Our First Year with Red Broilers

In the past, we have raised numerous Cornish-X broilers and processed them. Although Cornish-X chickens produce large amounts of meat in a short period of time; they are very prone to leg problems and heart attacks (especially when it is hot, and we have hot and humid here.)

So this year I decided to try Red Broilers that I ordered from Cackle Hatchery.  I had read that unlike the Cornish-X, the Red Broilers are mobile and will aggressively forage for food but they take longer to grow.  This is true on both statements!  These chickens actually act like chickens.  Unlike the Cornish-X, they are not lethargic. The Red Broilers were active foragers. We did not have any leg problems or heart attacks.

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Red Broiler chicks in brooder.

Our broilers were plenty big when we processed them.  They were 15 weeks old and weighed between 5 and 8.5 pounds dressed.  For our family the large size works great. I was worried if they would be tough but they aren’t. The Red Broilers have a delicious flavor!

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I saved a few of the Red Broiler hens and one rooster to see if they will breed naturally.  Hopefully they will so that we can hatch our own broiler chicks in the future.

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The “clean up” crew. They clean up the pig feed that gets spilled when we fill up buckets. At least this way none of it goes to waste.

Have you raised any of the red broilers? If so were you pleased with them?

Blessings,

Jennifer

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Posted in Animals, Homesteading, Poultry | Tagged ,

Pig Production Update

We have been steadily increasing our pig herd over the past several months.  Up to this point we have been marketing our pigs locally, however with our numbers quickly growing we will have pigs to sell to Niman Ranch starting in December. (This coming year we are planning to farrow 45 sows/gilts. )   It is very exciting to think that in two short months we will sell to Niman Ranch for the first time!

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Some of the pigs just lounging.

Niman Ranch producers commit to raise pork according to Niman Ranch standards which include:

  • Raised outdoors or in deeply bedded pens
  • Never given hormones or antibiotics -ever!
  • Fed a 100% vegetarian diet

In return for our work and commitment Niman Ranch pays a premium for the pigs we sell them.  This is a win-win for us.  We can raise pigs in the way we like to raise them and get paid a premium for doing so.

In September, Scott and I were able to attend the Niman Ranch Farmer Appreciation dinner in Des Moines, Iowa.  We had such a wonderful time!  We have been married just short of 14 years and this was the first weekend getaway we have had without any children.  It was a great opportunity to learn more about the company and to meet other producers; many of whom have been selling to Niman Ranch for several years.

We were also able to enjoy several different dishes prepared by renowned chefs from around the country who prepared Niman Ranch pork for us.  It was so delicious! We are already making plans for a weekend getaway next year.

Blessings,

Jennifer

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Ups and Downs; Twists and Turns

Maybe it has been writer’s block or not sure what direction I should take with the blog; but over the past few months I have taken a step back from blogging.  I have started countless blog posts yet it hasn’t seemed that the time was right to share them.

I am looking forward to getting back to writing and sharing our journey, complete with ups and downs; twists and turns, with you.  I assure you there have been many ups and downs; twists and turns!

On this journey called life I have learned to lean on God’s promise in Deuteronomy 31:6; “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

God doesn’t promise that our road will be easy nor does He tell us that we will understand all that happens.  In fact He tells us “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)

God is continuing to work in our lives and mold us into the people He desires us to be. My prayer is that we will listen to Him and follow the way He has for us.

I invite you to come along on the journey.

Blessings,

Jennifer

 

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Quick and Easy Tortilla Pizza

This recipe is exactly what is says quick and easy!

This is a fun meal that the kids can easily help make or can make on their own when they are able to bake.  Since I can spaghetti sauce from our tomatoes I always have sauce available and flour tortillas are considered a staple around our house.

On each flour tortilla we spread about 2 tablespoons of sauce,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Then we just add cheese and our favorite toppings.

Then we bake at 375* until the cheese is melted.

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TaaDaa, lunch is served! Quick, easy and delicious!

Hopefully your family will enjoy these as much as we do!

Blessings,

Jennifer

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Treating A Calf With Foot Rot

One of our young Hereford calves began limping this week.  As is often the case when a calf or cow is limping, the calf has foot rot.  It’s not the best picture but hopefully you can see the swelling and the line of infection between her toes.

foot rot close up

Foot rot is brought on by a bacterial infection.  The bacteria will enter through a wound caused by trauma or by the skin becoming soft and thin between the toes (this usually happens when it is hot and humid.)  If cattle are loafing in a location that becomes saturated by urine and feces foot rot incidences will rise.

The treatment for foot rot is to administer antibiotics, so last night Scott roped the calf and gave her a shot of antibiotics.

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It’s as if she turned to say “thank you.”

I sure hope she heals quickly!  I always hate it when one of the livestock are sick or injured.  Have you had cattle that have had foot rot before?

Have a blessed day!

Jennifer

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Late Season Frost and Sweet Potatoes

Last week we experienced two mornings of frost which is very unusual for this time of year in our part of the country.  The average frost free date for our area is April 15.

We had already planted our sweet potatoes so in an effort to save them from the frost I mulched them heavily with straw the evening before the predicted frost. (Sweet potatoes are very susceptible to cold weather.)

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This isn’t a very good picture but I took this late the evening before the frost as I finished up mulching.

Then each of the two mornings I sprayed much of the garden off  water from the garden hose.  A couple days later I pulled back the straw to see if it had worked.  In spite of these precautions some of the sweet potatoes still died,

 

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but some of them survived. Hooray!

