Tuesday, January 29, 2013

London bridge falling down.

Lots and lots of babies!  I went out yesterday morning and found a set of twins mixed in with the main herd.  I had to catch the mother once I figured out who it was.  She did not want to just follow the babies into the jug.  That put two sets of twins into the jugs.  It took me two hours to catch up on all the chores.  I used the last of the hay on the North end of the barn.  I had to mix up some more grain with our new worming earth.  Sweep out that hay area (Zeke caught and killed another mouse when I was moving the hay around) and toss straw into the horse and sheep area. 

This morning I went out and opened the baby chicken door so that they can start mixing with the other chickens.  When I went out to get eggs, all the babies were in their area and not mixing with the other chickens.  I did not find a single egg.  Every nest box was full of egg shells.  Something is eating the eggs!  So we are going to train the camera on the coop entrance to see if it is a cat.  We had just gotten eggs yesterday.  This is so not acceptable.  I cannot have something eating every egg.  So now it is just a matter of catching it!

The sheep had already put themselves away.  As I was making my way to the back of the barn I spotted a mother with her nose under the back barn door.  Another lamb had slipped under the door and could not get back up into the barn!  I hurried over, grabbed the wet lamb and moved it into one of the jugs.  The momma ewe followed me right into the jug.  I shut them in and fed and watered them.  She still looked kinda fat so she may have another baby overnight.  I had to shovel more straw into the barn and lodged a 2x4 under the door.  I pulled a pallet and some tongue and groove pieces to make a step up into the barn.  In the spring I am going to make some platform steps so it will be easy to get in and out of that end of the barn.  Annmarie and I are going to tag the babies in the mother pen on Saturday so we can let them join the main herd.  Once they are in the main herd then we will let everyone out of the jugs and chase them into the mother pen for another week of isolation from the herd.  If the wayward mother doesn't keep track of her twins then we will have to bummer her babies.  This is going to mark momma as a cull animal come summer time.  I will take a picture of everyone on Saturday.  There are an amazing amount of babies.  This is the most we have ever had at one time.  They are so cute jumping around and playing.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Morning Craziness

This morning, I went out at six to feed everyone, check for new babies, and water anyone who needed it.  Last night, Sarah had told me that there were two sets of twins in with the main herd.  Steve is out of town taking a class for work, but he called last night so I asked him if he had moved the oldest lambs in with the main herd.  He said he hadn't.  He had not related the happening from the other morning to me, but now that I've read that post, I'm thinking that the ewes snuck in with their babies and didn't get noticed in all the chaos.  Everyone is doing fine, so all is well.  In addition to the lamb that Zeke found, we have another set of new twins in the jugs.  I heard them hollering yesterday morning when I let the dogs out at five, and found them both still wet and wobbly.  Momma was not as attentive as I would have liked, but that is why they spend the first few days in a jug.  She has now adapted, and the babies are doing fine.  

Everyone is now getting fed morning and night.  If I don't feed the cows in the morning, they get out into the CRP, so morning chores take a little longer, but chasing them out of the CRP was getting old.  Besides, there really isn't much forage left, so it seems cruel to not give the something in the morning.  The other thing that is relevant to this story is that the horses are not sharing their area well when it comes to feed.  Mahogany keep chasing Meeka off the feeder so we've started feeding Meeka outside, just to make sure she actually gets to eat.

This is relevant because as I was feeding the cows, two of them. Went through the gate I had just come out, and found Meeka's feed.  They settled right in, partly because Meeka had left her feed to snag the little bit I had dropped in the way to the cows' feeder.  These two little cows did not, of course, follow me back out the gate with the last flake that was destined for their feeder, so I gave it to Meeka instead.  Now I've got two cows in the barnlot, and two coup outside the barnlot.  Either location is actually acceptable, but it would be better to have all four together.  I'll fix it tonight when I have the time.

At least there weren't any new babies to take care of.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Good Doggy.

