Tuesday, November 16, 2010

indian winter

If last weekend was all about relaxing and staying at home, this weekend was the opposite! There's this freak weather pattern floating through Veryork right now, with days in the sixties and nights dropping anywhere from the mid 20s to mid 40s. Wood stoves are lit at night and by 10 Am all the windows are open to cool down the houses. If you can believe it: Saturday brought Jackson to 65 degrees. Crazy.

Instead of a picnic or hike, I used that fair weather to take care of things that would matter when it was twenty below here at the farm. I put another coat of paint on the new sheep shed, and repaired weak spots on the old one. I bought another truckload of hay and stored it in the barn, which is now about thirty bales high and reaching up into the loft space. Another ten bales line the covered side porch and will be protected by a tarp from rain. I also did all those little chores I've been putting off like replacing outdoor light bulbs and mending weak areas in the fence. It felt good to know I used the time to help prepare the animals for the coming winter.

Fox wars are still on. Saturday night I was out there with the rifle and almost got him, but discovered the next morning how off the sight was on the 50-year-old gun. I had aimed true as I was taught in hunter safety: but the sight was set too high and when I was presented with the perfect shot just 35 feet away...I missed. I haven't seen him since he ran off into the woods that Saturday night, so maybe I did clip him? That or he's preparing his ranks for Operation Overcoat, in which 4,000 foxes will blanket the farm in an avian death raid...

The fox issue will sort itself out. It always does. But it does have me concerned about the lambs come spring. I'll need some sort of livestock guardian, and am thinking about the options. Another dog is out of the picture. Four dogs is simply too much and they don't seem like the right fit on these few acres. I would like a small (as in under 40 inches) donkey, pony, or mule to live with the flock, since they are proven guardians and also can be trained for draft work. If I'm going to be feeding another animal on the farm I'd like it to be as useful as possible. Dual-purpose security is the preference. But finding a free donkey or mule isn't easy and buying any other livestock is out. Perhaps electric fences will have to do this year.

P.S. ...and if you are wondering what happened to me this weekend without any big posts, you can blame Victorian Farm. I watched the entire 36-episode series on Youtube: twice. That and a brunch party ate up the weekend.

44 Comments:

Blogger Eleanor said...

Jenna, have you thought about a Llama? They are fiercely protective, and you might be able to shear it for wool.

November 16, 2010 at 7:13 AM  
Blogger twistie said...

Not all llamas are created equal when it comes to livestock protection; I have a llama who I hoped would work as a 'guardian' unfortunately he's scared of his own shadow. He does not have the guardian instinct. However I have a neighbor who has a llama in with her small flock of sheep, so it does work and those fiercely protective llamas are out there... Not only that, their fiber is wonderful and can blend nicely with wool!

November 16, 2010 at 7:52 AM  
Blogger farmgirljen said...

Ditto on the llama comment. Our neighbors have one with their flock of sheep and it works well. We have coyotes here rather than foxes. The llama fiber is very popular as well, so you'd be hitting a double with a llama.

November 16, 2010 at 8:06 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I'm not opposed to a llama. If another small farmer had to rehome their amazing-protector llmama I'd happily take him/her. But again, their only other use is wool and i have a A LOT of that around here. I am more interested in a small draft animal. Something that eats about what two sheep may eat in a day and can also be used to cart.

November 16, 2010 at 8:09 AM  
Blogger aerogramme said...

Like another poster sid not all animal are equal in the livestock protection . Concerning free donkey or mule ... this is just an extra mouth to feed and if they are free there is a reason, nobody ever give away something useful on a farm. at worse you bring it to the sales barn to get a few buck (sad reality of farming and not hobby farming)

the electric fence seems like your best bet.

I believe Bear and coyotes will be more dangerous than any fox for your lamb.

AND do not forget stray dog they are the worse creature out there.

November 16, 2010 at 8:16 AM  
Blogger Mary Lee said...

I understand that llamas work best in pairs. One deals with the intruder and the other one stays to guard the flock.

As for finding a free draft animal, you may want to broadcast your need: send a note to the local large-animal vets in your area, advertise on Craigslist (in 75-100 mile radius?, however far you are willing to drive), send notes to local animal shelters, put ads in any local newspapers (those that have free ads), put a notice up at the local feed stores, etc. Comtact the organizers of that get-together you just missed and see if they have an email list or newsletter. Just a thought....you might end up with more than just a four-legged guardian/draft animal!

As always, I am amaized at all you have done and are doing. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such an interesting blog. I do not know where you find the energy to write at the end of your day!

November 16, 2010 at 8:41 AM  
Blogger Janet said...

