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.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Bucket o'ducklings


Our ducks are getting old. We keep ducks here on the farm to sell their eggs. Unfortunately, our lady ducks are getting up there in the years and going though what I can only assume is the equivalent of ducky menopause. Despite the fact that we have many lady ducks out there and spring is the perfect time for a lady duck to do her ducky thing, we are only getting 1-2 eggs per day.

With that in mind, we set a couple dozen duck eggs in the incubator and waited the 28 days it takes to cook up baby ducklings. We didn't have the greatest hatch rate (again, old lady ducks), but we did get enough ducklings that we were able to sell a few and keep the bucket full you see above.

Originally, we were keeping them in the brooder with the baby turkey poults that hatched at the same time, but ducklings and other birds just don't mix well at that age. They have very different protein requirements, and baby ducks are just disgusting. They get food and water and poop just everywhere. Hence the duckling bucket. These little ladies moved out and are now living and doing their best to destroy one of the poultry pens until they get old enough to move in with the flock and start laying us some eggs!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Ace of Spades


 Would you just look at this little dude! Last weekend we picked up a new boer buck. He's about 5 months old and gorgeous. His registered name is Ace of Spades, but I just didn't like the name Ace. We've been told he looks like marble or a stormy sky, but the one that made me laugh was that he looks like he is made of blue cheese. That inspired me to call him Roquefort or "Rogue" for short.


The name Rogue seems to fit him well. Every goat that comes to the farm has to spend at least a week or two in quarantine so that we can make sure they are healthy and fully dewormed before introducing them to the rest of the herd. Right now he also has some minor respiratory issues that we need to get resolved as well. This little guy is not at all happy about living alone and will perform acrobatic leaps up into the air and rebound off the sides of his pen when left alone. It's really kind of impressive. He also throws fits while we are gone and will flip his platform and destroy his hay buckets. I have a feeling that once he moves in with the Gimli and Legolas, our other bucks, they will not tolerate this kind of behavior plus maybe he'll probably settle down once he has company.

Other than the hysterics of being left alone, he is a really sweet boy with a wonderful temperament. We had him out with us doing yard work earlier this week, and he just loved being near us and getting lots of scratches. He also has a healthy respect for Rialey who spent the day keeping an eye on him and moving him away from trouble.

Our plan is to breed him with Edie next go round to produce what should be some really flashy registered Boers for sale. We'll also probably breed him to some of our bigger dairy girls with the plan to raise the babies for meat.

Overall we are really excited to have this pretty little boy here and cannot wait to introduce him to the rest of the herd!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Herding Training

Lately we have needed to move the flock of sheep more than in the past. We are trying to keep them off our first pasture as much as possible so that it doesn't get over grazed. We are also gathering them every week for health checks. Since the weather has started to warm, we have also been moving them into the backyard a few days a week so that they can act as living lawn mowers and enjoy the benefits of our very varied grass back there.


Rialey has always shown a very natural ability to move the flock. The problem is often that where she would like to move them and where we would like her to move them are totally different places. The last couple of weeks, I have started to make an effort to really dial in her herding training so that we can better communicate out there.

The other thing the girl needs to learn is to just slow down! I thought surely when she reached 2 years old she would mature out of the puppy brain phase and start acting like an adult. Nope. Half the time when she's working she is a jumbo bag of mixed nuts, running and barking and trying to do everything we ask before we ask it and at TOP SPEED! Whhheeee!!!


The fault here lies with my training, not with my over zealous, very driven working dog. I haven't taken the time to show her what to do and reward when she is doing things at a moderate pace. Instead we often find ourselves waiting until she has done something in a totally wild fashion and then yelling. This does no one any good.

Recently, I worked out a deal with a local trainer to trade a couple of our turkeys for a herding lesson. She was able to give me some great tips on reading Rialey's body language and getting the kind of performance I want without all the yelling and pushing.


Today, I decided to put some of her suggestions into practice so we went out to collect the sheep in the back pasture. It took a few tries, but eventually we moved the whole flock into the goat yard where armed with a clicker and some delicious treats (smokey bacon cheddar!), I rewarded Rialey for being calm, moving slowly, and getting around and behind her sheep. Thankfully, the sheep have finally grown out of the habit of trying to commit suicide by throwing themselves at the fence any time a dog moves anywhere near them! We moved the flock from one pen to the other and back again a few times then we decided to move the group into the backyard to graze for the day.


Our first attempt at moving from one yard to the other did not go so well. Unsure what I wanted, Rialey flanked around and ended up moving the sheep in the opposite direction and by a roundabout route then ended up back where we'd started. This time I got in front of the flock and just told Rialey to wait as I walked confidently in front of the group, out the gate, and across the pasture.

