Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ewes Two Farmers Zero

So today is the due date, and no baby yet, but we did start having lambs. When I went out to the pasture late this morning, my favorite yew had blown her mucus plug and was in labor. I cam back an hour later and nothing. Janice came home early today so I encouraged here to come out to the pasture and look for mushroom and take a look at the sheep. We did not find any mushrooms today, but we have already found more this year then all of last year. For information on our favorite way to prepare morel mushrooms, take a look at Janice's blog:

By the time we got out to the past, Janice does not move very quickly, the lamb had just dropped her lamb and was cleaning it off.

First Lamb is a Ram

We sat down and watched for a while and a second lamb was born. I entered the pen when the cattle started become very curious by the happenings in the pen.  I helped the second lambs find the nipple so they could get that first drink of colostrum moving through their system.
Getting the first lamb to nurse while the second one gets cleaned

Still making sure the first lamb is nursing

Mother ewe and her little lambs
Because there is a significant storm moving over the area tomorrow, I am going to try to move a portable hut outside for the lambs and most pregnant ewes to utilize in case they decide to lamb tomorrow. I am planning on picking up cattle Saturday unless our baby decides to be born. I will let you know what happens.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Add Cattle or Not to Add Cattle

I woke up this morning to learn that the farm that was supplying me Belted Galloway Cattle is closing up shop and the owners are moving out of state so the herd is being liquidated. I want to add cattle to the farm, but the timing could be better (baby coming any day, expensive truck repairs, and far from completing fencing project). That being said, the price is fair and I like this herd. I have decided to purchase at least two cow-calf pairs and I am debating a third pair. They would be all cows with heifer (female) calves. This is a long investment, but could be the foundation for a solid herd. I still will not see any revenue from these animals for some time. The new cows will have to be rebred in July this year. I will likely be using artificial insemination. So that is adding something to my already busy schedule.

Belted Galloway Cattle on Larry Gram's Farm in Earlham

I understand that with cattle I am looking at around a 5 year investment before I see full returns from these animals. I worry most about two things in this business: one that I will be too cautious and miss many opportunities, and two that I am too aggressive and am driving myself into the ground. I am an impatient person so I would rather be moving forward at a painfully fast rate than be overly cautious. I can see where our pastures are improving, but are they improving fast enough to add that many animals? I wish the results of our 12 acre planting last fall were more promising than they appeared last fall and this spring.

  I worry about sinking money into cattle and waiting for the full return on investment. I can easily see where chickens, turkeys, sheep, hogs, and goats are more attractive to invest in as they can yield a return on investment within a year at most. If you are going to get into cattle, then when is really the best time?

On another note, today is my one year blogging anniversary, we are still waiting on the baby to leave the womb, and we are still waiting to have out first lambs of 2010. Given my luck the baby and the lambs are destined to arrive on the same day. I will just keep my fingers crossed as I wade into this next week.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Not Yet, but Any Day Now

Two days from now will be April 24th, the one year anniversary of starting this blog. It has been fun to take a look back and see the progress being made around here. The road ahead can be overwhelming at times, but I think momentum is in our favor and progress is gradually being made. The next month will be critical for getting several projects done (internal creek fencing, feed wagon, water wagon, building improvements, and tree work) before Janice's maternity leave is over. If you're asking, nope, no baby yet.

We got our female layers two days ago. They are barred rock chicks from Hoover Hatchery in Rudd, IA. They came a day earlier than expected and I was not quite ready so it made for a hectic day. The broiler chicks are now a week old and are doing fine, but the layer chicks have struggled a bit. They got a heat lamp with a red bulb and it makes a lot of heat, but it does not make a much light, so I don't think the chicks have really been eating or drinking like they should. That has been corrected and they look much better, but a few little chicks were just too weak and did not make it. That is the rub with animal agriculture: if you make a mistake, stuff can die. All you can do is learn from it not let it happen again. I hope to offer about a dozen 6 month old laying hens ready to lay for our customers in late October.

Barred Rock Chicks

I have had quite a few trials and trepidation with the sheep and cattle. They had a nice run of three days in a row with full blown escapes. Those internal fences would sure be nice to help limit how far the cattle especially can run. I ordered another piece of netting the other day from Premier One in Washington, IA and that should help out in the rotation process. If you are asking, nope no lambs yet. No kid and no lambs, both any day now.

