So this evening, I hiked up to where I'd seen the goats yesterday with a can of feed (alfalfa & sweet mix). The goats have quite the swanky digs up in the pasture, having hollowed out a living space under a spreading grove of locust saplings.
I got the goats to eat out of my hand. Nice to know that they haven't gone feral yet!
So a couple of weeks ago, we turned the goats loose in the hillside pasture. A couple of days later, we were puzzled - despite walking through the pasture hollering and shaking the feed can - no goats. Hmm. An inspection of the fence showed a couple of strands out on one side of the fence. After a week of searching, well, still no goats. We were convinced that the goats had gotten out, and in our wild holler, well we figured we'd never see them again.
This morning though, as I was walking the pasture checking for any stray t-posts or strands of wire before I brush-hogged, I walked by a very munched upon thistle. Stopping dead in my tracks, I suppressed a beam of goat filled hope - nothing eats thistles around here, but I refused to get my hopes up - the goats were gone, I knew it.
Then yesterday, a neighbor was checking one of his game cameras on my property. He'd driven his four-wheeler up to the top bench of the pasture, and when he came back from checking his camera in the woods, there were 3 goats gathered around the vehicle!
Then this morning, as I was brush-hogging - goats! First under a cedar tree, then on another pass though the pasture, the herd was eyeballin' me from a grove of locust trees. At one point, the goats bounded off, and they are in excellent condition - well filled out, shiny coats gleaming in the sun.
You can see the goats just under and to the left of the cedar tree You can see the crest of the top bench of the hillside pasture
When I got back to the house, I told Carla and she was ecstatic. It's good to know we still have the goats. Woot.
Some of my Marglobe tomatoes have started to show what I think is early blight. You can see the stem in the picture is black, and I'm taking that as an early blight symptom. I had 4 tomatoes like this, and I cut them all off below the infected stem. It was a little hard, b/c the plants were beautiful. I don't want the disease spreading, so I had to be ruthless. arglobe tomatoes
I'm pretty sure that a dinosaur had started laying eggs down in the nesting boxes in the pasture. As you can see below, there was a chicken-sized egg without a shell among the rest of the eggs. You can get an idea in the pic below of how leathery the egg is; I'm fairly certain it's a dwarf T. Rex or possibly one of those spitting lizards off of Jurassic Park. Chickens are pretty much diminutive dinosaurs with feathers, so understand why a dinosaur would want to hang out. But as tasty as the hens are to all the other forest critters, I just can't figure out why the T. Rex hasn't eaten any of the chickens. Maybe a Pterodactyl?
So I've started losing turkey poults to disease. I noticed a week or so ago some strange turkey poops - tannish yellow and really bubbly. I would notice a turkey start to act differently - no flight distance, droopy feathers. Instantly, I suspected blackhead (Histomonas meleagridis). This is bad, very bad, as this disease can easily cause +90% mortality in turkeys.
Blackhead is a devestating disease in turkeys, and it's usually a problem attributed with having ground that was exposed to chickens. The protozoan that causes blackhead is a pretty wimpy critter, but it's got a great survival strategy. Blackhead will set up shop inside of a chicken and "hide" in cecal worms (found in all chickens), hitching a ride out of a chicken's intestinal tract when the cecal worm sends it's eggs out. The cecal worm eggs can stay dormant in the soil for up to 4 years, and the blackhead in the egg hangs out waiting. Other birds can pick up the cecal worm eggs (and the blackhead) either through ingesting soil or eating earthworms which have eaten soil with cecal worm eggs in it. Once in the intestinal tract, the blackhead emerges, and if your a turkey, well, you're in a heap of trouble. The blackhead builds up, destroying the caecal pouch in the digestive tract, where it then gets into the blood and destroys the liver.
So when suspected, blackhead is really easy to check for in turkeys.
1. Take poult in question and get some tools - utility knife and tin snips were used. 2. Open up the abdominal cavity. If you've never done this before, just cut above the anus and with shallow cuts work your way up to the breast. Once you're there, use tin snips to open up the chest cavity so you can get a good look at the liver. 3. Check the liver and caecum. Here you can see the bullseye decay spots (necrosis) indicative of blackhead, sorry about the glare. Click to enlarge to get a better view. It was really obvious in real life. to the left, you can see the gas that cases the foamy poop. The finger thing in the guts is the caecal pouch. Normally, it would be like the other intestines (there's some right above it), but it's got a characteristicly caeseous (cheese like) substance that's packed it full. This is another blackhead give away. I didn't cut it open because it absolutely reeks.
Above is another liver view. So cecal & earthworms can lead to an outbreak in a turkey flock, but the rapid transmission in the flock is due to cloacal (ie butthole) drinking. This is a relatively new understanding of blackhead transmission, and I found it going through recent poultry science journals.
So human babies, puppies, kittens, etc chew and slobber over everything to inoculate thier systems. Turkeys also do this, but they do it in a slightly different way. It's weird, but a turkey/chicken/etc actually lets bacteria into its system by opening up the other end. This works great, unless of course your laying on top of some infected poo. Counterintuitvely, ingesting the protozoan (not in cecal eggs) doesn't seem to infect the turkey, as the acidity in the proventriculus and stomach easily knocks out the protozoan.
There's no cure for blackhead, but understanding how it works, has caused me to start moving my turkeys a lot. Hopefully this will keep other cloacal transmissions from occurring.