I went out this morning to do the animal chores just as the sun was supposed to rise.  It is white, frozen and foggy and kinda light outside but not really.  I did put on my trusty hat brim flashlight just in case I needed it in the barn.  Zeke and I went out to check on the sheep and feed the sheep and horses.  I decided that both ewes in the jugs were capable of fending for themselves, plus I didn't want to haul water (really that only affected the decision a little!).  I looked around the barn and didn't see any new babies.  I checked all four corners, no babies.  So I used Zeke to push all the sheep out of the barn.  Then I used my fancy Y gate and shut the sheep out so that I could push the ewes and babies out into the nursery pasture in front of the barn.  I opened the jugs and finally got the ewes to come out.

  I was trying to get Zeke to gently push the sheep out the barn door but he got distracted.  He went over to one of the walls and found something in the shadows, a baby lamb!  He kept wanting to go lick it.  Since I had just chased the mother out of the barn I didn't want him touching the lamb.  We chased the mommas out and then I swung the Y gate back and all the sheep came back into the barn.  I had forgotten to shut the door from the mother area to the main barn.  Next thing I know I have three babies and two mothers out with the main herd.

I managed to catch all three babies and put them in the nursery area.  The momma ewes went in after them.  This distraction allowed the newborn and her mother to find each other.  I caught the newborn and placed it in a jug, the ewe just followed her right in.  I went and got fresh water for her in the jug.  There are now 6 ewes and 9 babies running around the nursery pasture, with the new one in a jug still.  Lots of sheep still ready to have babies.  I suspect most will deliver in the next three weeks.  I never would have seen the new baby without Zeke.  I usually make him stay out of the barn when I am moving the sheep around but I want him to have better control and listen to commands better so I have been bringing him into the barn so we can get some animal moving contact.  He was a good boy and did exactly what he is bred to do.  Pretty amazing, we have such an easier time with the animals now that he is old enough to work.  We will always have a working dog as long as we have animals.  It is truly a necessity. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Babies tagged

Annmarie and I went out yesterday morning and tagged babies.  There are getting to be quite a few and since we are putting them all together it was hard to keep track of everyone.  We pushed the adults out of the barn then put all the babies and mommas into the barn.  Zeke did a good job handling the new mothers.  When the sheep are in a herd they don't run out and try to stomp on Zeke.  They just all clump together and all the mothers look outward and stomp their feet at him.  The two of us (dog and I) managed to get six mommas and nine babies through the door with very little fuss.  There was some swearing on my part as Zeke did not want to go left.  He always wants to circle right, but the door was on the right side.  We got it and then Annmarie snagged the babies while I tagged them and wrote down the numbers.  We had to leave the wild ewe out of a jug.  We did isolate her with the other mommas so she is not running with the main herd.  Baby is doing fine. 

This morning I had to go out and wrangle the cows back into the front field.  They had pushed down a panel to get out into the CRP.  Annmarie saw them as she was leaving for work.  I took Zeke and we got them in, but there was a lot of course vernacular used over the entire time frame.  Damn dog loves voles and kept getting distracted!  He is a little leary of the cows any ways and the distraction was just too much.   Once the cows were out and I wired the gate shut I had him herd the cows a little bit so he could see what I wanted.  He wanted to chase cats instead of herd cows.  The only animal he truly loves to chase more that cats and voles is the sheep.  Unfortunately for him, I want him to chase cows also.  So we will have to spend a little more time moving the cows around for practice.  It helps the cows learn also.  It still only took me walking time from one end of the pasture to the other with Zeke. No backtracking or running around or lots of people to herd the cows.  So he is effective he just doesn't like it as much as the sheep.  With the sheep he doesn't get as distracted. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Babies, babies and more babies

Lead ewe and her babies from last night.
This is the largest concentration of lambs I think we've had since we started with the sheep.  Now, this is how Dad did it, except that he did it with over 100 ewes, and had to check on them about every 4 hours because they needed more assistance and supervision than our little flock does.  However, we are beginning to have some issues. 

