Welcome!

Welcome to HighTail Farms, LLC! We're a small farm located in Hammond, Louisiana. We are dedicated to providing people with ethically raised and humanely processed pastured poultry and sheep, fresh eggs, and raw meat for pet food.

Please follow the links in the top bar for more information on our products and their availability. Continue reading below for our blog where we detail the adventures of raisin' animals and whatnot.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Blue Eyed Boy

Look we what got yesterday! 

  We finally found a suitable boyfriend for our lady goats. We have been looking for just the right buck to bring on the farm for quite a while now and yesterday we think we found him!

 We needed a male that was small enough to safely breed with our mini goats like Gwen and Eve but big enough to physically breed the larger, taller ladies like Thea and Elanore. This handsome dude is a 3 year old Nigerian Dwarf. His previous owner was calling him Willie after a character on Duck Dynasty. He's a sweet boy with beautiful color and a great build. He's a little on the large side for the breed and he has experience breeding full sized goats in one of his previous homes, so we think he is just the boy we were looking for!

  When we went to meet him, he happily took corn from my hand and stood still for us to attach the least. He was a little reluctant to walk with us to the car but hopped right up into the crate when he saw it was filled with hay. He happily munched on hay and alfalfa cubes on the hour drive home.
  In his last home, the poor little guy really didn't have access to any greenery so the minute we got him out of the car he started chomping down on grass.

  Big Onion brought him over to the "garden" in front of the house. Really it's just a flower bed that we don't maintain very well at all. Why waste time, money, and energy growing flowers when you can be growing goat food? He took no time at all to start chowing down on huge mouthfuls of everything in front of him.

  We have decided to call the little guy Gimli after the dwarf in Lord of the Rings. I think the name really suits him. I mean, would you look at that beard?!

  He also has blue eyes which is not something we were specifically looking for, but if we want to sell his kids (and we do) the blue eyed babies can often fetch a higher price.

  For an adult buck, Gimli has been incredibly sweet so far. He walks well on leash and likes being around people. For these reasons, we suspect he was a bottle-raised baby. I may be a bit odd but I don't think he even smells bad. Of course all of this could change once he meets the girls and goes into rut.

  His first meeting with the dogs did not go so smoothly. Barley was being a bit pushy so Gimli dropped his head and gave him a little push back. I guess Rialey did not appreciate some new upstart of a goat threatening her friend so she ran in to defend Barley, circling with big barks and nipping at the goat's sides. Luckily we were able to diffuse the situation quickly, and no one was harmed in the scuffle. I'm sure it will take some time before Gimli will feel comfortable around the dogs, but at least he learned to have a healthy respect for them from the get go.

  He will stay quarantined in the backyard pen for the next week so that we can get him cleared of parasites and make sure he isn't carrying any obvious illnesses. He is already causing a bit of a stir amongst the lady goats. Gwen was the first to catch a whiff of him. She spent the next several hours pressed against the backyard fence and making little goat love calls. I even caught her backed up to and peeing through the fence! The hussy!


Friday, July 18, 2014

Blazing Kitty

   I just wanted to share these pictures I got of our barn cat, Blaze. He seems to be doing a very good job of rodent control because we haven't seen hide nor hair (nor chewed feed bags nor turds) of any living little critters in a very long time. Though he was nice enough to leave the top half of a giant rat in the middle of the pasture for me to happen upon last week. Yick!

  Just like our last barncat, Blaze spends a lot of time hanging out on top of the poultry pens. We've even started feeding him up there since the goats won't let him in the milk room for dinner without taking a chomp at his passing tail. He likes to follow us around as we feed birds and gather eggs, and he will occasionally reach down and give us a pat, pat, pat on the head as we go by. Nice to know the barn cat thinks we are doing good work, I suppose.

  He and Rialey have the funniest relationship. If he is out in the pasture, she will rush at him at top speed and give chase until the kitty climbs up on top of something. You'd think the poor thing young be terrified of the crazy cat chasing puppy, but the next thing you know he's down and rubbing all over Rialey. He rubs his face on her legs and walks under her belly while she sniffs him head to toe and licks his face. Animals are weird.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Wild and crazy birds

 Lately evening chores have been taking longer than normal. Usually, getting our free ranging flock of chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and guineas to go in for the night is as simple as grabbing a scoop of feed and calling each group into their pen.

