First Sign of Spring on the Farm
A Lamb in Another Lamb's Clothing
A Lamb in Another Lamb's Clothing
Lambing season has begun. Ten to twenty lambs are born everyday on the West Kortright Church Road pasture. When look in on the flock every morning and evening, we have to match ewes with lambs and tag the lambs with the ewes' tag number - yellow tags for females and green tags for males. Sometimes lambs are lying in a jumble basking in the sun so we have to stir up the pile and observe which lambs seek out which ewes. When we arrived at the WKC pasture a few days ago, a lamb was outside of the electric fence (god knows how it got through the fence) trying to get back to her mom. We put her back over the fence and she ran to her mom. She must have been separated from her mom for a long time because her mom refused to take her back. The ewe stomped and snorted and nosed the lamb away. We scooped up the lamb and continued to search the pasture for more lambs. In the road end near the pond, was a ewe with a dead lamb next to her. The lamb never made it out of the amniotic sac. By the end of the morning, we had ten lambs, a ewe without a lamb and an orphan lamb. An orphan lamb is called a bummer lamb. I am not sure where the term originates but it is a real bummer to bottle feed a lamb three times a day for 12 weeks. Sometimes a ewe will accept a lamb that is not hers under the right conditions. The trick is to make the lamb smell like the ewe who lost her lamb. We made a coat for the bummer lamb. We skinned the dead lamb and made a hole for the tail and plastered it to the bummer lamb and put the lamb in with the ewe. She smelled the lamb with the lamb coat for a long time. We waited anxiously to see if it would nurse. Success! Once the lamb nurses, its poop smells like the ewe and she will accept it. Two days later, the coat is off the lamb and the lamb is happily with her adopted mom.
Broiler versus Layer Chick
Chickens for eating are called broilers and chickens for eggs are called laying hens or layers. Both sets of chicks are five weeks old. The broilers are ready to harvest at eight weeks and the layers will be ready to lay eggs at 20 weeks. A layer chick is called a poulet until she starts to lay eggs.
The chicks will be moved out of their heat box and onto pasture this week. Metal portable shelters (they look like small Quonset huts) are used to keep them dry, out of the sun and safe from hawks. However, the big move to pasture presents risks. If it is too cold or too wet, the chicks pile in the shelters and die. Hawks are their biggest threat - they often swoop into the huts and pick off chicks one by one. The dogs provide some protection from predator hawks. The broilers will be harvested on the farm in a few weeks and they will be available fresh at the May farmers markets. Fresh chickens will be at the markets and in our farm store every week until mid October. The profit from broilers, even at $4.50 lb, is very slim due to large piling and predator losses and the labor that goes into raising chickens.
Bunnies in a Box
Each of the breeding does has a litter. The youngest litter is two weeks old. A first-time doe had 11 babies but the kindling box was too small so she threw out five of them. Unfortunately, she did it in the middle of the night so they did not survive. The oldest bunnies are four weeks old. They are active in their cages, hopping in and out the kindling box and eating pellets and grass.
Goats on Pasture
After a long winter of hay and baleage, the goats travel to the back pasture for the first of the season's grass. They graze non-stop for the first few hours and then collapse with drowsiness from the weight of the grass digesting in their rumens and the feel of the sun on their backs. They wait at the fence at the end of day and are ready to go back to the dairy barn for milking. Electric netting powered by solar batteries is moved from pasture to pasture with the goats and sheep.
Two years ago we decided not to disbud (remove the horns) from the dairy goats. We changed our minds after a few mishaps with horns and milk stands, fencing and our faces. These sisters use their horns advantageously and butt all the other goats away from the choice spots of grazing and the water tank.
Farm DogsTom, Denise, Katey, Shane and Susannah (she's back!)