I came home from church this morning, to see Zeke out harassing a single sheep in the ram pasture.  Now, Zeke harassing is not that unusual - it is his preferred activity whenever he is out of sight of a human.  But, the single sheep kind of tripped some alarms, so I went in and discussed the fact that Zeke was out unsupervised with Sarah, and then sent her out to check on the sheep.  Sure enough, there was another baby.  Predictably, there were troubles getting mamma and baby into a jug. 

Sarah couldn't get the ewe to cooperate, so she called me.  I changed clothes, and went out to the barn.  Mamma and baby were together and doing fine, but mamma is wild as a March hare and is having nothing to do with us.  We tried the usual tricks.  We started easy by picking up the baby and putting it in a jug.  The theory is that when baby cries, mamma goes in and we can close the gate.  Not this time.  Mamma came to the edge of the jug and called baby out.  Baby is mobile enough that he/she totters on out to mamma and our manipulation failed.  We tried leaving baby with mamma and herding them both into the jug, since baby is keeping up fine.  No dice.  We eventually resorted to putting baby into a jug so he/she wouldn't get trampled while we caught mamma.  This involved lots of running around by sheep, and some running by both Sarah & I, but I eventually got mamma caught, and walked her into the jug that baby was in.  Sarah shut the gate behind us and I was in the process of swinging my second leg over the panel to get out of the jug when I hear Sarah exclaim, "Are you kidding me?"  I turned and looked, and sure enough, mamma had jumped the gate, leaving the lamb in the jug. 

See - baby is keeping up just fine.
At that point, I decided that since baby was up and moving and obviously keeping up with mamma, they could stay out with the main herd for today.  Maybe tomorrow morning after everyone settles down, Steve & I can get them into the nursery pen with the other ewes and their lambs.  For now, they are both doing fine.


Was that a meep?

I let the dogs out first thing in the morning to go to the bathroom and I thought I heard a meep.  We have five babies out in the barn so I just attributed it to that.  Monica wanted waffles for breakfast so I sat and drank coffee while "supervising" the waffle manufacturing.  I read the recipe and drank more coffee.  Annmarie came down and I happened to mention the meep sound.  She promptly put on some boots abnd winter clothes and went outside to the barn.  I drank some more coffee and ate waffles. I did tell the girls that after breakfast we were going to have to go outside and check on the lambs.  Plus, we had food to unload from the car, eggs to collect, chickens to feed and we just purchased some diatomaceous earth (ground up petrified freshwater shellfish) for the animals and needed to get a mixing container set up in the barn. 
Annmarie came back to the house hollering for me to come immediately as she could not get the ewe into a jug with the new twins that had been born.  That meeping sound I had heard was from the first twin falling under the outer barn door and into the old sheep area.  Momma could not get to her and she had crawled behind the straw to stay warm.  Annmarie and I chased momma into the jug with the twins and we watched them for a little bit to see if the first baby would get rejected.  It all looked good so we went back inside to clean up the house (recent tornado inside our house and the after effects are still present). 

We sent Sarah out at 1300 to check on the babies.  She came back and told me that the fallen baby was getting rejected.  We made up a bottle of lamb milk replacer and went out to the barn.  The baby in question was up walking around and would suck on Sarah's finger but not the bottle.  The ewe backed up into the corner of the jug and the fallen baby went over, latched on and proceeded to drink a large amount of milk.  All is wonderful with the world!  When we backed away from the jug, the ewe started turning in circles and pushing the fallen baby away from her, no bond.  We grabbed the baby and brought it into the house.  It was cold so it stayed curled up in a ball in a towel on someone's lap.  Zeke came over and licked the baby all clean.  He was incredibly gentle, which surprised us.  He did great.  We called Tisha to come get the little bummer girl.  She came a couple hours later and took her home with her.  We don't do bummers, too much work and a negative payout.  We just give them away.  

