Winter Weather Has Arrived

This weekend, we had a bad storm rolling in to our area. All weather reports said that the storm would hit mostly north of us, but we still needed to do some things to prepare here around the farm for the severe cold that we expected. Although we knew it wouldn’t be a bad storm for us, it would still bring colder air and a little snow. One thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that there is different preparations needed for different weather types. For example: rain vs snow. With snow, we can get several inches and it will not soak through the cow’s thick hair. This is great, because they don’t get soaked to the bone. Their thick hair keeps the snow out, and it settles on their backs. Sure it is colder, but the hair and their own body fat keeps them well insulated from the cold. With rain, however, it doesn’t take long for that to soak through to their skin. When the cows get soaked with the rain, they have a harder time retaining heat. They will then develop sickness such as pneumonia due to the cold rain. However, with the rain, there is not much we can do to protect them from the weather save from packing them all in the barn.

We started off our preparation by putting a bale of old hay in with the pigs to give them something to burrow into. I figured with enough food and some warmth from a wind block they would be fine. I also decided the cows needed a wind block. This was harder to do for the cows, as one bale would not cut it.

I put out 4 bales for the cows next to one of the barns. That should have been enough to last two days, but they ate almost all of it over night. I ventured out today to try and put a few more bales out. Unfortunately the pad lock was frozen solid. I tried everything but the obvious. After 30 mins I tried hot water… it worked first try.

After putting more hay out for the cows, and feeding the pigs, I hitailed it back to the house. As the saying goes, even in the winter the farmer has to work.

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Easter Eggs? In January??

Good morning, all. Tiffanie here. I have hijacked the blog this morning to write about a neat, first time experience we had with our chickens yesterday.

Back in September, we traded a couple of goats that we had for some of our chickens. In that group of chickens that we traded for was an ameraucana chicken. These chickens are commonly called “Easter Eggers.” This is because their eggs tend to come in pretty colors.

Our ameraucana is roughly seven months old. Typically, chickens will start laying eggs around the age of six months. However, if they reach this age during winter, it can take a little longer. Another factor that will play a role in egg laying is if the chickens are stressed out. For example, if you move a chicken to a new home, it can take a few weeks for them to settle in and start laying eggs again, even if they were laying daily before the move.

We have had a hard time with our chickens laying eggs. For starters, they love to hide their eggs. We let our chickens free range, and can’t always find their eggs. They are fantastic at hiding them! When we first got the chickens, they spent the typical time being stressed out and not laying eggs. After that, we had a couple of weeks of non stop rain, which caused several of our chickens to drown. We ordered some baby chicks at the end of August, and all of those died from a common disease that chickens get called coccidiosis. As it is now winter time, most of our chickens have halted or slowed their egg laying.

A few weeks ago we went out to the chicken coop and found that one hen was sitting on a pile of eggs. We assumed, apparently incorrectly, that she was trying to hatch these eggs. A week or so after this, we found the eggs unattended and decided that the eggs had been out there for too long to be good to eat, and the chickens were obviously no longer interested in hatching these eggs. At that time, we broke the eggs for the chickens to eat.

Yesterday was such an exciting day. When we went out to check for eggs, we found a beautiful blue egg. This means our ameraucana chicken has laid her first egg. We do believe this to be her first one, as it is the first blue egg we have found. It is slightly smaller than the brown eggs we find, but this could be due to the fact that it is her first egg. At any rate, we are looking forward to collecting more blue eggs in the future. At this time, we plan to eat these eggs because we do not have an ameraucana rooster to fertilize her eggs.

Mealworms

A few months back, I decided I wanted to try to grow mealworms for my chickens as a sustainable, money saving source of food. This venture has proven to be a neat experience, as well as not being a super productive way to spend my extra time.

I have them set up in plastic drawers for easy storage, which makes them easier to separate out. I put the beetles in the top drawer worms in the lower drawers. The main issue that I have encountered is that the worms go into hibernation in the winter if their surroundings are not kept warm enough for them.

