The hard working farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crop. 2 Timothy 2:6
(Scroll down for
many articles and questions and answers about livestock, etc.)
Homesteading encompasses the pioneer spirit and a desire to both "get back to nature" and be more self-sufficient. The large acreage farms and ranches are a phenomenon of the past for most people today because of the enormity of the work, and the cost factors involved in such large ventures.
People who enjoy the land and want to participate in a more wholesome,
less "instant/automated" life-style are finding fulfillment on small
farms which vary greatly in size and purpose. A group of extended family
members may cooperate in the purchase of a tract of land and divide it into
building lots and all cooperate in the management of both animals and land. One
family may purchase a mini-farm (3-25 acres) and raise an assortment of animals
They may intend to use the animal's fiber, fertilizer, eggs or meat, as well as rotational grazing using different breeds with diverse foraging/grazing techniques and requirements. In order to have the variety they want they may purchase miniature animals which have lower feed requirements and offer greater ease in handling due to their size. Homesteading is an excellent way to instill a good work ethic in children as well as teach them responsibility and real life "birds and bees."
Sunset scenes from Heartsong Triple D Farm
Call us for registered alpacas and miniature donkeys!
To God be the glory!
Various Articles and Question and Answer Columns are below on a wide range of topics:
Timeless Methods for Taking Farms into the Future
I’ve heard it said that different personality types are naturally drawn to the various positions they play in sports. In other words, it takes different characteristics to be a catcher on a baseball team than to be a pitcher. If that philosophy is true then certain traits that draw people to the land, to farming, and to raising livestock are shared. I have found qualities such as a unique “pioneer spirit,” tenacity, independence, risk taking, creative thinking, nurturing, and a good work ethic to set apart those who want to live “far from the sidewalk” as Jd Belanger used to say. What is it that compels people to go back to the land? Some are drawn to it like Scarlett O’Hara. It’s in their genes. Love of the land is an integral part of who they are -- their roots. Today the hectic metropolis drives burned-out professionals to search for rural retreats with inviting peace and quiet and for a more hands on connection to life. Other individuals shoot for a rural lifestyle as a goal down the road when they retire. It is somewhere they arrive. There are trailblazers who discover the freshness it offers and forsake their suburban ruts for earthen ones. Whatever it is that draws one to the homestead, the battle to make ends meet once they are there has necessitated valiant and creative efforts down through history. Today more than ever, every resource must be called upon to live the farming dream. That is where cottage industries enter the picture.
Cozette in Alabama stated that her cottage industry began from being asked repeatedly, “What do you do with llamas?” That question forced her to try to use what she was raising and process the abundance of wool from her animals. She now knits and sells handmade scarves and hats and has sponsored on-the-farm birthday parties and field trips. She wanted to stay on the farm and have interested people come to her. Having begun with a love of animals and seeing the need to use the byproducts of her livestock, Cozette’s “extra-curricular” activities also heightened interest in her alternative livestock. The merchandise illustrated their usefulness, encouraged visitors to spend extra time at her farm, and gave people more opportunity to see and learn about llamas. If you have animals to sell, then publicity becomes a top priority and your cottage industry is an excellent asset. Cozette knows of other entrepreneurs who have taken their interests and turned them into business ventures. One gentleman now drives his llamas and has carting seminars, clinics, and lessons. Another woman who owns alpacas saw a need for bulk fiber processing and is quite busy doing that extensively for many breeders in her area and surrounding states. Cozette said that an added benefit is that “anything you develop gives you self-confidence, and if you make money, that helps, too! Trying to learn skills that people did hundreds of years ago is intriguing. Sheep and llama people usually gravitate toward spinning and weaving which has been practiced for centuries. Value is added to handmade garments because one’s talents go into them, and there are never two alike. There is a feeling of affirmation when someone buys something that you make.”
Down through history vision and organization have helped homesteaders use time-tested methods to enhance their livelihood and expand their financial bases. In Appalachia the products that were made out of necessity, i.e. brooms, quilts, baskets, hooked rugs, wooden furniture, goat milk soaps and a plethora of additional practical and beautiful items soon took on a different slant as neighbors consolidated efforts and specialized. Thus, different community members supplied needed products to the others and all benefited. Sometimes this added income was the difference in being able to stay on their land rather than seeking employment farther away. This pooled wisdom of the community helped them develop initiative and independence and perpetuate the skills that were used to create some of our most prized antiques today. They used their isolation to awaken attractive alternatives, which often involved the entire family in their cottage industries. These ventures left them less vulnerable financially and more in control of their lives. Our culture has been enriched by innovative individualists who, by broadening the scope of their farms, have impacted us all.
Frank lives in
Some of the practical considerations of adding a cottage industry to the farm are:
1. Is there a need for it and does it enhance my overall goal?
2. How will I implement it? An in-house “store?” Services to the public? Sharing the lifestyle experience?
3. What practical considerations must be dealt with? Special preparations or structures? Additional insurance? Publicity or marketing costs? Will it pay for itself? How much related travel do I want to do? Can I make use of the Internet? Do I need special licensing or permits?
4. Who will devote the necessary time to this project? Family? Paid workers or volunteers?
5. What do I hope to gain from it? Have I developed a business plan?
6. What do I want to share through it?
Cottage industries can be as diverse as each person’s gifts, talents, and interests. I have heard of one gentleman who has a garden subscription service for his fresh produce. He delivers it to the subscribers’ homes right after he has picked it on weekends making several hundred dollars a month. One family who moved onto property with a grove of maple trees began tapping them and selling the syrup. A farming family purchased bees and started hives to help pollinate their crops and found there was a good market for the honey on the side. Others have utilized their land by planting evergreen and then selling them as Christmas trees several years down the line. While that avenue takes several years to see the return, one man educated himself about specialty foods such as mushrooms and made several thousand dollars over the summer harvesting them wild and selling them to chefs at nearby top-notch restaurants. Many have supplemented their income by selling excess eggs (some are naturally colored when laid and command premium prices), specialty flower bulbs or bouquets of fresh or dried flowers and wreaths. I even read about one man in Countryside Magazine who made $30 a stalk on corn by creatively marketing every part of it: blow guns from the stalk, selling seeds for replanting, making darts for hunters, and grinding it to sell as ground cover! In our area local farmers sell bundles of stalks for fall decorations recouping at least the cost of their original seed investment and having benefited from the fresh corn all summer. Do some research to find out what niche markets might be in your area, and then see if you can provide what is needed. Stay within your financial resources by starting small and then growing into a business. The process is often as great an incentive as the end result and the particular cottage industry you choose should reflect your personality and fit your lifestyle.
Julie found her “Promised
The drive to go beyond where you find yourself in life for practical and emotional reasons is timeless. When King Lemuel thousands of years ago was told what to look for in a wife in Proverbs 31 in the Bible, these qualities were touted:
10 A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. 11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. 12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. 13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. 14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. 15 She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. 16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. 17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. 18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. 19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. 20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. 21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. 22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. 26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. 27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. 31 Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
This beautiful literary passage could be written about many who labor diligently to make their homesteads “reach for the stars” so to speak. It emphasizes another facet of cottage industries that must not be glossed over – hard work. Most of the people that I interviewed stated forthrightly that the ventures they were pursuing often took great chunks of time out of their day, and in a sense tied them down more.
Another creative shepherdess, Ellen, observed, “We are not
dependent on the government to take care of us.
We can grow our own food, have our own meat and don’t have to
worry about what has been added to it.
In the Great Depression, small farmers were not hurt as much as the
larger ones. They just kept on doing
what they had been doing all along.”
Ellen’s cottage industries commenced in her own words, “by
seeing a fuzzy bunny. We stopped by a
place that was selling
Bob has a 225-acre farm, which he is
trying to keep prosperous by diversifying.
When asked how he thinks most cottage industries begin, he had a
surprising answer. “Usually as a mistake! We planted our pumpkins in
A common thread among the farmers I
spoke with was that each had a desire to be involved with people and share
their dream. Bob stated, “I work year round. Everybody sees the business in September and
October, but I work on it in February.
You have to want to work with the public. You can’t talk to the cows every night
and then suddenly work with 20,000 people.
You have to be ready for everything. If you listen carefully to the public,
not just looking for what you want to hear, they will tell you what they
want.” Calm leadership and vision
go a long way. His farm sells not only
the traditional grain crops and produce but also has added a Farm Store with
products under a
So many ideas. Such tremendous creativity. Those qualities which distinguish people who prefer the country life with all its challenges and hardships spin like a thread through all these stories. They show how vast the horizon is for agricultural dreamers who want to live their lifestyle with gusto. Second Timothy 2: 6 states, “The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.” Cottage industries help them do so. Ellen summed it up well, “What I have done, even though it has been trying at times, has been extremely rewarding. If you are willing to make the sacrifice and put the time into it – go for it! You have to love doing it to make it worth the time. To make it work, you need to talk with people, work with people, and enjoy them. You can always go home to your animals and collapse. You go outside and instead of watching TV you watch animals play. We fill up pools and make bets on which ducks will get into the water first. We watch the lambs jumping on the rams’ backs. There is fresh air and sunshine and we are not stagnating. I’d rather be out cleaning my sheep barns than cleaning my house. It is not an easy life but it is filled with simple pleasures. It’s good for you!” It’s good for us all!
Deirdre D. Tarr, March 2002
Personal Stories About the Impact of Alternative Livestock
Why do you think the president of
the largest state Farm Bureau in the
Mr. Barker has quite a menagerie of breeds: Sika, fallow, and muntjack deer, Watusi cattle, Boer goats, geese, ducks, pheasants, crows, jays, starlings, thrushes, and mynah birds. He sells to livestock operations and individuals as well as pet breeders, and hotels. “There are good networks for marketing hoofstock and feather birds. However, word of mouth, shows, and advertising in breed publications and Farm Bureau papers produce good results as well.”
One of the drawing factors for this type of operation is that such diversification provides a hedge for the farmer. Mr. Barker believes that it “spreads his income over different areas and diversifies his customer base.” When one market is on a downturn, another may be thriving and thus providing a more stable income than a one-breed farm could offer. He advises people who are just getting into alternative livestock to:
4 Educate yourself
4 Read all the books and magazines you can
4 Start small
4 Buy quality stock and take good care of it
4 Have adequate facilities and fencing prepared before you get the animals
4 If possible work with other breeders for a while and learn
4 Find a good veterinarian who is willing to treat less common breeds
4 Don’t get overloaded so that you can’t take care of the animals well.
From a professional standpoint he projects that the future will bring “more and more regulations from all levels (federal, state, and local). There are groups of citizens who don’t think anything should be kept in confinement. If we have these breeds for future generations they must be in farms or in zoos. We need organizations for helping zoos and individuals work together to preserve these species or we will not have them in the future.”
Barker sees a current trend in that
people are “wanting to raise elk, buffalo, and meat goats. Elk meat is good and prices are high because
it is a breeder’s market now.”
He has seen elk velvet bring almost as high a price as the meat
itself. He thinks “geese and wild
ducks are marketable because they are so pretty for ponds.” He has purchased some himself from a breeder
Mr. Barker really couldn’t remember how he got started. When he was five or six years old he was interested in the beautiful pheasants his father had and, by the time he was eight, he was building pens for them. Eventually he wanted other breeds. “There’s a whole lot to learn and you never quit. Much happens that you don’t think will happen. Animals are expensive. If you lose, you lose a lot. If you prepare well and start small, the return may be slower but the losses will be also.” When asked if he would start again, he answered, “Yes! I’ve enjoyed them that much.”
Edd Bissell is a pharmacist professionally but a farmer by choice. He has been raising alternative livestock for 25 years and is one of those “colorful characters” that everyone should know. He has been an advocate of unique breeds and a resource to hundreds of people who were interested in them down through the years. He was drawn to alternative livestock because “most have not been improved by men – not genetically manipulated to meet certain weight and growth criteria. They can utilize the natural resources to produce a viable product without a lot of specialty feeds and human animal husbandry. They thrive, survive, and multiply without manipulation.”
His alternative livestock venture
started as an “expanded hobby.”
