Friday, August 10, 2012

Breaking the Scorch

I am sorry the great length of time that has passed since my last post. Since May 31st, we have finished our two spring batches of chickens. The first batch was great. They got perfect weather (dry and warm early) and finished out averaging around 4 pounds. The second batch struggled with the beginning of our heat. We lost 31 of 198 directly from heat and then predator pressure picked-up at the end. Raccoons are more then resourceful enough to foil any dog on a leash. Because of the heat, the second batch of boilers had to have more time and still finished out averaging 3.5 pounds. We just got out third and final batch of broiler chickens this year yesterday morning and they are looking great in the new brooder.

Third Batch of Broilers for 2012 in the Brooder

Scorched Pasture From One Week Ago

In early July, the heat started to be oppressive and the rains pretty much stopped. I lost count of the number of days over 100 degrees F (37.8 C). It was brutal. We usually only get two cuttings of hay a year from our hay fields, but our first cutting baked into dormancy. As the situation got worse, we did not want to cut what was left of the hay fields for fear that we might kill some of the stand by cutting it so short. Needless to say we only have four bales of hay I purchased from my wife's employer saved up for winter at this time. We go through around 2 bales a week during the winter, so only having a two week supply of hat at this point makes me nervous. We will have to buy quite a bit of hay this year, but decent hay is very hard to come by, especially since a lot of guys are feeding hay because they have beat their pastures into the ground. We were beginning to run short on pasture, I figured we were looking at 4 weeks before we would have to feed hay until several recent showers improved the situation a lot. The pasture picture above is the same ground I mentioned earlier in the year.  We were lucky recently catching 1.25 inches last weekend, another inch on Tuesday, and another 0.25 inches on Wednesday. The grass has really responded, bolstered by temperatures in the mid-70s and low 80s (24-30 C). I am hopeful that these changes will help sustain a rally in our pastures. 

Our Very Limited Supply of Hay

The biggest concern I have is the loss of over 80% of our turkeys. They started off well in the middle of July, but after about two weeks they experienced developmental problems with their legs. Most of the birds lost the ability to walk and eventually died. We are not sure if this is a result of the heat, a change in the ration, or some other factor. The ration was sent away to Iowa State University for analysis, but they have yet to get back to us. We know of other farms with some similar problems, so I suspect that the heat affected the birds developmentally. Needless to say, having only around 30 birds left will leave us a very tight supply going into fall and will drop our sales this year a lot. Looking ahead to an expensive winter of hay feeding is not encouraging. I am not sure what we are going to do next year about turkeys, but we will keep you posted. 

A Few of the Surviving Turkeys

We butchered one of our cattle recently and that animal is now available for sale. We have round beef, ground round, hamburger patties, quite few steaks, and a limited supply of rump roasts. We will notify our customers when we do August deliveries at the end of the month about exactly what beef we have available and the prices on all of it. We will also be looking to sell off one of our breed heifers. If you are interested, drop me a line and I can get you details. Four of our lambs are going to locker in less that two weeks and they are already sold out. We will be selling our old registered Katahdin ram soon as we will be using a young ram for breeding in November.  Once again if you have any interest in our big older ram, drop me a line and I can get you additional information. 

Hazel in her new bed after having her first hair cut

On the home front, Janice's pregnancy is going along much better and Hazel is doing well. Janice is past the tough first trimester and is well into the second trimester. The ultrasound was back in early July. We know we are having a boy. We have agreed upon the name Zane Harlan Marquardt. We are expecting Zane in mid-November. Hazel can be quite a chatter box, loves the farm animals, especially the cattle and the cats. She recently moved to a twin bed on the floor, but likes to actually sleep on a blanket beside her bed. We will get there someday. That is it for now but stay tuned.