After we got home late that evening I went out to feed everyone and lock them up for the night.  Our lead ewe #1, had just had a set of twins!  They are all white with a faded brown neck collar.  Both of them were right next to her and covered in yellow fluid (amniotic).  I just grabbed the babies and put them in a jug.  They meeped and she came right over and walked right into the jug!  If only everyone was that easy.  The single baby left over from the morning birth was doing well.  I watered and fed everyone.  We had mixed the grain with molasses and the diatomaceous earth together and will be feeding the sheep and horses this to get rid of worms.  It works by mechanical action on the worms in the guts of animals.  We thought we would give it a shot. 

I am going to have to ear tag everyone on Monday.  Too many babies to keep track of a pen full of them and their mothers.  I am going to wait a few weeks before I band the boys (castrate).  It is easier when they are a little older, but not too old!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

More babies.

Third baby of the day.
Machine shop south side completed.
Second set of twins, first born this morning.
Babies are popping out every where!  I started the hot water for my coffee this morning before going out to check on the sheep.  It took me an hour to check on every one.  Crazy ewe that had twins would not go into a jug.  Both babies were crying, mom was crying but she would not go in.  I tried to catch her but she kept running away.  I finally had to chase her around the barn and flop onto her.  My flop is well perfected and since I outweigh the sheep it is a good signature move.  Not very graceful, but effective.  I had to drag her in to the jug and then she was happy.

When I came back from town, Annmarie told me there was another baby.  That makes three of the six jugs occupied with my table saw in one and the grain buckets in another.  Only one open jug left.  I went back outside and cleaned out the hay area to make room for the jug contents.  Then I spread out straw in the two, now empty, jugs.  I moved some hay around and now we are ready for three more mommas to have babies.  We want to leave them in the jug about three days to bond well with their mothers.  Longer if the lambs are not very strong.  The mommas try and keep up with the flock and the babies cannot keep up. 

I went out and wired the gate back up to create a new momma and baby area outside.  Once we move the babies from the jugs we will put them in the entrance to the tack room.  This lets us close the outside door at night and open it up during the day.  The sheep can make their own way down to the creek for water.  Carrying water sucks and we are fortunate enough to not have to do it.  Just water in the jugs for the new mothers.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The secret

I think I may have found the secret to getting the ewes to deliver their babies.  I have to be running late.  OK - I know it doesn't really work that way, but it certainly seems like it might.  I've been so good this term, all one week of it, to allow plenty of time to go out and do the morning chores, which now include feeding, since the horses have started actually licking their feeders clean.  That kind of indicates they need more food.  Anyway, all week long, I've allowed plenty of time to feed and deal with any babies that might appear, and can still get to campus with time to spare before my first class.  This morning, I am running a little bit late, and I have to make a stop in Pilot Rock before I head to work, so of course, what do I find? 

You guessed it, I found two lovely new lambs.  Just like the last lamb from the white ram, these two are wonderfully healthy and active and robust looking.  We are incredibly happy with this guy's babies.  It's too bad he wasn't so healthy.  The lambs were so active that momma actually looked relieved to be let into a jug.  When I found them this morning, the little white one was wondering all over the place sniffing noses with everyone, while momma stood next to her sister (yes, they are both girls) and tried to call her back.  Everyone is doing well now that the available wandering space has been minimized.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