Mr. Bissell liked unique breeds, and after he got them, tried to find
the market for them. Over the years he
has raised: Jacob Four Horned, Mouflon, Scottish Blackface, Romanov, Shetland,
Black Welsh Mountain, Texas Dahl, Barbado, Navajo Churro, and Churro Hair Sheep
as well as Karakul - “fat tailed sheep that they make hats out of in
Russia,” Great Pyrenees dogs, Dexter and Scottish Highland cattle,
fainting and pygmy goats, fallow deer, potbellied pigs, swans, ratites, Maran
chickens, and more. He developed a
“niche market” to groups of people from other countries. These became very profitable because no one
else in the area tapped it. Bissell
said, “Most people in the world utilize the whole animal while we in
When asked if there were tax factors that individuals considering alternative livestock should know about Mr. Bissell replied, “If people have land and don’t have animals they are missing out on tax deductions and government subsidies. The county tax assessor should zone land of 15 acres or more as agricultural. That puts you in a considerably reduced tax bracket. One type of subsidy would qualify goats, sheep, and cattle for special programs if there is a drought and you have to buy hay. You can get the hay at reduced prices. County agents can help people know if they qualify.” The government and other organizations sometimes offer free material to help farmers prepare their tax returns. Good record keeping is essential and an aggressive accountant a real plus.
One danger that alternative livestock investors must watch out for is fads. If the breeder’s market stage goes too quickly to the buyer’s market there can be a “glut” of animals. This occurs when the supply has passed the demand with not enough end product uses. That’s where an investment can fall flat on its face. Mr. Bissell advises people to stay out of fads. They can do this by finding out if the animals have more than one end market. “The more outlets available the better. Can you sell the animals as breeders or as pets? Sell their wool or meat? Can you recoup your money in any other area than the breeder’s market? If breeder prices are low use the meat market. Don’t have all your eggs in one basket!”
In order to enhance profitability Mr. Bissell suggests a shotgun approach – “using every market you can: exotic auctions, private sales, Internet lists, but don’t sell to everybody. Screen your buyers. Visit, visit, go to sales, talk to people, go to farms. I’ve made every mistake humanly possible and most two or three times (breeding or marketing). You’d better know what you are doing if you go big time. Ask yourself if you can lose everything that you’ve got plus pay the vet bills? Can you feed everything for two years before you sell anything? Use good sense!”
When asked if he would begin again
he said, “Sure! I’d just try
to figure out a market BEFORE I bought the animal. Elephants are nice but would pose a problem
The third story is my own. I have loved and raised animals all my life. When we moved to a farm nine years ago, my immediate desire was to fill the pastures with an assortment of wonderful creatures. I fit into the growing number of people who own small acreage and want to begin their own homestead. The criteria that I used follows:
4 What were the breeds that I was interested in and enjoyed?
4 Which and how many animals could our farm sustain and could I afford?
4 Were the breeds compatible? Their foraging patterns complementary?
4 Was there potential for long-term markets and profitability?
4 I wanted animals that were hardy with easy management.
4 It was important that their care and size not be intimidating for a woman.
4 If I never made a profit, would I still want to own them?
Through some trial and error I narrowed the breeds that I wanted to commit to down to four. Miniature goats captured my attention because there weren’t very many around and the ones that I did see had babies that looked like little toys running around in the field. They were excellent pets being easy to care for, small, curious, people-oriented if handled from birth and came in a kaleidoscope of colors. I chose miniature donkeys because they were intelligent, funny, sociable, had multiple uses, and sustained a good selling market for years. The majestic presence of alpacas combined with their “fluffy” look and enormous brown eyes first made me notice that breed. Their relatively few numbers, diminutive size, gentle nature, high quality fiber, and varied uses made them a logical choice for me. I wanted to raise my own eggs with a flair. So I purchased unique poultry with topknots, feathers on their legs or that grew backwards or that looked more like hair, and chickens which laid green or dark brown colored eggs. A side benefit was that they turned out to be excellent at insect control. I have enjoyed all these breeds for many years now.
When I first started looking, I
found that the breeds that I wanted were hard to find. The ads in the paper
proved to be scarce, so a friend and I took to the roads scouring pastures for
animals. That, too, was unproductive but
fun. Out of a desire to find breeders
and bring people who wanted animals together with those who had them to sell an
event was born. Through the Rare Breed
Livestock, Miniature, and Pet Expo, which began in
People who raise animals for the most part are nurturers, have a good work ethic, and are “salt of the earth” types. They are creative. I have met many hand spinners and weavers whose animals sparked that aspect of their lives. I know people who make felted, knitted, and woven products to wear and sell from their farm-raised fiber as well as creative stuffed toys and yarn. They sell goat milk soaps and lotions, train animals for others, offer pet therapy, have petting zoos, built processing plants, and shearing services all because at some point they got interested in animals. They desire to be more self-sufficient and pour themselves wholeheartedly into the task.
I have found that it is easy to get the cart before the horse in starting a livestock operation. You find an animal that’s a rare jewel and must purchase it whether the premises are prepared or not! It is wise to research fencing, housing, feed requirements, husbandry, routine medical care and costs, breed characteristics and support organizations before you invest in the animal. A smooth running farm is jump-started by such planning. Andy Stanley author of a book entitled Visioneering stated, “Everybody ends up somewhere in life. A few people end up somewhere on purpose. Those are the ones with vision. Engineer your vision.” That’s good advice.
We built paddocks and shelters and tried to fence our property in a way that prevented escape artist goats from departing and deadly predators from arriving. We price shopped and looked for businesses that “beat” their competitors’ ads. However, no fencing options provided one hundred percent protection. Thus, necessitating guardian animals. Our donkeys and alpacas have done an excellent job of protecting the more defenseless animals.
One aspect that I had not anticipated before I acquired animals was the necessity in most breeds of separating the males from the females. The situation is compounded when you have multiple breeds and a bumper crop of male babies you keep for several months or if you want to rotate grazing areas. Such partitioning of pastures allows you to plan breeding around the most advantageous seasons and select the best mates. Birthing, new baby and confinement areas were also desirable. All of this adds to the initial cost. Try to find creative ways to offset these expenses. I was told in a seminar this spring that if you build a portable shed on skids that can be moved from pasture to pasture that it becomes equipment rather than a building and is depreciated more advantageously for the farmer.
Locating the animals you want to purchase is probably the most fun of the entire process. The Internet is an invaluable and easy new resource. You can type in the animal you are looking for and have multiple listings at your fingertips. These may include national breed registries, local clubs, and breeders listed state by state. You can join lists dedicated to specific breeds where you receive messages daily from people all over the world regarding livestock. Make this medium work for you. Use email or phone calls to set up appointments with the people whose animals you want to consider. You can also access a wealth of breed publications and university veterinary sites on the Internet to glean very helpful information.
Don’t let your emotions run ahead of logic in purchasing your first animal. Visit many farms, look at a wide variety of animals, and talk not only to the people from whom you want to buy but also to people who run shows or who are in clubs which raise those same breeds. Learn what good conformation looks like and request that the owners show you the animal’s strengths and weaknesses. Ask to see health records, what routine medical care is given, and who their veterinarian is. Find out about necessary tests for transporting animals across state lines and how delivery and payment will be handled. Now you are almost ready to bring that first animal home.
When that day finally arrives, you will find that you have entered one of those “passages in life” which may very well change you forever. I would be bereft without animals in my life! I’ve come to enjoy “farm aerobics” far better than acquiring a gym membership for my exercise. I deal with stress by literally “taking to the fields” and find myself refreshed after being outside in all types of weather with animals that are both entertaining and interesting. Our land is not a liability but an asset and the alternative livestock, which share it with us, make it all, as God said at the creation, “very good.”
Deirdre D. Tarr
Leonard, the Opportunistic Goat
There are some things in life that take maturity or at least a mid-life crisis to come into focus. That must explain why my fortieth birthday and a move into the country on a parcel of land brought miniature goats to the forefront of my consciousness. I cannot even remember the first goat I ever saw, but suddenly I wanted not one, but some. This is the story of one who will live forever in my heart, Leonard.
The first purebred Nigerian Dwarf goat I ever owned was Leonard's mother, Precious. She was rather nondescript being solid brown, with none of the beautiful random markings that are so desirable in the breed. Since Nigerian Dwarf's are indeed a miniature breed she was very small and had been gentled by the loving arms of a five-year-old child both characteristics endeared her to me immediately. Her purchase along with a purebred buck named Runaway is a story of literal horse trading that is worthy of a telling all it's own. Suffice it to say, they became my first miniature Nigerian Dwarf pair.
I looked forward to breeding time in the fall when the hope of a toy-sized late spring kid might become a reality. But as all things work, summer came first and we were going on vacation. I carefully went through the process with the temporary caretaker and left with the warning, "The one thing I don't want is the buck to get in with the doe." I am sure that all shepherds have tales of this sort, but when I got home I was aghast to see Runaway in the same pen with Precious. I called the person and she said, "He got in with her the first day and we couldn't get him out." We'd been gone 10 days. Plenty of time for....
Well, as novice shepherding would go, Precious got larger and larger in
the dead of winter. I knew the worst (or
so I thought) had happened. I calculated
the five months gestation to put the baby due in January. January!
Of all times! For goodness sake
it snows in
A friend came by one day to see if we'd had a baby yet, so I bundled up
in my coat and as we were heading to the truck heard a rather distressed,
"baaaaah!" Precious was laying
on her side in the throes of labor and the companion goat was butting her! Poor Precious! That goat quickly lost residence in the comfy
winter-proofed truck. When I checked
Precious an ominously large hoof was showing.
The veterinarian seemed most professional and nonplussed as we entered in quite a huff. Obviously, he did not feel the situation was as urgent as I did. He inspected and x-rayed and a C-section was the safest course of action. I wanted both mother and baby to live very badly. My husband and I assisted (forever after earning for my husband the "goat-midwife" designation), because of course it was after normal office hours. A large buck was delivered much to exhausted Precious' relief. He was alive, but looked very strange. I was needed to help hold Precious while she was being stitched, so I placed the pathetic little kid on the floor securely wrapped in towels to warm him. I kept an eye on him. At one point I asked with some urgency," Does it look like the baby has stopped breathing?" The vet told me to pick him up and gently sling his head down to remove any mucus and then to rub him vigorously. All of which I did as I whispered, "Breathe, baby, breathe." He did breathe and I got a good look at him as I cradled him in my arms to provide extra warmth.
What a sight he was. Black as the ace of spades, as they say. But he appeared horribly deformed. His lower jaw was extended way beyond his upper. His tongue was bright red and swollen as big as my finger. His forehead and eyes were misshapen with one side horribly lumped up higher than the other. He was pitiful. My husband later told me that the vet said it would be a miracle if he lived. I'm glad I didn't hear. The vet said as we were leaving, "If he lives and turns out to be normal name him after me!"
Because of the trauma of surgery his mother did not bond with him. I knew how important it was for him to get the first milk (colostrum) for warmth and immunity. So I went out into the freezing night, laid in the crunchy hay and milked his mother's tiny udder. He would have no bottle, so I forced milk into him with an eye-dropper while he baaed, "Bloody murder." Talk about lack of appreciation! I was only trying to help. I bedded him in a basket under a warming lamp for the night. The next morning he was standing, but I noticed his leg. It bent under at the first joint above his hoof. Half a popsicle stick became a splint and I hoped for the best.
Wonderfully, he began to eat well and to look more normal. He could walk on his little splinted leg. I tried to reintroduce him to Precious and to make a long story short she went from biting at him to ignoring him and licking the truck wall, to licking him and letting him nurse. Success! He lived, was accepted by his mother, and by two weeks of age looked perfectly normal in every respect, even his leg. (His appearance abnormalities had been caused by being pressed into the birth canal for so long before the surgery.) And he loved me, too. Leonard (my vet's name) was home to stay.
The story doesn't end here, however. Precious developed mastitis on one side. I treated her, but Leonard, who was out in the pasture with the other goats now did not like the reduced diet. So opportunist that he was...would wait until another goat with a full udder would busy herself with the grain at feeding time and then he would latch on to the inviting udder with gusto until she realized it wasn't her baby helping itself to a quick snack and without much ado sent Leonard sprawling. He scrambled to his feet and proceeded to the next available spout until feeding time was over. I had to hand it to him for initiative! And spunk! He weathered that trial quite well and became the picture of goat health.
