Archive for ‘pig’

August 26, 2014

Pigs

 

I underestimated the weight gain of the piggies the past couple of weeks and they have reached their 250# processing weight. Well, exceeded it some by 20+ lbs. or so, WHOOPS! I had a different custom feed mix made up, quite a bit higher in protein with a few other added ingredients and wowzers, that surely packed on the pounds! The next processing date was a month into the future so they may be a bit over 300# by that point!

Mama Sow is 5 days from her due date. She lumbers around where ever she goes and I can’t blame her. If she’s not at the feed bowl she’s under the ceder trees during the extreme heat we’ve had. She’ll lay in the wallow for a while but they really enjoy having the sprinkler turned on which I do a few times a day in 10 minute intervals.

The turkeys never miss an opportunity to dine with the pigs and our last broody hen to hatch out chicks  hatched out 4, 3 pure golden laced wyandottes and one pure silver laced wyandotte. She’s a mean old bitty but good to her babies and coos and clucks to them all the time. Granted, she’s a little ferocious when scratching for feed in the deep hay and one of the chicks often finds him/herself under foot and flying across the barn but they seem to be pretty squishy and this point and right themselves before going about business. They are fun to watch.

 

 

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August 23, 2014

August

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. =)

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 8, 2014

May already

Is it nearly May already? May 6th 7th 8th! I figure some day I may get this post up! It’s sad to say I started writing this the last part of April! About a week ago I was probably sitting by the wood stove keeping warm on a below average temp. day and yesterday I was sitting by our kitchen window drinking (eating?) a smoothie trying to keep cool!

One day has turned into another, as it usually often does. It’s been a whirlwind of activity around here!

Our (human) kids are almost out of school, it was one field trip or assembly or end of the year project(s) and goals to be met along with regular chores and kiddings and cold weather turning to warm.

We are done with kidding this year and all of our fresh does are milking well. We had 3 does kid in a single Saturday giving us 6 kids between them. Dawn had triples boys early one Saturday morning followed by Mags with a very good size flashy buck and doe out of Storm and Mischief ended the day with a single buck kid out of Andy.

Mischief and her buck kid and Morgan went on to their new homes the week before last. Several of the buck kids have found new homes and there are several individuals who are currently up for sale. The doe count wasn’t high this year but there are several that I would very much like to keep.

The count was:

Em: triplets (2 bucks & 1 doe)

Pejamy: twins (1 buck & 1 doe). Sadly Pejamy passed away one cold night. From what we are unsure, but given how quickly she went it’s probable it was pneumonia.

Flicker: twins (1 buck & 1 doe)

Ann: quads (3 does & 1 buck)

Apricot: twins (1 doe & 1 buck)

Dawn: triplets (3 bucks)

Mags: twins (1 buck & 1 doe)

Mischief: single (1 buck)

Melody: triplets (2 bucks & 1 doe)

Granite: single (1 doe)

March and April had us building a milk machine for a customer and dis-budding a lot of goat kids!

All but 2 of the piglets have gone on to their new homes. The smallest piglet developed a naval hernia and completely weaned herself from the sow when she was being offered a bottle twice a day, that turned into 3 times a day once she decided the bottle was better. I tried fixing the hernia several times with a few methods I read about online to no avail, she was just too small for it to work well. She was gaining weight but the amount of bottle feeding necessary was a lot of work. She habitated with the sows and her siblings fine but in the end, I felt she’d do better with more frequent feedings so she went to a home with lots of kids who could give her more attention than I could devote.

We’re keeping 2 piglets to raise up to butcher this fall. One’s for us, the other will be sold. Having piglets in February was a challenge and a learning experience but we got through okay. The hay usage for the goats was quite a lot more than usual and that tells me quite a bit about how “bad” the winter was. May 1 I had a fire in the wood stove to take the chill off Last year it snowed on May 2! However we’re in to thunderstorm season two Sunday’s ago it was sure nice to lay in bed an listen to the thunder roll through and the rain pour down.

The skeleton for the new milk barn was delivered and the metal roof went on the weekend before last (right after a storm and the sky offered the most beautiful backdrop!) . We were fortunate in that a neighbor (and master carpenter) generously helped us put up the trim pieces and what a hoot to watch him work knowing where to cut and bend the metal in all the places so it fit like a glove. It’s amazing how much faster the work goes when you’ve done it a time or two (or 500)! The work they got done in half a day surely would have taken Jeremiah and I at least 2!

 

Our bee hives are almost finished! Jeremiah and I built two beautiful top bar hives. Picking up the bees, however, has been put on hold. Apparently with the cold winter, separating the colonies has been delayed about 4 weeks which is just as well. I put a nice coat of linseed oil on the outside of the hives on Sunday to protect them from the weather.

Top Bar bee hive

 

We had a hard freeze come through about a week in to April which was about the same time last year as that ice storm we had that killed some of our newly planted fruit trees.  Those have since been replanted save for the apricot tree which we cannot find any locally! We put sheets around those that had blossoms this year and they seemed to fair very well. The pear and plum trees were loaded with fruit, I picked most of them so the tree puts nutrition into growth. We want big strong trees and not a lot of fruit the first couple of years.

