Archive for ‘feeding’

August 23, 2014


Moisture has been few and far between the last month. Yesterday the thunder started to roll but the storm past us to the west. I took the kids up to the pool about 2 and peak heat was 103. UGH!!! Yesterday evening the thunder was close again and I brought the clothes in off the line just in time for the sky to open up! The turkeys, being turkeys, couldn’t figure out where to go so I ran out to the barn and opened the small roving coop for them for shelter. I don’t know if they ever did end up going in the silly things!

We lost power at 6 and headed to town for a bite to eat, came home to a tree down in the front yard and debris that had plastered the front of the house even under the 6 foot roof overhang which I have never seen happen! Our favorite local weather people said there were 50-70 MPH straight line winds, that’ll do it! I have not checked the rain gauge but I’d say at least a good 1/4 inch if not 1/2 and bow howdy did we need it, every little bit!

Back to the turkeys, of the 4 we ordered, 3 survived past their 24 hours mark and have grown up! We have 2 toms and a hen and they have got to be one of the most entertaining animals here! They are also the best bug catchers which is great because the grasshoppers, like last year, are horrendous again. It was a very wet August last year and the mosquitoes were so so bad last year, not the same this year. Last year at this time Jeremiah was spending evenings and early mornings sitting still camouflaged behind a tree trying to call in the fox that had been eating our chickens. One morning it came in close enough to get a shot off but was just dark enough that he couldn’t for sure tell what it was and the chance was gone forever. They are hard ones to call in and catch, so they say. We have not seen that fox, knock on wood, nor have we lost any chickens this year!

Say hello to Tom and Tom! I just love these guys, so very talkative and they follow under foot like puppies. Just the past few weeks they’ve become very intent on trying to impress the hen who doesn’t seem to notice one way or the other. I find something interestingly beautiful about them. Normally their snoods (the piece of skin hanging off of their nose) is shrunk up above their beak and their necks and heads are a pale pink but when it’s time to impress, their snood grows and hang over their beak and their heads and necks turn bright red and blue.


A while back I was assured by a hunter we had over that we’d have a hard time keeping our turkeys from mingling, if not taking off with, the wild ones which are in great abundance here. In fact, we have 2 resident hens who hatched out 15+ poults between them and we often see them all in the back yard. They like to hang out in the pig’s pasture too in the tall grass. Two years in a row our turkeys haven’t seemed to pay any mind to the wild ones and visa versa so who knows. These guys have done well growth-wise and have been 100% free range since leaving the safety of the roving coop back when we butchered the broiler birds t 8 weeks old. They cost us next to nothing and really are so fun to have around! They spend most of the day hanging out with the pigs in the shade trees, most evenings they bed down in the middle of the barn yard in the grass. I am thinking maybe we ought to keep a tom and the hen over winter and see if she won’t set a nest in the spring. The poults aren’t too expensive to buy at all but it would be fun to have brand new baby turkey poults hatched out here.

Like I said, the fox hasn’t been around this year, thank goodness. There’s still time of course but so far so good. Two more hens, at lest, have hatched out more chicks since the last time I wrote. At about 4-5 weeks they leave the hen to live life on their own and we’ve lost some to hawks. I consider putting them in the large roving coop we use for the broilers but in the end, the survival of the luckiest plays out. The one Australorp whose nest I never did find has managed to keep all of her babies alive by sticking to the treed areas in the pigs’ pasture. Most of her babies are Australorps and hopefully got her good safety sense!

We’re down to 2 dry yearling left for sale who will be bred fairly soon here. All of the spring does have sold or are pending. I considered keeping one junior buck a a new herd sire but I can’t justify it keeping his sister, sire, dam, grand-dam etc. He’s leaving for his new home today in Northern Ks. We’ll have a few more older bred does for sale closer to the end of the year once they are dried off. Milk customers are keeping them here for now and with the up coming 2 year olds who will freshen next year and our new baby on the way, we have to keep our #’s down.

Our older sow is close to farrowing within the next week. I need to get her moved over to the farrowing pen to get settled in. She and our gilt will won’t be bred again until December giving the gilt a few more months to grow out to a good breeding age and our sow 3.5-4 months to recoup from this last litter. Normally I give her  a 2-2.5 month break between breedings which seems to be plenty for her but winter piglets proved to a lot more work than warmer weather piglets! It’s just a whole lot easier to raise piglets without the threat of cold weather.

Up until this summer the fencer we have for our high tensile electric has worked fine but the goats have taken a liking to going between the wires over into our neighbors front yard. Come to find out we’ve been running the wrong fencer and up until I put the rotational grazing poly wire fencing up for the goats in the woods it worked fine. However, now the drain of that poly wire has limited the distance of the “solid state” fencer we were running (thinking it was a low-impedance fencer this whole time) and was making the shock much less effective the farther away from the fencer the charge was so the goats were taking advantage of that. It was the “grassis always greener” way of thinking.  We chased that issue around for quite a while until we figured it out. Last Sunday we ran 3 more lines,  switched out the invisible fence for the dogs to the top line instead of the 2nd, made 2 of the lines “ground” wires and the rest are HOT HOT HOT! Hooked up the new fencer and boy does she pop!

