Tag Archives: Animal Husbandry

Selling Some Sheep

Since someone has decided to turn La Yacata into a post-apocalyptic wasteland by burning every single lot whether or not the owners gave permission, food for our herd/flock has been harder to find.  The goats are getting by because they eat quite a variety of plant stuff and are agile in their foraging abilities. The sheep, on the other hand, are finding good eats more difficult.

As rainy season doesn’t begin for another few months, my husband decided that some of the sheep needed to go in order to buy some food for the rest.  He went back and forth which should be sold, not really wanting to part with any of them. Finally, he decided the two newest additions would be sacrificed for the greater good.  Neither had names yet so we hadn’t gotten too attached.

The neighbor, who I call Best Buddy because he wants to do everything my husband does, also decided he was going to sell some sheep to buy some feed.  He wanted to sell 4.  So since my husband wanted to take them to Puruándiro, Michoacan to sell, he needed to get a “guia”, which is a permit for transporting animals.  He picked it up at the same place he registered the animals in January, the Asociacion Ganadera Local in Moroleon.  It cost 25 pesos.

 

Since Best Buddy couldn’t leave any earlier than 8 am, I had plenty of time to take my walk with Puppy and feed the cats.  Then we were off.

Just as we passed La Calera, a truck with some goats pulled alongside us and motioned for us to pull over.  Curious, we did. They wanted to know if we were off to sell the animals in Puruándiro. We were. They offered to buy them for 33 pesos a kilo right then and save us the trip. Best Buddy wasn’t too happy with the price.  He had been told that in Puruándiro he could get 36 pesos per kilo. I signaled to my husband that we should take the deal.  After all, we weren’t experienced in the whole buying and selling done in Puruándiro and odds were we’d actually get a smaller price without knowing the ins and outs of it all.

Finally, my husband suggested we go and weigh the animals in Cerano, the next town, and then decide.  There is a bascula (weighing machine) there. This bascula is the type you drive upon with the animals and get weighed.  Then you take the animals off and weigh the vehicle again. The difference is the weight of the animals. So we pulled in there and said hi to my husband’s cousin who runs it. However, Best Buddy wanted the animals to be weighed separately since they had two owners.

La bascula in Cerano

No problem.  We followed them into town and stopped next to a telephone post.  The guys pulled out a scale and hung the animals from it, one by one. One sheep weighted 52 kilos and the other was 20 kilos. 72 kilos at 33 pesos a kilo was enough to buy food that should last until the rainy season starts.  Interestingly enough,  macho sheep are sold for 40 pesos per kilo, 7 pesos more than females. Since we have more machos than we need at the moment, this little tidbit will be useful in the future.

With the prices agreed upon and the animals loaded into the other guys’ truck, we followed them up the road to the bank so they could make a withdrawal.  Of course, there was the chance that the truck would take off with the animals and we’d be left whistling Dixie, but that didn’t happen. It turns out that the guys were from Cerano and knew my husband’s family.  I have no doubt that they took their new acquisitions to Puruándiro and sold them for 36 pesos per kilo.

Since cash runs like water through my husband’s fingers, we went in search of pacas (bales) of alfalfa immediately. We drove towards Yuriria and came across some pacas in lines waiting for transport.  We stopped and my husband hopped out to ask the guy if they were for sale. He wasn’t in charge, but the owner was just up the road on the tractor. So that’s where we went. After some negotiation, the owner agreed to 100 pesos per paca (bale). For comparison, most pacas in Moroleon are running 120 pesos right now and increase the further into the dry season it is.  My husband and Best Buddy loaded the truck up.

 

But we weren’t done yet.  We headed to this little town called Monte de Los Juarez (the hill belonging to the Juarez family). There, Best Buddy did some heavy negotiation with the lady who runs the store for 2 turkeys for 500 pesos. So with a full truckload of pacas, 3 adults and 2 turkeys in the cab, we headed home.

Negotiation in process.