   A few months ago we picked up a group of Brown Leghorns to boost our egg numbers. We had read that these birds are great egg layers. What we didn't know was that they are also wild. Like totally crazy, spaz-birds. They freak out if you approach them in the pens and don't like to get put away at night. They are more prone to take flight than any other birds we have ever had here on the farm. Recently, Big Onion, Rialey, and I got so tired of chasing a few of these crazy girls that that we just left them out overnight. We said if they got eaten then good riddance! Of course they were fine in the morning.

  Finally fed up with all the chicken chasing, Big Onion suggested we gather all the leghorn girls and close them in a pen for a week or two to remind then where they should be spending their nights. These girls are just starting to lay eggs as well, and this period of seclusion will help them learn to lay their eggs in the pen nest boxes instead of all over the farm. I like easter as much as the next gal, but I have little interest in going on an egg hunt every single day. Heck, we recently discovered that a bunch of our older girls had somehow been laying in the middle of a hay net full of hay!

 My first job was to let all the other hens out of the pen that was to be our leghorn's home for the next couple weeks.

 Unfortunately, last night all the chickens ended up mixed up between three separate pens so it took some time to locate all the leghorns amongst the other ladies.

   Once that pen was clear, the next step was catching all these wild birds. I'm not ashamed to say that after a couple of failed attempts at catching them by hand I pulled out my trusty fishing net. I guess my skills have improved since I was trying to net loose bunnies a couple weeks ago because it took surprisingly little time to get all the chickens where I wanted them to be. I paused in the process to take this selfie with a couple of the girls. They were less than thrilled. I still took a couple wings to the face and dings to the dignity in the process, but overall the move was much smoother than I was anticipating.

   Here they are, the crazy chicken crew. It's a shame they are so nuts because they really are pretty birds. I can say that no matter how great they lay, I seriously doubt we will ever invest in this particular breed of chicken again. Hopefully this hiatus will settle them down a bit or at least make it so I don't want to wring necks by the end of chores every night!


Friday, July 11, 2014

The Rialey and the Hares


  It was a morning just like any other. I had packed up the milk stuff, grabbed the egg basket, and headed out for chores with our two trusty farm dog gals Luna and Rialey in tow.

  I was in the poultry house getting the goat feed together in preparation for milking when I saw Rialey streak by the screened door in hot pursuit of something. Thinking she had taken up her usual game of "let's chase the barn kitty whether he likes it or not because I think it's funny," I yell through the door, "Rialey, cut it out! Blaze does not think you are playing!" and went back to loading alfalfa pellets into the bucket by the handful.

  I had just picked up the milk bag in one hand and the goat feed bucket in the other when I saw a little streak of movement come through the small chicken door behind me. Thinking the barn cat had found an escape from our crazy puppy, I was just about to apologize to Blaze for Rialey's rudeness when I realized that I was not looking at a large orange tabby. I was staring at a terrified little creature with long ears and bulging eyes. I took me a full second to comprehend that I was looking at one of our rabbits.

  I stupidly looked up at all the bunnies around me in securely locked cages and thought, "Where in the heck did you come from?" before I remembered that the teenage bunnies out in the pasture tractor had just reached "that age." For some reason it's like clockwork: if we don't get the adolescent rabbits processed before they reach the 12 week mark they start digging their way to freedom.

  In the time it took me to figure this all out, Rialey had popped her head into the little doorway and the rabbit jetted out under the door on the other side of the poultry house. I sighed, put down the feed bucket, put down the milking stuff, and went in search of the fishing net we keep handy for just such an occasion.

  In the process of getting the net, I located two more bunnies between the poultry house and the feed shed, and I could hear Rialey in hot pursuit somewhere near the milking room of another wayward bun. I got the net and called Rialey back to me before she actually caught some poor rabbit, or at the very least gave it a heart attack. Our morning chores had just gotten a lot more interesting.

  I was able to catch one of the two rabbits between the two buildings by just moving very slowly then quickly snatching it up by the scruff ninja style. When I emerged with my prize, a little white bunny who was in too much shock to move much, Rialey jumped up and poked it with her nose ("gotcha!") before sprinting over to one of the ducks' kiddy pools and plopping down in the water to cool off.

  I carried the bunny back over to the tractor where I could clearly see the place where the rabbits had made their bid for freedom. After I put the rabbit down, I was able to move the enclosure so that it was secure at least for the time being, then it was back to the hunt!

  Rialey bounced up out of the pool, shook herself off, and dropped her nose to the ground trying to find fresh rabbit tracks. I followed her and Luna and found a bunny heading into the garden area. I ran around the side of the garden and ducked through an area of broken fence as fast as I could while brandishing my net. The herding dogs did their best to herd the bunny in my general direction, but despite all our efforts I missed netting the little sucker by just inches! He wriggled his way through the fence and around the corner of the goat shed. By the time I finished swearing, recovered my composure, and crawled back through the fence, the bunny and both dogs were no where in sight.

