Monday 27 June 2011

I think the drought is over...

We are having incessant heavy rain.
With well over 5 inches these last few days our fields are water logged, our road ways are a muddy mess and the ditches are overflowing.
The good thing with all this rain is that the grass is growing and growing.
If it will dry up we may even have a wonderful hay crop this year.

This buck is bathing in grass:

The ewes and lambs are having a hard time with all the water,
the lambs are just not really drying up and we can see that this is costing them some growth. To supplement the water soaked grass we are feeding some hay. The sheep really appreciate this extra roughage. We only have 10 ewes left to lamb, so the end is in sight!

The neighbourhood babies are growing up fast.
Here is a recent photo of one of the fox babies:

and here is a photo of one of the fish eagles babies:

We went to check the cattle in between the rain.
The cows are looking happy.
We like happy cows.

We also did some gardening with some of our sheep.
We placed some electric nets in the "wild parts" of the garden, along with about 300 sheep.
They disappeared for a day or two but eventually we could see them again...

Katcha had garden guard duties..
Even our farm sign became more visible after the sheep did some gardening.

Here we are moving the sheep to another area to graze:

With all the rain, the grass is growing right into the mouths of the animals on our ranch,
All they need to do is stand in one place and chomp down..

We are not complaining about the moisture,
but a few dry days would be nice right about now!

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Lassie, Skip, Rin Tin Tin, Old Yeller all in one...

"People that hate cats will come back as mice in their next life." ~ Faith Resnick
This is a daily routine on our farm.
Every morning the kids get collected by the school bus at 7.25 am, they need to walk to the end of the driveway.
Every morning kitty Peaches accompanies the kids to the bus and in the afternoon she collects them again. This routine started off with the male cat Sarge, aka Tom, he taught Peaches the right thing to do and now Tom has retired to the barn and Peaches has her new role cut out for her..
This is in the morning..
waiting for the bus.

Can you see Peaches sitting in the middle of the driveway as the bus leaves?

The long and lonely walk home..

This is now 4.07 pm and Roy is back from school,
trusty Peaches is there to greet him and walk him back to the house.

So, whoever said that cats are not loyal or faithful,
have just never met the right one!

Sunday 19 June 2011


The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It has been raining for days now.
We really appreciate the rain as this may result in a good hay crop, rejuvenation of the land and plants and the rain will help alleviate some of the drought conditons here in the Peace Country.
However, our farm is an old lake bed and consists of heavy clay.
Lots of rain = lots of mud.
Our yard is a mess, we have ruts everywhere and we are slipping and sliding all over the place.

All the rain has forced as to move animals around,
change routines
and find solutions for the mud problem.
Our ewes are lambing, we have a fairly large group of ewes and lambs that have acces to the barn and an outside yard area, where we feed them hay outside.
With all the rain, the yard outside became flooded and the ewes had to go through the mud to get to the hay feeders.
The lambs did have a nice dry staw bed inside to sleep in. However, the ewes became more and more reluctant to go and eat outside, so we were faced with a dilemma:
Either leave the ewes and lambs in, and let the ewes battle the mud but the ke lambs would be dry
move everything to the pasture where the ewes would have fresh, lush grass and no mud,
 but the lambs would not have a dry bed to sleep in...

We chose to put them to pasture hoping that the ewes would get a burst of extra milk  from the grass and, that this extra milk would help the lambs cope with the wet conditions.
It looks like we made the right decision as all looked wet but happy today.

As the rain does not want to stop,
and to cheer me up a bit,
I decided to take some pictures of some of the flowers in my garden,

at least I can enjoy them from behind my computer screen,
as sitting outside is not really an option right now...

Friday 17 June 2011

Who does not know what 1080 is?

This is an article that I recently wrote for a local newspaper, it was brought to my attention by Gary Allen that Canada has to review the use of this predacide under the agreements made with other OECD countries.
Up until now, Canada has not complied with this review...

Earth Day has come and gone, some people may have stopped and paused for a moment and thought about our impact on the world, climate change and other environmental issues facing all of us in the years to come. Each and everyone have a responsibility to try to prevent poisonous substances to filter into our environment, ground and water courses. For many years Canadians have been using certain poisons to control “pest” animals, however few understand the impact that these poisons have on the environment.
Have you ever heard of Sodium Fluoroacetate?  Not likely. However, most ranchers know this substance under is common name 1080. The name "1080" refers to the original catalogue number of this poison and this later became its brand name. It is an organofluorine chemical compound and is used as a metabolic poison.
 This substance is one of the most toxic poisons that Canadians are subjected to. It is commonly used as a predator control substance and that use alone, is of course highly controversial.