Two or three months later a visitor came by and I was showing her the adorable miniature goats and telling her what nice pets they were. I told her how easy they were to care for and how intelligent they were compared to other livestock. With one of those disbelieving tones she said, "Well, they don't come when they are called do they." (It really wasn't a question.) I did not respond. I turned, spotted my target and called, "Leonard!" He stopped grazing, looked up, wagged his cute little tail in joy and came at a run. I clapped my hands. He rose up on his back legs placing his front legs in my hands and I picked him up. Question answered. I rest my case. It was a crowning moment.
Only he and I knew what had brought us to this moment. It had to do with perseverance and good care and fortuitous timing and a lot of love. Now whenever life is stressful Leonard and I have a goat-therapy session - seated in a verdant pasture, gazing at a beautifully peaceful pastoral scene, with a black wonder-goat contentedly asleep in my lap - I thank God for "seeing us safe thus far."
Deirdre D. Tarr
Q. What is alternative livestock?
A. Anything that is not the regular livestock people raise for food or fiber. They are often breeds not marketed commercially at all.
Q. What are examples of some of the animals that might fit into that category?
A. Deer, antelope, elk, buffalo, reindeer, alpacas, llamas, meat goats, primitive or hair sheep,
miniature horses, cattle, goats, or donkeys, zebra, camels, guardian dogs, ratites, pheasants,
ducks, wallabies, and more. Broadly defined, alternative livestock can be any non-
traditional animal raised on your farm or property.
Q. How do I find animals to purchase?
A. Subscribe to breed magazines. Ask registries for their breeder’s listings. Attend shows, local
club meetings or sales. Talk to friends who own the animals you are interested in and visit as
many farms as possible where they are raised. Contact your local zoo and check the Internet.
Q. What are breed registries and how can they help?
A. Most purebred animals have a national or international registry which records specific
information about their particular breed and the owners of the individual animals. Data on
the animal’s date of birth, parentage (dam and sire), size, color, identification (tattoo,
microchip number, etc.), even blood type and other details may be recorded. Once the
information and appropriate fee is submitted to the parent organization, a certificate is
returned to the owner. This document will then be transferred to the new owners with the
animal as it is sold throughout the years. Usually, purebred animals command a higher price
because there is a greater degree of authenticity in their heritage. Most registries are glad to
send out free listings of their breeders as a service to anyone who makes a request. Many
also offer subscriptions to either newsletters or magazines which are quite helpful to new
owners. They cover a broad range of educational and practical topics which greatly facilitate
the smooth setup of a livestock venture. These registries can put you in touch with people in
your area who not only have animals to sell, but who can also offer valuable support after
Q. Is it necessary to have purebred animals?
A. No. Many successful farms have thrived by selling unregistered or crossbred animals which
cannot be included in any registry. It depends a lot on your market and your own personal
goals and preferences. Animals sold as pets are just as lovable whether they come with a
certificate of registration or not. Often investors raising meat breeds will use purebred males
over a variety of females to meet the particular demands of the market. Many crossbred
animals are just as desirable as their purebred counterparts. However, I heard someone say
once that both registered and unregistered animals eat the same amount, so if you can get a
higher price for the purebred one, it might be best to go that route.
Q. Are there special regulations for owning alternative livestock?
A. The best places to check are:
a your state veterinarian
athe United States Department of Agriculture and
athe local or state wildlife regulatory agency.
Some breeds do require licensing or a permit to own, breed, or sell. Onsite inspections and
fees are usually a part of this process. There are also specific health requirements which
must be met and veterinary tests that are needed when showing, transporting, selling, or
importing most types of livestock.
Q. How do you decide which breeds are the best investments?
A. The strategy for developing a profitable operation is to find a need and fill it. Check with
your local county agricultural agent to find out what traditional livestock markets are doing
and see if he knows of specific unmet needs in your area. If there are livestock sales near
you, attend them and talk to the people there about what is selling best locally. Take note of
the composition of the population in your community and see if you can provide specific
products or animals that are hard to find but wanted. Talk to registries about the current
trends and demand for their animals. Ask people you know about their sales and get a
perspective over several years if possible.
Q. Are alternative livestock hard to raise?
A. That depends on many factors:
a the type of animals you choose
a your background and experience
a the acreage and facilities you have available
a the climate
a how easy it is to find help or “farm sitters” when you want to go on vacation
a whether their care or food is so exotic that the effort involved in procuring it is not worth
the time it takes
a how accessible knowledgeable veterinarians are
a if you are willing to do what it takes to nurse an injured animal back to health and
a whether or not you are suited to the breed you choose and enjoy what you are doing.
I visited a farm once where the man took a shield into the field with him when he went to
check his Watusi. That would not appeal to me. Most animals have basic husbandry needs
which can be learned by any dedicated student. “Hard to raise” becomes a relative term.
Q. How do I know if my land is right for a particular animal?
A. Study your property and then see if it can sustain and meet the requirements of the breeds in
which you are interested. One rancher I know had a farm that was brushy and mountainous.
He decided that deer were the perfect animals for his rugged terrain. Visit other farms where
those breeds are raised and see if your facility is comparable. Some areas have field agents
who will come to your property and help you make a judgement. Make sure that your
property meets the appropriate local zoning requirements for the goals you have in mind.
You will benefit by having a natural water supply or the cost of extravagant water bills can
severely decrease profits. Determine if you have adequate shade and grazing. Can you raise
your own feed or is there an affordable source nearby? Know what the minimum and
optimum conditions are for your animals to thrive. Start small and build after you have
answered those questions.
Q. What is the difference between a “hobby farm” and the traditional farm?
A. The first thing that comes to mind is size. Unfortunately, for many reasons, the large acreage
full time farms are dwindling significantly in America today. The cost factors in purchasing
large tracts of land as well as the demanding, never ending season after season of production
are diminishing the numbers of those who can and who want to do that type of work for a
living. However, the satisfaction that comes from raising your own food or animals still has
great value for many people. The farming lifestyle will always be with us. Another
important difference is profitability. You can raise livestock simply because you enjoy it –
just as a sideline, or you can make your farm, no matter what size, a “for profit” venture. In
order to do this you must take certain steps. Do whatever is necessary locally to have your
land designated as a farm and then declare it to be so on your income tax form. Keep
detailed records about expenditures and income. Talk to your accountant about how to meet
federal agricultural requirements and find out how many years you will be given to post a
profit. Order and study the Farmer’s Tax Guide (Publication 225) from the Internal Revenue
Service or access it at http://www.irs.gov on theWorld Wide Web for more detailed
information. Determine what your goals are, your level of commitment to your homestead,
and then aggressively pursue “your dream.”
Q. How do I know if there are markets for my animals?
A. Ask around. Search them out, even develop them yourself. Study and get busy advertising. One of the best ways to sell is to have quality animals, be knowledgeable about them and their products, and enthusiastic. Anyone who owns animals must put in substantial effort to sell them and their products. Let people know that you have animals for sale. In a seminar I attended, a large breeder of alpacas advised us to always have a sales list ready. Don’t wait to build your herd. Even if you have only a few animals or if you have animals that you really prefer to keep, just price them high, but get the word out that you are in business. If they do sell then you can replace them. Have prepared packets ready to send out quickly in response to an inquiry. Be creative. Get people to your farm and your livestock before the public by going to farm days, school events, local fairs, entering parades, offering educational programs, having seminars at your farm, etc. When you show animals, take signs to post with information about the ones you have for sale. Develop a web site on the Internet to publicize your animals, products, or services. Become involved with clubs and World Wide Web breed lists, and find out if they allow you to inform their members by posting notices when you have livestock for sale. Most clubs or registries, as well as experienced breeders, can help you recognize and find appropriate markets. If you have quality animals you can always sell to other breeders to help them improve their line. Print business cards and freely distribute them. Leave no rock unturned!
Deirdre D. Tarr
Alternative Livestock Q & A (Issue Two)
Q. We’ve purchased a piece of property and want to start a farm and raise livestock. It’s just wide-open pastures and forest. How do we begin to know how to fence it all?
A. A wise plan of action is not to do anything piecemeal. By that I mean that
you need to take some time to think through the entire process and look at
the big picture:
* Do I want to raise crops as well as animals? Which parcel is best suited for
each purpose? Can I allow for rotation of pastures? Raising my own hay?
* Will I have to create a watersource? How near is water to each paddock? (It is
much better to run water lines before you fence.)
* Is it important to have the animals and barn near the house? (Remember how
cold it gets in the winter!)
* Where should the barn located be to facilitate feeding, storage, and adequate
protection from the weather? (Does the wind always blow from the north?)
* Take into consideration any noises or odors that might be offensive to neighbors.
* If I have more than one breed, can I fence so that they all funnel into one
barn or central area? What type of fencing best suits my purposes and breeds?
* How will I get my equipment and animals from one pasture to another?
* How wide do the gates need to be?
* Will I need electricity (and underground lines run) to any acreage?
* Can I afford to do it all at once or on an “as I can pay” basis?
* Are there reliable, skilled persons who can help layout or actually do the work?
* What resources, agencies, or people are available to help me design wisely?
As you can see there are many different aspects to consider. Take your time. Develop short term and long term goals within your overall farm plan. Brainstorm and be creative as well as practical. Draw out your “best case scenario” and then take it along to more experienced farmers or agricultural agencies for their fine-tuning.
Q. I have a friend who told me a horror story about her sheep being attacked by a pack
of roaming dogs. What predators do I need to be aware of and how can I protect
against their destruction?
A. Unfortunately, that is a danger that comes along with raising livestock. The
predatory animals that might cause a problem depend somewhat on your location.
However, a brief listing might include creatures such as coyotes, hawks, mountain
lions, wild dogs (or even a pack of domestic dogs running together), raccoons,
foxes, bears, and there are others.
To answer the second part of your question, one of the best protections is
appropriate and secure fencing which is suited to your location and the breed(s) you
raise. Making sure that the fence is high enough with no gaps where it meets the
ground is a good starting place and will keep many canine and wild predators out.
Gathering your animals into shelters or a secure barn at night will help but is labor
intensive. I have a friend who was losing much of her poultry every spring until
she began setting a humane trap and caught enough raccoons to populate a small
city as well as a couple of opossum, a feral cat, and a skunk all of whom were
raiding her henhouse at night! One of the best options to prevent animal loss it to
acquire a guardian animal to patrol your paddocks. Be vigilant. Ask your
neighbors to let you know if they see any problem animals and how they are
preventing loss. Plan ahead to minimize your losses.
Q. What is the best kind of guardian animal?
A. That is determined by the animals you raise, your needs and preferences. Certain
breeds of dogs have been performing that very valuable function for hundreds of
years. They are by instinct protective toward the animals with which they bond. I
once purchased a Nigerian Dwarf Goat from a woman who transported several
goats through two states in a trailer with a Great Pyrenees Livestock Guardian Dog
in the enclosure with them. When I arrived at the designated meeting place no one
was around. I went over to look at my goat and was accosted by the ferocious
warning barks of their canine protector to come no closer. Believe me, I waited.
I could see why she didn’t worry about leaving the animals in a motel parking lot
enroute. Other proven guardian dogs are: Akbash, Anatolian Shepherds,
Komondors, Sharplaninec, etc.
If you prefer to have livestock breeds livestock rather than canine
guardians protecting your animals, you have several choices. Llamas have the size,
alertness, and courage to deter many predators and have a history of success in
pastures all over the world. I read a story about a valiant llama, which repeatedly
charged and kept itself between the sheep and attacking dogs until help arrived.
Although it was severely injured, no sheep were hurt and it never gave up.
