.  Wethers (castrated male goats) tend to be the best producers of Mohair.

Cashmere Goats are more of a type of goat that produce hairs which are soft and often removed by brushing as they will eventually shed out.  The fiber itself is then called Cashmere.  There are over 60 breeds of goat which product Cashmere, including the Myotonic goats (fainting goats). 

The younger goats tend to produce the better Cashmere, which is often used to make scarfs, baby blankets, and so forth.
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About Goats

Goats are a bit more tricky to keep than sheep (that is one of the reasons we do not keep them) they tend to climb fences, or sneak under fences.  Goats are browsers and will nibble trees, shrubs, and flowers.

Goats are sexually mature around 5 months of age but it is best not to breed them until they are at least 8 months of age.  Gestation for a goat is 5 months.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Death of Favorite Sheep, Sadly Missed

Everyday thousands of sheep are slaughtered, destined for the meal table, or to become pet food. Nobody notices their lives. These sheep are born specifically to be killed. A few lucky ones will be used for breeding but they too are usually killed, shipped to slaughter later in life, very few sheep get to live their natural lifespan. Favorite sheep was a beloved pet, but her life was somewhat complicated by a problem, as such when she died, it was also premature, but at least it was not at a horrific slaughter house.

When we moved to the farm in 2005 we needed some sheep to keep the pasture grass down. It was May and the grass was already knee high. We decided to purchase four ewe lambs. We picked out the four we wanted from a larger flock of about 20. The seller delivered them to us (with two llamas) later that day. We agreed we would not name the sheep.

Fate had other plans; the lamb my daughter had picked out, became very friendly, she had a unique brown spot on her back which was why my daughter had chosen her from the flock. She was a Suffolk Dorset cross (as were all the lambs we bought that day), and because of her friendly nature she became my daughter's favorite sheep and was soon referred to as “Favorite”, which soon became her name; Favorite Sheep. The other lambs got names too, Diamond, Speckle, and Teardrop, all names relating to their appearance.

Favorite Sheep at a year old, before her stroke

Favorite sheep had a pretty good life, grazing on 10 acres, she had lambs. But one summer, she had a stroke. I had noticed one of her ears was floppy, and something was not quite right. I later realized she had suffered a stroke, her tongue hung out and she got a fat cheek as she would have problems eating and her food would build up inside her cheek. When sleeping she would have great globs fall out of her mouth. She had a constant smell bad; a result of food in her cheek and drooling.

That year we did not think she was pregnant, but she surprised us with lambs, lucky lambs in fact. It was January (in Canada) she had given birth and wandered off. My daughter and I happened to be going out to take pictures of other lambs and found them, still wet, one still in the sack, with temperatures below freezing they would have died if not for the timing. We realized it was Favorite sheep who had given birth, she had blood on her rump, but was not producing milk, so we had to bottle feed the lambs. We did put Favorite and her lambs in a stall together for bonding, and she did look after them as a mother, with the exception of being able to feed them. When we let them outside she kept them close to her.  We kept one of these lucky lambs, and named her Blackie.

Over the next couple of years we had make sure Favorite sheep had enough to eat especially in the winter, and had to watch her carefully at lambing. 

Most “farmers” would have culled (slaughtered) her long ago, but our sheep are more pets than livestock. Although she was a burden in some ways her sweet friendly personality was also treasured. As much as she was not the brightest sheep in the barn she still seemed to be the leader.

She had two more years of having lambs, twins each time, each time having one lamb with a spot on its back.

Favorite sheep with her 2011 lambs (after her stroke).

Last Sunday I went out to feed dandelions to the sheep, they grow tall next to the house where the sheep cannot get them. I noticed Favorite sheep was missing. This is not unusual sometimes she is off by herself sleeping. But upon walking around the pasture I knew something was wrong, and I would probably find a body. There were piles of wool strewn across the pasture, often a sign that predators have been dragging a body. Sure enough I found her partially eaten remains.

I am guessing that she died rather than been killed, a predator would have been more likely to kill a smaller lamb, but of course I have no way of knowing.

