Sunday, February 22, 2015

Cicada's quads

Six days after Vera kidded, it was Cicada's turn. Unfortunately, she was not as thoughtful as Vera, who gave birth in the late afternoon. Around 4 a.m. February 8, I woke up to see Mike getting dressed. I wondered if it was morning already and asked why he was up. He said, "Listen." The video monitor was on because we thought Cicada might give birth during the night, but I had not heard any screams. I listened carefully and heard a faint moan coming from the television. Mike headed outside while I got dressed. I took my time because it didn't seem like Cicada was in the middle of actually pushing out a kid. 

I arrived in the barn a few minutes before she gave birth to the first kid -- a buckling that weighed 4 pounds, 10 ounces! Yeah, that's big for a Nigerian! She took about a fifteen minute break and helped us clean off the kid. Then she plopped down and three kids -- all doelings -- shot out only about a minute apart. Two of them weighed 3 pounds 12 ounces, and one weighed 3 pounds, 7 ounces, which are all excellent sized kids -- and pretty unbelievable sizes for quads! Cicada had been as big as Vera and Agnes, which both had quintuplets, but their kids didn't weigh as much as Cicada's. When you add up the weights, they were all actually carrying about the same number of pounds of kids.

Cicada is one of our top milkers and has successfully raised quads in the past, so we were not worried about leaving all four of the kids with her. Since they were all big and healthy, I wasn't worried about everyone getting their fair share, and they are all doing really well.

We will be keeping one of the doelings because Cicada is 8 years old, and I've never kept a doeling from her, which has been a terrible oversight, especially considering what an excellent milker she is. Time flies! It's hard to believe that she is already 8, and she is a third-generation Antiquity Oaks goat. 

Unfortunately I don't have any other photos for you because I upgraded my computer with the newest operating system and now Photoshop doesn't work. Hopefully I can get that fixed before more kids are born. I'll be telling you about Victoria's kids within the next couple of days -- they were born the day after Cicada's. 

Now we are waiting for four more does to kid -- yep, right now. I don't think anyone will kid within the next few hours, but they are due now, so we'll have more kids within the next few days. From the looks of it, there will be some more multiples. We're hoping that four is the most anyone has, and I'd be happy with triplets, but I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, February 6, 2015

A second set of quintuplets!

I'd been thinking that Vera was carrying quintuplets for the past three months. I can now still say with total accuracy that whenever a goat looks pregnant at two months, she is carrying five kids because it's happened five times now. And when I say that a goat looks pregnant at two months, I'm not saying that you look at her and think that maybe she is pregnant. Nope, I mean that they look like they could actually give birth tomorrow! The picture on the right was taken on November 10. I have goats that are due in two weeks that look like that.

Agnes looked just as big as Vera at two months, but I was dismissing the possibility of her carrying quints because no one else in her line has done that. However, I had not looked far enough back in her pedigree. Her great-great grandmother is Vera's great grandmother -- a goat that had quads several times and then had six once!

On February 2, Vera gave birth about 38 hours after Agnes, and she also had quints. I am really enjoying our video monitor because I got to the barn about ten minutes before Vera actually gave birth, which was especially nice since it was 14 degrees out! I am grateful for every minute that I do not have to spend out there. I'm also grateful that my camera recorded the times the photos were taken because it verifies the fact that Vera torpedoed those kids into the world at light speed ...

At 5:03 p.m. she was pushing ...

By 5:14, two had already been born ...

I had no time to take pictures of the third and fourth ones as they were born because by 5:18, five had been born ...

And then she scared the daylights of me because she gave another big push only a minute after the fifth one was born. I screamed, "Oh, no!" as a big bubble emerged. "You are NOT having six!" Nope, she wasn't. It was just a big bubble of water, and I was so relieved when I discovered that there was nothing in that bag other than water.

Final tally was three bucks and two does.

We brought two inside to bottle-feed -- the little doe that weighed only 1 pound, 12.4 ounces and the buckling that was 2 pounds, 1.2 ounces. The three that we left with mom weighed 3 pounds, 5.2 ounces; 2 pounds, 15.1 ounce; and 2 pounds, 8.2 ounces. That was a lot of babies for Vera to be carrying around!

