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, July 31, 2013

Broilers and broiling

  On Sunday we processed about half of our red broilers. I have to say, of all the meat birds we have raised, I think the red broilers are my favorite. They aren't in the least aggressive. They grow at a reasonably fast rate without outgrowing their feathers or turning into fat slobs like the cornish crosses tend to, and they were have happy to go out and forage in the pasture. To top it all off, they looked great when processed with a good amount of meat on legs and chest. Unfortunately, these were hatchery birds that we just grew out. As we have mentioned before, our goal is to have a sustainable flock of meat birds that are born and bred here on the farm.
 To that end, on Monday morning, Luna and I decided to sort out the Dark Cornish and White Rocks males that are just starting to reach maturity. Our plan is to keep a rooster from each breed. We hope that crossing that Dark Cornish rooster with White Rock hens will result in fast growing, well muscled birds. We are also keeping a White Rock rooster so that we can make more of the breed in the future.

 Luna and I bravely ventured into that pen filled with about 25 crazy adolescent chickens armed with only an Xpen and a handful of colored zip ties! It was quite a struggle, but eventually we got the few roosters from each breed separated from the hens and the other layers. After that, it was a matter of picking the biggest rooster of each breed with the best temperament. The top two choices got banded, first choice in blue and second in red. Above is our first choice White Rock. For the next two weeks, we will watch these roosters to see who is the calmest, most watchful of his ladies, and who has the crow we can best live with. Let me tell you folks, not all rooster crows are created equal and right now it sounds like a prepubescent boy's choir out there with all those boys figuring out their calls. "Cock-a-doo-do-BLARGH!"

  Here is the number two Dark Cornish. I couldn't find the number one to get a picture because by the time we got finished chasing, sorting, judging, and banding all those birds in that closed pen with its metal roof, I'd nearly given myself, the dog, and half the chickens heat stroke. I banded that last rooster and looked over to see all the birds open-beaked panting with their wings held out, Luna had her tongue nearly dragging the ground, and my head felt like it was going to spin right off my shoulders. Yeah, it's hot out there. Next time I decide to chase chickens, I think I'll get up a little earlier in the morning.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Happy Birthday Gwenny!!

   Friday was Gwen's 1st birthday. I remember the day she was born like it was yesterday....

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sick Josie

  I just recently posted about how our Josie is getting very large with her pregnancy, and I want to talk about her again. The beginning of this week we had a major scare with the poor girl.

  It was Monday morning, my normal day off work, and I was out doing my chores when Gwen walked up to me asking for her breakfast. I noticed that there was something on her side. It looked kind of green and dry and crusty. I didn't think much of and went about letting out ducks and bringing feed to rabbits when I noticed Josie laying in the field. Now this is not unusual. The goats tend to laze around until they hear me open their feed bin for breakfast in the morning. What was unusual was that Josie's normally white beard looked kind of...green.

  The day before, Big Onion and I spent most of the day cutting, de-stemming, coring, grinding, and juicing all those ground fallen pears from the tree in the back yard. So that morning, I brought out all the pear cores, stems, and ground leavings for all the animals to enjoy. I offered a small handful of ground pear to Josie. Normally, she loves the pears and will scarf down any she can get her mouth on. This morning, she gave it one sniff and backed away quickly. Totally not interested.

  I shrugged and went about my day, resolving to check on her again that afternoon. Well, by the time I got back to checking on Josie again, she was looking really bad. It was now clear why Gwen was speckled with crust, and Josie had a green beard. Josie had apparently been vomiting since the night before. Now goats don't exactly vomit, not like we do. It's more like they bring their cud up into their mouths then open up and sling to glop all over the place. Trust me when I say that you do not want to be in the splash zone of a sick goat.

  That afternoon Josie had covered herself in her own sick. She was hugely pregnant, slinging cud everywhere, grinding her teeth, squatting frequently, and making these terrible little distressed goat sounds.