What’s so nice about this fence is the lines are so quick to run. The three lines, after a trip to town for more insulators, took us as about an hour and a half. I run the wires down the line while Jeremiah insulates the wires with sleeves around the corner posts, crimps the wires and tightens the in-line strainer. Easy peasy and when we don’t overload the fencer with crappy poly-wire, it works great but when we load the new fencer with the poly wire, it’s not an issue!

Heading up for the last 6 round bales of hay today. It’s supposed to be another very hot one so I am very thankful we’re not bucking bales into the barn. It’s a little bit scary to see an empty barn this time of year! I am used to seeing it and 2 of the lean to’s bursting with small bales but they are all in rounds and we’re sticking with the pellets and with the pellets and hog feed in barrels, it takes up about as much room as 6 bales sitting in the ground and is such a space saver! I am not sure what I’ll do with the empty part of the barn but it sure is nice space to have available! =)

Man alive we had an issue with one of the does and tape worms this year! The end of June, she dropped weight like a ton of bricks, had constant diarrhea, eyelids went white and I really thought we’d loose her. None of the regular tape wormers I use (Valbazen usually) were working, I made up a special herbal wormer that helped a little, she rallied for a while but went right back after we got back from Ca. and literally, the diarrhea went on for over a month! I don’t know how on earth this doe is still alive! After finally doing a little more research I figured it had to be sort of a super tape, for lack of a better term, and tried Equimax horse wormer and WOW, WHAT AN IMMEDIATE DIFFERENCE IT MADE! That, along with Red Cell for the iron, B12 for her appetite and the other good nutrients and yogurt for the probios, she was perking right up, eating 100% better, diarrhea subsided within a couple of days and now she’s nearly back up to weight again and it didn’t take a 2 doses 10 days apart! I wormed the entire herd with that to be safe which I hate doing but as a precaution, I’d prefer it that way! Equimax also has Ivermectin and while it is a little pricier than some wormers, with it having both it’s my new go-to after freshening and for our kids as preventative!

At any rate, time to get going, lotsa work to get done today, first of which is coffee and getting that tree that fell cleaned up and cut up for fire wood. That will soon be upon us very soon and with as long as winter was last year, I’d like to have quite a bit more cut up than we’ve had in previous years. Better to be safe than out cutting wood when it’s freezing. =)






July 22, 2014

Summer marches on

Yesterday’s heat was unbearable an these days with heat indexes over 110 are just crippling for me. The humidity is the biggest issue, I’m not used to it and the air is just oppressive. The flies are horrible even with all the chickens pulling duty in the barn and I just HATE going out to do chores and immediately dripping in sweat! This heat is hard on the pigs and even with all the shade trees they have in their pasture, their wallow and on-demand cool drinking water, I know they are not comfortable.

One of the hogs is being sent off for processing in a couple of weeks. We’re splitting it with a friend. It will be nice to have fresh bacon in the freezer again. Our sow is due at the end of August and it’ll be about time to take a load off to the processor again for customer orders. We’ve kept a gilt from the February litter in hopes of having a pair of breeding sows as the demand for feeder pigs and pork seems to be high. Our feeder pigs’ reservations is already full for August’s litter and we’ll be keeping a few back again to raise up to process.

In early May we had a couple of broody hens who eventually hatched out 19 chicks between them. We’ve lost some to hawks but there are still quite a few who will be good flock replacements for a culling I hope to do this fall of the older hens who have been here nearly 2 years now. When we arrived home from California, another hen (an Australorp I didn’t even notice was setting and still I have no idea where she was) had hatched out 8. Mostly all Australorps but a few Orpington mixes thrown in to break up all the black. Gosh, I just love the Australorps dark dark eggs!

With all this rain, the wildflowers have been amazing and the bees are busy busy busy working like crazy! Upon our return from California the grass was so thick and tall it left huge swaths of mulch in the mower’s wake. It almost looked like a hay field and leaving for near 2 weeks made our yard look like it hadn’t been touched in months! We’re thankful for the moisture!

I had an individual contact me before we left for Ca. about some buck kids I had for sale. He was looking for meat and eventually the conversation went to Halal butchering, something that I’ve been wanting to learn more about since reading a few studies and research on Halal/Kosher butchering in general. I hesitate whether I should mention this subject at all since it seems to be such a heated topic here and there but suffice to say it was an eye opening experience and one for which I am very thankful for. We met an interesting and intriguing individual and  were enlightened, neither of which I consider bad things at all! In fact, it seems as though it will probably turn out to be a gainful business opportunity as well, a win-win situation!

All of our buck kids have now been sold, I’ll be looking to move an adult buck on here in about a month or two and we’re down to just a few individuals for sale (mostly dry yearlings as I kept entirely too many kids back last year!). I am probably keeping more doe kids this year again but I’d really like to see how they grow out and develop. I’m really happy with Agent’s kids this year, all with great length of body and wonderful general appearance. We may be replacing an adult buck with a new jr. herdsire out of Melody and Agent, a beautiful blue roan dripping with dairy character. I am also keeping his litter mate sister as well.

Before we left for California we took a few days to process all of the meat chickens. The turkeys need more time to grow out but I have such a hard time saying goodbye to them. They are so personable and are the first to greet me with their noises when they see me coming to the barnyard. We started with 4 and lost one within a couple days of bringing it home. We were refunded for it but by that point the farm store was sold out which is just as well I guess. We’re down to three and just within the past week I’ve been able to determine we have one hen and 2 toms, or Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, as it were =).

