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.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Turnip's Tumultuous Arrival

  We had been up and down all night bottle and tube feeding Gwen's newborn kids, and I volunteered to get up early and start morning chores while Big Onion tried to catch a couple extra Zzz's on the couch. Since he had just built us a new milking system (yay!), Big Onion said he would follow me out in a little while to show me how it works.

  When I opened the back door, I heard goats calling. Now this is not all that uncommon around here since Francesca is THE most vocal goat known to man, but today her usual yelling was accompanied by other voices. As I was getting close to the poultry house, I looked over to see Eve nibbling at something on the ground. It took a few minutes for my sleep deprived brain to process that she was nibbling at an afterbirth and that afterbirth meant that she had probably just kidded....but where was the kid?

  Now Eve is a weird and goofy goat. I had visions of her giving birth, taking one looks at that kid and being freaked out by what just fell out of her backside and running away! I feared I'd find a little cold, dead baby goat left in the field somewhere. About that time, I heard a goat calling again only this time I was sure it wasn't Francesca.

  I walked around the corner to find Josie standing there with a little blonde, blue eyed baby pinned to the fence behind her. Josie was calling to the baby over and over again in hopes of claiming it as her own. Josie had stolen Eve's baby!

  I had a moment of panic while I tried to figure out how to catch a wild eyed, half crazed, very, very pregnant Josie without her trampling or crushing the baby that was sandwiched between her massive body and the fence. I had to get that baby reunited with her actual mom as soon as possible or there was a chance that they wouldn't bond, and we would have yet another bottle baby in the house. Thankfully, we had taped up Josie's teats so there was no chance the baby could have nursed from her and potentially contracted CAE. I put in a quick call to a half groggy Big Onion yelling something along the lines of, "All hell's broken loose! Get out there NOW!"

  Josie isn't the easiest goat to get your hands on in the best of times so I started talking to her very softly and walking slowly toward her. All the while she was calling away, "I'll show you! You ain't stealing this baby from me because I stole her first!" When I got within range, I swiftly grabbed her collar and pulled her away from the baby and the fence. I dragged her across the yard and into the milk room and quickly slammed and locked the door.

  Meanwhile, that poor baby was calling and calling, and I think Eve finally figured out that she was missing something and started yelling back to her kid. Gwen having just kidded and never to be outdone, started calling too and then the two teenaged kids, Francesca and Lucia, decided to chime in for good measure.

  Somehow in all that cacophony, I got mother and baby together and closed them into the goat room. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw Eve immediately start grooming her kid and the little girl start nosing around for mom's udder. My relief was short lived though when I realized that behind me one very pissed off Josie was doing her best to headbutt her way through the milk room door.

  She was still yelling her fool head offTurn and the confused little doeling was calling back not sure who she should answer to. Hearing her mother so upset, Gwen started calling even louder! In an effort to calm everyone down, I waiting until Josie was in between bashes and unlocked and flung the milk room door open. I grabbed Josie by the collar and dragged her out, across the first pasture, and locked her behind the gate to the bridge. I came back, grabbed Gwen, and locked her behind the gate with her mother. They could still call, but at least Josie wouldn't be doing her best to demolish our out buildings!


  When I finally made it back to check on mother and daughter, the little one was happily nursing away like nothing had happened! What a resilient little girl! It was about that time that Big Onion finally made his arrival on the scene totally missing all the action!


  We decided to call Eve's little girl Turnip, and I have to say that despite her having a very dramatic entry into this world, that little girl probably has the best temperament of any of the kids we've had this year.


