Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Problem with Rescue and Gift Animals

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When we bought our first sheep, the owner said they were registrable but is wasn't something he did.  Then when we went to get them we didn’t know anything about sheep I looked up on the internet so we would know what to get.  They were supposed to be Shetland Sheep and maybe they are Shetland crosses but even though I had looked up information as to what to look for I was so excited to get the sheep I didn’t pay attention to anything I had read the kids fell in love with 4 sheep and we brought them home.  While we were talking to their owner it became clear he ran a kind of private rescue operation.  At the time all our animals have been rescues or pets people didn’t want so it didn’t bother me.  We thought they were Shetland Sheep but,  I have no idea there real breed.  Deer I think is crossed with a hair sheep.  Blackwell looks like a Shetland – except she is larger and it looks like she had horns removed.  So here I am with 2 sheep who’s breed I really know nothing about. 
Palm (formerly known as Butter Ball) with the chickens.
When our friend gave us Butterball I kept asking her what it’s breed was.  She thought it was something broad breasted and since BBW or Broad Breasted White is a pretty popular breed we went on that assumption.  Today I went to the feed store and asked if he knew what he had sold to my friend.  Butterball isn’t a BBW at all.  Butterball is a Royal Palm Turkey.
A beautiful, beautiful breed but we need to change it’s name, I don’t know if I will want to eat it if it is a boy.  But I don’t want a Royal Palm Tom around with the Bourbon Red turkeys.  Royal Palms are lawn decorations and not usually eaten.  If it is a girl will I want to cross breed it with the Bourbon Reds? 
Palm follows Tomas everywhere!  At first Tomas would try to herd Palm back to his enclosure but now he looks for Palm when he isn't within 5 feet of Tomas.  

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Where Is My Phone

It has been Spring Break here so the kids and I have no school or work.  It has been very nice.  I have been letting the kids sleep in.  Dakota and I go take care of the chickens, turkeys, and fodder.  It is not easy to be around the birds with my dog but he gets a nice walk and time with me.  Then I go back into the house to get at least one child to help with sheep.   The new sheep are not easy to care for yet.  The first 5 sheep are easier but still little buggers.  I occasionally get knocked over or a sheep runs off while we move them from the night area or day area.  Some days this week I have done the cattle by myself some days I do it with the kids.  Most mornings I have been doing the animals in the morning in my pajamas because of getting so dirty especially IF we are going to something where I dress nicely.
Friday, I wanted to have a fun family day.  Thursday night Stick Boy was up all night coughing so I wanted to let the kids sleep.  I don’t have any pockets in my PJ pants so I grabbed a shirt with a breast pocket and put my phone in it in case the kids woke up and had a problem they could call me.  I let the chickens out, let the turkeys out, got the fodder, put Dakota back in the house, and fed the cattle.  I woke up Teen Son and Pre Teen Daughter so they could help with the sheep.  As we finished moving the sheep, Tomas and Butterball came walking down to watch what we were doing.  I reached into my pocket for my phone to take a picture and NO PHONE! 
I ran around all the places I had been in the morning except the cattle pasture hoping it wasn’t in there.  NO LUCK

Pre Teen Daughter and I start walking through the pasture.  We can’t find it.  I ask Teen Son to call me and we hear the ring tone very faintly.  Pre Teen Daughter walks up to Onyx and pushes her back a little (yes Onyx is gentle enough my 76 lb daughter can push her around) and there is my phone.  Slightly scratched up but mostly useable.  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

April Fools Day

I have a friend who’s family does April Fool’s Day right.  In my family we may say a few jokes but that is is.  My friend has 2 adult sons.  One of her son’s has his yard and home that everything is perfect in.  She and her other son bought 3 rabbits and painted their backs with 1, 2, and 4.   Her son called his mom in a panic he had caught 3 rabbits but couldn’t find #3. 
She bought 2 turkey babies and put them in her boyfriends office.  Her boyfriend is willing to keep either the rabbits or the turkeys not both.  She called me to see if we would take her turkeys.  Hmm will I?....

Of Course!

Sadly one of the turkeys died before we got it.  She brought over the turkey, a huge dog crate to keep it in, lots of baby turkey food.  We named it Butterball.  We think it is a Broad Breasted White.  It spent it’s first few days here in a large dog crate.  Then we started letting it out for short periods of time with our birds thinking it would be happy to hang out with our chickens that are about it’s size.  Butterball has no interest in the chickens but he/she is in LOVE with Tomas.  
The first time we let it out Tomas spent 30 minutes trying to herd Butterball back into it’s crate when Tomas realized it wouldn’t go in the crate he just started protecting it from the other birds. 
We have been letting Butterball out whenever we are out with the animals so we can hear if there is a problem.  He likes the turkey hens and when they are taking dirt baths he will go up and run his beak through their feathers.  Yesterday Teen Son forgot to put Butterball away when he was tired of watching him.  We were busy and left home for several hours and Butterball was healthy and happy when we got home to put the animals away.  Butterball will now be a free range bird with the rest of them and only spend nights in the dog crate.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Tomas, our handsome man.  Male turkeys are the body builders of the poultry world.  He walks around puffed up all day.  

