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Introduction to the Cavy (Guinea Pig)

January 30, 2017

Cavies are intelligent, interesting pets. They originated in South America and were first brought to Europe in the 16th Century. The second word in their scientific name, Cavia porcellus, means ‘little pig’ in Latin. Contrary to popular opinion, cavies are more closely related to chinchillas and porcupines than to rodents such as rats, mice or squirrels.

Cavies are most commonly known as Guinea Pigs. They have been extensively studied in the laboratory so there is plenty of data available on their diseases, reproduction and normal physiology. Scientists like Louis Pasteur began experimenting on cavies in the 1870’s. Over time, millions of cavies have been used to research nutrition, pharmacology, allergies, genetics and other research projects that have benefited mankind. Compared to other laboratory animals, cavies have the reproductive system that is most similar to humans.

Terminology:

Adult Male: Boar

Adult Female: Sow

Baby: Pup

Boar Size: 900-1200g

Sow Size: 700-900g

Birth weight: 70-100g

Average Lifespan: 4-5 yrs

Normal Vital Signs:

Heartrate: 240-280 beats per minute

Respiration rate: 60-90 breaths per minute

Temperature: 102.2°F - 104°F

Notes on Vital Signs:

The heartrate can be felt by placing your fingers on the cavy’s chest, just behind its elbow.

Respiration rate can be seen by carefully watching the cavy’s flanks, though this is difficult.

Normal body temperature can vary 2-3° from that of other cavies. So it is important to know the normal temperature of your particular cavy.

Heat Cycle Length: 15-17 days

Gestation period: Approximately 63 days

Litter Size: 2-5 with an average of 3

Cavy Care

Cavies require a similar environment to humans. They are susceptible to heat and cold and need to be kept in a draft free environment. If the cavy lives in the home with humans, it will usually thrive well because if the family is comfortable, the cavy is usually comfortable as well. The larger the cage, the better as they like to exercise. Cavies can also run around on the floor, but they need to be watched to ensure they don’t get into something that will hurt them. They can sometimes be litter trained, but not as successfully as rabbits.

Commercially available feed is sufficient for cavies, however they should be fed fresh fruits and vegetables regularly. Cavies aren’t able to produce their own vitamin C, so without fresh foods, they can become deficient. They also like good quality dry hay, both to eat and burrow in. Pelleted feed should be fed in a heavy dish they can’t tip over and they should be watered with a water bottle. Any feeding equipment should be kept clean. Utensils can be washed with soap and water, then rinsed well.

Common Diseases

Cavies tend to be healthy creatures that rarely get a disease; however, there are a few common problems that cavies encounter such as fungal infections, external parasites, bumblefoot, and pregnancy toxaemia.

Mycosis

Mycosis is the name used for a variety of fungal skin infections that cavies can get. These infections can also be transmitted to humans. They are rarely serious in humans or cavies. Cavies are more prone to fungal infections in the spring and summer. Their coat will get greasy and the hair tends to fall out. They will also have heavy dandruff, often around the jaws and top of the head. Affected cavies will scratch often, sometimes to the point of causing lesions on the skin. If untreated, continued scratching of these lesions will cause the cavy to have fits almost like seizures. It is unlikely that the cavy will die from a fungal infection. I have treated these infections by mixing a few drops of tea tree oil with vegetable oil and rubbing this into the skin, focusing on the areas with heavy dandruff. After leaving the oil in for 1-3 days, I shampoo it out with anti-dandruff shampoo, or just regular shampoo if I don’t have the anti-dandruff kind. This has always cleared up the infection.

Mites

Cavies can get external parasites such as mites and lice. The cavy will get small bald patches and the lice will be visible running around on the body. They can be treated with subcutaneous injections of dewormer, or a flea dust. Anti-parasitic shampoos can also be used. As a general rule, anything that is safe for use on cats, is safe for cavies, but you should always consult a vet before using a drug on your cavy.

Pregnancy Toxemia

Prevention is better than cure as cavies rarely recover from pregnancy toxemia. Toxemia occurs in late pregnancy, often to overweight sows. It also can occur in sows carrying a lot of babies. The cause of toxemia isn’t fully understood, though this condition could be loosely compared to Preeclampsia in humans. Symptoms include severe lethargy and loss of appetite. Often the babies are dead, and this can be confirmed by holding the sow and feeling for movement. The sow can be encouraged to eat and can be given fluids with an eyedropper. If she is close to her due date and her pelvic bones are open, a vet can give oxytocin to attempt to stimulate contractions and get the babies born. To prevent pregnancy toxemia, it’s important to keep sows from getting fat and to feed a high quality diet rich in vitamin C and Calcium. Alfalfa is a good source of nutrients for a pregnant cavy.

