Not the Spring we planned!

Spring…usually the time for new babies, planting gardens, new pastures, building new structures and cleaning up after winter. This spring has been very different!

 

Injuries

My husband works as a firefighter in a major city in California. Last week he was working on a structure fire and cut his wrist on glass from a broken out window and lacerated a major tendon. It was repaired by a great doctor and now he is recovering. It takes 6-8 weeks for a tendon to heal. He will have to go through therapy to get everything working correctly again. This leaves me running the ranch! Most of the time he is gone for 2-4 days at a time and I have no problem keeping up with things. This time it is a bit different. Between regular maintenance, feeding schedules, milking, homeschooling, 4-H’ing, softball, cooking, cleaning….I am falling behind. Hopefully I will be able to get a plan in place and keep everything going until he is able again. Until then…don’t get mad if there are dishes in the sink and laundry isn’t done!

 

Babies

Our goats did not fair well this year with kidding. We had two does miscarry about 3 weeks before they were due and we lost a doeling at 6 weeks of age. I have cried a lot and racked my brain for what went wrong. We have had a 100% perfect kidding rate until this year. I finally came to the conclusion after a lot of research that the two does miscarried due to a selenium deficiency.

I am a firm believer that the hay that you purchase does not have the minerals and vitamins that it is “supposed” to have. Even though we are feeding barley fodder we still feed a good amount of hay. The young, sprouted barley does NOT contain a significant amount of selenium and therefore you have to supplement. Grass Hay like timothy or orchard grass is also low in selenium. Alfalfa can either be selenium rich or deficient depending on where it is grown. The Northwest is one area that is deficient and where we purchase our hay. All this added up to having selenium deficient animals during pregnancy. It has been a hard lesson learned.

So how to I fix this?

We have always provided our goats with free choice minerals from Bar Ale called Western Goat Minerals. So, evidently it is not enough for them. We have always used Bo-Se to supplement selenium before kidding and the two does I missed giving it to this year are the ones that miscarried. It is hard to say, but I am to blame. Now I know the importance of it and will be sure that they get it before kidding and before they are bred.

The good news is we had our Toggenburg give birth to a healthy buck and she is milking great! Our Nigerian, Olivia, was ultrasounded with a single but surprised us with triplets! We still have my Oberhasli does to kid in June and even though one miscarried I am hopeful on the other two.

 

Gardens

We planned on having a large garden this year and selling the extras at the farmer’s market. Unfortunately, our well had other ideas. Our storage tanks were not filling up as quickly as they used to and even after replacing the pump it didn’t change. Our water table has dropped and we need to deepen our well. So until we have a solution for deepening our well we will be frugal with what is pumping and possibly have water transported in.

We have learned so much from purchasing this place! I would highly recommend hiring a well company to come test your well and be sure you are there when they test. We recently found out that this was a known issue before we purchased the property and now we are paying for our mistake.

 

Building

Each year we try to build a new pasture or increase the size of the ones we have already built. Our plan was to build a large pasture for my Nigerian and Oberhasli bucks. They are currently in our old dog run next to the house. I don’t know if you have ever been around bucks before but they have a lovely way of perfuming themselves with a smell that ONLY lady goats would love. We wanted to move them far away from the house! With everything going on we had to put the project on hold.

 

Ranch and farm life isn’t always what you see in the magazines and on television. It has it’s ups and downs. We love it though and just keep on keeping on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

**I am not a vet or do I claim to know everything about goats and other animals. Please talk to your vet before you make any changes to your goat’s diet and supplements.”

Raising American Guinea Hogs: Fencing, Housing, Food and Water

Raising American Guinea Hogs is a lot different than “commercial” hogs. The American Guinea Hog originated in the 19th Century American South. The have highly flavorful meat, a sufficient amount of lard, amazing temperaments, small size and are great grazers. These characteristics make them the ideal Homestead Hog.

 

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In the 19th Century, the American Guinea Hogs were expected to forage for their own food. The would eat grass, clover, roots, nuts, fallen fruits and leftover gardens. They would stay close to the house and keep mice, rats and snakes away. They were able to gain weight on forage and produce flavorful meat and lard.

When the hog industry was industrialized the small homestead hog was left behind. They would fatten up too much on the commercial feed and become more of a lard than a meat hog. Thankfully, people kept small herds of these hogs and that is why they still exist today.

