This winter has been so incredibly hard. It has been brutally cold and we have had snowday after snowday. We had cows bred out of season but managed to have two healthy calves despite the frigid weather they were born in. Lesson learned. Bulls with cows between June 23 through October 22 for babies born between April 1 and July 31.
This little guy is Seamus. A jersey/highland bull calf.
Our smaller livestock have not fared so well however and its heartbreaking. If we would have known how cold it was going to be we would have brought all of our poultry in to be processed and would have set up inside, heated accommodations for our pet Call Ducks. We lost all three Call ducks. It was just so dang cold. We even had them in an unheated, but totally enclosed room (our unfinished milk room) and they still didn't make it. We lost several larger ducks too. Jake finally butchered all the ones that were moving really slow. They were Khaki Campbells, not a meat breed, so we only breasted them. Had my brain not been frozen and thinking clearly I would have made stock/bone broth with the carcasses.
We took our goats to a friends to have them bred and our buck went with to breed some of his does. Our goats were siblings. Billy went to another friends house to breed her goats after he was done at the first place. In hindsight, this was a terrible idea with how cold it had been and the normal stresses from being moved the first time. He was a piggy the first few days he was there. We don't know if he bloated or what happened. He was happy and healthy. One evening when yet another storm was blowing in, more cold and snow, he didn't really want to come out of the shed. Normal for him and his sisters, they never liked getting wet or snowy. They found him the next morning, curled up in a ball, dead. It was no ones fault but my own. I think moving him again was just one to many times.
Just before Christmas, we got a call from our friend that said that our little brown doe, Heart, was in the house by the fireplace. She was found in a ball, curled up next to the haybale, very cold and not wanting to stand. She was drenched with some vitamin/mineral/electrolyte mix and rebounded very well initially. We went and picked up the girls that day and brought them home and put them in our heated garage to wait out the weeks of forcasted constant subzero temps. We finally had some days above zero so we slowly transitioned them into one of our hoop houses with lots of hay and a warming light. There were a few days here and there were she looked like she was slow. All the goats had been dewormed prior to going to be bred. We called the vet and they basically said to watch her, take her temp. Normal temp. We brought her back into the garage to keep her warm but she just wasn't perking up. I left to pick up our food order with the intentions of calling the vet when we got back and in the twenty minutes we were gone she took a turn for the worse. I called my husband to come and put her down. She was just too far gone to even hold out hope that the vet could do anything and it wasn't fair to make her suffer anymore.
About a month ago we lost our oldest ewe from our flock. She was a hard keeper but seemed to do well. After several subzero days I could tell she was a bit thin. We put her in with the little sheep in the portable shed with constant access to hay and slowly add a bit of grain to help her weight pick back up. After we were sure that all the sheep were bred (we had split our flock in two) we put them all back together. Everyone was doing great and then out of the blue Jake found Elly dead. Sheep, being prey animals, are really good at hiding when they are sick. In fact, by the time the do exhibit symptoms of illness, it is usually to late. We don't know if Elly was sick or just died from old age and the stress from the cold.
Everyone seemed to be getting along fine so we left all of the sheep together. The older ewes and ram and all of our yearlings. Jake went out last week to move some lumber around that we needed to work on the barn and happened to look over and see Jett, our yearling ram, on his back with his feet in the air. He quickly ran in their pen and turned him right side up. Jett stood there for a moment, looking dazed and then wandered off to find his best buddy, Milly, our last doeling. He seemed okay but just for good measure and peace of mind we called the vet to ask if we should do anything. Watch him. We separated him and Milly from the rest of the group. Our boss ewe likes to headbutt and we are thinking he got in her way and she gave him a good shove off their packed path into the deep snow causing him to tip over. We called the vet again when he just seem to not be himself after a day or two. We took his temp (normal) and wormed him with the rest of the group (the vet said that it was fine to worm him even though he was a bit off). He was still eating and drinking, struggled a bit to get up, but once up freely moved around and seemed like his normal self. The temps dipped a bit but Milly and Jett were in with the round bales. We pull the hay off the bale and feed it out so there was some extra on the ground that Jake fluffed up on the south side of the bale so that they had something to snuggle in and keep warm. Jake went out the next morning to do chores and Jett was gone.
Jett and Milly, best buddies.
This morning, Jake went out to do chores and Milly, our last sweet little doeling, who made it through a broken leg, who was right as rain yesterday, even breaking out of her pen and into the milking room, was gone. Curled up in the hay. Looking back, she had slowed a bit but showed no sign of distress other than maybe being sad that her buddy was not around anymore.
This has been our winter. A long, brutally cold, depressing winter that has taken its toll. I am on high alert. None of our other animals are showing signs of being sick, but then neither did two of the others. The sheep are getting sheared in the next week and after that is done I am going to call the vet and have an over all assessment of our flock and herd health done. We shouldn't be losing so many animals and its frustrating and heartbreaking. We use both conventional and alternative health practices. They have the best hay, never moldy, salt, kelp, DE all the time. Fresh water every day. Shelter. De-worming schedule. We love our animals and strive to care for them the very best we know how and involving the vet when we are at a loss.
And yes, after this morning it is very tempting to throw in the towel and say "I quit, I can do this anymore, it's too hard". But I won't. I love this life too much and love my animals too much. We have quite a bit to look forward to in the coming months. April 25 starts our lambing season and our barn has tin on it and is going to be finished this year. We only have two small lines of fence to left replace. I have seeds started and we are looking forward to having a garden this year. We are blessed and healthy and happy.
Shared at Homestead Barn Hop, HomeAcre Hop