 

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The sweet potatoes that survived the frost were the ones that I had mulched the most with the straw.  For future reference I now know to make sure that each plant is covered by at least 6 inches of straw.

I am hopeful that despite the frost we will still have a nice crop of sweet potatoes, but only time will tell.

Were you effected by the late frosts? What precautions do you take to protect tender plants from frost?

Have a blessed day!

Jennifer

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A Pasture Full of Sheep

As I mentioned in my last post, we have been reinvesting money that we received from selling the cows that did not get bred for spring calving but that are now bred for fall calving.  One of the things we have done is purchase sixty head of ewes and their lambs.

Sheep grazing

I am so excited to have sheep again! We had sheep in the early years of marriage however we sold them when we moved to Kansas the first time in 2007.

Our previous flock of sheep was raised sustainably on grass in a Management Intensive Grazing (MiG) system.  This is also how we will raise our ewes and lambs this time. We will retain those ewe lambs who do well on grass so that as we build our flock we are emphasizing sheep that will thrive in a sustainable, grass based system.

Did I mention that I am excited to have sheep again?! I really am!  We should be able to greatly improve our pastures with the addition of sheep as they are willing to eat move weeds and forbs than cattle are.  We will be grazing the ewes with cattle in an effort to better utilize the forage that we have available.

The other day when I was out with the sheep it was sprinkling just a little and this is the view I had.  I love the way God paints beautiful pictures!

Thanks for stopping by!

Have a blessed day!

Jennifer

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When Life Hands you… Open Cows

When we pregnancy checked our cows the day after Christmas we did not get good news.  Nearly 90% of our cows were called open.  UGH!!  This was a huge blow to us.  This meant that the calf crop we had counted on being born in May and June was simply not going to happen.

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We then had to decide what our next course of action was; were we going to sell them as open cows, put them in a feedlot and feed them out or try to breed them again.  We decided to get a different bull and try to breed the cows in hopes that the bull was the problem.

We turned a bull in with the cows for 60 days and then played the waiting game.  Thankfully we didn’t have to wait too terribly long as we decided to use Genex Blood Pregnancy Test to determine which cows were bred. Getting the results so quickly enabled us to go ahead and sell the cows that were now bred (90% of those that had previously been open) but had moved from calving in May/June to calving in late fall.

Selling those short bred cows gave us the opportunity to reinvest that money into a few other enterprises. In future posts, I look forward to telling you how we turned those “lemons into lemonade” or in this case open cows into ewes, cows and a hoop house.

At one time or another we will all be handed a bad situation, it is our attitude that determines how we will handle this.  Are we willing to turn lemons into lemonade?

Have a blessed day!

Jennifer

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American Rabbits: Black, Blue and White Too

Over the course of a couple of months, we have been adding American Rabbits to our homestead.  The addition of the rabbits started when Eli and Rebekah asked to show rabbits at our county fair.  Although they are Clover Kids in 4-H and aren’t able to show in the actual rabbit show, they can take their rabbits in to the exhibition night and show them to the judges.  The kids have enjoyed the rabbits so much we have added more rabbits.  We now have four does (2 blue, 1 black and 1 white) and two bucks (1 blue and 1 white.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe chose American rabbits for a few different reasons.  When I was researching rabbit breeds this is what I read about Americans from the Breeders of American Rabbits website:

Not just a historical curiosity, the American is a good meat, fur and show rabbit. With some breeding care, the American can be a large and hardy animal, with large litters and fast weight gain potential. A good American is large and hard to ignore on the show table.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe American Rabbits are listed as threatened on the American Breeds Conservancy which made them even more appealing to me.  I like the idea of helping to maintain a heritage breed.  They are also a very docile rabbit which is very important to me since the kids are the main caretakers.

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Although we have all three colors, only the blue and white are recognized colors for showing.  However, since Rebekah really wanted a black rabbit we have a black rabbit.  We are looking forward to having a few litters later this year.  It will be fun to see what colors we have.

Do you have rabbits? If so what is your favorite breed and why?

Blessings,

Jennifer

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Raising a Dairy Bottle Calf

The kids and I decided that they would raise some Holstein calves. So in February, we got three bull calves ranging in age from 3 days to 2 weeks.  We picked up the calves during a bitterly cold stretch.  Within a few days, all three had a round of scours due to the weather and moving stress.

Each of the calves refused to take the bottle at some point while they were scouring. (Scours is diarrhea in calves and is an indication of an infection.  Like any diarrhea, dehydration is a concern if it is not corrected.)  When they refused to take the milk, I mixed up a bottle of electrolytes according to this recipe.  They willingly  took the electrolytes. We also gave them each a shot of an antibiotic to help them as well. The next feeding I reintroduced milk and they went back to taking it.

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Calf with scours

Since then the calves have been doing great!  We continued feeding them bottles twice a day for 8 weeks and then switched to bottle feeding them once per day.  We continued bottle feeding for two more weeks before we weaned them.  When we weaned them they were eating grain and hay very well.

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The calves now have access to grass and free choice hay in addition to being fed grain.

Feeding bottle calves is a lot of work but it is a great project for the kids.  Most of them enjoy the calves, in fact, we plan to get more calves for them to raise in the future.

If you are going to get any bottle calves it is very important that they receive colostrum during the first hours of life.  Colostrum is the mother’s first milk which is loaded with antibodies to help ensure the health of the calf.  If you buy calves, make sure that the breeders give ample colostrum to the calf before selling it.  Also, make sure that you have a high quality milk replacer to feed the calves.

 

Blessings,

Jennifer

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