If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen where Alec and I traveled 1,200 miles and photographed/videoed 85 pigs at 12 farms all across the state for the Got to Be NC Show Pig Sale. We did it within 5 days and it was quite the adventure. Honestly, though, I loved it! After hours of editing videos and photos, they were posted on the online portion of the sale through Willoughby Sales. All there was left was to wait for the sale.
Alec and I both planned on buying a pig at the sale. We had each picked out our favorites and set budgets for ourselves. I was stoked. When we arrived at the sale, I was excited to see so many people there. This was the inaugural sale, and I wanted it to do well. Because there was an online portion, there would be bidders both on the grounds and over the internet. It was a big deal for NC show pigs. As far as I know, this was the first of its kind in the state. There was free food, free t-shirts for buyers, and a lot of great folks.
The problem with sales is you have to be strategic. I had 3 pigs picked out that I was interested in, but my favorite one was later in the sale line up. I was in the conundrum that I could wait until my favorite with the risk that it would go too high, and my other favorites would then be gone as they were earlier in the line up. I’m telling you, strategy and a bit of gambling is needed.
Alec’s first pick pig went too high for his budget, so he moved to the second, but when it got in the ring, he decided he didn’t like it. So, on we went to the third pig which went too high also. At this point, I’m getting a little squirmy for Alec. Our top 3 pigs for him were gone, and now it was a matter of picking one as they came through. One little guy came through the ring, and I nudged Alec that I liked this one. Alec watched him for a bit then bid. He got in a slight bidding war with another guy, and ended up calling it quits once he hit his budget. Dad and I finally talked Alec into going another $25. That won the pig.
My bidding was much less eventful. I decided to pass up two pigs I liked to wait for my favorite and got her with no competition. I was stoked!
Overall, I think the sale went well, especially as it was the first year doing it. Sure, there were some no-sales, but that’s alright. I hope to see it grow, and more people support it in the future.
It is truly exciting to see a great group of NC pig farmers come together to provide quality stock. Most of the pigs will be at the NC State Fair competing, so be sure to stop by the pig barn at the fair. For now, though, I would like to introduce you to our newest additions. I am no longer “pig-less”! They LOVE marshmallows.
I am pleased to introduce to you my gilt, Alice:
And, Alec’s barrow Gus:
We should be getting two more pigs for the boys soon too, so stay tuned.
Let me start by saying that this is a late post. I promise we are not just getting to planting a garden. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, I want to share our family garden with you.
Every summer, we have some sort of garden. We don’t plant all of the same things every year; however, we do have our staples. The must haves for the garden include: tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, onions, okra, and eggplant. We have experimented with gourds, pumpkins, watermelons, beans, corn, carrots, lettuce, and the coolest–loofa (if you are looking for something fascinating, plant loofas). When it comes to the “experimental” list, we don’t plant those every year, just when we get a bee in our bonnet.
I will say, that I am not a plant person. Sometimes I think I could be, but then it quickly fades. I LOVE picking the produce and of course eating it is great. So, even though I don’t really have a green thumb, I adore our garden. It is an entire family affair getting it planted and taking care of it. I love that aspect about it.
I really think more people should garden–even if it is a few pots of plants. Not only does it provide yummy delights, but is healthy, and really highlights where food comes from.
Stay tuned for updates on our garden and our favorite recipes from the garden! And without further delay, here is the (late) family garden.
I was already feeling a bit ambitious, deciding to go 7 hours one way to get a single goat. Little did I know, I would need even more ambition to get back home.
For months, I had been on the hunt for a new buck. We have owned ours for quite a while, and it was time for some new blood. I started to follow various online sales and Facebook goat pages to see if I could find any. Finally, I found one that wasn’t in Timbuktu and was in the budget. After contacting the owners, I made arrangements to pick him up yesterday. He was in West Virginia, towards the Pennsylvania border. I decided I was going to be ambitious and travel 14 hours in a day to pick up a buck I had never seen in person. I’m fully aware I may be a tad crazy, but it is hard for me to pass up a good deal–especially when we are talking livestock.
I persuaded Garrett to go on my crazy adventure with me (he should get some kind of boyfriend award since he did have to wake up at the crack of dawn, ride in the car all day, and pick up a goat when he is a pig guy). He also suggested we take his family’s truck since it had a box in the back of the bed, preventing the need to haul a trailer. We agreed to meet in Rocky Mount at 8 am sharp, grab Bojangles (because that makes any 8 am day better), and head out. Our ETA was 3 o’clock.
