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, March 27, 2015

Like rabbits

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Introducing this year's lambs

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Frankie and Georgie out on the town!

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


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


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


They were a little apprehensive about meeting the turkeys.


 But eventually decided to approach the giant birds.


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


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


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



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


But not before getting a quick bath!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

CAE and OPP


  So, the story in my last blog post was a very sweet one, but as is so often the case in farming, there is also a very sad side to the story. We made a very big mistake that night that we let Chance nurse from Thea that we didn't discover until a few days later.

  I was researching why Rue's udder would produce that strange yellow waxy substance when I came across information about Ovine Progressive Pneumonia or OPP. OPP is the sister virus to CAE, which you will recall is something that we have been struggling with here on the farm. 

  OPP has a lot of symptoms, one of which is a dry, hard udder at the time of lambing. The most common expression of the disease though appears when the animal reaches about two years old, and they start to waste away and have respiratory distress. The disease is fatal and has no cure. What we didn't know was that sheep can contract OPP by nursing from a CAE positive goat.


  Back when we got all those bottle lambs, we were using Thea's CAE positive milk to feed them. I swear at the time I researched and could find no evidence that the diseased crossed over. Well, this time around the research was pretty clear that the transfer of the disease was a distinct possibility. 

  We decided to test a sampling of the flock. We tested an older girl who came with our original group of sheep, one of the second batch we brought in a few months later, then Rue who was one of those bottle lambs that grew up drinking from Thea. All the older sheep were negative, but sure enough, Rue came back positive for OPP. (We also tested the goat girls, Francesca and Lucia, who were born to CAE positive Josie, but were never allowed to nurse from her. They were both thankfully negative.)


  So what does this mean for us now? For one thing, it means that Rue, Annie, and Angus, the three that we kept from that group of bottle lambs, all have the disease and will likely die from it if we don't process them first. (We actually lost Annie's lamb about a week before Rue had hers. Now we know why.) It also means little Chance will have OPP. It means that no matter how cute she is tagging along after Thea, the decision to keep her as breeder is out of the question.

One of the hardest things about farming is that the animals have to pay for our mistakes. It was highly likely that we would not have kept Chance for breeding anyway as bad mothering instincts is something that is probably at least partly inherited, but now the decision is out of our hands. The good news is that for now she is big and healthy and enjoying a great life as Thea's one and only "kid."



Monday, March 9, 2015

Thea's "kid"

This story is continued from this post.

  That evening Charger looked great. He was up and active, and his mother was doting over him. Little Chance was not looking so hot. She did not seem to have nursed much during the day so we decided to give her a bottle, but to leave her with Bonnie in the hopes that somehow things would work out.

  The next morning, we again gave the little ewe a bottle then we both left for work. When Big Onion got home that evening, he sent me a message saying it was clear that Bonnie was not going to adopt Chance. She was caring for and feeding her own son, but she just was not up for a second lamb.

  I suggested that Big Onion bring Chance in while he was milking and let her nurse from Thea. We've used Thea in the past to nurse other kids and lambs. As long as there is food in front of her on the milk stand, Thea could care less what is happening at her other end.

  I arrived home late from work. Big Onion had just moved Thea from the milk room to the goat room next door. Chance was milk drunk and happy to cuddle on my lap while I sat and watched Big Onion finish up milking the rest of the girls.

  We were sitting there chatting about our days when we heard a strange sound, a low humming coming from the next room. It was followed by soft, sad calls that made little Chance in my lap perk up and call softly back.

 Big Onion and I looked at one another. I said, "Is that Thea? Is she...is she calling for this baby?" He shrugged and suggested we try putting the two of them together and see what happened.


  I carried the little one next door and placed her in the hay right in front of Thea. To our amazement, Thea and Chance started doing the mother and child call and response that all sheep and goats do when they have a newborn. Thea started grooming Chance then miraculously the baby hobbled her way back to Thea's udder and started to nurse. We were both certain that this was where the whole thing would fall apart. Thea had never let anyone nurse from her willingly away from the milk stand, but no, she just stood there and let that baby drink! She even squatted to give her better access then swung her head around and started grooming her new kid. Amazing.

