Friday 30 May 2014

The Beast

Today, I came face to face with the beast.

So, here is what transpired.
Bella and I head off with the tractor to feed the cows and sheep.
While Bella ties up the dogs to feed them and closes the gate,
 I  survey the pasture,
keeping my eyes open for newborn calves.

I ponder for a moment why all the cows and sheep are all on one end of the pasture.
But, no real big deal.

In the distance I see a lone cow,
a good indicator of a possible baby.

We head off in that direction.
As we get closer my mind cannot comprehend what my eyes see.
Big and black.
No, too big.

I look again..
a Bison?

Yep, this humongous,
huge bison bull is standing in the field
between our cows and sheep.

The cows are nervous,
the bull is parading around,
a young heifer hightails it away from this beast.

We get closer,
the bull moves off.

Elegantly he jumps the electric fence,

he gallops off down the alfalfa hay field,

he moves down the fence,

he contemplates and
clear jumps the next fence.

My mind is spinning,
my heart is pounding.

Where did he come from?
How did he get in?
(our farm is surrounded by...bison fence)
What is he doing here?

I phoned the RCMP ( our cops)
to ask if someone had perhaps put  in a "missing bison" report?
Nobody had.

Anyway, he ambled off into the distance,

the cows breathed a sigh of relief,
 and were happy to go and eat the hay bale.

Boy, am I pleased that the big dogs were tied up,
I am not sure what their response would have been,
they have run off moose before
but a bison bull,
 is a whole other story.

 just another day in High Prairie.
Have a good weekend.

Thursday 29 May 2014


 I am driving down the road today, when I spot 4 little blobs on the road.
I start going through the options in my mind:
mud, rabbits, another critter?
As I get closer,
I see that there are 4 young owls sitting on the road.
As I get closer, one flutters off.
The other 3, are literally sitting ducks.

I decided they needed to be in a safer spot,
off the road and perhaps in a tree.
I gently placed my hand behind them one by one,
and brought them  to a branch in a nearby tree.

It looked like today was the day they left the nest,
that mom kicked them out,
They needed to learn to fly.
They were communicating all the time with each other,
soft little screeches.

They practiced their flying,
their climbing and perfected the fence post look.

All afternoon they were busy learning new skills,
and I got to watch them.

One little guy promptly pooped on my hand when I moved him off the road.
Some say,
being pooped on by a bird, will bring you luck.
I am a lucky lass today!

For a fleeting moment I thought of Harry Potter and his pet owl.

Then I remembered  this quote from "The Little Prince"

"But you mustn't forget it. You become responsible forever for what you've tamed."

I am content to appreciate their wild beauty 
and leave them be.
I wish these little hoo-ters the best of luck,
lots of mice
 and hope to see them around.

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Another birthday

Growing old is no more than a bad habit,
 which a busy person has no time to form.

~Andre Maurois

Eric came of age some time ago.
Today, he celebrates his 51st birthday.
To me that sounds so incredibly old,
when I  feel so young!
He is well into being a quinquagenarian!

As he and I never married, we never really celebrate any anniversary or so.
It was, around his birthday that we sort of,
kind of,
 hooked up together.

It is amazing to me,
that I have known this man longer,
 than I knew my parents.
I have known him  for over half my life.

I have celebrated over 23 birthdays with him.

I just want to wish you, 
 a very happy  51st birthday!

Saturday 24 May 2014

Coming of age

Today, Jess turns 18.
However, let me back track a little and share a "birth" story with you.
This is the birth card we sent to people to announce her birth!

So, Jess really did not want out.
She waited and waited until the doctor said it was time to leave the womb and face the real world.
She resisted.

The doctor told me that we would have to do a C-section and please,
 could I return to the hospital the following day.
I said no, as I still had to move some sheep around,
"could we postpone this whole c-section for a few more days?"
And so, we did.

On the 24 of May, they started the inducing process in the hopes that Jess would co-operate.
She did not.
So, at midnight the decision was made to cut her out.

At 12.17am she was out.
Eric sighed and said " she was a good one" as she could almost lift her head up, just like a lamb.
I bonded.