  She is sweet, silly, bold, and inquisitive. She drives her mother crazy with her independence and lack of fear. Of all our kids, even the bottle babies, she is the one who seems to enjoy human attention the most. She will seek us out and get our attention by nibbling on our clothes or pawing at our legs. She loves nothing more than to be picked up and snuggled and to have her cheeks and neck scratched. Her wonderful attitude reminds me so much of her grandmother Gertie who we lost not that long ago. Of all the kids, she will be the hardest to sell, and Big Onion and I have already started talking about maybe keeping the sweet little thing around to take her grandma's place.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Georgie's Curious Problem

 

  Once all the dust of Gwen's kidding excitement had settled, we were left with two tiny little goatlings living in our kitchen. Gwen's two doelings, Frankie and Georgie were absolute dolls, but we did have a lot of trouble with little Georgie at first.

  The tiny thing just would not take a bottle. Try as we might, when you put the nipple in her mouth she just would not suckle. We tried two or three different styles of nipples including one made especially for weak kids. I even tried putting a pin hole in the end of the finger a rubber glove and seeing if she would nurse off the softer material. No luck.

  Determined not to lose this little one, we resorted to tube feeding her. Tube feeding is not as scary as it sounds and in this case, I am absolutely certain it kept Georgie alive. Every few hours we would fill a syringe with about 2oz of warm colostrum and pass a small, flexible tube into Georgie's mouth and down into her stomach. The only dangerous thing about tube feeding is that you can accidently pass the tube down the wrong pipe and end up in the kid's lungs instead of the stomach. Dumping liquid into the lungs is a great way to lose a kid fast. It's important to pass the tube slowly and pause when you reach the back of the throat to let the baby swallow the tube. Do not push forward while the kid is vocalizing. Obviously, this is no fun for the kid, but the key is to stay calm and move slowly and steadily  Once the tube is in place, we like to push just a tiny amount of liquid out then wait to make sure the kid is breathing normally and not coughing. If all goes smoothly, you can quickly give a weak kid all the nutrition she will need until she can mature enough to learn to nurse properly.

  Every feeding time we would try again to get Georgie to suckle. We tried tickling her throat and her tail. We tried having her start to suckle on our finger then switch to the bottle. We even tried putting a little molasses on the nipple to entice her to try it. Every time, we would have to resort to tube feeding her to keep her going.

  The odd thing was other than being a bit smaller than her sister, Georgie seemed fine. She was up and bouncing around as much as day old kids normally do. She was talking to her sister and to us in little goaty chirps. She just would not take that nipple!

  After about a day and a half of tube feedings, we finally got her to make a couple of tiny sucks on the nipple by getting her under Big Onion's chin and making sucking noises ourselves while holding the nipple in her mouth. It wasn't much, but it was a start.

  In the meantime, Eve had kidded her one little doeling, Turnip. Both were doing great and Eve was making lots and lots of milk. We decided to bundle Gwen's two little girls up and bring them out to see if the real thing would hold more appeal to Georgie.


  Trying to get two squirming kids from the house to the milk room without letting Gwen see or hear them was quite the challenge. Eventually we got Eve up on the milk stand and tucked Georgie girl under her and don't you know that little kid started nosing around and found Eve's udder. Within minutes she was nursing away like a little pro. I guess there really is nothing like the real thing!

  At the next feeding after this, Georgie finally starting suckling from the bottle. I got so excited I yelled and dropped the bottle, splashing both of us with milk and half scaring the little goat out of her wits! Thankfully, she forgave me my clumsiness and went right back to drinking from her bottle like she'd been doing it her whole life!


  Since then both girls have been growing quickly and taking their bottles with no problems! Eve is making more than enough milk to split between the three babies with the help of a little formula here and there, and the girls crack us up constantly with their little monkey sounds and happy, hoppy little dances.

  I have to say I'm not that surprised that one of Gwen's kids would give us so much trouble since Gwen herself is the princess of the barnyard and has given us all manner of headaches in the past. As for Georgie, I guess the little brat just wanted a taste of the real deal!


