Tuesday 28 August 2012

Hand raising pups..

When Snowy died and left us 7 pups to care for,
the task seemed more than daunting.
And, in all honesty, IT IS DAUNTING AND TIRING!
We did not have high expectations that the pups would survive but did know we would give it a good try.
Ten days in things are still looking good.

Thanks to alot of people who gave me advise and sent me encouraging emails,
we seem to have our act and routine in place now.
The first few days we had the pups on a puppy milk replacer.
The pups seemed to be slightly constipated even though we were doing belly rubs to stimulate the pups to "do their business".

I now have the pups on a homemade  formula.
Since their birth the pups have mostly tripled their birth weight and seem to be right on schedule with their growth.
The formula I am using is:
 10 oz Goats milk
(or tinned evaporated milk and some water if, I or rather the supermarket, runs out of goats milk!)
1 cup of plain fat yogurt
1 egg yolk only
1/2 cup of home made beef liver broth
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp Karo syrup
pinch of electrolyte salts.

The pups where getting fed every three hours around the clock.
Slowly the times are extending and we are now on a 4 hour routine.
Phew, it is tiring.

Besides, the milk replacer we have also found that we need:
a huge amount of towels

assorted stuffy toys
(This is Tarzan and his tiger..)

puppy absorption pads
(they pee copius amounts)

baby bottles

baby wipes (we have used over 1000 baby wipes in 10 days)

Due to the pups having a very strong suck reflex, we had some delicate issues.
The pups had taken to sucking on the little boys private parts causing them to become seriously swollen and hurt.
One pup developed an abscess due to this.
So, we made a decided to separate the pups to prevent further problems.
Each pup has its own stuffie to sleep with and of course the pups get a lot of cuddles and attention from us.

Edward and Harry

Once the pups start eating from a dish this delicate issue should diminish.
We know that this is not ideal however, we will, as soon as we can, place the pups together.

The pups are now taking over a huge part of the living room.

It helps to have some students and kids to help with the bottles, butt cleaning, burping and cuddling!
Each pup has a name.
We decided to name them after famous orphans:
So we have Annie
Cinderella (Cindy)
and the boys are:
Edward (Cullin from the Twilight movies)
Tom (Sawyer)
Harry (Potter)

All the pups are doing great.
I do wish however that they had a mom...


Monday 27 August 2012

Then and now

On June 18th, this little parcel arrived at Canada post for me:

Now, they are free range little road runners!
Beep beep!

They live a free life.
This does entail some danger of course,
from maurauding border collies (since Jet left we have not lost one chicken...) to owls and hawks.
That's the price of freedom.

However, things are looking good.
All have survived and are now ranging in ever larger circles around the chicken coop. They have a nice thick wooded bush right next to the coop to hide away  if danger does lurk close by.
They go nicely into the coop at night and have learnt to roost high in the rafters.

This is a young rooster.
This breed has a sex-colour linked gene.
That means, that you can tell the difference between the males and females by the colour of the feathers.
Even as a day old chick.
The males in this "breed" ( it is actually a cross breed red rock) have a yellow tip on their heads,
and grow out to have a grey barred feather colour.

The hens are black at birth and can vary from brown/ black shades to totally pitch black.
I love having the chickens around,
they add so much life onto the farmyard,
and can be very comical at times.

If all is well, we should be getting a whole bunch of free range eggs next year.
I will need to start a bed and breakfast to utilise all these eggs!

Friday 24 August 2012

Life goes on...

After the tragic loss of Snowy last week,
the good news is that Katcha whelped
a healthy, happy and contented litter of 6 puppies!

These almost black pups are all over 500g in birthweight and first time mom Katcha is doing great!
So, my blogs should be filled with lots of puppie updates these next few months.
This was a planned breeding between Katcha and Vuk, unlike the accidental, from Snowy.

There are 4 girls and two boys in this bunch.

Monday 20 August 2012

A sad day

We have had a very rough weekend to say the least.
It was a weekend plagued with a lot of expensive mechanical problems and then the loss of one of our sweetest dogs, Snowy.

