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.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bunnies Lost and Found

  When a rabbit momma kindles (that's rabbit speak for giving birth), we check on those newborn bunnies twice a day for the first few days. We actually pick up each kit and do a quick nose to tail check to make sure everything is ok. No sticky poops on the rear, no wounds, no birth defects. We also keep a count on each litter to make sure none of the little ones have fallen out of the nest box or gotten buried in the hay or stuck in a corner. Since mother rabbits really only feed their young twice a day, a baby bunny can starve to death very quickly by missing just one or two feedings.


  As the bunnies get older we don't need to check on them as frequently. By the time they are fully furred and their eyes start to open, we generally just give them a quick look over at feeding time. Well, Big Onion was feeding Thing 1 this morning when he noticed something small and white crawling on the ground underneath the rabbit cages. It turned out to be one of her bunnies that had somehow come out of the nest box and fallen through a small hole in the side of the cage.

  Thing 1 had in impressive 9 kits in her very first litter was doing a wonderful job of mothering the large group. A couple days after they were born, I did have to put down one bunny who seemed to be paralyzed from the waste down. I noticed the problem on the day they were born, but was hoping it was just a temporary problem. When the little one didn't improve and seemed to be getting thinner and thinner, I decided to do the kind thing and put the little one down before it starved to death. That brought her litter down to 8.

  After recovering the wayward little one off the ground, Big Onion decided to do a head count and came up with just six. Two bunnies were just missing. We assumed that they too had someone made it out this small hole in the cage and starting searching the ground around the poultry house. We looking under things, moved feed bins, and upended buckets. We even called the dogs in to see if they could scent out the missing kits. No luck. We assumed that the little ones had probably crawled too far from home and been eaten by something. Rabbits are basically nature's fast food, being prey to just about anything that eats meat. The dogs had been in and out of that room. There are snake and racoons all around. Heck, even chickens will snatch up a little furry thing crawling by if they get the chance.

  I patched up the hole in the pen and headed back inside with slightly heavier heart that I'd started with that morning.

  We went about out day running errands and cleaning house until it was time to head back out for chores again that evening. We put away birds, called in the goats, and fed all the rabbits. Big Onion headed off to milk the lady goats while I gathered feed for the sheep. These days the sheep are getting a mixture of alfalfa, corn, and sweet feed at night to help keep their weight up, especially with so many nursing mommas out there.

  Once the feed was mixed, I headed out with the full bucket expecting Rialey to be at my heels as usual move and hold the sheep away from me and the feeding area, but she was nowhere to be seen. I called her once, twice, a third time and I finally saw her pop out from between the poultry house and the feed shed. I could tell right away that she excited about something. It took me called her again for her to come over and do her usual job of moving and holding the sheep. As soon as I had dumped the bucket of feed and released her, she jetted back between the buildings.

  I followed and asked her to show me what she'd found. She jumped backwards to reveal a tiny, muddy white fuzz ball toddling around in the mud. I quickly scooped the little one grateful that at least we'd found one of the two missing bunnies. Then Rialey was back between the buildings again clearly indicating that the other bunny was back there. In the dark, I could barely see the little black thing trying to crawl farther away from me and from the dog. Since there was no way I could reach it, I took a deep breath and asked Rialey if she could retrieve that bunny. I knew asking a natural predator and carnivore to take something so little and so full of meat into her mouth could end very badly, but I was trusting that Rialey's nurturing instincts would outweigh her prey drive for just long enough to get that bunny to safety.

  All I could see was Rialey's backside as she followed the bunny farther and farther away from me. I would see her move forward, crouch down, then jump backwards. I could only assume that the bunny was jerking and bouncing away from her as very young bunnies tend to do do when they feel threatened. After what seemed like forever, Rialey backed out without the bunny and looked at me with a clear message that I was going to have to catch that thing myself. Luckily, all Rialey's attentions had driven the little thing far enough that I was able to reach it from the other side.


  Both bunnies safely in hand, I brought them inside to try and clean up some of the mud and dog spit before putting them back with their siblings. The little white one was a bit on the thin side, but neither kit seemed the worse for their adventure. It's truly amazing they survived as long as they did down in mud and dirt, the little things don't even have their eyes fully open yet.


  What's even more amazing is that Rialey not only found those bunnies, but did them no harm whatsoever. She has always had a very strong mothering instinct and a very, very concerned and protective nature when it comes to the rabbits. In this case, those instincts saved the lives of two very lucky little ones.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Never a dull moment...