Bumblefoot

This is a condition where the footpad swells, then the skin breaks and scabs form. The cavy will limp, but this isn’t a serious condition. Usually it will heal on its own, but if it doesn’t, a fungal problem should be suspected.

Breeding Cavies

There are a few important things to know when breeding cavies. A cavy pup is born fully furred with its eyes open. They look like very tiny adults. They can eat solid food their first day, though they will nurse from their mother for 3-4 weeks.

Female cavies MUST be bred so they have babies before 1 year of age. Some experts say they must have babies before 6 months. The reason for this is that the cavy’s pelvic bones will fuse together around 1yr of age and make it impossible to deliver the babies. Females should weigh at least 500g before being bred as being any smaller might result in complications.

Cavy gestation lasts approximately 63 days, and the sow will have the entire litter in 5-30 minutes if everything is normal.

Sounds a Cavy Makes

Wheeping: This is the most common cavy sound and usually means they want food. Most cavies learn to recognize the sound of the fridge door opening and will ask for treats.

Shrieking: This sound means the cavy is either hurt, or scared.

Purring and Rumbling: This sound is similar to a cat purring. This sound is used for courtship and friendship. When it escalates to rumbling, it means one cavy is mad at another.

Animal Profiles: Esther

January 19, 2017

Esther is one of our oldest Holstein milking cows. She was born in January 7, 2003, so she's just over 14 years old. She was a 4-H Calf in 2003, though she totally had a mind of her own. Most calves catch on to halter training really quickly. With Esther, it wasn't that she didn't understand how to lead, it was that she didn't want to. Instead of walking, she'd just take off and run back to the barn, dragging whoever was trying to lead her with her.

She had a stall mate named Ashley, and they were shown together at a few local fairs.

As a cow, Esther has had 9 calves, and milked with no problems. She's a quiet cow that is fairly easy to work with, unless you want to lead her.

A few years ago, she was looking amazing, and we wanted to wash her up as if she was at a show again, and take her outside for some posed photos. I expected her to lead fine, now that she was a mature cow, so I put the halter on her, turned her around and was going to just calmly lead her out of the barn so I could wash her. She walked about ten feet before smashing me into the wall, and turning to run out the back door. It was just like old times. She's not mean, she's just sneaky. So needless to say, the professional pictures never got taken.

Esther is almost always the first cow into the barn when it's time for milking. She's the type of cow we wish we had more of.

 

An Introduction to Peacocks

January 18, 2017

 

Peacocks are one of the many types of poultry that we have on our farm. They make all kinds of crazy noises, but also add a lot of beauty to the farm. 

The Peafowl is a type of poultry from the family Phasianidae. These are the birds with the beautiful iridescent blue and green feathers. Many people call the entire species ‘Peacocks’, but the reality is, only the males are Peacocks, the females are called ‘Peahens’ and the chicks are called ‘Peachicks’ or just chicks.

Adults weigh 9-13lbs and can eat a varied diet of plant leaves, flowers, seeds and various insects. In captivity, they are usually fed a commercially available game bird ration that is suitable for turkeys. Newly hatched Peachicks need a 30% protein starter. Once the birds are 4-5 weeks old, they can be transitioned to a 26% grower ration. Adults can be fed a variety of different grains; however, if good breeding is desired, it’s advisable to feed them a well balanced game bird breeder ration, starting one month prior to the planned breeding season.

Yearling male Blue India 

Sounds

Peacocks make very shrill noises, particularly during mating season. For Peacock breeders, this is usually not an annoyance, but some more populated areas might not allow Peacocks because of the noise.

One of their common noises almost sounds like the bird is calling 'Help!'. My family has raised Peacocks for many years and once had a neighbor run to our house thinking one of the kids had been injured. The noise was just the Peacock.

Housing

In the wild, Peafowl prefer to spend time in low brush and roost in trees at night. Even though they are a large bird, they fly fairly well. To keep Peafowl in captivity, a strong pen that is 20’x10’ with 7’ tall sides is ideal for a trio. When a Peacock is full grown, his tail could end up being 8’ wide and up to 6’ tall, so he needs lots of space.