Unfortunately, she still needed to be in an incubator for the night and I was left with a Polaroid picture of her next to my bed to tide me over.
What a strange feeling to be a mom and not have a baby at your side.

The next morning, Eric bounced into my hospital room all happy and excited about his new baby girl.
He decided to go and collect her from the nurses and bring her to me.

Oh, the joy and happiness.

A few minuted later he appeared with this little bundle of sweetness.
He placed her on my bed.
I looked at her, and decided that this was not my baby.
Eric swept her up, cooed at her, took a million photo's of her.
Again, he handed her back to me
and again I said to him, "this is not our baby".
Sure, it is he said.

I wanted nothing to do with this baby.

He started to get concerned.
He wondered about post natal depression.

I was getting a little concerned myself,
but for completely different reasons.

Finally, I decided to hold the baby,
while holding  the baby,
 I decided to undress this newborn child.
In doing so,
I discovered that this child was not mine.

" Look" I said to Eric..
"This is a little boy,
and I know we did not have a boy last night!"

Eric propelled himself from the chair,
the look of surprise, amazement and shock was all over his face.
He returned the child to the baby room, spoke to the nurses,
a panic ensued, apologies made
and my sweet, baby girl was brought back to me.

My maternal feelings kicked in,
and yes,
I just knew this was my child!
From the tender age of 10 days old, Jess would always come shepherding with me, we could be found on the heather with a few good collies, a bunch of sheep, sarplaninac Chantal, Jess and me..
Jess helping making lamb milk
Herding sheep..

Animal lover from the start.

At this age sheep were not her thing.. she was terrified, luckily for her she grew over this!
I do ponder, once every  year, what would have happened if that baby was not a boy,
how would I have been able to "prove" this was not my child?
I often wonder, what did happen to little
Mitchel, from Oss..

After that, we never let her go again!

Congratulations Jess, we are proud of the woman you have become
and have and will always love you.
We will always find you!

But, I suppose it is time to let you go,
seeing that you are all grown up now.

Friday 23 May 2014

2014 pups are here!!

Vuk, is a shy breeder and does not like to breed with onlookers.
Lucy was rather bashful as this was her first time.
So, I did not get to see the breeding take place.
Not once.
They resided together for over a week, so I was not exactly sure when and if the breeding had even taken place.

After about 5 weeks, things started to look really promising,
Lucy got a tummy.
About 10 days ago, we moved Lucy into the barn and started our regular checks.
Yesterday morning, I went out to check on her and their were 9 healthy fat pups in with her.
A few hours later, the last one arrived.
10 beautiful pups.
8 girls and only 2 boys.

So, here is the skinny on this litter.
The father is Sharmountain Vuk,
an amazing guardian, and a stunning sarplaninac.
To read more about him  ( I have blogged about him quite a bit..)
you can go HERE

Grazerie's Lucy is our homebred girl.
She comes from our two imported dogs Fena and Beli.
Lucy is a dedicated guardian, a stable pack member and a lovely sarplaninac.

This is Lucy's first litter, she is 3.5 years old.
I have good expectations for this litter.
They will be awesome guardians and dedicated home and family protectors.

Here are some photo's of the day old pups.
I will post regular updates here on the blog of the pups!

For more information about the pups you can always send me an email or call.

Looking back at previous blogs will also give you an idea of our dogs, what we do and the working environment our dogs live in!

Extra information can be found on our website:
please read our:
 Puppy page

Puppy Policy

Friday 16 May 2014

Dog food

Feeding a pack of livestock guardian dogs can be expensive.
However there are a number of ways to help reduce the overall feeding costs.
This is how we “do it.”
How we "do it" does not mean to say how you should do it.
Each one to their own choices and decisions.

Feeding dogs is always regarded as a “hot topic” among dog breeders and dog owners. 
Some swear by certain brands, others by raw feeding, yet others by “traditional” foods that dogs would eat in their land of origin.

I have the simple belief to feed what we have,
what is available,
 as best as we economically can,
and as naturally possible.

I am not influenced by fads, great marketing, or clever packaging of big brand names of dog food.
In fact, I am actually fairly adverse to these gimmicks in the dog food industry.
I like to keep it simple and affordable.