So let’s throw everything you know about raising hogs out the window and let me introduce to you a new, small-scale, sustainable hog.

 

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Fencing

The AGH (American Guinea Hog) is a social hog. They do better with a friend or two or twenty. It helps them to be easier on fencing and not want to go where the grass is greener. We use field fencing with a span of 10 – 12 feet between t-posts. We also have corner posts from peeler cores to prevent the fence from sagging. Since we run a couple females, a boar and weaner pigs we needed an area to separate them when needed. We purchased two 3ft tall hog panels that are 16 feet long and placed them in the corner so their pen is 16ft x 16ft and has fence line one two sides and hog panels on two sides. We use this area when we bring new pigs in, a sow is farrowing or we don’t want our boar near the ladies. We also have a Livestock Guardian Dog that likes to dig when she is bored so we have run a single strand of hotwire about 6” from the ground. Since we have clay soil we run a ground wire along the fence too. She stays far away from the fence line and so do the hogs. I don’t think it is necessary but it depends on the temperament of the hog.

 

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Housing

We have two different houses in the hog pasture. One is in the main area and the other on is in the smaller fenced area. The larger one in the main area is about 6ft x 6ft and made of wood with a metal roof. We live in snow country so we have to over-build just in case.

 

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We did paint it to protect it from the elements and make it look cute! It has venting on the top and the bottom to allow for air flow. We throw some straw in there and the are good to go.

 

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The other house is not as fancy but it is very functional and inexpensive. We came across 275 gallon plastic totes that are caged in metal for about $100 a piece. It doesn’t look like much but when you take a grinder to the metal and cut the plastic it becomes a nifty little hut.

 

 

It is on a pallet so it is raised up and they stay nice and toasty with a bit of straw thrown in. Be sure to leave a little lip on the bottom of the entry to keep the hay from falling out.

 

Farm

 

Food

American Guinea Hogs are pasture hogs and are great foragers. If you have pastures, you are set. Put them in give them a shelter and they will be in hog heaven! Even if you have wooded areas they are able to forage for a large percentage of their calories. Since we do not have large pastures or large fenced wooded areas we feed them primarily barley fodder.

 

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This gives them the pasture grass they are used to along with a root mat that is packed full of nutrients. We also have some of my Nigerian Dwarf Bucks in the pasture with them so they get some alfalfa and orchard grass hay that they steal away from the goats. They really love the alfalfa! We also feed them scraps from the house and garden leftovers. You have to be careful not to overfeed these hogs. You do not need to feed them a large amount of calories because any excess will turn to fat. We always look at their body condition to tell if they need a bit more food or not. Please stay away from commercial hog feed as much as possible. It is not healthy for these hogs and will cause more damage than good.

 

 

 

Water

We give the hogs a small wallow during the summer for them to bathe in. I don’t know if it is necessary but they love it! King George, our boar, is king of the wallow during hot days.

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At first we tried giving them a low water trough but they would knock it over and play in the water. We decided that chasing the trough around the pasture and pulling it back up to the hose wasn’t the best way to spend our time. We have 55 gallon barrels from the feed that we purchase. We drilled a hole at the bottom of it and put in a Hog Waterer Nipple. This allows us to keep a large amount of water for them without it being splashed everywhere. It does drip a bit but for the most part it works! We did find that we needed to put a weight in the bottom of it since it is not strapped to something.

 

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If you are interested in American Guinea hogs you can check out our website and see when our next farrowing with be. We sell both registered and unregistered hogs and will be raising a limited number and selling them as finished hogs with a reservation.

 

 

 

Bartering on the Small Farm

Bartering is trading goods and/or services for other good and/or services. Through the years the family-run farm has been a stronghold for barter of goods and services. In its simplest form, bartering is trading one good for another. But bartering can often involve services like tree cutting, stall mucking, vegetable planting or value-added products like sewn goods or spun wool.

 

Basics of Bartering

Be Clear. Be sure that when you are bartering that both parties are clear about what is being exchanged. If possible, put it in writing so that it can be referred to if there is any confusion.

Be Fair. Consider the cost of the goods on the open market. Try to have an equal exchange as far as value goes.

