Friday, March 24, 2017

Is it the year of the predator?

It appears that this year is going to be a predator boon year.  I am still killing mice nonstop in the chicken coop and this week we had some dogs go after our livestock.  We have been very fortunate that outside dogs have never really been a problem for us.  Most of the neigbors have animals also so stray dogs tend not to be a problem and if we do see them they are usually just lost and very friendly.  Those animals are easy to catch and have name tags or a simple post to social media usually nets you an owner in a few hours.  These two dogs were different.  They were chasing the sheep all over our upper field, the housekeeper saw them and chased them off the sheep.  She found one brand new lamb with no mother and brought it into the house to warm up.  She then went out and let it in with all the sheep in hopes it could find its momma.  While she was doing this she spotted the dogs chasing our cows.  Both the sheep and cows have babies on the ground right now and our sheep are starting to lamb again.  I called Sarah and she came out to the house and tried to catch the two dogs, and they were having none of that.  She called Dispatch and notified them that there were two dogs harassing livestock.  We never saw a deputy but did not really expect one to come out.  
 
We went out that night to feed the sheep and found the bummer lamb.  It’s mother never claimed it.  The sheep were super frazzled after being ran that it never bonded.  Annmarie had walked the upper pasture looking for dead animals and the dogs found the lamb hidden in the bushes.  She said she would have walked right by if the border collies had not kept worrying about something in the bushes.  We had to take it inside to warm it up and feed it.  It drank a whole bottle and then hollered every time you set it down on the floor.  It wanted to be held.  We had to bummer it out as it never bonded, so one lamb gone.  
 
At work, the next day, I was telling my coworkers about this and one of them described both dogs perfectly from the description I was given by Sarah.  He lives about 3 miles away as the crow flies.  He said they have been running around for a couple of weeks and have already killed two lambs from a neighbor and one of his chickens.  We had already decided to enforce the law, but that pretty much sealed the deal.  Once they start attacking livestock they rarely just quit.  Luckily, they didn’t get one of the calves.  That would be a $700 loss for just a steer, if it was a heifer it could be $8-10k as we are still building our herd and would lose all future calves also.  Its not a small thing.  On the plus side, we both got our lamb snuggles in.  
 
 
 
 
To combat the potential dog issue we chased all the alpaca into the barn lot so that they could protect the sheep.  The alpaca will run up and chase off a dog.  When there are 10 alpaca 2 dogs can’t really do a lot of harm as there is some alpaca always sneaking up on them.  We might lose an alpaca but there are 10 and currently they are just growing hair, plus there is a LOT of hair on them now.  Some of them have hair 8 inches long so the dogs can only really reach their face and their ankles easily.  I would trust that the alpaca would come out on top eventually.  They don’t really give up.  I had to entice them in with some hay, they don’t eat a lot, mostly just pick at it with all this green grass growing.  They still think they want it until they are eating it and then it only holds their attention for 30-60 minutes before wandering off. 
 
 
We are continuing to feed the sheep, they are in this weird spring transition again.  Their intestinal floura has to change so that they can go from digesting dry hay to green grass.  Every year for about one month they get skinny no matter how much we feed them.  We are feeding them 3 bales a day now which is what we fed in the middle of the deep cold winter and they are still losing weight.  They are also being super picky about the hay and throwing about 50% out onto the barn floor.  Their is at least 3-4 feet of straw/hay on the barn floor.  It is going to be a brutal dig out this early summer.  Luckily, this is one of those jobs I hire out to teenagers. They clean out the barn and chicken coop annually.  Its worth it!!  On the plus side it does look like we may use up all our grain hay and still have about 5 tons of small bale alfalfa.  I need to get my trailer tire changed and go pick up the last 2.5 tons of alfalfa.  I didn’t have a spot earlier and the whole pneumonia thing is still lingering and causing me problems with any hard core physical activity.  I really feel it and just cannot sustain it for any length of time. This was a nice picture of Mouse, he is now 44 pounds.  We weren’t sure he would ever put on any size.  He is a worrier, so he rarely ventures out of sight when we are out working the animals.  Zeke sneaks off if you make him wait or give him some down time.