Consistent with past summers (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020), we are currently hosting yearling heifers on our pastures over the summer. Different from prior years, we are only hosting 2 instead of the typical 3.
The farmer only had 1 heifer born last year at his farm. He purchased a second heifer as he needs a few heifers every year to maintain his herd.
The larger black and white heifer is Snappy. She is inquisitive and very friendly – she enjoys head and nose rubs and likes to lick your hand. Snappy is in charge and leads the way.
The second heifer is named Ann. She is much smaller, more shy and tends to be a follower. She tends to shadow Snappy around the pasture.
They have been enjoying the lush pastures this year with a good balance of rain and sun so far – with the summer now more than halfway over already.
This past winter was especially cold. The temperature didn’t get above freezing for at least 6 or 7 weeks in a row. As a result, there was heavy snow cover on the ground for a long time (where more typically there would be some brief periods of melting even during the winter). The heavy snow cover made it very difficult for local wildlife such as deer to find their normal food in the woods. This pushed a lot of deer out of the woods closer to yards and homes.
We had a large group of deer right near the house – they would come out in the evening and hang around for a while standing on their hind legs to eat the low hanging pine and spruce tree branches around the house.
One morning, heading out to check on the chickens and goats, I noticed an animal that appeared to be stuck in the pasture fence.
We built a moveable goat hay feeder a number of years ago (details here). After the first winter, we made a few tweaks (details here). As discussed at the end of Part 2, we did drill some holes into the tray but those holes clogged up periodically so it turned out faster and easier to just scoop out any resulting hay dust from the tray instead.
The original couple of posts continue to be very popular with search engine results (relatively speaking) and we have received a number of inquiries about the plans to make one.
We didn’t really have a specific size plan or design in mind when creating it. The general idea was to replicate something like this one from Tractor Supply or many other samples from other sites.
Most of the design decisions were based on the sizes and types of available materials we had on hand (mostly items just stored in the hayloft). The key component was the metal shelf that we bent into a v-shape. That serves as the main piece of the feeder and basically dictated the width.
The metal shelf was ~32″ deep so that became the width of the feeder area. The roof is 36″ because we happened to have a piece of plastic roofing that was ~18″ wide so we cut it in half to get 2 sections of 18″.
The roof is 4 feet because we had an 8 foot long section that we cut in half. The tray ended up as 32″ because we wanted a couple extra inches past the edge of the feeder to catch falling hay.
As previously mentioned, we created some simple wildlife escape ramps for our water buckets to reduce both wildlife drowning deaths and reduce potential contamination risk for our animals.
Here are the step-by-step directions for creating a simple wildlife escape ramp for a standard 5 gallon flat-back bucket.
Here are the materials you will need:
5 gallon flat-back bucket.
1/2 inch vinyl-coated wire mesh – you will need a 1 foot by 1 foot section. It often comes in rolls 2 feet wide. The vinyl coating is important because the ramp will be underwater and the vinyl provides additional protection.
Wire cutter / side cutter / scissors – This will be needed to cut out the appropriate size of wire mesh (if necessary).
A ruler or other straight edge to use for bending the wire mesh along a straight line.
1 can of rustoleum or similar spray paint (optional).
Automation has come to our hobby farm. We installed an automatic chicken coop door earlier this year for extra protection against predators given our prior losses.
The simplest model (which is the one we purchased) provides automatic opening and closing with a daylight sensor or a set time schedule operation. The amount of daylight that triggers opening or closing is fully adjustable. It also includes a freeze protect feature with an adjustable temperature setting so that the door won’t open if it is below the set temperature (we set ours at 17 degrees). Our door requires external power but we already had power outlets in our coop so that wasn’t a big issue for us.
A couple years ago, we tried to build a small earthen dam to stop debris from the woods from being washed out into the pastures during spring rains / snow melt. That attempt didn’t hold.
Instead of rebuilding the earthen dam to completely block the water by holding it back, I decided to fortify the remaining piece of earthen dam with a water-permeable dam instead. By creating a water-permeable dam, the water would still flow through the dam out into the pastures, but the leaves, rocks and tree limbs would remain in the woods leaving the fences and pastures undamaged after the water subsides and avoiding the need for any time spent on clean up. The dam should slow the flowing water, causing the debris to stop while the water would continue seeping slowly through the dam out into the fields.
But what could we use to make the water-permeable dam? It would need to allow water through yet be sturdy enough to generally hold its shape under pressure from the flowing water without itself washing away.
Our old goat, Harriet, passed away peacefully in early February.
She struggled with arthritis for the last couple of years and despite taking anti-inflammatory and pain medication, the cold during the polar vortex was too much for her to handle and we made the difficult decision to have her euthanized once it was clear she was suffering.
The average life expectancy for an angora goat is believed to be only 8 to 11 years. Harriet was at least 16 years old (ancient in angora goat years). She lost her front teeth, had her horn cut down when it was threatening to grow into her skull, and still kept ticking.
We will miss her gentle nature in the flock and her unique color out in the pastures.
We had her cremated and plan to spread her remains around the pasture once spring arrives.
As noted last time, 3 of our 4 new hens were missing, presumed dead.
We moved another hen from our flock to the chicken tractor so that the silver-spangled hamburg wouldn’t be alone. We also lined the outside of the chicken tractor with paving stones so nothing could dig right next to side and get underneath. This seemed to work as we saw no indications of any predators for several weeks.
After the quarantine period, we moved the silver-spangled hamburg and the other hen into the main barn so they could safely integrate back into the flock. They were inside a portable dog pen that was lined on the outside with chicken wire with a piece wood over the top. The barn has a concrete floor so the assumption was that nothing could dig underneath the pen.
Last month, a local county agricultural council sponsored their annual farm fest, where a number of local farms are open on a weekend day for free tours / open house. It just so happens that one of the farms open for tours was only ~3 miles away so we decided to stop by.
Although only a few miles away, the farm isn’t directly visible from the road, so we had no idea that they raise… yaks!
Here is a picture of one of their yaks:
An adult female yak.
We learned that yaks are a triple threat – they are raised for milk, meat and fiber. The farm was selling yak sliders and yak yarn and fiber products during the open house.
According to the farmer, yaks are smaller than typical beef and dairy cows – the adult females are typically only 500 to 600 pounds. Adult male yaks (domesticated) can weigh in at 900 – 1,200 pounds. For reference, typical beef cattle bulls can reach closer to 2,000-3,000 pounds (but are often slaughtered younger so are usually seen at lower than full weight).
Here is a close-up shot so you can see their shaggy fur coat. Their fiber is used to make yarn and then into whatever product from there. The farm was selling knit yak products such as winter hats.
An imperial yak (I think).
Yaks come in a variety of color patterns. A black yak is called an imperial yak. A yak that is white and black is called a royal yak. There are also somewhat rare golden yaks that are all light brownish in color.