Monday, December 16, 2019

Katahdin Sheep: The Breed, Pros, and Cons

Katahdin Sheep:
 Image result for katahdin sheep

About the Breed:
     The Katahdin Hair Sheep is a recognized breed by the Katahdin Hair Sheep International (KHSI). They are a breed of hair sheep that naturally shed their wool. They are known for high parasite resistance, lean, meaty carcasses, good milking ability and maternal instincts, and high fertility. They are a medium size breed with mature ewes being around 125 to 180 lbs. and mature rams being around 180 to 250 lbs. They are mainly used for meat production, but can be used as brush clearers, pets, or other. They are usually polled, but can be horned or scurred. For more on Katahdin Sheep breed standards, go to: .

Pros of the breed:
     Like many other hair sheep breeds, Katahdins have a high parasite resistance, especially compared to commercial wool sheep breeds. They have have high fertility, and good milking and mothering ability. They are meatier than many other hair sheep breeds. They can generally acclimate to many different climates. They make good foragers and do well on pasture.

Cons of the breed: 
     More like goats, they produce internal fat faster than subcutaneous or intramuscular fat. They do not do as well in feedlot environments as wool sheep do. They are not as well muscled as some other breeds of sheep, like the Dorper.    

~Kathrynn H. Murray

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Using Rubber Bowls for Rabbit Waterers in the Winter:

     As we live in North-Eastern Washington, Our Autumn and Winter weather gets below freezing. Now, water bottles are convenient when the weather is warmer, but when things start freezing, they just don't work. (Unless you have the money to heat them, which we don't).

     We used to use plastic or metal water bowls, but they would just get dented and break. Rubber bowls do not dent or break, and it is easy to remove ice from them. Now, chewing the rubber bowls can be a problem with the rabbits, but as long as they are properly fed, watered, and entertained, I have found that it is not a problem.
Our New Zealand Buck, Andre
Our New Zealand Buck, Bucky
Tillia and her litter of kits

~Kathrynn H. Murray

A New Batch of piglets; A New Experience:

Tank and her piglets (the night they were born):
     The reason the arrival of Tank's first litter was special was that, unlike all of our sows (first timers or experienced mommas), Tank could not successfully farrow  by herself. Here is the Full Story:

     Due to some other errors, we did not have as many sows bred as we required for the year's worth of piglets.  So, we put Tank in with our boar, Bing (much later than we would have liked!). I never witnessed Bing and Tank breeding, so I did not get a due date for her. Which meant I did not have any idea when she was going to be due.                                                                            

     Finally, around the beginning of the 3rd week of September, Tank began to show signs of preparing for farrowing. Her channels began to fill, and her vulva began to slacken. I  then watched her closely for the next two weeks. 
     Finally, on October 1st, early in the afternoon, Tank began to 'nest'. 
Nursing time! 
     Later in the evening, something was obviously wrong. Tank was pushing as hard as she could, and there were no sign of a piglet or anything else. I decided to take a closer look. I reached into her cervix, and what surprised me, was that there was indeed a piglet, ready to be delivered. I realized that the piglet was stuck (because she had been pushing for at least an hour with no progress).

     Because of how long I had watched her pushing without progress with the piglet in position to be delivered, I was stressed about the piglet's likelihood of survival. I pushed the piglet as far back into the womb as I could, hoping that when she pushed the piglet back that it would get re-positioned. But it did not help. I tried a few more times to push the piglet back, hoping for repositioning, but to no success. I began to freak out. I thought that by now the piglet would be dead. 

     So, as I saw no other options, I did something I would almost never do. I very carefully grabbed the piglet's head, and gently pulled.
More milk? Why not!
     The piglet was finally delivered. And to my shock and relief, the piglet was still alive, with no signs of damage from the whole process. After the quick examination, I set the piglet next to it's mother's channels. I gave her some chances to continue farrowing by herself, but when she proved she couldn't, I pulled the rest of Tank's piglets. Luckily, all of her seven piglets were born alive and healthy. 

I believe the cause of her failure was obesity, along with a lack of abdominal musculature. (And both of which were our fault, because we were the ones who provide her food and space).

~Kathrynn H. Murray

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Slaughtering Molly The AGH (American Guinea Hog):

Last weekend, on 8.28.19, Me and my Father slaughtered our purebred registered AGH sow named Molly. The reason we slaughtered her was: Molly was a bad sow, who would kill and cannibalize her own piglets, and, she was very aggressive and territorial to other pigs. So, Molly's destiny became the chopping block.

