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.
The rain is never ending. We get a couple days of sun then it pours and pours and pours again. I just keep reminding myself that we went through the same thing last year, and it eventually stopped raining.
The ducks are just loving all the wet, wet, wet everywhere. The "pond" I dug for them in the middle of the pasture is constantly full of water and splashing ducks.
Rialey apparently thinks it's her job to act as the ducky fun police.
..and chase all the ducks out of the pond.
"I'm gonna get ya duckies!!"
"Woah, WOAH, it's so wet! I have made a terrible mistake!"
Pretty sure that duck in the foreground is laughing at her.
It's time for the goats to get their hooves trimmed again so I thought I'd share a few pictures and the basics of how we care for hooves around here. I should start off by saying that I am far from a pro at this. I learned to trim hooves from videos and pictures with a little help from our wonderful local large animal vet. You'll see that each of our goats, the motley crew that the are, present a different challenge.
Since most of the goats are used to getting up on the milk stand, that is where I decided to do the trimming. I like to give them a bucket with a mix of feed, course alfalfa hay, and even some alfalfa cubes just to keep them occupied and unconcerned about what's happening to their feet.
This is one of Josie's front feet. As you can see, the hooves are not too overgrown. The first step is to clean the hoof with a stiff bristle brush.
Then I just trim the excess hoof around the edges. You can see the white lines around the outside of the foot where the hoof wall has been trimmed. After I took this pic, I did a little more trimming to cut back those slight pockets on the right side of the picture.
I don't think Josie's feet were ever trimmed before we got her. She used to get these deep craters in the pads of her hooves. I'm glad to see that with lots of good care, her hooves are looking much more healthy.
Gertie's feet are more of a challenge. Again, she came to us with very little hoof care. You can see in this picture that the hoof wall is separated from the rest of the foot on the lower left. There is also a pocket between the two tows.
Here is another of Gertie's feet with the pocket cleaned out and trimmed back. You very quickly learn the smell of a problem foot when you start doing this. The best thing to do in this situation is to cut back as much of the separated hoof wall as you can and then treat the pocket with a product made for treating hoof rot. We like to use Dr. Naylor's Hoof 'n Heel.
When we first got our sheep, pretty much every one of them was suffering from some pretty bad hoof rot on at least one foot. Using the Hoof 'n Heel and trimming back those problem areas did a great job of virtually eliminating the problem in our flock in a matter of a few months.
Here you can see how far back I have had to cut the hoof wall. It's important to realize the once separated, the wall will not reattach to the body of the hoof. Leaving that cavity only leaves the animals a pocket where dirt, feces, and infection can collect.
Once it is cut back as far as I am able to cut, I treat the pocket. Sometimes I will then pack the area with either hoof tar or a thick lanolin ointment to try and keep out moisture and debris.
With a hoof like this, I will make a note to check it again in a few weeks to make sure it is growing out properly. It may need more trimming and treatment before the bad area grows out. As you can see with Josie's feet, we have had a lot of success in turning very bad feet into normal healthy ones by staying on top of the trimming.
Thea's rear feet are always a challenge. Thankfully, she has never had a problem with foot rot, but her back feet seem to have been designed by Dr. Seuss. You cannot even see the full extent of how crazy they are in this picture. They tend to grow sideways and if I'm not very careful when I trim them, she will end up rocking back on her heels when standing. Maybe it's a Saanen thing or maybe her hooves weren't trimmed properly before she came to us, I'm really not sure.
Pre-trimming Here you can see that her heels tend to overgrow and the whole right side of the hoof is curled in so that she is almost walking on the outside of the foot. No wonder she looks like a drunk camel walking around out there.
After trimming. You can see that I had to trim back the heels of the foot. The upper right side of the foot shows just a spot of pink where I had to cut more deeply to get a flat walking surface.
I actually had to do a bit more trimming on the hoof after the picture. With Thea, I always make sure to put the hoof down and see how it is resting on the milk stand before trimming some more.
I should note that hoof trimming does not hurt the goats unless you cut back past the pink to the blood supply. If you cut too deep, they will bleed just like a dog whose nails have been cut too short.
Even though our girls should be used to having their feet done, they still do a fair amount of squirming and kicking when their feet are handled. I tend to just hang on and wait them out. They eventually settle down enough that I can work. Some of the sheep have to be laid on their side for this. While I was trying to take pictures, Thea managed to get a good whack at my new camera. Whoopi once kicked me right in the nose so use caution!
Thank heavens that Thea's daughter, Amelia, does not have her mother's wonky feet yet.
A simple trim around the outside hoof wall and this little girl was good to go!
It's been a cold, wet winter and our pastures are not the greatest. I've been trying to get the sheep in the backyard occasionally so that they can munch on the weeds and clover that tend to grow back there. Plus, free lawn fertilizer!
I decided to take advantage of the flock being in a closed space to work the new puppy, Rialey, on sheep.
I put a harness and a long line on the girl to keep things from getting too out of hand.
At her age, we are working on very simple things. Walking up to the sheep to get them moving, walking behind them, and calling off the flock and back to me. Rialey got lots of praise and treats for doing all these things calmly.
