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.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Lambing Season is here!


  Earlier in the evening our big, woolly ewe, Whoopi, had given birth to a ram lamb who we decided to call Degas. When we found him, he was soaking wet and looking chilly so when temps dropped into the thirties, I decided to make a late night check on him and to see if any of our other sheep had decided to lamb. Of course I had my trusty farm dog, Rialey, at my side.

  I shined a flashlight into the darkness and saw the reflection of the eyes of most of the flock standing in a bunch near the poultry pens. Scanning with my light, I caught a gleam halfway across the field near one of the rabbit tractors, then a little sparkle down close to the ground. Someone else had lambed!

  I hurried to the poultry house and flicked on the lights to see it was Bonnie standing off by herself with a little white ball of fluff on the ground at her feet. Bonnie has a history of abandoning her lambs so I knew there was no way I was going to leave her out with that little baby on a cold night.

  Swinging into action, I cleared out the milk room of some indignant lady goats and grabbed our lamb sling, a makeshift leash (half of a tie down strap) and put Rialey in a stay. I slowly tried to approach momma, but she beat hooves and headed for the rest of the flock, baby in tow. I caught up with the little one, scooped it up, and very quickly transferred it to the lamb sling.

  Sheep are funny creatures. For some reason, if you pick up a lamb, momma will have no clue what happened to her baby and start frantically searching as if the little thing had suddenly vanished into thin air. The lamb sling, a simple loop of plastic, lets the sheep see her lamb again. As long as it is held close to the ground, momma will almost always follow the lamb wherever you want. The other advantage of using the swing is lambs tend to go completely limp when carried for any length of time. It's like they are thinking, "Well, the predator has got me. Might as well die now." When you put them down after being carried, it always takes a while for them to come back to themselves. The sling keeps the babies coherent and calling for mom. Like I said, sheep are very odd creatures.

  Anyway, I got the lamb in the sling and eventually caught Bonnie's collar and with one hand secured her with the hook from the strap. With me and little lamby in the front and Rialey bringing up the rear, we were able to get mother and child safely tucked away in a cozy room. I set Bonnie up with water, hay, and a little feed then pinned her to the wall while she ate to make sure both her teats were clear and both sides of her udder were producing. All that done, I gathered baby again and found that Bonnie had had her first little girl. Using the sling and a small fish scale, I found the girl was a very respectable 8.4lbs. Later we decided on the name Dora for the girl.


  With Bonnie and her little eweling all settled in, I started to head back to the house only to realize that I hadn't yet checked on Whoopi and Degas. The little ram lamb was up and spunky. He was warm and dry with a full belly and a clean rear end. Whoopi had passed her placenta in the pen, so I called Rialey in to retrieve it (a rare and much prized treat for the farm dog) while Whoopi did her best to shield her little one from the wolf-beast and stomped for all she was worth. Ry backed her up, grabbed the placenta, and happily brought her prize back up to the house for a late night snack!


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Selling Victor and Bruno

Just about a year ago, our big LaMancha doe gave birth to twin bucklings. I decided to name them Victor and Bruno. We let the boys stay with their momma nursing all day and closed them up at night so that we could milk her in the mornings. When they got to be a few months old, we weaned the boys from their mother and started trying to sell them. I listed them all over Craigslist and Facebook. I put out feelers everywhere. No one was interested. I relisted them every couple months, dropping the price and rewording the adds each time. No luck at all. Being intact, having horns, and having grown out of the "cute kid" stage were all strikes against them.

With kidding season just around the corner, I decided to list them one more time about a week ago. I dropped the price once again and listed them everywhere I could think. Within 5 minutes of listing, I had people coming out of the woodwork wanting these boys! In less than 24 hours, I had at least 15 different people contact me (sometimes repeatedly) about buying them. Maybe I dropped the price too much? Maybe it was just timing and luck. Who knows! All I know is that although I am going to miss their sweet faces, at least we have two less mouths to feed!


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Rialey practicing her duck herding

  Below is a video I took one night during evening chores. I went into the duck pen to change our their always gross water. I asked Rialey to come in with me to help keep the birds out of my way. Tonight she decided to practice moving the flock while I dumped, rinsed, and refilled the buckets. 

  I will allow this kind of behavior as long as it is under my supervision, and the dog and stock remain calm. I think this kind of doodling with the stock is the way that herding dogs learn how the stock move in response to their pressure and movement. I watched Luna do it many times and every time she would seem to come away with some new knowledge about how to better handle the stock. I also think it is very interesting to watch Rialey create then solve problems, split them apart them put them back together again and move then into and then out of the enclosed area calmly.