2012 Farm financial summary

We got this fancy USDA survey in the mail last week.  It is "required" by them for all agricultural providers.  We fall into this category as we have a business license and are selling the sheep and eggs.  We have been doing it for a couple of years but this year they added hair sheep to the sheep section.  It is very detailed and asks quite a few financial questions.  I had not yet totalled up all the reciepts from last year so today was the day for that wonderful task.  I was pleasantly surprised by the results.  I almost stayed on budget for the barn and if we include a 10% estimate error I actually made it!  I have several categories so I will give a brief overview of each one and then my rounded expenses.  I am not going to add them all up so the numbers may not add up to my real total but it will be close enough for record keeping purposes. 
ANIMALS: This covers the baby chickens, medicine for the sheep and chickens, salt and supplements.  $415
FEED:  This covers all the chicken food, sheep grain and hay but last year we did not purchase any hay.  $375
GENERAL:  This covers the fencing supplies, gloves, safety gear, nails, clips, hardware for gates, locks for gates, hinges.  $1400
EQUIPMENT:  This covers the 16ft flat bed trailer we purchased, 8 ft disc set and rental of generator.  $2520
VET:  This covers Zeke only, his vaccinations, neutering and cheet grass removal from his ears.  $635
TRACTOR/SPRAYER:  This covers the tractor maintenance and fuel, mule fuel and sprayer repair and upkeep (tractor fuel $140).  $340
BUSINESS EXPENSE:  This is for a license renewal and some advertising signs.  $125
BARN IMPROVEMENTS:  This is for repairing the barn.  We added two external doors and repaired three doors, replaced 100% of the floor on the animal side, resheathed the Southern exposure, covered the animal side with metal tin roofing, repaired the 20x20 foot section of roof that had blown off, added hurricane straps to the roof to tie in walls, added sheep jugs to the animal side and patched West side. (We used 130# of screws for a cost of $600, lumber cost of $2900, labor cost of $2000, misc expenses $1160)  Total  $6670
GRAND TOTAL:  $12,500 for the entire year.

That is a pretty accurate number as I was very good about keeping reciepts this year for everything. 
The chickens made $645 for the year in egg sales.  We sold $600 worth of sheep (1 ram, 3 unproductive ewes, 3 lambs).  We also ate several for personal consumption.  We are now feeding four cows.  This seems extravagent I know, but we are setting infrastructure in place that will last another 30 years.  A few more years of fixing up the place and then reseeding and it will be minimal expenses for the year.  We are looking at this as a long term investment and it is starting to show.  The animals are a lot easier to care for and we are spending less time managing them.  Once I get some more fence completed and the barn done it will go a long ways in cutting down our expenses.  We already have some lambs reserved in advance of birth and more people are aware of what we do and sell.  It takes time to generate a customer base and provide a quality product.  We are willing to work on these things a few at a time.  I am pretty proud of the place and the changes we have made.  I cannot wait to see what it will be like in five more years.  I never would have envisioned myself doing this twenty years ago.  I have grown to love it and appreciate the way it fills our lives.  A lovely home, wonderful wife, happening and exciting job not many people can beat that. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Chicken drama

Well the chickies are not even laying eggs yet and they are already dying.  I had three babies die.  Not exactly sure why.  I opened the outside door so the babies can go out into their protected yard and nothing can eat them but they have not been going out.  Some are starting to get henpecked and missing feathers on their back.  Two of the dead ones were the white chickens.  There is only one white chicken left. The speculation is the chicken waterer kept running empty because it was not on a level surface.  So I filled it and leveled it yesterday.  When I went out this morning the chickens had thrown a large portion out onto the new bedding I had just put out last night. 

I had to add a couple of 2x4 scraps to the slanted ceiling so I could install large hooks in the ceiling.  Now the food and water are hanging.  Annmarie reminded me I have the nipple waterers.  So I have three nipples in the bottom of a five gallon bucket for 23 chickens.  As long as the bucket has water this should work.  I put a bunch more wood pellets on the floor today but the chickies started to eat them.  This can kill the chickens.  So I went and got my wood chips and covered the whole floor with those on top of the pellets.  This batch of babies seem to be very stupid.  Which when talking about chickens seems like an oxymoron. 

I went out and worked on the rock wall for an hour today.  I am going to need some more dirt next.  I need to build up dirt behind the rocks so I can keep going up. It has rained for two days so it was very easy to pry the rocks out of the dirt.  We are at 4 inches of rain since we installed the rain meter.  So I am going to use 4 inches as the new comparison number so I can watch the rainfall amount over the year. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Breeze porch updated for now.

Completed breeze porch South side.
 The breeze porch is painted!  It looks a ton better now that it is all one color.  The white really brightens the room and makes the holes and irregularities disappear.  I still have to macrame some new plant holders so I can clear off the table in the middle of the room.  I have hooks in front of all the windows around the room.  It will look like a jungle from outside. 