Two months ago our Snowy was in season. I diligently kept her away from the males. On day fourteen she got into a fence fight with Alaska, who promptly pulled her through the page wire into the area where Alaska (bitch), Beli and Tosoxs (neutered) where. Not only did Snowy get beat up by Alaska, she also got bred by Beli. I was hoping of course that she would not “catch” but this was not the case. We could see her growing and when she was due to whelp we brought her in. She was very heavy and so when she stopped eating a few days ago I assumed she was getting close to having her pups. On Friday night she started to whelp.
The first pup was born at 3am. At 8am she still had not had any more pups. Then a dead pup came out followed by two live ones. Her labour stalled. A few hours later another few pups where born and then she stalled again. With advice from the vet we injected her oxytocin to get her contractions going but this did not have the desired result.
The decision was made to do an emergency c- section. When the vet opened her up she still had a dead pup and one living pup. The total 7 live pups and 2 dead pups. The live pups where a bit slow to get up and go and where on the light side. During the c- section the vet became concerned as Snowy’ s uterus was filled with large amounts of blood. The tissues where fluid filled and so the decision was made to spay her as her uterus did not look healthy.
After two hours in surgery the vet placed the last suture when Snowy stopped breathing and her heart stopped. She died on the table. I was devastated and could not believe what had just happened.
So, with the heart break of losing our angelic princess (Read about her HERE) we where also left to raise 7 white little Sarplaninac pups by hand.
The kids have taken it on them to help with the every 3 hours feeding regime of the pups. The pups are growing, seem satisfied and content. We understand that the chances of survival for some of these pups will be low; however we committed to try and make this work.
The pups now live in a cardboard box in the house so that we can keep the feeding going. We have 4 boys and 3 girls, all white.
Updates will follow.

Monday 13 August 2012

The cost of bounty programs vs long term sustainable programs

Together with a number of local people,
as well as having  ALOT of  help from Sadie Parr,
we are trying to find ways to  stop the wolf bounties and find ways to reduce livestock predations here in our community.
Wolf bounties have been proven time and again to be ineffective,
in fact, they actually result in higher livestock predations.
They are wasteful, cost tax payers large sums of money
and are highly detrimental to ecosystems.
Sadie has written an article outlining what our MD could have done with the $87000 already spent on 290 dead wolves.

Money wasted on killing wolves in Big Lakes Municipal District, AB

By special guest, Sadie Parr

Alberta wolf bounty programs have been receiving attention recently.  The municipal district (MD) of Big Lakes is one example of numerous programs across the province, providing $300 for each wolf turned in since 2010.

In three years, Big Lakes has spent approximately $87,000 on wolves claimed through the bounty program.  People from the area as well as across the country are justifiably concerned that this is not an ecologically sustainable practice, nor ethically sound.  Many wolves killed had never killed livestock, many of them never would have.

The real shame is that the situation is being portrayed as having two sides; those who want to protect livestock and those who want to protect wolves.  The irony is that both of these objectives could be met simultaneously through working together.  A large amount of money has been invested within Big Lakes to kill wolves.  If preventing livestock losses is the goal, that money could have been better used.

Wolf Biologist Marco Musiani has spent more than a decade investigating the correlations between wolf depredations and raising livestock.  His research has indicated that culling wolves has not been shown to reduce depredation, immediately nor long-term.  Indeed, there is no evidence to show that indiscriminately killing wolves works as a long-term solution; depredations occur in areas that have been practicing lethal control for decades. 

Musiani has described this approach as

            “a short-term response to depredation that does not decrease wolf-depredation at a regional scale nor over long-term”.

In fact, in certain parts of North America, killing wolves indiscriminately through trapping may have lead to increased depredation rates on livestock the next year.  This may be due to more wolves present in these areas following a disruption of their social structure or maybe wolves avoiding traps had learned to prey on livestock, and become more dependent upon domesticated animals as a food source as pack mates are removed.  Similar research on Dingo’s in Australia also documented pack disintegration (loss of social stability regardless of population size) following indiscriminate lethal control methods.  In this research there appeared to be an increase in attack rates on livestock when using poison baits.

tumblr luq3e6zWG61qcy9ebo1 400

Photo: Wolf in a leghold trap from Alaska Magazine, Tim Woody

Council members of Big Lakes MD have stated that preventative measures would be extremely expensive.  The following cost comparisons have been  made using information gathered by John A Shivik of the US Department of Agriculture  in his journal article in BioScience,  March 2006  (“Tools for the Edge: What’s New for Conserving Carnivores?”), and through personal communication with wolf biologists, ranchers, and individuals providing electric fence workshops.

LIST of Cost Comparisons at $87,000 and duration of effectiveness:

Fladry:  Cost estimate $781/km.  Could purchase 111.4 km. Duration 60 days

Electric Fencing:

Cost estimate -$250 for Super Energizer IV voltmeter- 50 mile range (if off grid $450)

- grounding plates $17 or rods (rebar)

-rebar posts every 10-12 feet ($600 to $700 per ton)

-stucco wire roll 100 feet $80, or ¼ mile tensile steel $25

Could purchase -348 voltmeters or 5118 grounding plates or 134 tons of rebar posts or 108,750 feet of stucco wire or 870 miles of tensile steel.

Duration of effectiveness would be unlimited as long as fence was properly constructed and maintained.

Turbofladry: Cost estimate $1328/km.  Could purchase 65.5 km.  Duration unlimited as long as fence was properly constructed and maintained.

