Thursday, April 26, 2007

Another Generation of Large Blacks!

Last year, about this time, I sold a couple of Large Black gilts to a fellow in Manitoba. Yesterday he e-mailed me this picture of his first litter from one of the girls! 6 healthy little ones, 4 gilts. I was happy to see another generation of these rare pigs hit the ground in a good home. Neal was very happy with how good a mother she was too. Most farmers will tell you that you need a barn and a farrowing crate etc. etc. Neal even went to the trouble of building a couple of a-frame farrowing huts for the girls out in the pasture, but this sow didn't like his construction because she just built a nest of straw out in the open and did her thing. Neal mentioned how careful she was in moving about the nest so that she wouldn't lay on anyone. This is entirely normal for the breed and probably normal for any breed that is given the ability to farrow outdoors in a natural setting.

Spring Field Work

Spring work has been frustrating so far this year. The 766 is working well, but we have encountered some unexpected field conditions while plowing the new land. There are some pretty good sized rocks about 6 inches below the surface and we have broken the plow twice. On top of that, we sprung the back arm on the plow and that made it almost impossible to set the plow to work properly. We tried for a couple days and only managed to plow 20 acres. Finally, yesterday, we gave up trying to plow and made arrangements to rent a very large and heavy breaking disc. We'll see how that works at breaking up the hay field.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Brooder

We brood our day-olds in an old horse water trough. It works well and is so deep that it allows us to continually add bedding all the while that the birds are brooding. We have a wire/lumber top for the brooder that allows us to hang two heat lamps over the chicks. We can adjust the lamps to whatever height we need to keep them comfortable. This year, as every year it seems, we are experiencing extremely low temps. that are well under normal. I had to cover the brooder with a silver tarp and a blanket and then set up an electric baseboard heater nearby to keep the temperature up inside the brooder. If it is too cold, the birds will crowd each other and make a big pile. The birds at the bottom of the pile suffocate and die. We know that the temperature is correct when we see the chicks off in all corners of the brooder pecking away at feed, water and whatever bugs and grass is in their bedding straw. They will stay in the brooder for a week or two and then we will set up another one and split them up to allow them to grow until they are feathered out. Typically, near the end of brooding, we transfer the chicks to the pig barn where they have lots of room to grow until they are big enough to be transferred to the field pens. Once they are fully "feathered out", they are able to care for themselves outside without the need for extra heat from lamps or an inside room. All they need at that point is a roof and some wind blockage that comes from the movable pen in the pasture.

Chicken Season 2007!

Chicken season is underway once more. Yesterday, Cindy travelled to Rochester Hatchery in Westlock to pick up 314 day-old chicks. This year we went back to the Cornish Giant breed. Last years chickens did not grow the way we had hoped. Slower growing genetics combined with organic feed minus the growth hormones and supplements made for a season that was just too long for us to handle effectively. We have had good luck with the Cornish Giants on our own feed in previous years but we didn't like the fact that they were bred to grow so fast and do have so many health problems when placed on accelerated/medicated feed in big commercial operations. We wanted to support the smaller, less popular breeds. Fortunately for us, the Cornish Giant breed works very well on organic food. The breeding genetics make the bird grow quickly, but the organic non-medicated feed keeps growth in check and produces a very nicely finished bird. Combined with all the fresh pasture that they can eat, the end result is simply scrumptous.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The 766 with a new coat

Here is the new 766 ready for the field. I gave her a quick new coat of paint, changed the fluids and cleaned out the cab along with a few other minor adjustments here and there. It still needs the decals, but those can wait until spring work is complete. Now I am ready on Wednesday to drive to the farm where the plow is waiting to be picked up and then off to the field that I am renting south of our farm. I will spend the next few days plowing 50 acres or so of alfalfa in preparation of seeding with wheat. First though, I need to take off the dual wheel on the right hand side to be able to travel down the furrow cleanly without driving on newly plowed ground and keeping the plow level.