Wednesday, July 27, 2011

This year's chicks are growing up!

Night before last, my friend Tina joined me in our annual "move the chicks" night - at which time we take the chicks from the place they have called home for the past two months to the Moop in the chicken run with the big hens and roosters.

We are getting better at it.  The first year was pretty hysterical - I raised the chicks in the greenhouse (it was a cooler year), and we backed the Moop up to the greenhouse.  I crawled into the large box where the chicks had been living for a few months (has to be after dark, when the chickens become docile) and handed them one by one to Tina.  She moved them to the truck, where we had put up screening and sheets to block them from running back out.  It was not a pretty sight, but we got the job done!

We then drove the Moop out to a pasture where we thought the chickens would be happy.  Unfortunately, the hawks were even happier.  Many chicks became dinner, and we had to move the Moop behind the house and put up some fencing around it.

So the last two years we didn't move the Moop to the chicks, because now it sits inside a chicken run.  Besides, the battery is dead.  So it is easier to just bring the chicks to the Moop.  Tina and I have it down pat now.  Two totes into the pen inside the hay mow, where the chicks have lived since they arrived here in May, each loaded with five sleepy chicks.  Then off to the Moop, where I go inside with one tote, Tina shutting the door behind me.  I remove the lid from the tote and carefully lift the chicks out one by one and set them on the roost.  Then Tina lifts the lid, I back out and pick up the other tote.  Then back to the barn for more chicks.  We moved 28 of them that way, and all went well.

Until last night, that is!  Campines are great flyers.  Some of them had been roosting in the rafters in the barn.  So they were not going to let a six foot fence keep them in, and they were outside, running around in the woods, flying up into trees and in general enjoying their new home.  I was worried that they would try to go back to the hay mow, but they didn't.  They hung around the Moop and the chicken run all day, only venturing as far as the woods just west of the run.

But then it was time for bed!  All of the others were inside the Moop, clucking about their day and settling down for the night.  NONE of the chicks were inside.  A few were hanging around the door, and I managed to convince them to go inside.  I went into the woods and chased another half dozen or so inside the run and eventually into the Moop.  I could hear them rustling in the woods, finally spotted them on a couple of branches overhanging the fence.  I grabbed them one by one and took them to the Moop.  I called it a day and just hoped that most if not all of them were inside.

This morning, 10 Campine chicks were running around inside the run having breakfast when I went out to open the door to the Moop.  Missed 10 of them!!  Oh, dear!

I can only hope they catch on, because the predators will catch on, too, that there are meaty chicks sitting in the trees at night.  Fingers crossed . . .

Monday, July 11, 2011

New life!

Last night, Rosie, who is going on 12 years old, gave birth to a bull calf.  He is quite the stinker!  This morning he escaped and was two paddocks from mom.  I got them back together, then called Justin and Leifschon to see if they could come over and help me get him and mom to the nursing pen.

When they got here, they asked, "Where is the calf?"  Gone again!  Justin, Leifschon, their two kids Owen and Olivia and I all spent about a half hour looking for him.

I figured he would come back when he was hungry, but when Kayla got here at 1:00 and there was still no calf, I was getting worried enough to send her out to help me look.  I'm also making cheese and awaiting the delivery of a new piece of equipment (my birthday present from me to me, but that's for another blog), so between timers going off, I went down by the creek to look.

I called my friend Eric and asked if they could die from getting lost.  He said not likely, but it could happen.  He said not to worry for at least a couple of days.  I was just going back to tell Kayla to forget the calf and take care of some gardening business when she called out, "I found him!"  He was in a paddock that every one of us had walked through earlier this morning, tucked into some weeds.

Kayla and I got him in the golf cart and brought him to the nursing pen.  It felt so good to pet him, to kiss him.  He looks just like Lucky!  Life goes on . . .

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tashi - mystery solved!

Tashi is getting fat.  There is no other way to say it.  She has gained 20 pounds since coming to live at the farm.  Given how active she is, and that she gets only one cup of dog food a day, it was a real mystery.  I switched to low fat dog food, and still didn't see any difference.

My chickens eat a LOT of chicken feed - in fact so much that even at $4 a dozen for my free range eggs from chickens that get a special organic feed with no soy in it I am barely breaking even.

The nickel finally dropped.  Tashi eats chicken feed.  I have seen her do it while I am feeding out there, and I yell at her and she leaves the feed alone.  But the door to the chicken run is open all day, since I don't want to confine the chickens to their meager 1/8th acre run for their supply of grubs and worms.

Again, the nickel dropped.  I can be a bit dense sometimes, but I finally figured out what to do to keep Tashi out of the chicken run, but allow the chickens to get in and out at will.  Fortunately, Tashi is considerably bigger than a chicken.  I cut a tiny gate into the big gate, and it is big enough for the largest rooster to get through.  But Tashi cannot get in.

My chicken feed consumption is down.  Tashi is getting slimmer already.  Problem solved.

Poor, hungry Tashi!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Monday, July 4, 2011

Lucky is not doing well . . .

This morning, I gave up Lucky for dead.  He was on his side, neck stretched out, no longer eating, although he did drink a little fluid.  I thought, "I am not going to try to prolong his life like we did Quincy.  All it means is a longer time to suffer.  I will just let him go."  I walked towards the house but didn't even get to the door before I turned around and went back out to the barn.  I gave him a penicillin shot.  That shot means he is no longer organic, but who cares?  I just wanted to give him one more shot at life.  I also mixed some more electrolyte powder into some water, and he took a bit of it.