Several hours down the road, we decided to start looking for lunch. I found a sign that directed us to the wonderful Chick-fil-A. This was a no-brainer stop. I cannot tell you how excited I was for my spicy chicken sandwich and waffle fries. We obtained the food goodness and got back on the road. As we were trying to get back on the highway, I turned down a one-way street. As I turned, we heard a noise. I asked what that was. Garrett replied with a shrug (he was focused on his cool wrap). A hundred feet later, we stopped at a stop sign. When I went to go, the truck didn’t want to. I slowly tried again. Still, it wouldn’t do anything. Garrett told me to wiggle the gear stick to make sure it was in drive. We then proceeded to try different gears. After no success, Garrett told me to put the four-ways on. “Where are they?” said a very flustered Risa. Garrett was very calm and told me where before getting out of the truck. By this time, there were a line of cars behind us. I waved them around us. Garrett came back to the truck after investigating and said a very dreaded word–transmission. Now, I don’t know much about vehicles, but I know that when transmissions are mentioned, it isn’t good and $$$ comes up. My heart sank as I looked around. It was hot, we were blocking a road, this was not the best part of town (most houses were boarded up), we were 5 hours from home, and the buck was still an hour away. Suddenly, my enthusiasm for my spicy chicken sandwich was gone. As Garrett called a tow truck (thank goodness he had AAA), he told me to try and eat my sandwich anyway.
We waited for close to 30 minutes for the tow truck. While we were waiting, we attempted to push the truck across the road to a parking deck. Even with the help of a couple of ladies, it didn’t go so good. Finally, we were able to back (more like reverse roll) the truck away from the stop sign and onto the side of the road. In one of the houses sat 4 people, who called Garrett over to “just talk” (we were a little sketched out and they were a bit tipsy). Finally, the tow came, and after deliberating which shop was our best bet, we were towed from Cumberland, Maryland to Frostburg, Maryland.
We had been told that they could look at the truck and probably work on it that day; however, when we arrived, we were told that they could barely get a look at it and could almost promise that they couldn’t fix it that day. Long story short, we weighed our options, decided against the extortionate tow to another town, and took our chances at the shop. We were hoping against hope that it was a simple fix.
We waited in the waiting room, looking through the window at the mechanics working. The next thing we knew, our truck was cranked and moving! I held my breath as the mechanic came in to talk to us (I swear it is like waiting in a doctor’s office). He said, “You know that slim chance of it just being a matter of putting two hoses back together? Well, you got that slim chance.” The transmission line had become corroded and broke at the joint. It was able to be patched, and the transmission had not been torn up from the incident. I was dancing in my head.
After paying, Garrett asked me if I still wanted to go get the goat or just head home. Remember, ambitious is the theme of the trip, so of course, I said let’s go down the road further and get that goat. Off we went. While breaking down sucked, it was good that we broke down where we did, because further up the road, there was absolutely nothing. It was just backroads and mountains. We finally hit West Virgina and began to climb the mountain where the goat was located. This was a very winding, bumpy road with pot holes like you wouldn’t believe. We had to cross a single-lane bridge, and make a u-turn on the side of a mountain. After the trek up, we finally made it to our destination. Our detour had put us 3 hours behind, so I did not want to lollygag looking at goats. I decided the buck looked good, so we led him up part of the mountain to the truck. It took 3 men to pick him up and load him. After paying and a thanks, we hit the road once again.
It was a long 7 hours home. Garrett and I kept each other awake by playing road games, singing to the radio, and eating super sour gummy bears. We arrived home at 2:15 a.m. I put a halter on the buck, but when he jumped from the truck, he kept running and ripped the rope from Garrett’s hands. We then spent the next 15 or so minutes trying to catch him in the dark. He wasn’t acting crazy, but was disoriented and wanted friends. Anyway, we caught him and put him in a pen with food and water. Garrett and I dragged ourselves into the house to hit the sack. Our faces looked a lot like the goat’s–we were so tired.
The day hadn’t gone as planned; then again, it was a Monday. It could have been much worse, though. All I know is, between bucks and trucks, I got more than I bargained for! Maybe I’ll name the buck Transmission. For now, meet our new herd sire, while I catch up on some sleep.