Specialize in something. Think of things that you can produce that not everyone can as easily. Do you have a nice greenhouse? Throw in more heirloom tomato plant starters…you cannot find those at a nursery. Do you know how to trim goat hooves? Advertise and maybe you will get a discount on a goat you have your eye on.

Go value-added. Do you have extra tomatoes? So does everyone else. Why not make tomato sauce and can it! Now you have increased the value of the tomatoes and added in your labor. Now try to trade it!

 

Where to Start

Online. Most ranches and farms have a website so add a barter tab. Describe what you have to offer and what you are looking for. Post it on Facebook! E-mail your previous clients. Get the word out and see what happens.

At the Market. Why not add a sign at your booth that you barter? I would make sure that you earn some cash but there is nothing wrong with walking away from your farmer’s market with items for your fridge and money in your pocket.

Talk about it. We visit ranches all the time and I am sure you do too. We are proud of our ranch and talk about it with strangers all the time. Why not bring up bartering? Many people don’t purchase new animals or grow new food because they can’t afford it. They could if they traded! What is the worst thing that would happen? They say “No?”

 

Quartz Ridge Ranch Bartering

What we offer:

American Guinea Hogs
Nigerian Dwarf Goats
Oberhasli Goats
Pilgrim Geese (goslings and hatching eggs)
Muscovy Ducks (goslings and hatching eggs)
Jersey Giants
Delaware Chickes

What we need:

Animals
 
   *  American Guinea Hogs (please see our pedigrees)
   *  Finn Sheep
   *  Roving (Wool, Alpaca, etc)
   *  Great Pyrenees Puppy (Female)
   *  Oberhasli and Nigerian Dwarf Show Quality Goats
   *  Jersey Giants (Show Quality)

Farm Equipment

   *  Horse-Quality Hay
   *  Fencing
   *  Wood or Building Materials (Windows, Doors, etc)
   *  Water Tanks

Household Items

   *  Kitchen Cabinets
   *  Carpeting
   *  Farm/Apron Front Sink

Ranch Work

   *  We always have more projects than my husband and I can tackle!
 

  Of course, we will consider anything else you may have to offer, including other animals not listed. If you are interested in something, please let us know what you have to offer.

 

What do you have to offer?

Leave us a comment on what you have to offer and where you are located. I would love to help build the “underground” economy in our farm community!

Barley Fodder Setup

We have been asked some questions about our Barley Fodder setup included where we got our supplies from.

We have three metal shelving systems from Ikea called Broder. You can buy individual pieces of it to make it work for your situation.

BRODER 2 sections L-foot IKEA

We currently have four L-Foots, four posts, fifteen 47×23.5” shelves and fifteen large brackets. This is enough shelf space to hold 60 trays! 12 trays fit across and then there are 5 shelves.

The trays we pick up from our local garden center and they run about $2.00 each. They do not last very long because they are just plastic but if you are careful with them we get longer use out of them. I have just found the trays online for cheaper even with shipping through Greenhouse Megastore. I will be ordering them next month and see how they work out.

1020 Trays

We punch about 6-8 holes down the 10” side of the tray so it drains evenly and in a controlled manner. The plan is to run a 4” pipe cut in half on the front of the bottom shelves so it drains into the collection bin. The collection bin is then pumped out into the garden area using a pond pump. This will eliminate the need for multiple collection bins under the shelves.

The collection bin is a 275 gallon food grade container that we picked up from craigslist. They usually run about $100. We cut it in half and use the top half as it fits in between the feet of the shelf system.

We purchase our barley seed from a seed company in Stockton, CA. We researched what businesses were selling it locally and then went to their wholesale distributer. It works out to be $22.00 for a 50lb bag. Make sure you are buying seed and not feed. You want “hulled barley” it means that it is unhulled, whole barley seeds that are equipped to sprout.

Barley Seed For Sprouting

Right now we are watering 3 – 4 times a day with enough water to almost fill to the top of the tray. I use a water wand but I have a plan for an automatic set-up. It will involve a PVC tree on the left side of the shelving unit and 1/2” drip tubing going down each shelf. From there, I have a 1/4” line that come out from the 1/2” line for each tray. It is zip tied to the top of the shelf so it hits the tray correctly. The PVC tree is then hooked up to a water timer. You will have to adjust the timer based off of your flow rate, water pressure, etc.

