Archive for February 25, 2009

Another House Duck

I have a newly-hatched duckling that was dying from cold this morning snuggling up on my shoulder trying to get underneath my hair (I suppose he/she thinks they are feathers). I knew that I would regret returning the chilled eggs/duckling to the neglectful momma duck that left me with blood blisters yesterday evening, and I was right. One of the eggs that was peeping peevishly hatched in the night and she let it die from the cold. The first hatched duckling appears to be fine, for now. The one on my shoulder was lying flat out, nearly dead from the cold, and I only had time to bring it inside, put it on a heating pad inside a large Rubbermaid tub, and cover it with a “blanket” (dust cloth) before I left for work this morning. I expected it to be dead but he/she was lively and peeping. She was very happy to see me!

This evening, duckling is lively and moving about. I could have (and probably should have) returned him to Momma Duck but….if he/she doesn’t die from the cold, he/she will surely die from the hawks (that have a nest in an old tree in the pasture) swooping down to eat him/her and any sibs when Momma Duck runs off to get some corn, leaving the new hatchlings to fend for themselves.

Somebody better let me know when H5N1 arrives in this country so I can refrain from mothering tiny, vulnerable poultry.

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Odie and Sam

Odie, at @ 17, is a very ancient dog. He’s been my best helper, friend, and constant companion for the past 14 years, since the day I coaxed a frightened stray dog out of the woods and into our world. He’d been taking our newspaper out of the box and carrying it around with him, sometimes leaving it close to the house, so he had our scent. He never took the neighbors’ newspapers.

SwampMan said emphatically that he was NOT staying because we didn’t need another damned dog.

“Nah, he’s not staying. I’ll take him off to the animal shelter when I have time. And when I have his inverted eyelashes corrected.” SwampMan shook his head, grumbling, knowing that Odie wasn’t going anywhere for awhile, maybe never. He asked daily for several weeks “is that damned Other Dog gone yet?” so when the vet asked the name of my dog, I told her O.D. (for Other Dog).

Odie became My Dog and personal protector. Nobody else in the world matters to Odie. If SwampMan raised his voice to me, Odie would jump in front of me, teeth bared at SwampMan. Now, since Odie is deaf and can’t hear SwampMan raise his voice, he hasn’t snarled at SwampMan in quite some time. I have to do it myself.

Odie has raised and trained two replacements for when he dies, but he outlived them. He’s completely blind in one eye and has a cataract on his “good” eye, and has gone deaf. He trembles when he stands for too long, but insists on accompanying me on my rounds and if I keep the gate shut to limit his exertion, he’ll bark and howl in utter misery until I relent and let him out to take his place by my side. Now he’s training Odie replacement dog number three, Sam, (SwampMan’s dog) as though anybody could ever take Odie’s place in my heart.

When Sam the boisterous German Shepherd puppy arrived full of piss and vinegar, old Odie showed him who the top dog was when he got too rough. Odie does not chase chickens or ducks so Sam has not learned to chase chickens or ducks. (Having a mad momma duck and angry bantam hen defending their young who whooped up on him certainly helped.) Now, with the arrival of the lambs, I have been quite alarmed to find that Sam has somehow made his way into the ewe and lamb pasture but not to worry, Odie was with him. When an angry ewe chases Odie, he runs off instead of confronting or attacking her and her lamb, so he’s teaching Sam to do the same.

Sam still pees on the porch at night and apparently Odie is tired of it. When I fed them this evening, Odie pulled Sam’s bowl of food across the porch over into a puddle of puppy piddle and dumped the food in it. Now, I suppose I could simply refill Sam’s bowl, but I’m curious to see whether Odie’s training is going to work. Besides, who am I to interfere with a professional trainer like Odie?

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Safe Investments?

The local tax professional took out an ad in the local paper saying that he was advising buying ammo and land in the form of farm and timber holdings as well as gold, silver, and firearms.

I don’t think he has much faith in the Porkulus Plan.

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Feeding for Twins Versus Single Lambs

I have had more single lambs born this year than I’ve ever had before, and there’s a reason for it. I did not “flush” (put the ewes on a rising plane of nutrition, done either by grazing good pastures or through supplemental grain) during the breeding period. Flushing the ewes prior to breeding convinces the ewes’ reproductive system that times are good with plentiful pastures, so it is safe to drop 2 or 3 eggs for fertilization as the ewe will be getting enough feed to produce enough milk for the lot. Letting the ewes breed on poor pastures sends an alert to the ewes’ reproductive systems: “Tough times ahead, not enough pasture to provide milk for twins or triples, replacement lambs only.”

You’ve seen the pitiful condition of my pastures that SHOULD be lush with clover at this point. I’d be spending a(n) (even greater) fortune trying to keep enough feed in front of the ewes to provide milk for twins and triplets.

First time lambing ewes and older lambing ewes also have a tendency to drop more singles than twins.

The dogs (not MY dogs) killed my ewes that were heavy with lambs a couple years ago; I have only a couple of ancient ewes that survived the massacre as well as a few ewes that were too young to breed at that time; the rest of the ewes I have are yearlings produced from those few survivors. They may or may not lamb @ May. I haven’t ultrasounded them for pregnancy because I just didn’t have the time.

Luckily, I have a bumper crop of ewe lambs this year and in a couple of years, I will have some good lamb production once again, drought conditions permitting, and may even feel confident enough to sell some ewes.

The ancient Rambouillet girl that lambed yesterday is getting around much better today, thank goodness. She’s the last surviving member of a flock imported here from Ohio. I found that Rambouillet lambs are a little too susceptible to blue tongue virus and internal parasites to really thrive here; however, the Rambouillet x Tunis mix is quite hardy.

Getting up every 2 hours to help her get up so lambie can nurse is not an experience that I wish to repeat tonight! I never thought she would lamb again; she’s blind, and has to locate the lamb through sound. I’ll keep them out of the general population for awhile yet so that Momma doesn’t go crazy trying to locate her precious lamb that is out racing around the pasture with the other lambs and completely ignoring Momma’s frantic calls.

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