I bought some heated seed mats in March to try out and suffice to say I wish I had gotten them sooner! What a difference in germination time they made! After using both cold frames to keep plants and the greenhouse we put up last year, I will say starting seeds in the cold frames had much better results. It may have been because the winter I used the cold frames were a lot less harsh than the past 2 (particularly this past winter), but it probably also had a lot to do with area. The cold frames did not loose the heat near as much as the greenhouse.

The greenhouse does a great job once the seeds have germinated. I started half of the seeds in the greenhouse this year and half in the house. Of those I started in the house, the 2nd half (mostly melons, squash, herbs and a few tomatoes and peppers) were started on the heat mats and compared to everything else seemed like light years faster. From now on I’ll start everything on the mats and move them out to the greenhouse at a few days old.

Unfortunately, our kitchen window is north facing and if not moved out fairly soon after germinating, even when rotated on the shelf, they can get “leggy” but once they germinated I’d move them into the greenhouse within a day or so. As long as the nights didn’t fall well below freezing, the greenhouse does very well for us. On the vry cold nights, I cover everything with additional plastic and sheeting right over the top of the plants. Additionally, it’s really nice to be in the the greenhouse when it’s chilly (and windy) outside. I found myself at times stopping off on the way to the barn to step inside and warm up! Planting seeds in there early spring is really nice.

Not knowing what the germination would be on some of my seeds, I over planted putting 2-3 seeds per pot. You’re supposed to pick/pull the smaller of the plants and allow the more growthy one to continue to grow in single pots but I can’t bear to sacrifice plants like that so the tomatoes and the tomatillos I  separated and transplanted. I completely forgot to even start tomatillos last year. This year I planted 40 seeds hoping to get a few (the seeds were 3 years old and last year I wasn’t all that careful about how I kept my seeds), 36 germinated! There’s a lot of tomatillos!!! I always go overboard with the tomatoes too. My Mom send me home at Christmas with 3 heirloom varieties to try I planted those along with several of my favorites including Kellogg’s Breakfast (a HUGE meaty yellow tomato).  The jalapeno seeds must have been no good because not a single one germinated so I started some from new but I don’t think they’ll be big enough to plant for a while. Everything else looks great though and I am really excited about the lemon grass that I started from seed. I’ve never grown lemon grass.

It’s almost time to put the majority of the plants in the ground. “Back Home” in Northern Cal. we aimed to have everything in by Mother’s Day. I aim for the same here see as how the last frost date is 2 weeks in to May. Nevertheless, the spring onions are ready for picking anyway and that has made me feel less like I am “behind”. Just this morning I got the entire garden tilled. After a few scoops of some compost that’s been “cooking” for a year and another till, we’ll be all set to plant Saturday.

We’ve decided to put drip irrigation in the garden. We’ll plant the entire garden and then install the hoses and drippers/sprayers so we’ll know where to place them. We really ought to do something like that for the fruit trees too. I water every Saturday as it is. I think the drip irrigation would save a lot of water. We get some pretty high winds here and I don’t always have the time to water everything by hand when the wind takes the sprinkler water and waters everything BUT the garden. It should be such a time saver!

The “meat chicks” arrived a week ago Thursday! They’ll be out on pasture in about 2 more week!

Well, I am sure I could go on and on about the goings on around here but I’ll end for now. Happy May!!!

 

 

 

January 21, 2014

A week in photos

It was such a busy week! I managed to finish Rachel’s quilt for her 10th birthday, a project that’s been 2 years in the making. I fall into UFO (unfinished object) funks and quilts in particular fall to the wayside unfortunately but finishing it has given me renewed vigor to finish a few that have been on the back burner.

This was a sentiment I heard at one time. I don’t know the author to credit but suffice to say, these are borrowed words.

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King and Snow doing what King and Snow do. The sun’s out and it’s day time which means they snooze and relax and keep watch.

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Sunday was gorgeous and the goats were thoroughly enjoying the sunshine. We finally got the round bales off the trailer. The girls had pretty much eaten one entire bale down to 1/4 of what it started as. We unloaded it into the barnyard so they could munch on it. Most of them just turned in into a cozy bed . Most of the does are bred, some further along than others. It’s a time of growing good healthy babies!

Mother Daughter Flicker and Bourbon

Mother Daughter Flicker and Bourbon

hay bale free for all

Granite

Granite

While there isn’t a whole lot to eat from the looks of it, the pigs enjoy nibbling the grasses and rooting up tasty things. Ann is due to farrow around February 14.

Ann

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The chickens still range in the winter and find tasty tidbits to eat, there was still a little snow on the ground last week.