The Tail

A male Peafowl will take three years to fully grow his tail. He will then molt his tail annually. This allows us to collect those beautiful feathers for decorative use. We use the term tail to describe the huge fan of feathers that the male peacock has; however, he actually only has about 20 true tail feathers (known as retrices). The beautiful feathers are actually tail coverts. The average peacock has over 100 tail coverts. The large ‘tail’ is better known as a ‘train’ in the peacock world.

The train is for courtship, and a Peacock will only fan his tail when he feels like it. He won’t do it on command as much as humans might wish he would.

The Species

The name Peafowl includes two Asiatic species, the Indian Blue, and the Green. There is also one African Species, the Congo Peacock. The various species are native to India, Burma, Java, Ceylon, Malaya and Congo.

Breeding

Only healthy birds with good colour, and excellent feet and legs should be used for breeding. Some Peafowl have crooked toes. These should not be used for breeding.

One Peacock can be mated to up to five hens. It’s ideal to have two or more hens with each Peacock.

Black Shouldered Peacock and his hen. 

Hatching

Sometimes a Peahen will lay 6-10 eggs then sit on them. This isn’t a very reliable way of hatching eggs, because if the hen is scared, she will probably leave her nest and not come back.

Artificial incubators are a good way to hatch fertile eggs. To insure the best chance to hatching, don’t put more than 5 Peahens with one Peacock. Keep the birds well fed and in a clean, comfortable environment. Collect the eggs daily and store them in a cool, but not cold place (50-60 degrees is ideal) for a maximum of 7 days. Either turn the eggs daily, or place them in a carton with one end elevated slightly, turn the carton so the other end is elevated once per day.

Peafowl eggs should be incubated at the same temperature as turkeys. An exact temperature is not listed here because different incubator models may vary slightly. Check your incubator manual for information.

Peafowl will hatch after 28 days of incubation. As with other poultry, they should stay in the incubator for approximately 24hours. They will have enough nutrients from their egg yolk to last this long without food or water. They should be removed to a heated brooder that has a non-slip floor. Lining the floor with a material like burlap can help. Use a thermometer to check the temperature at the height of the chick’s back. The temperature should be 90-95 degrees for the first week, then reduced by 5 degrees each week after that. By 7-8 weeks, they will have all their feathers and won’t need heat. At this point, they can be moved to housing suitable for adult birds.

History

Peafowl are popular in ancient history. The Phonecians were supposedly the first group to import the birds when they brought Peafowl to the Pharoah’s in Egypt. King Solomon referred to Peacocks in a list of valuables, including gold and silver. Alexander the Great imported them to Greece in 300 B.C. Peafowl were recorded in France, Germany and England by the 14th century.

Peafowl were a symbol of immortality in the Middle Ages. Before going into battle, knights would say the ‘Vow of the Peacock’ with their hand extended over a roasted peacock. They would put a feather in their helmet to remember the vow.

Some countries have considered Peacocks sacred, others considered them a delicacy and served them as a sign of wealth.

Exposing Milk Ingredients

January 17, 2017
​When you go to the store to buy milk, you probably assume it came from a cow that lived on a dairy farm. For the most part, this is going to be true, but you should be aware that there are products out there that are masquerading as milk, but are not actually milk. I'm not talking about almond milk, and other milk alternatives, but rather products that are advertised as cow's milk, but are actually something else... If you aren't a savvy shopper, you might buy a milk product that is not all milk, but actually something called modified milk ingredients.
 

Milk Ingredients are Easy to Import
 

The amount of fluid milk and cream that can be imported into Canada is limited. Modified milk ingredients are a different story. Some manufactures of milk products are trying to save money by using less milk in their products. It is now possible to make so called dairy products without any fluid milk at all.
 
Consumers need to be aware that a product that used to be a milk product may not be now. Food processors have come up with other ways to create food that seems like a milk product but is actually made with modified milk ingredients and other non-milk ingredients.
 

Sleuthing Ingredient Labels
 

To tell if a product is a real milk product or not, read the product label and look for Milk or Cream as the first ingredient.
 
Watch for words like: Skim milk powder, Milk protein concentrates, Milk protein isolates, Casein, Caseinates, Whey protein concentrates. These products were initially part milk but are now modified milk ingredients, a substance that can be imported in any amount from anywhere. They are not a Canadian dairy product. Most of the modified milk ingredients used in Canada are imported from Australia or New Zealand though some does come from Europe and the US.
 