Love seeing the picture of your farm. More please!

November 16, 2010 at 8:42 AM  
Blogger SWEETHEARTS MOM said...

what will you do with your guardian when it comes time to use your dog? Do you have to lock it up? I would also recommend a llama but again it could gut your dog with her feet

November 16, 2010 at 9:00 AM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

Be careful with donkeys. I had a small standard donkey (he was about 38" at the withers) and he was gelded shortly after I got him. He never did like the sheep and goats, and managed to kill one goat and sling a calf by the neck because he hated them so much. I've heard this is not all that uncommon with donkeys. He went on to another farm with another donkey, but I learned my lesson. I would get a dog before I got any other guardian. Of course you can have issues with dogs too, but I think dogs are more adaptable. Equines really like other equine company. I think Chester (my donkey) just resented the ruminants.

November 16, 2010 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

what do your mentors and other lambing operations in your area suggest? you might not want to rule anything out until you learn what works and what doesn't.

i personally think a LGD is your best bet. while you might not want 4 dogs now, LGD are ultimate protection when it comes to a guardian animal. also, aren't your huskies getting up there in age? sad to think about but worth considering.

a hooved guardian animal will guard your sheep, a LGD will guard everything, inside and outside of fence lines. also when it comes to your dogs, having a LGD is probably a safer option. i've seen dogs killed by mules and donkeys before.

look into LGD breeds and contact breed rescues. there are SO many working dogs available for adoption. people get them as pets and as you can imagine, working line dogs don't always adapt to home life. if you are open to breed, willing to drive, and do a little research, you could find one with a relatively low adoption fee, or possibly free. so many rescues are desperate to find good matches they might be willing to work (or barter) with you.

...or you can purchase one/two less sheep (or sell one/two immediately if you've already signed a contract) and put that money towards a herd protector? no point in bringing all these pregnant ewes to cold antler if you don't have a way to keep them or their lambs safe.

November 16, 2010 at 9:18 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

No more dogs. I do not have proper outdoor shelter for a dog. Not up to what a dog deserves, in my eyes.

In my conversations with other sheep farmers having a larger animal with the sheep is usually all the coyotes need to see to back off.

November 16, 2010 at 9:21 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

My cousin has a miniature donkey that she got for $300.00. They are wonderful, and they can be trained to pull a cart!

November 16, 2010 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

on further consideration one of the mules mauled a sheep it was put in to protect. he would have killed the sheep w/o intervention.

be careful!

November 16, 2010 at 9:23 AM  
Blogger jim said...

craigs list-

November 16, 2010 at 9:34 AM  
Blogger jim said...

check craigs list- always some here in tx---but be careful, donkeys can be one tough animal to control

November 16, 2010 at 9:35 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Scaled up a little, but we had a PercheronX draft horse that used to protect our cattle. He was fiercely protective of the cows and calves, and we never worried about predators.
Thing was, when he was weaned off his dam, he was put to pasture with them immediately, so they became his herd. I'm not sure you'd get the same instinct with an older animal.

btw - at 22, he still hates dogs and will run them out of the pasture, though he's been retired from cow duty for the last 5 years or so.

November 16, 2010 at 9:41 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

I too can blame Victorian Farm for lots of things. And YOU for posting it! Thanks though. :-) I've been thoroughly enjoying my laziness.

November 16, 2010 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger Maggie in Tally said...

Sarah--goodness! I bet the first time a hungry coyote saw the Percheron run at him, he headed for an easier meal. I sure woulda. All that mass heading for me woulda put me right OFF my feed, matter of fact.

November 16, 2010 at 10:36 AM  
Blogger Maggie in Tally said...

Ohyeah...and ditto on the Victorian Farm. On episode 16 right now, here at the office. Shhh. Don't tell the boss. So glad you told us about it.

November 16, 2010 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger Debi said...

Love,love,love the pic of your house!

I don't know much about livestock, but here in Ky, I've seen many farms that have llamas and donkeys in with goats. I imagine it would work for sheep too. Good luck!

Blessing,
Debi

November 16, 2010 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

I don't know about where you are, but around here, llamas tend to be quite pricey. Although with some luck and diligence, it isn't impossible to find a good animal for free (or cheap). We had this debate ourselves, and ultimately went with a Great Pyrenees, even though we too had three dogs already. He lives in the barn with the goats and is quite happy there. Making him live outside all the time was an extremely hard pill for my husband to swallow, but he quickly realized that the dog is fine, and quite content. You'd be amazed at how little they eat, too. My 90 lb Pyr eats about the same amount as my 40 lb cur. He does an excellent job.