Her this year lambs (born in March) are old enough to be without her but it was sad, I saw them standing in one of the piles of her wool calling for her.

I write this to share her memory. Many sheep go through life with one destiny, to be slaughtered for lamb meat. Favorite was lucky to be female, and lucky to have ended up on a hobby farm of soft - hearted fools, who could not slaughter their own animals. She may not have known it, but she was loved.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Thorsby Critter Auction Buying Pigeons

The Thorsby Auction market is located in the town of Thorsby, Alberta.  It is an auction market that holds cattle sales once a week (Mondays) and horse sales once a month.  They also hold an odd and unusual critter auction in which sellers bring many odd and unusual livestock animals and exotic pets (mostly rabbits, caged birds, and guinea pigs), and interested buyers can bid on them.  These auctions are in the spring and fall.

They auction off the birds first, often chickens, peafowl, ducks, pigeons, and so forth depending on what people have brought.  After which they sell goats, pigs, sheep, llamas, alpacas, miniature horses, donkeys, and some cattle.  Every auction is different,  you really never can be sure on what will be there, and what the prices will be.

The first year we attended laying hens were selling for fifty cents a piece.  There were well over 40 birds, Isa Browns I think.  After that year I never saw laying hens so cheap again, one year there were only 5 laying hens in the whole auction (there were other hens sold as a pair with a rooster, or specialty breeds such as Silkies).  In some cases laying hens sold for over $15.00 a bird.

King Utility Pigeons

We have seen llamas sell for $20 a piece but at one auction the auctioneers were paying people a dollar to take a llama. 

You see it all at these places, including some signs of neglect, such as donkey's with neglected feet.

Sometimes you get a bit of information on the animals (such as the miniature horses) sometimes you do not even get their name. 

In the past we have bought and sold sheep at the Thorsby Auction Market, I find the prices tend to be rather low, as such fewer people bring sheep to sell than in the past and many opt for private sales, or take them to other auction markets where "meat" prices are high. 

This year we sold a bunch of farm equipment that we were not using and bought 2 pairs of pigeons.  In the past we have purchased laying hens, but this year we want to take a bit of a holiday and to have fewer birds to look after in general.  Although hens are great to have, they are more work than pigeons.
Tumbler Pigeons

One pair we bought were King Utility Pigeons, apparently people eat them; not us, they are pets.

The other pair we bought were Tumblers, these being pigeons that fly and then "tumble", it would be cool to get a video of them in flight, apparently though this also puts them at risk of being taken by hawks.  I am not sure I fully understand the behavior, why they fly this way, but it sounds interesting.

I took pictures of the pairs, I should like to get better pictures in the future, as the colors on the Tumblers did not show up well.

At this particular auction I managed to purchase the birds for less than $10.00 each. 

The Thorsby Auction market is less than an hour south west of Edmonton and has unusual critter auctions every spring and fall.  To find out the dates call the Thorsby Auction market at 780-789-3915.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Links and Information on Chickens

Over the past few years we have really enjoyed keeping chickens, at first we kept onlying laying hens for eggs.  At one time we bought 5 week old silke chicks and raised them, it turned out that three of the five were roosters, and as we had no plans on eating them, we sold them.

Last year we kept hens and roosters, with one pair hatching out nine cute chicks.  Sadly a fox killed the other hen so that rooster was left alone.

Keeping chickens as pets has been rather fun, and except for when we had the roosters with the hens we have enjoyed their eggs too.  I totally encourage others to keep chickens as backyard pets and wish more cities allowed people to do so - I am lucky to live in the country so there are no regulations in this regard.

I have encountered many interesting questions about keeping and raising chickens had have provided some links here in case anyone is wondering the same thing.

Why Won't My Chicken Eggs Hatch? - This article addresses common reasons why eggs do not hatch.

How are Chicken Eggs Formed?  - Interesting, weird and maybe not good to read before breakfast.

Abnormalities in Chicken Eggs - The eggs you get at stores are often perfect but not all eggs are so perfect. 

When will my Hens Start Laying?  - Usually hens start laying eggs at five months of age, but not always.