There was this beautiful moment when I looked over my shoulder and there spread out behind me trotting calmly was the entire flock of sheep. Bringing up the rear at a respectable distance was Rialey. She was WALKING behind the sheep. Keeping her shepherd's eye on all the young lambs to make sure they stayed with the group and calmly encouraging the whole flock to take my lead. Once the sheep saw the open backyard gate and the lush greens that awaited them, they all rushed through and Rialey to her credit slowed to a stop and waited for every last ewe and lamb to find their way through the small gate.

Gate shut, I turned around and had a huge party with my good girl, complete with a whole handful of smokey bacon cheddar!



Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Francesca's Valentines


We had been watching Francesca get bigger in the belly and the bag for the last few weeks. On Valentine's day, Big Onion and I decided to get away from the farm for a bit to see a romantic movie so we made plans to see a Sunday matinee of Deadpool. That morning we'd noticed a bit of discharge on Francesca's vulva, but the girl was acting normal and went out to graze with the rest of the herd so we felt confident that we could safely leave her for a few hours.

We had a great time at the movie and when we got home Big Onion decided to go out and make a quick check on Franny. Moments later I got a text saying, "Frannie babies!" I grabbed an armful of towels and rushed out to find Big Onion squatting in a dusty corner behind the four wheeler. Francesca was standing and licking away at a little white and tan buckling who was already struggling to his feet. Meanwhile, Big Onion was trying to clean off an obviously freshly born little black and white pile of goo and fur. It was the tiniest thing, and as I handed him a towel I realized that it was a little doeling. A little while later when we weighed her, she was only 2.3lbs. Very tiny for a baby goat. Since they were born on Valentine's day, we chose to name the little boy Cupid and the girl Val. 

We decided to move mother and the babies to a cleaner, safer place, so we bundled little Val in a towel, tucked Cupid into our arms, and dragged Francesca around the bike, through the gate, and into the cozy, well bedded goat room. Once there, we watched as Cupid got to his feet and started nursing very quickly. Meanwhile there was something obviously wrong with Val. She was so tiny and seemed to have no drive at all to get up or try to nurse. We got her clean and dry, but every time we would stop stimulating her, she would just lay her head down and seem to give up. Eventually we tried propping her on her feet, but she would just slump back down into the hay. We even tried holding her semi-limp form to her mother's teat to try and encourage her to nurse with no luck. It seemed the little one just wasn't interested in living. 

Sitting there in the hay, we started to think that this little one just wasn't going to make it. Then I remembered reading an article recently about newborn horses with a similar problem. They were born seemingly without the will or drive to live. They would often act nonresponsive and would not nurse. The theory talked about in the article was that these "dummy foals" were born very quickly or by c-section and did not spend enough time in the birth canal. Apparently the act of being squeezed through the birth canal is what signals their newborn brains to switch from the sort of sleep mode of the womb to waking and struggling to rise and nurse. In foals, they take a rope and tie it tightly around the chest to simulate the squeezing of the birth canal, and the babies act as if a switch has been thrown and start acting like normal foals. 

Looking at little Val laying there in the hay, it was obvious she'd been born second, after her brother who was 3 times her size. One could imagine that after his entrance the little girl virtually shot out of her mother. Perhaps she was having that same problem as the dummy foals. I figured it was worth a shot, so I gathered the tiny thing in my arms and held her very tightly to my chest for several seconds, then I let her go and drop to the soft hay about a foot below thinking that maybe the gentle impact might also help her get going. 

Don't you know, that little girl started to struggle to her feet almost immediately. It took her a while, and we had to help her balance a bit, but eventually she was taking her first wobbly steps toward her mother and with a little help, she was able to latch on and nurse her first sips of that all important colostrum!


Our next problem was that during all this time, Francesca had been cleaning and talking to and bonding with little Cupid. She really hadn't interacted with the little girl much at all so while Big Onion left to put the birds away, I started trying to convince the first time mother that she had two kids to care for, not just the one.


We had run into this same problem with Elanore and her twins so I had some experience with this issue. I actually grabbed Cupid and hid him behind my back so that Francesca who was in full blown new mother must lick everything in sight mode could redirect her attentions to the littler of her brood. She kept trying to lick me...probably the only time in her salty little life that that goat has ever shown me any real affection, but I kept redirection her attention to little Val. I even rubbed the two babies together so that they would share the same scent and further convince Franny that the tiny black doeling was hers. 

My strategy worked and after a while Francesca started talking to the little girl, and she calling back. It was then I knew everyone was going to be ok. I left mother with her new babies to bond and rest.