This is a photo of our setup so far:

Fodder Room

We still need to add the drainage pipe, take away all but the right hand collection bin and add the automatic watering system.

Hope this helps you to figure out a way to feed your animals good quality food for an unbelievably low price.

I will be doing another post about the cost of feeding our animals soon!

If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail us or leave us a comment.

Lavender Muscovies

Our ranch is always growing and I am always on the lookout for heritage breed animals to join our farm. We decided to move away from Runner Ducks and purchase Muscovy ducklings. I picked up a chocolate and three blacks from a local farm…here is my chocolate ‘scovy.

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So, when I saw someone offering Lavender Muscovies I jumped on it! My friend at Heaven Ridge Alpacas purchased a few and we traded! Two Lavenders for some Pilgrim Geese! I love being able to trade farm animals. My male and female (yes, I need to name them) are on the left. Aren’t they a beautiful color!!

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We have been working on finishing up the pig pasture, the fencing is done (thank goodness) we just have to put up the hotwire and install the gate. I am excited to see two of our four American Guinea Hog gilts leave in the next couple weeks. We still have one that is for sale at $150.

My milk machine (that we have owned for a year) is finally being pieced together. I am so excited to give my wrists a break and it will go so much faster. I am planning on building a new milking barn next year. I have been looking online for some photos of milking rooms and they are few and far between. Hopefully, we can find someone who milks goats and cows like us that will help us with the design.

Well…I am off to milk, take photos of some goats we have for sale and then feed my two-footed kiddos. Hope you are all staying cool in this crazy heat. Is it bad to say I am kinda….just kinda….looking forward to winter?

A&W Farms Valentine CH Olivia Delivers Quads!

Our next doe to kid was A&W Farms Valentine CH Olivia she was bred to MI Sugar Creek WK Sally’s Max *B. He is a very handsome buck and I was looking forward to see what they would throw since Olivia’s Dam is all black and so is Max.

Olivia 2

She labored easily however, she was SO loud. She wanted to be in my lap and was yelling into my face the entire night. It was the funniest thing I had ever been through. She had a bit of issues with the first baby and I helped just a tiny bit to get his large head out. I knew she had one more and a doe! Then another one came out right after…another doe. I thought she was finished and boy was I surprised…she kidded another buckling! Never in my dreams did I expect her to throw quads! I think my quote to my husband (who was working that night) was “The babies were just falling out of her!”

I would like to introduce you to our four newest additions to Quartz Ridge Ranch….

Kid #1 Quartz Ridge SM Dashkovaite “Dash”

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Kid #2 Quartz Ridge SM Emerald “Emmy”

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Kid #3 Quartz Ridge SM Fayalite “Faye”

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Kid #4 Quartz Ridge SM Gypsum

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Aren’t they all so flashy! I love that the two bucklings have waddles. I love waddles. As you can tell from the photos the boys were not cooperating with their photo shoot.

Next up are my Oberhasli’s! I have a feeling they won’t be as exciting as the Nigerians due to their coloring is very predictable. I am excited to see what we have in store for our boy to girl ratio.

Tattoo Tongs for Goats

Since we have both miniature (Nigerian Dwarf) and standard size (Oberhasli, Saanen, Toggenberg) goats I was stumped as to what to purchase to tattoo their ears. I ended up going with a kit from Hamby Dairy Supplies.

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It contains a carrying case, tattoo ink paste, a set of letters, a set of numbers and the pliers. 

Tattoo Gun

I ordered another smaller kit that came with pliers, a number set and tattoo ink so I could keep my ranch code on one plier and then change the other plier according to the year and animal number. I added on an additional “Q, R, R” so I didn’t have to use my letters from the kit. I didn’t ever want to have to switch back a forth when tattooing their ears.

Tattoo Letters 2

I am hoping that this goes well for us as it will be the first time we tattoo anything! These are the tips I have read online for tattoo both ears and tails:

  1. Test your tattoo on a sheet of paper to make sure you put the numbers/letters in correctly.
  2. Clean the ear with alcohol wipes.
  3. While wearing gloves, rub the tattoo ink paste where the tattoo will be.
  4. Tattoo and then rub more ink into the tattoo using a toothbrush.
  5. Put baking soda on the tattoo to stop the bleeding and it makes the tattoo stand out.

Do you have hints for us? I am looking forward to seeing all the little green ears running around this month!