Saturday, May 29, 2010

80 More Hooves

We made a large acquisition last week. We added twenty mature Barbados blackbelly ewes. This will bring us to over 35 ewes of various varieties of hair sheep.  The Barbados ewes have a strong flock instinct and stay together very well. We combined all of our cattle and sheep herds into one herd last week and are continuing to rotate them about every 36 hours. One of the new ewes won itself a Darwin award so we are down to 19, but the rest are doing well and learning electric fences and how to actually graze (they were in a dry lot before).

Barbados blackbelly ewes  in a tight flock

Existing sheep flock resting in the shade while the new gals graze

In the combined herd, the calves think they are sheep

Also in the pasture is our first batch of 175 broiler chickens. They are doing very well and appear to be gaining weight nicely. They certainly are eating quite a bit. The second batch is ready to move outside this weekend as well. 

Broilers on pasture

175 birds in chicken tractors

In other news, the water wagon is about ready to roll out to the pasture, the feed wagon lid was ripped off in a storm and needs repair, and fence building has commenced again on the south side of the central waterway. Hazel is doing well as well. She has gone from looking like a newborn to looking more like a baby in the past two to three days. I have also been at an INCA training workshop and have some work to sort through in that arena during the next week. I think the weather is going to be pretty calm in the foreseeable future and might even cool off a bit after the holiday weekend. That would be nice considering how hot the weather has been recently. Until later, thanks for reading. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Moving Ahead Again

We are slowly moving forward again. After the tough weather at the beginning of the month, we have all of our first batch of chickens outside. We got half out before the bad weather and the other half a week and a half later. They are doing pretty good and are eating a lot of feed.

Broilers on Pasture

Yesterday, I drove the truck and borrowed auger wagon up north of Marshalltown and came back 3400 pounds of feed. I hope that lasts me four weeks, because it is not cheap to have that much feed around. It is around a 4 hour trip. Plus you have about half an hour prep and another hour to get the tractor on the wagon and get the auger wagon dumped into the barge with a lid out in the field. 

Sheep Emerging from The Timber

Ram Lamb

I have come to really enjoy sheep. Sure, lambing season sucked and I will be culling several ewes that were a disappointment, but I have the bug. I am going out to Illinois soon to pick up numerous well priced ewes to bolster our numbers. In the timber, the sheep have been opening up the place and beating back the poison ivy. Permanent fencing is now starting to go in after the sheep graze starting with the corner  posts. 

Where the Sheep have been & Where They are Going

Where the Sheep have been

The cattle are doing well and soon the existing cattle and sheep will be combined with the new cows. I want to thank a customer, Todd Lippker for the great livestock photos shown here in this blog post. Bye for now.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


We have been adapting to live with a baby. Janice has been doing a great job of taking care of Hazel. I am still clunky with normal diapers and am a but intimidated by cloth diapers. With time I will get there. The timer on Janice's maternity leave is ticking away and I have one massive project to knock out by mid June when she goes back to work and that is fencing out our waterways.

Janice & Hazel Take a Nap

One the farm lambing has been progressing and we are down to one ewe left to lamb. We hit a rough patch lambing with the weather, several problem ewes, and my inexperience. We lost a handful of lambs, but today we had two sets of healthy twins and now have nine young lambs bouncing around in the pasture. There is just one more ewe expecting.

First Set of Twins (the brown lamb is female & the black lamb is a ram)

Second Set of Twins (both appear to be rams)

Despite the rough weather, the 85 chickens we put outside last Thursday are doing pretty good. We have not lost any of them. We left the other half of the first batch inside to hedge our bets against the weather. The ones inside will be moving out tomorrow.

The new cows and calfs are doing pretty good. It took them a couple of days to start eating the pasture heavily. I suspect that that delay was caused by a change over in rumen bacteria from farms and pasture types. The effects of mob grazing are much more visible when you have 1000+ pound cows as opposed to 600 pound yearlings and sheep. The two herd (new cattle and the sheep with the yearlings have not yet been combined, but it will happen within the next week or so as the herds rotate closer to each other on the farm. On another note, all of the north hill has now been grazed over once this year by the sheep and yearling cattle. It looks better, but those heavy cows on that hill will do a lot to break up the old grass thatch and bring the hill back to life. Something to look forward to. Stay tuned as we continue to adapt to farming with a child, cows, calves, and numerous lambs.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity. Janice went into labor on May 1st and Hazel Lillian Marquardt was born at 3:41 AM on the 2nd.

