Welcome to HighTail Farms, LLC! We're a small farm located in Greensboro, North Carolina. We are dedicated to providing people with ethically raised and humanely processed pastured poultry and sheep, fresh eggs, and raw meat for pet food. We are currently not producing any products for sale.

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, June 27, 2012

Silly Luna - ducks are friends, not food!

  One of the hallmarks of an all around good farm dog is that they be safe with their stock. That you can trust your herding dog to be calm, watchful, and protective of her flock or herd without direct supervision, without needing to herd them all the time, and certainly without causing them harm....

Friday, June 22, 2012

The case of the disappearing quail

We started out with 16 quail. When they got to be adults, we culled 4 of them (3 males and 1 puny female). That left us with 12 quail all happily living in a spacious indoor/outdoor pen. They seemed very content, even giving us 5-7 pretty little eggs a day. (Quail eggs are great for pickling by the way!)

 Then one day a couple weeks ago the Big Onion decided to do a head count. He came up with 9. We were missing 3 birds. These guys don't get let out every day like the rest of our birds, the door stays shut, and we thought the pen was pretty well secured with a double layer of chicken wired covering the outdoor area. 

I finally discovered one tiny little spot in the front corner of the pen that might be big enough for a quail and blocked it up. 

Then a couple of days ago, I was happily watering the watermelon patch in the garden (one of the few things I managed not to kill) and out pops a little quail! I grabbed a nearby flower pot and tried to catch her, but the little bugger took flight....straight into the back yard where 3 shelties and a Barley were just waiting for an afternoon snack to fly into their laps. 

I started yelling, "LEAVE IT! LEAVE IT! ISWEARTOGODIFYOUTOUCHITIWILLKILLYOU!!!" and all 4 dogs hit the breaks and put on their best "Who us? We would never!" looks. 

I guess this little quail gal picked up some survival skills in her couple weeks 'in the wild' because despite my best efforts, I was never able to catch her. Last I saw, she flew into the neighbor's huge hay field and disappeared into the tall grass. 

So, right now we have 50-something quail eggs in the incubator since our last batch was a complete dud. I blame the automatic turner. That damn thing always gives us terrible hatch rates. 

Hopefully, we can fill out our missing ranks with a good number of females. Keeping our fingers crossed for a successful hatch in a couple of weeks! 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Life at HighTail Farms

In case there was any question that our animals are free range....
Birds everywhere doing their birdy thing. The goats and the sheep are out there somewhere too.

Even the baby rabbits get plenty of time outside with their feet on the ground and all the greenery they can nibble.

Ms. Ruby has been doing well, getting her bottle with probiotics once or twice a day. She still gets the occasional gas bubble, but we keep a close eye on her and give her lots of rumen massages when necessary.

 Some days, I feel a lot like Dr. Doolittle or the Poultry Pied Piper.

 I have to admit it's not a bad feeling being the most popular girl in the barnyard even if they only love me for the food I scoop out every evening.

Even though 90% of our animals get free access to pasture all day, they are all tucked safely away in pens with a scoop or two of good quality feed at night. It's amazing that most of the birds know where they live and will start making their way to their pens as evening sets in. Any stragglers are scooted in the right direction with the help of our 3 herding Shelties.

We were very fortunate to find a place that was set up to raise poultry with these wonderful indoor/outdoor completely enclosed (even on top!) pens. This has allowed us to raise a large number and variety of birds in a wonderful environment where they can learn to be real animals and not just feathered meats.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Snip and the Boonducklings

I'd like to introduce a few of the newest members of our flock...

 This is Snip. We think Snip is a Golden 300 hybrid. She is staying with us for the summer while her "mother" teaches at a summer camp up north.

 Snip was raised as a pet duck so she has a ton of personality. From the moment she got here, she let everyone in the flock know she was not to be trifled with by chasing the goslings around and not putting up with any crap from the larger poultry. She has her own little unique sideways head-bob threat display that always makes me crack up. She also loves to stand right at my feet when I am tossing out scratch for the rest of the flock to mop up any dropped morsels and get a mouthful right from my hand.

