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Thanks to some nice weather, we finally got all of the pigs up to the new land.  Its been a long time coming.  5 months of wintertime kept us away.  They loaded on the trailer in less that 5 minutes.  They unloaded well.  The only hiccup was that we had to make a chute out of 1 strand of electric wire (not electrified) which ran 400′ and around a corner to their new paddock.  They moved fairly well however, one section was damp and they decided to have a brief wallow before walking the last 100′ to their home.  I was stuck pushing Charles (the young old spot) up the hill as he was taking his time and rooting and wallowing the whole way.  It was suprisingly un-stressful and it went quite smoothly.  They are now all settled in and loving it.

I love the grass...

I love the grass...

While watching them appreciate their new abode, I was able to get a few pictures of everyone.  I have a wonderful video of Newton (the red pig which is a tamworth boar) walking up to Ian and looking at him then laying down.  Newtown loves a good scratch on his belly and every time he sees Ian he knows he either gets food or a scratch.  If Ian doesn’t have a bucket Newton knows that means the scratching will commence so Newton gets ready by laying down.  If I can figure out whats up with the problem attaching video I’ll put it up sometime.

Most likely due to the nice weather, this weekend was the first time the piglets came out of their huts.  It is also the weekend when we got all of the piglets that we have castrated.  The castration on this batch seemed harder.  I’m thinking it was because the boys were stronger.  It is, however, amazing how quickly they get up an go after being castrated.  I think if I were a male and I had my testicles taken out, I would be so uncomfortable I wouldn’t be moving for a couple of days.  They mustn’t have felt that way because they were out wandering around within an hour.  The first hour was spent in the hut probably afraid to come out again for fear of what they would lose this time.

They're thinking..."Oh my god, not her again."

They're thinking..."Oh my god, not her again."

In addition to moving the pigs, we also got the some of the goats up to the new land as well.  They seemed settled in and are liking all of the browse.

We're loving the new scenery...

We're loving the new scenery...

Moving the housing for all of the animals proved to be difficult as the trailers that we have do not fit some of the housing that we had built prior to getting the new land.  We ended up having to use the handy, but very redneck looking truck cap housing for the boars.  The goats got the A-frame since the large goat house would not fit onto anything.   This means we have a wonderfully large dog house that we need to revamp.

The dug spring

The dug spring. Notice the old pipes in the bottom left hand corner.

In other good news, we found why we have a nasty wet section in one of the fields.  There is an old dug spring at the bottom of the hill.  I plan to check the rate of flow this week to get an idea if it will be worthwhile working on it to use for livetock water.  I’m thinking it will be worthwhile by the looks of things.

Where the spring runs out into field

Where the spring runs out into field

We also got the chance to start some plowing.  We got an older john deer 3 bottom plow from the spring consignment auction last year.  It works very well but now we need more implements.

My future veg garden.

My future veg garden.

The only nasty thing to happen this weekend was when one of my goats sucked my finger into her mouth and then bit it.  It happened so quickly I didn’t even get a chance to react.  it hurt like heck but its better now.  It just feels like I whomped it with a hammer.

Nasty Goat Bite

Nasty Goat Bite

Ever wonder why people charge so much for goats milk? Its because its a lot of work. Not only do you have to care for the animals which takes time, but the process itself is time consuming. Starting with washing your buckets and pails are meticulously clean the next step we do is to get the goats up on the stand and brush the goats down. This helps to loosen and brush away any dust or hairs on the goat to keep them from falling into the pail while milking. Next step is washing and drying the udder. Then we squirt the first milk from each teat into a strip cup. This is because the milk that has been in the teat since the last milking is higher in bacteria. You want to flush it out so you have the freshest milk possible and also to check to make sure the milk looks good, no clumps or lumps. Now its time to milk. Milking by hand is a rythmic squeezing of the teat. I liken it to tapping your fingers on a desk. After we have milked all of the milk from the udder we dip the teats and put mama back in with the babe. Its then into the house for storing the milk and washing up the equipment.

By the time you are done your hands are tired and achy until you get them used to the work. As our does are just freshening my hands have been killing me lately.