Friday, January 2, 2015

Gwen's birth story

  We knew Gwen's time to kid was drawing near. Her udder had started to fill and the ligaments on either side of her tail were getting very loose. Gwen herself was getting rather sick of us spending so much time staring and prodding at her back end. Since Gwen is one of our girls with CAE, we take extra care to make sure we are there when they kid and can pull the kids before momma has a chance to bond with them. CAE can be transmitted by nursing, so we make sure to tape up their teats when kidding time draws near. All the kids from the positive girls have to be pulled immediately and fed heat treated milk and colostrum.


  That morning we found Gwen sleeping late into the day in the small open stall near where the sheep like to sleep at night. This is rather far away from the area where the rest of the herd spends the night. She spent most of the day in that stall and often when I would check on her, I'd find her laying down. Since she is the princess goat around here, I happily brought her hay and water and feed which she nibbled on very slowly.

  That evening after I had put all the birds away, I checked on her again to find that she was in active labor. The sun was going down and that area has no lighting so I made the decision to move her to the milking room. Big Onion was away making an egg delivery in  New Orleans so while I gathered an armful of hay and started to collect all the things I would need, I got him on the phone and tried to convey the fact that Gwen was about to give birth without resorting to yelling at the poor man something along the lines of, "OMG THE BABIES ARE COMING! GET HOME NOW!!"

  I quickly spread a deep layer of hay in one corner of the milk room and gathered a bucket of fresh water for Gwen and anther of soapy water for me. I ran to the house for an armful of towels. I even changed out the light bulb in the room for something a lot brighter. Then I dragged a very begrudging Gwen up to her new cozy, well lit nest and settled down in the hay with her to wait.


  It seemed like forever that she was grunting and groaning and pushing with nothing happening. I called Big Onion every few minutes to make sure that he was in fact on his way and to give him our (lack of) progress reports. Gwen was taking frequent brakes to rest her head on my arm and nap in between bouts of contractions and pushing. I was just starting to wonder if I would have to intervene when a telltale bubble started to appear at her rear end. A few more pushes and that bubble bust in a stream of liquid and a tiny little nose and mouth appeared. There was a little tongue was sticking out to one side of the mouth and I carefully touched it with one finger to make sure the baby was still alive. To my delight, the mouth moved just a little. Meanwhile poor Gwen was pushing with all her might. It sure didn't look like there was any way for the rest of that head to fit out the backside of our smallest goat so I started to gently help as best I could. Most kids are born feet first so you have something to grab and pull. This kid decided to enter the world nose first making it very hard for me to give much assistance. After what seemed like forever to both me and Gwen, the head finally came free and the rest of the body followed quickly.

  I was so surprised to see that our flashy colored Gwen and honey and white colored Gimli made such a darkly colored little creature. I only had a second to ponder before I wrapped that baby a towel and  hustled it off to the poultry house. I took a second to find that Gwen had given us a little girl and that she had her mother's LaMancha ears. I left Rialey to do the dirty work of kid cleanup while I went back to make sure momma was OK. Gwen seemed exhausted but relaxed and not at all upset about losing the kid that she never really knew she had.

  A quick note here on the fact that having a dog I can trust with a baby animal like that is a HUGE help. Plus, she did a darn good job of cleaning up the slimy little creature.


  Since Gwen seemed to be doing alright at the moment and seemed to be out of active labor, I bundled up the now mostly clean and dry little one and ran her up to the house. I put her in the bathroom with the space heater running and ran back to make sure Gwen was done. About this time I figured that Big Onion had finally arrived home because I got a text along the lines of "OMG SHE IS SO CUTE!" I let him take over caring for the baby while I sat with Gwen, and we both recovered from the ordeal.

  After about an hour, I was pretty confident that she wasn't having any more kids. There were no more signs of contractions. and she seems very relaxed and sleepy. Being a first time mother, we would not expect her to have more than one anyway. With a little encouragement, I was able to get her up on the milk stand and milk out a small amount of colostrum. Unfortunately, one of the most common symptoms of CAE is udder congestion after kidding, and it looked like Gwen was not going to escape that fate.