Here is a picture of the four bottle babies today. The two on the left are Agnes's, and the two on the right are Vera's ...

And now we're waiting for Cicada to give birth. She is as big as Vera and Agnes were, but I don't recall thinking that she looked pregnant at two months, so I'm hoping she only has four in there.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Agnes had FIVE!

Yesterday I had a speaking engagement about an hour from home, and there was a snow storm in the forecast. It started raining as I was heading home at 3:30, and I watched nervously as the thermometer on my car went from 37 to 34 degrees. I was very happy to pull into the driveway before the roads started to freeze. Mike told me that Agnes had been in early labor for a good chunk of the day, so I came into the house and changed into my farm clothes and went out and checked on her. Yep, early labor. 

Agnes is a Sherri granddaughter, and all of the Sherri does are very stoic until the first kid is actually being born, so there have been many mad dashes to the barn in the middle of the night when we heard a scream over the monitor. We've had a video monitor for the past couple of years, but that doesn't help you when your eyes are closed. I decided to go to bed last night at 9:30, assuming I'd be awaked at midnight or so. When I woke up at 2 a.m. from a hot flash, I started to worry that Agnes had not kidded yet.

I sat on the bed and watched her on the monitor. I could see her stretching her legs out in front of her body as she was silently pushing. Then she'd stand, turn around, lay down, and push her legs out in front of herself again. Yep, she's pushing. But after 30 minutes, I started to wonder if maybe she was just uncomfortable. It really didn't seem that she'd be silently pushing for that long simply because the Sherri does usually have pretty short labors. So, then my brain switched back to worry mode. But then I reminded myself of my mantra -- if the doe's happy, I'm happy. And Agnes was clearly not unhappy. If I had just walked in on the situation, I wouldn't be worried in the least. Then she stood up, turned around, and stuck her nose into the straw. Ah, ha! She's licking up fluid! Her water broke! About that time, Mike woke up, and I told him I was headed out to the barn.

As soon as I walked into the kidding pen, I could see a bubble sticking out from under Agnes's tail. Agnes bleated when she saw me. A minute later, I could see a black nose in that bubble! I grabbed the towels, and within five minutes of arriving in the barn, I was drying off the first kid! I placed it on a towel in front of Agnes, and she started licking it while softly bleating.

Just as I snapped this picture, she gave a little push, and I saw another bubble sticking out from under her tail. Less than one minute after the first kid was born, kid number two made its entrance into the world! The shiny black blob that Agnes is licking in the picture below is the second kid. Sorry the picture quality is so terrible, but I only managed to snap two pictures before I realized that kid number three was about to make her appearance!

I covered the three kids because it was happening so fast that I couldn't adequately dry each one before the next one was presenting. I didn't know it at the time, but after downloading my pictures on my computer I could see that the first picture was taken at 3:01, and the one with three kids (below) was taken at 3:04!

And then a fourth kid.

And then a fifth kid! As soon as the fifth kid was born, Agnes stood up to continue licking the kids. 

That was when I realized I was going to need some help. There was no way I could get five kids nursing on my own. I had been having enough trouble simply getting the kids dried off. In past years, I was out there crawling around on my hands and knees drying off kids as they were born, but my right knee, which was injured last March and has grade four arthritis, was not willing to let me do that. It doesn't bend completely any longer, and simply trying to make it bend that far is quite painful. I quickly realized I was limited to either sitting in the straw or laying on my stomach. So, I called over the monitor to Mike, asking him to come help.

We eventually ended up milking Agnes and giving each kid 3 ccs of colostrum in a syringe to try and get them interested in nursing. The two smallest ones -- a buck at 1 pound, 15.6 ounces and a doe at 1 pound, 15.1 ounces -- just wanted to go to sleep. The three larger does, between 2 pounds, 9 ounces and 2 pounds, 13 ounces, were alert but not showing any interest in nursing, so I told Mike that I was going to take the two smaller ones into the house and bottle-feed them. I don't usually make the decision that quickly, but the two smaller ones were clearly having more trouble than the larger ones, probably because their smaller body mass made them more susceptible to hypothermia. So, I took the two little ones in the house with some colostrum from Agnes. Mike stayed in the barn trying to get the other three to nurse.