Johann 1 day old

I’m sure it is too early to really be saying this but it really felt like spring is in the air.  It was sunny and warm (50’s) and a great day for working outside.  Ian, however, is still ill.  I’m not 100% but he is like 20% and I’ve not seen him like this ever.  Needless to say we didn’t get all that we hoped to finished.

Our big plans were to finsih the frost seeding on Friday.  Get straw on Saturday and then go to Tidioute to visit the family.  Then today was to be spent puting in fenceposts.  However, Friday the fanbelt snapped on my old jeep while heading back to my work office.  Needless to say I didn’t make it back to work nor home in time to do the seeding.  Saturday we did pick up the straw.  It was the best straw we have found so far and we will definately get some from the gentleman if it is like that this summer.  We took all that he had which was around 30 bales.

After we got home from the Straw we had to wait for the dogs to get finished at the groomers.  We fed the animals and figured we’d start the seeding since we had a few hours to spare.  Well I managed to lock our jeep keys in the car.  Looking to see if we could find another set took up some time.  We ended up giving up before we got into an argument over the situation.

We did end up making it up to the land to do some seeding before we went to visit the family but I didn’t get much done.  We have never attempted to frost seed before so here is hoping that it works and will improve the pastures.  I chose red clover, timothy, and orchard grass and mixed them.  Doing any acreage with one of these hand crank models takes some time.  This however, is much cheaper at under $40 vs something to use on a tractor.  Plus you don’t end up with compaction of the ground this time of year. However, I don’t think I’d like to to it that way every year.  My arm is aching after it.

Around 3:30pm we finished up at the land, went and got the cockers and drove to PA.  The visit to Tidioute was good.  I do like going to see the family as often as possible.  Another benefit of going down is that my dad graciously made us a solar furnace out of pop cans.  We brought it home last night and put it up today.  I do believe it made a difference in the house.  Yesterday the outside temperature was about 40 and the furnace maxed out the thermometer at 150.

Other than working on setting up the furnace, we were able to finish the seeding today.  Instead of walking to finsh up the fields Ian drove the ATV and I tried several different positions trying to find the best way to sit so the spread would not hit any parts of the atv.  The hardest part was holding on and keeping balance while bumping around, cranking the handle and keeping the spreader in place.  I think we may have to invest in a spreader that we can attach to the atv for upcoming years.  Even driving I would say it took about 2 hours going back and forth with him driving and me cranking the spreader.  The darned pigs and goats better appreciate the work we do for them!

On a high note we were able to break into the jeep to get the keys out.  On a not so high note it was pretty easy to do it.  Thankfully the jeep not really theiving worthy.  Speaking of vehicles reminded me of our other vehicle issue.  I’ll try to type up our progressive insurance and autobody collision repair shop frustrations tomorrow because that is something that really isn’t making me happy now.  Needless to say if you have to get collision work done I wouldn’t recommend autobody collision in Warren PA.

Lastly, no kids or piglets yet.  We are still playing the waiting game.

The land prior to pigs

The land prior to pigs

Less than 24 hours of pigs on the ground

Less than 24 hours of pigs on the ground

Pigs on the land two full days

Pigs on the land two full days

Ian hating the mud...

Ian hating the mud...

Saturday the pigs arrived at the pasture land from our woods down the road.  Since then it has rained and rained and rained.  Today we had a break in the rain because it turned to snow.  It is supposed to rain Tuesday and Wednesday as well.  The animals and I are sooo not looking forward to it.  I guess its easy to forget how much mud hinders daily life on a farm.  I know I was sick of the snow and cold but overall having it cold and dry and frozen is easier on all of us than having wet and cold and mud.

Because of the mud I added more straw to the huts tonight as I wanted to make sure that the girls were able to keep cozy and dry.  Prior to getting the port-a-huts we always had huts with floors.  These proved to be terribly difficult to move and sanitize hence the port-a-huts.  However, when it comes to mud nothing beats a floor.  I figure we’ll need to add a bale every other day if the rain keeps up.  That way the ground builds up a straw pack keeping everything upabove the mud level.  I’ve recently bought  straw at 4.95 a bale because we needed it (hay just isn’t as good for bedding when its muddy plus the pigs eat a lot of it, leaving them with less bedding)  With the straw they are much less likely to eat it and it holds up better in the wet than does hay.  Luckily I found a man selling hay for $2 a bale.  I told him I’d take all he has.  This weekend we are getting the 50 bales he has figuring the money will be well spent.

