Real Farm Life

When I started this blog, I wanted it to be an unbiased, accurate look at a small farm, a peering-through-the-window into the realities and nitty-gritty of homesteading life.  I wanted to talk about everything - the ups and downs, the whys and why-nots - rather than just the highlights, or quickly glossing over the more unpleasant subjects.  In that vein...

I unfortunately have to report more losses on the farm.  We no longer have Barra or even more sadly, little Willie, with us.  

Barra's death was frustratingly at least somewhat due to the 5-day Thanksgiving weekend holiday.  He started looking "not right" mid-week, and by Friday was definitely sick - just standing in the corner, staring and by Saturday and Sunday his breathing was labored.  While he seemed sick, it didn't seem quite in the emergency realm, especially the weekend-and-holiday extra farm visit fee if the vet would even come, so we waited until Monday to get hold of the vet.  In the meantime we wormed Barra, in case it was just a heavy wormload, and gave him penecillin against pneumonia or the like.  When Caleb finally got the vet on the phone Monday afternoon, he said it sounded like "shipping disease", a virus, and needed treatment ASAP, so I immediately went to Manchester and got the heavy-duty meds.  By the time I got back, he was already dead.  Since we'd already given him the other drugs, we couldn't even salvage the meat.  Caleb skinned him in the rain and dark (since he works until 7 pm now, everything is in the dark!) and we have his head on an ant mound to clean the skull.  If both the hide and horns turn out well, we may be able to redeem him for his purchase cost, but we were sure hoping for much better things for him!  The big lessons here are:

1.  QUARANTINE!  We've mentioned it in passing, but for some reason didn't do it with him.  And yes, it turns out shipping disease is contagious, so we had to treat both Myra and Fern this week with the expensive meds as they went down visibly sick (better now with the first round of meds).  We spent most of today (Saturday) vaccinating all the rest of the cows - not a fun or easy job!  (But better than trying to catch and treat each one of them twice, at $120 a pop, when they inevitably get sick).  We set up a great funnel-pen with a chute, had gates and bars, and everything - and they just stood there and looked at it.  It took 5 of us 3 hours to get 18 cows treated, and involved lots of chasing, poking, and frustration and ended with cows roped to trees!  The vaccine is squirted up their nose, and it turns out that's not as easy as it sounds... On the bright side, we finally did get the 3-month old bull calf fixed, so we don't have another too-closely-related bull in another couple years!

2.  If the cattle look sick, they really are.  Much like the alpacas, they're pretty stoic, so when they appear distressed, we should act quickly.  Goats, we can take the "wait and see" approach a bit more, but not the cattle.  

So Barra died Monday, and Thursday morning Caleb noticed Myra was down with no desire to move, so we dosed her with the first round of Barra's unused meds, and then Friday morning Myra looked much better, but Fern was visibly sick so we gave her Myra's second round and then Friday picked up the second rounds for both of them, and the vaccine for the rest of the herd.  

On the way out to deal with Myra on Thursday, we realized Willie the little alpaca was laid out flat, covered in frost :(  I think he was still just not well-fed enough, and with nobody to snuggle with in the cold, he just didn't make it.  I'm so frustrated about this loss - I really tried to save him!  I bottlefed him until I couldn't catch him, and we were giving the whole herd supplemental feed, mainly for his benefit.  It would have been even worse to separate him to try and feed or bottlefeed him - alpacas are such herd animals that the solitude can be the worst thing for them.  And I tried, but I just couldn't catch him single-handed, as much as I was willing to bottle him as long as needed.  So, most of my Thursdaay morning was spent "shearing" Willie on the front porch with kitchen scissors.  His fleece is absolutely incredible, probably at least 4" long, and so soft it's like it's not there!  I recently bought a little white angora rabbit fur, to blend with something nice, and I think this is the special fleece for it.  Willie's ranges from cream to fawn-colored, so a little white angora will be amazing, and a nice way to remember him.  

I really hope that this year's theme of animal deaths stops with the calendar year!  I'd like to stop announcing yet another loss, and I'm more than ready to stop feeling like we're floundering newbies!  We've really learned so much in the last 8 years, and in many ways are quite knowledgeable about these animals, and yet this summer makes us look and feel like we haven't a clue what we're doing!  I'm crossing my fingers that we'll kick off 2016 with a great lambing season, and just keep going from there :)  (From now till January I'm going to read my new sheep care book, just in case...)


Fingers crossed for you!!

Fingers crossed for you!!

so sorry to hear

So, so sorry to hear this news, and yup, it's real life. You write so vividly I can almost feel the dark and the rain. Thanks for keeping us up on what's happening, even when it's not great news.

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