Monday, May 30, 2016

A little extra vet care

We've had an interesting year this year. We've had to step in on a few sheep related activities that we wish we didn't have to. We've had to make decisions quickly and with Merck's Vet manual as our guide.  We love our sheep vet (Dr. Flinchum, if you have livestock and live near us, is worth his weight in PLATINUM, EMERALDS and TUNGSTEN all combined!)  However, there are times when that man doesn't need to be called out. Really early in the morning, in the middle of the night, sometimes we have to take action.

Not sure if this is due to weather, or some sort of planetary alignment, karma, or any other non-scientific excuse I can come up with.  But our world certainly shifted on its axis when Shirley gave birth to triplets, and refused to feed them.

We took over, but we had several weird issues this winter with super-lethargic sheep. We lost two of them. When two more went limp, we read up on some of their symptoms and thought - they are either going to die, or not and some penicillin might not hurt. It didn't hurt. Those two got better. Those were 2 of Shirley's triplets, Spike and Pipsqueak. Spike is a spunky little nugget. He was the one I really thought we would lose. He's growing like a weed. A little over 3.5 months old he is not thrilled that he is being weaned from his bottle.

His brother, Squeaky, though... Something happened to him, and we don't know what. Sometimes, bottle lambs try to steal milk off other moms. Some of them are successful (Princess Celestia never took a bottle after her mom died, and is independent and has another mom who looks out for her). Squeaky might have tried this technique and got butted HARD from a mom who didn't want to share with him. He may have accidentally been stepped on by a cow in the stall, he was so very little.  His body movements were reminiscent of Tetanus. (get your tetanus shots, folks, this is NOT fun stuff).  We didn't have the antitoxin at the house. (I used it all, unsuccessfully, on Ferdinand, our cow. The vet told me that once they show symptoms, the antitoxin is too late)  Larry wanted me to give him the vaccine, just in case. Again, saying if he was going to die anyway, the vaccine wouldn't hurt. We did. He never got better, but has not gotten worse. That was weeks ago.

Now Squeaky is not growing like his brother. His front legs are stiff as is his neck. He has learned to compensate by going down on his front knees to eat, since he can't drop his head. We continue to bottle feed, and likely will for his whole life. He is growing, just not at the rate of his twin brother. It now takes 2 hands to scoop up Squeaky, but I can carry him with ease. Spike is a meaty little handful and I only pick him up if I have to. Spike, Squeaks and Loras (a relatively new bottle baby) all spend their days in the backyard. Since Squeak moves so slowly, and none of the three have a mom looking out for them, they are safest there. I've fenced off my newly planted trees, so they don't eat them, and they are all doing great. They actually all head to the backyard every morning on their own. Spike and Loras can squeeze under a gap in the gate. Squeaky just waits for me to come open it for him. Such a sweetheart. You guys might see him and Loras a few times at the Farmers Market this summer.

OK, here's the real story... I've been wondering if I should tell it. SPOILER ALERT: There is a happy ending.

Here's the part that sucks. We got a new tractor (OK, that doesn't suck) and with a little rambunctious activity cleaning the barn, we've busted both of the bottom beams that go across the stall doors, part of the door farm. One of them is just missing, so there's a gap there.  The other one is cockeyed and it makes it REALLY HARD to close that stall door. I need to use my whole behind to slam it shut and push the latch.

One night, someone closed that stall door. Since it's SO INCREDIBLY hard to close, this individual did not realize anything was wrong. If a lamb cried out, that happens at night as they try to find each other to go to sleep at night.

The next morning, I went and let all the sheep out. I opened said stall door and noticed that it appeared a lamb had gotten a leg caught in the gap between the door and that misshapen board. I thought "wow, she must have been stuck there all night". She didn't get up right away, so I assumed her legs had fallen asleep in that position.  When she did get up, I realized she had been more than stuck. One of her rear legs was broken just above the hoof.

She was only a few days old, and I scooped her up and ran to the house. We poured betadyne over her wound (the bone had broken through) I found a stick about the right length, and some stretch wrap and Larry and I fixed her up for the time. She never cried out, she never fought back, and she hobbled off to her concerned mama and took a long drink.

That night when we got home, Larry made some proper splits out of some aluminum material we had laying around.  We wrapped them up proper, and resplinted her leg. In two weeks, we took those off and resplinted, to make sure they were aligned properly as her legs grew. I realized that of all the bones that could have broken, those on her lower leg were the easiest for us to splint, and a leg she could stand to not use for a little while with little impact. Her mama was patient, since she moved a little slower than her big brother. And mama never went to far from her, even if the rest of the herd was elsewhere. All that fresh milk (and calcium) from mom would help that bone grow together. After 4 weeks, we resplinted again, and saw the the wound had healed and her leg seemed to be fused together. We gave her another 2 weeks and removed the splint for good.

She's had the splint off for several weeks now, and we see that she is using that leg again. Not as well as the other, I think she's got some atrophy to get over, and maybe some of her own lack of confidence that her leg is OK. It's not misshapen, she never got an infection, and she's running around, keeping up with her brother.

Our take aways here, firstly, are to always check the stall doors before we close them. Secondly, we are thankful for all our first aid training from back in the day when we were lifeguards. I've had to use those skills more often than I wish I needed them (CPR on a rugby player, was my most recent use of those skills. Wish I didn't have to do that). But so glad we had a willing patient, and were able to fix her up. It's been such a strange spring with weird animal issues, and so happy that for the most part, we have happy endings. I'll see if I can get some pictures of our little patient, but at the time, we didn't take any, as caring for her was more important than a kodak moment. But I'll try to post a happy picture of her with her healed up leg later.  Thanks for reading, folks!

OK, here she is. The leg in question is the rear, right leg, facing us in the photo.. I'm really proud of her progress here.  This is Cersei. I love her white tail!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Hatching Update

We are hatching up a storm this year. My incubator is filled with turkey eggs. There are 244 eggs in there right now, with another 41 in the hatching tray. My inside brooders are filled to the brim, my outside brooder has a few birds in it, and we have already taken some to their forever outside home with the big birds.

My hatching rates are way up this year, as are my fertility rates. I'm not sure what made the big change but I was even super successful at hatching ducklings. I ever have been in the past!

Here's some stats...

My chicken fertility rate was 85%, and hatch rate was 90%.  That fertility rate was lowered, as I discovered my Speckled Sussex rooster would not fertilize his Speckled Sussex ladies, but instead, took a liking to a couple of Rhode Island Reds. I have a few mixed breed chickens out there now.

My ducks this year had a fertility rate of 85%, and hatch rate of 72%. Keep in mind, in past years, these numbers were in the 20s and 30s. AMAZING. And my drake, what a trooper!

For the turkeys, so far, I have a fertility rate of 91% and a hatch rate of 86%. Best year ever. I also have the most hens to lay this year, so I have more eggs than I can get into my incubator, there's a several day wait period before they can even get in. 

Now let's look at the numbers.  I sold about 300 chicks last year, so I thought I would try that again. I hatched about 100 chicks this spring. I didn't sell very many, so I've got a solid start on my replacement flock, as well as some meat roosters for the fall.


For ducklings, I hatched 87 ducklings! Wow, I did sell a few. And Aside from Paddles, most of the drakes will be sold as meat in the fall.


Now, onto the turkeys. that incubator is going to run until they stop laying mid-summer. So far we have hatched 210 turkey poults. HOLY MOLY.  I may start selling them soon, and we have lost a few along the way. Turkey poults are way more fragile than ducklings and chicks.