Donkeys have an excellent reputation as sentinels also. Their hilarious “hee haw”
is as good a bugle call for any cavalry to come to the rescue that I know! And they
back that up with a powerful kick and biting if necessary. The advantage with these
breeds is that they eat the same food as your other livestock, being a herbivore is a
Q. What on earth are hair sheep?
A. Sheep which do not need to be shorn. They naturally shed their fiber. Their smooth hair coat makes them especially well suited for hot and humid climates. Sheep such
as Barbados Blackbelly, Dorper, Katahdin, St. Croix, Wiltshire Horn and others fit
into this category. Some say that hair sheep are significantly more tolerant of
parasites than wooled varieties and if managed correctly require minimal parasite
treatment. Since their energy is not needed for fiber production, more muscle is
produced making them very desirable as meat animals. If you are interested in
finding out more information a good resource with photos is the Oklahoma State
University web site – http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds
Q. I’m interested in primitive breeds of livestock. How do you suggest that I go about
finding animals that are relatively few in number or that are endangered?
A. An excellent organization to contact is the American Livestock Breeds
Conservancy. Their brochure states that they are “working to protect over 100 breeds…from extinction…. because agriculture has changed. Modern food production now favors the use of a few highly specialized breeds selected for maximum output in a controlled environment. Many traditional livestock breeds have lost popularity and are threatened with extinction. These traditional or ‘heritage’ breeds are an essential part of the American agricultural inheritance, providing important genetic resources for our future while recalling our past.”
They prioritize into five categories breeds that are in some degree of danger:
1. Critical – fewer than 200 (annual North American registrations)
2. Rare – fewer than 1,000
3. Watch – fewer than 2,500
4. Study – breeds of interest but which lack either definition or genetic or historic documentation
– breeds which were once listed in one of the other categories but have now
exceeded Watch category numbers but are still in need of monitoring.
American Livestock Breeds Conservancy
PO Box 477
Pittsboro, NC 27312
Q. My neighbor was talking about her llama being a modified ruminant. What did she
mean by that?
A. First, we need to review what a true ruminant is. Any animal that has cloven
hooves, a toothless upper gum, a four-compartment stomach (rumen, reticulum,
omasum, & abomasum) and chews its cud is in this category, i.e. cattle, sheep, deer,
buffalo, elk, goats. The term “modified ruminant” applies to camelids (camels,
llamas, guanacos, alpacas, and vicunas) which have a stomach with three
compartments. The llama’s first compartment basically does the work of both the
rumen and reticulum in a ruminant and it’s third and fourth sections are the same as
those of a ruminant.
Q. I have two Pygmy goats, one has horns, the other has already been dehorned. I keep hearing that I should never "encourage" the horned goat to head butt or ram people or other animals, but how do I "discourage" her from doing so? She is especially active in ramming the other, younger dehorned goat. Is there any way to train a goat?
A. This is a good question which will be of interest to anyone who is new to raising goats. If goats are well socialized when they are young there is very little likelihood that they will be aggressive toward people. Goats have a “pecking order,” a hierarchy of dominance, whenever there are two or more. They assert their “rule” over the “underlings” by aggressive actions, sounds, and/or play. (Much the same as the “alpha dog” concept in canines.) Unless you spend a lot of time with the goats it will be hard to discourage them from doing what is a natural instinct. When you see the unacceptable actions in process, walk briskly toward the goats; clap your hands and say, “NO!” That should get their attention and stop the butting. However, I recommend that you watch the goats during this activity. Quite often you will find that it is more a ritual than an attack. They may jump up on their back legs, make aggressive sounds, butt heads a couple of times and then go about their business with no harm to either one. If that is the case, don’t worry about injury. They are just communicating using ages old goat methods and will learn their places in the herd and eventually adapt peaceably with only an occasional butting “reminder.” Usually, a horned goat and the older animal will have an advantage over ones without horns (polled) and will become dominant because of those assets.
You mentioned the issue of inappropriate actions by the goat toward people. As I stated above goats rarely show aggression toward people. If they are handled and petted from the time they are born or even bottle fed they learn to bond with their humans and make wonderful pets. Their natural curiosity and playfulness (running toward someone who enters their pasture, jumping up on someone (just as a dog does) who is carrying a bucket of feed) is not an assault but a sociable greeting. If that is undesirable, learn how to ward off that behavior. If you either squat down on your knees and hold your hand out to them or put the bucket on the ground the goats will be less likely to jump up.
However, there is always the possibility of a rogue animal. If you find that you do have one that for some reason “attacks” people, then try to socialize and desensitize it. Never let it be aggressive toward you or any other person. Separate it from all the other animals. When you feed it try getting it to eat its food out of your hand. Spend time with it daily, talking to it, touching it, eventually put a collar on it and try leading it possibly to a lush grazing area so that it will associate being led with a positive end result. Just go for a few feet at a time and don’t overtire the animal by working with it for too long at one time. The more time you spend gaining its trust the better it should behave. If that fails consult your veterinarian, the specialists at a veterinary school, a well-seasoned goat farmer, the national registry, or a breeder who shows their goats for further advice and hands on help. You can also post questions to goat lists online, and others who have experienced the same problem might reply with what has worked for them.
Goats are very intelligent animals. I have one who knows his name and comes when called. You may also find that the miniature breeds of goats are more suited to your needs because their size makes them less intimidating. Goats can be trained to do complicated activities and tricks by using positive reinforcement through a method called clicker training. (Read Don’t Shoot the Dog: The New Art of Teaching and Training by Karen Pryor.) I read an article about a goat that was trained to climb a tree, sit like a dog, fetch, and enter a crate on command!
Box information (follows each question & is in bold):
American Goat Society
PO Box 330
Broad Run, VA 20137
Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association
1414 Wilson Road
Dwarf Digest Magazine
American Dairy Goat Association
P.O. Box 865
Spindale, NC 28160
Q. Why do people bottle feed baby animals?
A. There are several reasons for bottle feeding:
her contaminated mammary gland. Immediate removal of the baby and feeding
with sterile colostrum and then milk by bottle can insure a healthier animal.
to properly nourish the newborn, so a supplement must be given.
order to save the young animal’s life.
Q. I am interested in raising deer on my land. Are they a good investment and what
information can you give to help me start out right?
A. I spoke with a friend who has raised deer for many years, and his reply was that they
are a better investment than cattle because of the return per acre. He said that if
people properly market deer, they can produce more deer than cattle off grass. He
has found that they have less than ten percent of the diseases that sheep, goats, and
cattle have and that they rarely need veterinary care. Ninety-five percent of his vet
work is for shipping requirements.
You should check with your state veterinarian or wildlife resource agency to see what
regulations apply in your state for raising deer. Some states forbid keeping certain
types of native deer in captivity. The majority of states follow standard regulations.
However, one state may consider them to be livestock while another wildlife. Since
they are non-traditional livestock they are usually carefully monitored and health-
tested for interstate transport. So find out what the requirements are before you
purchase and move them.
A major consideration before purchasing is having a good fence that will contain
them. He considers an eight-foot fence to be standard and recommends New Zealand
Game Fencing which is a high tensile woven wire that he states, will contain
everything from sheep to bison. Deer range in price from $100 to $5000. A good
start-up herd would be one buck with 3-6 does.
Types of deer often farmed (place in body of question or as a box):
Axis – White spots against a chestnut background year round in this tropical specie,
Fallow – High quality venison, beautiful and unusually large antlers for their body
size, eat broader range of food than goats
Red – Larger body size, elegant carriage, good quality venison
Sika – Hardy foragers, broad food range, thrive in most circumstances, come in
White tailed – Considered by many as the ultimate game animal, named for
distinctive white tail or “flag”
9301 Annapolis Road #206
Lanham, MD 20706-3115
Cleve Tedford, Director NADeFA
1798 Rafter Road
Tellico Plains, TN 37385
Q. We are considering buying chickens for our farm. Are there any benefits to having
them other than the eggs?
A. Chickens are a good complement to any farm for many practical reasons. As you mentioned the eggs are a real plus because they are superior, I think, to those bought at the supermarket. I’ve often suggested that visitors on my farm help me gather eggs, which is always a big hit. Then I ask them to compare the quality of the “just laid” eggs by taking one of my fresh eggs home and cracking it into a bowl beside one they have purchased at the supermarket. The difference is immediately noticeable. The albumen (clear outer portion surrounding the yolk) and yolk are usually firmer with the yolk displaying a much darker shade of yellow. Excess eggs are very easy to sell.
Chickens were created to be free-range meaning that they wander and scavenge for their own food. This practice has several beneficial aspects. Poultry scratch through the soil and uncover various types of insect larvae. This practice becomes a good natural way to keep the pest population down on your farm as well as cutting back on the need to buy prepared food for them. They have less parasite problems because they literally take “dust baths” rolling from side to side in the sand, which again promotes the bird’s health.
Chickens have been called nature’s alarm clock. However, they make a variety of sounds in addition to the famous “cock-a-doodle-do!” They have a special cluck for their chicks and screeches of varying degrees when they are startled or caught.
Hens usually lay one egg a day. Most of the ones purchased commercially are infertile meaning that no rooster fertilized them. Barnyard hens have their eggs fertilized every day by the reigning rooster. At some instinctive juncture they go broody and “decide” that they want to hatch some of those eggs in their nest. Gathering and removing the eggs as they are laid can prevent hatching. The hen sets on a clutch of eggs. (This is a very strong drive in some varieties of poultry more so than in others. I have seen hens that wanted so badly to hatch something that they would set on rocks! I have also seen one hen sitting on top of another hen trying to help hatch the eggs under the first hen. Intelligence is not a chicken’s strong point.) If the eggs are left until a number accumulate the hen will set on them for approximately 21 days, daily turning them with her beak, warming, and protecting them. At the end of that time the fully developed chick begins pecking its way out of the shell with a special protrusion on its beak. The wet scrawny looking chick quickly dries into the adorable fluffy little creature which has been enjoyed by farm children for centuries. The chicks follow the hen around and begin to fend for themselves immediately. A mother hen is quite protective of her flock and will challenge anything that she perceives as a threat. Chickens prefer to roost up high at night, which helps prevent capture by predators. However, a mother hen nests on the ground each evening with all the babies gathered contentedly under her as she shelters them with her body and wings. It is a delightful sight.
There is great diversity in the varieties of poultry. Some of the more unusual types can complement any alternative livestock operation. Marans lay some of the darkest brown eggs in the world. Araucanas are called “Easter Egg Chickens” because they lay eggs with shells that are naturally blue, green, or pink. (They can be a great illustration for Dr. Suess’s book Green Eggs and Ham!) Many types of poultry have striking topknots of spiked feathers, feathers which grow all the way down their legs, grow backwards or which look more like hair than feathers. Many local 4-H Clubs promote poultry ownership by subsidizing children who want to begin raising them and then sponsoring sales and shows to market the mature birds. Agricultural extension agents often have free poultry resources for the public. Chickens are a very useful, interesting asset to any homestead.
NATIONAL POULTRY NEWS
P.O. Box 1647
Easley, SC 29641
Alternative Livestock Q & A columnist Deirdre D. Tarr raises alpacas, miniature donkeys, miniature goats and an assortment of other agricultural animals on her farm in Tennessee. Visit - www.HeartsongTripleDFarm.com Copyright – reprints by permission only.
Q. What is a cria?
A. That is the term used for a newborn alpaca or llama. I often tell people that they are born looking like
E.T. and in a year’s time become majestic fluffy creatures!
Q. How do I go about introducing a new animal to the ones that I already have?
A. This question highlights a very important part of responsible animal husbandry. The wise livestock buyer must do everything possible to assure that the animal he is purchasing is in tip top health by:
· asking the owner about it’s routine veterinary care
· making sure worming and vaccinations are current as well as what medicines were used
· personally examining the animal
· asking about any injuries the animal may have experienced
· either speaking with the veterinarian who cares for the animal or having your own examine it to make sure all it’s vital signs are normal
· viewing the general health of the other animals in the herd it is leaving
Even when all of these things are done there is always a risk that the new animal could be incubating something that has not yet manifested symptoms. Therefore, it is best to follow some simple guidelines that will insure the safest and smoothest transition of the animal into it’s new home:
· Keep the animal in a quarantine area where it cannot have contact with the other animals in any way for two weeks so it can be observed for developing symptoms of sickness.
· Dispose of any bedding or fecal matter in an area where no other animals have contact with it and where particles cannot be tracked on shoes from one field to another.