Once the kids got warmed up in the house, they took to the bottle like ducks to water. I put the nipple in the little buck's mouth, and he immediately started to suck. When he finally let go of the nipple, I looked at the markings on the side of the bottle to see that he had consumed 2 ounces. Then the little doeling did the same thing, only faster!

I still had two ounces of colostrum left, so I went back to the barn. One of the doelings still had not nursed, so I gave her the last two ounces, so that Mike and I could come back into the house and go to bed. By then it was almost 6 a.m.

Here are a couple of pictures of the two kids taking their bottles this morning ...

Did I mention that the snow storm did hit. And now it has turned into a real blizzard. And Vera is at day 148. Mike went out to the barn an hour ago and said that he couldn't find Vera's ligaments. I really hope that's because of his inexperience. The temperature is falling into the single digits tonight, so I'd really prefer to stay in my bed all night! 

And Vera looks like she has four or five kids in there again this year, so it's going to be a production when she does kid.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Making decisions and waiting for goats to kid

Here I am on January 13, and I've already messed up on my resolution to blog on here twice a week! I was hardly home last week, but that doesn't mean I could not have posted on here. I was at the Illinois Specialty Grower's Conference, and I had a great time meeting like-minded people who like to grow food. I am also in the midst of a big life-changing decision, and being there helped me to clarify a few things. I was attending a session on growing tomatoes hydroponically, and once the speaker got into all sorts of technical stuff, I had a huge urge to leave and head to another session. I wound up listening to someone talk about marketing your crops, and my brain said that I should let someone else grow the tomatoes. Considering my physical challenges, that's probably a good idea. Give me a phone and a computer, and I can market.

What's the big life-changing decision? I'm at a crossroads with the farm. I have to either cut back to almost nothing, or I have to ramp it up to the point that we can hire someone. Mike is frequently late to work, which is not acceptable because we need his salary to live. And I know I'm just one fall away from being incapacitated again. I suppose that might be true of everyone, but I know how true it is because after falling in March and June, I was unable to do anything on the farm for many months. And I used to fall a lot! I had no idea that my knees were so fragile, and now there's the sciatica. When you can't bend over and you can't squat, how can you garden?

As I'm writing this, I'm thinking that maybe this is why I don't blog that much any more. I don't want to sound like I'm complaining, but this is the type of stuff that goes through my head every day.

So, what's up with the picture? 

The black and white goat in the middle is Agnes. She is due to kid in two weeks. I'm betting there are four kids in there, and I wouldn't bet against someone that said there were more than that. The poor girl is huge. She had four a couple of years ago, so it's not crazy to think that there could be four in there again. Vera and Cicada are also due at the end of the month, and they are equally huge, so we could go from zero to a dozen kids here really fast. Vera had quints last year, and Cicada usually has triplets or quads. So, hopefully I'll have some happy, healthy kid pics near the end of the month!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Hello, 2015! Best year ever!

When I wrote my new year post a year ago, I thought that 2013 had been the worst year ever because both of my in-laws died, as well as several animals that were very special to me. Little did I know that I had one heck of a roller coaster ride ahead of me in 2014!

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease in January, but the good news was, I didn't have thyroid cancer. In February, I was diagnosed with reflux, and in March, asthma. I had my first cold in five years and my first flu in about ten. Towards the end of March I also hurt my knee and learned that I already had grade four arthritis. The good news was that I didn't have bone cancer, which they thought they saw when they did the original x-ray. I spent April on crutches and in a wheelchair, and then I fell again in June. Ultimately my knee was swollen for about six months. But I'm getting ahead of things chronologically as I wound up being diagnosed with celiac in April and having my gall bladder removed in May. The good news was that I didn't have reflux! All of those digestive issues had just been caused by my misbehaving gall bladder. More good news was that after six weeks of thinking I had celiac, I learned that I didn't. However, I am gluten intolerant. Heading into fall, I started having problems with sciatica, which means there are some days when I can hardly walk because of nerve pain in my lower back that makes it impossible for me to put weight on my right leg without excruciating pain.

