Livestock

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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,256
Downeast Maine
This year my wife and I started to accumulate livestock. It started off with some friends of ours moving suddenly and their lonely alpaca needing a home. This alpaca, Lightning, had a brother that passed several years ago to unknown causes and has been alone ever since. Soon after adopting Lightning we set out to find some companions for him, other than our German Shepherd who really does like Lighting. Honestly it seems like Lightning prefers the dog's company, but the dog doesn't constantly try touching his fabulous fleece. After a few weeks of searching I found a family that was downsizing their flock and adopted to geldings, Hans and BB. Lightning has become much more personable and approachable since being joined by more alpacas. Before the heat of summer really came on we tried to shear lightning without any restraints and did a decent job. Prior to our attempt Lightning had never been shorn. Hans and BB joined us post trimming, so they were ready for the heat.

So far the alpacas are pretty easy to manage and don't eat a whole lot. For the three alpacas feed is about $65/month. It would be less if we had more pasture available for grazing. Ordinarily they will leave their waste in a circle around their barn, but lately they have taken to using the barn as a toilet. Something we didn't know about alpacas beforehand is that they are very much like giant cats that eat only grass. After changing to a different brand of pellet food I was protested by Hans for several days. They are very picky about their house, how they are approached, and have very distinct personalities and will be standoffish and snort for even the smallest transgression. For the last two weeks while the round bale of hay was dwindling all three would stand near the gate and just stare at us while we were building the chicken coop, like cats when they can see the bottom of the food bowl. Hans will only let me pet him if I offer a salad bowl of the pellet food and don't look at him. I'm fairly certain he thinks I'm going to try and put a halter around his head, but if I avert my gaze I am permitted to pet his neck. Lightning is pretty approachable now, but will also only allow petting or touching with copious pellet food or fresh grass, but only the "good" grass, he won't eat just anything. I've never seen such picky animals, and it's part of the reason I switched to the round bales. Previously I was getting square bales, but they would only eat half and leave the rest on the ground. Now they eat 85% or more of the round bales, probably more once I get the winter supply.

Hans' arrival was more stressful since it was his first time ever leaving the farm he was born on. BB was much more relaxed and settled right in, but Hans spent a few weeks calling for his previous care takers. I feel lucky that BB doesn't mind being handled and will allow petting. So far I've been working every day at earning Hans and Lightning's trust so that we can shear them by ourselves next summer. They really like their "barn" as is, but I'll be closing it in for winter with large double dutch doors. Technically they only need a three sided structure, but I want a closing door for easier shearing and haltering. They have only been here for about three months, so just now starting to really feel like this is home. Eventually I want to build a larger barn and get one more alpaca or maybe even a llama. Alpacas and llamas have to live in groups of at least three, but four is better.

This summer we also got 25 chicks in the mail, straight runs of barred rocks, blue australorps, gold laced wyandottes, and seven cream legbars. Unfortunately one of the cream legbars fell asleep outside of the heat lamp and died. So far everyone is healthy except for a Wyandotte that broke her own pin feather causing the rest of the chickens to pull all of the feathers from her back side. We were worried the little hen would die from her wounds, but she survived, albeit with a yeast infection in her vent. We are treating the little hen and she seems to be improving every day so we have high hopes for her. Aside from that everyone is happy and healthy. For a coop we put four posts into the ground and put an A frame on top about six feet off the ground. We wrapped 1/2" hardware cloth around the four post to create an aviary below the A frame. I milled all the lumber from trees we felled on the property, the windows are 70's gliders that I joined together by the bottoms, and the "person door" came off of the house shortly after we moved in. For now we are lifting the chickens up to the loft in a cardboard box but I'm working on building a trap door on the floor of the loft with ramps to make it easier. Perhaps in the future I will install a small solar panel and battery to run some lights. I'm also going to replace the person door with one I make myself, since this one is pretty beat, but it works for now.
 

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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,256
Downeast Maine
I'll have to take some more photos when it is sunny again.
 

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bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,077
central pa
Very cool. I love the fence as well btw. We just got kunekune pigs this summer. 2 registered 2 unregistered. We should be able to start breeding them next fall. I will have to get some pics later.
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,256
Downeast Maine
Very cool. I love the fence as well btw. We just got kunekune pigs this summer. 2 registered 2 unregistered. We should be able to start breeding them next fall. I will have to get some pics later.
I call it our junk fence and I usually have a chuckle when I look at it. We only got a week heads up on the first alpaca. Now that I have the hydraulic hole digger I plan on doing a better fence. If we didn't have such a harsh winter I wouldn't even finish the tiny alpaca barn. They love sticking their heads out of the gaps. The fence is mostly to give our dogs a boundary so they don't bother the alpacas.