  I trudged back toward the poultry house where I saw Rialey and Luna playing a merry game of ring around the feed shed. Ah ha! The bunny had returned to the narrow alley between the two buildings. I tried getting on one side of the alley and sending the dogs around the shed to the other end to try and spook the rabbit my way, but the goofballs just kept running by. After two or three tries, I blocked my entrance with a handy bit of sheet metal and ran around the other side. Once there, I showed both dogs the opening to the alley and told them to stay there! Then I ran back around the other side, set up my net in the opening, and called the dogs to walk up on the bunny. This was enough to spook the rabbit right into my net, and I caught prodigal bunny number two. Whew!

  Walking back, I caught sight of another loose bunny, but my heart sank when I realized it was on the other side of the neighbor's fence. I was sure the minute I got near that rabbit would run for the hill, but amazingly I was able to walk up, very slowly crouch down, put my hand through the fence and grab that bunny without it even moving. Maybe it was tired out from watching me and the dogs run around like headless chickens in the heat all morning.

  After that, we couldn't seem to find any more bunnies on the lamb, so I headed back into the poultry house to grab up the milk stuff again and get to feeding the ever more impatient group of lady goats waiting for their breakfast. Rialey had followed me into the poultry house and instead of plopping down in the cool shade like normal, she started sniffing and circling the old rack brooder that takes up the center of the building. When I heard her little, "something isn't right here" whimper, I knew our rabbit hunt wasn't over.

  I moved the goat chow bin to one side, squatted down in the dirt, and peered under that old brooder and there looking back at me were two more sets of bulging bunny eyes. Sigh.

  Since they were already in an enclosed area, and I had no interest in getting into a foot race with a couple of hares, I set to work securing the poultry house so that those bunnies had nowhere to go but into my net. I blocked up the small chicken door and laid an old cat litter on its side to block the space under the opposite door.

  Using my now perfected technique, I crept back over to the brooder. I slowly crouched down again, reached out my arm, made a fast grab at the closest little black body, and missed! Crap! The little guy made a mad dash out from under the brooder and between the legs of a rather startled Rialey. She recovered quickly and started in pursuit of the bunny in the small enclosed space with Luna not far behind! The poor thing was running blindly in circles. He even ran into my boots twice, but I was too busy calling off the dogs to even make a grab for him. After a few seconds, he tried to head for the door and somehow ended up running right into the old litter bucket. I yelled, "Rialey, wait! Watch him! Stay right there!" (for some reason I never thought to teach her a "keep that rabbit in that bucket" command) and to her credit, Rialey plopped down with her big old nose right outside the opening of the bucket and held that bunny in place until I could climb over all the tumbled feed bins and buckets to toss my net over the bucket's opening.

   By comparison the last bunny was easy. When I came back from securing bucket bunny in the pen, I walked into the poultry house and Rialey chased that last bun right into my boots. By now, I was less surprised by this and was able to do my part and scoop the little one up and bring him back to the safety of his pen.