· You might want to go to the effort of having a disinfecting bath outside the area that must be stepped in before leaving the animal’s stall so as not to transport potential bacteria on boots from that pen into the pasture where the other animals are.
· Bring some of the feed that the animal was eating at it’s previous home and gradually integrate any new feed with it until you have completely moved to the new feed, probably over a period of a couple of weeks. This will prevent “shocking” the animal’s digestive tract with so much sudden change.
· Have a holding area prepared where the animal when it has passed the incubation period can be gradually introduced to the other animals, i.e. a stall or pen adjacent to the other livestock which allows them to see and hear each other as well as touch noses.
· Worm the animal before you release it into the pasture with the other animals. This prevents new parasites from being introduced into your farm.
· Introduce the new addition to any guardian animals or family pets gradually as well.
· If feasible feed the new animal from your hand to get it used to you in a positive way. Speak to it before you enter it’s stall and always be wary as it surely will be of you as a stranger.
Although a fair amount of effort is involved in these precautions they can prove to save you hundreds of dollars in loss and veterinary bills if you prevent a deadly infection from reaching an entire herd. These procedures will also lessen the stress that the new animal experiences by acclimating it slowly to it’s new environment. You may need to adapt some of the details to fit the requirements of a particular breed or the animal’s temperament, but overall following these guidelines will make the transition to a new home go as smoothly as possible.
Q. What is a primitive sheep and do Jacob Sheep fit into that category?
A. One of the most respected sheep breeders that I know defines a primitive breed as “one that man has not commercialized or tampered with, i.e. not bred for a larger frame or to increase milk production. It is one where the animals still have the mothering instinct and can thrive, survive, and reproduce without man’s constant input. A sheep that is fairly close to what it was when it began as a breed.”
Jacob Four Horned Sheep are a primitive breed that are mid-sized, hearty, have a beautiful spotted fleece, and striking horns. The rams can have from four to six horns. Their size makes them a good family meat breed. A friend has a herd of Jacobs within a couple of miles of my house. One day I noticed a ewe in his field that only had one five-inch horn just off center on its forehead! That was enough to make me think that there might have been unicorns. Ewes can be polled (no horns) or have multiple horns.
This breed dates back to biblical times when the Jewish patriarch, Jacob, asked his father-in-law, Laban for all the streaked and spotted sheep. (Read the story yourself in the Bible - Genesis 30:25-43.)
Jacob Sheep Conservancy http://www.jacobsheepconservancy.org
Kate Shirley, Secretary (919)557-0471
6512 Rex Road
Holly Springs, NC 25754
Jacob Sheep Breeders Association http://www.jsba.org, support @jsba.org
Q. What plants are poisonous to my animals and how do I identify them?
A. Plants from common buttercups that grow abundantly in many fields to wild cherry trees can
be a problem for animals. Landscaping plants like yew and normally edible plants such as
rhubarb can be toxic. There are too many plants that might be potentially detrimental to your
animals to name in this column.
There are also other factors such as geographical location, condition of the plant (some are
only toxic in a wilted form for instance), specific part of the plant (the bulb or berry might be
the only dangerous part), the amount of the plant ingested (some will kill if one leaf is eaten,
others take a quantity of the material), etc. that must be considered. You are very prudent to
want to find out what might be harmful to your animals.
However, the best method would be to contact your local agricultural agent and have him
come to your farm and walk the pasture with you to point out any problem plants. Colleges
of Veterinary Medicine are good sources, also. They might have a class or a particular
session of a class that you could audit. You can also approach them about offering a slide
presentation from an expert to your breeders group. You will find that a book with colored
pictures and both scientific and common names of the poisonous plants will be most helpful
especially if you can acquire one from your region. If you are transporting animals to an
area with which you are unfamiliar it would be a good idea to contact someone in that zone
and inquire about dangerous plants so that you can familiarize yourself with them in
advance. A good rule of thumb is if you don’t know what the plant is don’t let your animal
I have noticed that quite often the animals’ “sense” that those plants are bad and leave them
untouched in their fields. Sometimes a small taste will deter them before any harm is done.
If animals have adequate good grazing or forage growth with which to fill their stomachs
they will, I think, be less likely to experiment with poisonous plants. I have seen pastures
which were heavily grazed except for great quantities of buttercups that the animals left
completely alone making the field look like a buttercup garden! Agricultural agents can also
tell you how and when to most effectively remove those suspect plants. It is a good idea to
call your veterinarian if you suspect that your animal has eaten something poisonous. There
are Animal Poison Hotline Phone services that charge a pay per call fee which are available
24 hours a day.
of County Agricultural Agents
252 N. Park St.
Decatur, IL 62523
Phone (217) 876-1220
Fax (217) 877-5382
Pb 1586 Poisonous Plants of the Southeastern United States available from your county agricultural agent.
Burger, Sandra M. Horse Owner's Field Guide to Toxic Plants. Ossining, NY: Breakthrough Publications Inc., 1996. ISBN: 0-914-32762-3
Kingsbury, John M. Poisonous Plants of the United States and Canada. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1964.
Knight, Anthony P. and Walter, Richard G. A Guide to Plant Poisoning of Animals in North America, Teton New Media.
North, Pamela M. Poisonous Plants and Fungi in Colour. London: Blandford Press, 1967.
Turner, Nancy J. and Adam F. Szczawinski. Common Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms of North America. Portland, OR: Timber Press, 1991.
Q. What is the difference between African Pygmy and Nigerian Dwarf miniature goats?
A. African Pygmy goats are designated as a meat breed. They have a shorter neck, are more compact and muscled – cobby. They have somewhat longer hair than Nigerian Dwarf Goats. All body colors are accepted, but the predominant color is a grizzled, agouti pattern produced by intermingling light and dark hairs. Pygmy goats have lighter markings on their muzzles, foreheads, eyes and ears except for completely black goats. Light areas are allowed on their midsections if they appear as a complete or partial band. All other patches are a fault. Often herds of this type have many goats with uniform markings.
Nigerian Dwarf goats have dairy type and character. There are both milking and non-milking herds. Their body is smaller than standard dairy breeds but proportionally balanced. Any color or combination of colors is permissible making a herd of Nigerian Dwarfs quite visually diverse. Pygmy type markings are a fault in this breed. Their coat is straight with short to medium hair and milk testing is supported.
Both breeds have well supported registries and show systems. More information can be found at:
www.ndga.org for the Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association which publishes Dwarf Digest and at
www.npga-pygmy.com for the National Pygmy Goat Association which publishes Memo.
A. Yak are an ancient breed belonging to the bovine (cattle) family, Bos grunniens. They would be
excellently suited for mountainous areas because they originated in the Himalayan Mountains of
Tibet and surrounding countries often called “the roof of the world” at elevations up to 16,000 feet.
Yaks are sure-footed on snow and ice having originated in countries with frigid climates. They have
been used in Asia people for thousands of years to pack over treacherous mountain trails. They
are essential to the livelihood of the native people who use every part of the yak. They use long hair
for making rope, meat and milk for sustenance, soft underdown which is shed annually for spinning
into cloth or felted to make their yurts (native huts), hides provide leather, horns are used for
signaling, tails valued for fly whisks, and even the dung is burned for fuel. They are still used today
as beasts of burden and mounts on terrain inaccessible to motorized vehicles. It is said that the yak
breathes more slowly than lowland cattle and has more red blood cells which helps their blood bind
more oxygen from the thin air. Their adaptation to cold climates and ability to thrive on sparse
vegetation would make them a good choice for any high country farm in the United States.
There are said to be less than 2000 yaks in the United States today, and the wild yak is listed as an
endangered species. They have a striking appearance and would certainly “stop traffic” as
alternative livestock on your farm! “They are noted for their dramatic horns, massive buffalo-like
hump, thick woolly coat, ankle-length skirt of hair, and bushy horse-like tail. Coloring may be solid
black, trim (black with white markings on the head, feet or tail), royal (black and white piebald),
golden, or golden royal (golden and white piebald). The sound they make is a grunting noise, not a
moo or bellow.” This deep guttural sound has led to the yak being called the grunting ox. Wild yaks
are usually black and larger than the domesticated ones with some bulls reaching 1600 pounds and
six feet at the shoulder hump. When they run they throw their long tails up over their backs like a
whitetailed deer’s flag. Even though they are immense animals they are sure climbers and
good swimmers, very intelligent, and become most docile if handled while young. I recently saw a
beautiful 900 pound yak steer named Toshi which would let two-year-old children and adults ride
on his back! He was an excellent public relations animal for his breed.
Domestic yaks are usually the smaller than ordinary cattle. An average cow is 600-700 pounds and a
mature bull is 1200 to 1500 pounds. They will readily breed with the domestic cow which often
produces a hardier and stronger animal with better milk and meat production. These crossbreeds
called “dzo” are in great demand in frontier areas of Tibet because they are especially strong and
good natured for use in plowing and mountain caravans. Even though yak and cattle are close
enough genetically to cross breed there are significant differences so that all the male offspring
produced are sterile. However, the females are fertile. Gestation is 8 ½ months with a single calf
weighing around 25 to 35 pounds being the normal birth. Mature size is reached in 6-8 years and
they live around 25 years. They graze on grass, require a lot of water, and are basically very hardy
and easy keepers.
Yak milk is creamy white and has a rich 6% to 7% butterfat content as well as a fragrant, sweetish
smell. Fat is stored on the outside of the carcass as natural protection against the harsh elements in
their native countries and can be easily trimmed off making for a leaner finished product. Some
tests have shown fat content to be around 6% to 10% with cholesterol under 50. Yak meat is tender,
lean without marbling, and healthy.
So, if you are looking for alternative livestock that is both exotic and easily assimilated into your
farm, yak may be perfect! They offer old-world charm, a docile nature, an excellent product and
good investment potential for the future.
Box info: Yak Facts
There are less than 2000 yaks in North America.
Yaks require no special fencing. Existing cattle facilities are easily used.
Yaks are compatible with most agricultural operations.
Yaks are livestock and quality for certain tax advantages.
Yaks provide useful meat, fiber, milk, and hide.
No special permits are needed to own yaks.
Yaks are disease resistant and cold-climate hardy.
Yaks are quiet, docile, and easily trained.
Female yaks are bred at 18-24 months.
Cows can weigh up to 900 pounds, bulls to 1500 pounds.
Yaks can live up to 25 years.
INTERNATIONAL YAK ASSOCIATION (IYAK), www.yakpage.com
Bob Hasse, President, firstname.lastname@example.org
Secretary/Registrar Cynthia Huber, email@example.com or 719-942-4181
P.O. Box 27
Hillside, CO 81232
Hoopers’ Christmas Tree Ranch
15813 Christmas Tree Road
Cold Spring, MN 56320
320-685-4489, firstname.lastname@example.org, yak-man.com
Q. I think miniature donkeys are so cute. Are they good as livestock for a family with children?
A. I have raised miniature donkeys for nine years, and they are a personal favorite of mine. They are
intelligent, friendly, funny, and hardy animals. The owner of the only donkey (Jasper) I have ever
sold has told me many tales of his antics. This past winter when she was giving her livestock warm
water during a cold snap, her Paso Fino horse got to the bucket first and laid back it’s ears when the
much smaller Jasper came to get a drink. Jasper promptly went to the other side of the pasture,
picked up a fairly large stick in his mouth, went back to the bucket where the horse was drinking and
began tossing his head so that the stick passed quite near the horse’s head several times. The horse
immediately retreated deferring to Jasper and his “weapon” whereupon, Jasper dropped the stick and
began to drink his full of the warm water! Now, that’s a smart donkey. If you want animals that will
enjoy interacting with people then a miniature donkey is an excellent choice. Their curiosity draws
them to people and their sociable nature makes them hang around humans for petting, eating out of a
hand, or just general enjoyment of someone new. One of the most difficult tasks I have with my
donkeys is getting them to stay far enough away from me and the camera so that I can take a picture.
Miniature donkeys belong to the Equidae Family, which is easily seen in their general conformation.
However, their distinctive long ears, hilarious “hee haw,” and disposition set them apart from horses.
