Archive for ‘Poultry’

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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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 22, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: The Rooster Strut

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.

king

snow

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.

January 15, 2014

Wordles Wednesday: Egg-spanding the flock!

January 10, 2014

Incubating

http://paraguinparadise.netfirms.com/Dry%20Incubation.htm

Yesterday’s task was to get the incubator ready for another brood. After a dreadful 0% hatch rate on our first try last winter, I came across a “dry” incubation method that has worked well for us and our hatch rates are getting better and better! Our 4th hatch last fall was 80%.

Our routine varies a little from this method. Depending on time of year, we add more water than recommended to the bottom of our incubator as our humidity can often be as low as 20-30%, particularly in the winter. I make foil shallow bowls to place in the lower portion of the incubator and fill these with water close to hatch (day 18 to hatch). The additional surface area these bowls provide works out better than the built-in deeper troughs at getting the humidity up and maintaining it.

I do leave both of the vent plugs out until day 18. On day 18 I remove all eggs from the egg turner and place them on the wire rack laving a little space in between them. I replace the red plugs in the lid and place a very shallow bowl of water on the wire rack along with a sponge so any hatched chicks will not drown. This water is in addition to the foil bowls in the lower portion of the incubator and the one I add warm water to if needed if the humidity gets to low. If the humidity raises too much I remove one plug. If it drops too much, I flip the plug so it just sits on top of the lid but I can use it to partially cover the vent hole.

I also remove chicks soon after they hatch. I know, I know, most say not to. However, I find the incubator becomes really smelly and disgusting by leaving newly hatched chicks, shells and fluid in with all that heat and humidity waiting for the other chicks to hatch. Not to mention it takes the chicks 3 days to properly dry off and fluff up when left in there more than a day or so once removed to the brooder. If I remove them shortly after hatching to a brooder, they fluff up within hours. To combat loosing too much humidity, when I open the incubator, I put a semi-hot rag in my water cup. The steam helps maintain a good humidity level. I also do not lift the lid off entirely. I am as quick as possible, taking one out at a time, letting the humidity regulate before going back in. Additionally, the hatched chicks move the unhatched eggs around too much.

There have been times where the heat was tampered with and it got as hot as 107 in the incubator. I haven’t noticed this to have an affect but I cannot say for sure how long it went unchecked. If I had to guess, I’d say less than a few hours which may not have been enough to heat up the egg internally to 107 anyway. I won’t speculate to say what is okay and what may not be. All I can say is don’t give up on your eggs if your incubator fell too low or went to high, give them a full 25 days and see what happens.

We have a Little Giant still egg incubator with an automatic egg turner. I bought an inexpensive thermometer/hygrometer at Walmart. I wish I had something digital or easier to read and the thermometer is a pain but I stick a meat thermometer in through one of the top holes and that does the job. It’s pointy at one end so I am careful to keep it away from the eggs.  Having the hygrometer inside the incubator is the main goal I am after. I cannot incubate the full 41 eggs having the style of hygrometer/thermometer I have, but those hatches are way too big for what I need anyway. I place the thermometer in a strip of egg turner that will not have eggs in it. Setting it on top has proven to break eggs.

Happy hatching! =)

I am including a list of websites for reference that I have found helpful: http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/step-by-step-guide-to-assisted-hatching

http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/birds/info/chicken/egg.shtml

http://msucares.com/poultry/reproductions/poultry_chicks_embryo.html

http://www.thepoultrysite.com/articles/1459/embryonic-development-day-by-day

http://huckfarm.com/chickens/hatching-123/

When things go wrong:

http://www.thepoultrysite.com/articles/1608/investigating-hatchery-practice-examining-the-hatch-debris

 

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January 8, 2014

Huge eggs

The 6 Cornish Rock hens we spared from freezer camp last fall are laying BIG beautiful eggs.

Thanksgiving Day while all the chickens were going into the coop for the night, one of the hens laid her first egg, the shell being pretty thin however. I found a few more of those and a shell-less egg or two but another few weeks and they are giving us these gorgeous eggs. Three of these eggs made one very large fluffy omelet for Jeremiah and I to share this morning. At 5 months old they laid sooner than any of the other chickens and by 5.5-6 months old, they are laying much larger than pullet size eggs. The lay rate is still too early to tell. Everyone’s production is picking up some with the lengthening of the days so I am eager to see how they do.

A few of the more recent online forum posts I’ve come across from others on these birds have said the hens they raised were great layers. The feedback I had read last spring overall wasn’t the greatest but given our experience with them last summer, I was kind of perplexed. I was reluctant to begin with to even get them wanting to opt for Freedom Rangers instead but we decided to try them first and see how we liked them and if we didn’t, we’d have enough time to raise up some Freedoms for our second batch. The two batches of Cornish Rocks we had foraged really well, we had no issues with legs or hearts, no unexplained deaths, etc. and now our 6 month old hens are laying. How exciting!

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.

November 20, 2013

Sewing for Christmas Part 1- Child’s feedsack apron

A Feedsack apron for Rachel. She has been bugging me for months to make something from a feedsack. We don’t normally get these plastic-y type feed bags as much of what we purchase comes from the co-op in paper bags or we buy in bulk and it’s loaded into barrels for us. I was at the feedstore a while back and they had feed on sale at half off because the bags were ripped or looking a little bedraggled. After using all the feed, I washed them up and got to cutting! She’s gonna love it!

feedbag apron upper

 

feedbag apron bottom

feedbag apron full

 

feedbag apron back

Feedbag apron pocket

Nice big deep pocket to hold all the farm goodies a kid could want to tote!