  Whew! With that last catch, I was almost certain we had caught all the escapees. What a workout, and I hadn't even started morning chores yet!

~~~~~~~~

  The pups and I were out that evening putting the birds away and getting ready for the evening milking. I was refilling water containers when I looked up to see Amelia with her head stuck in the fence across the pasture...as usual. I swear that goat will never learn.

  The girls and I headed over and with a bit of twisting and turning, I was able to get Amelia freed. We went back to putting away birds and when we were done, I noticed Rialey running back across the pasture to where Amelia was stuck. I just figured she was checking for more stuck goats and didn't think much of it.

  I fed the rabbits and headed in to milk the goats. Rialey never came into the milk room, but it's not unusual for her to plop down outside the door and only come in if she thinks I need help moving goats so again, no big deal.

  By the time I was done milking it had gotten dark out. I scooped up some sheep feed and headed into the dark pasture to feed to the sheep. Rialey appeared next to Luna at my feet so I put both dogs in a down stay and called the sheep over for a bedtime snack. The minute I released the dogs from their stay Rialey jetted back over to the fence. Something wasn't right.

  I followed her and she led me right to a little black rabbit laying in the grass. Rialey laid down and starting licking and gently mouthing the bunny. It was obvious that something was wrong with thing. It was limp and soggy from head to toe from Rialey's ministration. Shining the light from my phone, I could see that the little thing was still alive but just barely. I picked it up very carefully and carried it back to the light of the poultry house. The bunny was dead before I even got inside.

  I grabbed up the milk stuff and egg basket and brought them and the soggy bundle of bunny back to the house. On closer inspection, it was clear that this rabbit had broken it's neck. In fact, the front teeth were almost completely knocked out. My best guess is Rialey spooked the little one and it ran headlong into a fence post or tree not long before I found it. Rabbits are not known for having good near-sighted vision.

  Not wanting to let this bunny go to waste, I decided to process it for the dog's dinner. What amazed me was that that little bunny did not have a single bruise. Rialey, a month old puppy, had spotted, chased, and eventually caught a small rabbit out in the pasture without any supervision and yet she hadn't laid a single tooth on this bunny. There wasn't a single tear in the skin or bruise to the meat. If that bunny hadn't panicked and run into something, it would probably be alive today.

  Since this incident, Rialey has proved time and time again that she has the remarkable ability to catch small and wayward animals without causing them any harm. I've seen her chase down and stop rabbits in their tracks, corner young turkey poults, and even pounce on a young runaway chicken and pen it down with a foot on its wing!

  The value of a good farm dog cannot be measured in dollars and cents. It's measured in days like this. In times when I wouldn't have even known there was a problem on the farm until Rialey alerted me, then she and Luna helped me catch up all those lost rabbits. There is something to be said for finding a properly bred farm dog and raising her to do her job. Rialey surprises me every day with her ability to help make even the simplest of jobs around here just a little easier. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for this promising pup.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Bunny Rearing: Part 2

  As I mentioned in my last post, sometimes our young bunnies flip and flop their way right out of their nest box. Usually this isn't a problem, but last week I was in Blackberry's pen checking on her litter. I lifted up the nest box and discovered that one little charcoal colored bunny had somehow ended up under the large wooden nest box. My best guess is he flipped his way out of the box at some point and since he was so dark, we didn't see him and put the nest box back on top of the poor little thing. 

   He was just laying there all squashed and flat and cold. He wasn't even a week old,. His eyes weren't even open yet, and his fur was barely grown in. I was sure the bunny would be dead or close to it, but as I stood there recovering from the shock of finding a bunny where no bunny should be, the pathetic little thing started moving. I scooped him up and could feel that he was cold and weak so taking a page from one of my favorite blogger friends, I tucked that little creature into a place where he would warm up quick!

  I wasn't kidding when I said the little guy was smooshed flat. He'd be stuck between a heavy wooden nest box and wire flooring for probably around 12 hours. His head was all squished, and he'd missed a couple meals from mom so he was looking thin. Once he'd warmed up, I fished him out and flipped Blackberry over to let the little guy try and nurse. He showed surprising enthusiasm, but didn't seem to be getting much in the way of nutrition. I guess his newly remodeled head shape was keeping him from getting a good latch onto his mother's nipples.

  Luckily, I had just milked the goat so had a more than ample supply of fresh, warm goat's milk. I grabbed a small syringe and somehow managed to get about 4cc's of milk into the little guy.

  Since that day, we have been syringe feeding him twice a day. He is getting a mixture of goat milk, kitten milk replacer, and heavy cream. After that first day, I attached a bit of rubber tubing to the end of the syringe to make something a little softer on his mouth.


  Since we were going to be feeding him twice a day, I decided the little guy needed a name. I've taken to calling him Jack. Short for Flapjack...because Pancake is just a terrible name for a rabbit. If he turns out to be female (I am terrible at sexing young bunnies), I guess we can call her Flap-jackie.

  I pulled one of Jack's littermates to show the size diffrence between him and his siblings. Little did I know that I had grabbed the one behemoth of a bunny in the litter.

This is a more accurate picture of the size difference.

  The little guy seems to have some damaged tissue on both sides of his face which is slowly healing, but other than that and his small stature, he seems to be doing pretty well. He is up and walking around. The last couple days he has started nibbling at the rabbit food and greens in his pen. Hopefully we will be able to wean him off the twice daily feeding very soon.