So, this is what we do most of the time with our adult dogs.
We are feeding 8 Sarplaninac dogs,that is over 800 lbs. of dog,
 every day.
(Add some more, for all the border collies, too...)

For the most part, their diet consists of raw feeding.
By raw feeding, I mean we feed whole carcasses cut up for our dogs.
We have a livestock ranch, and where you have livestock, you also have dead stock.
As we check all our animals twice daily, if we have a dead sheep or cow,
we usually find it in a “fairly fresh” state.
Dogs have evolved and have adapted to many types of diets, their stomach acid is very powerful, and they are able to digest very stinky, rotten meat without too many ill side effects.
We do not however, feed very stinky rotten meat,
 the dogs will sometimes bury it, or hide it and then dig up later to chew on again.

Lucy with her beef

We will take the dead animal (whose body has been protected by the dogs until we arrive) and freeze it.
We have a freezer dedicated to dog food.
The sheep are frozen for at least 2 weeks.
If we have lambs/chickens/calves who die, they too end up in the freezer.
In the winter it is very convenient, with temperatures below minus 20, we can easily freeze the carcasses outside and do not need the freezer (advantages to living in Canada!).

After a violent bull fight we were left with 3 dead, they became the winter food for the dogs. 

After being frozen for a few weeks (we do this to kill the tapeworm that causes C-Ovis in sheep),
Eric will take his chainsaw and just cut the sheep up into thick slices.

Eric cutting up a bull for the dogs.

 The whole carcass gets used--guts, stomach, bones, and all.
Usually these pieces are pretty chunky so the dogs may only get fed once every two days.

Putting it into an economic perspective:
An 18 kg bag of kibble costs about $40 per bag and our dogs eat a bag every 2 days.
A dead ewe has $0 value, as she is dead.
When utilized for the dogs, as food, she has a value.
Our dogs eat 3-4 days from her.
The dead sheep is now saving us $60-$80 in feed costs.
So, instead of having a loss from the dead animal we actually "profit" from her death.

Many people warn us that once the dogs have “tasted lamb” or "tasted blood" they will not be reliable as LGDs anymore.
This is not true; the dogs can clearly distinguish between a live animal and a dead animal.
They will protect a carcass, and then when cut up and offered as a meal a few weeks later, will willingly eat it then.

Lucy  protecting a dead sheep carcass from ravens and other predators.

 We do not leave whole carcasses out for the dogs to eat from.
We like to know “what” the animal died from, so do not want the dogs to scavenge on carcasses.

By removing and feeding the dead stock we remove any attractants for predators.
If there are no carcasses to dig up or scavenge on, most predators will move on.
In studies it has been found that feeding off dead animal piles encourages predators to hang around,
who will then more likely start predating on livestock.
Removing carcasses or dead piles,
can decrease predation by 55 times!
If we do have a dead animal that we will not feed,
we compost that carcass to dispose of it.

If we have no dead stock available, we may choose to butcher some cull animals for the dogs.
This could be an old ewe, or one with a bad udder or one who is too thin, in fact, anyone who is on the cull list. We will slaughter the cull and proceed with freezing and later cutting.

Fena enjoying some elk ribs.

 The value of a cull animal is higher as dog food than it is to sell her.
Transport costs, auction costs, and commission costs are simply too high for the amount you will make from selling her.
Feeding her to the dogs is economically a better choice.
Dog kibble is expensive, feeding fresh mutton is cheap and is a high value food.

Shadow with a day or two's worth of meat.
 Not only that, I would also argue that it is better for the welfare of that cull animal,
who does not have to undergo the stress of a 7 hour transport,
going through an auction barn,
 being shipped to a slaughter plant possibly on the other side of Canada.
She simply and humanely gets killed right here at the ranch where she was born and has spent her life.

Another added value is that you are feeding your dogs a high quality (local) diet,
better than kibble made in some far away country, with unknown ingredients, risk of recalls, and poor processing.
At certain times of the year, one can often collect hunting scraps and get butchering remains.
We have laying hens so a few eggs can also be added to their diet as needed.