Livestock Guardian Dogs: Cost estimate $300 - $1000 initial cost, then $500 per year.  Could purchase 108 guardian dogs (at $800 each).  Duration of effectiveness is approximately the lifespan of guard animal, typically years.

Carcass Removal Programs: Cost estimate 9¢/lb for ruminants where programs occur, with a minimum $75 charge.  If the average calf weighs 525 pounds at weaning 1160 calves could have been removed (at $75).  If the average cow weighs 1800 lbs, then 537 cows could have been removed.  In some parts of North America Fish and Wildlife will donate the truck and fuel costs.  Often funds are generated through rancher donations, conservation group donations, local taxes, and grants.  Duration of effectiveness is ongoing.

Range Riders:  Cost estimate $110/day for 2 months/year is $6,600.  In some parts of the US tourists are paying for the opportunity to do this.  Could provide  range riders for 13 ranches.  Duration of effectiveness is ongoing.

Fladry is a simple, inexpensive yet effective method for deterring wolves from entering a pasture.  It is a line of flags hung outside a pasture to dissuade wolves from crossing it and entering the area.

TurboFladry is Fladry combined with electric fencing, and although more expensive, this type of set up has proven very effective at keeping wolves out of a given area.  Initial costs may appear high, but the effectiveness and longevity for preventing depredations should also come into consideration.  As well conservation goals should also be included in the equation.


Husbandry practices where predators share the landscape with domestic stock can have a major influence on whether or not wolves will be attracted to an area.  Many predator-friendly ranching practices are inexpensive but an initial investment into providing this type of information and making it accessible to livestock producers is necessary.  Some of the more commonly used and discussed techniques include: confining or concentrating flocks during periods of vulnerability, establishing a human presence using herders, synchronizing birthing to reduce the period of maximum vulnerability, and pasturing young animals in areas with little cover and in close proximity to humans.  One of the most basic provisions for not attracting predators to areas where livestock is being raised is to remove dead livestock immediately from pastures.  Carcass removal programs occur in parts of Alberta where Grizzly bears are overlapping with ranchers.  Monitoring the health domestic animals regularly is critical to ensure dead and weaker domestics are managed, as these present more of an opportunity to wolves and other predators.  If a producer can remain “unattractive to wolves” by promptly managing for dead and sick livestock, as well as maintaining a strong human presence, livestock depredation rates should decrease in most areas.

Currently, there is no known place in North America where livestock is the majority of wolf prey.  This is not always the case in other countries where wolf populations have been all but decimated, such as Europe and Asia.   It becomes necessary to identify that wolves account for approximately 1 – 3 % of livestock losses on a large scale in North America, with weather, calving, and digestive problems a far larger concern for producers.

Wolf researcher and biologist Marco Musiani has identified that seasonal patterns can be seen in livestock calving, grazing practices, and variation in wolf pack energy requirements.  Understanding these patterns can help improve planning and management, and potentially alleviate conflicts.

It is also paramount to consider the benefits and costs involved in ecosystem services that are provided for by wolves as a top predator and keystone species.  Wolves help to maintain the health, balance and biodiversity of natural ecosystems.  The Big Lakes Regional District has been advertising lake estates as a “natural way of living”, which is indeed something to boast about.  Especially as wilderness areas and natural predator-prey ecosystems are becoming more rare, and thus precious on a global scale, around the world.

Residents of Big Lakes have indicated that the elk population in the area may be increasing, and wreaking havoc on canola fields.  This is just one other agricultural concern that may arise when tinkering with the natural system begins. 

Local sustainability also embraces a land ethic.   Aldo Leopold described this basic principal in the following way, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.  It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”  Local sustainability is not just about taking care of the people in our community; it also requires stewardship of the plants, animals, land and water around us.

The MD of Big Lakes will be reconsidering the continuation of the bounty program this September. 

For more information:

Sadie Parr

sadester@hotmail.com (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it)

To speak out for the wolves, please contact the municipal district of Big Lakes.

Photo: Guardian dog with sheep by Louise Liebenberg.

Saturday 11 August 2012

Sheep Collar Texts Shepherds When Wolves Attack

So, here is how technology could help reduce predations.
I do think that this could be a tool in the toolbox of measures to help in preventing predations.
However, this text message won't stop predations in itself, but combined with repellants, guarddogs, fencing and other forms management,
could be very useful

Sheep Collar Texts Shepherds When Wolves Attack 
Image by:Tambako the Jaguar/Flickr

