Wednesday, May 22, 2013

2013 Farm Plans

I have had an almost three month hiatus from blogging and a far number of things have gone on during that time, but I will only touch on a few of them.  We had lambs in mid March to early April, 22 of them were born and 18 of them have made it. We stated off poorly, by having a good ewe get an infection in her uterus and die, and we then lost one of her lambs. We also had a ewe give birth to quintuplets, which we were able to save two of them.  Other then the bad start, this lambing season has been much better then past seasons. The sheep herd has been out on pasture for three weeks now and doing quite well.

Sheep Herd out on Pasture in Early May After a Very Late Snow Storm

This whole spring was the opposite of last year. It was cool for a very long time and it took a long time to get get the grass growing tall and fast enough to start grazing it. We had to buy quite a bit of hay to cover another three weeks of grass.  We also had another calf born during the last three months from a first calf heifer. All told, our herd now comes to 18 head. It is our hope to have larger supplies of beef soon, but our lead time on beef is around 27 months, so we do not have much supply planned for 2013, but 2014 is looking much more promising.

New Spring Calf Waiting for Spring Grazing to Get Started

The biggest news I wanted to share with customers is that the 2013 order form is live on the website. We are still planning on doing a customer newsletter, but it has not happened yet. Since we now have two kids to factor into things, there will be some changes this year. We will be making fewer deliveries to Ames and Des Moines in 2013. We looked into the cost of doing deliveries versus the return on that time & fuel this winter for all of our sites. Ames & Des Moines  had much higher costs per sale then Pella and represented a smaller percentage of sales then Pella. Pella deliveries will be monthly, while Ames & Des Moines scheduled deliveries will be June, August, October, & November. Hopefully, this will encourage people to simply order a bit more per delivery to cover the longer gap between deliveries. Customers in Ames & Des Moines can also order our products on the Iowa Food Cooperative, which deliveries to multiple locatins to in the Des Moines area and to Ames every two to three weeks.

Two children has also spurred some production changes as well. We will be raising many fewer meat chickens this year. Right now we still have inventory from last year. When that runs out, we will not have any more chickens until our October deliveries. Broiler chickens are quite a lot of work to raise (time, energy, materials handling) and the return on investment is not great. It is very easy to loose money on them if they are even a bit small. Cool wet springs are not always the best time to raise them, and we typically see better development of broilers in the fall. We will be starting turkeys earlier this year. If you want turkeys in October, they should be ready by October delivery time. When we built out new brooder building, we likely over insulated it. My objective is to shift turkey production earlier so the turkeys are moving out of the brooder as the hottest part of summer is beginning. We have also changed out turkey supplier this year in hopes to avoid some of the problems of the past three years. Right now all we have in the brooder is 50 layers to cycle into our flock later in the year.

Black Australorp Layer Chicks in the Brooder

We are working on a few larger projects this year. Progress on the chicken building continues slowly as I am hoping to finish work on the trim, nesting boxes, and eave spouts this month. We have some large fencing projects to tackle this year. A neighbor cleared out numerous trees last year in our mutual fence lines, but he left the ground rough and with no fence. This all has to be corrected including dirt work and new fencing. There will also be a lot of additional tree work to round out the project. With two kids and how far away from the house this work will have to take place, it will take much of the year to complete.

Look forward to quite a bit of lamb in October. There will be a limited supply of beef in August, and possibly more in October. Turkeys will be available again starting in October. We will see how things go this year. Right now, I am taking it a day at a time. I am sure there will be significant challenges juggling a farm, a 3 year old and a baby, so stay tuned.

The Marquardt Kids with Very Serious Expressions

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