  Not knowing what else to do, we left the new mother and daughter together overnight and by morning it was clear that Thea had herself a new kid!




Guess we should have called her Second Chance!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Charger and Chance

  It was a chilly Monday morning and Big Onion and I were out doing chores. I was busy feeding the chickens when I saw Big Onion heading for the gate to the second pasture. He thought he'd heard the calling of a lamb and decided to investigate. Never one to be left out of the excitement, I tagged along.


 There in the middle of the second pasture all alone was this big, strong, totally dry ram lamb. He was chocolate colored so our thoughts went straight to Bonnie who had a dark colored lamb last year and abandoned him. The lamb was running around the pasture and calling with big strong lungs. Big Onion scooped him up and I called Rialey to round up the sheep to try and find who left this big guy.

  As soon as Big Onion had the lamb in hand we realized that he wasn't our only problem. There on the hill was a little pile of white fluff. When we got closer, we found another lamb. This one freshly born. She was tiny and wet and barely able to get onto her feet. I set Rialey the task of staying with the baby and getting her cleaned up while Big Onion and I rounded up the sheep and tried to find the errant mother(s).


  At first we were thinking that we had a set of twins on our hands and just one bad mom in the bunch. We got the sheep onto the bridge and confirmed that Bonnie had just given birth by the stringy bits handing from her rear end. We wrestled her into a pen with the two little lambs. It was then that we noticed that Rue had also recently given birth.


  It only made sense that the little ewe lamb was hers. We put Rue and the lamb into another empty pen and tried get the little one to nurse.


  It took forever for her to get up on her feet then even longer to figure out how and where to nurse. Finally, she got everything aligned, but she didn't seem to be getting anything. She'd nurse for a few seconds then stop. She was very hungry and very frustrated.


  We decided to check Rue's udder and found that it was small and hard. When milked, it produced a thick, yellow, waxy substance that did not resemble milk at all. Rue also showed no interest in mothering the baby lamb.


  At that point, we had two options. We could bring this little lamb in and bottle raise her, but with the house already full of six milk guzzling little goats, we were less than thrilled at the idea of adding another to the mix. The other option was to try and encourage Bonnie to take on the second lamb. If we could convince her that both lambs born so close together were hers, maybe we could avoid having another hungry mouth to feed ourselves.


  With some encouragement we were able to get the little lamb who we decided to call Chance to nurse from Bonnie. She got a full belly then settled down to nap in the hay. At that point, Bonnie had accepted her son and was allowing him to nurse. We decided to call the little boy Charger. Before we left them alone, we did see the little ewe lamb nurse from Bonnie again with little protestation on her surrogate mother's part. We left them to work things out and hoped we would come back to two happy, active, full bellied lambs at the end of the day.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Thea finally kids


 Thea was our last goat to kid. Finally, the morning after Josie had her girls, Thea started looking like it was her time. She was being very affectionate and very vocal. Thea is normally a very quiet goat so we knew something was up.


 My friend K, Big Onion, and I were all home so we along with our number one goat cleaner farm dog, Rialey, all pulled up stools and prepared to wait.


 Thea's last kid, Amelia, now a mother in her own right joined us for the wait.


 And wait we did.


And wait.


And wait some more.

Finally after much pacing around and pawing at the group and getting up and laying down for what felt like the hundredth time, Thea settled down and started to push. Since I had been the lucky one to "catch" for most of our kiddings this season, I let Big Onion do the honor while I sat back and got the first birth on video.

Obvious but obligatory warning: this is video of a goat giving birth...


Thea gave us two big, healthy boys! Both boys inherited their mother's healthy appetite and took to the bottle immediately.


  The first came out all white just like Thea, but with Gimli's blue eyes. We decided to name him Theo.


  The second buckling was also blue eyed, but he was a lovely light honey color. Big Onion's family got the naming rights on this one, so he became Kristoff. Both boys got the sweet disposition of the Saanen.

  And with this post, this is the last of the kidding stories you folks will have to endure for a while, but stay tuned in the near future for the harrowing tale of a double lambing that went terribly wrong with a surprise but happy ending.