Every animal (minus the poultry) that has come on our farm has been named. For over a decade, I took the lead in naming everything. I even had a name book and have frequented baby naming sites solely for the purposes of naming animals. Some of my favorite names have been London, Cairo, and Fancy. Some of the more unique ones have been Technical Difficulties (he was always causing issues) and Slim Jim. Naming an animal was always thought out, and often times, they would go days without a name just to make sure their name matched their personality. It is one of my favorite parts of having livestock; however, my job has begun to be taken over by my little brothers recently. That is a tough pill to swallow.
It isn’t that I necessarily mind that they are naming the animals (I make sure I get a few to name), but it is more what they are naming them. The latest twin goats that were born are just an example.
Lady had her first set of kids this week–two big girls (11 and 8 pounds). They are really beautiful, and I was quite excited about how they looked. I felt that they should have pretty names, but Isaac and Gideon wanted to name them. I was ok with this and was hoping I could throw some good names they liked out there. I was wrong.
I found the babies and called for the boys to come out and come look. The following conversation ensued:
Isaac: “Lady! Look how pretty your babies are. Aren’t you a good momma? Risa, Lady is my show goat, that means I name the babies right?”
Me: “Lady is yours but the buck is mine.”
Isaac: “That’s true. Can I still name them?”
Me: “We will talk about different names, but you can name them.”
Gideon: “Tres! We should name that one Tres. That is the number 3 in Spanish right?”
Me: “Let’s just wait until tomorrow to name them that way we can think on it.”
The next day while we were feeding, Isaac and Gideon came riding up on the golfcart saying “How are Tres and Mud doing?”
Me: “Who and who?”
Gideon: “That’s their names–Tres and Mud.”
All I could think was dear heavens, I’m going to have pretty little does named after wet dirt and the other after a foreign number 3.
Me: “Ummm… well… I was thinking since the mom is named Lady, we could do something like Duchess.”
Grandma: “What about Maddie and Tae? They are country singer girls that were on TV.”
Gideon: “No, no, Tres. Her name is Tres.”
Isaac: “How about Mud Pie?”
Me: “Why Mud?”
Isaac: “Her face looks like mud to me.”
Later I went in the house and told Mom: “I need a hug. I have baby goats named after Spanish 3 and mud.”
So, yes, I swallowed the pill, stepped down from my position as namer and relinquished the reigns to an 8 and 10 year old. I’ve had a good run (I’m still adamant that I get to name things; I just have to share, and the boys are good with this), and at least I could name some of the babies this year. Speaking of those guys, here are some updated pictures of all the little ones. They are growing super fast.
When they brought the colt [donkey] to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it.Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Today, for this Palm Sunday, I was able to witness and take part in making these words come alive.
A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by First Presbyterian Church for a special request. They wanted to know if I would be willing to bring my donkey to the Palm Sunday service. I had done this once before for another church several years ago, and really enjoyed it, so of course, I said yes! We worked out the details, and April and I were set to go to church.
Yesterday, I caught April and washed her. She was none too pleased at being wet. I must admit, it was a little nippy. She did enjoy the scrubbing part, though. I made sure to hit all of her itchy spots. After getting all of the hay and dirt out of her coat, I tied her up to dry. Her friends, (Mirage, her grown daughter, and Firefly, our little rescue pony) lined the fence to watch what all was going on. Every now and again, April would stomp her feet in protest at the indignity she was enduring. Don’t let her fool you completely; she got treats galore. I locked her up in a stall for the night, so she wouldn’t get dirty.
The next morning was showtime. Garrett graciously agreed to drive down to be my chauffeur and assistant (he’s a great boyfriend). I was a bit nervous for the day, to be honest. I didn’t doubt that April would behave, but at the same time, she is an animal, and they have a mind of their own. I was just praying she wouldn’t relieve herself inside the church. Yes, April would be going inside the church–in the sanctuary. Now you see why I was a bit nervous (even though, the last time she held her bowels).
