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Friday, August 29, 2008


Yep, that is the amount of rain we have received in the past 2 weeks. Pretty stinkin awesome. All of our irrigated pastures had been holding up well with the whopping 2" we had had since the start of May. It had been dry bones.

Now everything is green and the cracks have come together. Our grasses are thicker than ever with new growth popping up everywhere. Water is life on a farm, and without it, nothing can live. Helps you to understand why Christ is the Living Water for us and apart from Him, we too will perish.

Farming teaches you so much about creation. How smart God truly is and will be even after we are gone. He designed animals perfectly, along with the symbiotic relationship between the animals and land. When left simple, the way it was intended, things just work out better.

We seem to think that we can do things better but all that gets us to is M&M and potato chip beef along with pop tart fed pork. (See my wifes blog)

Just thought I would give some pictures from this week of the pastures and cows.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New Additions

This week, we added what we hope to be the last of our breeding sows for at least a couple years. Our goal is to produce 120-150 finished pastured hogs a year. To do this, we figure we will need 8 sows to get the job done. We breed Hampshires, Yorkshires, and Blue Butts. We had four sows, 2 Yorkshires, 1 Blue Butt, and 1 Hampshire. We added 1 Yorkshire, and 3 Blue Butts. The Yorkshire will be ready to breed in a month, and the Blue Butts will be ready in about 2-3.

Nothin like pig butts

Dirt under the feet

I buy my breeding stock from a breeder of show pigs. Unfortunately, his pigs are confinement pigs and I hate going there every time. It is so sad looking at the eyes in the poor pigs, beat down, tired, broken. The joy it gives to bring these girls home and allowing them to be on dirt for the first time. To let them root around, using their noses, to waller in the mud, and run around with lots of room. For the next few days, they will be in a pen letting them get use to the other sows through a hog panel and plus they will be very sore from walking in the dirt, using their neck muscles. This gives them a place to lay around and get use to the true happy farm life without the other girls picking on them while they are sore. Then they will move out into the pastures with the other sows.

First time they had ever been allowed to roll in the mud

Lucy our veteran sow laying in the mud

2 of our newly bred sows. We raised these two from piglets and were suppose to butcher them but we decided to keep them for breeding stock.

Getting acquainted through the fence. The older sows are pretty dominant over the new younger ones if introduced into the same pen right off.

Smooch, thanks for the new home out of confinement.

Since we now have so many sows, feeding has been a bit challenging. You can only imagine going inside the pen with these girls, and boys and trying to get bowls on the ground without them clobbering you. Plus for some reason, they will just go back and forth from bowl to bowl running the younger sows off from their food.

So I had to come up with a system for feeding them where we won't have to get in there with them until they are actually eating. In came the stalls. So far, they work great. Each gets to eat their own food without someone else coming over and knocking them away from it.

Could you put some food in here please?

My bud the Dud chillin out of the rain. (If new to the blog, his name is Dudley.)

The egg trailer is done and up and running. Although they aren't laying yet, they are at least starting to get in it and roost. I'm hoping that by the time the cows rotate back around, they will all have found their way into it. Happy hoping I think.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tropical Storm Edouardud....I mean Edouard

What does it take to get a bit of rain here. You would think that with a hurricane passing south of you 2 weeks ago and a tropical storm passing just to the north of you, one might pick up a couple of inches of rain.

Well, apparently not. Between these two glorious storms, we managed to get a total of 6/10" of rain. Not even an inch.

The cracks in our pasture are still there. Looking like they could blow molten hot lava out of them at any time they are so big.

I use to laugh when I would hear people saying to pray for rain but now that we are farming, you begin to understand their concerns. It is pretty dry here, but in Austin Co, one county to the west of us, it is bone dry. I do think they may have picked up a bit of rain but I'm not sure. They need about 12" to do any good there.

The day was cloudy and cooler though. It only got to about 84 degrees. Two days ago, it was 104. The cows really appreciated the break from the steaming heat. I think the pigs stayed out of the woods most the day and foraged about the pastures doing what they do best....tearing the ground up.

I don't want it to seem like I am complaining, just feeling a little bamboozalled (sp?) at this time.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Magic Poo

Was going through to move the cows this evening when I noticed this nice pile of poo. Yep, I said nice pile of poo.

The perfect poo looks like pumpkin pie filling with a little dimple in the center of it. That means the cows diet is just right in protein. If it is too runny, and you are not suspecting worms or parasites, then your protein levels are too high.

Anyways, kicked it around a bit and low and behold. Dung beetles. Lots of them. Hoooray. If you look at this pile of poo, you can see him in his tunnel (the hole in the center) taking the miracle food straight into the ground and to my grasses roots. Awesome.

You won't see these guys if you use chemical wormer's; this tantalizing pile of food this fellow desires to play in, would then be a pile of toxic death. Makes you think.

Egg Mobile Progress 2

Today I got to work on the Egg Mobile for a few hours. It really does go faster when you have someone to help but when by yourself, you find all kinds of ways to use arms, legs, feet, hands, elbows, hips, foreheads, you get the picture. Especially when hanging sheet metal for siding while standing on a Little Giant Ladder.

I feel it is about 60% finished. The inside is done I just have to finish exterior things.

I still have to put sheet metal on the roof, put doors on the front and back for the chickens to enter and exit, and put doors to open behind the nesting boxes.

I may have to add more roosts but I will have to see once they all get in there. This is only half of the roosts.

I want to paint something funny at the top of both the entrances.

Still need to put doors on the backs of the boxes to lift up when collecting eggs.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Working Pens

For the last year, we have been raising 30 stocker steers for the first of our grass fed beef. In some posts ago, I pointed out that our initial vision was to be a producer of fine grass fed beef using stocker steers from a breeder who raised his calves only on grass up until weaning. Then we would get them at weaning time, he would wean them for us using hay, and then we would finish them out on our pastures.