Brome is baled now, wheat harvest is still going on and we’re waiting on the right cut of alfalfa to come in. With all the rain the alfalfa prices have been steadily dropping and I’m considering going back to hay again and going off of pellets. The  last round bale of alfalfa we got there was so little waste and the quality was excellent. I know there is always a min. guarantee of protein on the pellets but it’s most often grinding quality and some of the milkers either get sick of them or something is in them they just don’t prefer, either that or they are just picky which may totally be the case because everyone else devours them.

I have put off hanging out laundry long enough I suppose. It’s definitely not getting any cooler outside. That said, I’ll end for now. Life on the farm is pretty mundane most days although there is usually always something to liven things up just about the time when it seems sleepy. One such event happened 2 days ago when we were getting ready to run errands and Jeremiah heard a very strange noise coming from the woods. I had put the does in the temporary fenced off wooded area and one of the spring kids had gotten her head stuck in a plastic pumpkin that had apparently been taken off by the wind last fall. Not being able to see she freaked out naturally and was making some awful cries. Jeremiah saved her from a most certain horrible afternoon, she rejoined the herd and all was right with the world. She went running back her dam for sympathy, of which she got none. Silly creatures.







December 17, 2013

Pigs and fodder, a cost analysis

fodder 029

In my last blog post I mentioned the new feeding ration for the goats and touched lightly on our barley fodder. If you’d like to read more on our fodder experience, click here.

Be forewarned, there’s a lot of # crunching below =).

Last winter we started our barley fodder feeding for the goats. It’s turned into a viable option for the hogs and chickens more so than the goats due to space constraints for growing fodder we’re placing on ourselves (you can read all about that in the previous post).

With the fodder set up we have currently in the basement, we can easily make 4 bins a day – a minimum of 100 lbs. of fully grown fodder a day, but it’s closer to 126 lbs. on two 36″ x 18″ shelving units (a  72″ x 18″ footprint). Technically one of those shelving units is 8 shelves tall, the other is 7 shelves tall (we modified 3 units to fit into the space of 2 with the top shelf being at a height of about 6′ on the taller unit). If we grew another 2 bins on that extra shelf, we could increase our weekly weight by 200+ lbs. (252 lbs. if you want to be technical or 1008+ more lbs. a month!).

What it translates into is this: 882 POUNDS of feed a week in a footprint that’s 72″ x 18″ (on 14 shelves using 4 bins a day). We could easily grow half a ton of fodder in our basement a week by using all 15 shelves & 30 bins (or more than 2 tons (4,000 lbs) a month!) in just a 72″ x 18″ footprint!

We don’t need 4 bins a day to feed the hogs and chickens. We could drop it down to 2-3 bins a day just for those animals but we could also leave the set up as is and feed the 4 bucks one-two meals in addition. We’d either have to cut back on goats in order to be able to feed all of them based on the 4 bins a day we get or increase fodder 2 fold. It’s best if we switch who gets the majority of the fodder.

I won’t get into how good the experts say fodder is for animals or digestion percentages over a 100% grain based diet (corn, soy, etc.), etc. I will merely say that it’s supposedly great for them. We did our own trails and were very happy with it. I hadn’t intended to include our feeding ration, this post was strictly meant as a cost analysis but a blog commenter asked if our supplement(s) made any sort of significant increase after the initial posting. I talk about our feeding later in this post to explain our ration and how our supplements do not affect the bottom much financially. I have included several links at the bottom of this post also and I urge you to do your own research.

I did some rough calculations this morning just based off of tonnage. A 50# bag of 14% hog feed from the local co op runs $10 (not including tax). Bulk price for hog feed into one of our barrels or back of a pick up/equivalent is cheaper but I am strictly using a bagged price as an idea of savings. A 50# bag of barley costs us approx. $18. (It may be cheaper in other parts of the country. A friend in Alaska can get it for about $9.)

There are 40 (50#) bags of hog feed in a ton. Priced with tax it runs $432 a ton. From a 50# bag of barley I get somewhere in the neighborhood of 350# of return. I am not counting  electricity (minimal to run 2 lights & pump water from the well), I figure it evens itself out with fuel and time to go get commercial hog feed so I am calling that a wash.

It would take roughly 5.71 (50#) bags of barley at $18 to grow a ton of barley fodder (2,000 lbs). We get approximately 7 lbs. of fully grown fodder from 1 lb. of seed. Some get upwards of 12 lbs. with ideal growing conditions and high percentage germination seed. 2,000 divided by 350 (approx. return of a 50# bag of barley once full grown in to fodder) = 5.71 bags. Multiply 5.71 by $18 and the total cost to grow 2,000 of barley fodder is $103.

Subtract $103 (price to grow a ton of barley fodder) from $432 (price per ton of bagged hog feed) and I end up with a savings of $329! I save $329 a ton to feed the pigs fodder over pre-mixed hog feed. WOW!!! I had no idea until I just crunched numbers that it was that much!

What’s better is that in the spring and summer a majority of their diet is pasture and goat’s milk. Growing fodder in the fall and winter allows them access to the same pasture based diet that we love. Now I know how much money it saves!

I suppose at some point I will have to do calculations for the chickens as well. So much of their spring/summer/fall diet comes from free ranging that what we actually spend in feed is minimal. The majority of the benefit of feeding them fodder, as I see it right now, is strictly health benefits. I’ll save that for another time.