Miniature donkeys measure 36” and under which make them an ideal family animal and easier for the
vet to treat or for the farrier to trim hooves. Males are called jacks and females are called jennets or
jennys. The most common color is gray-dun, but they come in beautiful shades of sorrel and brown
with some being completely white or white with spots, and others totally black or tri-colored. They
have a unique dark marking called a cross on their withers. There is a lovely legend about how the
donkey got its cross. The Bible states that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The legend picks up
the story and states that the little donkey was so proud to be his mount that he loyally followed Jesus up
to the place of his Crucifixion. When the faithful animal saw the torture that Jesus was put through he
couldn’t bear to watch but wanted to be near his master, so he turned his back on the sad scene but
stayed near the cross. As a reward for his devotion God forever marked all donkeys with a cross on
Donkeys are very easy keepers needing only pasture or good quality hay with an occasional cup of
sweet feed as a treat if desired. (Fescue grass or hay should not be fed to pregnant donkeys in their last
trimester.) Free choice fresh water and a mineral block are essential. Several miniature donkeys can
be kept on small acreage, but breeding jacks should be kept separate from the jennets. Gestation is
around 12 months with some births ranging between 11 and 13 months. Foals generally weigh between
15 and 25 pounds and reach their mature height at three years. Some jacks are fertile as one year olds,
but it is best to wait until a maiden jenny is around three years old to breed her for the first time. They
need basic vaccinations and deworming treatments on a regular schedule just like other equidae.
Miniature donkeys can be used to pull a cart, are very alert as guardian animals, are perfect for pets;
they even tolerate being dressed up in costumes for parades and shows. Miniature donkeys have been
used as companion animals down through the years. One last Jasper story illustrates this. Jasper lives
not only with the horse mentioned above but with several miniature goats. He has been known to take
his favorite miniature goat gently by the collar and lead her along the pasture for a leisurely walk. If
you want livestock with personality and pizzazz which will endear themselves to you and all who visit
your farm, choose miniature donkeys!
American Council of Spotted Asses, INC.
P.O. Box 121
New Melle, MO 63365
Publishes THE SPOTLIGHT
National Miniature Donkey Association
RD 1 Box 472 Dewey Road
Rome, NY 13440
Publishes ASSET - 315-336-0154
Miniature Donkey Talk Magazine
1338 Hughes Shop
Westminster, MD 21158
WXICOF (Donkey Books, Supplies, Gifts)
914 Riske Lane
Wentzville, MO 63385
(636) 828-5100, http://www.wxicof.com
Q. What exactly is a mule, a hinny, and a zedonk?
A. A mule is the offspring of two closely related but not identical species – the foal of a jack (male donkey) and a mare (female horse). These hybrids come in both male and female but are usually sterile. You cannot breed a mule to a mule and get a mule. You can have mules of all sizes from those bred to Mammoth Jacks and standard sized horses or foals from miniature donkeys bred to miniature mares. Male mules should be gelded since they are very sexually active even though they are sterile. Each animal adds special qualities to the mix creating hybrid vigor, which often allows the mule to grow taller than either parent, have greater stamina, and carry more weight than a horse. A mule gets athletic ability from the horse and high intelligence from the donkey. The mule’s ears are longer than a horse’s ears but not as tall as a donkey’s. It’s tail is full like a horse’s rather than like the donkey’s which has less hair down it’s length with a tassel on the very end. Its vocalization is the strange combination of a whinny and a bray. They can be used in any way a horse can and have received special recognition as being surefooted and excellent jumpers. Mules have been highly valued down through the ages often being the preferred mount of kings and knights. George Washington used a jack the King of Spain gave him to produce the first mules in the United States.
A hinny is the product of a donkey jennet and a stallion horse - the reverse match of the mule.
Hinnies are sometimes said to be more horselike than the mules and are often smaller simply because
most donkeys are smaller than horses. Researchers have found that since horses have 64
chromosomes and donkeys 62, that fertilization occurs more readily if the dam has the greater
number of chromosomes. Mules and hinnies have 63 chromosomes. Both have one horse and one
donkey parent, but the resulting hybrids do differ slightly in appearance. Not as many hinnies are
bred as there are mules, and to most people they appear to be identical. Hinnies are classified as
mules in shows. A female is called a mare hinny and a male, a mule hinny. Both hinnies and mules
are very intelligent and sociable if treated well.
A zedonk results from the breeding of a donkey and zebra, also called zebrass. There is also a zorse
or zebroid (by now you are probably catching on to how this works!) which is the pairing of a horse
with a zebra. Also, a zony would be a pony and zebra. These zebra hybrid foals are uniquely striped,
truly interesting and beautiful to behold.
American Donkey and Mule Society
P.O. Box 1210
Lewisville, TX 75067
Publishes Brayer Magazine
Q. Do people shear animals just to keep them cool? Do sheep really produce lotion?
A. It is important to sheer animals in order to keep them cool. Can you imagine wearing a wool coat during the summer with 95 degree temperatures and 80% humidity! The very thought would make us break out in a sweat. Most animals are shorn in the spring to prevent such a scenario. However, there are other reasons to shear animals. From a practical standpoint, shearing is necessary in order to use the fiber. It must be removed from the animal in order to be processed. This involves the actual clipping (cutting off, shearing) of the fiber from the animal’s body which causes no harm to the
animal and probably feels absolutely wonderful when the cool air hits its skin. Most animals object to being restrained not to the actual fiber harvesting. The fleece is then skirted which is the removal of the coarser, dirtier outer edges of the wool (usually from the legs, belly, and hindquarters). It goes through a process of combing called carding and is then cleaned before it is ready to be spun into yarn or felted into clothing or any number of other useful and decorative items. Another reason to remove the hair from an animal is to show its conformation and to make a sleek presentation of the animal in the show ring. It is standard procedure for horses, goats and other breeds to be clipped during show season. Sometimes an injury will necessitate that an animal be shorn for cleanliness and to facilitate treatment and healing. Shearing is beneficial to animals and should be considered to be part of responsible husbandry for any breed that has dense or long fiber.
In reference to the second part of your question about “lotion,” sheep do produce a greasy substance called lanolin. It protects the sheep from getting too wet. If you run your fingers through a sheep’s fleece you will immediately notice a residue on your hand. I heard a gentleman say once that his hands were in the best shape all year during the three days that he sheared his sheep. Lanolin is removed from the wool by gentle scouring before processing. That’s why we don’t feel it in the finished product.
Q. Are red wattle pigs rare? Where can I get more information on them?
A. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy lists red wattle pigs on their critical list. This means that there are fewer than 200 North American annual registrations and it is estimated that they have a global population under 2,000. Red waddle or tasseled pigs, as they are sometimes called, are known for the wattles that hang down on either side of their neck. Their coat is a rich red, they are gentle natured, easy to work, produce good meat and a lean carcass. Contact the organization below for more information:
Red Wattle Hog
Rt. 7, Box 153
and how can I protect my livestock from getting it? What breeds are affected?
A. West Nile Virus is an encephalitic inflammation of the central nervous system
which first appeared in the United States in 1999. The Bronx Wildlife
Conservation Society in New York discovered the first cases in late summer in
dead crows. WNV was first isolated in the West Nile District of Uganda in 1937
and was soon recognized as the most widespread of the flaviviruses. It has
proved to be incredibly adaptable affecting not only a broad range of animals,
but people as well. Recent Center for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) statistics
showed that 21 states and the District of Columbia have reported 480 cases of
this brain inflammation in people which resulted in 24 deaths. Young or elderly
components of the population or those with compromised immune systems seem
to be most at risk. WNV is expected to spread across most of the United States
in the next few years.
Mosquitoes, mainly those that feed on bird species, are the principal carriers.
The virus has been isolated from 43 mosquito species. Wild birds are the
principal hosts. WNV has been detected in more than 110 bird species. One
indicator of the presence of the virus is unusual mortality in bird populations;
so take special notice of avian species in your pastures and adjacent woodlands.
People and animals can contract the virus when mosquitoes which have taken a
blood meal from an infected bird then bite a person or animal introducing the
virus into their bloodstream. Most infections occur during peak mosquito
season, which varies due to climactic conditions from state to state. Since a
mosquito bite is the main source of infection, you do not need to worry about
getting the illness from animals or people who have been infected. The best
preventative action is to eliminate mosquitoes and their breeding grounds. It is
important to avoid going outside unprotected during the hours that mosquitoes
are most active (dusk to dawn). Using an insect repellant with DEET
Equidae have proven to be particularly susceptible. On August 1, 2001 the
CDC gave Fort Dodge Animal Health, Inc. a conditional license for a West Nile
Virus vaccine. Two doses of the vaccine must be administered intramuscularly
three to six weeks apart with effective protection kicking in two to three weeks
after the second shot. There do not appear to be any adverse affects from the
use of this killed vaccine, and studies are currently underway to investigate
combining it with other annual vaccinations. Since a horse in a neighboring
county was diagnosed with WNV last year, I vaccinated all of my miniature
donkeys in April of this year. It was interesting that after the first shot there
was such a demand for the vaccine that my veterinarian had to put my animals
on hold for a couple of weeks for the second injection because supply could not
meet the demand!
It does appear that this virus is a threat to a wide variety of breeds including
alternative livestock. In addition to equidae, animals including camels, cattle,
bears, ratites, lemurs, bats, dogs, cats, poultry, fowl, raccoons, rabbits,
chipmunks, bushbabies, even frogs have been found to harbor the virus. Many
breeders, as well as zoos and other animal related operations, are taking
preventative measures to minimize the possibility of infection in their herds and
flocks. Check the extensive resource lists included in this column for more
Not all infected equidae show clinical signs. (Other diseases may have some of the same symptoms as WNV. Your veterinarian and appropriate testing laboratories should be the final authority on the exact malady affecting your animals.) However, those animals that do become clinically ill with WNV show signs of encephalitis, which may include a general loss of appetite and depression in addition to any combination of the following signs:
· weakness of hind limbs
· paralysis of hind limbs
· impaired vision
· ataxia (weakness)
· head pressing
· aimless wandering
· convulsions (seizures)
· inability to swallow
· walking in circles
To reduce the number of mosquito breeding sites:
a. Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, buckets, ceramic pots or other unwanted water-holding containers on your property.
b. Pay special attention to discarded tires. Tires are important mosquito breeding sites.
c. Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers left outdoors. Containers with drainage holes located only on the sides collect enough water to act as mosquito breeding sites.
d. Clean clogged roof gutters every year. Millions of mosquitoes can breed in roof gutters each season.
e. Turn over plastic wading pools when not in use.
f. Turn over wheelbarrows and don't let water stagnate in birdbaths.
g. Empty and refill outdoor water troughs or buckets every few days.
h. Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish. Water gardens can become major mosquito producers if they are allowed to stagnate.
i. Clean and chlorinate swimming pools when not in use. Mosquitoes may even breed in the water that collects on pool covers.
j. Use landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property, especially near manure storage areas. Mosquitoes may breed in any puddle that lasts for more than four days.
Additional steps can be taken to reduce the likelihood of exposure of farm animals to adult mosquitoes:
a. Avoid turning on lights inside the barn during the evening and overnight hours. Mosquitoes are attracted to yellow incandescent bulbs.
b. If light is needed near the stable, place incandescent bulbs outside the stable to attract mosquitoes away from the horses. Black lights (bug zappers) don't attract mosquitoes well.
c. Reduce the number of birds in and around holding areas. Eliminate roosting areas in the rafters of the barn.
d. Periodically look around the property for dead birds, such as crows. Any suspicious birds should be reported to the Department of Health. Use gloves to handle dead birds and place the birds in plastic bags, as directed by the Department of Health.
e. Topical preparations containing mosquito repellents are available for horses. Read the product label before using.
f. Fogging of target areas can be done in the evening to reduce mosquitoes; read directions carefully before using to insure that the products themselves do not compromise your animals’ health.
g. Contact your county extension office, county Department of Environmental Protection, county Department of Health, or mosquito and pest control company for additional options.
American Mosquito Control Association
Post Office Box 234
Eatontown, New Jersey 07724-0234
732.932.0667, FAX - 732.932.0930, email@example.com.