I spent a lot of time laying around feeling sorry for myself and feeling worthless. When my knee was so swollen that I couldn't bend it, I couldn't even work at my desk. Plus it was a major production to get myself down the stairs in the morning and up the stairs in the evening. I've had knee problems my whole life, so I knew my knees wouldn't last forever, but I was hoping they'd last longer than this. And the thyroid stuff hit me out of left field.

After I got through my little pity party, however, I did a bunch of reading on my various problems challenges, and I am working really hard to overcome them. I eliminated wheat, potatoes, and soy from my diet, and I'll be starting an elimination diet once all of my holiday house guests leave so that I can figure out what else is bothering me because my digestive system is still not firing on all cylinders. I've also started taking a rather long list of supplements ... glucosamine and chondroitin for my arthritis; fish oil and systemic enzymes for my sciatica; and selenium, plus vitamin E, D, B12, and zinc for the thyroid. And just for good measure, I've even thrown in a multi-vitamin and a calcium-magnesium supplement.

The really great news is that I've cut my TPO antibodies in half! (Those are the antibodies that my body is producing to attack my thyroid.) My TPO antibody level is now down to 75, which is still high but amazing because I actually have not met anyone with Hashimoto's who has a level that low. Research shows that when your level is below 100, your thyroid will probably continue to work for another ten years, so that is very, very good news. The goal is to get the antibodies down to less than 30, although closer to zero would be even better, so I still have more work to be done, but things are definitely looking up!

On another positive note, I've more than doubled my vitamin D level and by doing regular blood work and playing around with supplement dosages, I'm learning exactly how much I need to take to keep the level steady and to increase it even more, which is actually what I need to do.

In family news, the nest is now officially empty. Our son went away to college to finish his theater degree, and our youngest daughter graduated from the University of Illinois with honors and is now at Colorado State University working on her Ph.D. in chemical biology. Even though she lived in Urbana while attending U of I, we knew we could call her when we needed her to come home and help with something on the weekend. My oldest is loving her electrical engineering job in Ft. Worth, TX, but we have been able to see her several times this year, so I can't complain too much.

As for the farm, we are downsizing with some of the animals. I sold seven milk goats, bringing the number of milkers down from 21 to only 14. But then when I made up my breeding list this fall, I realized I was going to have five first fresheners, so that's going to bring us back to 19 milkers! Argh! I have decided to limit the number of milkers to 12, so that means more hard choices after goats freshen in the spring. I just couldn't bring myself to sell any more this past fall.

I will also be selling the Shetland sheep except maybe Winnie and Kewanee, a set of two-year-old twins that were bottlefed. I know I've said this before, but we really will do it this time. For the first time in my life, I'm actually thinking about taking animals to an auction. I haven't kept up with registrations on them since my daughters left home, so most of them are not registered, which might be making them harder to sell. I've posted a few ads on Facebook, but so far, no takers.

I am most excited about our plans to start incubator farms and form partnerships in 2015. I've come to realize that I can't count on my body to always be capable of doing farm chores, so in order to keep Antiquity Oaks running as a farm, we need to start reaching out to others. Regardless of how bad my knees or back get, I will still be able to help with the mental tasks involved in running a farm. And as I said to a friend recently, it just seems selfish to turn this 32 acres into our own little private park when it could be put to good use growing organic food for people.

Even though I felt like I was being punched it the gut over and over again in 2014, I think that most of it is turning out okay. On the bright side, I've gained a lot of empathy for people who need to change their diet, as I am now one of them. Although it has been hard at times, I've also discovered some amazing foods! Brownies made with flour are not even close to being the best brownies out there. When they are made with almond butter or black beans as the main ingredient, they are totally amazing! And I don't know if I ever would have tried them if I could still eat wheat.

So, I am really looking forward to 2015 and honestly think it will be the best year ever. But this blog post is already long enough, so I won't bore you with all of the things on my to-do list for the next 12 months. I will, however, make this resolution -- to blog at least twice every week this year, so you'll get to hear about all of those thing as they happen (or don't happen).

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A couple of farmers went to a party ...

Beauty and Beau (one month old) on November 5

Why has it taken me so long to tell you about our new milk cow Beauty and her calf Beau? Maybe because I still have a hard time believing that the first Saturday in October we went to a party at another farm, and before the night was over, I had my heart set on this beautiful Jersey cow and her one-week-old bull calf. I've spent a lot of time thinking, I can't believe I bought a cow on impulse! and wondering if I'd made a huge mistake. So, here is the story ...