When I went out an hour later, he was still laid out flat, and I am not strong enough to get him in a sitting position by myself.  But I stacked some straw under his head, and he drank copious amounts of water.  I had put a small handful of hay by his head when I left him earlier and it was gone, so he was eating again.  So I got more hay, and he began eating pretty steadily. 

I checked on him every half hour or so.  He took in a full gallon of electrolyte water, and I did another subcutaneous iv, which delivered 500 ml of electrolytes in solution, along with some glucose.  He also drank at least a gallon of plain water.   I noticed that he was belching and passing gas, a good thing.  Don't need bloat on top of everything else.

A little after noon, Kayla and Jack showed up.  They were able to lift Lucky and while he was up, I moved out the soiled straw from around him.  He definitely was too weak to stand.  They got him sitting up and he stayed up without falling over!  Kayla massaged him well, all over his body.  He ate and drank some more.  Kayla suggested minerals.  He went right for the sulfur, ignoring everything else.  He also took in more water, and we saw him urinating.  This is all goodness.

I do believe that the change was from the penicillin hitting his system.  I couldn't reach the vet - he has his kids and their animals at the 4-H fair - so I googled "maximum dosage of penicillin for a 300 pound calf."   I had given him 10 cc's early that morning, and the article said they could have 20 cc's twice a day, so I gave him 12 more, and plan to do another 12 at bedtime, when I give him the last half of his iv - another 500 ml of glucose and electrolytes in solution. 

Austin, one of the dairy herd association's milkers, arrived around 1:30 or 2:00 pm.  Lucky was very alert and still in sitting position, had not fallen over like he was doing earlier in the day and last night.  Austin took Lucky through range-of-motion exercises on all four legs.  He showed me how to do it, and I think I will be able to do it on my own.

Tina did Reiki on Lucky, and stayed with him encouraging him to eat more minerals.  He seemed to eat everything better when Tina was fussing over him.  If he makes it through this, I think we will have created a spoiled little bull!

No matter what happens, I am glad I did not give up on him this morning.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sad news, but life goes on . . .

We decided to raise two of our calves for beef.  When we choose names for our calves, we choose names that reflect the first letter or two of their mothers' names, and so Quincy (from Quattro) and Lucifer (from Lucky) joined our herd.  There were being raised to be butchered in about two years.  We did not bottle feed them, but left them with their mothers so there was not a great deal of bonding with them.

They were beautiful, doing fine, about to be dehorned and castrated to begin their life as steers rather than bulls.  I noticed that they were both lethargic, thought they needed to be moved to a new paddock.  There was still fodder, but it was pretty weedy.  I had trouble getting Quincy up, thought they might need a boost of nourishment, and so fed them a little organic calf starter feed.

I noticed that Quincy especially was not doing well.  Then I also noticed that there was very liquid manure in the paddock.  Oh, no, they had scours!  I got electrolytes with glucose and probiotics in them and started feeding them.  Quincy appeared to respond, then that evening fell into a funk.  I called the vet.  He said to keep forcing fluids, but that it didn't look good.  By the next morning, Lucifer was almost as bad as Quincy.  Kayla, my assistant, used to work for a vet.  She suggested doing subcutaneous intravenous feedings.  I spent yesterday running for the iv fluid and the tubing and needles to administer it.  We put a liter of fluid into both of the calves late afternoon.  By then, both were exhibiting Stage 3 dehydration and could not hold their heads up.  Quincy's body felt cold.  At this point, after talking to the vet, we decided to give Quincy some penicillin, even though it would mean he was no longer able to be certified organic.  We had to do everything to save him.

I checked on him every few hours after Kayla left.  By 1:30 in the morning, he was sinking fast.  When I went out at 5 a.m., his breathing was rapid and shallow, and I was pretty sure he would be gone soon.  This was just killing both Kayla and me.  We both love animals, and it was hard to see him suffering.  I left for market about 8 a.m. and Kayla took over on the watch.

At 10:00, I called to see how he was doing, and she told me that he had passed about ten minutes earlier.  He died in her arms.  She had been holding him through the last hour of his life.  I am glad, for both Quincy's and Kayla's sakes.

I asked about Lucifer, and she said he was doing quite well, seemed very alert, but still was not sitting up.  This afternoon when I called to check on him, she said he was sitting up, eating and drinking, had gotten two i.v.'s and even had another envelope of the glucose/electrolytes/probiotics.

When I got home, I immediately changed Lucifer's name to Lucky.  Lucifer had just been the first name to pop in my mind when trying to do a name that started with "Lu."  Well, there can be two Luckys in this herd, and that is his name from now on.  He is very lucky, indeed.  As the second one to get sick, we already knew everything NOT to do after taking care of Quincy, and so he is responding well to our care.

It's 10:20 p.m. and I just got in from giving him a half liter bag of fluids.  He is eating hay and oats and drinking water.  He kissed me, a great "nose touch" kiss that went on and on.  And then he licked my forehead and my nose, and of course tried to French kiss me!  So much for being distant.  We have bonded.

Lucky is not entirely out of the woods yet, but it looks very good.  He even tried to stand once tonight while I was working with him.  In the face of death, so depressing, so hurtful, I am thankful for the life of Lucky.  I am thankful for Kayla's expertise in caring for the animals.  And while I was mourning Quincy's impending death this morning, I heard this crazy noise that sounded like a rusty gate and realized that the two little roosters who were born on May 23rd were trying to crow for the first time.  In spite of Quncy's state, I smiled - in fact I laughed out loud!  Life goes on.