Also watch for Butteroil-sugar blend. This is another type of modified milk ingredients. It is made from mixing modified milk ingredients with sugar. It is thereby classed as a confectionary confectionery product which can be imported in any amount. Manufacturers use names such as Frozen Dessert and Chocolate milk beverage to try to make consumers think they're still getting a pure milk product when the reality is, if it doesn’t say milk on the label, it’s not made from pure milk and likely isn’t even Canadian.
 

Fat Free Might Not Be Best
 

So that’s a brief of explanation on modified milk ingredients. Here’s another thought: fat free and low fat milk products may not be good for you. Besides the fact that people do actually need a certain amount of saturated fat every day, you might be surprised at the contents of a so-called low fat product.
 
Sour Cream and Cottage Cheese, for instance, seem to have more fluid milk in the whole version than the low-fat, no-fat counterparts. The reality is, despite the fat-free food craze, some low fat dairy products might actually be unhealthier than the full fat version. Something has to make up for the taste lost by removing the fat and when that is sodium, sugars or un-identifiable ingredients such as modified milk ingredients, maybe we’re better off with moderate amounts of full fat dairy products.
 

A Taste Test
 

Several years ago when modified milk ingredients were becoming really popular in dairy products, myself and some friends taste tested some real ice cream, and some ice milk. There were six of us in all, and we all noticed that the ice milk tasted much saltier. When we actually read the label, we found that the ice milk contained nearly TWICE the sodium of the regular ice cream! We also noticed that the ice milk was more gritty than creamy. Though I suppose it’s hard to expect a creamy product from a concoction that contains no cream.
 

So Called 'Dairy Beverage'
 

Another sneaky product on the market when I did this research, was Chocolate Dairy Beverage. This is a substance made by adding other ingredients to skim milk. It tastes chalky and watery compared to real chocolate milk. I first researched these products a few years ago, when this product was just coming out. I was glad to find out that it wasn’t as common as I had first believed, and I have to admit that I have not seen any for sale in awhile, though I assume it’s still out there in some grocery stores. The only difference between some brands of 1% Chocolate Milk and Chocolate Dairy Beverage is the wording on the carton. Otherwise, it looks the same.
 
The Little Blue Cow
 
The Little Blue Cow is a symbol on Canadian Milk Products. Look for it on packaging and know that you will be choosing a high quality product if you choose the Little Blue Cow.
 
 

Conclusion
 

The foods you choose to purchase and consume are entirely your choice; however, I think it’s important for people to make informed decisions and realize that, just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, an initial glance at a food carton may not tell the whole story. In this day and age of constantly trying to cut costs, cheaper ingredients are becoming more popular, sometimes at the expense of our health.
 
Next time you go to the grocery store, comparison shop some ingredient labels and find out what’s really in the food you want to purchase.

Geraniums: Sun or Shade?

November 15, 2016

These two Geraniums are different colors, but they live in the same size of pot, and came from the same 'end of season sale' ($0.99!) in late spring this year. 

The difference is that one on the right has always lived inside on the bathroom counter. The other spent the summer outside on the porch with some potted tomatoes. So what I'm trying to figure it, is why the one inside grew so big, but didn't flower, when the one that was outside, grew a flower, but didn't grow and more plant. 

I guess Geraniums normally like full sun, but can live in partial shade too. The one on the bathroom counter would've gotten a lot of warmth, but not much direct sun (though the bathroom is very bright during the day). The outside Geranium had direct sun most of the time, and was watered regularly when I watered the other flowers out there.

So, I've done some research, but I'm still pretty much baffled. Guess we'll see how they do this winter in the same location.

 

Where do you get your facts from?

November 10, 2016

So we're done our first weekend at the Royal Winter Fair. It was a good weekend. We started by visiting some friends that we know in Toronto, then headed to the fair Sunday morning for the Youth Goat Show. Matthew placed 6th in Senior Showmanship, and 2nd in the Nubian goat class. 

The nice thing about the Youth Goat Show is that you are allowed to network with a breeder who is already showing in the open show, and show one of their goats in the Youth Show. We were really thankful to be able to borrow this Nubian from Shar-Lynn farm. 