PrairiErth Farm in Atlanta, IL, was having a harvest festival on October 4, and Mike and I decided to go. We had to do chores before heading up there, so we arrived when the party was already in full swing. We parked our car and were walking past the barn on our way to the hoop house where all the food was set out on tables, and I heard a voice yell, "They're going to milk the cow. If anybody wants to see them milk the cow, come on over to the barn!"

I knew Dave the farmer had a couple of Jerseys, but you would have thought that I had never seen a cow in my life. I got so excited and told Mike that we had to go see the cow! We walked into the barn, and a few minutes later, Dave came into the barn with a bucket, and his 12-year-old son started to milk Beauty the Jersey while her sweet little calf walked around visiting with everyone. Then Dave asked if any of the children wanted to milk the cow, and I stood there watching in amazement as children walked up to the cow and were yanking on her teats while she just stood there quietly chewing her cud. I looked at Mike and squealed like a 5-year-old, "I want that cow!" Mike just smiled at me. "Really!" I said, "I want that cow! Can you believe that? She's letting those children try to milk her!" I went on and on as Mike simply smiled. Then I said, "Honey, you have to milk her!" And he just kept smiling, but he did eventually walk over there and squeeze her teats a few times while I said, "Isn't she easy to milk?" Mike just kept smiling and said, "Yes, she is."

Dave said that Beauty had been sold, but she calved about three weeks early, and the buyer backed out of the deal. The calf was perfectly healthy, but it was a bull calf, and Dave figures that the buyer had been hoping for a heifer calf. Anyway, Beauty and the calf were for sale. I was thrilled that the calf was a bull because we sold our cattle more than a year ago, and there is very little beef left in our freezer, and I've been wondering what I'd do when we ran out completely. I haven't purchased or eaten commercial beef since 1989, and I'm not going to start now.

October 11, the day after we brought them home
I talked to Dave about buying the cow and her calf, but I don't think he completely believed I was interested. But, seriously, how many people come to a party and decide to buy a cow? Mike was probably hoping I was just joking. But I had a terrible time falling asleep that night because I kept thinking about Beauty. I woke up early and went downstairs and made a list of pros and cons for buying Beauty. The "pro" list outnumbered the "con" list by a lot. One of the advantages of buying her would be that she would obviously be great for teaching people to milk. Another thing is that we could make cheese with cow milk. If she produced more milk than we needed, we could get a calf from a dairy and raise it for beef. We could also feed extra milk to the pigs. The only down side is that we'd have to milk her, but on the pro side, it would take less time to milk one cow than several goats. Of course, the goats are going nowhere because I do still love my goat cheese, but I have always loved Jersey cream and butter. I love goat milk, but it doesn't have that "buttery" flavor that Jersey milk does.

So, after a couple of days of deliberation and discussions with Mike, I called Dave and told him that we wanted to buy Beauty. He sounded surprised and happy. He said he had hoped she would become a family milk cow rather than going to a dairy.

It's been two and a half months now, and we are enjoying her and her calf. She has learned to go into the barn every night. In fact, she gets downright loud when the sun is going down and we are not there to let her in. She heads straight to her stall, as soon as we open the door for her. And then I give her a hug every night as she starts to munch on her hay. We are enjoying her milk, which are using for yogurt and cheddar.

Beau is growing up so fast, and he is starting to get darker like his mama. Here's a picture of him on Dec. 10. We separate him from Beauty every night and milk her in the morning. The two of them are together in the pasture during the day, so he can nurse as much as he wants during that time. He will probably become beef in late summer as the grass starts to slow down. And at some point, we'll have Beauty artificially inseminated so she'll have another calf.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

We're looking for a few good farmers

A few days ago I noticed that a farm house three miles from us had become a pile of rubble, and last night, it was a fire. A very old farming couple lived there. I met the woman once when I knocked on her door to tell her that one of her pigs had escaped and was in the field across the road. She moved slowly and looked like she was at least in her seventies. I felt terrible not being able to offer to help her get the pig back to his pen, but we were on our way to an appointment. I don't know what happened to the couple, but their house is now ashes.

