Entries in Pastured Poultry (73)

Monday
Jul242017

Somebody say it's hot out there?

Excessive HEAT WARNING -- Avoid outdoor activities*
*unless you are a farmer
Well, it comes every year -- right on schedule. SUMMER. Granted some years, like this summer,  it comes in gentle and warm.  Just enough to let you know meals should be cooked outside and are best enjoyed on the porch.  This summer had the added bonus of wonderful and amazing rain that came in nice digestible portions well spaced out.  Inevitably though -- summer heat ramps up and we have to be prepared.  This last week has definitely required that preparation as the dew point has been in the high 70's to more than 80 degrees almost every day.  For the animals, that high dew point is the real stressor because it makes breathing harder and negates their body's natural abilities to cool themselves.  

It makes me chuckle, just a little bit, when the news reports say it's going to be so hot outside that we should avoid outdoor activities.  There must be an implied asterisk there, that states unless you are a farmer.  When it gets that hot, farmers don't get to take the days off, instead the work is a little harder since the animals need to be taken care of more closely in order to stay healthy and happy. 


Cattle generally do really well in hot weather but prefer to have shade so we try to plan our grazing so they have daily access to shade.  This can be challenging when you use rotational grazing and they get moved to new pastures every single day.  The pastures have to be planned to include a portion of shade for each day.  Cattle also drink more water during the day.  Our cattle that are at a leased property right now need to have water hauled to them.  During hot days -- each full grown cow can drink in excess of 10 gallons of water per day. 


Pigs have the hardest time in heat if not given shade.  Mud is not required but does help tremendously.  SInce pigs don't sweat, the moisture from the mud evaporating can be very cooling.  



Chickens adapt very well to the heat, finding shade as they range around the pastures.  Unfortunately, one of the adaptations also used by chickens in the heat is to not produce as many eggs.  Our chickens have dropped production by about 80%.  We realize many of you are not getting all of the amazing pastured eggs from our ladies that you are used to.  

For all the animals, the key to thriving in the heat is an ample and always available supply of clean drinking water.  We have been very appreciative of the solar powered water system that we installed two years ago.  It ensures there is an almost endless supply of fresh water available to all the animals all the time!

 

Tuesday
Apr042017


March has been a busy month on the farm.  As foretold to you last month, we have received our first batches of baby chicks on the farm.  It always takes quite a bit of planning to ensure that the hundreds and hundreds of birds that we raise all come at the right time to utilize our available brooder space, pasture rotations, and then processing dates.  In addition, we also have to ensure that our food deliveries match amounts we need for the birds at different stages of their lives.  



We are trying a few new things in our brooder and have had great results.  The primary difference is that we are using peat moss instead of wood chips. Information we gained from attending a few intensive poultry raising workshops this winter indicated there are several benefits to using peat moss.  We have found it to be a great bedding for the chicks while they are in the brooder.

 

Sunday
Jun192016

Chicken Harvest, a day of community





We processed our first batch of chickens - our slow growing, pasture raised Prarie Rangers.  These birds had done fantastic on pasture and as a result had grown exceptionally well.  We had several birds in the 7-pound range and had nearly zero under 5 pounds.  We were very happy with this because we know several of our very loyal chicken customers like for the birds to be exceptionally big.  One of our customers commented they were more like small turkeys than chickens.  She was excited to possibly have leftovers for her large, healthy family.  

One of the greatest things about processing chickens is the community feel it involves.  We have our core team of Laura, and I and both girls helping along with both Laura's and my parents.  We were able to get our 100 birds processed and the area cleaned up in good time.  

Tuesday
Mar222016

Spring is a time for lots of work, er, excitement on the farm!


Spring is an exciting time as we change from the slow, intense pace of the cold winter to the frantic and chaotic pace that often comes with spring.  It never fails.  We feel very prepared, rested and rejuvenated after Winter.  However, as soon as the grass starts turning green (and man is it turning green!) suddenly that feeling of preparedness evaporates and we immediately feel that we are suddenly behind.  That's because green grass is a very tangible signal that many things are about to get busier.

The first and very busy thing that has changed is our first batch of chicks arrived in the mail.  Each year at this time we start receiving new chicks that we will grow on pasture to butcher in early summer.  The first batch we got was our Prairie Rangers.  These are our slowest growing broilers, so they are the ones we start with.  Before they arrived, we had to get the brooder prepared after a long period of inactivity over the winter.  Equipment had to be checked, supplies cleaned and things arranged.  Once they arrive, a whole new list of chores of feeding, watering, and checking get added to our daily routines.  However, chicks are more than just work.  They are also a celebration.  Our girls love getting a few chicks and playing with them in the yard, in the sandbox sometimes even in the house.  These chicks will be out of the brooder and into the pasture in just a couple weeks - and then our next batch will arrive. The brooder will be kept busy with chicks and turkey poults for the next several months.  

The cows have also started causing us a little more work.  They LOVE the return of green grass.  They seem to get tired of the dry, crunchy hay and yearn for the lush, soft, green grass.  It seems to instill a certain amount of orneriness in them and we have spent several days lately readjusting the cattle from the pastures they think they should be in -- to the paddocks we have assigned for them.One very nice thing about spring though is the return of temps above 32 degrees. This has meant we have been able to start using the watering system again, at least for the cattle.  This means that now water is brought to them automatically and on-demand at any time instead of us having to haul water out to them in large several hundred gallons tanks.   This saves us time, is best for the cattle and is also more gentle on the land -- a win for all.  Now if we can just have guessed right and can avoid below 20 degree temps for the rest of the season.

Overall, Spring is more excitement than work and any work involved we are ready for.  Our farming is very connected to nature and the natural cycles of the seasons.  This natural cycle seems to be well suited to keep us excited, invigorated, and ready for the challenges of the farm.  

Wednesday
Feb102016

Winter Isn't So Bad! ...at least this week!

Winter has "so far" turned out to be pretty mild.  The greatest part has been the sprinkling of nice days that have consistently interrupted the cold spells that have shown up.  This has allowed us to get a lot work done on the farm beyond the daily subsistence type chores.  This weekend was filled with a couple of these bonus jobs that we might not have been able to do if we had been dealing with the extra work of extreme temperatures or snow.  


One big job that was completed was we moved a bunch of next year's layers out to the pasture flock.  These were chicks that we hatched this fall and had been living with our front yard girls until they were old enough to start working in the pastures. Combining groups of chickens always involves a 'getting to know you' phase of the two groups.  Although chickens can be somewhat resistant to making new friends -- we have found when given the right amount of space, they do just fine.  Pecking order needs to be established, but that can be done fairly quickly and then they act just like a flock that's always been together.  

Another job that got done was building a new paddock and moving our breeding pigs into that pasture.  We keep our boy and girls separate and only put our breeding stock together when we want to have piglets.  Today, we put our two sows and boar together.  This should lead to piglets in June sometime.  Pig gestation time is 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days and 3 hours.  Large Blacks typically have 8-10 piglets in a litter.  You might want to set aside sometime to come visit the farm in late June to see some cute piglets!

Synergistic Acres - 21733 Iliff Rd, Parker, KS 66072 - 913-735-4769
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