Monday, May 16, 2011

May Progress & Challenges

We are moving forward through the month of May. We are making great progress on farm building despite me working. We have had several folks out helping so I want thank: Mark Bancroft, Jeremy Bennett, Michael Carter, Adam Faeth, and super helper Jim Stumo for coming out to work on our sheep handling system. We started off a couple of weeks ago by having the pad for the chicken building pored by a local firm. I am still waiting on the bill for that.

Concrete pad for the future chicken house and divided brooder

Next we started to define the sheep wintering area just behind (north) of the chicken house. The perimeter fence is made of hog panels secured to two wooden posts and supported along the way by two steel posts.

Sheep Winter Facilities Perimeter Fence

We later stared to frame a "Bud Box" handling system that can deal with both cattle and sheep. The "Bud Box" uses natural animal behavior to create an easy way to move livestock into lanes to be worked. 

Handling Lanes: Sheep on the Left & Cattle on the Right

There still is a few more posts and some earth work to go in the crude form. Then pieces of treated plywood and gates need to be screwed/hung and then we are in business. I hope to get it functional in the next few weeks. 

The grazing side of the business has been going OK. The weather has been difficult and full of fluctuations. In the last two weeks, we have gone from heavy freezes at night to 90 degree days and back to near freezing again. In general spring started off well and then things got cold for several weeks before getting hot and dry with lots of wind. From the stand point of a farmer dependent on grass growth, things have been pretty poor. The cold held back growth and the dry warmth did not help. Things are starting to improve now that it finally rained. We have grazed much of the north end of the farm and one of the rental properties up there as well. Now I am working my way though the south end of the farm. 

Water tank, hoses, and tank leaving the North end of the farm following the herd

Sheep Herd Grazing on the Base of the South Hill 

On the poultry side of things of things we have been struggling. Our death loss from smothering is unusually high from all of this cold weather. I am looking forward to having the new chicken house built so I have more control over the birds environment. Even with the high high death loss, something far more worrying has me concerned about broilers. I am concerned that they might no be broilers. Typically a broiler at two weeks become an eating pooping fat machine.

Our Current Broilers, Almost Four Weeks Old

May 12th, 2009 Broilers at about three weeks of age

The pictures are not of the same perspective, but the tiny birds of 2011 have nothing on the stocky broilers of the past. I think the hatchery sent me laying hens and i have 50 broiler orders to place in four weeks. I have to do some scrambling or pushing of orders back to figure out how to deal with this.

The laying hens have also had to deal with heavy predator pressures. I have a couple of large aggressive raccoons. They have killed a few hens and I have been stalking them at night with the semi-automatic 22 because they are very bold pest. I hope to find an answer to my raccoon problems and my lack of broilers soon. 

Layers out for a Dirt Bath