When I decided to get turkeys I did a lot of research.  You hear a lot of stories about people raising turkeys so large they can’t walk.  I didn’t want that.  Or they fly up onto a fence and when they go to fly off they fall and bruise the breast meat or break ribs.  Again didn’t want that. 
I like the idea of Heritage Animals, animals that can do what animals have been doing for centuries.  Have their own babies, eat, get fat, breed, and grow old without a lot of help from humans.  We chose our cattle breed for their personality traits, taste, milking ability, and mothering ability.  The sheep we chose for their cuteness – but if I do breed them Shetland sheep and Pelibuey Sheep are supposed to not need a lot of assistance giving birth and be disease resistant.  Heritage cattle and sheep are pretty much the same animals that could have come over with the pilgrims. 
So I looked up Heritage Turkeys and was shocked.  Most of the turkeys we buy at the grocery store are Broad Breasted Turkeys.  These turkeys have been raised to get big fast and have huge breasts, they have to be artificially inseminated.  They also are only meant to live to get big enough to be eaten so as they grow Broad Breasted Turkeys can lose the ability to walk. 
A Heritage Turkey must be able to breed, raise it’s own  young, walk throughout it’s life, they live 3-7 years, and take over 6 months to reach eating weight. 
Our turkey hen sharing her coop with the chickens while everyone is free ranging.  

Monday, April 8, 2013


The day after Easter was a beautiful spring day.  I got up early so I could spend extra time in the pasture checking out the new baby.  He was happy and energetic.  I checked the pasture again between morning and noon duty’s and everyone was fine.  When I came home from work at 1: we had a new calf.  Ruby gave birth while I was at work.  We have a beautiful new baby girl, April. 
I have been working with Ruby since we bought the Dexter Cattle 6 months ago in the hopes of milking her and sharing the milk with her calf.  The first morning after she gave birth I went out with a warm washcloth to clean her utter and just give her some extra love and she was happy with that.  Yay success!!! 
That night and the next morning she would not let me near her.  I bought some grain that cows are supposed to love – still she snubs her nose at me and the grain.  At this point I have decided I am too busy to milk anyway – maybe I will try in a few months.  I am not trying to touch her utter but still she will not let me near her.  She used to be my pal and follow me around the pasture. 

April and Peep are so much fun to watch on their wobbly legs playing around in the pasture.  Even though Peep is only 1 day older he is much bigger and sturdier than April.  

Sunday, April 7, 2013


We enjoy watching "National Geographic Explorer Channel’s; The Incredible Dr Pol"  We have probably watched all the episodes and Darling Husband will watch them over and over again.  Dr Pol is a trained vet and often is called to help calves being born.  When a calf is born in distress and not moving or breathing they will dump cold water on the calf to shock it into breathing.

Now that we have 2 children in the working world family gatherings are harder.  Our 2 oldest daughters were going to be working Easter lunch and evening so we decided to have a family celebration Easter morning.  I invited our oldest daughter’s Grand Parents to join us and they agreed to make the drive to our house in time for breakfast. 
We got up early Easter morning and I started cooking 4 quiches and cutting up a fruit salad then we took  care of the animals, I got dressed.  Grandma and Grandpa showed up with doughnuts’ and fresh bread we had a nice breakfast and then went for a drive to show our guests the property and the animals. 
We showed them the turkeys and chickens, then we went to the fodder room, and off to see the cattle.  The cattle were all in a group at the top of the pasture as we were leaving, Rolo, one of our pregnant cows gave a horrible “MOOOOOOO”.  We all looked closer at her and she was giving birth to her calf right then.  Darling Husband thought she looked like she and the calf were in distress so he pulled the calf out.  I was upset with him for not waiting to let her do it on her own or watch a little longer to see if she was really in distress and Darling Husband starts yelling at the kids to get cold water to throw on the baby calf.  I stopped the kids from leaving to get the water several times.  
The calf was breathing and moving.  Rolo was doing a good job of cleaning the baby.  Then Fillet, our steer/bull (he wasn’t castrated properly when we bought him; yes the one who goes through fences), got all excited and started trying to mount Rolo.  The baby calf was stepped on.  I started working to keep the steers away from Rolo and her baby.  Darling Husband decided he needed to get a bucket of water to wash his hands so he sent one of the kids for the bucket of water.
 Grandma and Grandpa had seen enough of our excitement and were ready to go so we could take care of the animals so I drove them to their car and help them scrape all the poop off of their shoes and Grandpa’s walker before they got into their car.  While I was helping Grandma and Grandpa my kids came running down from the pasture saying we needed rags and a blanket for the calf.  I told them where to get the rags, thanked Grandma and Grandpa for coming and went up to see how every one was doing. 
  Darling Husband had gotten worried and dumped the water on the baby!  The steers kept trying to mount Rolo so he took the calf away from the cattle and dried him off and cleaned him up.  I flipped out.  Don’t take a baby from it’s mom!  I convinced DH to take the calf back into the pasture and we would make sure the steers stayed away from it.  For the next 2 hours we guarded the calf and it’s mom from them then we watched to make sure everyone was safe after we let the boys be back with the herd. 