  After milking, Gwen settled down in the deep hay to relax, and I headed up to the house to check on Big Onion and the newest addition. Big Onion had already gotten a few ounces of powdered colostrum into the baby, but there is no replacing a mother's milk so we got started heat treating the colostrum her mother. While we waited the hour it takes to heat treat the precious stuff, we decided we would call the little one Frankie after Aretha Franklin for her big lungs and the fluffy fur on her head.

  Big Onion voluteered to go out and check on Gwen and finish up the few chores I didn't get to in the excitement of finding our girl in labor. He had only been gone a few minutes when I heard the back door open and him shouting, "Kaela, come and get this! Gwen had another one!" and he shoved a soggy, slimy little beasty into my arms and headed back out to make sure Gwen didn't have any more surprises!

  It was another little girl marked almost just like the first only with her father's Nigerian Dwarf ears! She looked like a little donkey! We are calling this one Geogie after Curious George since both girls sound like tiny chimps when they talk. This is especially funny to me as I often call Gwen my Monkey Face as a pet name.


  The second girl was much smaller than the first and while we don't think that she had a chance to nurse from her mother before Big Onion found her, we had a heck of a time getting little Georgie to take a bottle, but that's a story for another blog post. For now, suffice to say that both girls are beautiful and sweet, healthy and active and pooping and peeing all over our kitchen!!

(Sorry for the poor quality of pictures with this post. In all the craziness, I didn't have a chance to grab the real camera. Promise there will be better pictures of these sweet babies to come!)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Our Egg Bound Hen


 I had been seeing this little red chicken acting funny for a few days. Her comb looked pale, her feathers mussed, and she had a habit of just sort of hanging out against the walls in the coop instead of going out and foraging with the rest of the flock.

 After noticing this for a little while, I finally got my hands on her and gave her a good exam. She was rather thin, but had no wounds that I could find. What she did have was a rather large, solid mass low in her abdomen. Ah ha! She must be egg bound.

  A chicken will get egg bound when an egg gets stuck in her oviduct. This can happened for a variety of reasons, but often it is because the egg she produced was larger than normal or misshapen. I decided to try the most commonly recommended treatment for egg binding - a good warm, soapy soak.

 I even covered the bath so Ms. Henny could have some privacy...and so I didn't have a panicked, soggy chicken come flying out of the tub and flapping around my bathroom! For some reason, she did not seem to appreciate the spa treatment.

 Once out of the tub, I wrapped her up in a towel and used the blow dryer on low to try and get her as dry as possible. Can't have our egg bound momma getting a chill. Then I tried very carefully to massage that egg out, but it wouldn't budge. You have to very careful doing this. I've read that if the egg breaks, those sharp shards of egg can do some serious damage to the inside of the hen.

Once she was totally dry, we set her up in a pen by herself with a private nest box and hoped for the best.

 The following day, she still hadn't laid an egg. We gave her one more day, but the poor thing was looking so puny and sick that we made the decision to put her out of her misery. We then decided to do a quick autopsy to see if we were right that she was egg bound. It turns out the poor thing was full of this huge yellow mass. After doing a little research, it looks like we had an "internal layer."

From the Merck Manual:
In these hens, partially or fully formed eggs are found in the abdominal cavity. Such eggs reach the cavity by reverse peristalsis of the oviduct. If they have no shell, they are often misshapen because of partial or complete absorption of the contents. Frequently, only empty shell membranes are present. No control or treatment is known. This condition is related to erratic ovulation and defective egg syndrome.

  So the mass I was feeling was technically an egg (really a lot of eggs) but all the soaking in the world would not have helped our hen. Once a chicken starts laying internally, the kindest thing to do is to put them down before they die from infection. Hopefully, if we ever see this again, we will recognize it sooner and take the necessary step to keep our ladies from suffering.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

If a tree falls in the pasture and no goats are around, will it still be dinner?