Hunting scraps

There are times when we do feed kibble, our dogs are flexible, and they eat what they are offered.
Sometimes, when travelling it is convenient to feed kibble rather than taking some sheep chunks along with us.

When we do feed kibble, we feed a mid range kibble,
we do not fuss about corn gluten or animal by products.
We feed a standard maintenance kibble.
However, feeding kibble in among hundreds of sheep is quite a chore,
 as the sheep really like and want to eat the kibble!

Our dogs are healthy, fit, and energetic, have no allergies, have great coats and strong clean teeth, and are never ill.
Is their diet balanced?
Well, I like to believe so, based on their health and their appearance.
I feed to need.
More work, very cold, then the dogs get more.

When feeding pups, I will raise them on a raw diet and also feed them kibble so that they can transition well into a home that may not be feeding a raw diet.
The pups get a standard (Purina) puppy food, that is easily obtainable all over. 

I believe the benefits of feeding old and dead stock are high.
The only disadvantage may be that the cutting up part is a little gory.

Going from carcass to dog food.

 Seeing the dogs enjoying a healthy meal of mutton or beef, knowing we have recycled, made the best economic decision (rather than dumping the dead, we create a value for that dead animal), made a humane choice for the cull animal, and removed attractants for wildlife
makes this way of feeding a good choice.
As the old saying goes, “Waste not, want not.”

Vuk, sheer bliss.

Monday 12 May 2014

Non lethal measures to protect livestock turns out to be cheaper than lethal control

A 3 year study conducted on South African livestock farms, found that non lethal control to mitigate conflict with wild life was cheaper than traditional lethal control.

Well, this is no surprise to me and I am so happy that more people are researching this, as I not only believe this is a more sustainable way to ranch, is better for the wildlife and the environment,
and it seems also be better for the rancher too!

To read the whole article ( this is just a tidbit) please follow THIS link and open the pdf attachment on that page.

Dead or alive? Comparing costs and benefits of lethal and non-lethal human–wildlife conflict mitigation on

livestock farms

J . S . MCMA N U S, A. J. DI C K M A N, D. GA Y N O R, B. H. SM U T S and D. W. MA C D O N A L D

Abstract: Livestock depredation has implications for conservation and agronomy; it can be costly for farmers and can prompt retaliatory killing of carnivores. Lethal control measures are readily available and are reportedly perceived to be cheaper, more practical and more effective than nonlethal methods. However, the costs and efficacy of lethal vs non-lethal approaches have rarely been compared formally.
We conducted a 3-year study on 11 South African livestock farms, examining costs and benefits of lethal and non-lethal conflict mitigation methods. Farmers used existing lethal control in the first year and switched to guardian animals (dogs Canis familiaris and alpacas Lama pacos) or livestock protection collars for the following 2 years. During the first year the mean cost of livestock protection was USD 3.30 per head of stock and the mean cost of depredation was USD 20.11 per head of stock. In the first year of non-lethal
control the combined implementation and running costs were similar to those of lethal control (USD 3.08 per head). However, the mean cost of depredation decreased by 69.3%, to USD 6.52 per head. In the second year of non-lethal control the running costs (USD 0.43 per head) were significantly lower than in previous years and depredation costs decreased further, to USD 5.49 per head. Our results suggest that non-lethal methods of human–wildlife conflict mitigation can reduce depredation and can be economically advantageous compared to lethal methods of predator control.

Sunday 11 May 2014

Sunset at the ranch

The days are long,
the sun is shining,
and we have a some time again.
I took my camera with me on a walk last night,
here are some of the pictures.

Eric drove the tractor in a hole,
thank you to our  good neighbors for saving him.

The first real signs of spring:

Meet and greet:

Doing a pasture check, see if any new calves have been born,
or if anyone needs babysitting.

Mother love..

We have our  ewes that had lambed in January in with the calving cows, it is easier to feed, and due to the mud we had to move the cows to a dry pasture.

Why, hello there baby

Mali and Lucy

Fena keeping a watchful distance from momma cow


Vuk doing a perimeter check

Hope you had a wonderful Mothers Day!

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