Animal Wrap-up (I Hope!)

Well, there are only 5 days left in the year - Merry Christmas, by the way! :)  I really hope we are done with the medical drama of this summer and fall, so I wanted to give a year-end update.  

Cattle - since we vaccinated the herd against the shipping fever, we only had Myra's calf Anne come down with symptoms.  With some effort we managed to give her the two doses and she's been fine ever since.  2 doses of anything turns out to really be one too many for our not-used-to-being-handled cows - when they're sick, the first isn't that difficult.  The second, though is a different story - they're feeling much better by then, and we can't just sneak up to them and shove a needle in.  Caleb invested in a medical crossbow - I've been saying "we need a dartgun!" for several years now, and after this Caleb decided I was onto something - but it wasn't quite the miracle fix we were hoping for with little Anne.  I think it will be a really useful tool when Caleb gets the hang of it, and most of the problem was that Anne is a small target, and also on calves there's simply not that much thick muscle, so the dart tends to hit bone and just fall out before triggering the medicine release.  Once we dialed up the firing pressure it worked better - but by that time she'd been shot unsuccessfully 6 or 8 times and just took off running at the sight of us!  We got her eventually, and she - and the rest of the herd - have been fine ever since.

The goats have had some less-than-ideal luck the last few weeks.  About 2 weeks ago, one of the 2-year-old girls wouldn't get up in the morning.  She seemed content enough - somewhat labored breathing and some nasal discharge but otherwise not in apparent pain or distress - so we put her in the barn, and I watched her through the day.  By late afternoon I decided I needed to drench-water her since she hadn't really eaten or drunk anything.  When I walked up with the electrolyte mix she bawled once, fell over, and stopped breathing.  I could feel her heartbeat pounding along, but no breathing, until her heart just faded away and she was gone.  We think it was pneumonia, and no one else has had any problems since.  Caleb heard some coughing in the herd the next day, but we went out multiple times and watched and waited, and no one would cough a single time in front of us, so it seems to have just been her.

Then, last week, Caleb checked on the alpacas and the "baby" goats - this year's girls that are held back from breeding until next year - and found one with a badly broken leg.  Her ankle was broken right through, the bone poking out, so we had to butcher her.  Fortunately it was the weekend so Caleb was here to handle that.  Not that I can't do it but it's a lot more difficult when I'm the only adult with 2 little ones that inevitably need a snack or to go pee right when I'm literally up to my elbows in a goat!

As a nice contrast, the alpacas have actually been fine for the last few weeks - ever since little Willie died that is.  Our remaining cria Hank had a close call this week - we found him with his feet tangled up in loose wire until he couldn't walk, and of course he'd then fallen into the outflow from the pond, so he was soaking wet and shivering.  We really don't know how long he'd been there, but he was still warm internally - not hypothermic - so it wasn't too long. Once we dried him off, he sat on the porch under a blanket for less than an hour, then stood up and started exploring the porch.  We returned him to the pasture and he's been fine ever since.  

The real theme of this past week has been hides!  A nearby farmer-friend killed two bobcats on his farm and brought us the hides, my midwife brought us two sheepskins, and then of course we'd just added the hides from both of those goats that died, as well as the briefly-new bull Barra's.  Our tanning-pickle barrels were already full, so we have pulled out 2 sheepskins (the previous batch from my midwife) and a baby alpaca skin to dry and break soft.  Caleb freed up even more space by pulling out Fraser's hide (the steer we butchered last winter) and getting it strung up on a large frame.  In his investigations into how to best process cow hides, he found recommendations to use buffalo-tanning instructions, especially for the Highlands that apparently have thicker skin.  One of the key steps is actually thinning the hide before trying to break it - it's really just impossible to soften 1/2" thick leather - as we've discovered first-hand.  I'm really hopeful that Fraser's hide turns out well - he was our prettiest cow yet, a dark blend of red, brown and strawberry swirled together, with blond highlights, just beautiful.  

Our other recent change is that we have some new interns - more about them next time, I've already rambled enough for one day! - but they are enjoying processing the hides.  If we can do well at actually selling them in one form or another, this may end up being a growing facet of Solace Farm!

 

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Happy New Year

Here's hoping for some less-eventful months ahead as winter sets in. Love to you all and Happy New Years!

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