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.