It was brought to my attention by Gary Allen from Sointula, BC, that that the Minister of Health has the responsibility and obligation to initiate a special review of a “registered pest control product when a member country of the OECD countries (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) prohibits all uses of an active ingredient for health or environmental reasons. Slovenia, a recent member of the OECD has banned the use of Sodium Fluoroacetate (Compound 1080) in its country.”
Allen points out that this review has not taken place in Canada and feels that people are unaware of the dangers it poses to their health and communities.
What does this mean and why do we need 1080 in Alberta?
Allen explains that 1080 is a colorless, odorless salt which is highly soluble in water.
It is highly toxic to all mammals (including humans) and birds.
An oral dose of 2-5 mg/kg of this substance is sufficient to be lethal in humans.
There is no known antidote.
It slowly decomposes in soil and water in low temperatures, resulting in continued persistence in the environment.
It is banned in a number of countries and states such as California, South Africa and China to name a few.
Due to its high toxicity and slow decomposition in soil and water, it poses serious environmental risks as it is soluble in water and can easily poison water sources.
Sodium Fluoracetate is classified as a restricted product and is regulated under the Federal Pest Control Products.   

The government of Canada has authorized two provinces (Alberta and Saskatchewan) to use this toxic substance as a pest control product. The federal government has devolved down to the provincial governments, the application of this substance by the farming and ranching community. The Alberta government has also devolved the responsibility of monitoring, inspecting and training the end user of this product to their local municipal governments. The actual distributor of this highly toxic substance is the landholder.
1080 is primarily a predacide (used to poison predators).The coyote is the primary animal being targeted when using compound 1080.  The Alberta government has published a manual called “Coyote Predation Control Manual and Study Guide”. In this manual they outline the use of various poisons and other methods to reduce livestock predation. However, before using poisons, this manual does highlight the use of other, management and husbandry methods to prevent predation.

It states: “The first consideration, when conflict exists between livestock and coyotes, is the management of livestock to prevent situations that induce or invite predation. Sound husbandry practices reduce interactions between livestock and coyotes. Land use practices must be analyzed and the best use patterns considered before coyote conflicts arise.” It later goes on to describe other ways to reduce coyote predation; it states categorically that “Guard dogs are the most useful tool for reducing livestock losses to predators.” The manual outlines some other ways to deal with coyote predation before resorting to the use of dangerous poisons.

While it is important to the ranching/farming community to protect themselves from predation on their livestock, there are many effective (non lethal) predator control methods. Allen states that poisoning is simply bad management. It poses a direct risk to the rancher, his family, children, his livestock, the environment and water resources. It is lethal to domestic pets and is a non specific poison which means poisoning of non targeted animals can easily occur.
 M Sherley concludes; in a research paper “Is Sodium Fluoroacetate (1080) a humane poison?” that it is a distressing, painful and brutal death and should not be regarded as a humane way to dispose of wildlife.
Now, that we know what Sodium Fluoroacetate is and does, Allen explains that it is the responsibility of the Minister of Health to review the use of 1080 and to decide whether the use of 1080 should be banned in Canada.  Allen feels that the public are not enough aware of the dangers and potential misuse of this substance and he looks forward to the day when the use of 1080 is banned.
 Thanks Gary for sending me this information!

Tuesday 14 June 2011

A quiet evening

How strange that Nature does not knock, and yet does not intrude! 
~Emily Dickinson, letter to Mrs. J.S. Cooper, 1880


Saturday 11 June 2011

When you go out in the woods today...

This week we started sending our open ewes and replacement ewe lambs out into the bush to graze.
The sheep find this quite a scary experience and often spend the first day or two hanging out at the entrance to where we let them into the bush to graze.
To keep things manageable,  we place electric nets through bush paths to make smaller partitions. This helps the guardian dogs to be able to keep watch over the sheep and helps me to be able to find the sheep in the evening again. The bush is thick, areas full of young regrowth and  other parts are older wooded areas.
Every morning  I take the sheep out to the bush and every evening I gather them up to bring them home again. Leaving them out in this thick bush and with lots of predators around is just not a good idea. The sheep and dogs need to walk about a kilometer to the bush and back home again.
Here are a million pictures of this daily occurrence.

On the way to the bush:

All gathered up.
This mornings dog team:
Sarplaninac Beli, Katcha and Snowy,
Border collies Lad and Sheila.

The sheep head off.
All the guardian dogs jog next to the gator back and fourth from the woods. Here Katcha and Beli wait while I open up the electric nets to let the sheep in.
Katcha  and Snowy
Ready to go to work in the bush for the day.
Beli heads off to clear the way, the sheep like to follow him.
Katcha, is the rookie this year, so she quickly follow Beli  and copies what he does.
Beli stops to take drink, the sheep wait patiently behind him.
These nets help partition the bush areas into more manageable parcels, so that the dogs have a better chance of being able to protect the sheep.
Snowy, she is the sister to Snowy who recently died. I miss him even more now that the summer grazing season is in full swing.

Thursday 9 June 2011

What lurks under the grain bins?

Down the road from us are a whole row of steel graineries.
In these graineries we have grain stored for our animals.
However, something lurks under these grain bins?

These grain bins are of course a paradise for mice and..

While we were collecting grain we noticed that there was a family of foxes living under the grain bins, the 3 babies are very curious and would peek out from under the grain bins, after a while they would vernture out to snap at butterflies, scratch their ears, stretch out, jump on and off wooden beams and of course lie and enjoy the evening sun.
Here are a whole bunch of pictures of baby foxes.

All this happens while mom is out hunting in the fields close to these grain bins

When moms away, the babies come out to play...

Every few evenings I drive down to see how the babies are doing,
so unless their mother moves them,
you might be seeing lots of foxy pictures on this blog!

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