Learn more about pigs and barley fodder by reading the links below or do a simple search for “pigs & barley fodder” through Google or your favorite search engine. I have also included plenty of links accessible via the “fodder tab” and clicking link that has additional information.

Information for feeding pigs fodder in the first link below, sheep and goats is toward the bottom. This link may provide valuable information as to possibly why it may not be nutritionally effective to feed just fodder for those considering. Few things are always perfect. We incorporate a supplement into our pig’s diet along with the straight barley fodder and they also get clabbered goat’s milk during times when it’s feasible. Our supplement cost is minimal (it’s a mineral ration to incorporate more calcium we feel they need.) We also feed them more fodder than what is generally the recommended daily rate.  The mineral supplement has little effect of the overall savings/expenditure, literally less than a penny a pound (of fodder). The goat’s milk in their diet is excess, depending on time of year. We do not consider that cost as a supplement to be added to the cost to raise the pigs as it’s not required to be fed in addition to the fodder, we just happened to have it.

You’ll see that some individuals mix their sprouting seeds and incorporate legumes, etc. As I said, it’s best to do your research. When searching for information, go beyond the first page of the search engine page.  Look for experiments that may have been done. Look for the cons as well as the pros. Looking for both pros and cons allowed us to make a better overall decision.

December 15, 2013

Alfalfa pellets work for us

The summer of 2011 and 2012 were brutal with the drought. Hay was scarce, good hay even scarcer and the cost was premium. The summer of 2013 was so much better with farmers getting an unheard of 2nd cut of brome grass hay. The winter of 2012/2013 we decided to experiment with barley fodder. That went off great an we continued that until the weather got too warm. All of that is explained on our “fodder folder”.

We found a supplier for alfalfa in the spring of 2013 that wasn’t already filled up with “regular” customers (meaning, he sold a certain amount of of the field to his regulars and was not taking new customers). He is a supplier I trust puts up good hay and therein lies some of the problems with hay we’ve come across. We’ve gotten entirely too much bad hay, particularly in big rounds and when hay is already at a premium price, having several bad experiences with 1,000+ lb. bales when the cost was cheaper certainly isn’t something I want to bet my money on when it’s twice as much!  In July of 2013 we decided to go with alfalfa pellets for a month and see how that panned out. If we didn’t like them, we could still get in on the 4th cutting of alfalfa and be set for winter. If the pellets panned out, we’d save ourselves the labor and cost of putting up all that alfalfa (and trying to find room for it besides).

We were gifted 3 blue 55 gallon food grade barrels from a friend and one was left here by the prior owners of this place.  I had the kids get out and clean them so they could be filled. We take them down to the co op where they fill them from a hopper. The cost for “de-hy” pellets is running about $356 a ton right now (December 2013). Sun cured pellets are just a little over $300 a ton. That price difference (alfalfa was sitting at about $290 a ton baled but has since dropped to about $240 for dairy quality) in pellets over baled product being $90-110 a ton, maybe you can see my reservations about going with pellets.

barrel racing

However, after going and having the barrels filled, offloading, seeing the space the 4 barrels (1200 lbs) occupies, how the goats eat it, their body condition and milk production over the course of the 6 weeks those pellets ended up lasting us, the pellets by far won out over baled alfalfa. I never would have thought pellets would be the way to go on so many levels, but they are for us!

Why must we feed alfalfa? 

I am not comfortable putting the goats on an all grass diet. Calcium and the added protein are critical to dairy goats and hypocalcemia and milk fever are always a clear and present danger in my opinion. A diet that is too high in phosphorus (grass hay + grain) and low in calcium (a diet void of calcium rich feed) is potential for nutritional imbalances and nutritionally related health problems. I have yet to fully understand how to incorporate a natural calcium supplement throughout the year that will be sufficient enough for their diets without incorporating alfalfa in their diets. Forage (leaves and roughage up high from trees and bushes) contain a lot more nutrients than grasses do. Goats are naturally foragers by nature. Why do forages often contain more nutrition than grasses? Forages from trees and bushes have much deeper and wider root growth than pasture grasses and therefore are able to penetrate farther and deeper to consume more nutrients. Mimicking a safe diet on all grass that readily available to us is not something I have been comfortable with doing, especially considering and seeing the long term effects of a doe suffering from hypocalcemia.

Leave a goat to themselves on a pasture and they will readily go for the most nutritious (which is usually the most tasty to them) foods. Without proper rotating, pastures become void of anything readily nutritious to eat for goats. Goats do not survive well on just any old thing when they are being asked to produce milk or kids or both.

All grasses are not all equal in terms of nutritional value. I have yet to find a grass that rivals alfalfa in terms of protein and calcium that is available to us. Weedy grass that the goats will eat isn’t easy to find. Some “weeds” contain more calcium and protein than what is considered prime weedless brome hay. It’s not like we have a wide variety of grass hays to readily choose from. What is  most readily available is brome and prairie. Given the fact that we have tried prairie grass before, the does would just assume starve to death (and I am not kidding) than eat it (the bucks eat it fine), it would be silly to buy it. If I knew a reputable hay grower who put up clover or lespedeza, I’d be all over it! I’ve considered taking a trip down to SE Kansas or up to near KC to check out people’s clover or lespedeza hay, but in the end, all of that needs to be compared to the ease and cost of buying pellets and anything from farther away than 1.5 hours is not cost effective for us to get ourselves and then a haul company would come in to play and that translates into $’s.