Good luck with your pigs and I would love to see pics. We probably won't ever do meat animals larger than the chickens. Larger meat animals, especially a pig, would just be wayyyy to much meat for just the two of us. Are you going to sell the meat or whole animals?
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,077
central pa
I call it our junk fence and I usually have a chuckle when I look at it. We only got a week heads up on the first alpaca. Now that I have the hydraulic hole digger I plan on doing a better fence. If we didn't have such a harsh winter I wouldn't even finish the tiny alpaca barn. They love sticking their heads out of the gaps. The fence is mostly to give our dogs a boundary so they don't bother the alpacas.

Good luck with your pigs and I would love to see pics. We probably won't ever do meat animals larger than the chickens. Larger meat animals, especially a pig, would just be wayyyy to much meat for just the two of us. Are you going to sell the meat or whole animals?
We will sell the whole animals most likely. The registered ones will usually be pets or for shows. The unregistered for meat. Their meat is much darker than normal pork with heavy fat marbling.

We need to build more fence as well luckily my buddy just got an old power company boom truck with an auger. So that should make it easy. And the pigs don't need a big structure. Just little huts.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,256
Downeast Maine
We will sell the whole animals most likely. The registered ones will usually be pets or for shows. The unregistered for meat. Their meat is much darker than normal pork with heavy fat marbling.

We need to build more fence as well luckily my buddy just got an old power company boom truck with an auger. So that should make it easy. And the pigs don't need a big structure. Just little huts.

The boom truck is awesome, I had one come out to set my new utility pole. The rock augers I got for my FEL drive are actually made for one of those boom trucks, but the mfg made them to my specs for less than I could buy an off the shelf auger for a skid steer FEL drive.

Those kune kune pigs sound delicious. I love pork, but we would need to split feed cost and meat with another family to make it work for us.
 

firefighterjake

Minister of Fire
Jul 22, 2008
19,450
Unity/Bangor, Maine
I have eight cats . . . herding them all inside when they're outside in Catcatraz feels a bit like wrangling cattle. Does this count? :)
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,077
central pa
The boom truck is awesome, I had one come out to set my new utility pole. The rock augers I got for my FEL drive are actually made for one of those boom trucks, but the mfg made them to my specs for less than I could buy an off the shelf auger for a skid steer FEL drive.

Those kune kune pigs sound delicious. I love pork, but we would need to split feed cost and meat with another family to make it work for us.
They are pricey little buggers. The registered ones usually go for $400 to $750 as babies depending upon color etc. The unregistered ones $250 to $300. So breeding them can be profitable.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,256
Downeast Maine
I have eight cats . . . herding them all inside when they're outside in Catcatraz feels a bit like wrangling cattle. Does this count? :)
Close enough. If we weren't allergic to them we would probably have a cat. There's a lot of mice around since we have a bit of a sloping meadow and forest around the house. Just evicted a few from my equipment shed. They can also do a number on local passerine birds, which we have many.
 

DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
999
Texas
Thanks for starting a thread and posting pictures, @SpaceBus. My daughter's favorite photo is "Cute Lightning," but Hans's eyes just make me melt.

We have no livestock, not even cats, to share, though my youngest two and I got to pet a couple of goats today. We were walking down our perfectly residential street and heard goats' bleating and saw these two little creatures climbing all over a utility trailer in a fenced yard. We knocked on the door and found out that Teddy and Sophie had been born several weeks ago at a ranch, but their mother had died, and the owner brought them back to his house to bottle feed them. It really made our morning to meet them. We've been given permission to visit them whenever we're out walking. I imagine my older children who didn't get to meet the goats will be more eager to join us now.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,256
Downeast Maine
Thanks for starting a thread and posting pictures, @SpaceBus. My daughter's favorite photo is "Cute Lightning," but Hans's eyes just make me melt.

We have no livestock, not even cats, to share, though my youngest two and I got to pet a couple of goats today. We were walking down our perfectly residential street and heard goats' bleating and saw these two little creatures climbing all over a utility trailer in a fenced yard. We knocked on the door and found out that Teddy and Sophie had been born several weeks ago at a ranch, but their mother had died, and the owner brought them back to his house to bottle feed them. It really made our morning to meet them. We've been given permission to visit them whenever we're out walking. I imagine my older children who didn't get to meet the goats will be more eager to join us now.
My wife says the same thing about Hans' eyes, they are very dreamy. His lashes are super long and I'll try and get a picture today, but Hans is a diva and don't always want to cooperate.

Goats are pretty fun animals and their ability to climb and stand on just about anything is very entertaining. I've only seen them from a distance, but hopefully I can rectify that after the pandemic subsides. We almost certainly won't get any more large mammals, aside from a fourth camelid companion, due to the cost to feed them, especially if they aren't going to be feeding us. It certainly is tempting though, large mammals are really fun.
 

DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
999
Texas
My wife says the same thing about Hans' eyes, they are very dreamy. His lashes are super long and I'll try and get a picture today, but Hans is a diva and don't always want to cooperate.

Goats are pretty fun animals and their ability to climb and stand on just about anything is very entertaining. I've only seen them from a distance, but hopefully I can rectify that after the pandemic subsides. We almost certainly won't get any more large mammals, aside from a fourth camelid companion, due to the cost to feed them, especially if they aren't going to be feeding us. It certainly is tempting though, large mammals are really fun.

