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, March 28, 2016

Gwen

It started very small. I saw her stumble a couple of times. I thought maybe the arthritis that often afflicts goats with CAE was flaring up again. Over the next couple of days it became clear that something was wrong with our little girl. She was still eating and drinking, but she just wasn't right. I took her to our local goat vet who took one look at her and declared her "one sick goat." She was standing next to my car with looking hunched up with her head turned to one side. My normally bright, active girl whose head would pop up and eyes would sparkle at the mention of her name seemed dull and almost lifeless.


The problem was, aside from obviously feeling pretty terrible, Gwen had no other symptoms. No vomiting or diarrhea. Her appetite was good, and she still seemed to be getting around ok. The vet gave her a shot of B vitamins, prescribed an antibiotic, and sent us on our way with a request to report if anything else developed...


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Announcement!

As many of you may already know, I am pregnant. Before we even started trying to conceive a kid, I had been contemplating some way to use the farm and our animals to make a clever and cute pregnancy announcement. Eventually I decided that using the baby goats was the way to go, so we set out so put together just the right picture to announce to the world that we had a little human on the way. This is the final product that we posted to Facebook...


As you can imagine, this was not the easiest picture in the world to make. It took two different photo sessions and so much baby goat chasing and dog model coaxing, I thought we'd have to photoshop the thing to make it happen.


I thought surely the easy part would be to put Rialey in a sit stay holding the ultrasound picture while we wrangled the baby goats into staying around her. Unfortunately, she did not like the feel of bailing twine in her mouth. Even wrapping it in a bit of plastic didn't help. We got more than one shot of our backsides trying to encourage her to keep the thing in place. We ended up hanging the picture around her neck for a while before finally wrapping the twine in some tape that was acceptable to her delicate tongue. 


There was also the problem of keeping those four crazy, rambunctious kids in frame. Big Onion ran around like a fool, tossing babies, waving sticks, and making crazy sounds while I tried to catch a shot between laughing my butt off at him!


Even when they were in frame, they were too interested in banging into each other to hold still enough for us to get a picture. Here Rutabaga headbutts poor Cupid into his tiny sister, Lilly. What a mess!

And then there was the humping.

So.

Much. 

Humping.

On the second day, we had much better lighting and were smart enough to set up fencing around Rialey and the goats which worked a lot better...

If only Big Onion would stay out of the shot!

Eventually we got a couple of decent shots, but boy was it some hard work!

That evening even Rialey was beat!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Louise Lambs and Rialey saves the day

Every Sunday morning, Big Onion and I with the help of Rialey, our trusty English Shepherd farm dog, gather up the entire flock of sheep a quick round of heath checks. We check and make note of FAMACA of all adults and older lambs then deworm anyone who has a low score, a poor body weight, or obvious evidence of loose stool. Right now with so many young and nursing lambs on the ground, we also check weights on all the babies to make sure they are growing at a good rate and do not have any signs of diarrhea or other issues.


Last Sunday morning, we were gathering the herd as usual. I went out with Rialey while Big Onion called the sheep while shaking a noisy can of corn. Usually we can get the entire flock into our holding area with very little stress on them or effort on our part. At this point, everyone knows the drill. This particular morning, Rialey and I had moved the flock up from the second pasture and across the bridge. We were getting ready to send them Big Onion's way when I saw movement back down the hill and heard the telltale cry of a new mother sheep. Since Big Onion seemed to have the rest of the flock under control and I knew we still had a couple of ewes ready to lamb at any minute, I called Rialey to come quietly to my side then asked her to stay with me while we went to investigate.

Crossing the bridge, I saw Louise calling and calling and torn between running to join the rest of the flock and leaving a sodden, pathetic little lamb who barely seemed to be on its feet. Back on the hill I saw a very fresh afterbirth. I was obvious that Louise had lambed very, very recently. I sent Rialey off in the opposite direction of the new mother then dropped her into a down so as not to spook her away from the lamb then slowly approached mother and child. Talking to her quietly, I scooped up the little lamb, too small and feeble to run away and tried to get Louise to follow me back across the bridge and into the first pasture.