Joe Conlon, AMCA Technical Advisor, is the point of contact for information and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
National Pesticide Information Center
Oregon State University
333 Wenigar Hall
Corvallis, OR 97331-6502
· The site for 2002 updated West Nile Virus surveillance maps of positive bird, mosquito, equine and human cases http://cindi.usgs.gov/hazard/event/west_nile/west_nile.html.
· The EPA site (www.epa.gov) with mosquito control guidelines, factsheets on mosquito sprays, etc
Q – Are miniature cattle a viable option for our forty acre farm? And if they are which
breeds would you recommend?
A - I think that miniature cattle are a good choice for modern farms. Their size makes
them easy to manage, as well as less harsh on limited pasture. With small acreage you
can raise more miniature animals per acre thus accommodating their true herd
character. You can place two or three diminutive cows on the acreage you might place
only one large cow. If you want to diversity by raising more than one type of animal
this also makes it easier to do pasture rotation and have complementary grazing with
the different breeds of animals on your homestead. Miniatures, of course, eat less and
make efficient use of grass pastures. Some beef varieties are bred to mature earlier and
are said to provide a higher percentage of total weight in prime cuts. The processed
beef from the smaller breeds has been touted to be more efficient for the needs of
families as well. This proves true of miniature dairy cattle in that the quantity of milk
is suited for a family’s daily consumption. Some of the smaller breeds are designated as
“classic” because they reflect the size of the original animals before marketing trends
changed to the “bigger is better” philosophy and began up-breeding animals to meet
Several years ago the miniature cattle options were quite limited. However, the benefits
and enjoyment associated with these breeds have caused the interest in them to balloon.
Your attraction to them is coming at an excellent time. Many of the breeds which
have been around for a long time are searching for new markets and to accommodate the
trend to smaller farms by developing miniature versions.
It is important to note the difference between a “dwarf” and a “miniature.” The words
are not interchangeable. A “dwarf” is a mutation – a negative modification of what is
normal. Often they are smaller, but their proportion is out of sync. They may have
abnormally short legs for their body height and width. Dwarf cattle are not desirable
and are considered culls – animals which should not be bred and which should be
removed from the herd. “Miniature” cattle are smaller versions of a particular breed
but with perfect proportion for their size when compared to their larger counterparts.
Some of the miniature breeds are cattle that have been selectively bred down for
diminutive size such as Miniature Herefords. There are other breeds that are naturally
small such as Zebu. Miniature breeds are finding greater acceptance in cattle
organizations and are even being featured in and winning ribbons in shows. One of the
advantages of miniature cattle is that their size makes them less intimidating and more
manageable for children to work with and train, and the entire family can show them
together. Some miniature cattle now have well-established breed organizations which
offer newsletters, helpful advice from other breeders, and show opportunities
specifically geared to them.
You asked about which breeds I would recommend. I won’t presume to state which
animals might be best suited to your family or farm. You didn’t mention whether you
were interested in dairy or beef cattle. How adventurous you are might determine
whether you want an established breed or some of the new crossbred cattle that are just in the
developmental stages. There are many excellent breeds from which to choose. You will find
that as you research the resources we have made available in this column that certain
and that will be the best way to determine the perfect livestock for your farm. The process is
not only educational, but also fun. Happy hunting!
International Miniature Zebu Association, Inc.
308-665-3919 or firstname.lastname@example.org
P.O Box 66
Crawford, NE 68339
HCR 74, Box 19
915-426-3330 or Fax 915-426-3786
Web site – maroon.com/mininewsletter
International Breeder’s Society and Miniature Cattle Registry, Inc.
25204 156th Avenue SE
Covington, WA 98042-4107 U.S.A.
253-631-1911, Fax 253-631-5774, http://www.minicattle.com
17350 North Hwy 1804
Bismarck ND 58501
701-223-5202, Toll Free: 877-695-6252, Fax: 701-223-5458
Miniature Jersey Cattle Registry
P.O. Box 942
Rochester, WA 98579
Q. Do people shear animals just to keep them cool? Do sheep really produce lotion?
A. It is important to sheer animals in order to keep them cool. Can you imagine wearing a wool coat during the summer with 95-degree temperatures and 80% humidity! The very thought would make us break out in a sweat. Most animals are shorn in the spring to prevent such a scenario. Depending on the part of the country, some animals are also shorn in early fall. Sheep, fiber goats, llamas, and alpacas are just a few of the animals that require regular shearing for optimal management.
However, there are other reasons to shear animals. From a practical standpoint, shearing is necessary in order to use the fiber. It must be removed from the animal in order to be processed. This involves the actual clipping (cutting off, shearing) of the fiber from the animal’s body which causes no harm to the animal and probably feels absolutely wonderful when the cool air hits its skin. Most animals object to being restrained not to the actual fiber harvesting. The removed fleece is skirted which is the separation of the coarser, dirtier outer edges of the wool (usually from the legs, belly, and hindquarters). It goes through a process of combing called carding and is then cleaned before it is ready to be spun into yarn or felted into clothing or any number of other useful and decorative items.
Another reason to remove the hair from an animal is to show its conformation and to make a sleek presentation of the animal in the show ring. It is standard procedure for horses, goats and other breeds to be clipped during show season. Sometimes an injury will necessitate that an animal be shorn for cleanliness and to facilitate treatment and healing. Shearing is beneficial to animals and should be considered to be part of responsible husbandry for any breed that has dense or long fiber.
In reference to the second part of your question about “lotion,” sheep do produce a
greasy substance called lanolin. It protects the sheep from getting too wet. If you run
your fingers through a sheep’s fleece you will immediately notice a residue on your
hand. I heard a gentleman say once that his hands were in the best shape all year
during the three days that he sheared his sheep. Lanolin is removed from the wool by
gentle scouring before processing. That’s why we don’t feel it in the finished product.
Alternative Livestock Q & A (3-03)
Q. I have a question on compatible livestock. I have a horse and would like to get a few other livestock. Could goats be turned out in my pasture safely with my mare? Is there any specific livestock or type of goat that would be particularly compatible with her? I am in the process of redoing my fencing so I can adjust it to suit both.
A. The quick answer is, “Yes, you can have goats share the pasture with your mare.” However, how you go about it can make a big difference in long-term satisfaction with the arrangement. You are wise to fence for the safety of all the breeds who might share an area. Goats are notorious for escaping from fences, so the wrapped 2” x 4” horse fencing at a four foot height should be adequate for keeping them in especially if extra care is given to making sure there are no gaps between the fence and the ground. Also, guard against anything being put close enough to the fence for the goats to climb on and jump over.
Depending on the size of your horse you might want to get a goat that would be somewhat proportionate; that should lessen any intimidation factors which might arise as well as potential for accidents. By proportionate, I mean, if you have a 17 hand horse it would seem prudent to get a standard sized goat rather than a miniature one. A goat without horns would be more desirable than one with horns for obvious reasons. It would be advantageous to find a goat which had been raised either with or near horses. You asked about other breeds that might be compatible. Miniature donkeys have long been considered good companion animals and would eat basically the same food. Many conflicts among animals occur during feeding time, so plan to have separate containers and areas to feed the two breeds. This should lessen any “pecking order” disputes which could be magnified by differences in size. Companions will often come to share the same shelter, but in case one animal is possessive of her “barn” you might want to provide an alternate refuge for the other animal at least initially.
I would not recommend putting an intact male (of either species) in with other animals. I have seen a miniature goat with a broken leg because a miniature donkey jack tried to breed it. You will find the transition to go more smoothly if you introduce the two animals to each other slowly with increasing contact rather than just putting one immediately into the pasture with the other. That is also sensible from a health standpoint. Give a new animal a couple of weeks of acclimation not only for it to adjust but also to make sure it is in good health before exposing other animals to potential illness. Most animals will appreciate a companion so watch for a big grin on your mare’s face when you present her with her new buddy!
Q. Will I be able to make a go of raising wallabies on my farm? What do I need to know to get started?
A. Wallabies are an interesting choice and you certainly can “make a go” of raising them if you educate yourself properly. A good starting place is to check with local, state and federal agencies to see if any licenses or permits are required to own them, because it is illegal in some states. Wallabies are regulated as wildlife or as livestock depending on their locale. Australia quit exporting them in the fifties, so most of the ones available today have been raised in the United States. They do not have a registry and there is not a central tabulating organization for statistics on their numbers in the US.
Chris Thompson, who founded the Macropod Informational Exchange (MIE) in 2000, has raised wallabies since 1990. She provides information that will help you in this new venture:
1. If you live in an area where you have to wear a coat then the wallabies need housing for warmth. All of these roos should have either a three-sided shelter (in warmer climates) or one with a closable door and heat lamp (in colder areas).
2. Six foot fences are a must because of their jumping ability. Wallabies find security within protected boundaries and have been known to stop at the line where their fence used to be even if it has been moved. They are flight animals and should be protected from startling by loud noises or other “surprises.”
3. They are creatures of habit and do not like change. Any transition of location or introduction of new animals should be done very slowly. To keep them from becoming bored they need safe toys.
4. Special wallaby food is available. They eat extruded (cooked) food in a nugget form which should be offered free choice. They graze on grass. No vaccinations are approved for them, but they need to be wormed regularly. Finding a knowledgeable veterinarian is a must but may also be a challenge.
5. Wallabies have a 26-27 day gestation. They are the size of a bumblebee when they fall into their mother’s pouch during birthing. She licks a saliva type substance from the birth canal to the teat for her baby to follow. At this point they do not have back legs and must pull themselves along with their front legs. If the joey (baby) somehow turns the wrong way or if the mother jumps and dislodges the joey causing it to become disoriented and miss the teat it will not live.
6. Breeding usually takes place in the spring and fall. Wallabies need to be bottle fed when they weigh around three pounds. Biolac milk replacer from Australia is the drink of choice offered five times a day. They should be carried in a safe cotton tote bag with no seams or loose threads which they could suck on and harm themselves. Raising them in a playpen with a hanging pouch is desirable, and they must be kept warm.
7. Wallabies can be trained to a harness if introduced at a very early age. They cannot go backward only forward and since they are high strung and easily scared, calm consistent care is a necessity. You must “roo proof” your house for a wallaby just as you would for a baby. You can pet and interact with them. They will bond with the family members who consistently care for them and follow them around as if they were their “mom.” They become totally dependent upon their owners.
8. There are over 60 species of macropods. Females reach 30 pounds and males 50 pounds when mature at 12-14 months. Males make better pets if they are neutered because they can kick, grab, or bite if they become aggressive as adults.
Wallabies are not for everyone, but I hope that you will follow your dream and learn how to raise these unique animals. Your success can encourage others to take their hobby farms “outside the box!”
Macropod Informational Exchange
Dallas, TX – July 25-27, 2003 for information or registration contact:
Books on Wallabies:
Alternative Livestock Q & A (5-03)
Q. Can you give me some travel tips for my animals? I am trailering them to a show in another state and want to make the trip go smoothly.
A. There are several very practical things that you can do to decrease the stress on an animal as it is moved out of its normal environment. One of the most important things is to give a careful “going over” to the trailer itself. I heard a horror story about a man who loaded his horse into a trailer that had been sitting outside all winter. Unbeknownst to him one of the floor boards was rotten. After he was on the road his good sized horse stepped on just the right place on the board. Its foot broke through and dragged on the pavement for miles. You can imagine the results! So, make sure that the equipment is sound, i.e. floor solid, clean, and has either mats or other material for secure footing. Check the tie off areas to insure that the hooks are out of the way and that there are no jagged wires, nails, or screws that might hurt an animal as it moves around in this confined area. Always double check to make sure your trailer is completely connected to the truck with all devices properly placed before you start off on your trip. You don’t want to start down the driveway and suddenly have the horse and trailer head off through the pasture separated from the truck. It is a good idea to pull up for several yards then stop. Have someone help you judge if the trailer is tracking properly and that all the lights are working correctly. Test all doors until they are firmly closed.
Animals can be trained to enter a trailer easily if you don’t wait until the last minute. Several weeks before your departure begin leading the animal to the trailer. Let it approach the vehicle at its own pace, sniff, walk around it, whatever it wants to do. A lead rope can be looped around its haunches to gently encourage it to go forward. Entice it with special food to enter the trailer then feed its normal daily ration in the trailer. Positive reinforcements do a lot to obtain the behavior you want. Keep doing this until you are successful in having it go into the trailer with minimal drawbacks.