We also worked a bit on learning to go around the flock to turn them back toward me. Again, the emphasis was on calm and confident movement.
Rialey even had to face off against an angry Maggie who decided she needed to defend her lamb against the new wolf cub. I was ready to swoop in and defend my youngster, but Rialey faced down that angry ewe with a couple of her deep, growly woofs and that momma turned tail and got back in the flock!
I just thought I'd give you folks a quick update on little Buzz's progress.
Buzz and his mother, Bonnie, are still penned. Bonnie seems to be keeping him better fed, so we have not had to put him on the goats to nurse in the last few days.
We could not get the swelling in the foot to go back down, so I brought him into the house a couple nights ago. We discovered that there was a band of tight, dead tissue that was circling the leg and essentially cutting off most of the normal flow of fluids to and from the foot. After giving the guy a shot of pain meds and letting the leg sit under warm running water for a while (nothing like a little hydrotherapy!), I was able to loosen enough scar tissue to open up one area top to bottom. I also started working as much of the dead tissue as possible away from the leg.
We bandaged the leg overnight with lots of healing cream. Last night the foot swelling was way down and when we took the bandage off, I was able to get two more large areas of dead tissue off. The flesh underneath still looked infected, but the areas around the wound were pink and healthy and already starting to show signs of healing. We also changed his antibiotic from penicillin to oxytetracycline in hopes that it will help him clear the infection.
Through all of this, the little guy has been such a trooper. He's up and using the leg. He is obviously nursing from his mother regularly, and he is even starting to share her food and hay which is right on schedule for a normal, growing lamb.
Our hopes are still high that our Buzz will make a full recovery, and if he keeps growing like he is now, he may have a future as one of the sires of our herd!
After all the special care and consideration that our little brown lamb has been getting, we have decided he needed a less generic name than Brownie. Considering his recent run in with the electric fence and his tenacity of spirit, we have decided to change the little guy's name to Buzz.
For the first day or two after we found him tangled in the fence, Buzz seemed to be doing ok. He started using the bandaged leg more and more.
His mother, Bonnie, wasn't letting him nurse as much as we'd like, so we started putting him on Thea at milk time. It took very little encouragement for him to realize that her udder was there for the drinking and god bless Thea, she could care less what's happening to her back end when there's food in her bucket. She's an old hand at wet nursing both kids and lambs that aren't her own.
Unfortunately, a couple days after we found Buzz tangled in the fencing, I noticed his foot was swollen. Thinking that perhaps I had put the bandage on too tight, I cut back the bottom of the wrapping waited until the next morning to see if the swelling went down.
The following morning the foot looked the same, if not worse. We made the tough decision to separate Buzz from his mother and bring him to work with me at the vet's office on Friday. We worried that Bonnie would not accept him back if they were separated too long, but I needed to shave back the fur to see if he had a wound that was abscessing and take a couple x-rays to check for bone breaks. Both things that we are not equipped to do here on the farm.
Here you can see just how swollen his foot was. Just look at the distance between the toes on each foot. Xrays showed that nothing was broken, but when we shaved down the leg, we found areas of extreme bruising and maybe even the start of gangrene in a couple of areas. There was no abscess, just lots and lots of swelling. He also had a temperature of 106 which is about 3-4 degrees above normal for a sheep. We immediately started him on antibiotics and treating with homeopathic remedies. Within about 2 hours of getting a remedy, the foot started draining and the swelling went down.
Buzz was such a good little boy, staying in his cozy crate all day without making so much as a peep. That evening we brought him home and the second he caught sight of the pasture, he started calling to his mother. To our amazement, Bonnie started calling back. Within a few minutes, mother and son were reunited in the milk room. Bonnie was even letting the little guy nurse.
We have the two set up in a pen now so that we can easily monitor Buzz's progress. He is far from out of the woods, but at least he is using the leg. The foot has swollen again unfortunately. For now, we will continue antibiotics and remedies. Even though Bonnie is letting him nurse, we are still letting him drink from Thea a couple times a day. We figure the little guy needs all the nutrition he can get to pull through this rough time.
Sometimes being a farmer is the most fun, rewarding experience you can imagine. Raising cute fuzzy and feathered creatures. Making and selling products that nourish and make people happy. Other times, it can be the pits!
Last night we got home very late after work. It was well after dark, and the weather was terrible. Temperatures down in the 30s and just pouring down buckets of rain, thunder and lightning. We lingered in the house and whined a bit about having to go out in the nasty, freezing, slosh for evening chores, but eventually we strapped on our big kid boots, donned our rain suits, and slogged out into the monsoon.
As we were walking out, Big Onion said that he wanted to lay eyes on the sheep before we did anything else. Sheep are not smart creatures. They have a very annoying habit of getting themselves into trouble especially when the weather is bad. He headed around the corner while I grabbed a flashlight. By the time I got to the shed where the sheep like to spend the night, he had already discovered that little Brownie was missing. Oh, his mother, Bonnie, was there snuggled down in deep hay, high and dry, but her two week old lamb was nowhere to be seen.