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Sunday Jeremiah and I finished the greenhouse by installing the back window and the plastic on front and back. we also put pipe insulation over the end of the panel and maybe that will cause a little less wear and tear. The strips of lumber that the plastic is rolled up in seems to be doing a good job. We had some pretty forceful winds last night and all it all looks good.I am so eager to start seeds. I went through what I saved from last year and what was left over. I hope to start a lot of flower seeds this year along with all the veg.

Front

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back

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greenhouse window from inside

Em kidded on Sunday while we worked on the greenhouse. I checked on her every so often. The first kid (boy) was totally breech but he delivered fine. The 2nd kid (doe) was still encased in her sack. I am glad I was there. Usually they are not delivered in their sack and there is no obstruction. When they are, if the doe is not attentive or there isn’t anyone there, they generally suffocate. The 3rd kid (a buck) was delivered about 20 minutes later without incident and Em looks fantastic. Shes enjoying a stall to herself to get to know her kids. I’ll post more photos later, these kids are super flashy!

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The following photo was not taken last week, but it is a reminder that we have our nuc colonies ordered from Butler Bees. Jeremiah and I are going to tackle the top bar bee hives and leave the langstroth hives to the construction class.

Well, there it was. We were at an auction Saturday and managed to bring home a pretty decent haul of lumber, a huge miscellaneous lot of trim/moulding/baseboards, 125 sheets of sheet rock and 13+ new bundles of shingles. I haven’t yet decided if we’ll shingle the new milk house, I’ll have to chew on that some more. We’re trying to stay somewhat color & material coordinated, the shingles on the house are brown, everything else is metal. We’re going with metal.

December 17, 2013

Pigs and fodder, a cost analysis

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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.

http://www.sheepandgoat.com/articles/hydrofodder.html

http://www.foddersolutions.org/csfeedback/traditional-pigs-thrive-on-sprout-diet-toowoomba-qld/

http://www.foddersystems.com/benefits/swine.html

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.

August 24, 2013

Saturday Humor

August 21, 2013

[Pig] Fencing for Pasture

“A fence should be horse high, hog tight and bull strong.”

This is what we use to enclose our pigs…

piglets 006

…that’s our boar and that is a single strand of electric wire. It’s braided wire.

It’s a good idea to put in some kind of temporary non-electrified gate for them to go through so if you need to move them you can. They do not like to cross over places where they know electric wire was until they know it will not  be there. Not that moving them has proven to be all that easy for us, it’s a fiasco so we try to just shift them within a pasture by expanding, letting them get used to it and then moving the “old” fence over.

The posts are fiberglass posts that we bought in a bundle of 25 from our local farm store for about $26. The insulators are screw on type (which is the only type that work with these types of posts). I think they are priced at about $5 for 25 of them. The braided wire is about $17 for 1600 feet or so.The prices quoted may be different from the prices via the links. We have two local farm stores that carry several different brands and the brand we used may not have been the brand in the link, I am using the links just to give you an idea of what we used.

We considered fiberglass or plastic posts from most farm stores that already have built in insulators but it was more economical for us to buy the posts and screw on insulators, not to mention the fiberglass posts we got come with a metal sheath (tool) to place over the top of the post to protect the post when you may need to use a hammer to install them. We’ve had so much rain it was easy just to push them into the ground. The pre-insulated posts generally have a plastic piece on top and they are “step-in”. If the ground is rock hard, hitting the tops of the pre-insulated posts will cause the plastic part on top to break rendering the top insulator useless.  In very soft soil or muddy soil, I do not feel there is enough post on the bottom below the plastic step-in piece to anchor it well in the ground and the insulators on the pre-insulated ones are fixed in position.  Given all that, I really just much prefer the fiberglass posts we bought and I can put on as many insulators as needed in the locations I need to put them…which can be very low to the ground if needed for new piglets.

The posts vary in distance between. When we first put up the double strand, they were pretty close. We expanded the first pasture and made the distance between posts much farther and the single strand is farther yet, in some spots, 20 feet or so. Keeping the wire off the ground is key so in hilly terrain you’ll need more posts.

A source of electricity is a must-  solar, battery or plug in fencer – to keep the wires hot, they’ll scoff at a wire that isn’t hot. For those that are already running electric like us, we simply wrap the braided wire around the high tensile and get our juice from there.

It’s important to keep the “fence line” free of weeds, limbs, grass, etc. as interference from these things will ground out your wire. That is the single downfall I have found to our whole electrified system, but really, good maintenance of fence lines is imperative to longevity of your fences no matter what kind they are! I mow a wide path where the fence will be put up which makes mowing or weed eating generally unnecessary before I move it again.

This year with the rain we’ve had, we’ve mowed and weeded eated a little more than usual. Generally about once every month I’ll run along the line with the mower around the whole property, both sides if necessary and we hire one of Jeremiah’s students to go along the fence line with a weed eater once in the spring and 1-2 times in the summer.

pig fencing

Do the pigs tear up the pasture? Sure, a little. They leave the weeds they do not like, they trim the grass & they root but like anything else, rotational grazing works off the basis that you have to rotate them.

August 21, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Never too early to be milk drunk