We still don’t have a clue when the pigs will definately farrow.  Tomorrow is the full moon.  The girls are due anytime after the 12th.  I know I saw a boar mount each of the tamworths the day that they were put together.  I also saw one of the old spots breeding as late as January 18th.  This means that the piglets could start coming as early as the 12th by the math and then as late as April 13th.  Its always a waiting game this time of year.

Speaking of waiting, the goats are bagging up real well.  I still have two weeks until the scheduled kidding date for Riley one of the LaMancha does.  She will be a first freshener and is  due the 21st.  She has an udder that really impreses me.  This is my first time with dairy goats but I think she is looking huge.  Her ligaments are still really strong so I don’t expect her to kid soon.   I just don’t know how much larger an udder can get on a goat.  If it keeps going, in two weeks time it will be weigh as much as her!!!  Rileys udder 2 weeks to scheduled due date

Side view of the LaMancha udder 2 weeks till due date

Side view of the LaMancha udder 2 weeks till due date

Image from Stardate.org and excellent resource

As I’ve discussed a bit already, we have goats and pigs that are due to give birth within the next few weeks. The sows were exposed to a boar back in December and they should start farrowing around the 11th. The Goats are officially due the 15th and the 21st. Tonight when I went outside I noticed how bright the moon is. This got me wondering when the full moon will be. Well needless to say its the 10th which is Tuesday. Now here is my question. Will the animals give birth on the 10th? If any pigs do give birth they will be at minimum, a day early. The goats would be 6-11 days early. I’ve seen some reference to goats kidding in a 3 day window before or after the full moon. I know that the goats and 1 of the pigs udders are really filling out so the day is fast approaching.

In anticipation of the goats first pregnancy, I did get a chance to shave down the goat’s backsides in preparation with the new clippers we picked up tonight.

I’m also stocked up on supplies for the goat supplies as I want to be ready given this is their first freshening. The sows on the other hand are old hat at farrowing and they are more than capable of birthing on their own.

I’m sure all will go well. And I am interested to see if the phase of the moon will affect the animals.

In preparation for kidding to begin we borrowed my brother’s baby monitor.  We set the goats up in a pen in the garage instead of their normal, further away housing.  Now its waiting time.  Two are officially due the 3rd week of march.  Riley, one of the LaMancha goats, is bagging out and also looking pregnant.  The other LaMancha Missy, is still slim and has no signs of an udder.  Missy was supposed to be due around the 15th of March while Riley should kid around the 21st of March.  Soo either Missy hids a pregnancy well or she did not take.  One of the myotonics is also looking closer to kidding.  She was with a buck for nearly a month to make sure she was bred.  So now I have a date range but she is bagged out much further than any of them and her ligaments are looser than the other three.  Since I’m paranoid and with the crazy cold weather they are now closer to the house and in a nicer locale just in case they decide to go early.

Also on the pregnancy front, Fran, one of the Tamworth pigs looks pregnant as well.  Though all should be pregnant (including the Gloucestershire old spots)  From my calculations, if she “took” to the breeding she should be due some time around March 10th.  Thankfully we are going to get our new farrowing huts this Saturday so she will have a posh new place to have her piglets.  Though this hut worked well and we like it, the weight of it being made of wood is a definite drawback.  We are hoping that the new huts will be better in terms of the ability to move the hut as well as ease of cleaning between litters.

A 2008 litter of Tamworth Pigs coming out to enjoy a sunny day.

A 2008 litter of Tamworth Pigs coming out to enjoy a sunny day.

You know you are sad when…

Today we had to pass up a day out for lunch as well as a gun show with another couple in order to get things ready for the new goats that are coming in the next couple of weeks.  We spent most of the day today getting things ready for the upcoming kidding but also dring around to find CDT vaccine as everyone was due for their yearly booster shots anyway.  Well we finally found it in Corey PA and so when we got home everyone got their booster.  We also fluffed up and topped off straw in everyone’s houses and added more pine shavings to the chicken coop.  Just a note, the shavings from Tractor Supply that are in a clear bag are not packed tight and are not a good value for the money.  We were able to get much better coverage from the black bags at TSC than these new clear ones.  We bought 2 bags and they didn’t come close to covering what one used to cover.  Thankfully the sawmill will be up and running this summer becaue then we will be able to use our own shavings.