Big Onion and I started an exhaustive search of the pastures. Thinking he could be anywhere, we started looking in all the usual places the sheep like to hang out. In that terrible weather, I was sure we were looking for a body.
We searched the first pasture. No luck. We scoured the second pasture and even checked in the creek where we lost an already weak and puny lamb about a year ago. Still no luck. We got to the big third pasture and split up. I was checking around the ponds while Big Onion headed down the fence line on the other side of the pasture. I had just rounded the second pond when I heard Big Onion yell in the distance. I hot footed all the way across the pasture through thick mud and deep puddles to find Big Onion huddled over a tiny, brown body lit only by the light from his cell phone.
I couldn't believe it when he said the baby was alive, but he was in very bad shape. He had somehow gotten himself completely tangled in the line from the electric fence. It was wrapped around both back legs several times as tight as could be and little Brownie was just laying there shivering in the freezing mud. Little guy had all but hogtied himself. Big Onion thinks he way he wrapped the line probably shorted out the fence, so hopefully the poor little thing didn't get shocked too much.
Of course neither of us had a knife so it took several minutes to untangle the little guy's back legs. They were wrapped up so tight I was sure they would never work again. Once we got him free, I scooped him up and headed straight back to the house, leaving Big Onion to finish all the evening chores. The only thought in my mind was getting this baby warm and dry and trying to save those legs. As I was carrying him past the flock who were all milling around and calling for their dinner, the little guy called out to his mother several times. I took this as a very good sign.
I got him inside, fended off the hoard of dogs completely intent on getting a sniff of the lamb in my arms, and got the little guy dried off and warmed up in front of the bathroom heater. I was surprised and pleased to find that there was no tissue damage to the legs and that both feet seemed to have blood flow. His membranes were all pink, and he seemed alert. We snuggled in front of the heater while I got my boss on the phone. She recommended alternating a couple of homeopathics, and after the first dose of arnica, Brownie ppoped up and shook himself off. It was obvious then that something was wrong with one leg. His hock was bending the wrong direction.
I called Big Onion, and he corralled Bonnie into the milking room. I understand there was some serious rodeo'ing involved including a diving leap that left Big Onion's thumb in very slightly better shape than Brownie's hock. We needed to get some nutrition in the little guy. We planned on trying to hold him and let him get a least a few sips from his mother.
Brownie and I bundled up and headed back out into the rain. I was in for another surprise when I put him down in the hay because when that little ram caught sight of his mother, he beelined it for her back end and started furiously trying to nurse, dragging that bum back leg with him! This little guy is seriously tough! Unfortunately, his mother didn't seem to have much milk for him at all.
After seeing that he couldn't use the leg properly, we brought him back inside. I gave him a tiny dose of pain meds and wrapped the leg in a way that will hopefully keep it from bending in the wrong direction, and let him heal. He zonked out while we were tending to him.
We also convinced him to drink a few ounces of fresh goat's milk just to be sure he was well fed for the night then we put him back out to spend the night with his mother in the cozy, dry milk room.
This morning he was up and about. He is using the bad leg a little. Hopefully that will improve as he gets used to bandage, and it starts to heal. The good thing is he is so young that he stands a great chance of making a full recovery.
We made the decision to castrate Luciano a long time ago. For one thing, we don't want to breed him to any of our females. He's related to two of them and shares some characteristics with his mother and his sister that we'd rather not pass on to the next generation (bad hooves, breathing issues). Also, we really like him. He's a sweet boy who loves giving cuddles and kisses. Trust me when I say that these are not things you want to do with a buck, especially when he is in rut.
Bucks in rut can be aggressive. All that testosterone scrambles their brains, and they are as likely to butt you as to say hello. They also have a lovely habit of spraying smelly urine all over their front legs and faces. Just yuck!
Even though we are removing his ability to reproduce, Luciano will still have a role to play here on the farm. Once he is weathered (neutered), he can be used as a companion to any future intact bucks that come around. After he had bred the girls, poor Rocky spent way too much time in the back pasture with only the sheep for company.
We have waited this long to get the job done because the poor little guy went and broke his leg right around the time we would have been castrating him. My vet recommended waiting until the leg was fully healed before causing him any more stress.
We did a lot of research on different methods of rendering a male goat infertile. A lot of people seem to think that banding is cruel. Plus, Luciano was already too old for this method which is best done when they are very young. Surgical castration opens them up to infection and can have other complication if done incorrectly. The method we settled on was using a burdizzo or emasculator.
I know they are rather nasty looking, but I promise we did our research on this. Big Onion actually found a study that tested pain response using the three methods I just listed. This method is the least painful and the pain lasted the shortest amount of time. That said, before we started, I did give little Luch a dose of Banamine (an injectable anti-inflammatory) and some Arnica to help with the pain. I also made sure to apply some Arnica gel on the area afterward.
Here's how it went with some tips and instructions for anyone considering this method.
Be warned! There are pictures of goat parts and talk of clamping certain areas. Those with delicate sensibilities may want to sit this one out.