Upon arriving, Garrett and I met with various members of the church. They made us feel right at ease and were incredibly enthusiastic about us being there. That made me even more excited and definitely less nervous. They handed me a Biblical costume and asked Garrett if he wanted to dress up too. Garrett, being Garrett, is always up for anything. Amazingly, they found a costume that went below his knees (he is 6’7″ tall). After getting dressed, we walked through the route that we would be leading April down. She would walk up a ramp, through some doors, into the sanctuary, down the aisle and back out. Simple enough.
Garrett and I went outside to take April for a walk to get the jitters out of her. She let out one bray to announce her presence, but was very quiet otherwise. We slipped her carrots here and there for reassurance. I think she thought it was worth it for the orange sticks.
Soon, it was time for her grand entrance. I walked her in the doors to a foyer area. Inside were a lot of excited children dressed up, holding palm branches. April took it all in. She wasn’t entirely sure about the slick marble flooring, but didn’t make a big deal out of it, especially with carrots on her mind. Garrett stood behind her and slipped me carrots to give her. Music began to play, and our cue for entering began. We followed Rev. Leigh down the aisle as she laid palm branches as she went. April made me tug a little bit to get her in the large room filled with people, but soon pranced on. She cracked me up in regards to the palm branches. She dodged every single one, weaving in out of them, avoiding stepping on them. Who knew she would prefer red carpet over green leafy stuff.
The children filed in behind us and went to their places at the front of the church. April and I stood in front of them so parents could get a few pictures. One little girl came over to love on April while everyone was singing. When the song ended, Garrett, April and I walked back out the way we came. I breathed out a sigh of relief that I hadn’t needed to use the shovel in the trailer. No poop today. Hurrah!! We put April back in the trailer and slipped back in the church to hear the lovely sermon and the kids sing. It was really nice, and the sermon went perfectly with the presence of the donkey and it being Palm Sunday.
After the service, we took April back out so everyone could meet her. I could not ask for a more patient donkey. She was surrounded on all sides by people and a multitude of hands touching her at one time. She just stood there, looking left and looking right. Even when her tail got grabbed, she only took one step forward. She really was perfect.
I was so glad the day turned out to be such a success. I had faith in April (otherwise I wouldn’t have brought her) but she being an animal, you never know. I was most worried about stinky accidents. All went well, and she smelled nice from her bath. She made a lot of people smile, and made a timeless and poignant story come to life. She even got a few carrots out of the deal.
I think one of the things that resound with people most is the presence of the cross on April’s back. Legend says that the donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday, loved him so much that the little donkey followed Jesus to Calvary. Filled with grief at the suffering of his Lord on the cross, the donkey turned to leave, but could not. It was in that moment that the shadow of the cross fell upon the donkey’s back. Ever since then, donkeys have borne the mark of the cross as a reminder to us all what Jesus did for us on that day–died so that we may go to heaven. April, like many other donkeys, share this same symbol of love.
I hope you all had a wonderful Palm Sunday; however, I’m not sure it could get much better than mine. I am so grateful for the folks at First Presbyterian for making us feel welcome and exhibiting such excitement. I am glad I got to be a part of such a special day.
I hope you remember the legend of the donkey, especially as Easter approaches.
When you live on a farm, there is always something new and a surprise around every corner. I feel like I shouldn’t be surprised when the unexpected happens, but I always am. It is one of the reasons I love living on a farm. No “one day” is the same. Last night, at 1:30 am, once again, I was surprised.
I had just finished painting my nails and watching a movie with Mom, while I finished up some homework (multitasking at its finest). Miracle still needed to be fed her last bottle of the night, so Mom got the bottles ready. She said that she would feed Miracle since my nails were wet, but asked if I would walk with her (keep in mind it is 1:30 am). At this point, let me give you a visual. I am in sweatpants, and my brother’s oversized Croc shoes. Mom is still in church clothes and bedroom shoes. We didn’t bring a flashlight, and Mom was confused as to why I was bringing her down a back way to the goat pen. Quite the picture right?
As we bent down to give Miracle her bottle, I looked to my left in the pen beside us. I started squealing. There in the dark, glowed a new baby goat. Not just any goat, but our Angora’s baby!
Note: In 2009, I bought 2 angora goats as a start in my fiber herd (Angora goats have long locks of fiber called mohair). We went all the way to West Virginia to get them. Many years ago, one died, but my other one has stuck around. She is quite the awkward goat, losing one horn a couple of years ago, and has stretched out skin. She has been very susceptible to parasites over the years, and has come back where most goats wouldn’t. She often has patchy hair, and always looks like a misfit, but she’s tough and quirky.