How could it possibly be a savings to use pellets when we’re spending more than $100 more a ton?

Well, several ways. #1 going and getting a baled product is time consuming. Not to mention, a lot of work. Additionally, if the product cannot be fetched out of the field, the cost rises substantially as soon as the farmer puts his hands on it and places it in his barn, which is totally understandable. If an individual cannot put up enough hay in one fell swoop and/or doesn’t have the room to do so, as winter wears on, that already more expensive stored product becomes even more expensive.

We don’t exactly have the room to store as much square baled hay as we would need for an entire year (so we could get it all at the “out of the field” price) and to be honest, the summers are already brutal. The thought of spending 100+ degree afternoons plucking bales out in the hay field putting up hay is not my idea of a good time! Additionally, it’s wear and tear on our bodies and Jeremiah being a diabetic, we saw the effects of that this past summer after bucking hay nearly put him in the ER when haying took longer than expected and his lunch meal was skipped. That’s not the hay’s fault but still!

  • What about just getting all round bales then?

While round bales are a significant savings per ton (as they require less labor to put up), we don’t allow access (for the most part) full time for the goats to round bales. Once opened, they are stored under cover and their ration is dolled out. There are a couple of reasons for this but mainly because there would waste from trampling and the cost to build a bale feeder to hold it so they could not trample is not in the time cards right now. I also do not like feeding out hay from  big round in the wind and cold. It takes several trips with the pitch fork, half of it usually flies away in route and it’s time consuming to feed like that. I like to have square bales put up for that reason.

The cost savings isn’t just in labor and storage alone. More than half a ton (1,000 lbs. is half a ton. Our 4 barrels hold about 300 lbs. each or 1200 lbs. total) of storage space of pellets takes up the same amount of room as 10 bales of alfalfa which is only about 600 lbs. of baled product, max 900 lbs. if the bales are newly off the field and still retaining moisture so they are larger.  That right there is huge for us. Our barn is a decent size and our outbuildings are substantial but having hay here there and yonder is a pain and I loose valuable animal shelter/breeding space. Not to mention, our loafing sheds are over 30 years old and are in need of some repair (A.K.A total overhaul!). Having hay in them sort of nixes any overhaul on them.

It takes one of us approximately an hour round trip to go get pellets (drive time + fill time). We’d be driving about the same distance to get hay but the time to put up the hay and the labor involved is astronomically more.  The only labor involved in the pellets is putting the barrels into the back of the truck. Once we get home, we drive the tractor up to the back of the truck bed, scootch the barrels into the loader bucket and offload them into the barn, a task that takes max. 20 minutes. That computes to about 1.5 man hours every 6 weeks or so. With baled hay we’re looking at at least 12 man hours worth of work for approximately 100 square bales which we would need to do about 3 times in a season! Our pellet ration drops at the beginning of winter as only the bucks and heavily pregnant does are on alfalfa pellets. Newly dry does and does that aren’t heavily bred get mostly brome only. They do not need the extra calcium, they also do not get grain either.

How does it save us money in terms of feeding? 

I never would have believed it, but we feed less pellets than we do baled alfalfa with better results. I thought perhaps I’d go through 4 barrels of pellets for the lactating goats, a little for the others (growing/dry kids) and bucks in a month (4 weeks). It takes about 6 weeks to use the barrels in entirety. I had to cut back on pellets because the milking does were putting on more weight than they should have been and the pellets took the bucks in to winter in better body condition than baled alfalfa.

WASTE, the dreaded word. They waste a lot, alfalfa falling to the ground is worthless gold! They won’t eat it once it’s fallen to the ground. Sure, the pigs might but we don’t house our pigs and goats together. Why not just scoop it up and give it to the pigs? We could but there-in comes more work! Don’t be fooled, we aren’t strangers to work. We work a lot, working smarter and not harder is a phrase my FIL likes to use. We like to work smarter so that our time is well spent on meaningful tasks, not to save a penny here while we spend a $1 there on waste. That said, there is absolutely ZERO waste with the pellets. They lap every single morsel and flake up. We’ve since switched from “de-hy” pellets to all sun cured. The sun cured are a little cheaper and they are actually formed pellets. The de-hy pellets we were getting varied in their texture, sometimes being well formed pellets sometimes being just dust. They ate it fine both ways and since the guaranteed min. protein was the same, why not save $ and get the sun-cured? What’s the difference between sun cured and de-hy? Google search it. Some say one can be more nutritious (de-hy) than the other (sun-cured), but after further reading I came to the conclusion that both can be equally as good under the right manufacturing conditions and there’s really no set result on how well the animal’s body digested one or the other so I am not going to split hairs.

So, financially speaking how do pellets save you money straight up (and not in terms of labor)?

Well, considering waste is zero on the pellets I look at it like this:

They would have to waste 25% of baled alfalfa hay to equal the cost of pellets on a ton per ton basis (alfalfa being at about $250 a ton (supreme) to alfalfa pellets’ $310 a ton. Would you believe me if I said they waste upwards of 50% or more baled alfalfa? Believe it, sometimes more if its all stems. And this is for round or square bales of alfalfa (not small squares) which right now are sitting at about $9 a bale (say an average of a $60 lb. bale x 30 bales to a ton and that’s $270 a ton!). So, they are wasting more AND there’s more work in getting the hay and putting it up AND then there’s more clean up from the baled product? YEP! Someone’s gotta haul that wasted alfalfa out of our barn. Alfalfa makes dandy fertilizer no doubt, but so does goat manure and goat manure is a product of a fed goat. Wasted alfalfa is not!

