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.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mad as a wet hen


A few months ago, we were offered a set of white silkie chickens for free. They were living in a backyard in New Orleans and the rooster was crowing just a little too much for undercover urban chicken farming. I was happy to take them in after reading that Silkie girls are great mothers and will set on just about any kind of egg you put under them. 

Since they were fancy, fluffy, white city chickens we decided to call them Bianca and Reginald. Reginald was quickly shorted to Reggie when we learned what a tough guy this cotton ball of a bantam thought he was, always doing this silly shuffle step display/dance that seemed to say "Put up ya dukes! I can take ya's!". 

We anxiously awaited Bianca's first egg, which after our years of duck egg collecting was adorably tiny. She laid for a few weeks then finally decided to go broody (stay on a nest of eggs). She only had about four of her own eggs in the nest so I carefully tucked a few duck eggs under her as well and hoped for the best. 


We stupidly didn't make note of the date she finally took residence on that nest so the last week or so we have been going in the pen and poking around under her in hopes of finding babies. A couple days ago, Big Onion walked in and found an empty shell in front of her. 

Like a proud new father he pulled out his cell phone to video the blessed event. The audio goes something like, "Hey, what cha got under there girl? Wait...what's that on your face....oh...OH...oh god..."  

Turns out she ate one of the duck eggs. Didn't just eat it. She coated her whole face in rotten egg. When we checked on her today, we found the whole nest had gone bad. That is a smell I will never forget. There was rotten egg all over the nest and all over our beautiful white fluffball of a chicken. 

I carefully scooped her up brought her over to a nearby bucket of water and proceeded to try and bathe the dried rotted egg off one seriously pissed off little chicken. I've read that wetting a hen can also break her out of being broody. Big Onion dumped the entire contents of the nest into the creek. I'm sure the turtles will eat well tonight. 


I think the bath did the trick because when I put her back down she was going after food with a passion and starting to clean herself up. Reggie, for his part, was so thrilled to have his woman back he did his little shuffle step victory dance and fell over.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dog breakin'

Now that we have the sheep it's even more important that we 'dog break' our goats so they can go hang out with their cloven hoofed cousins in the pasture still come in for milking twice a day. 

Dog breaking = getting livestock used to responding properly to a dog herding them

Responding properly means turning and moving in the opposite direction of the dog without challenging the dog or running headlong into a fence. 

Our ducks grow up around the dogs, so dog breaking just comes naturally as they grow up. Our sheep came to us from a farm that uses Corgis on a daily basis so no problem there. The goats, on the other hand, are a problem. 

You see, a few days before we got our goaty gals their previous owner's pack of wild dachshunds (yes you read that right) got loose in his yard and killed all his chickens right in front of them. I suspect the dogs got a few chomps in on the goats as well as our girls came to us with a few dachshunds level scabby spots under their chests and stomachs. 

When they finally came here, they were terrified of our pups. They would literally start quivering when the dogs would bark or come into view. This was a major problem since their pen opens into our backyard a.k.a. doggy play area. 


The first step was just getting them used to the presence of the dogs. We put an xpen up as a buffer so that the dogs couldn't gawk at the newest additions thru the fence and right in their faces. After the goats got comfortable enough not to tense at every canine sound or movement, the xpen got taken down. 


Next I tried bringing Sonny, the least intimidating of our shelties, in the pen with the girls just to get them used to him being around. The first time I brought him in, the girls actually walked up and sniffed him. Good progress. 


We did this a few times until Jenni tried to headbutt Sonny while he was not looking. Ok, a little too comfortable there. 

The next step was to get them started on learning to be herded. I put a leash on Sonny, brought him into their pen and had him walk up to their heads. The idea is that the goats learn to turn and walk away from the pressure of the dog. Heads turn and you call off the dog. It's a very simple first exercise. Dog walks up, goats turn away, dog gets called off. Rinse and repeat. 

At this point, I made sure I had something to use as a stock stick in my hands. If you have ever watched anyone herding, they almost always carry a stick or a cane. This is not to beat the dog (despite what some people think), it is to help you communicate more clearly to dog and stock and more importantly, it's there to back up your pup against misbehaving creatures that are at the very least twice his size. 

If a goat didn't turn away or started to look like it was challenging my sweet and not very pushy Sonny, they got a light swat with the stick. Goats are smart creatures. It doesn't take them long to catch on. 

Tonight was the first time we would try herding them in the yard instead of in their pen. I brought out Nova first. 


Nova spent a few years living and working on a small farm before she came to us, so I figured she would be a step up from Sonny in presence and pressure. Not so. Nova just ran in circles and barked at the goats. This does nothing to win the respect of the livestock. When I saw them starting to turn and challenge her (remember, our goats have horns!), I decided it was time to bring out the big guns. 