 About a month ago we had a large tree go down in the back pasture.


The goats just thought this was manna from heaven. The trees come to us?! This is great!


Even the kids were getting in on the buffet.


As you can see, this was not a small tree. The trunk actually snapped in half about 8-10 feet in the air. It looks like this tree may have fallen victim to some kind of rot or termites.


 Of course, I saw this as a training opportunity for the pups. I've been asking Luna to climb up, walk on, and jump over weird things her whole life so when I asked, she jumped up into that tree lickety-split!


Rialey was game to give tree climbing a go as well.


 Here I am guiding her a little higher up on a rather narrow branch while making sure she doesn't fall (...again...oops!).


She was quite happy to be lifted down afterwards.


 Puppy love! (more like, "Mom can you please put me down now!?")


Meanwhile, the kids didn't need any help getting up or down the fallen trunks. Heck, they even started climbing each other! 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Pukey Franny

It's funny the things you pick up when you spend a lot of time around animals.

  For instance, when I walked into the kids' pen a while back and saw this crust on Francesca's shoulder, I knew she had been vomiting.

  I've mentioned it before, but when goats get sick they don't just throw up. Instead, they "sling cud" which basically means they bring the continence of their rumen back up into their mouth then open up and sling the stuff all over the place. More often than not, they throw their head to from side to side and end up getting upchuck on their own shoulders (not to mention on the floor, the walls, and any other goats unfortunate enough to be within range).

  It doesn't happen very often, but every once in a while the goats will get into something that doesn't agree with them. The young kids are especially prone to this as they explore the world and try to figure out what is food and what is not. On this day just to be safe, I gave little Franny a couple of charcoal pills. They are very good at absorbing and moving out anything toxic she might have eaten. I also gave her a syringe full of aloe to settle her belly then just kept a close eye on her the rest of the day.

By that evening she was back to her old self scarfing down a dinner of alfalfa with just little bit of grain. She's been fine since! I'm not sure if my intervention was needed since she seemed to have stopped vomiting by that morning, but it's nice to know that we are learning to pick out and deal with problems with the animals more quickly and easily as time goes on.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Raising Broad Breasted White Zombies

  This morning we dropped off four of our largest heritage turkeys to the processors as sort of a trial run for when Thanksgiving rolls around. That made me realize that I had never shared all these pictures of our commercial Broad Breasted White turkeys on pasture.  

  At the moment all our normal pens are full, so the broad breasted white turkeys had to take over our two rabbit tractors. Just like we do with all of our free range birds, we trained them to go into their pens at night by putting a fence around the opening for the first few weeks and feeding them only in their pens.

I will never cease to be amazed at how different the commercial breeds are to their heritage counterparts. Where our Bourbon Reds are friendly and curious, these turkeys are pushy and constantly trying to be as close to us as possible. They are always on the lookout for food and will throw themselves at the sides of they pen if we walk by.

It really is a wonder they have any feathers at all on their chests with the way they press themselves against the fencing.


  It's a bit like raising a horde of white feathered zombies. We have a strict policy here on the farm to never, ever feed the birds from our hands, otherwise I'm sure I would have no fingers left from their pecking. As it is, you really, really do not want to stick a finger into this pen. It will get bitten by a turkey beak which hurts more than you would think!

This is what it looks like every time we try to walk in the first pasture. Just a horde of butterballs rushing at your feet (along with the couple bourbon red and few guineas that ended up in the mix).


 Thank heavens the dogs have learned to get the turkeys off us. Luna had this job last year, and this year young Rialey takes great pleasure in making sure not a single turkey is within 10 feet of us. All I have to do is yell, "Help! Get 'um off me!" and she's there in a flash weaving her way between the turkeys and my feet. She'll run back and forth and push those feathered beasts until they give up and leave us in peace. Without the dogs, I really don't know how we would get anything done!