Oh and just so everyone knows, the weather is still crud.  Snow and cold and wind.  That being said everyone seems to be doing fine.  The pigs are as active as ever and the goats were active but cheesed off about their shots.  The chickens laid 9 eggs today and as many yesterday.  We still are not adding supplemental heat or lighting for them so I feel they are doing pretty well.   They are starting to come along nicely for this season and we could have 4-5 dozen available for sale a week now.  We had poached eggs for breakfast and they super tasty.  I’m thinking I may be doing some egg salad sandwiches this week.

Today I attended my first ever livestock auction.  Ian was sleeping since he worked overnight and I didn’t feel like spending the day at home.  I noticed that Sherman has its 3rd Saturday of the month auction so I decided what the heck I’ll drive out and give ‘er a go.

Any time we have purchased livestock in the past we bought directly from a breeder.  I’ve always been told that any animal that goes to auction is the sickest of the sick or terribly diseased.  That being said, most animals at the auction looked ok if not good.  A few calves had a poopy rear but they were active and bright eyed.  There was also what appeared to be a tamworth cross piglet that was just standing staring off into space.  If she was on our farm she probably would have been put down if she had been that way.  She just didn’t look or act right.  I definately wouldn’t have taken it to auction to further stress the poor thing.

Overall the auction was run much the same as a typical estate auction.  I made my mind up to not buy any animals while there.  I’ve always heard of horror stories about buying at auction.  I did however, pick up a couple of buckets and bowls for use with the animals here at the farm.

The auction ran from about 10:00am until nearly 5pm.  The first several hours were mainly tack items.  There were few things that I wanted since we don’t have horses here at our farm.  After the tack and miscellaneous, they then moved on to poultry and rabbits, guinea pigs and ferrets.  After than it was goats, pigs, cows and finally hourses.

To get an idea of the prices that animals fetched here in SWNY and NYPA I’ll give a brief run down.

Turkeys – appeared to be royal palm hens $40-47 each
Rabbits – $6-15 each (one guy bought just about every rabbit)
Guinea Pigs – $2-3 each
Buck Goats $80-90
A doe that looked in milk – $100
Other does $60-65
Cross breed steer calf – $55
Heifer Holstein calf – $60
Holstein Bull Calf – $10-22.50
Jersey Bull Calf – $7.50-15
Bred Sow probably yorkshire cross – $160
Feeder Guilts approx 300# = $165
Weaner pigs – $35

Horses I didn’t write down the prices because I really have no clue one horse for another.  One that stuck out in my head was a bred halflinger mare $385.  There were a lot of broke horses good for trail rides but many many went unsold.

What suprised me was that the goats went for so much.  For cross bred auction goats I wouldn’t have touched them with a 10’ pole for fear of CL or any other number of insidious diseases that don’t always make animals look ill.  I was also suprised to see guinea pigs and pigeons…oh and a ferrett.

Overall, I really would have expected more animals.  The bulk of the auction was non-livestock.  By the 50th halter I was ready to need a bit for myself.  Despite this it was a worthwhile day.  I learned a bit and I talked with some very nice folks.

I kinda wish I would have spent the money on the steer and bull calves and given them a go.  I don’t think I would have bought a heifer at auction for fear that it would be a freemartin but going did open my mind to the auctions.  It didn’t, however,  break me of all of my fears.  Now that I’m home my carharts are in the sanitary wash and my boots will be getting a scrub in disinfectant.  I my not taking any risks with my livestock just in case there was something catchy there.

Our Lamanchas are the quiet goats on the farm. They are typically very friendly as well. They can be troublesome however, especially when they find out where you hide the goat treats.

There's a goat in my pocketEating treats

I just thought I’d share these pictures from yesterday as they are too cute not to share.

On another note, tonight Ian had to do the feeding on his own because it was my late night at work. Everything went well, no atvs ended up buried in snow. I’m pretty sure that it was because he plowed the paths, not because he is a better driver.  Thats what I’m telling myself.