So there you have it. Why we didn’t switch ages ago is baffling to me. I guess I needed to see it with my own eyes before I could see it have an effect on the pocket book, and/or our time and bodies. If we could not get bulk alfalfa pellets it may be completely different. To buy it by the 50# bag would cost us a minimum of $10.50 from the co op (before taxes) to upward of $15 (before tax) from the farm store. Then it would almost be no difference in manual labor to put it into the barn, storage would be same as the barrels obviously. Also, the price of pellets doesn’t usually vary much during the year like the baled product so buying it any time of the year will not compute to more per ton, like hay.

I guess the way I always compared the two was completely wrong. I didn’t take into consideration the fact there is no waste with the pellets and the amount of the baled alfalfa they actually do waste. I was seeing 50# of pellets costing me between $10.50 to $15 and 50# baled alfalfa costing about $7.40. I should have been looking at it like baled alfalfa costing me $300-375+ a ton after waste AND I still have to put in a lot of man hours and manual labor to get it and pellets costing me $240 a ton and there’s 99% less manual labor an 75% less man hours.

It’s a no brainer for us.

Will we continue with the fodder for the goats this winter? 

No. Our fodder room would need an additional 3 shelving units (modified to fit into the space of 2, you can read all about that on our fodder folder) and it would force my bulk fabric rack out and into my sewing studio. Additionally, another gutter would have to be installed to take the drain water away and from a further distance. The fodder is probably a savings over the pellets in the long run, but the ease of the pellets overall weighs out. Since the chickens and pigs need more than pellets, the fodder for them will be more advantageous so the fodder during the winter months will strictly be for them and what used to be fed to the goats will now feed the pigs and chickens both meals a day.

June 1, 2013

Roving Coop/Chicken Tractor

yearlings kids, briolers 050Finished tractor dimensions: 8′ x 12′ Cost: about $200 This one is built to LAST!

**Update** There was a comment made in the comments section about tin roofing & space…tin roofing will get hot. We used this roving coop several different ways. We house our broilers in here at night only once they were big enough not to be picked off by aerial predators OR it was moved several times a day for new ground if the chickens stayed in here and covered by a white tarp to reflect the sun’s rays OR moved under a tree, as you can see we have many. Generally speaking, once they come out of the brooder, they are nearly big enough to free range and only need protection at night.

How many will it house? That really depends on what you are using it for. A suggested space per chicken is 4 square foot providing they have run space, otherwise 10 square feet is suggested . This coop is 8×12 (96 square feet). As this is a roving coop, it is intended to be moved and moved often. As I said, 2-3 times a day, sometimes up to 4 depending on vegetation and how quickly the birds eat it down/how many are housed. Which is not to say they were also not supplemented with food, they are, and lots of it! We have housed as many as 75 very young birds in here but generally speaking given our use, about 25 butcher ready size would be appropriate if they are not allowed to range outside of this coop and it is moved often during the day.

Please take into consideration your intended use, climate, weather, etc. Use materials suited for your application and take into consideration intended use in determining the number of birds it will accommodate. The photo is a bit deceiving as they are all plastered up against one side waiting to be let out and there looks to be more than this coop should accommodate.

We added a hinged door on the front of the coop when we raised out the second batch which allows us to let them our when they are about 4+ weeks old to free range. Moving this coop several times a day to 100% fresh pasture when they are confined it’s never in one spot long enough to do damage to the grasses/plants and the birds aren’t in dirty conditions. Moving it once to twice a day when they use it as shelter/night protection only kept them bedded on clean ground.

Materials list:

(1-2) roll(s) of 36″ x 25′ hardware cloth (for top + door) – about $26 a roll at Lowes – 1 roll if you will be putting at least 3′ of roofing on, 2 rolls if you will not be using roofing material.  You could use chicken wire instead of hardware cloth . Hardware cloth really holds up much better, keeps predators out netter and overall is a more suitable material in our opinions. (1-2) roll(s) of 24″ x 25′ hardware cloth (for sides)- about $25 a roll at Lowes- 1 roll if you will be adding sides under the roof, 2 rolls if not.

Frame (All treated lumber)

(2) 2x6x12 (ripped down to 2x3x12 to create bottom and top frame long sides) (2) 2x6x8 (ripped down to 2x3x8 to create bottom frame short sides) (2) 2x4x8’s (cut to 2′ lengths for vertical supports. We made our tractor 2′ tall.) (2) 2x4x8’s (ripped in half to create “2×2’s” and cut to length for diagonal bracing) (1) 2x4x12 (ridge pole) (1) 2x6x8 (ripped to make 2x3x8 for horizontal support of ridge support. If you’re going with diagonal braces, you could probably get away with a 2x4x8) “Left over” lumber will create a hinged door/lid & misc. needs