Luna is 28 pounds of drive and guts. She has never balked at a challenge. When she walks out in a field, the livestock generally stand up and salute.  With a leash on her to keep her from getting out of hand, we walked up on the goats. They challenged, they got a swat from me and a hard look from Lu. After that, it was like they'd been worked all their lives. We walked them across the yard and back again a few times. 

Big Onion was hanging out at the halfway point handing out oats. It's another simple lesson for the goats - dog chases you, you find human, dog stops chasing, and you get wonderful things from human. 

The gals are far from ready to put out in the field, but at least I think we are all heading in the right direction. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sheeps!

The sheep have finally arrived! 

8 pregnant female Katadhin sheep. I couldn't be more excited! They were delivered today by a wonderful lady who is helping us learn our way around the business of sheep raisin. 


 After we unloaded them from the trailer, we let them hang out in the main pasture behind the house for a couple hours. Then it was time to tuck them away into the poultry yard for the night. Since he has seniority, I let Sonny (our 11 year old sheltie boy) have first go at herding them, but he just doesn't have the brain power or energy that he had when he was younger.

Luna did a much better job of getting around the flock and heading them in the right direction. She tends to be a bit grabby with stock which is something we are going to have to work on. She gave the gals a couple good chomps, but no real harm was done. We also ended up running them straight thru the temporary fencing we'd put up around the apple trees. Oops!

Eventually we got them penned in a corner and with the Big Onion's help, scooted them thru the gate and into a small fenced area for the night. We are hoping that penning them at night will help keep them safe and keep away some of the smaller predators like racoons and possums that have been going after the ducks.


Once we got them put away, Big Onion did his darndest to make friend with the girls, even tempting them with a shiny bowl full of corn, but they were having none of it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Farm Magic

See that rake in my hand? 

That rake is proof that our little farm has it's own kind of magic. 

Part of our contract with the previous buyer was that he was welcome to leave anything farm-related on the property that he wanted, and ever since we moved here, we have been finding things. 

Not just random things though. It seems like the minute I turn to look for something, the minute I think of something I need, I find that very thing tucked away behind a pen or buried in a stand of grass. Stuff like extension cords, poultry feeders and waterers, fencing, and even tools. 

The day we started went out to rent the tiller for the garden, I was kicking myself for not picking up a rake. Halfway through the day what should I come across while walking through the field, but a rake just laying on the ground waiting for me to find it. 

The fact that the handle broke a few hours later does not take much away from the magic of its finding.  




Sunday, March 18, 2012

Gardenin

We finally got around to breaking ground on the garden. When we moved out here, I tried my best to pot up any of the winter garden plants that were worth moving. Since the weather is warming up fast, it was high time we got some things in the ground.   

 We picked out a nice spot just over the backyard fence that gets a lot of light and that would be easy to fence off from the rest of the field.

We decided to rent a tiller for the weekend and the Big Onion wrestled the bucking, kicking thing around the field for two days.

 We thought using the tiller would make things easier, but that thing took some real muscle to dig down into our soil. Apparently, our entire property is sitting on clay. Clay so thick you could dig a hole and pull up something worthy throwing on a wheel and turning into a pot. We actually walked our entire 9 acres with a shovel to try and find some place that wasn't clay. Couldn't be found. That said, it seems there are a lot of things that grow quite well on our land since the pastures are all very green and lush even this early in the year.

 Tilling done, it was time to get up some fencing. Luckily, the previous owner had left a lot of old fence posts and these black plastic fence panels laying around.

Our Garden!

I had to buy a length of wire to complete the fencing, but the garden is now fully fenced and ready for planting! I am so excited to have so much space to grow us some healthy, delicious veggies and fruits. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Getting Our Goats Pt 2 - Milking

After a few ham fisted attempts on our part and a lot of stomping of feet on their's, we finally got the new goat gals milked. It's an odd thing to get used to. You want to pull on the teat, but what you really need to do is pinch off the milk filled teat from the rest of the udder then squeeze out the contents. It takes practice to get right.

Big Onion was very quick to build us a milking stand which helped a lot.

Ain't she pretty!

I immediately starting looking up ways to avoid having to hand milk the girls twice a day and to get cleaner milk that did not have to be filtered of god know what comes off the underside of a goat before drinking. My first attempt at a "milking machine" was this simple little device:


It's just a syringe attached to an old cath tube that is attached to a spray bottle nozzle. It worked ok as long as the system stayed full of liquid, but if the milk ran out, it lost suction. Plus all that pumping of the trigger was harder on the hands than teat squeezin.