  It was a pretty typical Saturday here on the farm. Big Onion had driven to the city to make egg deliveries. I was doing some cleaning and laundry around the house. That morning we had put all the lady goats across the bridge to graze in the back pastures. This meant that Gimli and the young bucklings could get out of their enclosure and browse around the first pasture for the day. Something they don't get to do nearly often enough.

  I had just taken out all of the milk we'd stored in the fridge for the last few days with the intention of making another batch of goat cheese dog treats when I noticed it had started to drizzle. Now there is no real rain cover in the back pastures. There are lots of big trees which are great for shade but not so great for keeping water phobic princess goats from a fate worse than death...getting wet!

  It was just drizzling though so I thought maybe the girls would survive. I poured the first gallon of milk into the pot and started the gas fire underneath when I heard a clap of thunder and looked out the window to see the rain was getting much heavier. A couple of guineas were flapping around and squawking like they were certain the sky was falling. Behind them on the bridge I could see the ladies standing at the gate in the rain. I swear they were hopping from foot to foot in an effort to dodge the raindrop and keep their dainty hooves from getting wet.

  I breathed a heavy sigh, turned down the heat on the milk, and threw on my rain jacket and boots. I figured this would be an quick trip. Close up the buck pen where I was sure that all four boys had already taken shelter the moment a cloud appeared in the sky then open the gate and save my poor ladies from melting on the spot.

  I trudged through the rain and mud to the door of the buck pen where Gimli, our adult buck, greeted me with a happy, grunty little hello. Little Bruno was standing behind him munching on some hay, but his brother Victor and half brother Legolas were nowhere to be seen. Crap.

  I knew those little boys had been finding their way through the pasture fence into the neighbor's hay field (the grass is ALWAYS greener in the neighbor's hay fields) so I started calling to the boys and sure enough, I heard Lego's very distinct call from somewhere over the fence.

  Sighing again, I trudged to the back of the first pasture and opened the gate, in the process running face first into the thankfully unplugged line of electric fencing running above the opening. Once on the other side, I had to trudge back up along the fence line calling and following the sound of distressed young boy goats.

  Finally, Lego popped out of the heavy underbrush along the fence and ran straight to me. At that moment, I was so grateful we'd taken all that time to tame this little spooky kid. So much so that the sight of me in a storm was something to run to instead of away from. I scooped up the sad and soggy little guy and tossed him right over the fence and into the buck pen. A few feet down, Victor appeared and ran straight to me just like his brother before him. He got the same treatment.

  OK, problem solved. Time to open the bridge gate for the goat ladies and head back to my cheese making, right? Wrong. When I straightened up after this time successfully ducking that line of electric wire at the gate, I saw that Apple was standing out in the middle of the pasture with her one day old lamb. Both were soaked and the tiny lamb was laying on the wet ground. I made my way through the standing water to them and picked up the baby ram. He was sopping wet and his rear was totally clogged with sticky colostrum poops. Having no other way to clean him and figuring at this point what was the difference, I used my hands to clear his rear and rinsed him clean in a nearby puddle. Having taken care of that, I carried him low to the ground and facing his mother so that she would follow us both back to shelter where she and the lamb could finally get dry. Miraculously, I managed to back my way across the pasture while dangling a lamb and calling his dumb, silly mother without landing on my backside in a puddle. Once mother and son were safely under cover I washed my hands very thoroughly.


  Finally I could go and let the ladies get in out of the storm. I unchained the gate to the most sullen, ungrateful bunch of livestock you can imagine, and the wet goats made their way to shelter at top speed. It was then that I realized that Eve's young daughter Turnip was not with this group. I also noticed that Francesca and Lucia were absent. Having seen them pull this trick once before, I crossed the bridge and sure enough, all three girls were hidden and quite dry under the bridge. I called to her and Turnip came right to me. I sent her back across the bridge to her mother and started to head that way myself when Francesca started calling her fool head off.

  She was calling so loud and sounded so upset, I was sure she was somehow stuck under that bridge. I crawled back down the embankment to find that she was her sister were perfectly fine, just upset that they couldn't come with me AND stay out of the rain at the same time. Such is the life of these poor abused animals around here.


  She was making such a racket that I was afraid she'd upset the neighbors so I pulled both girls out from under the bridge and the three of us and little Turnip finally made our way across the pasture to shelter. Franny and Lucie went into the buck pen with the boy and the rest of the ladies all piled into the milk room where everyone was enjoying cover from the weather and a snack of hay.