Monica had never painted before.  She didn't realize how much prepping and time it took to get it done.  She was glad today when we moved all the furniture back in room.  Now we just have to get the white paint off the stained hallway and steps from someone stepping on paint and tracking it through the house, right foot only.  Lots of elbow grease and some nonscratch pads will take it right off.  

I have to repot most of the plants on the breeze porch to give them some more room to grow.  Annmarie and I collected the maps to go up on the walls.  I am going to store them in the attic for a couple of years until we get back to the breezeporch. 

Our number one priority for 2013 inside the house is installing a ventilation hood and fan in the kitchen. It will be a large custom number and is going to be $2-3K.  Annmarie wants me to tile the backsplash in the kitchen after that.  She is going to paint our countertops.  Outside, our priority is to spray weeds, finish barn roof and barn, plant some grass seed and work on figuring out the irrigation system and getting it operational.  Oh and fixing more fence!!
Completed north side. sitting area.

Christmas lights at night.
North side breeze porch primed, Monica had never painted before.

2012 Annual summary of the chicken endeavor.

It is final, I have made a profit on the chickens!  After five years I will have made a whopping $47.15 this year.  Now, I am not keeping track over the last five years because that would make me be negative still.  My chicken door is still broke and I held off on getting it fixed because I wanted to be in the black for one year.  So now I will message the maker of my door and tell him it is broken again.  I love automatic doors when they work, but I sure have a lot of problems with them. 

So here is the 2012 annual chicken production summary:  I made a profit of $47.15 for the year.  My annual income was $645,  My annual expenses $525.10.   I purchased 1140# of chicken feed for the year.  My average laying hens for the year were 21.8 hens (currently only have 17 hens).  I collected on average 8.8 eggs/day for a hen productivity of 40% for the year.  The hens consumed 0.39 lbs of feed/egg produced.  It cost me $0.11/egg in feed only(or $1.31/doz).  I charged $3/doz for eggs all year long.  I had to purchase another 27 pullets in November to catch back up from the predator kill.  I lost 10 hens to predators this year.   If I could just keep the automatic chicken door working all year I could virtually stem all the chicken killing by predators.  They almost always come at night. 

So my goal this year will be to keep the automatic chicken door working or buy another one.  This time I will be researching guarantees.  I cannot seem to keep one working for more than about four months. 

It really has not snowed yet this year.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Out of gas!

Well the new year is here and as always things are a happening on the farm.  We ran out of propane!  This doesn't sound like a big deal but the hot water tank is propane, the stove is propane and all the heating in the house is propane.  We of course ran out on a Friday evening.  Annmarie had to call for an emergency fill Saturday morning.  I was of course at work.  We plugged in all six electric space heaters and attempted to keep everything thawed out.  It was a frosty 57 degrees F in the morning inside the house.   We went out for a warm breakfast at the cafe Saturday.  By the time we got back they had refilled the tank.  When it gets very cold outside we need to go on a every two week fill schedule for the propane tank.  Despite my track record of running out of propane every year, Annmarie insists I call and make the arrangements.  She reminds me frequently.  I had not done it yet... so we ran out again, five years running.  So she arranged for us to go to every 2 week fill and they are coming out and replacing our propane tank.  They are going to double its size! 

Old covering just before tearing down. 

I had built an enclosure around our old tank to keep the tree limbs from falling down and breaking the connection piping.  Today I had to rip the whole thing down so they can swap out propane tanks.  It is all ready to be changed out.  This should happen in the next two weeks.  It will be nice to not have to worry about this problem in the future.

We have a couple of bald eagles living in the area.  We have seen them several times now and I have some pictures.  The pictures are not real close ups.  I have not been that lucky yet.  Our sheep still have not had any babies yet.  They are huge and should have babies any time now. 
Bald eagle scared by the vehicle.
Annmarie updated my chicken tracker for 2013 and added my predator tracker so I can tell how many chickens I lose every year to predators.