Ryan & Hazel

At the same time that Janice was wanting to go to the hospital, I was outside with a lamb being born. I ended up leaving the ewe with feet poking out of her and called my neighbor for help. Good neighbors are awesome to have. He came out and pulled the lamb and built a small fortress out of gates and pallets from the stack I keep. The structure let him separate ewes and lambs from the rest of the herd of cattle and sheep. It was also need to prevent the ram from killing my neighbor.

Jesse's Fortress

Not only did Jesse get those items all the way out into my rugged pasture, but he also nursed a bottle lamb three times while I was away. We were unfortunately unsuccessful with the lamb and lost it that night. Oboe the mother lost all of her triplets and will be going to the locker this week. I am trying to think of some way to properly thank my neighbor for all the work he did.

The rest of the lambs are looking good. We have the twins that I assisted with in an earlier blog post from one of my best looking purchased ewes. We also have the little black ram lamb that Jesse saved.

Twins & Mother 

Newest Ram Lamb & Mother

Very Pregnant Ewes

Yesterday, I went and picked up cattle in Earlham. I also got to visit my great aunt over there. I brought home 5 to 6 year old cows with heifer calves on their side and a 3 to 4 year old cow due anytime June or July.  I have them in a separate pen and will work over the next week or two to introduce them to the rest of the cattle and eventually the sheep. After I got them unloaded, I raced to town to have dinner with Janice and see Hazel. 

Five New Ladies to Add to the Herd (one calf is hiding)

We have a busy week ahead of us. Janice and Hazel come home today. Chickens have to move outside tomorrow, 180 more chickens come Thursday morning, we need to tidy the place up because family is coming for mother's day on Sunday, and some where in there we will likely be lambing. Wis me luck, I hope I don't need it. 

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Day Update

I am trying to handle feed more efficiently this year. I picked up an old barge wagon for $300 a few weeks ago an started to rework it so it can hold feed on pasture and follow the chicken tractors around the farm. It is an all Parker gravity wagon and I pulled the extension off of it, scraped, primed and painted the inside tray, and built a lid for it with a door in the top for filling. It is not pretty, but here it is.

Movable Feed Holder (Side View)

Feed Wagon (Rear View)

The biggest limitation is that the gravity wagon's current top speed is only around 30 miles per hour (48 km/hr), unloaded. I have to travel 55 miles (89 km) one way to get my feed. It is possible to do this, but it is a very unpleasant trip. Instead, I have been borrowing a feed auger wagon. I must admit that I find this borrowed wagon a bit scary. It has bald tires for one thing and a lot of duct tape on the auger where it likely rusted through. When I get the feed wagon home, I attach the tractor to the wagon and use the pto to run the augers and dump it into my gravity wagon. I hope to work though my feed wagon a bit more because if I could get it to pull a bit faster, I could skip the feed wagon step.

I have planted a number of trees this week. I moved two peach threes I planted last fall and planted two new small windbreaks. I planted a dozen Canadian hemlocks  make these new windbreaks and fill in some dead spots in my Norwegian Spruce Windbreak that I planted last Spring. I am trying to get all of the remaining gardens planted and 100 asparagus plants. I got a start on the asparagus before the rain storms yesterday stopped me.

I have had some trouble with latest batch of lambs. We had triplets born yesterday. When I found them, one of them did not make it and the other two looked good. This morning, one was looking weak so I drove into town to get some milk replacer and when I got back home, it had passed away. That sucks. I have been on the fence about that particular ewe  and if I was going to keep her for a long breeding career. She helped me make up my mind. I have two other ewes close to lambing and five others that should lamb within the next month. I did take some time to admire Eve, my Christmas Eve surprise lamb. She is an impressive looking specimen, especially when you see her next to her mom and consider that she is only 4 months old.

Eve, My Favorite Ewe

In other news, still no baby and I will be going to get more cattle very soon.