Finding work for Split

It is so much easier to go to Gel whenever I need something done.  It is amazing to me how much Gel has changed from the herding reject at six and a half months old, to a dog that I can go to in order to get just about any job done.  He’s there, always, waiting for me to ask him to do something.  I wish I could teach both of them that Merlin is not to be worked, but that simply may not happen.  So far, Merlin hasn’t shown any inclination to kick, but he’s a horse and horses kick.  Gel’s restraint and self-control is good; Split is still a crazy fool.

This morning when I went out to let the chickens and ducks out of their evening pen and feed them, I decided to ask Split to bring the geese out of the pasture.  The intention was to feed the geese in a place separate from the chickens and ducks.  The reasoning for this is two-fold.  One, the geese are aggressive towards the chickens and ducks while eating and two, yesterday I noticed that Merlin was going into the poultry pasture and finishing up their grain.  Merlin doesn’t need any more grain than he’s already getting; quite frankly, he probably doesn’t need any grain at all, but more on that later.

I called Split in and attempted to send her around the geese, but Mr. Gel, formerly the “I ain’t working no stinkin’ poultry dog”, was keen to do the job.  I backed him out and put him in a down-stay and went back to Split.  At first, she didn’t see the geese, she wanted to bring out the chickens and ducks.  Nope, little girl, that isn’t the job I need you to do.  Eventually she got it and brought the snarling beasts out.  Geese are ugly creatures, they truly are.

From now on, this will be Split’s job.  It was a good thing I shut the gate after I fed the chickens and ducks because not too long after I got back in the house, there was Merlin trying to get in there to finish the grain.

I have realized over the past few days that I’m offering way too much food for several of the animals living here.  Primarily the dogs, cats and horse.  It’s easy to create fussy eaters.  Cats are likely the most finicky creatures in the World.  My dream is to have an outside structure where I can feed the cats and one day, hopefully soon, I’ll have one.  They get extremely aggressive around food, drag it around and generally make a mess.  I’d love to have their food outside and let them do all their fighting and dragging out there.  Then I can let the dogs and chickens clean up what they don’t eat.

The cats do catch rodents, birds, etc., but frequently they don’t eat what they catch.  That’s a sign that I am feeding them too much.  No matter what I feed them, what they catch outside is going to be healthier for them.  All of the cats are in good flesh, some more so than others.  Meat is expensive, the less I can feed, the more money I’ll have to pay bills, something I’m having a hard time doing.

The dogs: I want to see them eat like wolves.  I want them gulping down their food and looking for more.  That doesn’t happen all that frequently around here.  The guard dogs eat much better than the Border Collies and that’s because the Border Collies get the opportunity to “graze” on what the cats don’t eat.  All of the dogs do a lot of stashing of food, which means they are getting more food than they need.  Time to cut back on their available food.

I used to grind the cats’ food and I still recommend that people who are feeding their cats raw, especially if they are new to feeding raw and if they are feeding supermarket-purchased meat.  My cats eat predominately whole rabbit and grass-fed meat.  They rarely eat supermarket-purchased meat.  The meat that is available in most supermarkets bears little resemblance to what meat should be.  We rarely eat supermarket-purchased meat these days.  About the only meat I buy at the supermarket for us is ground turkey or chicken, whole chickens or chicken breast (I buy organic whole chickens).  We eat a lot of lamb and now venison … yes, we are eating venison and it’s very tasty.  In a few months, we’ll have our own grass-fed beef.  I’m glad we had two whole deer processed for our consumption.  By the time the venison is about gone, Buster should be ready to be processed and when that meat is gone, we’ll have lamb available.  The only thing that we haven’t eaten ourselves is goat, but one day, I’ll cook some up.

I could be wrong, but I think meat is the most expensive item on the shopping list.  For sure, good meat is.  You can buy factory-farmed chicken for cheap prices, for example, one of the local grocery store chains has whole chickens on sale for $.55/pound.  That’s dirt cheap, but they are factory-farmed birds.  Yuck!  I hate to even feed that to the animals.  The cats won’t eat that type of chicken these days.

Money is short.  I’m almost always behind on paying utility bills.  I need to get better at saving where I can.

Merlin is not getting much work these days.  That is, of course, my fault and it’s something that is going to change, starting today.  As soon as I finish writing this post, I’m going to go out and start doing ground work and gaining his respect and desensitizing him.  He’s a highly reactive horse and needs to start using his thinking brain.  He’s essentially a walking time bomb right now.  He needs to be worked and until he’s getting steady, hard work, he really doesn’t need much grain.  I’ve been feeding him grain in an attempt to keep him warm, but that’s really a stupid reason to be feeding him grain.  I fed the sheep and calf grain last week because it was so cold and I don’t feel too bad about that because the temperatures were extreme.  Otherwise, they get no grain and not a lot of supplemental hay.  It’s cheaper that way.

The only animals that I feel really need good, quality grain is the poultry, but only this time of year.  When the weather warms up and there’s insects available, their grain rations will be cut back to almost nothing.  We are still getting at least a dozen eggs a day which is really good given the time of year.  The goats do need grain, especially when they are lactating.  While they are dry, they are not getting much grain at all and they’ve all maintained their condition.  While I’m milking, I go through 100 pounds of sweet feed as well as incalculable amount of extras that I add in to their food while they are on the milk stand.  Maybe they don’t need all that I’m feeding them, but they do well and their milk tastes wonderful.  What I will do during the milking season is cut back on how much alfalfa hay they get.  I was free-feeding it to them, but now they only get it while they are waiting to be milked. The goats have become very good about going out to graze when I let them out during the day.  Unfortunately, I probably won’t be able to do this quite so much when I go back to work, but when the days get longer, we can let them out when we get home from work so they can get at least a few hours of grazing in.  I used to have to kick them out and close the gate to keep them out, but these days, they are going out on their own and staying out.  It’s good to see them eating like real goats.  Goats prefer to browse and there’s more than enough for them to browse on in the pastures surrounding our property.

I am going to cut way back on Merlin’s grain ration and feed him more alfalfa hay.  Like cattle and sheep, horses are grazing animals and it makes more sense to either offer them good grazing (as we do the sheep and calf) and if they don’t have good grazing available to them (which Merlin does not) give them high quality hay.  The alfalfa we get around here isn’t straight alfalfa so it isn’t as high in protein as alfalfa produced in other areas of the country.  I can use grain as a means to catch Merlin when I need to; but not so much as a primary food source.

Okay, off to catch the beast and try to gain some respect.

Until later …

2 Replies to “Finding work for Split”

  1. When I was in pony club and we were looking at nutrition for horses to get the proper ratio of nutrients like calcium and phosphorus it was better to feed both alfalfa and an oat or a grass hay. It has been a very long time since I have used the information so I might be remembering incorrectly. But you might consider looking in to it. I really enjoy reading about your days. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I’m going to finish out the last bag of regular horse grain that I purchased and then put him on straight oats and soaked beet pulp. For hay, I’ll continue to mix the alfalfa with grass hay. We’ll see how it goes. Thanks for the compliments.

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