The Royal made some drastic changes in set up this year, all of which I think were really good. They have adjusted the Ring of Excellence so it's in a slightly different location, and much bigger than it used to be. They had also made the showring where the sheep, goats and hogs showed a lot more user friendly. 

Agricultural displays were excellent as usual, with the goal of educating urban consumers about where their food comes from. Unfortunately, many urban people don't bother to interact with the displays. This is sad because this is the one time of the year where veterinarians, industry leaders, and the farmers themselves are more than willing to talk to people and answer their questions. Instead, some people just want to take pictures and post them online with their own opinions attached. 

Because this is Canada, and a free country, they are entitled to their own opinion, which is amazing, but it's important for the people who are later reading these posts online, to check the facts behind them. I don't know the exact statistics, but I have heard that a lot of shared Facebook posts are actually never clicked on. People see a headline, get emotional about it, and share it to their 500 friends without seeing if it's actually legit. This is pretty sad. 

With the US Election this week, we saw a lot more negative media coverage. I was really saddened by our own CBC's seeming need to just push their own agenda instead of simply reporting facts in the manner you'd expect from the news media. 

When we were at the Farm Smart Conference in Guelph back in January, we had the privilege of listening to the keynote speaker, who just happened to be Dr. Temple Grandin. She stressed how important it is to network with those around us and work to understand their point of view, but also do our part to explain the truth to them when they don't understand us.  She encouraged us to get out of our silos and be aware of what is going on around us. She was speaking of the agriculture industry for the most part, but this would apply to other areas of life too. She mentioned how young consumers get facts from social media. feelings and shared values not facts. 

So I ask you, did you check the facts behind the article you just shared on Facebook. Could the picture you just posted be mis-interpreted by someone who doesn't understand your industry, whatever it is? Are you willing to dialogue in a civil manner with those who aren't from your 'silo', but are genuinely interested in what you have to say? Are you able to politely deal with a hostile person who disagrees with you? 

And on a more personal note, do you know where to ultimately get the right facts? The media is very rarely that place. When you need real, accurate information, you need to go to the source. This means seeking out real experts, not just Facebook friends or the latest news article. 

Never be afraid to ask hard questions, just make sure you're asking them of the right people. 

Treats for Your Rabbit

October 27, 2016

 

 

At our farm, we really don't feed a lot of treats to the rabbits. Their diet is probably 98% rabbit pellets that are formulated for us by our vet and delivered in bulk direct from the Masterfeeds Elevator in Cavan. Rabbit pellets are the best nutrition for rabbits. They provide everything they need, and won't get them fat the way other treats can. I also feed my rabbits hay on occasion, and sometimes dandelions, or some watermelon rinds if we have watermelon. That's rare though. For the most part the vegetable scraps go to the guinea pigs instead. 

That being said, if you just have one or two rabbits, treats are something you probably want to feed. Whether it's for training purposes (I never use food rewards for training my rabbits, but I know some people do), or just to spice up the diet, treats can be fun to feed. The key is to feed them in moderation, and to be careful what you feed. Some foods are very harmful to rabbits. 

There are many rabbit treats commercially available at pet stores and in the pet section of the big box stores. You may wonder if it’s a good idea to be feeding these treats to your rabbit, or if it’s better to just feed fresh fruits and vegetables.

A treat is just that, a treat. As long as a commercial treat is fresh, it is probably safe to feed in very limited amounts. In reality, even fruits and vegetables should be fed as treats in addition to a healthy diet of good quality pellets and lots of fresh hay.

Pellets do have a shelf life, so try to buy feed that has a manufacturing date, or best by date. Don’t buy feed that is more than a month old, and try to use up a bag of pellets within 3 months of it being manufactured. As long as they are not musty, they will still be safe for awhile longer, but the nutritional value will be lower. Never feed mouldy, musty, or insect infested feed. Ideally use a J-style feeder that attaches to the outside of the cage. This way, you can quickly fill the feeder from outside, and it will be harder for the rabbit to get the feed dirty. Always discard soiled feed and replace it with fresh.

Any food changes should be made slowly. You should also use caution when offering your rabbit a new treat because too much all at once might cause a digestive upset. At first they may not recognize a new treat as food, and might ignore it. Give them a small amount, and remove the leftover after a few hours so it doesn’t spoil.

Every rabbit has its likes and dislikes. Learn what type of foods your rabbit likes, and you’ll be able to use treats as a way to bond your rabbit, or as a training reward.

