Archive for November, 2012

Winter is coming

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Brownie the Goose has found a fantastic home and I thank everyone for the overwhelming response. I am going to miss her dearly, but I know this is the right decision. She’s going to a home with plenty of feathered friends. Geese are social animals and should never be kept alone and I couldn’t bring anymore geesy friends here until I’m at least somewhat confident that the coyotes will stay away.

Also, a big thank you for all the suggestions on where and what breed of Livestock Guardian Dog to bring to the farm. My search is ongoing and hopefully won’t be delayed. A good guardian dog should be brought home young and given time to bond with the livestock that he or she will protect, but they cannot be expected to fulfill their duties as puppies. Which basically means, the sooner I can find a quality working dog the better, because even after I bring my puppy home I’m at least six months out from having a responsible mature guardian. In the mean time, Misky is still an excellent deterrent and her judgement on where and what to bark at is fantastic! I feel relieved to know I have such a wonderful mother-dog to teach a puppy sound manners.

What else? I know I had so much to stay and now I’ve forgotten almost everything!

I’ve been asked how my little bull is doing and I think he’s settling in nicely. The reason I haven’t posted another video update for him is because I’m working on somewhat of a larger project with him and we haven’t progressed enough to complete the video just yet. When I got him, he had never been touched by humans at all except to be loaded into the trailer and delivered here. When I think of it like that we’ve made amazing progress so far, but amazing progress only means I can sit quietly with some hay and very carefully touch the top of his forehead. That’s okay though, there’s no rush. Soon I’ll clip his lead rope on and try some pressure and release with him. I know he’s not going to like that though!

It’s getting chilly out here now and I think Edie and Dasher finally realize what they were growing that thick wooly coat for. I’m pretty excited to see what they’re going to look like when it’s clipped come spring though. I think Edie will disappear into half her size! Nessie and Baby have their winter coats coming in too, but I feel like they were a little behind this year. I don’t blame them though. It went from being 90 degrees one day to 60 the next with 30 degree nights.

Meanwhile, Sugar Tree and Pancake continue to be utterly adorable…

Geese & dogs

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I’ve lost two of my geese to coyotes. I consider it ultimately my fault.

The geese are penned up at night, typically I let them in at dusk. I also let out my guardian dog, Miskatonic. She watches outside at night and sleeps in the house during the day. However, an unusual circumstances happened and I was about 30 minutes late getting home to pen them up and let Misky out to patrol. You wouldn’t think that would be such a big deal- I didn’t at first, but the coyotes must have jumped at the chance to nab them while no one was home or a short time and night was falling.

The coyotes here seem to be getting more and more bold over the last six months and on more then one occasion I’ve shined a flashlight into their eyes going out to protect the sheep and geese.

Now only Brownie is left all alone and I have the option of getting more geese as companions for her and rebuilding my flock of Sebastopol geese for breeding next spring or I can find Brownie a home where she’ll be safe. After careful thought I’ve decided to choose the latter and focus all my attention on breeding and raising my sheep. I haven’t found that geese are very well suited for my environment and consume large amounts of water and food. Maybe there’s room here in the future for a few geese or ducks, but right now the coyotes are closing in and I’m afraid any night could be Brownie’s last, penned up and Misky out or not.

Which brings me to another point. Misky is over 13 years old and there’s only so many more months she can continue to patrol the property. She used to make complete rounds checking everything out, but now her watch duty consists more of her laying on a dog bed on the porch and getting up and barking only if she hears anything. Still very effective, but I think it’s almost time to retire her and I may need to start searching for her predecessor: A livestock guardian dog from working lines that has been bred to live and work with sheep and one that is comfortable in warm weather. And it needs to be soon because I want Miskatonic to be able to raise him or her properly and I can’t expect her to be up to the task for very much longer. She certainly isn’t going to like his, though. Misky lives to guard and well… bark. She’s a typical Great Pyrenees.

As for Brownie, I want to find the perfect home for her. She won’t be available for money, but only to someone who will pen her at night, has other geese, and a livestock dog. If you’re interested in Brownie yourself, feel free to contact me and explain your situation. Don’t live near me? I will even offer to drive up to 300 miles in any direction to meet you to give her the perfect home. It’s been a joy raising her from a small gosling and she deserves it.

