Never enough time to do anything. I love writing here and love reading the comments and the updates that I have made throughout the time but it seems like I'm so short on time I don't have time to write here. A lot has happened in the last year. To make a long story short we found out that the county here lied unknowingly and we do need a USDA liscense to have a petting zoo. After looking into the strenuous requirements we decided that the petting zoo would not make enough money to pay back what would have to go into it in our area. We shut the zoo down. People are still welcome to come visit the animals by appointment but we no longer haul them to town or do official parties here so people seldom come. The loss of the petting zoo came at a time when some hard descisions were having to be made anyways. In june I took a tumble off my 18+ hand Belgian when he spooked. It resulted in most of the night in the hospital being treated for a concussion. To this day I remember making strawberry jam and then being in the hospital about 11 pm at night. Everything between there is missing. The good news was that since I didn't even remember being on my horse I was not afraid of him. The bad news is that it resulted in me being laid up for a few weeks while I recovered. In the light of the situation I was able to see that I had been running myself ragged trying to keep up with everything in my families life and still take care of the animals properly. Also, that I was doing a poor job of it. We also looked at the fact that Wyoming has had an exceptionally dry year and there is very little feed to be found for the animals and what there is is high cost. Some compromises had to be made. We sold or found homes for: all three rabbits, 3 guinea pigs, two of the four dogs at the time (they had other reasons for leaving though, mostly aggresion issues), the ferrets, chinchillas, dwarf hamsters, about 10 goats (reducing our herd down to bare minimum for milk production), all of the turkeys that weren't slated for the table, and 40+ chickens, and effectively cleaning house on the petting zoo and farm.
That left us with a grand total of: my horse, my daughters mini donkey, the standard donkey (the donkeys get super stressed if they are apart), our two older dogs, our three cats, my yearling doe and 3 doelings, two nigerian dwarf pet goats, one buck, two guinea pigs, 6 geese, 10 ducks, and 6 chickens. Still a handful all by themselves! Since then more decisions have been made. My horse was sold to a local gal here with visitation rights. Unfortunately as much as I adore him it came down to the fact that I can feed 6 full grown goats the same amount that he eats in a month. With hay running close to $280 a ton here and him working his way through a ton every 3 weeks it was unavoidable. 5 of the 10 ducks are slated to leave as well as 3 geese since we also had 3 new babies (bringing us up to 9). The standard donkey will be sold after the mini dies (the mini is 31 years old) since we dont seem to be using her much anymore and she would be heartbroken without a companion anyways. The goats kids this year will all be sold with the exception of 1-2 who promise to be great milkers. Unfortunately we aren't getting any snow this year and currently are looking at another severe drought year, we have to keep our numbers down. The nigerian dwarfs may not last long as they keep trying to bloat. I can feed them practically nothing and they blow up like balloons! I keep expecting to walk out one day and find them gone.
Provisions have been taken for the remaining animals. We have plenty of hay this year as we had purchased enough originally for my horse to eat a ton every month (with him consuming it in 3 weeks we would have ran out) until april. We suspect though that next year will be another story. Fortunately goats are browsers and there are some pest/weed brushes and trees needing taken down around the ranch. If it comes to it we can cut a days supply and haul it in to them to have them survive next year. We severely hope it doesn't come to that but as long as we keep our numbers down we should be able to have them survive till better times (there would be no babies next year in this case). Thankfully we finished the feed shed just in time. We bought several totes (almost a ton) of alfalfa pellets in may before prices jumped with the drought. The last tote is expected to run out in Feb. We are hoping to buy more at that time as we can put the pellets into a feeder and the goats take just what they need of the higher protein. When we were supplying alfalfa hay the goats were wasting 1/4th of it so in the long run this is cheaper. We also bought a tote of oats from the feed store on discount since it had sat there so long. I normally feed my goats Klassie goat mix. With the higher prices I will have to turn to mixing it with the oats and leftover horse feed.
The chickens we found a place in Casper that allowed us to purchase bulk chicken feed by the ton at just pennies per pound over cost. Unfortunately that place no longer sells feed now. We, however, have about a 2 year supply for our birds now if we keep the numbers down. We switched from khaki cambells to muscovies this year and the 5 leaving are the last of the khakis. We discovered that we don't use the duck eggs as much as we had thought we would. The muscovies are great foragers as are the geese and I've enjoyed watching them finding things to eat on their own.
The dogs and cats have been a slightly different story. My husbands dog is allergic that she has to be on an expensive food anyways. We really haven't noticed a difference in hers. The cats are another story. What used to cost us $7 is now costing $14! It's a good thing there aren't many cats to feed. We've also taken to feeding them in the morning just what they will eat by nightfall. We don't need to be feeding extra pests (skunks, coons).
mmm I really hadn't intended for this post to be so dreary but I guess it is what it is. The ranch sold all of the older cows this fall (about 30 head, they normally dont sell more than about 6) and if things dont improve will have to sell more this year. They have hay to reach until April, then there had better be grass...
We aren't the only ranch looking at that in this area and I think that if the cows have to leave it will flood the beef market and drive the prices down, creating more of a problem. I had problems selling the goats I did sell this summer and took big losses on all of them. My horse went for a $500 donation that the family was willing to volunteer to give us. Last year he was worth $3000, and this year it took me 9 months to "give" him away. I miss him terribly. I look out in his pasture and can see him running and kicking up his heels. He liked to play with sticks too, picking them up in his mouth and tossing them in the air. I didn't get to ride a lot but I spent lots of time out just talking to him and scratching him. I know he has a great home now too but it still makes me sad and I wish we could have given him what he needed here.
On the upside, the extra time that I was no longer having to spend with the extra cleaning duties has allowed me to spend improving conditions for the current animals. We completed our buck pen and two other pens as well. Our buck now lives in a spacious 32X16 foot run across from the barn and the does have a winter pen right next to him. They both have makeshift shelters that will work temporarily this year. The buck will get the roof on his next year but has a good windbreak and can go into the barn if it is too horrible. The girls I moved a portable 4X8 hut into their pen for the year. Next summer we will be completing the 3rd pen (the kidding pen/kid pen) and the houses for the does and it. They will share a solid middle wall for the houses to make construction easier and will each have a generous 8X8 hut with roof and 3 sides. For now there is a cattle panel against that side of the pen. This summer we will buy and install the gates as we finish the house. The horse pasture is receiving a much needed rest as the donkeys reside in the goats pasture for the winter.
I'm headed out now, hopefully my next post wont be so long and dull and I will tell you all the fun things I've been doing like applesauce and juicing and peeling four cases of lemons! lol