According to the government, the average age of farmers in this country is almost 60. That's absurd for an average working age! That is the average age of retirement for many professions. Yet I know plenty of farmers in their 70s. Since we moved out here in 2002, we have seen many farm houses torn down -- at least one every year or two -- along the roads that we travel most commonly between our house and the Interstate, which is only 12 miles away. That's actually a very high percentage of the houses being torn down because there wasn't more than one house every half a mile or so. Now there are even less. Because most of Illinois has been turned into corn and soybean country, a single farmer can farm a couple thousand acres, so the number of farmers keeps shrinking.

But the problem is that we don't eat corn and soybeans. Although some of the corn and soybeans are used for livestock feed, a lot of it is sent to a lab and turned into non-edible things, such as ethanol and styrofoam packing peanuts (corn) and biodiesel (soybeans), as well as non-nutritive food additives, such as corn syrup, corn starch, soy lecithin, and things you can't pronounce like sodium carboxymethylcellulose. Back in the 1950s, Illinois was the fifth largest vegetable producing state in the nation. Today we import 95% of our food from other states and other countries. We have some of the best, most fertile land in the country, yet if something happened to our transportation system tomorrow, most of the state would be starving within days. Even if that never happens, the cost of transportation is going to keep climbing, and someday it will be considered absurd to eat lettuce from California or asparagus from South America. This food system is not sustainable.

Illinois needs people to grow food for people living in Illinois. The problem is that getting started in farming traditionally has not been like getting started in any other profession. You had to inherit a farm. And with today's land prices, that isn't going to change any time soon. But there is an alternative. Incubator farms are starting to pop up for those who want to farm but don't have the cash to buy their own land. I've actually been thinking about this for a few years. Why don't we form a partnership with people who want to farm? We'll provide the land, equipment, tools, etc, and they provide the labor, and we split the profits. I didn't actually do anything to find potential incubator farmers, though, because I didn't have any faith in my idea. I thought, who'd want to do that? Well, as it turns out, lots of people want to do that!

In his book, Fields of Farmers, Joel Salatin said he is doing exactly that. The reason that his farm has grown so large in recent years is because he has former interns staying on at Polyface as partners. Joel now rents several farms within a 30 minute radius of his farm so that new farmers can work them. When I attended the Acres USA conference last December in Springfield, IL, there was another farmer there who was also doing the same thing. He did a session on the nuts and bolts of having new farmer-partners working on his farm.

With our children grown and no longer living at home, we have 32 acres here (and another 67 acres that I need to tell you about soon) that is too much for us to utilize to its fullest potential. It seems wasteful and somewhat stingy to simply use this as my oversized park when it could be used to grow organic food for people while giving new farmers the experience they need to be able to eventually go to a bank to get a business loan to buy their own farm.

So, that's the plan for 2015 and moving forward. Earlier this year, we created Antiquity Oaks LLC, and our main goal moving forward is to be a farm that educates new and aspiring farmers, whether they want to have a market garden, grow mushrooms, produce honey or maple syrup, or raise animals for meat, milk, or fiber. In addition to having classes and internship programs, we will have partnership opportunities for those with education and experience who want to start their own farming business.

If you know anyone who is looking for that type of opportunity, feel free to give them our contact information!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Trimming the boar's tusks

(or Vet Visit, Part 2)

A couple of days before the vet was supposed to come over to do the goat ultrasounds, someone on one of the pig Facebook groups posted a picture of a large gash in her leg. It was caused by her boar turning his head at the wrong moment, and his tusk sliced through her boot, her thick sock, and into her leg! Then several other people talked about similar experiences. All of them had sweet, docile American Guinea Hogs who just happened to turn their head at the wrong moment!

Although Henry's tusks looked scary, I never thought he would ever hurt one of us with them. He is so incredibly docile! But after seeing those pictures and hearing several other people say the same thing had happened to them, I decided that I was incredibly lucky to already have an appointment with the vet who was coming to the farm in a couple of days! So, I emailed and asked if she could trim Henry's tusks when she was here.