  I tried giving her baking soda and some cooking oil in case she was bloating. Both things seemed to make her feel worse. We were especially worried because she was so pregnant and seemed to be feeling really, really terrible. I finally called my wonderful local, large animal vet. After talking to him for a few minutes, we came to the conclusion that Josie had probably eaten too many ground fallen pears the night before and since she was so pregnant, the fermentation of the sweet fruit in her already compressed gut was making her sick. He suggested I give her a shot of Banamine, an anti-inflammatory, to help relieve some of the pain and bring her in the next morning for fluids if she hadn't improved.

   The shot seemed to help a little. Within an hour she was nibbling on some grass in the pasture and resting in the shade. That night she wasn't at all interested in eating dinner which was fine since the vet said no grains until she was feeling better, but she seemed to be feeling just ok.

  Late in the evening, I went back out to check on her and as I walked out, I heard Rocky, our buck, calling and calling. He took one look at me and ran back to where Josie was standing in the corner of the goat room. I guess he was worried about his favorite lady. Josie was back to grinding her teeth, vomiting, and making those heartbreaking little sounds. I gave her another dose of Banamine and a mouthful of Pepto bismol. I texted my boss and coworkers and said that if my goat wasn't better by morning, I was going to take her to the local vet. My boss (who is a homeopathic vet, but primarily treats small animals) texted back suggesting that I give Josie a dose of the homeopathic remedy Sepia.

   Now I don't know if it was the remedy, the pepto, or the second dose of Banamine, but by the next morning Josie was just about back to her old self. She met me at the back gate begging for breakfast. I gave her a small handful of alfalfa hay and a good grooming to clean all the sick off her coat. She had somehow gotten her cud on the BACK of her horns. Amazing.

  By that evening, it was like nothing ever happened. She was back to beating up the other goats and waddling around the pastures like the queen of the barnyard that she is. She only has about two and half weeks until she is due and already her udder is filling with milk. We'll be on kid watch very soon and until then, you can bet I'll be picking up any extra pears that come within reach of the goats.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Down in the dirt

 Unfortunately the tomato and potato crops were a bust this year. We got a nasty case of blight that quickly spread throughout the garden and caused all the tomatoes to rot on the vine. The potato plants all just wilted and died.

 With very little hope, I dumped the pots of soil where there should have potatoes still happily growing. The first four pots had empty potato skins and these disgusting yellow slimy things  that I guess used to be potatoes before things went horribly wrong. I had lost hope completely by the time I got to the last pot.

Behold my five potatoes! 

Lo and behold the last pot had just a few good tubers and a bunch of tiny mini-pots! At least my container potato experiment was not a complete failure. Next year, I think I will be doing some very proactive anti-fungal spraying. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Josie the House

This is a picture of Josie about a week before she gave birth to Gwen last year.

Here is Josie now. 

This picture was taken about 5 weeks before her due date. Poor girl is wadding around like a duck. Despite the fact that she is a big as a house, she is always the first in for dinner. Last night she even ran/waddled all the way across the field for dinner, her belly swinging back and forth, short legs flying out to the sides for balance. Poor girl looks like she's smuggling a couple of watermelons!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Quail processing day

Life in the quail pen has been pretty sweet. The girls just love hanging out and laying eggs under the tufts of grass that I planted in their pen in the spring. 

Unfortunately, we haven't found much of a market for their eggs so aside from the occasional batch of scotch quail eggs and the dogs and cats getting a whole egg, shell and all, tossed into their dinner bowls, we don't have a lot to do with all those eggs. So we have been incubating large batches of quail and growing them out for meat. 

 The pen, although spacious  was getting a little crowded so his weekend we decided to process a batch of our quail. We pulled out the handy kitchen scale and a plastic container. Since we do raise the little birds for meat, it's important for us to select the biggest bird to continue breeding. The easiest way to do this is by weight so we rounded all the quail into small dog crates separated by sex.
  Quail are actually very easy to sex once you know what to look for. The males have much plainer looking chest feathers, while the females tend to have more speckled chests. You can also turn them over and look for the pink, swollen gland on the adult males below the vent that produces a white foamy substance when pressed.

