Sunday, May 20, 2012

Birth and death and life goes on

The chaos has continued ever since my last post. We've had babies popping up everywhere -- lambs, kids, chicks, and "babies" hatched by a turkey! I took a quick trip to Wisconsin to talk about wool on The Morning Blend, as well as give a "Natural Home Dairy" lecture at University of Wisconsin-Parkside and a bread demonstration at the Chicago Green Festival. I'm also in the home stretch of edits for my next book, and my baby graduated from Joliet Junior College with high honors. And life has not been without its challenges as we had a brutal coyote attack, and two of our milk goats have taken ill. If you ask me anything about what I've done in the past two weeks, I have to look at my planner to tell you!

I am truly hoping I can find time in the next couple weeks to give a proper accounting of all that's been happening, but in the meantime, here's the short version. The funniest thing was when we thought the turkey hen had hatched poults. We saw her standing next to the pond, and the babies were getting into the water and getting wet, which is very bad! Baby turkeys could easily get chilled, so Mike went running out there to get them away from the pond, but the silly things just kept running farther into the water, so he backed off. Turns out the babies were ducklings! We actually thought this might work for us because whenever a duck hatches babies, she takes them into the pond, where they get eaten by turtles or big mouth bass. We hoped that the ducklings would stay close enough to shore that the pond monsters wouldn't be able to eat them, but that has not been the case. Mama Turkey started with three ducklings and is down to only one now.

She really threw a monkey wrench into our plans by sitting on duck eggs. It never occurred to us that we needed to be checking up on her to see that she was actually sitting on turkey eggs. We are not aware of any other turkeys sitting on eggs, and we have not even found any turkey eggs that we could put into the incubator, so I've just ordered some poults from a hatchery. This is especially disappointing because I kept three hens from last year, and none of them appear to be doing anything remotely related to motherhood. The turkey hen that hatched the ducklings is four or five years old, so maybe she's going through eggopause but still had the urge to be a mama and was just lucky enough to find a bunch of duck eggs. I wish I knew!

Cheyenne and two ewe lambs
We are up to eleven lambs so far, although I don't have an exact number on rams and ewes. Since the coyote attack, the sheep have been extremely high strung, so we can't even get within 20 feet of them before they freak out and just start running. And about that coyote attack -- when we were gone to my baby's graduation, a pack attacked Minerva, who was very pregnant and due at any moment. It makes me sick thinking that she might have been in labor when they attacked her, which is why she was vulnerable and couldn't get away. This is the first time we've lost a sheep since we got the llamas in 2008. And if you were reading my blog back then, you know we had a terrible problem! We lost nine of our ten lambs to coyotes in the summer and fall of 2007 and heading into 2008, so we know that once a pack thinks the buffet is open, we have to get very serious. We've moved the sheep into a pasture that is fully enclosed with woven wire. They had been in an area that was open to the creek, which is probably how the coyotes got to them.

The month actually started off with two of our goats giving birth. Jane, a yearling, gave birth to quads, and Pearl gave birth to twins. Our luck with does this year continues as there is only one buckling out of the six. Just remember that we had 29 bucklings last year, so don't think that we're that lucky! I really have to write a separate blog post about the goat births because it was utter chaos with the two of them giving birth only about ten minutes apart, but both screaming and pushing at the same time!

The two ill milk goats are doing okay. On Wednesday, Katherine came in from milking to say that Annie didn't have any milk. Huh? She was making three pounds a day (a quart and a half) the day before. I have only ever had two goats suddenly stop producing milk, and in both cases, they were dead within 12 hours, so I wasn't about to waste time with Annie. I rushed her down to the University of Illinois vet clinic. They ran every blood, poop, milk, and urine test known to veterinary medicine, and then they did an ultrasound and looked at every internal organ in her abdomen. Clearly she had some sort of infection as she had a fever of 104.5, and her white blood cell count was elevated. But beyond that, they had no idea what was really going on. She was starting to head into acidosis, probably due to the diarrhea that she'd developed, so they drenched her with a liter of water with baking soda and other things that were lacking in her blood and gave her antibiotics. Things did not look good for a couple of days as the diarrhea continued and her udder did not fill up.

Then this morning, Katherine came inside to tell me that Cicada has diarrhea and no milk. Ugh! I immediately told her to put Cicada in the other barn with Annie because it looked like whatever Annie had was contagious and now Cicada has it, but hopefully no one else gets it! I was getting really depressed, worrying about losing all of my milkers and thinking the worst. I planned to contact the vet clinic after coming back inside the house. But when we took Cicada into the other barn, Annie appeared to have a full udder! Katherine milked her and she had about two-thirds of a quart of milk, which is almost where she was before she got sick. Then I realized her poop was back to normal. So, we are really excited about her prognosis now and assuming that Cicada will follow suit!

There was one day in the past couple weeks that I thought the mama turkey had lost her babies, and I was worried about her udder filling up with milk. No, I haven't been getting a lot of sleep lately!

That's all the time I have for tonight, but I'm really hoping to post more often and keep you updated on everything that's happening around here! And as I'm typing this, thunder is clapping and lightening is streaking across the sky. The radar looks scary, so I better hit "publish" before the electricity goes out. I think I hear Bette Davis saying, "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night."


Zan Asha said...

I still don't know how you do it all, and it was a high time seeing it all first hand!

Big hugs and I hope your animals start faring better! Looking forward to talking to you soon, too!


callie brady said...

Love the turkey, duckling story... sure hope things ease up and give you a breather. Beautiful country! So sorry about the coyote attack. The fox and coyotes haven't shown up here yet this year.

Shula said...

Wow when do you have time to breathe? Hope everything starts to calm down for you now and things get better. Sorry to hear you lost a ewe to coyotes, hope it was just a one of thing. Good luck with your turkey poults.

Diana R.Smith said...

we had a llhama with our sheep and he was dedicated to keeping the coyotes away...don't know how he would have done when the bear got into the bee yard though this spring! He,sadly, passed awy from old age last fall. Now we have a rescue Pyrenees and she is a fabulous watchdog. It is always heartbreaking to loose animals you've raised

Landscape Contractor said...

I thought the turkey taking the ducklings to water was a bit funny. But it's amazing how you keep up with every animal crisis! Hats off to you!

Sarah @ Green Global Travel said...

Sounds like you and your family are busy, but I'm sure it's worth it!


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