Fact Filled Friday: Scrapie Tags *Bonus-Funny Story Included*


scrapieYesterday we took 4 animals (2 sheep and 2 goats) to the stockyard to be sold. While the story of getting them on the trailer has nothing to do with the purpose of this post, it is too funny not share, so I’m going to to go off track a bit.

Funny, irrelevant tangent:Our old large buck can be hard to handle. Not in the fact that he is aggressive, but in that he isn’t the friendliest fellow. He likes to be left alone, and is therefore, hard to catch. Well, it just so happened that he was snoozing in one of the shelters, so I rushed to block the entryway to trap him inside. Alec brought me a fence panel to lock him in. The shelter he was in is a grain bin cut in half, and we humans have to do a duck walk to get in there. So here we are– Alec, a 200 pound buck, and me blocking them both inside to duke it out. Alec grabbed the buck’s horns, and when he did, the buck bolted. He began to run in circles with Alec spinning on his butt like a spinning top, holding onto the buck’s horns. It was a funny sight to be sure. I tried videoing it, but was not nearly as coordinated as I needed to be (sorry, no video). The next step was to let the two wrestlers out of the shelter. The buck was pushing with all his might, and Alec still did not have his footing. I grabbed one horn and the buck’s beard, but at this point the buck and Alec were all sorts of tangled, Alec had to let go, and the buck and I went running. Alec yelled for me to let go; however, I’m a bit stubborn, so I held on until Alec got there. We both escorted him to the trailer. Phew!

OK, back on track… before leaving for the stockyard, we had to make sure that all the animals we were selling had scrapie tags. It is required that goats and sheep have scrapie tags so that if they were to come down with scrapie disease, they could be tracked down to their place of origin. The tag not only has a number that represents that individual animal, but it also has a longer number that represents the farm from which they came. Ours looks something like this:


Not all tags are scrapie tags and an animal can have more than one tag, but a scrapie tag is a must have. Why is this scrapie tag system so important? Well, scrapie disease is a very serious matter. It is the goat/sheep version of mad cow disease. It is degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system that is fatal. There are only two countries that do not have scrapie–Australia and New Zealand. In 1947, scrapie entered the United States through a Michigan flock of sheep. In 2001, the USDA started an aggressive program to help eradicate scrapie. Since that time, scrapie has been reduced by 85% in the US! This has been accomplished through the identification program as well as other measures. According to the National Scrapie Education Initiative, the program includes:

  • Identification of pre-clinical infected sheep through live-animal testing and active slaughter surveillance.
  • Effective tracing of infected animals to their flock/herd of origin made possible as a result of the new identification requirements.
  • Providing effective cleanup strategies that will allow producers to stay in business, preserve breeding stock, and remain economically viable. USDA/APHIS will do this by providing the following to exposed and infected flocks/herds that participate in cleanup plans:
    1. Indemnity for high risk, suspect, and scrapie positive sheep and goats, which owners agree to destroy,
    2. Scrapie live-animal testing,
    3. Genetic testing, and
    4. Testing of exposed animals that have been sold out of infected and source flocks/herds.

As you can see, this is serious business. At the stockyard that we brought the animals to, there is a sign that says all sheep and goats unloaded must have a scrapie tag by USDA regulations. stock

As a farm, we tag anything that goes off of our property. Interestingly, not all states have the same regulations. North Carolina does not require tags for animals that are wethers (castrated male) and animals less than 12 months of age going directly to slaughter; however, other states make no exceptions to tags. Regardless, it is important to not only be aware of your state regulations, but to follow them. In this way, we can help eradicate scrapie in the United States. There have been huge strides made in the last 14 years, and it is up to us farmers to continue those strides.

And that is your fact for this Friday.

A World Without Ag Wednesdays: Wheat

My favorite crop is wheat. Not only because it is one of the prettiest to me, but also because of what it produces. Without wheat, Olive Garden would be obsolete. Poof! Say good-bye to pasta and breadsticks. It is a very sad picture, no doubt. So, not only is it a picturesque crop, but it is also responsible for some pretty yummy things.

All around my house, they have begun to harvest the dried wheat. Many farmers burn the fields after the grain has been harvested to improve the soil.  Wheat is pretty popular in America as it is the primary grain used in US grain products. It is grown in 42 states with Kansas ranking at the top, producing enough wheat to make 36 million loaves of bread and enough to everyone in the world for about 2 weeks. That is a ton of amber waves of grain.

wheat3Past and Present of Wheat

Wheat originated in what is now Iraq and was first planted in America (1777) as a hobby crop. Now there are thousands of varieties of wheat that are separated into 6 categories:

  1. Hard Red Winter (HRW)
  2. Hard Red Spring (HRS)
  3. Soft Red Winter (SRW)
  4. Hard White (HW)
  5. Soft White (SW)
  6. Durum