I ran to the house (as fast as the too big Crocs would allow me) and grabbed a flashlight from Alec’s room. He woke up, and I told him Angora had a baby! Then I left. I ran back outside to see a snow white baby goat standing beside the Angora. I almost peed on myself because I was so excited. I checked to see if it was a doe or buck, and it was a little girl. That made me squeal all over again. Mom is still incredulous as to what is happening, thinking it had to be Cash, Miracle’s brother that got into the other pen. Nope. It is a brand new baby.
We began forming a plan to get the new momma and baby situated for the night. We wrestled drop cords, and hung a heat lamp in a shelter. Keep in mind, Mom is still in a dress trying to do this stuff, and I’m slightly hyper. Finally, we got it all situated. We led the pair into the shelter and started to trim the Angora’s fiber so the baby could find the teats. The baby was so spunky, but was still having a hard time locating where to nurse. She went from the chest to the butt and back again. Finally, with a little direction, we saw her nurse. At this point, Angora was quite fed up with us and wanted us out. At 2 am, we decided that they would be fine, and we needed to go to bed. The goats were fine, but my nails were a bit worse for the wear. I don’t know why I even try.
This morning, Mom and baby were doing great. The baby is already running and jumping. I don’t think I’ve ever had one hit the ground with such spunk before. Angora is being a terrific mom too! We are still in the naming process, but are leaning towards Lunar Illusion and calling her Lilly or just plain Illusion and calling her Illy or Lucy. I’ll let you know.
I’m sure by now you think I am a crazy person for squealing and getting so excited. What you don’t know, is that for 5 years, the Angora has been in with various bucks, and never bred. Not only this, but 7 years is super old for a goat, so the chance of her catching now, of all times, is incredible. We honestly thought our eyes were playing tricks on us in the moonlight, but no, it wasn’t an illusion. We now have a Boergora goat (Boer/Angora cross).
Wonders never cease to amaze here at Countryview Farms. I’m still in awe over what happened and how spunky she is. Miracle isn’t the only miracle around here anymore!
When Mom would tell my brother and I to go play outside, one of our go to things was explore the woods that edged our property. The woods were always a magical place, full of adventure and lots and lots of briers. We would discover animal tracks and pretend to be explorers. On one of our many explorations, we discovered an old house.
It wasn’t some mystery house that no one knew about. My grandpa used to know the lady who lived there, but to my brother and I it was a domain filled with wonder and adventure. The old house had been abandoned for 20 years after the woman living there had died. Inside, there was still some of her dishes, an old fridge, a bed, and so much more. Most of the windows were still intact and you could still walk on the floors, though one side sagged.
My brother and I always felt some sort of reverence when perusing the house. At a point someone lived there, and left behind were the earthly belongings she could not bring with her. To children, the house was filled with mystery. We could only conjure images of the way the house used to be from our imaginations. Oftentimes, we discussed if we would find forgotten treasures (we never did and wouldn’t have kept it anyway). Adding to our wonder were words written on one of the walls. There, written in pencil was the name of my grandpa and his telephone number. To a child this might as well have been the discovery of Egyptian hieroglyphics. We were so excited and ran to tell my grandparents about our find.
Over the years we explored the area around the old house, discovering a well that we were strictly forbidden to go near. We also explored another abandoned house in the woods at my grandparents. This one had been abandoned since the 60’s and was too far gone to enter. Instead, we would peep in and use it as a backdrop for photos.
The old houses always held a certain allure to me. They were my castles in the country. We made sure to share the fortresses with my two younger brothers as well, and they dubbed it Monster House after one of their favorite movies. Just as it had for my older brother and myself, the old houses captivated and intrigued my youngest brothers too. It is a special part of our childhood–being able to step back in history.
Last night that history was laid to rest in a display of fiery inferno, providing one last mystical show for my brothers and I. The owner of the houses decided it would be best to allow the local volunteer fire department to receive training practice and burn the buildings. In this way, the houses wouldn’t pose a threat to anyone as they further dilapidated and would also give the fireman in the community a chance to practice their fire fighting skills. It also gave us quite the show.
Last night we said good bye to old friends. Gone is the childhood mystical fortress that held such wonder. In its place stands a lone brick fireplace and the memories of days gone by.