Below are some articles specifically related to chicken breeds.  Selecting the right breed is very important, some chickens are friendly and make great pets, others are suited for laying, meat, or are dual purpose.

About Orpington Chickens - A popular dual purpose chicken breed

Araucana and Ameraucan Chickens - The ones that lay blue or green eggs.

Bantam Chickens - Small chickens well suited to being kept as pets.

Silkie Chickens - Fluffy and cute ones common as pets.

Of course there are more breeds than those listed, but these are the ones I am most familiar with and have articles on at this point.  You might also want to read an article on General Chicken Trivia.

Overall I have found keeping chickens to be great, they are not as stupid as people often make them out to be, and they enjoy being out free range in the yard.  Chickens will eat slugs, grasshoppers, and other insect pests too - even ticks.   They do need to be confined in a coop at night for their own safety.  Sometimes they may want to roost in a tree but they may be vulnerable from predators (mink, raccoons, and so forth).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tips on Keeping Goats or Sheep

Many hobby farmers, or acreage owners, have found that sheep or goats are great for pasture control. These small animals are much easier to handle than cattle, and require less space. They can be kept as pets, raised for meat, or as companions when only one horse is owned. There are a few differences between sheep and goats, the most concerning being diet (sheep cannot have copper but goats need it). With many breeds of each there is most certainly something for everyone.

If you are interested in keeping sheep or goats, this article is to provide basic information as well as to suggest other articles for further reading.

Sheep and Goat Diseases

You should speak to your veterinarian in regards to what sheep, or goat, diseases are common in your areas. Two of the most concerning are scrapie, and footrot. As well there are concerns about parasites so you will want to worm them yearly.  If you plan on breeding sheep or goats you will also want to be aware of mastitis, or an infection of the udder.

Breeds of Sheep and Goats

There are hundreds of different sheep and goat breeds, some suited more for dairy, others for meat, and others for fiber. Two of the most popular goats for fiber are the Cashmere goats and a Angora goats.

For sheep there are many hair sheep breeds which are less maintenance for people who do not want to worry about shearing. There are also some novelty sheep such as the Jacob sheep (often having 4 horns) and the rarer breeds such as the Icelandic Sheep.

With the wool sheep shearing is a concern as they can over heat if left with their wool on. Tail docking is usually often done in wool sheep.

Katahdin hair sheep ewe and lambs


If you are interested in breeding sheep or goats, both have a similar 5 month gestation so the billy, or ram, is put with the flock usually in the fall for spring kids, or lambs.

You need to be prepared to bottle feed kids or bottle feed lambs as sometime doe or ewe is unable to do so for all her offspring.


Fencing is also a concern in that goats can climb (or sneak under) many types of fence.  Proper fencing is needed as well to keep predators out.  A 3-strand barbed wire fence will not contain sheep or goats.

Guard Animals

In areas where coyotes, or other predators (even stray dogs) are a concern, many people keep a guard animal with their sheep or goats.  There are many dog breeds for this purpose as well as a donkey or llama. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Designing a Fractal Lamb

Hi Everyone.

Today is sunny out so what am I doing inside?  Well, I had this picture I took of one of the lambs a few days ago and really wanted to do something different with it.  This is one of Favorite Sheep's lambs, and the lamb looks great but the background is distracting.  I am no expert on improving a background the proper way, but I do know how to alter a photo a fun way. 

I am writing this without knowing what the final image will look like, as I will be doing it as I write, so I hope it turns out as good as I expect.

Here is the original photograph, cropped to remove even more clutter.  Cute lamb but she is almost lost because of the snow, so I will add some color, dark ones to make her pop out.

At this stage I know it does not look good, I colored her eyes black and added a twinkle which I hope will turn out okay in the final image.  Which will be produced by tweeking the picture using Corel Photo Paint Redfield effect called Fractalius.

I produced a couple of images I was happy with, one softer and one more arty.  I am going to share the more arty one with you.  You can see the softer one here.  Neither are what I was expecting.  I think I would have preferred a solid background for both - but I will leave that for another day because now I must go clean the barn.  Anyhow here is the image.

Note all pictures are copyright to me, not for reproduction.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sheep Weight Loss Program?