Louise responded as mother sheep often do. She acted as though I had just performed the most amazing of magic tricks before her eyes and made that lamb disappear into thin air. Before I could blink or even drop the lamb low enough so that she could see it, she had taken off in a random direction at high speed, all the time calling her lungs out for her missing little one.

Rialey, reading the situation, swept into action and starting herding momma back towards me. With soggy lamb in hand and a distressed mother sheep darting around then being constantly redirected by the dog, all four of us eventually made our way back into the first pasture where I finally managed to get a hold on Louise's collar and shoved the lamb into her face. Magically the lamb reappeared into her reality and with my pulling, Rialey's pushing, and the drive to stay near her new offspring, we eventually got mother and child settled into a pen.


Meanwhile, poor Big Onion had been trying to handle the entire rest of the flock sans help. While we were trying to move Louise, I could hear him calling to Rialey to come and take her usual position to hold the flock in place. At the time, I made it clear to Rialey that she should disregard that order and help deal with the more pressing situation. I hoped Big Onion would understand.


Once we finally had Louise and what turned out to be her daughter firmly secured in the safety and privacy of a pen, I sent Ry around the corner to go and help her dad. Right at that moment, a much older lamb came sprinting around the corner! One of Fancy's lambs, Dakota, had seen an opening and with no dog to stop her, made a break for it!

Rialey saw the lamb then looked at me for direction. I signaled her to try and herd it back to the rest of the group, but lambs are notoriously stupid under pressure, and the confused baby just would not take direction from the dog. After dog and lamb had run in circles for a couple of minutes, I gave Rialey to go ahead to "get it." That is Rialey's command to actually use her mouth and feet to catch a runaway animal.

This is certainly not something I would trust most dogs, even well trained herding dogs, to do without causing injury to their intended target so although I trust Ry not to intentionally harm the stock, I stayed as close as I could and kept a watchful eye for her herding drive to turn to prey drive or for her to get carried away and use too much force. After the "get it" command, Rialey had immediately switched tactics and started actually putting her mouth on the lamb. At a few weeks old, that little girl had some serious speed! I watched Ry trying to grab her very gently by the elbow, never putting enough pressure to cause injury. When she'd slowed the lamb enough, she would try to put her entire mouth around the back of the lamb's neck and press it to the ground.

Dakota was particularly keen to elude capture so neither of these techniques seemed to slow her enough for me to make the catch. Finally, Rialey reached under the running lamb and grabbed the opposite elbow, this caused the lamb to stumble. While I hustled up to catch her, Rialey gave the lamb one more good nose punch in the side which rolled her right into my hands! I checked her over quickly and found that though she was winded and scared, there wasn't a scratch on that baby. Rialey had used just enough force to take her down without causing a speck of injury! What a good dog!


Dakota in hand, Rialey, the lamb, and I finally went to join Big Onion and the rest of the flock where after catching our breath, we did our usual health checks on the flock. I'm happy to report that no one needed deworming and all the lambs were showing very good increases in weight.

That job finished, we all went back to check on Louise and her new baby. I knew the baby was little when I'd originally picked her up, but when we found her to be well under 5lbs we began to suspect that she might one of twins. Big Onion, Rialey, and I made our way back out across the bridge now on a mission to search for a potentially lost little newborn lamb. Rialey paused at the afterbirth still sitting wetly on the top of the hill hoping to make a second breakfast of the farm dog delicacy, but at one word from me, she left it where it sat and started sniffing around for the missing baby.

While we stomped around the tall grass losing hope at the amount of ground we'd have to cover to try and find a tiny and potentially dead baby sheep, Ry dropped her head and took off at a run to the back pasture. I figured she was just going for a run or perhaps wanted to take a quick dip in the ponds, but when I say her floof of a curled and fluffy tail come up, then her head pop up as if to say, "Hey guys! Come look!" I knew she was onto something. It took us a minute to catch up, but when we crossed the second bridge and rounded the corner, sure enough, our trusty farm dog girl had tracked her way straight to that baby and stood waiting with her until we could gather her up and bring her back to momma! On the way back, I told Rialey she was more than welcome to enjoy that placenta she'd left behind as a reward for all her great work that morning.