We all know what this looks like. Sure there are many different types of girls, but a girl is a girl– xx chromosome plain and simple. For me being a girl means being able to wear dresses. It means makeup and heels. Being a girl means I give directions via landmarks and eat chocolate as stress relief. I am prone to bursts of emotional breakdowns and like to talk about my feelings, but I am also more than a dressed up emotional female. I am, and always have been strong-willed and independent. When I was two, my dad put me in time out and told me not to get out of that chair until he came back. When he came back, I was clear across the room. I hadn’t gotten out of my chair, I had taken the chair with me and scooted to the spot I wanted. Dad laughed and said that I was going to be trouble.
I am opinionated and at times a little cold-hearted, much to my mother’s chagrin. I am smart, competitive, sassy, and classy. Being a girl means that I have the joy to be a daughter, granddaughter, sister, girlfriend, and hopefully, one day a mother.I embrace being a girl and all of its feminine qualities–even in farming. For me, it is feminine farming.
Feminine farming looks different for every woman out there who farms. In case you were wondering, that is 1 million lady farmers. While each one is different, they all share a common goal of feeding the world, and I am one of them.
For me, feminine farming has evolved in the 13 years I have lived on a farm. I started with a “I have something to prove” attitude, always wanting to show up the boys. If they were lifting feed bags, I wanted to lift just as much. If we were wrangling goats, I wanted to be the last one to back down. So many times, my dad and grandpa would fuss at me for not letting my brother or them take care of it. I didn’t want them to take care of it, because I knew I COULD do it. I was missing the point that I SHOULD NOT necessarily do the heavy lifting that the guys were more capable of doing.
I won’t lie, that mentality is not in the past. It still comes up and I have to remember that my 6’4″ brother is better equipped to move the huge stack of 50 pound feed bags than I am. That doesn’t mean I don’t do things. I still get muddy, poopy and gross. I wrestle pigs and goats. I can drive a nail and work power tools to fix the fences and pens, but I have also embraced my more feminine side when it comes to farming. My muck boots are pink, and my jeans have bling on them. Sometimes, I have to run out in the pasture in heels to get a goat’s head unstuck. Somehow, I still can’t back a trailer like the boys can, so I let them deal with that.
Just because I am a farmer, does not mean I wear coveralls, and have manure on me all the time (only when required).
Just because I am a girl, does not mean that I am helpless in the barns. Because I am a girl who is a farmer and enjoy partaking in feminine farming, I bring a little pink in the barn. I like to hold “conversations” with the animals and cuddle the newborns, naming everything that comes on our property. I let the guys lift the feed bags when they are there. I like to dress up and wear heels, but I’m not afraid to go rescue an animal in those heels. I curl my hair for livestock shows and wear the sparkliest belt I can find, even though, I may be wiping a pig’s butt at the same time. I paint my nails, even though I know it will only last a day after working outside on the farm.
I am a girl. I am a farmer, and daily I practice feminine farming.
If you have not met Grover, here is our little Southdown/Leicester cross lamb.
Isn’t he just the cutest? I thought so too 🙂
Today Grover, like any lamb on our farm, got his tail docked. Docking a sheep’s tail is not simply for aesthetic reasons, it has health reasons too. It isn’t cruel, but rather, it is beneficial to the animal.
Why do we dock?
It isn’t because the tail looks a little funny, although, I must say, it does look funny.
If the tail was not docked, the wool that grows on the tail would become caked with feces and urine. This isn’t just gross when it comes to shearing time, but it also is unsanitary for the sheep and can cause irritation. In addition, docking also reduces the chances of fly strike, a painful condition caused by blowflies laying eggs in the fleece and the maggots burrow into the sheep’s flesh. The sheep often dies within a few days of fly strike occurring. Some studies have also shown that docking tails increases growth rates. For these reasons, we dock the lambs’ tails within the first week of life. Some sheep do not necessarily need to have their tails docked. Hair sheep, do not have the thick wool, and it does not pose as much of a problem.
How do we dock?
There are different ways to dock a lamb’s tail. We use an elastrator (we also use this to castrate).
The elastrator tool puts a thick rubber ring or band on the tail, cutting off blood circulation. Around 10 days later the tail falls off. It is inhumane to use the elastrator on older lambs, which is why it should be done after 24 hours old but not after 1 week. Another tool to dock is an electric docker.