  Gwen had made her way around to the other side of the building where the princess has her private suite away from the bigger goats who tend to bully her. I looked over the short wall to her area and realized that she was the only one without access to hay. Already feeling guilty for leaving everyone out in the rain, I sighed one more big sigh and dutifully grabbed a bucket, walked back to where the sheep were hanging out with the round bale, filled that bucket with fresh, dry hay, and walked back to make an offering to the sodden princess who gracefully accepted my peace offering.

  Finally, I could get back to the house. I was now as wet as the goats and covered in mud from all my trudging back and forth. When I opened the door, I smelled a smell I know very well. Cooked milk. My little adventure had taken a lot longer than I had planned. My milk which was only supposed to reach a temperature of 185 was happily boiling away in the pot. Thankfully it hadn't boiled over or burned. I turned off the heat and added a splash of vinegar. Hopefully the cheese will still be ok, but even if not, I'm sure that now that I've saved the ladies from melting in the storm they will happily give us plenty more milk it take its place.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Rialey to the rescue

  Everyday the dogs help around the farm in so many small ways. One morning I was getting ready to feed the birds. Normally I will just sling 4-5 scoops of feed and scratch grains out into the pasture for them to scratch and peck and hunt, but today I had some extra whey from cheese making so I had soaked their normal amount of food in the whey to give the birds a little extra protein and nutrients. Nothing goes to waste around here.

  So I had a full and heavy bucket in my hands, and I was trying to make my way through the throng of hungry, impatient chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys without a lot of success. I glanced over my shoulder where Rialey was standin by the gate well out of the way of the normally flying feed. Without my even staying a word, Rialey read my situation, saw my glance in her direction, and sprung into action. Within seconds she had pushed her way through the crowd of birds and circled around right in front of me. With a few forceful barks, she very easily cleared my path then walked with me out to the pasture keeping all those angry birds out of my way the entire time.

  I never said a word, not even a gesture, but that girl saw a needed help and jumped in without hesitation. It's these little ways that having a good working dog at my side makes living here so much easier!


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

BOGO Sheep

 
  After seriously debating the future of sheep on our farm, I think we've decided to let them stick around a while longer. So far this year we've only lost one lamb, and that was from a mother who we didn't realize wasn't making milk for her little one until it was too late. Things can go south very, very quickly with newborns. Our sweet, departed Pepper's daughter Marcie (above) is doing a great job of raising her daughter, Patty. She's even passed on Pepper's smattering of speckles and extra deep voice that inspired us to call her Peppermint Patty in the first place.

 
  After initially trying to reject him, Bonnie is raising Charger into a big strapping boy with really interesting color. Charger is the first of the lambs to need worming, and Charger was the second lamb that Bonnie tried to abandon, so we'll be seriously evaluating both Bonnie and her son's future around here.

 
  And our biggest surprise this year was that Nina gave us our first set of twin lambs! She had two little girls on St. Patrick's day that we decided to call Clover and Colleen. (Sorry for the chicken photo bomb!)

She lambed very early in the morning and we were lucky enough to walk out right as she was giving birth to the second of the two little girls and get it on video:




  Nina was a good mom from the start, and you can see here that she had a very large, full udder. We were actually able to harvest a little colostrum to store away from her.


  Since she has such good mothing instincts, has given us twins, and has a wonderful stocky body type, we will probably be keeping at least one of these little girls as a breeder.


  We were doubly delighted when just a few days later Louise gave us this mismatched set! The dark brown lamb is a little ewe, and the white one a ram. We decided to call the pair Ollie and Andy respectively (any Bob's Burgers fans out there?).


  Although Maggie has been an excellent mother, Little Ollie gave us some trouble from the start. She was very small and even looks a little...off.

 
  When she was just a couple of days old, she just disappeared. It was a weekend morning, and Big Onion and I had just finished chores. We decided to take a walk out to the back pasture and check on all the new arrivals. Well, Nina was there with Clover and Colleen. Louise was there with Andy, but Ollie was not with the group. We figured she was parked somewhere sleeping. It's very common for the sheep to leave their little ones napping in a safe place while they go off to graze. Usually you will find a group of the young lambs all napping together with one mother or auntie grazing nearby.


  Since she was so young and the rest of the the flock was up and on the move, we went into search mode. Just the day before Rialey had pointed out Ollie to me sleeping safely under some of the junk in the corner of the first pasture so we figured it would be a easy matter of finding and rousing the little one then sending her back to her mother's care. Well, we looked high and low, searched all three pastures, looked under, over, and around everything.We watched the dogs for any clues. We searched in the poultry pens and even walked the banks of the creek and ponds to be sure she hadn't fallen in. When we didn't find her, we looked everywhere a second and even a third time. We spent hours that day searching. Cancelled our plans and searched some more. I gave up, but Big Onion search until it was too dark to search any more.