The different types of wheat have special qualities. The red wheats have a distinctive flavor–nutty or earthy. The white wheats are sweeter. The harder wheats are great for pizza doughs, soft rolls and croissants even though they are harder to grind. although the soft red winter are easier to grind, they have lower protein levels than their harder red counterparts. Often times, wheat is mixed into a unique blend to create the perfect flour that has the protein, flavor, and softness or hardness that is desired for whatever it is being made into. Cakes and pastries are made from the soft white as this wheat is the sweetest variety. Durum wheat is the hardest wheat and is used for the highest quality pastas and noodles. Italy uses only durum wheat. It is also has some of the highest protein. The different wheats are more commonly grown in various areas (e.g. Hard red winter is popular in Kansas and hard red spring is often grown in northern states towards Canada).

wheatWheat Facts

  • A bushel of wheat weighs around 60 pounds
  • A bushel of wheat produces roughly 42 pounds of white flour and 60 pounds of whole-wheat flour
  • There are more than 600 pasta shapes in the world
  • Traditional tortillas used ground corn. Flour tortillas were not introduced until the 19th century
  • A bushel of wheat makes about 210 servings of spaghetti
  • One bushel of wheat contains approximately one million individual kernels.
  • One acre of wheat produces 40 bushels of wheat
  • Wheat is a member of the grass family.

I don’t know about you, but all this talk of bread and pasta has got me hungry. Bring on the carbs!





Bucks and Trucks: More Than I Bargained For

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.

SOS...We need a tow
SOS…We need a tow

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. tow

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.buck 5

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.



buck 1



Moonlight illusions–Meet our newest addition

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.illy

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!


Sometimes, our best efforts fail

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 🙂



Bringing Home the Bacon

The highly anticipated show pigs are officially here!! I get extra excited about getting pigs, because, well they may be my favorite. Shhhh… don’t tell the others. I hate to play favorites, so I’ll just say I like them A LOT! They are, however, my favorite animal to photograph. They have such personality and are always doing something goofy. Check out this girl:

pig tongue

I told you they are hams (pun intended), but before I show you more of the photo shoot I had with the little porkers, I wanted to share with you the behind the scenes of bringing home the bacon.

A house that won’t blow down

When we first started showing pigs, we kept them in a dirt lot with a shelter. While this may sound like the perfect habitat for pigs, it really wasn’t. They rooted up the entire pen, creating craters that were begging for a twisted ankle. The pigs would get sunburnt from laying around, and it was a huge mess. So now, our pigs are kept on a concrete floor under a shelter. They have a bedding box, heat lamps for the cold, and a fan for the heat. Unfortunately, concrete floors mean we have to clean the poop everyday, but it is loads better than what we had before.

Before we could bring the pigs home, we had to clean and scrub the pen (sheep had been occupying it for a few months). We laid down fresh bedding and even built a new “wall”. By wall, I mean we put up a fabulous tarp to break the wind during the winter.

I’m pretty sure our toes and hands were frozen by the end of it, but it looked great. We had a house that wouldn’t blow down or be blown into.

What makes the bacon?

Of course, pigs don’t grow off of air. They have to have pig food. We get ours from a local mill that blends a special mixture of corn, vitamins, minerals, soybean meal, and more together to make a delicious meal. Alec ran to the feed store to pick up the sustenance for the pigs.


This little piggy went wee, wee all the way home…

Today was the day to pick up the pigs. Ahhhh!! I had already picked out the two pigs we were getting at a previous farm visit (if I don’t pick them out ahead of time, I have been known to take over an hour to pick one out). See Farms is about an hour from our house, and we have been getting pigs from them for about two years. We have typically had great success with them including two champion titles and a first place at NC State Fair. It helps that they are nice folks and live close by. All three of my brothers and I piled in the truck with trailer in tow to head to Raleigh, NC.


Once there, the Sees showed us the pigs as well as the new litter of pigs they had. They were gracious enough to let me snap a bunch of photos of all the pigs. I was able to capture some good ones like these:



baby piggiesLoading the pigs up into the trailer went pretty smoothly. One of the pigs was super loud, grunting the whole time, but she didn’t give any problems.


After loading them, I told Isaac that the money to pay for them was in the front seat of the truck. He ran to go get it and returned, handing the money to me. I told him, “Oh no. That isn’t for me. Give it to the Sees.” You know, teaching them young about business transactions (really, I think it just teaches them the sting of dropping a chunk of money).

The boys decided to name their two gilts (girl pig) Halo and Miss Bacon. When we arrived home, we unloaded them and ran them through the scales to determine their weight. In case you are curious they were 145 and 110 pounds.


We then let them into the pen, to which they explored contentedly. I commenced partaking in another photo shoot.

Bringing home the bacon is a little more than just picking up pigs. It includes tarps, frozen fingers, feed runs, photo shoots, and some money. It is all most definitely worth it! A big thanks to See Farms for these beautiful girls!

see farms