 Turkey photo-bomb! 

 Our other new additions are this group of 6 Cayuga mix ducklings. They hatched in a friend of a work client's backyard in New Orleans a few weeks ago. After a visit to our farm, their owner decided this would be an ideal place for the "Boonducks" to live.

 They came to us as little black and white fluff and pen feather messes, and they were totally terrified of everything. After a week in a raised cage to grow some size and some feathers, we integrated them with the youngest ducks of our flock who were easily twice their size.

It wasn't long before this group started coming out of their shell. Nowadays, they seem to be everywhere roaming around the fields and taking over prime kiddy pool real estate. This week, I even saw them chasing around fully grown geese, chickens, and even turkeys!

I suspect this group is going to be trouble someday soon!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Garden Fail

 All I can say is it's a good thing we have a knack for raising animals because where it comes to gardens, I seem to have at the very least a brown if not completely black thumb. It's bad enough that I had to resort to using the lawnmower to weed the damn thing.

Last weekend, I decided to mix up a batch of garden spray to try and thwart some of the powdery mold and various other ailments that seemed to be taking over the vegetables. It was totally a concoction of my own crazy imagination that included baking soda, cooking oil and dawn dishwashing liquid. I sprayed the garden on a hot, dry Monday. I had to work the following two days, which were also very hot and very dry. I also totally forgot to water the garden those two days. Well, by Thursday it was obvious that that my spray was a failure of epic proportions.

 I completely killed all of the tomato plants, 2 of the 3 squash were dead, and the cucumbers were totally toast. The pepper plants and the tomatillo miraculously survived, and I think just maybe some of the cantaloupe are going to pull thru.

 The good news is I did not spray the watermelons which are taking over a good chunk of the garden and are growing melons left and right. Oh well, I guess we can chalk this one up to a learning experience. Oops!

Monday, June 18, 2012

We got blueberries!

After much waiting and anticipation, the blueberries are finally ready for harvest!

We've been handpicking the ones that seemed ready, but that took forever. I decided that since so many looked ready that I would try the old spread the sheet, shake the tree harvest method.

Worked like a charm! 

 And Josie was more than happy to help me dispose of any over or under ripe berries that ended up in the batch. Afterall, her life's goal when the goats lived in the pen in the backyard was to get her mouth on those blueberry plants.  

After they were sorted and washed, I ended up with a total of 8lbs of sweet, delicious berries!! That is from just the four relatively small bushes that were already in the backyard when we bought the place. Most of them went into the freezer, but I think I'll be baking up a batch of muffins pretty darn soon. We are even experimenting with drying a few for snacking. 

We were so lucky that the previous owners of this place decided to plant useful trees and bushes almost everywhere. We have pears, muscadine, persimmons, and tons of citrus coming down the line!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Battling Bloat

A few weeks ago, we lost one of our momma sheep, Rose. I was away for the day, sitting with my grandmother in the hospital, but from what BigOnion told me and what I saw when I got home, it looked like bloat. Bloat can happen in sheep for a lot of different reasons, and I think we lost Rose due to a combination of things including parasites and the antibiotics we were using to try and clear her persistent case of hoof rot.

Well, when we got home from work one day this week and found Ruby with a slightly distended belly, we started worrying that we had another bloat case on our hands. Bloat is very, very common in bottle fed lambs. I went ahead and gave her her evening bottle and went back inside for dinner. After dinner, I went to check on her again, and she looked even worse. Her belly felt tight like a balloon, and she didn't call out to me or try to follow me.

I knew something was seriously wrong, so I scooped her up and carried her back to the house (25lbs of wriggling sheep gets HEAVY after a while) and set her up on the lanai (screened in porch).

I tried giving her a good mouthful of a bloat remedy I found online that was oil, baking soda and water. She was less than thrilled with the idea. She also wasn't interested in her bottle - a very bad sign.