I am still working on the feed wagon. I have scraped the interior, primed it, and painted it. I have also started to build the lid and have one half done. I hope to have it ready to go tomorrow and get my feed transfered into it.
The Farm in Spring

That is it on the farm for the time being. Spring is here and the flowers are in full bloom. It is worth it to stop and smell the flowers. I have and you should too.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

See Where The Chips Land

I have not been able to blog on the schedule I would like. When we get into production season I want to be blogging 8 times a month, so twice a week. That is obviously not currently happening and with our first child, Hazel, due in a little over a week, April seems doomed to be a little thin on the posts.

On the upside, things have been very busy around here. So I will give a run down on what has happened since the last post. I sold the John Deere 2010, purchased an old 5 ton Parker barge wagon, treated the boards to go into the lid I will build for the wagon (I treat with linseed oil), framed a building entrance overhang for the retail building and shop, picked-up a load of feed from our new feed supplier, Devan Green of Green Organics (he is in the organic transition process), purchased and hauled a year supply (35 bags) of compressed wood chips from Hawkeye Wood Shavings in Pleasant Hill, set up the first brooder and receive 181 baby broiler chicks (still have all 181), planted some Rhubarb, and used a nice little Vermeer skid loader to do several tasks including: cleaning out half of the all-purpose lean-to and making a massive pile of compost that needs to go to the field someday, fixing the Cobett waterer that I put in crooked last fall, removing an old fence row, and moving some earth piles left over from the well installation. I might have missed a few things, but that is most of it. All while moving the sheep and cattle daily. Needless to say, it has been a rare day that I have made it into the house before 9:00 PM.

Filling the feeders in the brooder

Filling chick waterers

Framed Shop Entrance (Jim Helped A Lot) and Treating Boards

Cleaned up the Rhubarb Patch & Added 6 more Plants

Continuing to Rotate Sheep on Pasture (they will lamb any day now)

I still have a long list of things that do need to be worked on. For one, we have still not released a customer newsletter and updated our website with order information. We have selected all our processing dates, chick order dates, and delivery dates, but we need to communicate that with our customers. We are sorry, it will be out soon. I have a list of things to try to get to this week including the newsletter, planting 100 asparagus plants, planting our gardens and seed starts (one of the house cats destroyed my earlier seed starts), building a lid to the Parker wagon, set-up more brooders (50 Barred Rock laying hen chicks come Wednesday morning), get ready for an INCA board meeting, finish converting the old chicken hauling wagon into a water wagon so I don't have to haul water buckets up the north hill to the livestock (my shoulders look good, but it is exhausting), and sow some grass seed in the torn-up places in the yard. I forgot to mention that we could start having lambs any day now. I am just going to cross my fingers this week and see where the chips land. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Count Downs

9 days before first broiler chickens arrive. 23 days before baby due date. That pretty much sums everything up. I am racing to complete projects, get others started, and prep the building for chicks in just a matter of days. To complicate things, I got some food poisoning from some sketchy shrimp and lost the better part of two days over Easter weekend.

Never the less, progress continues. Before I got ill, Jim from Pella helped me chip several large piles of brush that were in the way. The result is some more open views of the farm where piles once sat. The Monday February, 8th post from 2010 has several pictures of the piles before chipping.

Once the site of our largest pile of tree limbs. The future sight of livestock corral system, hopefully this year, and in the not too distant future small building. 
Several smaller piles dotted this hillside, but are now gone.

There are still numerous piles of tree limbs behind the house on rough and often soggy ground. Some will be left of wildlife shelter, but most will be burned off. After I got sick, we did some tractor swapping. Although I like Grandpa's John Deere 2010, it needs a lot of work to be useful and does not fit into my little building. 

Grandpa's Old 2010

Accepting that my business does not use a tractor much, that it will cost a lot to get the 2010 running well, and it will cost even more to put a loader on it, I decided to part with it. It is currently for sale.

I picked-up a Massey Ferguson 135 with loader and blade over the weekend. Janice and my neighbor to the north, did all of the moving work. I spent my time, trying not to barf in the tiny truck back seat. 

The new to me Massy, tucked into the building (it is cosy folks 6" to spare)

Janice was a trooper while I was ill. We were a sorry set of farmers. Me sick as can be and Janice 8 month pregnant trying to run a farm for a couple of days. Needless to say, I am glad that is behind me, now back to the race.