 

 

November 20, 2013

November now…

Last week the wind howled here in central Kansas and we were watching the last of the leaves fly off the trees. Two mornings were bitterly cold with wicked wind chills in to the teens and 20’s. I don’t mind the cold but the wind chills just cuts right through everything.

The animals don’t seem to mind the cold yet too much. One of the bucks got his head stuck in a feeder last Monday night and stayed stuck until I found him Tuesday morning. It took a bit of manipulation to get him out and fortunately he was no worse for the wear though they did say the windchill over night was something like 13 degrees and he didn’t have a single bit of protection. I did not have kind words for him as I tried to wrangle him out of that feeder from the outside of the fence. I was not about to get in there with 3 other bucks intend on having their way with me. I preoccupied them with some alfalfa which sent the stuck buck into a frenzy wanting some too which made getting him out even harder! I was eventually successful however!

Last week we got a roof put onto the small roving coop that I use as a grow out pen for the chicks. We also put in a few roost rungs. The Sept. chicks have nearly outgrown it and we need to move them into the roving coop we made for the meat chickens, but that needs roosts too.

I expect to be putting new eggs into the incubator about January. A few of the last incubated Sept. batch were roosters and of the 2nd batch, 2 of the 6 chicks I picked up from the farm store were roosters as well. I feather sexed all those but they were already a couple of weeks old and it’s supposed to be impossible to tell at that point so I was taking a shot in the dark on a straight run. They’re 2.5 months old at this point and left for their new home yesterday and now the roving coup is a little more spacious =).

We kept 12 meat chickens back for ourselves when we butchered in Sept. to grow them out a little longer. Some do tend to be on the slower growth scale as they do not get as much food as the others. We butchered 6 the weekend before last and left 6 seeing as how most of them were really close to laying eggs. I felt kinda of bad actually to loose laying age hens but they didn’t start out as intended layers anyway. I really never planned to keep these as long as we did but they all look so great so I’d like to see how they do.

The pigs are well,  they spend cold mornings burrowed under the straw in their shelter. We’re thinking about possibly butchering out the boar but still haven’t made a final decision on that. We may have piglets again as early as Feb 14. Kinda wishing I had kept them separated a little longer for a March litter but February it may be. We’ll just have to see.

Snow and King’s 2 pups are reserved. The male will be hitching a ride with us to California when we go for Christmas and will be going to a friend of mine and the female will be staying somewhat local in Marion, Ks. Her new family came to meet her on Wednesday. They’ll be fantastic for each other.

Goat breeding has been entirely strange! We went about 2 months it seemed with few of the does coming in to a good strong heat and now its seems like it’s one right after another. I don’t know what that’s all about, maybe the weather. I have just one doe due in January, 2 in Feb and 2 in March. I don’t particularly like kidding in the freezing cold but I do like the earlier kids. The first doe will bring milk production back up as we’re winding down on the other does now and drying them off one by one except the yearlings who are still going really strong and should right on through Christmas.

We’re having the high school building construction class build our milk barn. Time is slipping away for us while we work on other projects and we’ve been waiting for the 2nd trimester to start for them as to give them ample time to get it done. It’s a great experience for the kids. We went and looked at metal siding and roofing last Friday so everything is ready for them to start and hopefully by January we’ll have it delivered and it’ll be ready to milk in once babies start hitting the ground. More than anything I want the separate processing area with counter and sink instead of having to lug the milk bucket up to the house. Making cheese and soap out there is also part of the plan as well. I’d love to find a small wine fridge for cheeses to put out there!

Jeremiah and the kids spent part of Sunday splitting wood and got the majority of what was in rounds completely split with the help of the 3 girls who belong to a friend that are staying with us for the week. The log splitter has been a life saver this year! It was a life saver last year too but it has been especially handy this year as we’ve been behind and didn’t even start the bulk of the cutting in Oct. like we normally do. We pulled several large logs this out of the woods this past spring but have mainly just had large piles of rounds waiting for the time to split it. After last winter being so long, we had maybe 2 weeks worth of wood left to burn that was pre-split and stacked this spring when all was said and done. We’re nearly through that now but have been building up the supply right behind it and we’ll do more than we normally do if the weather prediction is any indication of how much we might need! They all did a terrific job.

Last year I joked with the kids that it would be really nice if we could get enough split and stacked to cover us for the winter plus half of another so we were always ahead if we continue to split at the same rate. Well, last winter proved to require quite a bit more than the previous. So much for being ahead half a year =).

The evenings get dark so quickly that doing anything outside with any decent amount of light after Jeremiah gets home from work is pretty much unheard of so we try to take full advantage of the weekends, especially the nice ones! 

There are several craft fairs coming up that we’ll be at and a community project that we’re gearing up for. Today I am hitting the machine to make a few quick craft projects that should be really fun! It hardly seems possible that Thanksgiving is nearly upon us! Once school starts in the fall the days just fly by. My Grandma always used to tell me that time moves even quicker once you are grown up. I never did understand her…until now. Gosh.

The broccoli and cabbage in the garden are looking pretty bedraggled after last weeks over night temps and I think it’s about time to put the pigs out there to clean it up. All of the garden tools have been put up now and the yard cleared of summer things. It’s time for the earth to rest and renew.

And with that said, it’s time to start a new day!

Have a great week!