All of my sheep have had their lambs for 2012, Mrs Dark Brown Barbado was the last.  She had triplets last year, and was huge, so I was expecting a set of three lambs.  Here she is only a few days ago, I thought for sure she was going to lamb that day, if not.. that hour!

Her udder was also huge, but sneaking up behind her to take a picture was a but more difficult.

As you can see in this picture, Mrs Dark Brown Barbado is huge.  She is also a hair sheep if you are puzzled by her unusual look.  Her breed is Barbado, or at least that is the name they have in my area, in other areas they are called American Blackbelly, the rams have large curled horns.  These sheep do not need shearing, and shed like dogs.

A few days after taking her photo she had lambs, twin boys.

The father of the lambs is a Katahdin Dorper, also a hair sheep.  He is mostly white wtih only a black head and black saddle, but amazingly a large number of his lambs have been mostly black, with white, like this cute pair.

Some people are not familiar with Barbado sheep and often say they are wild, and prone to be mean, but we have never found this.  Even when we did have Barbado rams (they have huge horns) they were never mean.  The ewes were never more nervous than any of our other ewes, and this ewe in particular is very friendly.  As such if you are interested in getting Barbado sheep and have heard that they are crazy, disregard it.  When handled with kindness they respond.  I can approach this ewe in the pasture and pat her as though she were a dog.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Last Night Twins, Today Sleepy Lambs

Last night when we went to bring the sheep into the barn one ewe was missing.  We only had 2 ewes left to lamb but the missing one, whom we call White Katahdin (although she is really a light brown) was not big at all so it was a but of a surprise when my husband found her next to the barn with two lambs.

We got the lambs into the barn, one was larger, black and white, and the smaller one was orange and white.  I guessed the bigger lamb was male, and yup... that is what is was, the smaller one being a girl.  Momma followed close behind.

I did not want to walk to the house to get the camera, so we left them for the night and took pictures in the morning.  Here are the two lambs.

What I found most interesting is that their mother was particularly friendly with me.  She normally is quite nervous, and most mothers are especially nervous, but she was really good.

I kept them inside today, along with Favorite sheep who had her twins earlier yesterday, and put all the other moms and lambs out to play in the sun.  We still have snow on the ground but today was a bit cooler, temperatures hovering around zero. 

All the outside lambs seemed to have enjoyed running, jumping, and playing!  There are actually 10 lambs in this picture.

I am amazed that Dark Brown Barbado has not had her lambs yet, she is huge... perhaps tonight!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Favorites New Twins

Favorite sheep is an interesting gal.  She got her name because out of the four ewes we originally bought, she was the friendliest, so even though we agreed not to name them, my daughter soon referred to her as her "Favorite".  She had a small marking, a spot on her back, and was always friendly even when some of the other ewes were scared.

A few years ago she had a stroke, as a result she does not eat well and tends to drool.  We have to feed her a bit extra, but since she was called "Favorite" we could not really sell her (or... you know...), as most real farmers would have done.

Anyhow... this morning when I went out to the barn there she was just inside the barn door with two new lambs, twin girls, both white, with black around their eyes.  One even has a little spot on her back too!
As Favorite is a wool sheep, and the father is a hair sheep it is interesting to note that one lamb has tight curly wool (laying down in the picture), and the other has what looks more like hair (standing and still a bit wet in the picture).  Favorite has broke the trend this year, so far every ewe has had at least one black (or black and white) lamb.  Favorite was the first who did not.

I put her in the smaller stall with her lambs, while the other ewes and lambs went out for the day.  Temperatures are just above freezing in the day, and just below at night.  Things are melting - Yeah!

So that leaves just two more ewes left to have their lambs...

As a note - one of Girlie's lambs still needs a bottle, but only twice a day.  Diamonds triplets born a few days ago,  had fetlocks that really curled under.  I have been straightening their legs out and they look just fine now.

In this picture we see Girlie with her triplets, the black one is hard to see, and the smaller white one is the one that gets the bottle.  Behind her is the ram (you cannot see his head).  To the right is Patsy and her twins - not a good picture I realize, and of course Crystal the llama watching all.