The reason we wound up going with a dog is because we have zero learning curve with dogs. We have no experience whatsoever with donkeys or llamas and just weren't ready to take on a new project. Of course what was right for us won't necessarily be right for you, but just throwing in my 2 cents. Unfortunately, much like a donkey or llama, a LGD could very well take a dislike to Gibson too.

November 16, 2010 at 11:53 AM  
Blogger Crit said...

You should check petfinder.com and/or local SPCA or rescue groups for donkeys or other such animals.

November 16, 2010 at 12:51 PM  
Blogger Crit said...

Try this
http://www.whinny.org/rescue.htm

November 16, 2010 at 12:58 PM  
Blogger CallieK said...

We're having the same weird weather here in Toronto. Friday was warm and so foggy it looked like a horror movie. I have one crazy tomato plant on the roof that's still producing fruit and yesterday I picked a mess of snapdragons!

I too spent most of the weekend engrossed in Victorian Farm and found out they did a new series revolving around Victorian Christmas that will air for 4 weeks in Dec!!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92zlfBpqlQ8

We get it on TVO here in Toronto but check your area to see if PBS is showing it!

November 16, 2010 at 12:58 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

I vote for a donkey,though you've gotta keep an eye on them.

November 16, 2010 at 1:46 PM  
Blogger mandy_farmer said...

I blame you! I have got nothing done but watching Victorian Farm since you posted that. I am sure I could act it all out now! LOL

November 16, 2010 at 3:45 PM  
Blogger Anton said...

Yes, I too have you to blame for wasting so much time on the computer this weekend . . . Victorian Farm anyone!? I'm glad I'm not the only one who got sucked in. Of course I had to pass it on to my friends, now they'll waste weekends too!
Pssst . . . Edwardian Farm . . .

November 16, 2010 at 4:55 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

That Victorian Farm is sure addictive, isn't it? I found it on Amazon, but it's in UK format. Since I know I can watch it on YouTube, I was more interested in keeping an eye on when Edwardian Farm is available- I understand that it's being aired right now. So I asked my clever hubby if he can crack watching it here and he said yes, so as soon as I can get it, I'll be hooked on Edwardian Farm as well.

I mentioned somewhere that I'd be interested in watching a Georgian Farm or Elizabethan Farm, if they wanted to make those too!

November 16, 2010 at 5:32 PM  
Blogger Laurie said...

I, too, watched Victorian Farm. It was wonderful! Thanks for sharing it with us.

November 16, 2010 at 6:21 PM  
Blogger A Northern Farmer said...

Well thanks Jenna, now I've got Victorian Farm open in a new tab waiting for the kids (and chickens) to go to bed.

November 16, 2010 at 6:35 PM  
Blogger bookjunky said...

Don't rule out a dog. I have a Great Pyr/Akbash cross and I highly recommend getting a dog for this job. He has been raised with the sheep and goats since day one and he is great with them. He's now about 9 months old. I had two siblings to start but one had wandering tendencies and we had too much meadow to electrify the fence so he has found a new home with someone who had more secure fencing. (Other than that, he was also a great dog.) You might find one who's a little older or already trained in fact. There are Great Pyr rescue organizations all around the country, and you'll find people on craigslist rehoming them periodically.

LGDs are instinctive guardians and need very little training or care. After I got a book on llamas I decided to pass on them. Mules can also be vicious. LGDs are generally extremely gentle, except toward predators. They also don't eat nearly as much as you would think for a dog of their size because they are very low energy dogs most of the time.

Keep in mind that Jazz and Annie are getting up in years, too...

Good for you for getting so much done this week. We've been having a warm spell, too. Today my husband forgot to put the truck in neutral when he parked and it rolled down the hill and destroyed the tool shed. Rain is forecast for Saturday...

November 16, 2010 at 7:30 PM  
Blogger bookjunky said...

Re: shelter for the LGD: THEY SLEEP WITH THE SHEEP!!!! Our pup has slept with the goats and sheep since day one. When he was tiny we rigged up one of the old mangers so he could watch the sheep without getting trampled. By the time he was a few months old he could go in and out of the area if he needed. Now he just sleeps in the same area with the sheep. If your sheep are warm, the LGD will be fine. I've watched him sit outside in a pouring rain 20 feet from a shelter.

November 16, 2010 at 7:34 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

1900 house is on youtube, the whole thing. I am watching it now. I saw it before and while it's not farmy: it is a lot of pre-electic living. Cool for the urban homsteader!

November 16, 2010 at 7:38 PM  
Blogger Louis said...