Always travel with an animal first aid kit. Have extra leads and halters in case one breaks. Wrap your animals legs if you so desire for extra protection. Make sure you have blankets to protect the animal from getting dirty or from cold weather safely attached, and look in on your animal periodically. Depending upon how long the trip is you might want to stop in an appropriate place and exercise your livestock. Try to avoid stopping near heavy traffic as unusual noises (horns, brakes, etc.) might spook your animal. If possible, carry the hay, feed and water that your animal is accustomed to with you. I have heard of animals becoming dehydrated because they would not drink strange tasting or smelling water when they were at a show. I recently heard a good suggestion. A month before you plan to travel, begin putting dry lemonade mix in your animal’s water so that it will be familiar with the taste. Then when you travel take the lemonade mix with you and put it in the water at the show which will then taste like the water from home!
The more experiences you can expose your livestock to before the show (being petted by strange people, being tied for extended periods of time, balancing in a moving trailer, etc.) the better the experience will be. Remember to talk calmly to your animal and reward good behavior. Hope you win a blue ribbon!
Q. Are camels hard to raise?
A. Well, I would venture to say that they might not be the easiest animals to raise. Since a fully grown camel can weigh over 1500 pounds and live for 40 years, adding them to your farm might entail significant adjustments and a high degree of commitment long-term to the breed.
The two types are the one-humped dromedary and the two-humped Bactrian. They are basically cared for in the same way you would worm and vaccinate a cow or llama and fed the same type of feed you would offer any other bovine or camelid family member. They are large animals which might necessitate higher and stronger fences than are found on a normal hobby farm. One breeder tells of a male which jumped fences during breeding season and wreaked havoc on their farm. They are hardy animals and intelligent. Camels are said to “hold grudges” and have a long memory when they are “mistreated” which in their estimation could include veterinary care! They usually have a single calf which reaches maturity at five years of age. It is a good idea to purchase either a trained adult or a young baby which is being bottle fed in order to get one that is gentle. They sometimes do damage to things by chewing on them and some are considered to be mean. However, I’m sure you have seen the well behaved ones at zoos offering rides to children, so don’t stereotype the breed. If you are drawn to camels, do a lot of research. Contact reputable breeders and check out some of the resources listed in this column, then prepare well and “follow your heart.”
American Camel Club Association and Registry, Ltd.
185 Leavitt Road
Oswego, NY 13126
Altenative Livestock Q & A (7-03)
Q. I was recently introduced to the Karakul Sheep breed and am thinking about buying some for our farm
which is in the mountains. I want unique animals yet ones that have relatively easy care. Do you think they would be a good choice?
A. Yes, on all counts! Karakul Sheep are considered to be rare in the United States with an estimated number of around 2,000. They are one of the oldest breeds of domesticated sheep and are native to Central Asia. The city they are named for (Kara Kul meaning Black Lake) is in the Bokhara region of present day Uzbekistan. Some of our soldiers who were in Iraq could easily have seen this breed of sheep being raised in large numbers there. Archeologists have found carvings of distinct Karakul type in ancient Babylonian temples. “Persian lambskin” comes from this breed. Because the lambs’ fleece consisted of beautiful lustrous curls, their pelts were highly desired for jackets. Thus, they earned the designation as “Fur Sheep.” Since Karakuls originated in arid land with sparse vegetation, they developed into a very hardy breed with strong teeth and hooves as well as good resistance to parasites. They are good foragers on marginal land, so put them on your mountain!
They were imported into the US over several years beginning around 1908 with the first coming in from Russia. The original goal was to develop a “fur sheep” industry but there were not enough of the original sheep so they had to be crossbred to get enough pelts. This genetic divergence from the originals led to the classification of American Karakuls as a separate breed.
You are herding the right sheep if you want unique animals. These Roman nosed, down-hanging eared Karakuls have a strong dominant black gene which causes most lambs to be born jet black. Over the first year they gradually lighten into a variety of colors the most common being gray. Their curls straighten to form six to twelve inch fleece which varies significantly from silky to “horse tail coarse.” An excellent yarn is derived from this low grease wool which can be made into rugs, outerwear, and many other products. It is also easily felted. I’ve saved the most unusual characteristic for the last. They are PHAT sheep! That is, they have a fat tail. The upper part of the lamb’s long tail begins to fill up with fat almost as soon as it is born. This nutrient storage organ functions a lot like a camel’s hump and enables them to thrive in adverse conditions. The lower part of the tail which is completely covered by fleece is sometimes docked. So, pursue your interest in this wonderful breed and enjoy their many interesting qualities for years to come.
For more information go to their interesting web site www.karakulsheep.com or contact the registry at American Karakul Sheep Registry, c/o Rey Perara, 11500 Highway 5, Boonville, Missouri 65233, (660) 838-6340 email@example.com
Q. I have seen llamas and alpacas with very long lower teeth. What causes this?
A. This is a condition which is not uncommon and occurs when the incisors become overgrown. The normal dental pattern for these animals is that the lower teeth (ruminants such as these do not have teeth on the top) protrude slightly beyond the top gum line. However, some animals do have teeth that are more overshot than most (fish mouth) which would hasten their teeth growing longer. This dental state does hinder the animal by making it harder for it to grasp grass or brush when grazing. The tougher the browse and the dryer the grass the more wear the teeth get as the llamas eat. So, tender grasses with little or no brushy plants in the pasture may facilitate teeth overgrowth. It is not a serious condition and can be treated by having a veterinarian file the teeth down while the animal is sedated.
While we are on the topic of dentition, have you ever heard of “fighting teeth” in camelids? These are canine teeth which erupt in male alpacas and llamas when they are between two and seven years of age. They can be removed from a sedated animal by a veterinarian using gigli wire. A mature animal can use those teeth against another male in defense of its territory. I have seen animals whose ears were completely torn through in such a fight.
Another good preventative thing to do is periodically check the molar tables (top and bottom teeth in the back of llamas’ and alpacas’ mouths) for uneven wear. If they wear unevenly you might see signs such as food collecting in their cheek (much like a chew of tobacco), the cud falling out of the animal’s mouth while eating, or an increased incidence of choking in the animal. If you notice animals that are not processing their food correctly, check their mouths to the best of your ability and then call in a qualified veterinarian to correct the problem.
For further information:
DANCY - A COMPROMISED LIFE
JOURNEY THROUGH AN AL
by Deirdre D. Tarr
The baby was due any day. A dilemma arose: go to the annual animal fiber fair over five hours away in a neighboring state or sit staring at the mother in the pasture awaiting the blessed event. A friend and I had completed plans with lodging secured and registrations in for workshops. We decided to go on Friday.
Of course, the female baby was born on Saturday morning. After the excited call from, home multiple instructions were reiterated to get Dancy off to a safe start. Iodine on the navel, make sure she is nursing, watch her bodily functions (urination and defecation) to make sure all was working well, put deep bedding in the stall and put up a heat lamp (the weather took an unseasonable plunge to 20 degrees at night). Being the main animal-tender I knew what needed to be done and how to do it, but my family was left with the actual duties. Concern arose when the cria appeared not to be energetically seeking to nurse. She had a 12 pound birth weight which would have indicated enough strength to stand and pursue her mother's essential, life-sustaining and warming colostrum.
My beyond-the-call-of-duty husband rose to the occasion. (In addition to his previous title of "goat mid-wife" he now added "cria surrogate mom"!) Since the baby was not nursing, he began an every three-hour bottle feeding routine. We had attended Equitana USA a premier equine event in Louisville, Kentucky in June and purchased some freeze-dried horse Immunoglobulin G there. I bought it as a precautionary measure because my alpaca had been grazing on fescue, which had the endophyte fungus, which prevents milk production in horses. Not knowing whether this affected alpacas or not, I thought having some on hand for the baby's birth might be a good safeguard. I hoped that horse IgG would have enough carry over to protect a cria in an emergency. (The female alpaca had been off fescue for 4 months and did indeed have good milk production.)
If I had been there I could have milked the colostrum and fed it to the baby. My husband tried but was unable to get any to flow. He reconstituted the equine IgG with 250 mg of saline solution (from a local pharmacy) and mixed that with evaporated goat's milk (from Wal-Mart). Dancy took over 4 ounces at the first feeding. He continued to place the baby under the mother in the hope that she would nurse on her own. When I arrived home the next day, I cleaned the mother's teats with a warm wet cloth, lubricated my fingers with cooking oil to cause less discomfort as I milked her, and proceeded to milk the colostrum out and feed it to the baby. Each time Dancy was fed I smeared colostrum on the mother's teats and guided her mouth to them to encourage her to nurse. Before the day was over she had begun to nurse on her own. That was an answer to prayer that made everyone happy.
I felt that Dancy's life had been compromised because she had not gotten the colostrum within the first crucial 24 hour period when the cria's digestive system can absorb the mother's first milk transferring lifesaving antibodies from the mother to the baby. After consulting with my vet, I took her to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine about 25 miles from our farm for a plasma transfusion. We were met there with courtesy, cooperation, and skill.
After explaining the situation, we were taken to an examination area in the large animal clinic where her vital signs and basic condition were checked. (It was rather humorous to see tiny Dancy on a table just a few yards away from a 1000 pound plus cow!) The silky cinnamon colored fiber from Dancy's neck was clipped so that the jugular vein would be easily visible. A catheter was inserted into the vein, which would be used for several purposes. First, blood was drawn before the transfusion to check the IgG level she had on entering. After the count was processed 24 hours later, it read 170 milligrams per deciliter. (She was very low, but the equine IgG may have added enough antibodies to get her through the first two days. Being born on Saturday we were unable to have her treated at the vet school until Monday.) A second vial of blood was taken to check her white cell count to see if any infection was adding additional stress to her body. (The normal count should have been anywhere from 8,000 to 25,000. Since hers was 2,000 she was put on a .5 cc dose of Naxcel twice a day for five days as a preventative measure.)
After a cleansing flush of the needle and tube, Dancy was hooked up to the previously defrosted and warmed llama plasma which is the non-cellular portion of the blood containing the immunoglobuline needed to help the immune system fight off disease. Plasma is collected by taking whole blood from an animal in a special plastic bag, which contains an anticoagulant to prevent clotting. The blood is centrifuged (spun rapidly) to separate the white and red blood cells from the fluid part of the blood, the plasma. This top layer of plasma is siphoned off to be used immediately or stored at -20 degrees to -40 degrees Centigrade until needed.
With Vet Wrap securing the catheter, the tiny cria was carried to a stall area to be held and kept quiet for the 30-45 minute process of the plasma flowing into her body. I might add that she was a trooper throughout the process hardly protesting during any of the procedures. When the Vet Wrap was applied to hold the needle and tubing in place, she stretched her long neck out and laid her chin on the table. The technicians joked that she had sudden neck fatigue because of the lightweight wrap.
Dancy was cradled to keep her from moving and inadvertently dislodging the IV. She shivered periodically so a towel was placed over her. When the transfusion was completed more blood was taken before removing the needle to check her post transfusion IgG level. (After the 24 hour processing period it was reported to be 1,202 milligrams of IgG per deciliter, a great improvement!) There is some variation in veterinary circles about the level at which a transfusion is necessary. Some say a transfusion should be done if the IgG count when the baby is 24 hours old registers under 400. Others state that anything under 800 indicates a need for plasma. The best approach is to check with your own veterinarian. The needle was removed, a sterile bandage placed on her neck, and Dancy headed home for a much desired afternoon "milk shake" a la mom.
We continued to bundle her up in a special cria pajama outfit at night and take the pajamas off for her to exercise outside and become acclimated to the temperature during the day for the next week. We weighed her daily to make sure that she gained weight, which she did.
This procedure, a plasma transfusion, can make the difference in a cria living or dying. If you find yourself in this situation, the $199.00 cost and 3 hour process may well be worth pursuing. The playful jumps and darting runs, the bold fake spitting when she was introduced to her three-month-old pinto cria playmate a few days later, even the quick kick when she was touched on her back legs were a delight to see considering all she and we had been through!
Deirdre D. Tarr