We checked on tiny little Val very frequently over the next few days checking her weight twice a day to make sure she was gaining. She started off slow, but very quickly developed the spunk that her family is so well known for here on the farm. Her tiny little legs had a heck of a time keeping up with her mother and brother, but Cupid bonded very closely with his little sister and would come running any time she called. Now the two are inseparable and much more bonded to each other than even to their crazy mother who took quite a while to realize that she couldn't just run off and leave her kids behind any time she felt like going somewhere. 

Now I'm happy to report that Val (who changed her name to Lilly) is doing great! She keeps with with mother and brother and even tries to stand up to the much bigger kids on occasion. Since she's so tiny, she gets lots of attention and seems to enjoy or at least tolerate our cuddles and kisses with good spirits. Hopefully when she gets old enough, we can find just the right home for what I'm sure will turn out to be a very sweet and adorable little doe.



Monday, March 28, 2016

Gwen

It started very small. I saw her stumble a couple of times. I thought maybe the arthritis that often afflicts goats with CAE was flaring up again. Over the next couple of days it became clear that something was wrong with our little girl. She was still eating and drinking, but she just wasn't right. I took her to our local goat vet who took one look at her and declared her "one sick goat." She was standing next to my car with looking hunched up with her head turned to one side. My normally bright, active girl whose head would pop up and eyes would sparkle at the mention of her name seemed dull and almost lifeless.


The problem was, aside from obviously feeling pretty terrible, Gwen had no other symptoms. No vomiting or diarrhea. Her appetite was good, and she still seemed to be getting around ok. The vet gave her a shot of B vitamins, prescribed an antibiotic, and sent us on our way with a request to report if anything else developed...


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Announcement!

As many of you may already know, I am pregnant. Before we even started trying to conceive a kid, I had been contemplating some way to use the farm and our animals to make a clever and cute pregnancy announcement. Eventually I decided that using the baby goats was the way to go, so we set out so put together just the right picture to announce to the world that we had a little human on the way. This is the final product that we posted to Facebook...


As you can imagine, this was not the easiest picture in the world to make. It took two different photo sessions and so much baby goat chasing and dog model coaxing, I thought we'd have to photoshop the thing to make it happen.


I thought surely the easy part would be to put Rialey in a sit stay holding the ultrasound picture while we wrangled the baby goats into staying around her. Unfortunately, she did not like the feel of bailing twine in her mouth. Even wrapping it in a bit of plastic didn't help. We got more than one shot of our backsides trying to encourage her to keep the thing in place. We ended up hanging the picture around her neck for a while before finally wrapping the twine in some tape that was acceptable to her delicate tongue. 


There was also the problem of keeping those four crazy, rambunctious kids in frame. Big Onion ran around like a fool, tossing babies, waving sticks, and making crazy sounds while I tried to catch a shot between laughing my butt off at him!


Even when they were in frame, they were too interested in banging into each other to hold still enough for us to get a picture. Here Rutabaga headbutts poor Cupid into his tiny sister, Lilly. What a mess!

And then there was the humping.

So.

Much. 

Humping.

On the second day, we had much better lighting and were smart enough to set up fencing around Rialey and the goats which worked a lot better...

If only Big Onion would stay out of the shot!

Eventually we got a couple of decent shots, but boy was it some hard work!

That evening even Rialey was beat!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Louise Lambs and Rialey saves the day

Every Sunday morning, Big Onion and I with the help of Rialey, our trusty English Shepherd farm dog, gather up the entire flock of sheep a quick round of heath checks. We check and make note of FAMACA of all adults and older lambs then deworm anyone who has a low score, a poor body weight, or obvious evidence of loose stool. Right now with so many young and nursing lambs on the ground, we also check weights on all the babies to make sure they are growing at a good rate and do not have any signs of diarrhea or other issues.


Last Sunday morning, we were gathering the herd as usual. I went out with Rialey while Big Onion called the sheep while shaking a noisy can of corn. Usually we can get the entire flock into our holding area with very little stress on them or effort on our part. At this point, everyone knows the drill. This particular morning, Rialey and I had moved the flock up from the second pasture and across the bridge. We were getting ready to send them Big Onion's way when I saw movement back down the hill and heard the telltale cry of a new mother sheep. Since Big Onion seemed to have the rest of the flock under control and I knew we still had a couple of ewes ready to lamb at any minute, I called Rialey to come quietly to my side then asked her to stay with me while we went to investigate.

Crossing the bridge, I saw Louise calling and calling and torn between running to join the rest of the flock and leaving a sodden, pathetic little lamb who barely seemed to be on its feet. Back on the hill I saw a very fresh afterbirth. I was obvious that Louise had lambed very, very recently. I sent Rialey off in the opposite direction of the new mother then dropped her into a down so as not to spook her away from the lamb then slowly approached mother and child. Talking to her quietly, I scooped up the little lamb, too small and feeble to run away and tried to get Louise to follow me back across the bridge and into the first pasture.