large box of 2 1/2″ screws large box of 1.5″ screws 4 boxes of  washers with 1/8th” hole (to aide in holding hardware cloth on), we used “fender” washers. ($6 each) handle of some sort for lid ($2) 2-3 hinges (for lid) ($2-$3) 2 wheels (We used the back wheels off of a lawnmower that was junked) 2-3 panels of corrugated roofing (more if you intend to put it on the back and sides as well) ($12 each at Lowes) Some boards will require ripping. If you do not have the capabilities, you will need to buy boards in the ripped dimensions above or larger width boards to accommodate. 2×3’s are plenty sturdy enough for this applications, 2×2’s are taking a chance it will not be sturdy enough (depending on your weather) and you could easily go with 2×4’s but the added size will change the weight quite a bit. Our goal here is to have a tractor sturdy enough to stand up to the daily strain of movement but be heavy enough to stay put on the ground during our high Kansas winds. Additionally, we took into consideration our goats may take a jump or two on top and added supports specific for that where as some other tractors similar to this design employ diagonal supports to the roof beam. A 200 lb. person can walk across the center ridge with these supports, with diagonal supports I am not so sure. Every piece we used is integral in this tractor for our specific application.

We used treated lumber as we do not intend to add a finish it. You can use un-treated lumber, however expect to either stain/paint it or expect that it will rot sooner. Having a flat surface to work on is essential. Think: shop floor, concrete pad, driveway, etc. This can be made with one person and some ingenuity but it’s really better as a 2 person job for most of it with help putting on the top frame with 3-4 unless it is constructed differently.

First we started by ripping down (2) 2x6x12’s down to 2x3x12 and (2) 2x6x8’s down to 2x3x8 which gave us (4) 2x3x12’s and (4) 2x3x8’s. We mitered all the corners at a 45 degree angle with the miter saw. We made 2 boxes with all 8 pieces (a “top” and a “bottom”  both 8’x12′. In hindsight, we should have made them about 7’10” or so by 12 foot and I’ll tell you why… If you plan to use 8′ long pieces of roofing and you plan to have siding, you’ll want to cut your frame down by at least 1″ to accommodate putting  siding on. If you do not cut it down by an inch or more (depending on how thick your siding is) to something like 7′ 11″ (give or take) x 12′ as opposed to 8′ x 12′, your roofing will not cover your siding that is applied at the end.

We had originally planned to use 9′ long tin roofing, but in the end, went with lighter weight panels that were 8′ and with the box being exactly 8′ x 12′, the siding we applied extends past the roofing. We’ll cover our exposed siding with just a simple piece of flashing to protect it.  You could cut your roofing so that it drains off the back as well, we did not cut ours, it will drain off the sides.

mitered corner, screwed on both sides

mitered corner of frame, screwed on both sides

After both of your frames are made, set one frame to the side and add 2′ 2×4 vertical supports to the bottom frame. One support in each corner, 2 more on each 12′ side spaced at 4′ apart and 1 support on each 8′ side spaced differently on each side to accommodate 4′ diagonal brace (These off-center vertical supports also act as sort of a guide for the center upper ridge beam. We should have waited to add the vertical supports on the 8′ side until we could place the ridge beam once the top frame was attached because we did not know the diagonal would not reach the center. We removed the center verticals on each side and readjusted so the diagonal would reach and the center beam had a vertical support to screw to on either end. I’ll update measurements for these supports later.)

Adding the verticle supports

Adding the vertical supports

top frame

top frame- corner vertical support

roving coup top frame

top frame has been screwed on to vertical supports. Note: the vertical supports on the short ‘8 side are centered in this photo. We ended up having to unscrew them and readjust on each side. They are both off center to accommodate diagonal brace and the center ridge.

Once your top frame has been screwed on, it’s time to add the diagonal 2x2x8 & 2x2x4 braces ripped from a 2x4x8. We did not bother mitering the edges at an angle but you certainly can.

diagonal brace

diagonal brace on 12′ side

Now that all of the diagonal braces are on, it’s time to add the center ridge beam (a 2x4x12). Then the horizontal supports (as noted, you could put diagonal braces from the center ridge beam to the adjoining vertical supports on the 8′ side) but because the goats may be jumping/laying on top of this, the additional support of full horizontals, we feel, are necessary. roving coup 003 We are using 3 pieces of corrugated roofing placed side by side on the top overlapping by one “wave”. The roofing is 26″ wide by 8′ long. This overlaps the hardware cloth by just a couple of squares. We rolled over the sides just a little Stretching it as tight as we could, we screwed 1.5″ screws and washers to hold it secure. Next, we installed the side hardware cloth. roving coup hardware cloth washers roving coup close up hardware cloth We framed in the door, clipped the hardware cloth back, screwed it down along the framing. Our door is 17″ x 21″, we mitered all the corners, applied hardware cloth to the top,  added cleats inside the frame for the door to rest on when closed and installed hinges and a handle. We’ve seen the bigger access doors on these coops, but we don’t feel there is much need for one larger. Installing it in the center and not in one corner, allows better access throughout the entire coup to gather chickens from it. They could probably easily be coaxed over with food as well and this size door is big enough for even a larger person to get in to if need be.

roving coup framing in the door

framing in the door from inside the coop. The hardware cloth where the door will go has not been cut out yet.

door cleats attached to the frame for support

roving coup 011 roving coup 015 The back is a piece of treated plywood ripped length-wise (1) 2’x8′ piece. The sides are the other half of plywood ripped in two lengthwise which gives you (2) 2’x4′ pieces. Details: The opposite side of the tractor from the door we did not install anything for the roof to attach to (lumber wise). None is needed but there was a little bit of space between the hardware cloth (it sags just a tiny bit) and the roofing. You could easily install a header from center to side to attach it all too but because the support isn’t actually necessary, we just took an 18″ (or so) piece of scrap and while someone was inside the tractor pushing the wood from below, someone above put a couple screws in which held it all together nicely. The goal was to relieve the tiny gap between hardware cloth and roofing.

roving coup awning

Scrap piece of wood used to eliminate slight gap between hardware cloth and roof. Photo taken from above.

roving coup underneath

photo taken from inside the coop of the underside of the roof. Specifically you’re looking at the far side of the roof (lower right) of the scrap board used to eliminate gap between hardware cloth and roofing.