**You may want to turn down your speakers for this video. Ducks and geese are loud beasties. Also, please excuse the mud. With rain almost every day, there's not a lot we can do about it until the weather dries a bit, and I assure you that the waterfowl in this pen do not mind a bit. (Plus they spend most of their time free ranging in the somewhat drier pastures.)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Chicken Surgery

  This year has been really bad for us with predators. It seems every time we dispatch one, another shows up. Every time we secure one pen, something finds a way into another. Something is picking off our poultry, and nothing we do seems to stop it. We are not in a place right now to get a livestock guardian animal, but the possibility has been discussed at length. Right now, we believe we are battling a fox who likes to tunnel into the poultry pens and make off with our birds in the night. It even made off with our beloved little Cynthia.

  One morning a few weeks ago, Rialey was keying in on one chicken, a little silver laced wyandotte hen. She seemed to have a number of loose feathers on her chest, but she was running around with the rest of the birds and eating normally so I didn't think much of it. That evening again Rialey pointed out this hen and tried to make it clear to me that she had a problem that needed my attention.

  When I finally got my hands on the girl after she gave me quite the run for my money, I took a good look at her chest. It was bad. Way worse than I expected considering how normal she was acting. Something had ripped away the skin on her neck and chest and part of her crop was torn open. The crop (sometimes called the croop or craw) is a small, muscular sac that connects the esophagus to the rest of the bird's digestive track. It is where chickens store food that is waiting to be digested. I could actually see part of the corn that this hen had for breakfast through the hole in her chest.

Not having it in me to put down such an active, seemingly normal bird, I set her up in a pen inside the poultry house with her own food and water. I was hoping that perhaps she could heal enough to close up the hole and be ok. The next morning we noticed that she had drunk her entire waterer and when we refilled it, she started chugging down the water again. After watching her for a few minutes we realized that while feed seemed to be staying in, all the water this poor hen tried to drink would just dribble out the hole in her neck. Despite this, our girl was still full of life. I mixed up some vitamin water and syringed it directly into her crop then Big Onion held her upright for a while so that the liquid would be absorbed.

That night since the hen was still seemed bright and active we decided it was time to take action. Again we didn't want to put down a bird who was obviously so full of the will to live. We decided the best solution would be to try and close that hole. If they can avoid infection, chickens can heal from a surprising amount of surface tissue damage, but this girl would certainly dehydrate and die if she couldn't keep in the fluids. We did a little research and gathered supplies and prepared to do some at home surgery.


Big Onion wrapped the hen in a towel and settled down on the bathroom floor. I started by cleaning the whole area as best I could of the crusted blood and food then scrubbed it with a surgical solution. There was a lot of excess tissue so first I trimmed away anything that looked like it was already dying. This caused a bit of bleeding, but we applied pressure and she clotted nicely. Since the torn edge of the crop had already started healing, I trimmed away a little bit of tissue to encourage it to close back on itself. Luckily I had some old suture material squirreled away for just such an occasion so I set to work stitching the hole closed with small, close together stitches. Working for the vet, I had some experience assisting with sutures, but this was my first time really trying to close something so big.

Here are a couple pictures before and after the surgery. WARNING: These are pretty graphic!


Through all this, our patient never flinched, moved, or made a sound. In fact at one point she fell asleep. We had to rouse her to make sure she was still with us, but she woke alert and clear eyed. Once the wound was totally closed, I cleaned up the area and trimmed away a bit more of the dead tissue. We gave the girl an antibiotic shot to hopefully stave off infection and brought her back out to her pen. Once back outside she started immediately eating and drinking, and to our delight she did not spring a leak! The final job wasn't pretty, and she was still missing a lot of skin on her neck and chest, but if this girl wanted to fight, we might as well give her a fighting chance.


Chickens can be amazingly resilient creatures so we are keeping our finders crossed for this gal's smooth recovery. We don't often name our poultry, but we decided that our brave patient deserved a name. We decided to call her Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas character with all the stitches. Tis the season and all that.

So far Sally has been healing nicely with no signs of infection setting in. She's eating and drinking and patiently letting us inspect the wound twice a day. We'll probably give her one more shot of antibiotics and keep her contained until that area does a lot more healing.  Hopefully some day in the not too far off future, we'll be putting her back out with the flock to do her chicken-y thing!

-----

Update: I wrote this post shortly after we did the surgery on Sally but never got around to uploading the pictures or posting it. It's been a couple weeks, and I'm happy to report that Sally is doing wonderfully. As I said above, chickens can sometimes heal from surprising amounts of damage and Sally is certainly proving this to be true. We still have her caged, but we've moved her to a bigger enclosure with perch bars and a good view of her friends outside. The wound is almost completely gone with just one spot of scar tissue still sticking out the hole. We've been reluctant to put the girl back out with the group as chickens will pick at anything out of the ordinary on another bird. Plus it is still ridiculously muddy out there. Right now, Sally's biggest problem is that she's mad at being cooped up for so long. For a chicken who literally had her neck ripped open, this is pretty good problem to have!

Here is a picture of the almost totally healed area. What a difference!