 

Fruit Treats

 

Here are some ideas on what types of fruits your rabbit might like:

Apples (and apple tree branches)

Pears

Oranges (and the peel)

Bananas

Peaches

Grapes (with the stems)

Strawberries

Watermelon, Cantaloupe, and Honey Dew Melons (with the rind). I often eat a piece of watermelon myself, then give the rind to my rabbit. Feed melons very sparingly. They can cause diarrhoea because of the high water content.

Raspberries and Blackberries and bramble stems

 

Vegetables and Greens

 

Stock photo from pixabay

Lettuce. Dark green lettuces are best. Some people say iceberg lettuce can cause bloat in rabbits, and this is possible, however, I have fed iceberg lettuce to my cavies for many years and have never had a problem. I am not sure if this would be the same case with rabbits, so it is probably best to stick with dark green lettuce, which will also have a much higher nutritional value than iceberg lettuce.

Broccoli and Cauliflower florets and stalks

Celery. Celery is something that can be fed to rabbits and cavies, but is probably best avoided. The stringy fibres are sometimes tough to digest. If you are going to feed celery, chop it into very small pieces.

Spinach. Spinach is a wonderful treat for rabbits and probably superior to any type of lettuce.

Cucumbers

Carrots with or without the tops

Beet or Radish tops

Pea Pods

Dandelion Greens

Fresh Grass

Maple or Oak Leaves

Alfalfa

Pigweed

Bread

Comfrey

 

Things to NEVER Feed a Rabbit

 

Beans. Not the plant, leaves or beans themselves

Frozen or canned vegetables – always use fresh

Cabbage, Kale and the like – these are very likely to cause bloat

Raw Potatoes, or any part of the plant

 

Letting Rabbits Graze Outside

 

You might think that putting your rabbit in a pen on your lawn and letting it eat the grass would be fun and healthy for the rabbit. It can be, but use caution. First of all, as has been mentioned above, you need to make any feed changes gradually. Letting your rabbit have unlimited grass all of a sudden will probably make it sick. Young rabbits are especially susceptible to sickness or death from too much green feed.

Rabbits also like to dig, and can do it quickly. If you aren’t watching them, they may be able to dig out of their pen and take off.

To make the most of a ‘lawn-mowing’ experience, put your rabbit in a properly fitted H-style harness and leash and allow if to nibble some grass while you spend time outside with it. Obviously, be sure you are in an area where cats and dogs won’t attack your rabbit, and that the lawn is free from pesticide and poisonous plants. Unless you have a well fenced (very well fence) yard, never just put your rabbit down outside without a harness, regardless of how tame it is. It might not come back to you.

Bottom line is: use treats as treats, and for bonding with, and training your rabbit. The rest of the time, feed your rabbit a healthy pellet and hay diet with plenty of fresh water.

Lambing in Cold Weather

October 24, 2016

 

As the weather starts to get colder, we all know that winter is coming. You may be one of those weird, unique people who actually enjoy the season. We don't.

Well, we enjoy looking outside at the beautiful snow, but don't enjoy being out in it. Having animals means we spend a lot of time outside in the winter making sure the animals are well looked after.

We lamb in winter, for reasons I'll explain below. This is a very exciting, but also stressful time. Our ram has been running with the ewes since mid-August, so considering that sheep have a five month gestation, we are now about halfway to lambing season. 

 

Why Lamb in Winter?

 

Ideally, all lambs and kids would be born either on pasture in the summer, or in a warm barn if they are born in the winter. The truth is, many lambs and goat kids are born in the wintertime because of the needs of the market. In order to have lambs for Easter, and other holidays, the lambs need to be born early in the year. Purebred breeders who are raising show lambs for open shows, or 4-H projects also need early January lambs to be competitive.

See, the show world starts their lamb classes on January 1st each year. Ewe and Ram lambs are shown against other lambs born the same year, and a lamb born in early January should have a size advantage over a lamb born in mid-May. Even when it comes to yearlings, an early born lamb will probably be bigger than one born later, though this difference is less marked.

We also find that lambing in the winter gives the lambs a better start, because we can get them on 24/7 creep feed and keep them in a more controlled environment. This will ensure they are strong and healthy before they go out to pasture and are exposed to the parasites that are present in some quantity on most pastures. 

Of course, there is also the instance where the ram smashed out of the solid pen that was supposed to hold him and bred a few ewes before you wanted, and you are now faced with lambing in the winter.

