Heifer-calf on a lead… and new chicks!

The latest addition to our family of animals at Landmeterskop, a heifer-calf, normally hangs out with a flock of lambs and our chickens in the paddock nearest to the farmhouse. When the lambs were brought in to the craal to be weighed, “madam” came along. The workers couldn’t separate her from the lambs, as she simply stayed in the middle of the flock. Eventually Louis managed to get a lead around her neck, and she obediently followed him back to the paddock.

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Valerie also recently had to fetch new Leghorn chickens as most of our laying hens are a little over two years old and will now start to lay less eggs. The first 2 years of a hen’s life is her most productive. By the time she’s 5 years old she will only lay half as frequently as she did during her first 2 years. While Louis and Luca were “unloading” the new chicks and making sure that  they had food and water and were settling in, Jack and Jesse, kept a close watch!

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The Percy Lister story

As it had always been Gill and Ken Lister’s (actually Dad Ken’s), wish to own a domesticated teacup pig, they in January 2014 purchased “Percy the Pig”. He was only two months old and a real little squealer, measuring less than a ruler in length. They fed him on Pronutro and yoghurt. He was a real cute little boy. They loved him dearly and he quickly became part of the Lister Clan of six cats, two dogs, four chickens and a parrot.

After around six months it became apparent that Percy was not a teacup pig. The breeder told them that fully grown, he should be the size of a Jack Russell Terrier. After further investigation, it came out that he is actually classified as a mini pig, so his eventual size would be more than double that of a teacup pig.

So they had no choice but to move Percy outside and he lived in their backyard with the other animals. In the mornings and evenings he joined his human family in the house for a few hours, and the rest of the day he spent outside. He became a real mischievous boy when indoors. He would chew the wooden floors and 6-year-old Chrissy’s dolls! Eventually he became a little too destructive to be allowed indoors.

On reaching puberty, this young piggy was all ready and set for action! With no other female his size or kind around, to everyone’s chagrin, the pug, Bella, became the object of his amorous displays! A serious decision had to to be made, and when Percy became a little short-tempered too, castration became inevitable.

After a year and a few months, his human parents knew that it was not fair on him to be kept in the backyard alone and isolated from the close human contact he was used to during weekdays. The family agreed that it would be best for Percy if he could find a new home with companions somewhere on a farm where the owners would love him and take good care of him.

Theunis and Valerie of Landmeterskop farm near Stanford came to the rescue in offering Percy a forever home with their other pigs. On Saturday, 20 June 2015, Ken, Gill and Chrissy brought Percy to his new home and family, a real “piggy heaven” where he had his own house prepared for him with fresh straw and food. And after meeting the rest of the pig-family, the chickens, the alpacas – Angelo, Lily and Roweno – he was happy to start roaming and inspecting the lush green field… And although they had to say goodbye to Percy for now, the Listers left with peace in their hearts, knowing that this is not farewell, as they were invited to come visit Percy as often as they can.

Percy and family arriving on Landmeterskop:

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And while her dad took Percy to his new home, Chrissy and mom had time to feed the lambs:

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Dad Ken and Valerie of Landmeterskop helping Percy out of the bakkie:

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The pregnant widow, Mrs Potts, was the first one to come and say, “Hi!” to Percy… A little bit grumpy herself, after the untimely demise of her husband, Mr Potts, due to his aggression towards humans, she soon let the young man know that he should keep a safe distance for the time being!

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Then it was time to meet Mr Kolbroek who at first was lying, fast asleep, in the reeds in a furrow. But, oh my! When he caught sniff of the young Percy he couldn’t get up quickly enough to greet the stranger! No-one has ever seen Mr Kolbroek move his big, fat body as fast as he did on Saturday trying to get to Percy!

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While Percy were introduced to the rest of the pigs, Chrissy had time to feed the alpacas. Here she is with Lily.

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Then Percy was shown his new “house” with fresh straw bed, his own beloved blanket which he had long ago “privatised” from where it was drying on the line, and some food in his trough! His family left him, happy and content in the good care of the Landmeterskop team. And with an open invitation to come visit Percy as often as they can, his human family also left with peace in their hearts, knowing that they had done the right thing…
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Mr Potts and Mrs Belly join the Landmeterskop family!

Recently, Mr Potts and Mrs Belly, two pot-bellied pigs, joined our animal family on Landmeterskop. Although their very distant ancestors came from China, these two were born on a smallholding near Teslaarsdal, Caledon. In honour of their arrival, the pigsties on our farm had been restored! As pigs, and especially pot-bellied pigs, are very affectionate animals that love companionship and body closeness, and are often kept as pets. They can weigh anything from 43 to 136 kg, and can live up to thirty years. This pair had no trouble settling in with our other pigs, the Kolbroeks, and the alpacas, goats, chickens and human visitors. They are indeed very happy and thriving!

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Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus) & the field mouse!

Cape Town-based wildlife photographer Stephen Hammer and his wife, Lee-Anne, spent the weekend on Landmeterskop trying to capture our family of Bat-eared Foxes on camera. This first sequence of views was taken on the way to look for the shy little foxes on Sunday morning. It was truly beautiful to see… and quite cold up on the hill. The cold air is beautifully clear and haze-free. Winter is the time to photograph landscapes and Landmeterskop has some very good potential for this.

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The little Bat-eared Foxes did not put in an appearance, although Steve and Lee-Anne searched for them late afternoons and early mornings! But, Steve was fortunate to get this magnificent sequence of a Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus) eating a field mouse.

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Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus)
Afrikaans: Blouvalk

Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus)

Afrikaans: Blouvalk

The Black-shouldered Kite is a small, graceful raptor and the most voracious eater in the raptor family. It needs to consume up to 25% of its body mass every day – that is the equivalent of about two mice. This means each bird probably kills around 700 mouse-sized animals a year.

Roberts Birds of Southern Africa VII estimates there are about 100 000 Black-shouldered Kites in southern Africa, so if we assume each bird takes two mice a day, that adds up to about 70 million mice being consumed by this species alone every year. Think of how many mice there are out there that are not being eaten!

It prefers the grasslands probably because prey is easier to see than in the more densely-wooded lowveld.

Black-shouldered Kites are solitary hunters by day, yet often roost communally at night. They usually spend between 4 and 10 hours a day in flight, but also often hunt from a perch.

One of their characteristics is to hover (air-perch) in one place above the ground searching for prey. Black-shouldered Kites range widely. The longest range so far recorded was that of a bird ringed in the former Transvaal and recovered in northern Mozambique, 915km away. Another bird ringed at the same time was recovered in the opposite direction – in the Cape, 645km away.

Stephen’s website: http://stephenhammer.co.za

Steve also took beautiful photos of the night sky over Landmeterskop… and we shall post some of them soon! And we are very excited to announce that Steve has agreed to do a series of photography courses in future with us.