The next day, Best Buddy sold the turkeys he bought and our two that had stripped all our saplings bare in the course of an afternoon.  With more money in his hot little (or not so little) hands, my husband wanted to get some more pacas–this time rastrojo (corn stalk). We headed to the same area as yesterday but traveled further down the road.  Just past the town Juan Lucas, we saw a huge towering mound of pacas. We stopped and asked some guy walking down the road if he knew if those pacas were for sale. He said they were and hopped in the back of the truck to head to see the owner. After several whistles and shouts, the owner came to the door.  It’s not polite here to approach a door and knock. Whistling is proper protocol. Drives me nuts though. The owner hollered out that he’d be there in a moment.  He needed to put a shirt on.

Eventually, he came out and the men conferred and pulled at their chins a bit before the price was agreed upon–13 pesos per paca.  In Moroleon, the average rastrojo paca is 16 pesos. The hitchhiker and my husband loaded the truck up. My husband gave him algo pa’la soda (a tip) and we dropped him off at his house.

On the way home, we stopped at a roadside stand in Ozumbilla.  DELICIOUS! While we were eating, a man with an ice cream tricycle began to hoot and holler.  We looked over and he was gesturing down the road and at our truck. It seemed the man wasn’t able to talk, but he wanted us to be aware that the Federales were heading down the road.  There’s a great deal of suspicion against the police in small towns and not without reason. We didn’t have anywhere else to park the truck, so decided to wait it out. Sure enough, a convoy passed not 5 minutes later with the entire town along the side of the road to bear witness to their passing.

Lunch finished, we headed home. We now have enough feed to last us close enough to the rainy season.  Hooray!

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Zombie babies

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Zombie baby feeding frenzy!

So the triplets made it through the first few days of life, which is saying something about the superhuman efforts Papa Chivo put into them. Bottle feeding didn’t seem to give them enough nutrients, so my husband borrowed a wet-nurse goat.  Unfortunately, the zombies had voracious appetites and the wet-nurse goat could not keep up with the demand.

Big Mama was forced to supplement a bit but didn’t have so much milk since Fuzzy was quite a big girl.  Our 3 goats were pregnant but not lactating.  Caramela the sheep was also pregnant but she’s been pregnant since we bought her.  I wonder if she’ll ever give birth.

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Brown Mama and her lambs, Oreo and Cookie.

Drastic times call for drastic measures. In hopes of getting more milk, my husband traded Cottonball, the zombies’ mother, and Baby’s Mama for this big brown ball of fur which promptly spewed out Oreo and Cookie, the lastest sheep to grace our pastures.  Although delighted with these little black boys, the arrival of twins didn’t help the zombie feeding situation.

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Oreo on the left, Cookie on the right.

But with a little bit of milk here, and a little bit of milk there, and some 2 am bottle feedings, they made it to their second week birthday.  They followed my husband hither and yon, bleating like, well, like little lambs do.

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Skunkette next to Skunk, the macho sheep, and in from of Mary with fleece not quite as white as snow. Brown Mama is lying down with Cookie in the back.

Then in the blink of an eye, my husband traded the zombie babies for this striped skunk sheep.  The zombies went to live with a guy with grandkids to bottle feed them and a milk cow to provide milk.  So it seems we have again averted the apocalypse in La Yacata.

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Baby the Sheep

So my husband got it in his head that borregos (sheep) are more profitable than goats.  It is true that borregos sold by the kilo are more expensive BUT they are a smaller animal, so overall there are fewer kilos to be had.  Disregarding my logic, he went ahead and traded our macho goat for a young borrega and her borregita.

I continued my naysaying despite the now physical presence of more borregos.  Borregos carry on something awful whether or not they are hungry. (See Separating the Sheep from the Goats They are more delicate healthwise.  (See Birth and Death)  They need more care than goats.  They don’t eat as varied a diet as goats so food during the dry season will be harder to find.  All to no avail.