  I'm not sure what the future holds for little FlapJack/Jackie. With his small size I doubt he'll be any good for meat. He will probably end up being a pretty tame rabbit after all this special treatment . He always totters his way to the front of the pen to get his twice daily feeding. I think he would make a pretty darn good pet for the right family. Hopefully, if all goes well, we will be looking for a home for little Jack in a few weeks.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Bunny Rearing: Part 1



 The rabbits are doing what rabbits do best: making more rabbits. We've been breeding our girls in sets of two or three at a time so that they all kindle at the same time. This makes it easier to move the babies around if one doe has too many to care for herself. It also means we can wean and then join the litters together for easier rearing in the pasture pens. Right now we have three litters out in the big tractor just about ready for processing, three more in the poultry house waiting for the tractor to become free, and another set of two litters that were just born a week or two ago.

 This is Ash's litter just a couple days after they were born. She and Blackberry kindled at the same time. I love the variety of colors we are getting from these girls. In these litters we have blacks, dark charcoals, light greys, and whites.

 Ash is a beautiful silver color, but she is one aggressive bunny. Before she had her babies, she was tough to deal with. Now even walking by her pen will cause her to rush to the front grunting and stomping, "GET AWAY FROM MA BABIES!!"

 Blackberry is much more timid and calm. Both girls had nice big litter of 8-9 bunnies. This is just about the perfect size litter. Any more than that and the doe will have trouble keeping everyone fed.

 These are Blackberry's kits. When baby rabbits or "kits" are first born, they are blind and hairless. We have started pulling the nest boxes out of the pens and checking on the litters twice a day, even doing a head count, for the first week to make sure no one is getting stuck in a corner or tangled in the hay of the nest box. This has drastically reduced our early losses.

  Here is a fine example of why it is important to check on the bunnies so frequently when they are young. This little guy has gotten himself out of the cozy, fur lined nest where the rest of his siblings are sleeping and into the front corner of the nest box all alone. At this age and without their fur it is easy for the babies to die from getting chilled.

  As they get older, it gets a little more difficult to check on and count the young bunnies. For some reason, they turn into crazy jumping beans when disturbed. This is not a problem when they are tiny, but as they get older they can flop around enough to toss themselves right over the side of the nest box.

  This can lead to big trouble for a little bunny out of his box and away from his brothers and sisters.....
(to be continued)

             




Friday, June 13, 2014

Patch finally popped!


  After many weeks (months?) of staring at Patch's big round belly and ever increasing udder, the girl finally lambed last Sunday night/Monday morning. We were sure she by her size that she would have a multiple birth, and she did. Unfortunately, Big Onion found a little ram lamb dead in the covered area where the sheep sometimes like to sleep at night. He looked fully formed but was still wrapped in the amniotic sac. It was hard to tell if he had died before or during the birth process, but either way the little guy didn't make it. I feel bad for not waking and checking on Patch during the night. Maybe we could have saved the little guy, but we'd been waiting so long for Patch to give birth that we didn't know for sure when she would decide to lamb.

  The good news is that Patch seems fine and so does her other lamb....

That little spot in the grass is Bruno, our newest lamb here on the farm.

 The area where Patch decided to give birth is full of loose dirt so poor Bruno was a bit of a mess that first day.

 Patch has been a great mother, sticking close to her baby and away from the rest of the flock for the first few days. It is very common for a new mother ewe to keep her distance from the other sheep for a while. I think it helps solidify the bond between mother and lamb. They learn each other's call very well during this time so that if the ever get separated, they are easily reunited with a few calls back and forth.

 For some reason, Gwen was very, very interested in this new little one.

  She kept going over to the little one and sniffing him. I guess our little Gwen might be  ready to make some kids of her own. Now we just need to find a mini-goat boyfriend for her! 

 We did run into some trouble with Bruno the first few days of his life. He seemed weaker than normal and by day two it was obvious that his little stools were way softer than they should be. Then he started passing what looked like undigested milk. Not good.

  Scours (diarrhea) in a lamb can deplete and kill them very quickly. We tried giving him a dose of Probios, a probiotic paste that usually clears up most loose stool pretty quick, but it didn't seem to help. I was starting to suspect that the little ram lamb picked up some kind of bacteria due to Patch's poor choice of birthing location.

  Rialey earned some of her farm dog stripes by alerting me to the problem with the little ram and diligently working to clean him up every time we went to check on him.

  It was rather funny because Patch was less than pleased with the "wolf" getting a taste of her baby. She would stand nearby and huff and puff and stomp her feet. Well, I guess that Rialey decided that angry, half-unhinged sheep was a threat to "her baby" and would not let little Bruno anywhere near his mother. Every time he would get up and head in Patch's direction, Rialey would get in his way. If he insisted on going toward his mother, Rialey would gently use her mouth  to redirect him back toward me. I took me three times to call her off that baby and let him go back to his understandably upset mother, and even then Rialey kept her eyes on him any time they were nearby.

  I ended up tube feeding the little one a belly-full of fresh goat milk mixed with goat probiotics, vitamins, and electrolytes  That seemed to do the the trick because by that evening, Bruno was up and running with his mother and making normal lamb poops, and he's been fine ever since!