This lamb was also a ewe and was bigger and much more robust than her sister. Luckily, Louise accepted both lambs, and we watched as the two little girls both nursed from their mother. Rialey then helped to clean little lamb butts while Louise got a healthy pile of grain, some fresh hay, and clean bucket of water. Finally we left mother to bond and rest with her newborns and headed up to the house for a breakfast of our own!




Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Eve's new vegetable

Last year we put a breeding harness on our goat buck, Gimli, so we had a pretty darn good idea when the girls were going to kid. This year, I did make note of when we exposed all the various girls to our two boys, but didn't have exact dates when the deed occurred. This has made for some interesting speculation as to when the girls will decide to have their kids. Even after all these years and all these kids, the girls still manage to confound and confuse us. You can look at udders, check for swollen vulvas, and feel for loosened ligaments, but at this point, I'm pretty firmly convinced that the only way to know for sure if a doe is about to kid is if there's a little hoof sticking out of her backside! 

We had been waiting and watching Eve for a couple weeks sure every night that the next morning we'd find her snuggled up with a new kid or two. No dice. So one day when I was out on the lanai putting in a load of laundry and I saw the girl standing oddly and squatting in the middle of the pasture, I had the thought that maybe, finally it was her time. Then I heard her. Eve is normally a very quiet goat, but the yell she let out let me know something was absolutely happening! 

I ran back inside yelling at Big Onion that I thought Eve was in labor as I flew past, threw on my boots and sped out the back door! 


 By the time we'd reached her, Eve was standing in the middle of the pasture with a soggy little red thing at her feet. As to why Eve chose to give birth in the middle of the pasture instead of inside the safety and security of one of our many buildings on a sunny, but very chilly day, my only guess is that Eve has some pretty significant rear end weakness. We think she was injured by another goat (Josie!) when she was young and suffered some spinal damage. She gets around just fine, but watching her closely and it's pretty obvious that the girl doesn't have full function or feeling back there. Best guess is that labor just snuck up on her before she could find an appropriate spot to do it!




I ran inside and quickly grabbed a couple towels. We got the little girl as dry as possible and before we knew it she was up on her feet and trying her best to nurse.


Unfortunately, trying to nurse while you are a soggy, wobbly, one hour old infant kid is not the easiest of tasks, especially when your mother doesn't have the good sense to hold still long enough for you to find and latch onto your target. Big Onion ended up grabbing a cupful of grain just to keep Eve distracted and still long enough for her little girl to get fed.


The poor thing kept trying and just totally missing her mom's teat, but the instinct is strong in these little ones and this doeling was not going to give up.


Finally she found her goal and figured out how to get it in her mouth. We all breathed a sigh of relief as the little one had her first meal.


Her belly full, it was time to move mother and daughter to a more secure location so that they could bond properly and get some rest in peace.


I've mentioned before on this blog how baby sheep and their mothers react to being carried. Basically the lamb goes limp and decides that today might as well be a good day to die while mother, as soon as the lamb rises more than a a few inches above the ground, ceases to recognize the thing as her child at all and generally decides her lamb as vanished into thin air even if the thing is right in front of her face!

Well, let me tell you that baby goats could not be more different. Pick up a newborn goat and it is going to yell and scream and kick its little heart out. Meanwhile mom is probably going to be trying to mess you up or at least get as close as possible to her distressed little one.


This little one was not pleased with being made to "fly" across the pasture and she let us know it in no uncertain terms! Meanwhile, her mother practically crawled up my backside to stay near to her little one.


Soon we had Eve and her kid tucked into a cozy pen with lots of hay for mom to munch on and baby to snuggle down for her first nap in the big, new world. The proud father, Gimli, looked on from the pen next door.


We decided to call this little blue eyed darling Rutabaga since she reminds us so much of her older sister, Turnip. She actually already has a new home lined up where her name will most likely be Mayberry so we've been compromising and calling the girl Rudy-May at least for now. She a little spitfire full of sass and attitude with the other goats, but still just as sweet as can be with us. At the time of this posting, Rudy-May is a little over a month old and doing great!