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The Winds of Change.


The snow has fallen, enough to cover the ground. Yesterday afternoon into the evening we moved our nine bigger feeder pigs into the new pasture that we built this spring and brought the goats back to the barn. The pigs were forty pounds heavier than we anticipated and thank goodness they have a love for marshmallows. Eric made a crate for transporting goats that fits on the back of the pickup. The crate also fits nicely onto a bale fork on the back of the tractor. About three o’clock yesterday we finally had time to switch the goats and the pigs. Our big pigs, the sows and the boar, Boris, will follow us all over the farm for treats and scratches. The smaller pigs start to follow us but end up distracted and running everywhere. So, we attached the crate to tractor, shut the pigs in the barn and realized, that they were to big to lift. We opened the door just enough to fit the crate in and hoped for the best. Luckily, we had two things that pigs cannot pass up, pears and marshmallows. We do take great care in the fact that our pigs are fed a high-quality feed and do not feed them left over bread or any non-vegetable scraps. But the amount of stress that is removed from moving pigs with a bag of marshmallows is priceless. Jordan held the door of the crate open while Eric and I got the pigs attention with the treats. In a matter of minutes, the first load of pigs was on the crate and headed for their new home. When Eric returned with the empty crate, I opened the barn door and we repeated the process. This time we were down to five pigs. That should have been one more trip. Four of the five went onto the crate, but the fifth one would not. With the hesitation of Larry, another one got off the crate. (Larry is the term we use for an uncooperative pig, male or female, if the pig doesn’t cooperate, we call them Larry.) So, two trips turned into three. Once again, the empty crate on the tractor returned and I opened the door to let the crate in and try again. This time Larry was in the mood to be loaded, and perhaps curious about where his seven had gone. Finally, the last two pigs were on and ready to be moved.

In the new pasture, we now had all of the goats, the pony, and nine curious pigs. The next step was to move the pony and goats to the pasture the pigs just came from, as well as take the crate off the tractor and move the pig feeders. I latched the barn door shut so Jordan and I could start moving goats while Eric dropped the crate and moved the feeders for the pigs. Now under normal circumstances goats stay in a group. They are in fact herding animals, and prefer to be grouped up. But we were well past the goats’ bed time. They had to decide, stick together, or go in for the night. They decided it was time for bed. So instead of leading three goats and a pony while the rest of them followed, it was looking like we would have to lead every goat one at a time. Jordan and I led the pony and three goats while two goats followed us. The rest of the goats made it halfway across the pasture and ran back to their shelter. We locked those five goats in the barn with Misty and started for round two. This time I brought a bucket of feed, and Eric had finished up moving pig feeders so he was able to help lead goats. Eric locked the goats out of the shelter and I started feeding them goat feed. Eric led Fuchsia in front of the remaining goats as Jordan and I tried to keep their attention. Luckily the pigs that were just put into the pasture had too much to see and discover so they paid no attention to the fact we were going out and had the gate open. After a few unfocused goats had to have their attention refocused, we were out of one pasture and headed down the driveway to the barn. Jordan ran into the barn and set up a feeder for the goats so the ones we were moving could see the benefits of going into the barn. It worked! As the curious ladies went passed the door, they saw their friends eating grain and ran in. Everyone was where they needed to be and we were done moving animals.

All that was left was to bed down the pigs’ shelters and put hay to the goats. One fact about pigs that is often overlooked, they keep their bedding clean. Pigs are smart enough to go outside when they have to relieve themselves. They will root under the bedding and cuddle up all winter long and stay warm. The shelters are closed in on three sides and hoop buildings that are about five feet tall, twelve feet long, and ten feet wide. The floors of the huts are rubber mats. The mats give cushion to the animals as well as keeping them off of the ground. When the goats are using the huts, we continually add bedding. The goats do not have the manners that the pigs do, and they continually add goat pellets. After a few months of us and the goats adding to the bedding it starts to compost and give off heat. When the pigs are moved in and dry bedding is put on top, they have a dry place to sleep that is constantly warm. When the weather is warmer, we simply move the huts and move all of the bedding into our compost pile.

All that was left was to throw hay from the top of the barn into the hay rack for the goats. Years ago, the barn had lights on the top half. However, the wire was never run in conduit and it had been disconnected long before we got to the farm. So, with the lights from the tractor Eric stuffed the hay rack full of hay while the goats, and Misty munched away. I honestly think that the only part of being in the barn rather than in huts that the goats prefer is being able to eat inside instead of outside.

It has been since the first week of July that Misty the pony, and the herd of goats has been in the pasture they are in now. With the ground covered in snow I am curious to see how much snow they dig up to get to the pasture. They do prefer the hay rack, but nothing would surprise me.

This morning after Eric milked, he went to check on the nine pigs, to see if they caught on to their new home. All nine were cuddled up in the dry bedding snoring. The goats were glad to be back with their beloved hay rack and were all munching hay as soon as the lights came on. We are just over a month away from the goats delivering babies, always a busy time for us. Now we are one step closer to being ready for the excitement!

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