We decided to name the new calf Peep after the family’s favorite Easter treat.  Peep is a little bull calf so he is destined for the freezer. 

Pelibuey Sheep

New Sheep
Our sheep are not keeping up with how fast the grass is growing.  I love the size of the Shetland Sheep but they are more expensive than I want to pay for new sheep right now. We found an add for on Craigslist for Pelibuey Sheep. 
This information is all I could find:  The Pelib├╝ey is a hair sheep, probably closely related to the West African, Red African, African or Africana breed of Columbia and Venezuela. It is descended from the West African Dwarf and is found in Cuba, coastal areas of Mexico, and other locales in the Caribbean. It comprises 75 percent of sheep population in Cuba.

Hair color ranges from beige, brown, dark brown, red, white, black, and roan, with both solid and a combination of colors found. Males do carry a throat ruff, but usually do not have horns.

Breed category: hair (meat)
Distribution: Caribbean, Mexico, South America
They are supposed to get up to just over 100lbs.  After several emails with the owner we decide to buy 2-4 new sheep.  I send Darling Husband and 2 oldest daughters to pick out the sheep.  I make it clear we are not ready for a ram so make sure we are getting GIRL babies.  They came home with 4 beautiful sheep and we put them in the pen with our sheep.  Max our smallest sheep decided to spend the next 30 minutes ramming into the new babies so we put them in separate pens. 
Max leading the new sheep.
The new sheep are very skittish and jumpers.  They may weigh 15 – 30 lbs, but when you are holding a 20 pound bouncing ball with sharp hooves and a mind of its own, it is a challenge.  I have started going out to care for the animals in the morning in my pajamas because I often need to change after taking care of them.  Every day they get a little easier to catch, put the halter on, and walk from one area to the other but is still isn’t easy.  2 days ago I was holding one of the Pelibuey Sheep and slipped on some poo and hit a board and now I have a huge bruise on my back.  
The Pelibuey Sheep keep breaking out of the temporary fence at one point our FFA sheep followed them and got into her grain.  

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Moon Lit Walks with My Husband

We had a beautiful full or almost full moon weekend.  The cattle were feeling it’s affects.  Friday night a neighbor used the arena that is in the pasture the cattle and left the gate open.  We were blissfully unaware of this as I put on my pajamas to watch a TV show and snuggle with Darling Husband until we received a phone call from our neighbors saying the cows were out.  We searched for flashlights and rounded up the cattle putting them with the help of our neighbors into a different pasture.  Not bad we were back in the house by 10:
The next night as the sun was setting and we were taking care of the rest of the animals Stick Boy looked at the cattle and Fillet our bull/steer was pushing through a hole in the fence that normally only the dogs can go through.  As we ran down to stop him 2 more cattle got out.  Since we could still see a little we decided to move the cattle back into the first pasture.  Everything looked good so we went to bed and didn’t worry. 
The next day we checked all the fencing in the pasture the cattle were in and felt safe in knowing they wouldn’t get out.  It had been a busy weekend doing I can’t remember what and I went to bed as the sun went down.  We got a call as soon as the moon came up – the cattle are out!  Our wonderful neighbors once again help us heard the stinking animals into a pasture that has new fencing on 3 sides.  I wanted to run a strand of electric fencing along the 4th side that we have not fixed yet.  Darling (or some other D word) Husband said I was crazy and it was too late to worry about the fencing.  Wonderful Teen Son helped me find some wire to patch a hole that the sheep had been using and we decide to call it a night.  I got up several times during the night to make sure all our cattle were where they belonged.

This is the hole in the fence Teen Son and I "fixed".
Opening gates when you have an electric fence is a challenge.  I put the electric wire in some pvc pipes and framed it around the gate.  We can go in and out of the pasture without getting shocked.

The next morning while Darling Husband was at work and the kids at school between my morning duty and noon duty, I ran a strand of electric wire.  When DH came home all he had to do was fasten off the two ends.  It isn’t beautiful but it is keeping the cattle where we want them.
The fence is a terrible mess but it is working.