  Once we had them all rounded up and sexed, we popped them into the plastic container and onto the scale. The container is necessary because we just cannot seem to convince those quail to stand still for weighing! Almost all of the female save a few of the smallest are released back into the pen. We decided to keep about one male for every five females, so that left us with a good number of birds to bring up to the shed for processing. First, we let the quail spend the night in a pen in the poultry house with just water to clear their innards of food.

 I won't get into too many of the gory details here, but suffice to say that a good sharp pair of kitchen shears makes for a very quick end to the little birds.

 We did make a really convenient discovery this time while processing. One of the things that took the longest was the fact that we didn't have a cone to put the little birds in while the bled out and did their "chicken with its head cut off" thing. We would have to sit there and hold each bird until movement stopped which can sometimes take up to a minute with the quail. I happened to grab this cardboard pill bottle spacer and it was the perfect size to hold the birds to that we could move on to the next one while this held the bodies still in the sink. Brilliant. (Bonus cat butt in the above pic)

 Next step was skinning. The wings and feet are cut off first. This video describes skinning the bird as being like taking off a coat, you work it down from the top, off the shoulders and wings, then down the body. For some reason thinking of it this way made the process go a lot fast and smoother than normal.

 Due to some rather arbitrary local laws, we cannot sell quail for meat (they are considered game birds, not poultry). Instead, we run the whole ungutted birds through the meat grinder and package them to be sold as raw pet food. Cat especially seem to love the quail and grinding the whole birds like we do means they are getting a vitamin packed, tasty meal as well.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Pear-ing down

 We looked out the window to find that our pear tree in the backyard partially fell victim to a nasty storm we had yesterday.

 For a while now we've been keeping an eye on our overambitious pear tree.

 As you can see, it is so over burdened with fruit that the poor thing looks like it's doing it's best impression of a willow.

 I ended up pulling several broken branches out of the limbs of the tree. The goats were more than happy to assist with cleanup.

 I harvested as many of the immature pears as I could in the hopes that Big Onion will work his magic and somehow turn them into something drinkable and intoxicating.

 Josie and the other goats also enjoyed some of the pears I missed.

More please!

This picture cracks me up. Notice Gwen and her mother are both resting their chins on the fence in hopes of begging a few more branches out of me. It always surprises us how much Gwen's personality and actions are just like those of her mother, especially when you consider that Josie had absolutely nothing to do with raising the little goat. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Underwater duck herding

  We have been having a problem with the ducks getting into the creek that crosses our property for quite a while now. We even tried putting up a fence to keep them out, but the holes in the fencing were big enough for the determined little waterfowl to slip through. Lately they have taken up the habit of swimming up the creek and getting into our neighbor's yard. It's not far from there to the very busy road in front of our houses so last weekend Big Onion put up a second layer of chicken wire in front of the existing fence.

  This seemed to work like a charm. All was going well until a couple of nights ago when we were putting the birds away for the night, and Big Onion noticed a couple chickens on the wrong side of the fence unable to come back thru. He went over to investigate and found not only the two Buff Orpingtons pacing the fence line but also about 7 ducks happily swimming back and forth in the creek. Apparently these birds had crossed the bridge and gone down to the creek from the other side. We knew from experience that if we left those birds out overnight, all we would find of them the next morning would be a pile of feathers.

  It was getting dark fast so I called over Luna, my right hand dog, and the three of us swung into action! Big Onion turned off the electric line that run over the top of the fence. I picked up Luna and tossed her over the fence (thank heavens for farm dogs in small packages) and hopped over it right behind her.

  First order of business was the two chickens. Luna employed a very handy skill the two of us recently discovered and took no time in herding each chicken right into my hands. I handed them over the fence to Big Onion and then the fun really began.