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.

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!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Gertrude


  Last Sunday morning after chores were done, Big Onion and I took a walk to the back pasture to take Rialey swimming in the pond. As usual we were accompanied by the entire herd of goats. That morning, I asked Big Onion to check Gertie's color. There was nothing tangibly wrong with her, but she just didn't seem right. He did a quick check of the mucus membranes around her eyes and said she looked normal.

  That evening when milking time came around, I gave my usual call of "Ladies!" and all the girls piled into the milk room as normal. Although Gertie was doing her usual jostling with the other girls and reasserting her place as one of our top herd goats, there was obviously something wrong. She had foam around her lips and nose. She was grinding her teeth and moaning a little. There were no signs that she had been vomiting or having diarrhea, but the girl was certainly in some kind of pain.

  She still wanted to eat, so I offered her just a handful of hay. She would try to eat it then go back to grinding and foaming and wiping her face on every available surface: her feed bucket, the walls, her daughter Eve's back. After milking, we tried our best to get a look into her mouth to make sure something wasn't stuck somewhere or that she hadn't broken a tooth. We had a heck of a time getting her mouth open, but once we did, everything looked normal.

  We gave her a dose of banamine for pain, some baking soda and oil in case she was bloating, and a couple of charcoal pills on the off chance that she had eaten something toxic. We gave the rest of the herd a second look over, but no one else seemed to be having any problems. That night we closed Gertie and Eve into the goat yard so no one would bother them with fresh hay and a bucket of clean water and went to bed.

  Early the next morning Big Onion left for work and I threw on my closes from the day before and ran out expecting to find Gert back to her usual self. Instead I found her laid out in the dirt of the goat yard looking terrified and unable to get up. I called the vet and asked them to please come out to the farm as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the only available vet was already on another farm call and wouldn't be free for a couple of hours. My only other option was to try and bring the goat to the vet's office.

  I should mention here that Gertie is our biggest and heaviest goat by far. She's actually the biggest animal we have here on the farm weighing in at at least 150-175lbs. Loading her into the back of my car on my own seemed almost impossible, but it had to be done. I grabbed an xpen and some hay quickly and set up the back of my car for livestock transport. I pulled the car into the pasture and backed right up to the goat yard. Luckily, I was able to get Gertie back on her feet and walk/drag her to my waiting vehicle. I managed to get her loaded by lifting one front foot at a time onto the tailgate then heaving her back end up and in.

  Once in the car, she fell over again and would not get back up. She was in distress and moaning the whole way to the vet's office. I actually had to pull over at one point during the short trip to put her in a better position and make sure she could breath ok.

  When we arrived at the vet's office, we tipped her out of the car and onto her feet. He gave her a thorough exam and decided to pass a tube from her mouth into her stomach and treat Gertie for possible bloat. This was easier said than done has she had clamped her mouth so tightly shut that it took three of us and a pry bar to get her mouth open enough to get the tube in place. In the process, the poor girl bit her tongue rather badly. Ouch!

  The vet filled her belly with bloat medication, and we waited and watched her for a bit. Gertie seemed to be improving a little. We loaded her back into my car and I took her home again. On the way home, she collapsed in the car and was making distressed sounds again.

  Once home, I got her out of the car and back on her feet. We walked back into the milk room where she seemed to be ok for the time being. I gave her another dose of banamine for pain and went about the normal business of feeding animals and milking the other goats then went inside for some breakfast/lunch.


  When I went back out to check on Gertie she was once again laid out on her side. Her gut was full of air, her legs were rigid, and she was very upset. By sheer force of will, I got her back up on her feet and massaged the air out of her rumen. I spent the rest of the day in that room with her. She would have these terrible spasms and fall over with her back legs thrown straight backward. I assumed she was having painful stomach cramps. Over and over, I got her back on her feet because if I left her laying down her gut would just fill with air. I ended up sitting on a stool with her leaning into me for most of the day. I gave her more oil to try and combat the gas formation and aloe to soothe her stomach. Nothing seemed to help at all.