I got the idea for my next contraption from this video.


This has been working pretty great for us. The next thing I need to do is upgrade the jar to something larger since we tend to get a little over a quart per milking.

The other thing we have been working on is making friends with our goats. Before we got them, I don't thing they had been handled very much. They had never been milked. At first we had to basically catch them and carry/drag them onto the milking stand.

Once they got settled in and eating, we took up their food and only allowed them grain when being milked. They do get free access to alfalfa hay all day. We also discovered that Josie loves grapes and Jenni is crazy for oats.


It's taken a week or two, but now both girls are jumping onto the milking stand with very little encouragement on our part and eating their way thru most of the milking process. Josie will even let you scratch her neck and under her horns as long as you move slowly.

Right now they are living in a smallish pen that is sectioned off in the back yard. Until they are happily jumping up and into the stand all on their own, I'm not going to let them out of that pen. I'm NOT having a repeat of the Benny Hill incident of the first night. I'm looking forward to the day when we can let them loose in the fields to graze to their heart's content.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Getting our Goats!



I was browsing my way thru the farm & garden section of Craigslist when I came across an add for a LaMancha dairy goat for sale, ready for milking. The ad had just a picture of her udder (goat porn!). 

Apparently, this gentleman was getting rid of all his goats: a long haired male of some kind, the lamancha female, a couple pygmies, and a bunch of just barley weaned kids.  

The Big Onion made the trek all the out to the Westbank to check out the lamancha, and I think it was love at first site. So we did a lot if fast learning on goat care and milking and made plans to pick up the girl in just a couple days. 

After a little research, we learned that goats are like potato chips - you can't have just one. A solo goat is a sad goat. Unfortunately when we arrived to pick up our girl, all the just weaned kids had been sold the day before. Fortunately, there was one pygmy female left so we bought her too. While there, we learned that both of these girls had JUST weaned their kids, were FULL of milk, and had never been milked. That's two full days of full udders and no milking. Poor things were walking bow-legged. We also learned that they had already been re-bred to the male and were due midsummer.

We don't have a livestock trailer, but we do have my trusted Honda Element. We helped the owner chase down, wrangle, and drag the protesting goats out to our car where he tied the larger of the two to a hand rail. 


 The larger gal was already being called Josie, and on the way home we decided to call the little gal Jenni. We also discovered that Jenni was more likely a mini-lamancha than a pygmy- no ears!

The drive home went fine. My Element held up well to hooves and horns and even a little goat pee toward the end. The fun began once we got parked in the driveway....

While the Big Onion went to get some goat food and things ready to milk these gals before their udders just exploded, I stupidly thought I could handle unload two freaked out goats from my car on my own. 

I looped a leash around the Jenni's and lifted her out of the car and onto the driveway. I was just going to stop there and wait for the Big Onion to help unload Josie. Well, I guess she decided she was not going to stay in that car alone one minute longer and hopped right out the back of the Element

No problem. Josie was wearing a snazzy new head halter I had bought from TSC for her, so I had a leash on each goat. I could handle just standing there with them on the driveway for a few minutes until the Big Onion came back to help. That's when things went bad. 

Jenni started freaking out, bleating, and pulling had hard as she could against the leash. I guess Josie took this as her cue and started pulling in the opposite direction and inexplicably backing her way out of the head halter. When I saw the halter was coming off, I dropped the leash on Jenni and made a desperate grab for Josie, but it was too late. She had freed herself completely from the halter, and she and Jenni hightailed it off across the front yard and into the darkness. 

Big Onion came back to find me standing there with a leash in my hand and no goats to be seen. I said, "I think we have a small problem." 

What came next was no less than an hour and a half of desperate goat chasing. I was cursing a blue street and Big Onion was shouting, "Damnit! We paid too much for these damn goats to lose um now!!" Those girls ran along the creek bed, we chased them thru brambles and thorn bushes. They ran across the street and back again and went round and round the neighbor's house at least 20 times. All we needed was the Benny Hill theme song playing in the background. 

We finally got them cornered between our property and the one next door, and our dogs started barking like crazy. Josie was too worried about where the hounds of hell were coming from to notice me sneaking up behind her and grabbing her by a back leg. 

Once we had her, we were sure Jenni would follow, so we started to push/drag/carry Josie back to the house. Jenny took one look at us, said "Every goat for herself!" and took off back across the street again. 

There was another half hour of ring around the neighbor's house before Big Onion finally got fed up and tackled the girl when she rounded a corner. 

When we finally got them inside, all four of us were bruised, bitten, scratched up, and exhausted, but those girls still needed milking....

(to be continued)