I decided I would be spending the night with her. Bloat can turn deadly very quickly, and there was no way I was gonna lose this sweet baby if I could help it. What followed was a long night of giving her oil and probiotics, massaging her huge belly while listening intently for burps and farts, and walking up and down the back yard. I set my alarm to wake me every hour so I could make sure she was ok.

About 3:30 in the morning, she came over and nose poked me awake. Her stomach was finally going down a little, and she was finally ready to take her bottle! Not long after, she started passing nasty, liquid, oily, gassy poops. I never thought I'd be so happy to see sheep crap in my life!

By morning, she was feeling so much better. Her stomach had much more give. She was talking to me and following me around. She got one more bottle with milk, a little more oil, and probiotics. I walked her back out to the flock and left for work. By far the longest work day I have every spent.

She seemed fine when we got home and has been ok since. I make sure to add probiotics to every bottle she gets now and that seems to make the difference.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Our Herding Yorkie

 This is Ajah. She's my 11 year old mostly Yorkie pup. Big Onion likes to say that every dog on this farm has a job: the shelties move the livestock around and generally guard the farm, Barley pulls the cart and stalks the backyard for rats, and Ajah? He says Ajah's job is just to keep me happy.
  As you can tell from the picture above, Ajah prefers to spend most of her time indoors snuggled next to us on the couch, destroying small squeaky toys, or trying her best to sneak a lick at the cat bowls, but Ajah has some hidden talents....

Tonight, I decided to give Ajah a chance to help us put away the poultry. She did great! When we first went out, I think she was a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of birds all milling around waiting for their dinner. She kept eyeing the turkeys (who are easily 3 times her weight) and looking back at me like, please tell me you don't want me to move these things! Luckily, the turkeys come when called. 

She was a big help though with the ducks. Went and got our newest batch of youngsters (this was actually their first day on the ground) and tucked them into their new enclosure for the night. She was even ready to take on the geese if I'd have let her!

I should say that herding is nothing new for my girl. She's had years of watching the shelties work and even had a bit of formal training with the Golem Kennels crew on our visits. I wish I could find the videos from those trips. Totally hilarious. 

She did such a good job tonight, I guess I should give the girl a shot at working our sheep next....

On second thought, maybe we'll wait until the flock is a little more 'dog broke' before sicking 7lbs of terrier terror on them. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sheep Milking:Take 2

Thanks to some great advice from our favorite dog trainer/sheltie breeder/sheep farmer, we were finally able to get some milk from our sheep mommas! Her advice was to separate moms and babies for a day before trying to milk and that really did the trick.

Though, I have to say even though both our lambs who still have mothers around are more than old enough to fend for themselves, they were none too pleased with being separated from their constant milk supply. It was a very noisy day for us with mommas calling and babies crying. The lambs ended up joining up with the newest adolescent group and forming a band of wild lamblings led by none other than our bottle lamb, Ruby. They then took over one of the turkey pens Lord of the Flies style.

I waited for the Big Onion to get home before attempting another milking. We got Patch up on the stand, and he did the dirty work while I tossed sweet feed into the bucket and kept the rest of the flock at bay with my stock stick. Well, the forced separation worked! We got sheep milk! Not much, but enough for Ms. Ruby to make a meal. The amount we got was not really worth all the stress to the flock though. I think Ruby's going to have to settle for pasteurized goat milk and formula in the future. Luckily, she is old enough that she shouldn't need a bottle for much longer anyway.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Further proof: Goats are weird

Turned the corner of the poultry house to see this.....

I'm thinking, "Oh god! Jenni died!! How could this happen?! She seemed ok this morning....a little stiff jointed as usual, but nothing serious..."

I rush over to her prone form laid out in the middle of the pasture in the middle of the day, and she pops right up, "Hi! Is it dinner time?"

Yep, crazy ass goat was just asleep. Stretched out, head backs, and totally zonked. I guess the warm sun feels good on her achey joints.