By Liat Clark, Wired UK

Swiss biologists are testing a sheep collar wolf-warning device that registers heart rate changes and alerts shepherds to attacks via text message, while simultaneously emitting a repellant.
The envisioned collar is in its preliminary phase, and the heart monitor faculty was recently trialled for the first time outdoors near Les Diablerets ski resort. The team, which includes biologist Jean-Marc Landry, fit the collars of 12 sheep with heart rate monitors (similar to the devices used by runners) before releasing them into an enclosure with two muzzled Czechoslovakian wolf dogs. The predators circled the sheep before attempting an attack. Readings from the collar monitors later showed a significant spike in the heart rate of the sheep, from a standard 60 to 80 beats per minute to 225 when the wolf dogs launched their attack. 
The team plans on testing the second phase of the collar in autumn 2012. This will include a built-in wolf-repelling device — either a spray or a sound repellant — that will activate when a sheep’s heart rate reaches a certain level. At the same time, the collar will automatically send a text message to the shepherd, alerting the sheep’s keeper to the attack. Though details of the repellant have not yet been released, the fact that Landry is also the author of a paper entitled Non-lethal techniques for reducing depredation suggests the system will not be a deadly one.
 The final prototype is due to be tested in Switzerland and neighboring France in 2013, and Norway has also shown interest in the device.
 The system is seen as a replacement for sheepdogs for those small herd owners that cannot afford the guards. Nervous shepherds in Switzerland will be happy to hear the news, following a rare 27 July wolf attack, which killed two sheep in St Gall. In France, after nearly a century of wolf-free pastures, the endangered species protection covering the grey wolf led to a spate of sheep attacks in 2011 after its population began to flourish.
 Source: Wired.co.uk

Thursday 9 August 2012

Round and Round

We are still haying.
It seems never ending.
Today I cut 93.6kms of hay in 8hours time.
Yesterday, I raked 80 acres (36ha) of heavy swaths.
The day before yesterday, I baled and raked for 6 hours.
Tomorrow, I will bale another 80 bales,
then move the rake to the field I cut today.
I will end the day by cutting some more.
This field is endless, I think I have just cut one third.
We still have, after this big one) at least another two big ones to go.

I do have company; a raven family follows me around looking for mice and worms in my newly mowed swaths.
A big mule deer buck was also rather interested in what I was doing.

During all these rounds, I do ponder on the meaning of life…
Do I really want to spend all my summers sitting on a tractor?
The solution, to my above mentioned rhetorical question,  came to me during round 38:
Job Opportunity:
Which young, slightly mechanically minded tractor lover would like to spend their 2013 summer ( July to September) on a sheep and cattle ranch in northern Alberta? We offer free board and lodging, good home cooked meals, plenty of smiles and some time offJ. We need help with haying. You will need to be content with being alone most of the time, must love remote areas, enjoy lots of wildlife and must be able to deal with some mechanical breakdowns without it stressing you out.
If this sounds like something you would enjoy, PLEASE, contact me.
 Signed:  Desperate in the Hay Field.

Saturday 4 August 2012

Internet problems and rodeo in HIgh Prairie

My main excuse for not blogging much is that we have had lots of Internet problems these last few weeks.
Apparently something is wrong with the satellite.
They said they would come and fix it....
but who knows how long that will take.
So, when we do have service I do try and post something, but most of the time it kind of flashes on and off.

The other activity that has kept me busy is the High Prairie Rodeo.
Our kids ride in the grand entry and closing ceremony.
They have been training for months.
Twice a week for hours at a time.
18 young people do a drill team pattern with the sponsors flags.

On rodeo day, they horses are all bathed and shined up,
they have ribbons in their hair (manes and tails)
and glittery stars on their butts.
The kids are shined up as well!

The rodeo starts with a parade through town.
All the companies prepare a parade vehicle,
as well as clubs, churches, the local bands, horse clubs
in fact just about everyone participates.

The kids ride in the parade with the sponsors flags.

And, then its rodeo time.
Roy was a touch nervous, so I gave him a quick pep talk.
It went like this:
"Roy, you have done great up to now, have fun and enjoy yourself.
Oh, whatever you do, don;t drop the sponsors flag and please don't fall off"

And, then this is what happened...

Yep, the kid on the grey horse flying through the air is Roy!
Luckily, he was quickly brushed off and was back in the saddle in no time.

This year Jess ran in the local barrel racing event.
I did not give her a pep talk, but did say
"whatever you do DON'T fall off".
She took my advice to heart and stayed on.

Other than that it was a good two days.
All the normal rodeo events came by.
The bucking horses:

The bulls were very tough,
and many cowboys ended up with mud on their face,
bruises and a few with some new bragging rights scars.

Our rodeo runs pony chuckwagons:

 And, we also have rodeo royalty.
The pretty blond girl on the left is Samantha, one of Jess's best friends.
She is now the new Miss High Prairie Rodeo Queen!
Unfortunately, Miss Rodeo Canada was unable to attend our rodeo due to a fall off her horse..

Jess, has queen ambitions and plans to participate in either next year or the following years Queen competition.

And, then it was time to clean up, pack away and head back to our daily lives.
Haying and sheep work calls.
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