RIP Jim & Reuben, you were wonderful to know.

Adventures in sheeping

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“Get a goat.”

That’s something I’ve heard on more than one occasion. In fact, it seems like every hobby farmers sing the praises of goats and every one I know has them. Usually, the small pygmy or nigerian variety, but sometimes fainting goats. They climb and scale and get into everything, but they have “lots of personality” I’m told. I think it must be true though, because people sure love their goats.

But I love my sheep.

Bringing home Dasher as a tiny two week lamb was the best decision ever! It seems like goats get all the publicity as THE farm pet to have around and sheep are often looked at as nothing more than a producing animal. They’re only good to have around for their wool or to be herded by collies as a hobby. Well, I beg to differ! My sheep are great. So entertaining, low maintenance and intelligent. And unlike goats, they don’t try and eat your shoes and break your fences.

My first sheep, Dasher, was ‘just a mutt’. A mixed breed that I adopted from a farm near my home. It was partly a spontaneous and partly not. I had been wondering for a long time what people were missing with sheep and why goats were the kings and queens of the hobby farm. After spending a day meeting Dasher’s hundred or so relatives, I was hooked and I couldn’t wait to get her home. Sheep are herd animals though, so I knew I’d be back the next week to get Dasher a friend.

Or better yet, my friend and housemate did. That’s how Edie came into the picture. Edie is a purebred Shetland Sheep and must be the sweetest thing on this planet. I guess that’s pretty typical of their personalities. It can get a little annoying at time, because she always wants to be with you. Edie and Dasher grew up in the house because I was too concerned about predators outside. It was also very convenient because they both were being bottle fed small meals multiple times a day. Once they grew up, a pasture was built near the house for them and they began their happy little lives outside.

All the while I was deciding what type of Ram would head my mini herd and Octavian was purchased from California. I went to great lengths to get him based on my strong beliefs that our typical farming breeds (like Shetlands) are overbred and have lost some of their health and vigor (and probably intelligence) in man’s quest to make them the perfect little product.

But Mouflon Sheep like Octavian are a wild breed of sheep and although Octavian (for now) is very sweet, he still isn’t quite as ‘nice’ or ‘tame’ as Edie and Dasher. It’s not his fault, it’s just genetics. Personally, I don’t mind it at all. Octavian is beautiful and graceful, almost like a deer. For me, my pets don’t have to be love bugs or constantly seeking affection and attention, they just have to be themselves. However, it’s hard not to realize what a perfect combination a farm bred sheep like Edie and Dasher and a wild sheep like Octavian would be. The term is usually called heterosis, which basically means a breeding that will enhance the evolutionary fitness of an already set standard of traits. In this case, the babies of Edie and Dasher could have their set traits, their love bug nature, and tameness (through many many years of domesticated breeding) paired with Octavian’s health and wildly different genetic diversity.

As Octavian reaches mature breeding age, I’ve been searching for acceptable ewes to mate him with. Edie and Dasher were never intended for this purpose and not to offend them, but I’ve been much more picky this time! I was given a registered Blackbelly ewe, which is the most commonly crossed sheep bred to Mouflon. The result is a big impressive animal called a Corsican. However, she is skittish beyond belief and I have no hope that she’s going to tame down. Since my sheep are my pets and I visit with them in their pasture daily, it’s just too upsetting for her to constantly have a human around. I’m not talking about shying away either, I’m talking about I-Am-Scared-Out-Of-My-Mind-And-I-Want-To-Crash-Through-This-Fence. Not exactly the attitude I’d want passed on either and a very poor candidate for breeding. I’m currently looking for a new home for her with someone with bigger land and bigger breeding goals.

In the mean time, I purchased two more Mouflon. This time from Texas. And this time two girls! I am very excited that next year I may be able to offer purebred Mouflon sheep for sale in Arizona. I say may, because it depends on whether or not Octavian wants to go into rut this winter and it also depends on whether the lambs are girls or boys. I’m more likely to sell the boys and keep the girls. Once I can get a small herd together though, I hope that I can offer them to other sheep breeders in the state and genetic diversity can be created.

Now where was I? Oh yeah, sheep are great! Mouflon are beautiful! And goats are just okay… :)