Well, our beliefs in sustainability grew more and more. Land management became the core of our beliefs along with herd management. I quickly learned that if you don't have complete control of your heard, from birth, you will always be inheriting someone elses poor land and herd management problems. Hence the reason we decided to convert over to a closed herd of Red Brangus cows.

We got ourselves into the egg business, thinking that 100 layers would be good, then decided that we would want to finish out 20-40 hogs a year. Well, now we have about 400 layers that will start laying end of August, we are set up to finish out 120-150 hogs a year, we are converting from stocker beeves to a closed herd of Red Brangus, and are in the works of getting an on farm outside poultry processing area built.

So in the next year, a lot of new things will be taking place here as we go from production phase to actually having product to sell. This has finally led us to getting our official set of working pens.

Over the last year, I have learned that cows simply allow us to control them but at anytime, could actually leave the property and never come back if they so desired. No fence, be it an 8' game fence with welded panels on 4' centers, could actually keep a full grown cow in if it really wanted out. Hence the reason for a good set of pens. Plus, my cows haven't yet been trained to simply walk up to a trailer in the middle of the pasture as I point them out and tell them to load up, its time to walk the final leg of your journey. I think they would look at me like I was a bit loony and continue to eat grass.

Naturally, as a cow gets moved to a new environment, they begin to get anxious, stressed, and act a bit whiley (sp?). I know this. And I know that the first time I introduce them to the pens, it will be a bit of a shock for them. But my remedy for that will be through routine and familiarization.

I have found that just like kids enjoy, and need structure, ( you may feel that your kids do not feel that way but that may be the problem, they lack structure) cows are the same way. They like to know things will be the same over and over. Things just go better when it happens this way. You explain the rules and guidelines, and they do their best to follow them. They know what to expect day in and day out. Soon they learn that the handle side of the rope is where they go to move from paddock to paddock. A lead cow immerges and leads the cows each and every time. It makes them comfortable. After a while, they know the system up and down and will perform like clockwork if the time is invested early on.

So my plan is to always allow the cows to rotate through the pens even if I don't intend on working them. Just to let them get use to the routine of going in and out of them. That means that every 30-40 days, they will walk in and out of them. We will gather weights and data, every 90 days, so that we will be able to tell what type of Average Daily Gains (ADG) we are getting. By rotating them through each time, they get use to the gates, the tub, the alley, and the chute. Hearing the sound of the metal rattle and echoes of the moos. Without structure and routine, there is mass confusion, and when working cattle by yourself, you just can't allow that.

We will be getting a pole barn built over the top so that they will be out of the sun and it will be a great place for when we go to wean our calves next year.
****Note to all who have never weaned calves----you really need to have a good set of high panel pens for weaning your calves. If not, they will jump over them or go through them and be back to their mamas by day end.

Here is a little tour of the new set up. From a cows perspective. MOOOOOOO

This is the gate where the cows will enter

Once inside, the will be in a catch pen

They will walk around in a clockwise motion around the partition

Once around the partition, they will go towards the tub

The tub has a gate that comes out and allows the cows to walk in a half moon shape.

As the cows enter the tub, a swing gate is closed behind them and it locks each time they move forward so they cant reverse back.

At the end of the tub, they go into the Alley. You can adjust the width for bulls, cows, or calves so that they cant turn around once inside.

The alley leads to the chute. I like that they are closed panels because it helps the cattle not get scared by movement on the outside of the alley.

This is the chute where we will have our scale so that we can weigh the beeves every 90 days or so. We don't vaccinate, use chemical dewormers, fly repellents, or antibiotics, so the main reason will be for weighing the animals.

This is the work area that can also be used as an alternate pen

Once out of the chute, they will either go to the going to processor side.

Or through this next gate

Where they will go into this next pen to be turned back out to pasture.

The holding pens are pretty good size, 20'x40'

Whether loading in the trailer or going back out to pasture, this will be the gate you leave out.

I really like the idea of semi permanent portable pens because they really are easy to set up and move around.

I was at the fire station when they came out and put them up where I told them to over the phone. Well, when I got home and started to look at them, I realized where I told them to put them was underneath the power lines. I can't put a pole barn in the easement so right away, I got to take them apart and move them. I moved the whole set of pens about 150' away by myself using a tractor of course in about 6 hrs. So I highly recommend them.

So this is the new addition to the farm which I am so excited to get to use. I have about 2 weeks till they rotate around to them. Come on guys, hurry up and eat already.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Egg Mobile Progress

Well we worked on the egg mobile for a bit today and finally got all the framing done by this evening. You don't realize how hard that old steel gets over the years. Now that all the framing is up, putting all the tin on should go pretty fast. Should, but you know how that goes.

We got to get a little bit of the tin on before night time so after seeing it coming together, I think it may actually work. We live right off the highway so we want to get a mural painted on the side for farm fresh eggs. It will be like having a 24' billboard moving around.

The cows are doing amazing. There is a tremendous difference in moving them 2-3 times a day vs 1 like we were usually doing it. They are wiping it clean, weeds and all, in a matter of about 6 hrs per 3/4 acre. It will be interesting to see how the grasses recover with the amounts of urea and manure that are being put into each paddock.

The paddock on the right will get 30-40 days of rest before the cows rotate around to it again.

Tomorrows grass

I thought we might get a bit of a small shower to end the day but that too passed. It was very pretty though I thought.

I get to be a fireman tomorrow so the farm chores will have to be done by Aunt Debbie and my amazing wife. What a pair they are.