As I stated earlier, we weren’t entirely sure what kind of roofing we were going with. The barn siding we had would have been fine and is 9′ long and would have hung over the edges. However, we went with much lighter weight brand new sheets that are only 8′ long. If you don’t intend to put sides on, it’s not a big deal but we regularly (when we’re not in a drought!) have summer storms and wind and I wanted them to have protection from 3 sides. Making the frame 8′ wide meant that the 1/2″ plywood we used would not have been covered by the roofing. In hindsight, we would have cut the frame down from the beginning but putting flashing on to cover the plywood’s exposed side wasn’t a big deal. Here is how you properly cut flashing to bend around an angle, nice and neat! roving coup flashing(Above) First: mark your corner based on measurements and mark a 90 degree angle. You’re looking at the top of the flashing which sits on the top of the tractor. cutting flashing 2(Above) 2nd: With tin snips, clip one side of your mark. cutting flashing(Above) 3rd: cut your other mark to the top cutting flashing 1 (Above) Which will give you something that looks like this. flashing (Above) Bend to a 90 degree…100B8711[1] And apply to to the corner. This keeps the plywood siding protected from moisture penetrating it directly. If you cut your frame shy by 1/2″ – 1 1/2″ to begin with (if using 8′ wide roofing), you will not need this. But it is a good lesson in cutting 90 degree flashing anyway =). The wheels were from the rear of a junked lawnmower. I think we picked them up at a farm auction as an item that was “thrown in” to move it off the trailer, if you’ve been to a farm auction you’d know what I was talking about. Jeremiah, being a welder and fabricator and machinist, made up the wheel mounts. Truth be told, and to give credit where credit is due, a friend of ours did the actual machining while Jeremiah fabricated the frame, etc. roving coup wheel

maiden voyage roving coup

Maiden voyage! (Taking it out to the pasture)



January 29, 2013

New home for the Fodder

I moved the shelving units down to the basement.

For reference, there is a sump pit just to the right of the blue pressure tank. The white piece of PVC (lower left) leads to it. That’s the drain for our A/C unit (which is outside of the house) and in the summer – when in use- the condensation drains into the pit where a pump pumps it up and out to the septic, it works like a toilet tank valve. Our fodder water drains to it via a gutter along the ground (not photo’ed).

fodder shelving in basement

The shelving unit on the right in the photo has not been completely put together when this photo was taken and as you’ll notice, we have the black fodder trays in use next to the plastic tubs. They were flimsy and were replaced with clear plastic tubs.


The blue thing is our pressure/reserve well tank. Jeremiah popped a valve and sprayer on that and I’ve got water. Just with the overhead light and a 60W bulb and an (ugly) extra lamp we had laying around are the artificial light sources.

January 28, 2013

Fodder Folly

Fabulous root growth!

Fabulous root growth! The animals eat everything- root, grass and all.


I cut the mat into “biscuits” with a serrated bread knife. 

Cutting fodder (root side up)

 This is a perfect example of what happens when you disturb the rooting barley grains after about day 4 (I spayed this tub too hard with the nozzle).

Fodder "biscuits". I find I need to cut them up into mouthful size bites ahead of time otherwise they waste alot trying to "tear" them apart by flinging them around. I do this work ahead of time to save fodder from being dumped in the dirt and left to rot.

Fodder “biscuits”. I find I need to cut or tear them up into mouthful size bites for the goats ahead of time otherwise they waste a lot trying to “tear” them apart by flinging them around. I do this work ahead of time to save fodder from being dumped in the dirt for the chickens.

Mags loves her fodder

Mags loves her fodder

Ada LOVES her fodder!

Ada loves her fodder.

Mea loves her fodder!

Mea loves her fodder!

I have to stand where the does can't get to me otherwise I am attacked!!!

I have to stand where the does can’t get to me otherwise I am attacked!!!

December 14, 2012

Day 1: Barley Fodder

Day 1: soaking the barley.



We’re taking a bit of a “leap” here on the farm and we’re going to attempt barley fodder. Our attempts are going to be very primitive to start, just so I can get a good idea of what we’re doing and how might be best to set it up.

I think our basement, at least while the weather is cool, will be a very good place for it. It stays a pretty consistent “cool” down there and with a sump pump and pit in the “mechanical room” for the air conditioner drainage, it would be perfect  for the drainage from the growing trays. If in fact it goes really well, and I hope it does, we can grow a pretty good bit on a daily basis at least until summer when we’ll either need an air conditioner down there or for the whole system to be moved elsewhere.

Maybe this will be the initiative we need to get my new milk parlor started and turn the old milk room into the fodder room! Ooooooo, that amount of fodder I could grow in there!

Without getting too ahead of myself, I see legume fodder at some point too, woo hoo!