This tool cuts and cauterizes the tail simultaneously. It can be done in older lambs, but it is still best to do it on young lambs.
Are there negatives of docking?
Yes, if done incorrectly. It is important when docking lambs to not make the tail too short. If the tail is too short, it increases the chances of a rectal prolapse.
Does it hurt?
A little. The younger the lamb, the less stress it causes, though. When we put the band on Grover’s tail, he did a little butt wiggle, and went straight back to mom. He acted like nothing was wrong. We have had some lambs be a little more sensitive, and act like there is something on their butt, which there is. They are always fine within the hour, though.
Is docking tails inhumane?
No, it is not. I have read where some people think that farmers have bred sheep to be unnatural in their wool production, and that is the only reason that we have to dock tails. While there are different breeds that have various kinds of wool, sheep naturally have wool. Farmers did not breed sheep to have an excess of wool. Those in the wild, do not have the same type of fiber as a domestic sheep, and do not even need to be sheared. For thousands of years, sheep have needed to been shorn for their fleece. It isn’t a new phenomenon caused by selective breeding. Farmers breed for quality of wool and quantity, but regardless of the quantity, any amount of wool on the tail will cause unsanitary conditions. While docking may cause some discomfort, it is often no more uncomfortable than getting a vaccination shot.
Docking is beneficial to the lamb. It is not just for the farmer’s sake, but also the animals. Grover did not seem to mind one bit about his procedure. He didn’t cry or really squirm. I think he was more concerned that his mom was calling for him and we were touching his butt. He was just dandy.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, things happen anyway. It is like flu season. You do everything you can to not get sick by washing your hands and staying away from those who have it, and yet, you still get it, despite your best efforts.
Well, despite our best efforts with Miracle, she has hit another bump in the road. Remember how I told you that we put iodine on her umbilical cord to prevent navel ill? Sadly, our best efforts failed. After a visit to the vet yesterday, Miracle has been diagnosed with navel or joint ill. What does this mean, though, and how did we decide to take her to the vet?
We thought perhaps she had somehow sprained her knee, although the chances of that happening could only have been when she would slip as she ventured off the carpet or towels onto the vinyl. It was swollen and hot, and she wouldn’t put any weight on it. This was causing issues with her mobility as she couldn’t push herself up to a standing position by herself. She could get her butt up, but that’s it. Once we propped her up, she could stand, but was unable to walk. All of this occurred suddenly after she had been walking on her own. We made the command decision to take her to the vet as the weekend was approaching, and we were uncomfortable with her lack of mobility.
When we arrived at the vet, her temperature was 104 (goats are supposed to be around 101). The vet also stuck a needle in her knee to see if puss would come out–it did. They took her to the procedure room to drain the knee. She came back with a pretty gnarly looking knee (it has a drain stitched in). The vet sent us home with instructions to give her daily antibiotic shots, to keep her knee clean, and to come back on Tuesday to remove the drain. After all this, she was pretty exhausted and slept the rest of the day. The vet said only time will tell with her outcome.
One of the things that I have found important in raising livestock on the farm is to look at the whole picture. As much as I want to just look through the window that says that Miracle will be fine, I know I can’t do that. There is a whole other window that has a bleaker outlook, but is just as realistic. So what are we looking at in Miracle’s situation?
Navel ill is a bacterial infection that can travel, not only through the navel, but also through respiratory and GI ways. Because she got off to a weak start, she was probably more susceptible to getting some kind of infection. Navel ill can affect one joint or many. The fluid that accumulates in the joint often causes permanent damage to the joint. Right now, Miracle only has an infection in one joint. She has a better prognosis because we caught it early, and hopefully, the antibiotics will keep it from spreading to the other joints. We won’t know if or how much her knee is damaged for quite some time. She may always walk with a limp. Right now, our hope is to keep it from spreading to the other joints. If this happens, her chances greatly decrease.
The good news is, she is a fighter. She is still standing and amazingly will put some weight on her leg and take baby steps. Her appetite is certainly not diminished, and she has a pretty epic battle wound.
Sometimes our best efforts aren’t enough to prevent everything from happening. In the 13 years we have raised goats, I have never had this happen. Even though some efforts failed, there are plenty more efforts to give 🙂