The vet said we needed to put him in a small space where he couldn't get away, and she could more easily work with him. Confine? Everyone around here is free range! After wringing our hands and saying to each other that we didn't have such a place on our farm, it finally clicked! We put him in the horse trailer! Then, while we were waiting for the vet to arrive, I tried to get a good picture of his big scary tusks.

I was disappointed that these pictures did not do justice to the tusks!

But here is a picture of the vet sawing away at one of his tusks ... look at the size of that bad boy! It's even longer than I'd realized!

Yep, that could have done some damage if he'd turned his head at the wrong moment. I was surprised at the dust that was created as she was sawing on it.

Once the tusk was cut off, she used a dremel to smooth off the sharp edges. And in case you are wondering, Henry was sedated for this. He may be sweet and docile, but I didn't expect him to lay there and let someone cut off his tusks. It's hard enough for me to sit in a dentist's chair and let them work on my teeth, and I know they're doing something that's ultimately good for me.

The vet said Henry's tusks shouldn't need to be trimmed again for a couple of years. While she was here, I also mentioned to her that several people online suggested simply giving a boar a few beers (one beer per 100 pounds, to be exact) and then using bolt cutters to snip off the tusks. She said the problem with bolt cutters is that the tooth will sometimes wind up cracking all of the way down to the root, so it's really better to use the obstetrical wire to cut the tusk. Although she didn't comment on the use of beer as a pig sedative, I don't really want to risk my hands on it, so we will be calling her back next time Henry needs a trim.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Vet visit

We don't have a full-time large animal vet anywhere near us, which is why I always wind up driving the two hours to the University of Illinois vet clinic in emergencies. However, there is a traveling vet that comes through here, and although it would be $140 to have her drive here just for us, if I can coordinate her visit with another nearby farm (or two or three), we can reduce that cost considerably. And that's what happened a couple of weeks ago. A farmer friend of mine was having the vet come to her place to trim her boar's tusks, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to get an ultrasound on a goat that was being sold to Texas to make sure she was pregnant.

So, here's Marie on the milk stand, enjoying some grain, with no idea that the vet is about to put that cold ultrasound probe on her belly. It went totally fine though -- after Marie's initial shock -- and we learned that she was pregnant with at least two bouncy kids! So, Marie is now in her new home down in Texas.

Since the vet was going to be here, I also decided to get an ultrasound on Vera. She was two months pregnant and already huge. I have only ever had three goats look pregnant at two months -- Vera when she had quintuplets last year, and her mother Coco, the two times she had quints!

If memory serves, this is just a picture of amniotic fluid, but that means the goat is pregnant! Unfortunately, with Vera being two months into her pregnancy already, the vet couldn't get a good view of all the kids at once. She could see three at one time, but she was hesitant to say that there were more than that because it's tough to know when you're seeing the same kid or a different one each time you move the probe a little. So, I guess we'll just have to be surprised at the end of January when Vera kids. If she does have five in there again, I just hope that they come shooting out as easily as they did this last kidding season. Mike was home alone and said he could hardly get them dried off fast enough.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tagging pigs

Although we've been raising American Guinea Hogs for four years, and we had Tamworths for about six years before that, we've almost always sold them for meat. However, the past couple of months, I've had several people contact me about buying breeding stock. In fact, all of our September piglets have been sold as live piglets to people who want to raise them either for meat or as the beginning of their breeding program. In order to provide positive identification for them, the pigs need to have ear tags, tattoos, or ear notches. I hate ear notches; tattoos can be hard to read; so that leaves us with ear tags. It's the lesser of three evils.

Three piglets were picked up on Saturday, and we needed to put ear tags in them. I really expected it to be about as much fun as a root canal without novocaine. Mike and I discussed whether he or I should hold a pig or be the tagger. I personally didn't think that I was necessarily strong enough to do either. Although most people think of pigs as "fat," the fact is that they are the most concentrated bundle of muscle of any of the animals on the farm. Ultimately we decided that he should hold the pig while I put the tag in the ear.

And I am happy to say that it went much better than anticipated. In fact, it was easier than tattooing goats or tagging sheep. The pigs made a short squeak when the tag went into their ear, but that was it! No thrashing, no non-stop squealing, no drama. It wasn't much harder than using a hole punch in a piece of paper.

And the three little pigs were on their way to their new home!
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