  She just kept getting worse and worse. Big Onion got home and did all the farm chores while I stayed in that room tending to a very sick Gertie. Once chores were done, Big Onion took over sitting with her propped against him and constant massaged the air out of her gut. As the sun set, she started tilting her head to one side, and the muscle spasms started to get worse. Her entire back was bowed up, and she could not seem to relax it all all. Big Onion brought up the idea of tetanus and I got the vet on the phone at home to discuss the it as a possibility. He seemed reluctant to agree to the idea, but recommended couple treatments that might help her. He also said that if she had tetanus, we would have probably found a wound of some kind that looked nasty and infected. I thought back to a couple weeks before when we had pulled a small piece of metal out of her hoof, but I had checked that hoof since and it was fine.

  We gave her the treatments. At that point, we could no longer keep her on her feet, so we laid her down with her head propped as best we could and made a quick run out for some fast food. It just happened to be the date of our first wedding anniversary so our planned fancy dinner got downgraded to the local Taco Bell drive-thru with me still wearing yesterday's clothes and neither of us smelling none too pleasant.

  A couple hours after the treatments she was showing no signs of improving. She was in pain and scared and exhausted so we made the decision to put her out of her misery. We'd tried everything we could and we could not let this sweet girl suffer anymore. It was while she was laying there that I found the wound. On the point of her sternum, right between her front legs there was a wound the size of a nickle. It looked like a deep puncture and was obviously infected. It probably happened when Gertie hopped one of our fences some time in the last couple weeks. For a rather short and heavily built goat, she was rather good at going over fences.

  I talked to the large animal vet the next morning and we are pretty certain that it was tetanus at this point. The sad and frustrating thing is that this is preventable. There is a vaccine to guard against tetanus that we actually have in our refrigerator right now. We bought it several weeks ago and had not gotten around to giving it to everyone. I guess this is just another lesson that the farm had to teach us the hard way. When it comes to the health of the animals, there is no putting things off until tomorrow.

   Our neighbor was kind enough to come with a backhoe to dig a hole on the hillside of the first pasture so that she could be buried here on the farm. I like to think she is still up on that hill watching over her daughter, Eve who is due to have kids of her own this winter.


  We will miss our sweet Gertrude. She was a headstrong, bossy goat who was always so sweet and loving with us and everyone who visited. She looked like an old dumpy lady with a saggy udder and paunchy sides, but she carried herself like the queen of the herd. She loved to have her neck scratched and liked to stand with her  head pressed into you for attention, the goat equivalent of a hug.


Rest in peace Gertie. We are so sorry.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Happy Birthday, Princess


  Yesterday Ajah, my little yorkie, turned 14. She was my first dog, my princess, and the whole reason I got into dog training in the first place. I thought I would take this opportunity to let the people who know her know what has been happening with her.

  A few years ago, we found out Ajah has a really bad liver. We were able to keep her active and very healthy with a combination of diet and supplements. She was a happy, crazy dog who no one even guessed was in her senior years. Then about 6 months ago, our cats got into the pantry and knocked down a bunch of dried meat treats that Ajah unfortunately got into. All that protein overloaded the little dog's system and she ended up having a series of what we can only assume were strokes. At first she just seemed off balance and drunk, but still mostly there mentally.


  Then there was a period that she was so out of it that we had to keep her confined to a small fenced off area in the house for her own safety. She would get lost behind furniture and couldn't even figure out how to feed herself. We seriously considered putting her down, but in a matter of a few days she started improving.

  These days she is a shell of her old self. When she was younger, she was literally the smartest dog I ever met. She could communicate her feelings and desires like no other. She figured out tricks and other training so fast that she taught me how to teach. Now she does not seem to know where she is most of the time. She does respond if you call her name, but often will head in the wrong direction. She tends to eliminate wherever she feels like going, and we just keep a mop bucket around to clean up after her.

 
  She does love her meals. When she was so bad off, I told her that if she wasn't eating I would know that she did not want to be around anymore. Since that day she eats like it is her job. She even goes to the kitchen and sleeps near her food bowl when it gets near mealtime most days. She is very mobile, able to get up and walk around without much trouble, but mostly she sleeps a lot. She doesn't like to be touched much, and even going outside to potty can be overwhelming at times.


  I did not think this is what her last years would look like. I thought we'd see the typical end to a liver dog of refusal of food, organ failure, seizures or maybe her bad back would cause her to lose mobility. I never thought this bright little light of my life would end up so dull. What breaks my heart is that I keep trying to write about her in the past tense. The sweet and sassy little princess I knew is gone. Now we just do our best to make sure she is comfortable and as happy as she can be until the time comes to say goodbye.