Truthfully, most lambs will actually do fine in cold weather, even in extreme cold. They just need to be wind-sheltered, have lots of bedding to lay in, and get enough milk from their mother. Below are a few more tips to help make sure your lambs survive the cold.

 

Housing Tips

 

Lambing in a warm, well-insulated barn is the ideal situation. This doesn’t mean the barn is heated, it means there is enough insulation to allow the animals to keep the building warm with their body heat. There should be some sort of provision made for ventilation. A stuffy, humid barn is the worst possible housing for livestock and will result in a lot of disease. Ideally, have a barn that keeps a consistent temperature above freezing.

Heat lamps can help if you install them properly over your lambing pens. I personally don’t like this option as I’ve heard of way too many barn fires being started by a heat lamp. It can also scorch the ewe’s back if it isn’t hung up high enough. Follow the manufactures instructions for hanging the lamp. Use appropriate extension cords if you require those. For safety, I recommend ALWAYS using OUTDOOR cords in the barn. Barns are known for being humid, and sometimes downright wet. An indoor cord might not safely withstand the trials of a barn and may short when you least expect. Never scrimp on cheap electrical products for your barn!

Coats can be purchased from some livestock supply stores. Some are made of real wool and designed as a single use item. Coats are also easy to make from polar fleece. Just make sure that they are sewn in such a way that the lamb won’t urinate on them. A wet lamb is a cold lamb.

The lambs need to be able to bury up to their necks in bedding when they lie down. Straw is ideal. Provide lots and lots of it. As lambing season progresses, add more bedding as necessary to keep the bedding pack clean and dry. Realize that looks can be deceiving when it comes to bedding. If you are wondering if the bedding is actually dry, kneel on it for several minutes. If you knee gets wet, the bedding is wet and you need to add more.

 

Lamb in a polar fleece coat.
Lamb in a polar fleece coat. 

 

Other Tips

 

Dry lambs soon after birth. If it’s really cold, and/or the mother isn’t licking the lamb off quickly, rub it dry with a towel.

Ensure lambs get adequate colostrum. The lamb needs to be warmed from the inside out, and the nourishment will help get its own body heat going.

Ensure lambs get enough milk. Sometimes a lamb will look strong and healthy at the beginning, then fade all of a sudden. This might mean the mother has mastitis, or just a lack of milk, or that she’s rejected the lamb. Keep checking on the lambs to make sure they are actually eating. A fed lamb has a slightly rounded belly, is wet inside the mouth, and is content. A hungry lamb usually seems distressed, but not always.

Ensure ewes are in good shape before lambing. Get the ewes up to date on vaccines, deworming, and vitamins before lambing. You want the lambs in tip top shape when they hit the ground so they are strong enough to withstand inclement weather.

Later on I'll explain how to assess individual lambs to ensure they are doing well after birth. 

Dairy Goat Breeds

October 24, 2016

 

We've been working with our 4H Goat Club all summer, teaching them how to train and show their goat, and also helping them learn the facts they need to know for the show ring. Unlike most other types of animals, where only the handling of the animal is judged, goat judges ask the showpeople a variety of questions to see if they have enough goat knowledge to deserve to win the class. They will ask them about breeds, parts of the goat, the judging scorecard, and could also ask them to define what traits they like and don't like about their goat. Often they are asked to switch goats and show another member's goat. They are expected to be able to answer questions about that goat too. 

There are several dairy goat breeds recognized in Canada. The following are the most common in dairy herds. 

 

The Alpine

 

Matthew Welch with his mature Alpine doe Grace after they won top honors at the Leeds County Showcase this fall.

Also known as the French Alpine, this medium to large sized goat is known as the Holstein of the goat world. Their milk is the lowest fat of all milk. Does can be any colour or combination of colours, but bucks cannot be all white.

Alpines are names as such because they originated from the French Alps.

Does stand about 30” tall and weigh an average of 125lbs. Alpines are popular on hobby farms, and commercial dairies. Under optimal conditions, an Alpine goat will produce about 2,100lbs of milk in a lactation.

Alpines are very adaptable and can thrive in many environments. Early voyages would take goats along for milk and meat. Sometimes they would leave a few goats on islands they passed, then stop to catch some of them on return trips.

Goats were listed as valuable assets in a 1630 census of Jamestown.