Louise responded as mother sheep often do. She acted as though I had just performed the most amazing of magic tricks before her eyes and made that lamb disappear into thin air. Before I could blink or even drop the lamb low enough so that she could see it, she had taken off in a random direction at high speed, all the time calling her lungs out for her missing little one.

Rialey, reading the situation, swept into action and starting herding momma back towards me. With soggy lamb in hand and a distressed mother sheep darting around then being constantly redirected by the dog, all four of us eventually made our way back into the first pasture where I finally managed to get a hold on Louise's collar and shoved the lamb into her face. Magically the lamb reappeared into her reality and with my pulling, Rialey's pushing, and the drive to stay near her new offspring, we eventually got mother and child settled into a pen.


Meanwhile, poor Big Onion had been trying to handle the entire rest of the flock sans help. While we were trying to move Louise, I could hear him calling to Rialey to come and take her usual position to hold the flock in place. At the time, I made it clear to Rialey that she should disregard that order and help deal with the more pressing situation. I hoped Big Onion would understand.


Once we finally had Louise and what turned out to be her daughter firmly secured in the safety and privacy of a pen, I sent Ry around the corner to go and help her dad. Right at that moment, a much older lamb came sprinting around the corner! One of Fancy's lambs, Dakota, had seen an opening and with no dog to stop her, made a break for it!

Rialey saw the lamb then looked at me for direction. I signaled her to try and herd it back to the rest of the group, but lambs are notoriously stupid under pressure, and the confused baby just would not take direction from the dog. After dog and lamb had run in circles for a couple of minutes, I gave Rialey to go ahead to "get it." That is Rialey's command to actually use her mouth and feet to catch a runaway animal.

This is certainly not something I would trust most dogs, even well trained herding dogs, to do without causing injury to their intended target so although I trust Ry not to intentionally harm the stock, I stayed as close as I could and kept a watchful eye for her herding drive to turn to prey drive or for her to get carried away and use too much force. After the "get it" command, Rialey had immediately switched tactics and started actually putting her mouth on the lamb. At a few weeks old, that little girl had some serious speed! I watched Ry trying to grab her very gently by the elbow, never putting enough pressure to cause injury. When she'd slowed the lamb enough, she would try to put her entire mouth around the back of the lamb's neck and press it to the ground.

Dakota was particularly keen to elude capture so neither of these techniques seemed to slow her enough for me to make the catch. Finally, Rialey reached under the running lamb and grabbed the opposite elbow, this caused the lamb to stumble. While I hustled up to catch her, Rialey gave the lamb one more good nose punch in the side which rolled her right into my hands! I checked her over quickly and found that though she was winded and scared, there wasn't a scratch on that baby. Rialey had used just enough force to take her down without causing a speck of injury! What a good dog!


Dakota in hand, Rialey, the lamb, and I finally went to join Big Onion and the rest of the flock where after catching our breath, we did our usual health checks on the flock. I'm happy to report that no one needed deworming and all the lambs were showing very good increases in weight.

That job finished, we all went back to check on Louise and her new baby. I knew the baby was little when I'd originally picked her up, but when we found her to be well under 5lbs we began to suspect that she might one of twins. Big Onion, Rialey, and I made our way back out across the bridge now on a mission to search for a potentially lost little newborn lamb. Rialey paused at the afterbirth still sitting wetly on the top of the hill hoping to make a second breakfast of the farm dog delicacy, but at one word from me, she left it where it sat and started sniffing around for the missing baby.

While we stomped around the tall grass losing hope at the amount of ground we'd have to cover to try and find a tiny and potentially dead baby sheep, Ry dropped her head and took off at a run to the back pasture. I figured she was just going for a run or perhaps wanted to take a quick dip in the ponds, but when I say her floof of a curled and fluffy tail come up, then her head pop up as if to say, "Hey guys! Come look!" I knew she was onto something. It took us a minute to catch up, but when we crossed the second bridge and rounded the corner, sure enough, our trusty farm dog girl had tracked her way straight to that baby and stood waiting with her until we could gather her up and bring her back to momma! On the way back, I told Rialey she was more than welcome to enjoy that placenta she'd left behind as a reward for all her great work that morning.


This lamb was also a ewe and was bigger and much more robust than her sister. Luckily, Louise accepted both lambs, and we watched as the two little girls both nursed from their mother. Rialey then helped to clean little lamb butts while Louise got a healthy pile of grain, some fresh hay, and clean bucket of water. Finally we left mother to bond and rest with her newborns and headed up to the house for a breakfast of our own!