When I started out with the meal worms, I ordered a starter set on Amazon and let my colony grow from there. I haven’t removed anything but growth has been slow. One thing that I would like to try is keeping the building where I house my worms at a higher temperature. Hopefully this will keep my colony growing. I will post an update in a few weeks, in hopes that I will be updating you on the growth of the colony.

I am including a link to the starter kit I got when I first started. They shipped really fast and they were all alive.

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Stinky pigs

I was always told pigs stink for more then one reason, but I never really knew why. Late last year, I decided to buy a couple pigs to fatten up for stocking the freezer. So far, this has proven to be a stinky mess. Pigs are one of the worst smelling creatures that I have ever smelled before in my life. In addition, we are spending a small fortune feeding them.

Before we got our pigs, we had purchased half a hog from a local who sent the pig off to the butcher for us. All we had to do was pay for our half plus the butcher fees, and tell the butcher how we wanted the meat packed. In hind sight, this was the cheaper option.

There are pros and cons for both of these options. If you raise the pigs yourself, you obviously know exactly what the pigs have eaten. You also have more freedom as far as when you want to butcher. But, as aforementioned, the stench is almost unbearable. Pigs are also notorious for throwing mud anytime you get close to the pen. Pigs are well known for eating everything. This can be an advantage, but also a con if you think about it too much. Our pigs ate their sister.

An advantage of buying a butcher pig from someone you know is that you still have a general idea of what they are eating from day to day. You also are not the one who is out any cost if the pigs get sick or die at any point.

Both of these options are WAY better than buying meat at the store. It is way cheaper, and you know generally how the pig was raised, and in what type of environments.

In the future, I do believe that we will just buy our pig from someone that we know and trust, and forego a lot of the extra costs.

In the meantime, does any body want to buy a pig?

Chicken feet

Within the next few weeks, we are planning a mass butchering of our chickens to stock the freezer. When we do this, I would like to use every usable part of the birds, including the feet. I have done some research and, in some cultures, chicken feet are considered to be a delicacy. I would really like to try them.

The most common thing that people do with chicken feet when cooking is to make a stock with it that is then used in soups and stews.

With some searching, it is easy to find recipes for basically anything. Below is a recipe that I found, which I would like to try. My fiance is a little iffy about it, and doesn’t think she will try it.

Is Hay quality really that important in Beef cattle?

I have heard for years people talk about the difference between horse hay and cow hay. Some people think that a mixed grass hay is not suitable for horses and that feeding something high quality like brome and alfalfa to cows is just crazy. Personally, I am not experienced in feeding hay to horses. I do know a lot about what to feed cows.

This year, like many other years, I am feeding a fescue grass mix. Our cattle seem to handle it well and it’s been several years since any have lost their switch or hooves. I know some people have issues with their cows on fescue but in this part of Missouri there seems to be fewer issues annually.

Cow that lost her switch on her tail

Fescue is nice for us because it allows us to abuse our pastures, running far more animals than we should and it still grows back. Most other grasses won’t handle that kind of stress. One draw back is we have to fertilize it each year. If we don’t, the grass that grows back will be thin and not grow as tall. I have considered switching to other grasses, due to their higher protein content. However, it is hard to justify that when fescue stands up to all the abuse and produces a good crop each year. 

In years past we have fed other grasses and have never noticed a difference in growth of the cows or calves. The protein in fescue is lower then some of the finer grasses but our personal experience has not shown a difference in growth. One thing, however, is that in years with a higher mold count the miscarriage rate increased in the cows. There is some mold in the hay every year, but it varies. In years where mold content was lower, there was no difference in our cows and calves. 

This year, they hay is not the best. This has been due to the rainy fall and winter. After having such a dry spring and summer, it was hard for a lot of farmers to get enough hay to make it through the winter. We didn’t have that problem, but the high precipitation has increased the amount of hay that is wasted. The rainy weather turns the outside of the hay bale into waste. Even with the extra waste, it seems to be providing good nutrition for the cows, and all the calves are growing well.

Here is a link to a nice article that talks about how to manage when you feed fescue to cows. https://www.agweb.com/article/minimizing_the_risks_of_fescue_toxicosis_in_cattle_naa_university_news_release/