Alpines have erect ears and a slightly dished face with a fine muzzle.

Nubians

 

A mature Nubian Doe showing unique coloring and exceptional body capacity.

Cambraelyn Melissa - A mature Nubian Doe showing unique coloring and exceptional body capacity. 

Nubians are known for their long, floppy ears, and Roman noses. To meet breed character, the ears must reach past the end of the nose and flare out at the bottom, sort of forming a bell shape.

Nubians come in a lot of colours, and are especially stunning when they are spotted.

The does stand about 30” tall and weigh an average of 135lbs. They are usually solidly built, with wide chests and solid bone. When bred to Boer bucks, Nubian does produce exceptional meat kids. When milked, Nubians have the highest butterfat of the goat breeds.

This breed originated in England when the Old English Milch Goat was crossed with bucks imported from India, Russia and Egypt. Due to their size and strength, they were used for milk, meat and sometimes as pack animals.

 

Saanen

Stock Photo from www.pixabay.com

A Saanen is an excellent dairy goat that is almost always pure white. There is a recessive variety called Sable that can be colors other than white, but these are not recognized in all breed clubs.

Saanens are the largest of the dairy goats, weighing up to 160lbs. Their face is similar to that of the Alpine, erect ears, and a small, fine muzzle. They tend to be very good tempered and get along in large herds. They are the most common breed found on large commercial dairies.

Because they are white, they are more sensitive to sunlight than other breeds.

 

Toggenburg

 

Toggenburgs are from the Toggenburg Valley in Switzerland. They are a medium sized breed that is usually gray in color, with specific white markings in the ears, on the face, and on the legs. Most Toggenburgs have ‘toggles’ or wattles under their jaws.

Does average 120lbs. They will be disqualified from registration if they display more than one color with their white markings. Black does are accepted, but black bucks are not.

Toggs, as they are sometimes called are one of the oldest breeds ever recorded. There are registrations dating back as far as the 1600s.

LaMancha

LaMancha goats are probably originally from La Mancha, Spain; though the breed was officially developed in the United States. They are distinctive from other breeds because of their unique ears. They appear to have no ears, though most do have small ‘gopher’ ears held close to the head. The ears must be shorter than 1”.

LaManchas have been around for many years, but were only officially recognized in the 1950s. Any color of goat can be registered. Does average 130lbs full grown.

  A young Nubian doe.
Cambraelyn Tamika when she was a young doe.

Saving Stuff for 'Crafts'

February 13, 2016

Are you guilty of this? You know that depression-era need to hoard everything for a rainy day? I think the concept worked well in the depression because people literally didn't have anything, but now in the affluent 21st century where a lot of us now live, storing up random bits of stuff is not as good of an idea. 

My weakness is crafts...

Now, I'm not a hoarder, because they develop an emotional attachment to items, even if they are of no value (like basically garbage) and getting rid of stuff causes them emotional trauma. I have no problems throwing things away, but I do tend to get myself in a guilt trip about it. I mean, what if I threw out, or gave away this item, only to have a need for it next week, where I have to actually go and PURCHASE the same item? I mean, so what if the item has been here for six years and I've never found a use for it? I still might need it. 

So called 'craft supplies' are the worst. Now I'm not talking pens, pencils, glue and paper. Those I have plenty of, but also use on regular basis. I'm talking the pair of jeans I used to really like, but are now too small, and too worn out to give away. I save them 'in case' I want to make a jean craft with them. Yeah. I have a jean lap quilt all cut out and ready to put together that's been sitting here for two years waiting for me to get bored enough to use the sewing machine for the entire two hours that it would require, the last thing I need is more material for a project I'm not going to do. Then there's the mismatched socks I've kept forever even though I'll never find their mates. Have you seen the cute projects you can make with socks???? 

Well, today things changed because I need to find space in my room to fit my new sound system (Thank You! Empower Sound). It's not that it's big, it's just that with my bed, dresser, computer desk, desk chair and all the assorted items that go along with running a couple of business, there isn't really room to move in my room anymore. So some of the so called 'craft supplies' have to go. 

Regardless on one's intentions, it can still be hard to figure out what to keep and what to throw out or give away. I found Kathi Lipp's three questions to be the best way to decide what stays and what goes. Here they are:

Do I use it?

Do I love it?

Would I buy it again?

If an item doesn't pass at least one of those three questions, it's time to donate or throw away.

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