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.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Monday, July 28, 2014
Well, last Monday evening I happened to see her walking by with a sharp lump sticking out of her right side. I'd seen that before. It was the shape of a tiny goat hoof pressing out from the inside. I grabbed her by the collar and started feeling around. Sure enough. There was at least one little creature inside our lady goat. Crap.
We got Josie on the milk stand and gave her a better look. Her udder (which always looks kind of full) was filling up more than normal and the ligaments above her tail were just starting to soften up. Not only was Josie pregnant, but she was due very, very soon!
Since Josie is CAE+, we had planned on not breeding her again. In order for her not to pass the potentially deadly virus on to her offspring, we would have to be there when the kids were born to keep them from nursing directly from her. Big Onion left work early Tuesday and planned on taking off Wednesday to keep an eye on Josie. He has never attended the birth of any of our goats, but we were both pretty confident in his abilities to handle the situation
Tuesday nothing really happened. Josie's udder got bigger and her ligaments got softer. She was laying down a little more than normal. Big Onion checked on her every few hours through the day and night. Wednesday I had to work so I had packed up my things and was headed out the door keys in hand when I got a message on my phone from Big Onion who was already out and checking on momma once again. It said, "She's laying down...now up...down again and pushing! Go time!"
I sighed, texted my coworker that I would be late, and headed out to the goat yard. When I walked in the room, Big Onion said, "Oh thank god!" I think he was little nervous about handling things on his own.
We watched Josie get up, lay down, push, mumble to herself, push some more. It seemed to take forever. About 40 minutes after her first push, we started started to see the bubble of the amniotic sac starting to emerge. Big Onion helped to break the sac, and it wasn't long before we caught a glimpse of a tiny white foot emerging then going back in with Josie's every push. After a few times of this, I told Big Onion to grab hold of the foot and don't let go!
Little did he know just how slippery unborn baby goats can be! It took a few tries, but he finally got a grip on the one foot and gently pulled while Josie pushed. Within a few seconds we realized what what wrong. Josie was giving birth to a kid with a head the size of a softball! It took some pulling on our part and some serious protesting on hers, but eventually the slimy little linebacker of a goat popped out of her mother's backside.
I hardly had time to blink and Big Onion had that kid wrapped up in a towel and spirited out of the room. We've found that if you have to take a kid from a momma goat, it's best not to let her even lay eyes on it. The less time she has to bond, the less she will mourn for the lost babies. This is one of the many heartbreaking aspects of CAE. There is nothing we would love more than to let mother and baby stay together, but letting that baby nurse from its mother puts it at seriously risk of developing and dying from encephalitis at 2-4 months of age. That is not a risk we are willing to take.
While Big Onion was off drying off the baby, I stayed with Josie and started cleaning up. After seeing the size of that kid, I was pretty certain that Josie was only going to have the one. I was just starting to help Josie clean up her back end when she started pushing again. It is normal for the mother to have contractions to help her pass the afterbirth so I didn't think much of it...until I saw another intact bubble starting to emerge. I guess the way was cleared by that first behemoth of a kid because this second one all but flew out! Luckily I was there to catch it with another towel and had it out of the room lickity split!
I found Big Onion and Rialey in the poultry house still cleaning and drying the first baby. He told me his was a girl! I plopped my slimy, wet bundle in front of Rialey for cleaning, took a quick peek to find out she was a girl too! Then I headed back to spend time with Josie. I think it's important that the doe not be left alone that this time. I sat close to her and quietly let her lick my hands and arms clean.
Once the babies were relatively clean, Big Onion headed to the house to prepare a bottle of powered colostrum and get the new little girls fed. I waitws for Josie to recover enough to get back up on her feet. With a little encouragement I got her up on the milk stand and milked out that all important first milk for the newborns.
In order for it to be safe for the babies, CAE positive colostrum has to be heat treated. It needs to be carefully raised to 135 degrees and held there for one hour. We keep powdered colostrum on hand so that the babies don't have to wait for over an hour for their first meal. We learned last year that hungry newborns can stir up quite a ruckus. When I got back up to the house, both babies were clean, dry and snoozing with full bellies.
I handed off Josie's colostrum and gave my work clothes a once over. Miraculously, I had managed to keep my clothes clean through the whole messy process. I once again grabbed my bags and my keys and headed out the door leaving the twin doelings in Big Onion's more than capable hands.
Monday, July 21, 2014
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!
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.
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.
Friday, July 18, 2014
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.
Monday, July 14, 2014
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!
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.
Friday, July 11, 2014
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 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
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.
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 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'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.