Babies blooming in spring

New season means new life on ranch

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Every spring, the green fields and patches of blue flowers come to Maybell slightly sooner than the rest of Moffat County.

At Ed and Kris Brannan's ranch just north of town, spring also welcomes the sound of baby pigs looking for feed, baby lambs looking for mama and little puppies looking for fun.

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"That's Hailey over there," Kris said, pointing to a young lamb. "She's one of a set of triplets born in mid-March -- all girls."

Kris Brannan's son, 15-year-old Nick Cammer, is the reason behind the 18 sheep currently on the ranch. The nine adults and nine lambs are part of his Future Farmers of America project.

Hailey is a bum lamb, roaming freely on the ranch because the herd won't let her in.

"Nobody will accept her because she doesn't have a mom," Kris said. "We feed her by hand. She gets five bottles a day."

That bottle-feeding process lasts three months with lambs and four to six weeks with piglets, she said.

The lambs eventually go to youngsters interested in raising them as 4-H and FFA projects.

Tails on the lambs are docked at a young age, and the freedom they have during the day is restricted after dark.

"We lock them up at night cause the coyotes will come in and eat them," Kris said.

Hailey is not the lone bum animal being cared for on the ranch.

Squeekers is a piglet born in March to a sow with a restricted birth canal. She was the lone survivor in the litter.

"She was 2 pounds when she was born," Kris said. "She was up to 7 and 1/2 pounds by the time she was two weeks old."

Born on Valentine's Day at 11 p.m., Squeekers got her name from the noise she makes when her bottles are being prepared.

She was raised by a number of Maybell community members in Maybell, all contributing their time to the little piglet.

"Melody and Sid both bottlefed her, and Lois gave us goat milk for her first two weeks," Kris said. "At one time, there were seven people feeding her."

Squeekers is a Blue Butt pig, the tell-tail coloring pattern on the rear of the animal developing a couple of weeks after birth.

"She had small spots that began growing into a patch," Kris said. "At first we thought she had caught something, but someone at Snyder and Counts Feed store told us that she was a Blue Butt."

The piglet sometimes rides in the truck, sitting on the console, and also roams freely on the ranch with Hailey, the bum lamb.

Squeekers considers herself family, Kris said, and doesn't enjoy being penned with the other piglets.

"She has grass stains on her knees from playing with the dogs," she said. "She's quite the character."

The Brannans raise pigs on their ranch solely to be used by 4-H youth in Routt and Moffat counties.

After driving to Cheyenne last year for pigs, they decided to keep a sow this year and bring up some babies.

"There's a piglet shortage due to a lot of people getting out of the business because it costs so much to keep a sow," Kris said. "You've got to at least break even, and that doesn't include the time involved."

Currently, the ranch is home to a boar, a couple of sows and a pair of gilts, or females that haven't had babies yet.

It costs $500 for a ton of feed, which lasts about three months on the ranch. A feeder and watering barrel make daily attention unnecessary for the boar and his harem. Still, time saved is time spent as the babies on the ranch are keeping everyone busy.

The ranch is home to Durock and Yorkshire pigs, a pair of spotted piglets from China and one baby Blue Butt.

In addition to the lambs and piglets, the ranch also has new calves, baby chicks and a litter of puppies.

Baby pigs have sharp hooves and teeth, and are not very cuddly at all, Kris said.

Yet Squeekers and Hailey have made themselves at home on the ranch, and in other towns as well.

After a request from Brannan's nephew, the young pair of animals recently made a visit to Golden Elementary School, where the city children marveled at the babies being bottle-fed.

Squeekers has already beaten the odds, as bottle-fed piglets do not have a high rate of surviving, Kris said.

"She is about 35 pounds right now," she said. "That's pretty hefty."

At one time, the house on the ranch contained four puppies, Squeekers and 20 baby chicks.

"Just when we kicked them all out of the house, Hailey came along," Kris said. "Oh, and we have three more that are going to lamb pretty soon."

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