You definitely need to get your rifle sighted and practice shooting targets at various distances. Trigger pull is at least as important as sight alignment. If you are going to shoot an animal, you have an ethical responsibility (IMHO) to kill him humanely. You have to make sure you don't just "clip" him, after which he crawls off and dies a slow and painful death.

One shot. He should not even know what hit him. BTW, what caliber are you using?

November 16, 2010 at 8:19 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

It takes a village. I have llama, great Pyranese and a 22. I've had a real problem with coyotes and have had a lot of loss this year. I'm on 400 acres. Its been a hard year. The 22 was a last resort. One very important thing about llamas you can only have one with your flock. two will herd and frolic together and not give a hoot about the flock. I had to learn this the hard way. Having One will bond, actually its more like the sheep bond to him. My llama takes the sheep out to the pasture in the morning after milking and brings them back in the evening. Pretty cool.One other thing is if its male he must be gelded. But whats also great is they do eat just as the sheep and usually are easy keepers. No need to buy dog food etc... The fiber is one thing that is cool but what I love most is just how incredibly beautiful they are. I think its worth checking out. That and keep that 22 handy. sorry for the long post

November 16, 2010 at 9:13 PM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

thank you for your comment Louis. i was going to say something but decided not to, but cringed when i read that in her post.

November 17, 2010 at 9:41 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

No one intentionally "clips" anything.

November 17, 2010 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Word! but..... I figuge if i do accidently "clip" and it's injured, it becomes fox food (at least thats how coyotes operate) it wont suffer a long painfull death from the "clip" I guarentee it. I know sounds bad but its one fox that wont be bothering you anymore.
But I do realize a deer on the other hand is a different story. But were talking predators here. I'm not trying to be cruel but believe me it feels worse when youve lost half of your lamb flock, they are defenseless to predators.

November 17, 2010 at 10:01 AM  
Blogger Louis said...

Jenna, I know you wouldn't do it intentionally. But in the spirit of this blog as an honest forum that others can learn from, I just wanted to point out the need to practice marksmanship from time to time so that when the need arises you can humanely deal with a predator.

Lisa, I am sorry about your coyote problem. I'm sure it would feel terrible to lose your sheep to a coyote, but he is just being a coyote. Don't confuse human predators, who know right from wrong, and animal predators operating on instinct. If you are shooting coyotes with a 22, I hope you are getting head shots at close range, killing the animal instantly. Otherwise you are indeed inflicting a cruel death on them.

November 17, 2010 at 3:02 PM  
Blogger goatgirl said...

We have a small gelded llama that is worth any amount of feed he eats...which isn't very much. He has protected his herd of miniature dairy goats for years now. He knows our dogs but has to check out any new animal or human that comes into his pasture. I can also tell when we have new babies on the ground because he is right there getting to know the newest members of the herd.
I had a mini horse in with the goats and he kicked and bit them if they tried to share his food and anyone with goats knows they are all about sharing food.
I, for one, will never be without a llama for protecting the herd. Since my boy is any where from 18-25 years old I will be looking for another in a few years. I see them all the time on craigslist for free.
Llamas can also be trained to pull a cart. Another thing I like about them is they are easy on the land. Soft feet don't make muddy pastures like hooves do.

November 17, 2010 at 10:37 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...

Every year at lambing time we think next year we will get a guardian animal for our small flock. The late night vigils worrying about foxes always tires us out. This seasons lambing has just started and thankfully there have been no foxes sighted this year(so far).
Good luck.
Tracy

November 19, 2010 at 12:54 AM  
Blogger beccaWA said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 21, 2010 at 6:57 PM  
Blogger beccaWA said...

Llama -- around here many people with livestock keep them to protect sheep, goats, etc. from the many predators we have here in the West. As Eleanor mentioned, they are good for wool, too.

For myself, I would (if I had livestock!) go with a Pyrenees. I saw a purebred at the pound the other day! Friends of mine had them and they are great guardians. They bond with the livestock so no worries about living outside -- they live right in the barn with the stock. You do need to be sure the Pyr is the right temperament for the work, though... they are individuals, and some are suited for this and some are not.

December 21, 2010 at 6:59 PM  
Blogger beccaWA said...

Llama -- around here many people with livestock keep them to protect sheep, goats, etc. from the many predators we have here in the West. As Eleanor mentioned, they are good for wool, too.

For myself, I would (if I had livestock!) go with a Pyrenees. I saw a purebred at the pound the other day! Friends of mine had them and they are great guardians. They bond with the livestock so no worries about living outside -- they live right in the barn with the stock. You do need to be sure the Pyr is the right temperament for the work, though... they are individuals, and some are suited for this and some are not.

December 21, 2010 at 6:59 PM  

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