My kids got to spend about an hour playing with the goat kids today. There's an old swingset in the backyard, and the goats climb up the slide and slide down. They also swing on the horizontal tire swing. They nicely shared it with my children, though, as well as playing ball and generally being cute. My four year old has been going around the house saying "maaa" with some regularity this afternoon. I think we'll be having fairly regular visits for a while.
 
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PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
1,077
MA
Great thread. Thanks.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,256
Downeast Maine
We picked up a dozen bales of mulch hay for more alpaca bedding, they've been going through a LOT since they began to use their barn as a toilet. For whatever reason the mulch hay has stopped this behavior! Previously we were getting oat straw for $6.50/bale, but the mulch hay was much cheaper at $4/bale. I'm not sure if it is the change in bedding or placing the extra bales along the walls that stopped the behavior. Part of my plan to try and train them to stop using the barn as a toilet was to reduce the available space in the barn, even though it's just a 10x10' shed. First I tried to place logs in the spot they used as a bathroom, but they just kept doing it and also were mad at me. They also like to roll around in the barn since I use diatomaceous earth as a natural pest repellent and alpacas naturally live in a DE rich environment. When the alpacas roll around, especially Lightning, they kick the walls and posts of the barn, so the bales also help keep the noise and damage to a minimum. They seem so happy with this setup I'm going to get more bales and make the stacks reach the fiberglass panels on the side walls instead of putting up siding this winter. I'm torn about putting a wall/door on the open end of the building. The alpacas only need a three sided structure and regularly sleep outside, but I also don't want snow blowing into the barn.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,256
Downeast Maine
Very cool. I love the fence as well btw. We just got kunekune pigs this summer. 2 registered 2 unregistered. We should be able to start breeding them next fall. I will have to get some pics later.

How are your pigs? What's the cost to feed them?
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,256
Downeast Maine
To my surprise yesterday morning after letting the chickens out into the run I found one tiny egg! This morning I found another one, still warm even! It feels like a Christmas miracle that our girls are finally laying. I am waiting on an incubator and 18 hatching eggs right now. In the future we hope to hatch just our own eggs for the most part. Maybe even sell some hatching eggs, chicks, or maybe larger birds as well.
 
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DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
999
Texas
To my surprise yesterday morning after letting the chickens out into the run I found one tiny egg! This morning I found another one, still warm even! It feels like a Christmas miracle that our girls are finally laying. I am waiting on an incubator and 18 hatching eggs right now. In the future we hope to hatch just our own eggs for the most part. Maybe even sell some hatching eggs, chicks, or maybe larger birds as well.

Congratulations and (belated) merry Christmas!
 
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paulnlee

Feeling the Heat
Dec 2, 2018
419
Flemington, NJ
You bring back memories from time past. When we first moved to the "country" wife wanted a horse. Got one, tied him to a tree til i built the barn. To all you codies this was not done to code. No code here then. So studs 4' on center, plywood outside and 1'3's inside and at least 500 bud lite empty beer cans in between. Then it was the hogs, that's a post by itself, then chicks and ducks. That barn now holds my wood. Old Rebel after 20+ years finally died as did the hogs(again another story) Just wife & me, Jesse my lab and Gus her schnauzer and a bunch of damn rats I can't shoot fast enough. Oh those bud lite cans are holding it up
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,256
Downeast Maine
This morning we got two eggs, soon I think we won't have to buy any from the store.
 
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Sodbuster

Minister of Fire
Sep 22, 2012
1,506
Michigan
This morning we got two eggs, soon I think we won't have to buy any from the store.

We had a dozen chickens, and once they started producing, holy cow did we have eggs. Nice once too since we let them free range. Deep colored yolks. Ours kept kept getting hit by predators, eagles. hawks. opossums, and foxes. You really have to count as expendable if you are going to use them for eggs. My wife sold them then were she works, and people snapped them up a $5 a dozen. Still a money loser at $5 a dozen when you figure labor, feed, general upkeep. It needs to be something you want to do.
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,256
Downeast Maine
We had a dozen chickens, and once they started producing, holy cow did we have eggs. Nice once too since we let them free range. Deep colored yolks. Ours kept kept getting hit by predators, eagles. hawks. opossums, and foxes. You really have to count as expendable if you are going to use them for eggs. My wife sold them then were she works, and people snapped them up a $5 a dozen. Still a money loser at $5 a dozen when you figure labor, feed, general upkeep. It needs to be something you want to do.
I'm not interested in selling eggs, at least not for eating. I would sell them as hatching eggs or hatch them out if I wanted to make a few bucks. For us its about having more food on the table. Our chickens mostly forage and free range. Lately I've been getting 7-9 eggs per day from our dozen hens. One of our hens isn't laying due to an infection, but I'm hoping that will be cleared up soon. So far so good on predators. We got them outside in late summer and I haven't seen any predator scat, tracks, or visible evidence. Even when we were slaughtering roosters the only thing that came around were some ravens when I left the offal in the woods.