Not to be left out of the fun, Josie decided to make a bed of this defunct kiddy pool.

Yep. Goats are weird. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

How (not) to milk a sheep

Little Rhubard a.k.a. Ruby has been with us for about a week. It quickly became clear that this youngster was not old enough to live on grass alone as her gut became more swollen every day with undigested food and her back felt more and more bony. At first we tried powered lamb milk replacer, but she was having none of it. We do have a freezer full of goat milk, but there is such a close connection between CAE (which our girls have) and OPP, the sheep version of the virus, that we were reluctant to feed this to the girl. Everything we read assured us that pasteurizing the milk would kill the virus though, so yesterday I cooked up a batch of milk for Ms. Ruby. 

 Worked like a charm. 

We also added a bit of olive oil to the milk just in case her swollen gut was the beginnings of bloat. 

 Ms. Ruby loves her goat milk, but feeding pasteurized goat milk to a baby sheep is less than ideal in my book, so today I set out to try and get some actual sheep's milk from Patch, one of our nursing mommas.

 Step 1: Get the sheep into the goat pen.

I'd love to say that I called in my trusty herding dogs to move the sheep into the pen, but none of us are to that point in training (myself and the sheep included). Thank heavens those sheep will do just about anything for a mouthful of sweet feed...including following me into hostile territory. I swear Jenni in the foreground above is just itching for me to turn my back to she can give those ovine intruders a taste of her horns.  

 Step 2: Catch the sheep and get her into the milking stanchion.

Suffice to say this was easier said than done. At this point, the smart thing for me to do would have been to exhaust the remaining sheep, who kept trying to climb into the feed bucket on the stanchion, Ruby, who kept trying to climb into my lap and suck on my elbow, and the various ducks, geese, turkeys, and guineas who were were just generally making a nuisance of themselves. 

 I was smart enough to exclude Josie from the party. She was less than pleased at this. Not only were the sheep in her space, but there was a sheep on HER stand, eating HER food. Completely unacceptable. After about 10 minutes of staring goat-daggers at my back, she took to banging her head against the gate then rubbing her horns back and forth on it in what I guess was supposed to be a threatening manner.

Meanwhile, I was trying my best to milk poor Patch who was being just as quiet and patient as could be amid the chaos of barnyard mayhem and my fumbling at her nether regions. After cleaning her utter of god know what she's been laying the past month (Yick!!), I did my darndest to get a grip on them tiny teats with zero success. I'm tell you, her nipples were so small, I couldn't even get two fingers around them. I even tried my homemade vacuum sealer milking contraption that works like a charm on the goats. Still no luck. Not a drop. The expression 'blood from a stone' comes to mind.

I finally went back to hand milking which was more like nipple pinching and was able to get one drop of milk at a time. I'm not kidding here. ONE DROP of milk per squeeze. At that rate, it'd take me about 3 years to get enough milk for one meal for Ruby.

 At that point, I decided to forget it and made myself feel useful by de-wooling the rest of Patch's leftover winter fuzz and giving her crusty rear a good cleaning.

 Safely back on the ground and reunited with her daughter, Miss FancyPants, none the worse for my failed efforts. I guess at this point I should give up on dreams of sheep milking and stick to the goats. The only thing I can think that might make it easier is if I pull Patch from Fancy for a day and let her build up some steam in that utter before trying again. Honestly though, I just can't see it working much better. There is just nothing to get a grip on down there.

Plus, how could I possibly hope to succeed with THIS looking over my shoulder. Jeez.

Friday, June 1, 2012

McKowen Farms

A couple of months ago we bought eight Katahdin sheep, all supposedly pregnant ewes. Well, when 5 of our 8 girls failed to deliver (literally) the very kind lady we bought them from over at McKowen farms offered to give us 5 replacement lambs.

 When we arrived we met this impressive dude, a 4 year old Katahdin ram. This picture does not do him justice at all.