Friday, November 16, 2007

Egg Tidbits

During the summer, I fed the laying hens a blend of 18% broiler feed and cracked corn, about 1-1 proportions. They picked up the rest of their protein needs from the insects on pasture, and crushed oyster shells were supplied free choice separately for calcium. In early November I ran out of cracked corn, so they got the straight 18% feed for a few days. The egg production almost immediately jumped from 4-6 eggs per day to 6-8 eggs per day! It makes sense, since there are fewer insects available now. So they will continue to receive the higher protein feed for as long as they continue laying this winter.

Some of the eggs were looking pretty big, so I looked up the weight requirements for the different sizes. According to this USDA publication,

Size or weight classMin net weight/dozenMin weight/egg
Jumbo30 ounces2.5 ounces
Extra Large27 ounces2.25 ounces
Large24 ounces2.0 ounces
Medium21 ounces1.75 ounces
Small18 ounces1.5 ounces
Peewee15 ounces1.25 ounces

The most recent dozen eggs had a net weight of 26 ounces, so they were nearly Extra-Large. I need a more accurate scale to measure the individual eggs, since my kitchen scale only has marks for ounces. Still, if my pullets are laying such large eggs now, just imagine how big they should be after they fully mature.

The hens will be moving into their winter quarters (the brooder house) tomorrow. It's not too cold for them to be out on pasture, but we've now entered the fall rainy season, and it's pretty muddy out there. If I let them stay, they'll cause a lot of damage to the pasture. There's not a whole lot left for them to eat out there, anyway.

Agriculture Resources

After reading some great excerpts from old agriculture books, I've decided to collect as many as I can find that are pre-1940. I found some very promising ones at the Antique Mall in Barnesville.

Agriculture Yearbook, 1924. Topics include hay, poultry, and weather, as well as the agricultural statistics for the year.

Yearbook of Agriculture, 1935. Includes the previous year of agriculture, new developments, and statistics.

Yearbook of Agriculture, 1936. Topic: Genetics and the improvement of plants and animals. No statistics, because this was the first year that they were moved to their own volume.

Pork Production, by William W. Smith. 1937. Extensive information on all phases of pork production, including several chapters on forage and several more on feeding other agricultural by-products (skim milk, whey, etc).

Old McDonald Had A Farm, by Angus McDonald. 1942. This one is actually a biography, but I couldn't resist after reading the author's note at the beginning.

"This book is about my father, James Angus McDonald, and how he labored to make a good farm out of a poor one. I lived on this farm with him and my brother, sister, and mother from 1912 to 1922, near Sallisaw, Oklahoma."

I have no idea if it will be any good, but there might be some agricultural gems hidden in the prose.

There was also a cardboard box filled with herd registry books for the American Jersey Cattle Club from the 1890s. The entire box was $50 and I was really tempted to buy it, just because I like poring over that sort of thing. Plus, if I ever get into full-sized dairy cattle, Jerseys are probably what I would get. I managed to restrain myself, although if the box is still there next time I go down there, I may not be able to resist again. Other than the registry books, I pretty much cleaned them out of agriculture books.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Some Musings on Future Endeavors

Potential Projects for 2008


Cattle: I would like to get a couple of 18-month-old steers next spring to graze our pastures. They would be slaughtered in the fall.

  • Layers: This year's hens should really start producing a lot of eggs in the spring. I would like to build a hoophouse green house for winter poultry keeping, so that I can have more than twelve hens. I'll also be buying another batch of chicks.
  • Broilers: Since I actually have the pasture pen finished now, I'll go ahead and get a batch or two of Cornish cross broilers. I'll also probably get the next batch of layer chicks straight-run, so that the cockerels can also be used as broilers. Perhaps I'll also attempt to caponize a few of them.

Ducks: The ducks will be the advance forces in the war against brain worm. I need to look through the duck breeds and see which are the best foragers. I also plan to get Muscovies to keep the fly population down near the goats.

Goats: We'll continue with the Boers, hopefully getting a good kid crop in the spring. I will be keeping all of the good-quality doelings for future breeding. I'm also looking for a dairy goat this fall to provide milk starting in the spring.

Pigs: While Paul is gone, pigs will be in the garden area tilling the soil and eating weeds. I will be planting oats behind them in the summer for winter forage and to keep weeds to a minimum.

Turkeys: Turkeys have been such a disaster this year that I'm not sure I want to try them again so soon. I'll have to make that decision next summer.


Fencing: I want to finish the perimeter fence around the forest next year. I also want to divide the forest into paddocks so that I don't have to use the electric netting out there. I'd like to save it for the dairy goat on pasture.

Poultry House: With the addition of ducks to my flock, I'll need more space than the brooder for winter housing. I'll probably get a hoophouse kit to build a combination poultry house for the ducks and layers.

Water: I plan to dig out a very small pond at the base of the spring run-off and put a second storage tank nearby. The tank would provide water to the forest paddocks so that the other tank can be used only for the pastures.

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Few More Goat Notes

I'm beginning to see a pattern here:

The only hitch was that early in the process, Nieuw apparently jumped the fence into the next paddock, although neither of us saw her do it.

One section of fence sagged enough that R6 Nieuw got out.

Yesterday, I caught her in the act. She's been going under the fence, not over. Since the bottom-most strand of the electric netting is neutral, she's discovered that she can flip it up with her nose and scoot under, especially if the fence is "floating" on top of heavy vegetation. So yesterday I had to chase all the goats back into their previous paddock and then use my scythe to cut a fenceline for the netting. Once it was flush with the ground, I staked down each section with tent pegs. It seems to have worked, because everyone was still in their paddock this morning.

Also, Bubba seems to have figured out not to stick his head through the fence, because I haven't had to rescue him since the last time I posted about it. So he got a reprieve from wearing a pvc pipe across his horns.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Working the Goats

Paul and I spent the morning catching goats, deworming, trimming hooves and determining ages. It was downright relaxing compared to the rodeo of last time. This time, I had a cattle panel bent into a half circle and held in place with T-posts (actually, this was the remains of Bubba's pen.) I had set up their paddock fence so that one end ran flush with the cattle panel, so any goats that ran that way hit a dead end. It worked pretty much flawlessly, and since it was so easy to catch each goat the remaining ones never got too worked up.

The only hitch was that early in the process, Nieuw apparently jumped the fence into the next paddock, although neither of us saw her do it. We just left her for last so that she thought she'd gotten away with it, then snuck up and cornered her. Her "shortcut" turned out to be not so short, since we had to drag her all the way back to the first paddock to be treated, and then all the way back to the new one.

Based on how today went, I have a few ideas for building an actual working pen. It will be made of wire panels and T-posts, so if it needs to be tweaked (or completely changed), it will be easy enough. I did a quick sketch of the plan in Paint, so it's pretty ugly but hopefully it makes sense (click on it to see larger version).

The chute is pointing at the driveway so that a trailer could be backed up to it for easy loading. I estimate that it should cost less than $500 to build, with the majority of the cost coming from the panels. That's a far cry from the multiple thousands you can spend for pre-made working equipment. Since I doubt we would ever have more than 30 breeding does on this property at once, we don't need the fancy equipment.