The young borrega managed to come down with a BAD case of chorro (diarrhea) probably from the change of diet from her previous home to ours.  This affected little borregita because the mama’s milk all but dried up during her illness.  So three days after purchase, it was looking like borregita wasn’t going to make it.  She was listless.  She became weaker and weaker until she could no longer stand.  It was pitiful.  My husband debated whether it would be kinder to just kill her.

I objected.  Surely there was another option.  We’ve had orphaned babies before on our mini-rancho.  I convinced him to try and nurse her back to health.  We bought a bottle and some milk, mixed with suero (electrolytes) to feed her.

The difference was marked almost immediately.  The second day of bottle feeding she could lift her head and bleated to let my husband (now named Papa Chivo–yes she’s a borrego but Papa Borrego doesn’t roll off the tongue as well) she was ready for more milk.

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My husband and son alternated bottle feedings and the borreguita was christened Baby so that when she hollered in the middle of the night I could shake my husband awake and say “Go feed Baby.”  After about a week of milk, she started to show an interest in the paca (alfalfa bales).  So feedings were supplemented with a bit of alfalfa and some ground maiz sorgo mixed with milk like a cereal.

It took about a week for her to try and stand but as soon as she could wobble about she demanded to be taken out with the rest of the herd.  She couldn’t keep up, so my husband had to carry her.  She was content as could be munching on the grass she could reach while resting and watching the gang graze.  Mama borrega was happy as well.  She was a nervous Nelly when she had to leave Baby behind.  Maybe that’s what we’ll call her–Nelly.

We had every hope that Baby would make a full recovery.  However, one morning she was again laying on the ground bleating piteously.  She didn’t suffer long.  She died just a few hours later.

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A dismantling of sorts

Life is never stagnant. And while that is often a good thing, it also means that we must be amenable to change, even unwelcome change.

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Just delighted with the new yeguita, Shadow.

My husband had been complaining for 6 months or so about the cost and effort required to maintain our two horses, Joey and Shadow. He had opted not to plant anything this past year, and alfalfa was mighty expensive. He was especially irate about feeding Shadow, my son’s horse. I don’t know why as she didn’t eat any more than Joey, but we all knew that Joey was my husband’s consentido (favorite). He was constantly yammering at my son to contribute something towards Shadow’s feed. My son had no job. He’s 14 years old. He often took care of the horses when my husband was working or otherwise unavailable. There was no reason that he should have to pay for Shadow’s food in my opinion. It caused a decided rift in our home.

Beauty and Joey

Beauty and Joey

In the meantime, I sold Myrtle, which was registered in my name, without his explicit written permission, although I told him about the transaction. Then, my husband pulled out his trump card. The horses, Shadow and Joey, were both registered in his name since my son is a minor. He, therefore, could sell them without our permission. He started offering Shadow to various people he knew. On several occasions, someone would come by the house when he wasn’t home and I sent the prospective buyer away with a tick in his ear.

kissing horse

Then the day arrived when a serious buyer came and we were all present. My husband gave my son the final say in the matter. Tired of fighting about it, he agreed to sell Shadow. The deal was made. My husband kept 500 pesos for his commission and 500 more for the cow barn guy’s commission in making the deal but gave the rest to my son. He suggested that my son buy a motorcycle with the proceeds, but I vetoed that. No 14 year old needs a motorcycle. I took the money and hid it from the both of them. My son wanted to use some of it to buy school supplies, but I said I would pay for all of those. If there is something my son wants, and it is deemed worthy by mamush (me), he can spend the money. Otherwise, it’s to be saved for future needs.

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Beauty and Shadow and proud Poppa!

That night I cried. We had known Shadow since she was born. She was a lovable, gentle mare. And now that chapter of our La Yacata adventure was done.

posing with Joey

My husband also decided to sell Joey a few weeks later. I had no issues with that. Joey had always been more temperamental. My son and I had often fantasized his sale. Now the horses are gone.

My husband used the money from Joey’s sale on new tires for the truck. He redesigned Shadow’s stall to accommodate the goats. Joey’s stall, with its new roof, will eventually be a new chicken coop. At the moment it is being used to store construction material for a job he has building a house in La Yacata.

Moving on.

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