  Finally, we gave up concluding that she had fallen prey to some predator, maybe a fox overnight or a hawk. She was so very small. With a sigh, we did our evening chore then went inside for the night.


  The next morning, we went out to care for everyone as usual. The sheep were sleeping up in the first pasture, when they got up there was little Ollie, right there with her mother and brother like she'd never been gone in the first place! To this day we have no idea where she was for all those hours we spent searching and scouring the property. All we know is that she is WAY better than us at hide and seek, and that her name fits her quite well! Ollie, ollie, oxen freed!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Like rabbits

   After a bit of a dry spell, I'm happy to say that the rabbits are back to the business of making more rabbits.

 We decided to keep two of Bluebell's daughters since she is a very large rabbit with a wonderful temperament. She also had a very large litter right off the bat with her first breeding and kept every one of the kits alive.

  These two girls just reached breeding age so they had their dates with our two bucks. I like to expose the girls to both bucks a couple of hours apart to make sure that they get bred. I think it also makes for larger litters if both breeding go smoothly.


Unfortunately, one of the two females was just not in the mood to bred when the time came with either guy. Now our problem is these two girls look so much alike that we're not sure which is which! We tried using a little Blue-Kote spray to tell them apart, but that stuff faded way faster than we expected. I guess we'll just have to keep a close eye out for nesting behavior in one of them when the time comes.

 Meanwhile, we had two more litter that were ready to wean. Unfortunately, it was raining so much that they had to stay in with their mothers much longer than normal.

 We are finally seeing some sunshine and that means the bunnies are happily living in the tractors on the pasture. This is where we grow them out until they reach about 12 weeks and are ready for processing.

  Aside from larger size, one of the things we have been selecting for is a calmer temperament. Big Onion and I are both tired of dealing with does who throw fits and threaten us when we try to do anything in their pen. Bluebell is the first breeding age female who not only tolerates handling, but solicits attention and petting when we go into her pen. Hopefully Bluebell's girls will turn out as nice as their mother in size, temperament, and mothering ability.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Introducing this year's lambs

 While I've been busy telling the story of each and every one of our goat ladies kidding, our sheep have been busy multiplying as well! Every year we try to start the lamb's name with the same letter, this year we are up to the lettter C. Of course, we don't always stick to that plan...

 This is Marcie. She was born to Pepper about 2 years ago.  We lost our sweet Peppermint Patty to an illness even the vet couldn't seem to figure out. We've decided to name Marcie's daughter Patty in honor of her grandmother.


 Fancy had a son who we are calling Patches after his grandmother Patch and for obvious reasons. In addition to the dark marking on his hock, he also has two spots across his shoulders that almost make the shape of a butterfly. This guy started pushing his way through the group of adult and eating grain at a surprisingly early age.

This little white fluff ball is Cassie. Every year her mother Maggie gives us a fluffy, all white, female lamb. This year was no exception. 

 Ninya one of favorite sheep for her size and her calm temperament, gave us a ram lamb who is going by the name of Cabbage.

 We decided to call him Cabbage because he has a big round head just like the vegetable!

 We actually had two rams running with the girls when they were bred. We are fairly certain all these big headed babies like Cabbage are coming from Angus since they all have heads shaped just like his. Let's hope they inherit his naturally stocky build as well.

Last but not least is Charger. Despite his rough start, the little guy seems to be doing great!

Overall, they lambs seem to be doing very well this year. All are growing at a nice rate and after some initial problems, all their mothers are doing a nice job of feeding and keeping track of their charges. We are trying to pare down the flock a bit to just Angus and the girls that are successfully producing and raising healthy lambs so we probably will not be keeping any of this group. We are keeping our figures crossed that this will finally be the year that we can see some returns from the sheep, but only time will tell!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Frankie and Georgie out on the town!

This pictures are actually a couple of months old at this point, but I have so many cute shots of the baby goats that I have to share them with you guys!


Frankie and Georgie were the first two kids born this season to Gwen. Since they were so active and so bold, I decided to take them out for a walk in the pasture when they were about a week old.


Auntie Rialey kept a close eye on her little charges and would not let them wander far from me.


They were a little apprehensive about meeting the turkeys.


 But eventually decided to approach the giant birds.


Again Aunt Rialey was right there to keep her babies from harm.


And shoo off those nasty birds before they got any funny ideas!


They also got to meet Lucia, who would be their cousin I suppose



Then it was time for a meal before heading back inside for well deserved nap.


But not before getting a quick bath!