 (Left) Molly hanging up next to William
(Right) Molly from the side

We don't have a scale so we could not weigh her, but I would guess that Molly was probably about 320 or so pounds. As AGHs' are a breed of Lard Hog, Molly was very fatty with less meat than a commercial Bacon Hog would give. But of course we like our pigs to be smaller, slower growing, fattier, (We cook everything in pork lard) and require less food than a bacon hog, so that is what we chose to raise. For being approx. 320 pounds, Molly was about 5/8 fat 3/8 meat. 
(Left) Molly's head with a view of the jowls that we turn into 'jowl bacon'.

We Like to use as much of the hog as possible. I skin off the whole hog's head, and then I flesh all of the meat and fat off the skull, and we season and cook it like how we cook bacon. In fact, we season the whole hog as we season bacon, with the exception of the organs. I also will harvest the tongue, heart, liver, kidneys, spleen, and caul fat, and on occasion, the stomach and/or lungs.  We will also skin and eat the four trotters.
We process our hogs quite differently than most people. That is just another thing that distinguishes our farm from many others!

"Pig breeds were traditionally classified as one of two types, lard or bacon. Lard breeds were used to produce lard, a cooking fat and mechanical lubricant. These pigs were compact and thick, with short legs and deep bodies. They fattened quickly on corn, and their meat had large amounts of fat in it."

More on AGHs':

~Kathrynn H. Murray

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Rabbits: An Excellent Homestead Addition

     Now, a lot of people may think that rabbits just make good pets. But to homesteaders and farmers, they can mean so much more. To us, we see the rabbit as the most basic animals to have on the farm.

(Above) Tilia and her first litter of kits (newborn rabbits).

     Rabbits are extremely useful in so many ways. For one, they are very easy to raise. That is, they require less space than larger animals, (although more space is always better for them), they require less food, and require less diversity in their diets compared to omnivores (like chickens). Also, they are very easy to dispatch, versus larger animals such as sheep, cattle, hogs, etc. require more difficult methods of dispatch. For more on dispatching rabbits, go to: Another benefit to raising rabbits for meat, is that they make healthy and easy-to-raise protein for your other carnivorous and omnivorous animals on the farm such as cats, dogs, chickens, and pigs. Not to mention, their pelts are extremely soft and warm, making them very useful too. And for those who are into making yarn, the Angora rabbits have very nice wool that can be used for knitting. For more about Angoras:  or, . Of course, rabbits can still make for good pets. Whatever you use them for, rabbits are wonderful, bright little animals to have on the farm! For more on raising rabbits, go to: or 

~Kathrynn H. Murray

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Newborn Lambs

(Above) Sass and her newborn ram lambs. (Picture taken yesterday)

(Above) Rogue with her lambs when they were first born

Four New Hair Sheep

Farley's single ram lamb

     We got four ewes (with 3 of them being pregnant) from Yates Colby of Summit Farms. Rogue (1/2 Katahdin 1/2 St. Croix), Farley (1/2 Katahdin 1/2 St.Croix),  Feo (1/2 Katahdin 1/2 St. Croix), and Sass (1/2 St. Croix 1/2 Wiltshire Horn).
     Rouge lambed first, on 6.22.19 (the same day our Jersey heifer calved), with two ewe lambs. (She and her lambs are in the picture below). Farley lambed next, on 8.29.19 with two ram lambs. (One liveborn, one stillborn). Her one liveborn ram lamb is pictured above. The third ewe (Sass) lambed twin ram lambs yesterday (9.11.19). We are so fortunate to have these wonderful ewes and their lambs.

Rogue and her twin ewe lambs

Sass and her newborn ram twins

~Kathrynn H. Murray

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Hard Lesson

     On August 22, we had an incident with a litter of piglets. Lilly, our 1/2 AGH and 1/2 Kune Kune gilt, farrowed with 11 piglets. 3 were stillborn, and had obviously died at different stages in gestation, 8 were liveborn, and of the liveborns, one have a genetic defect that caused it to not be able to stand properly. Thus, the piglet died. Also, being born  five days early, (which is very early for a pig!), the piglets were extra delicate, and when Lilly accidentally stepped on one of her piglets, the skin on it's flank ripped off. That piglet also died.  So far, the six remaining (live) piglets are doing well.

     When it was time for us to breed our pigs this year, we placed Lilly in with our boars. However, one was a nephew to her (her brother's son). We did not realize that him breeding her would cause such harm to Lilly's piglets. So, when she farrowed and had all of her sorrowful issues, we learned a good lesson the hard way. We will continue to work hard and learn for our mistakes and not repeat them.

(Above) Lilly and her piglets are now doing well.