Fall/Winter Farming Goals

My Mom and I have a lot of thing we have to do on the farm this winter. But it is so hot out besides the morning when we do our smaller chores.  So we are saving our bigger projects for when it is cool out.

Pigs:

  1. Continue working on pasture management
  2. Keep accurate health records and keep up on vaccinations.
  3. Plan future breedings.

Chickens: 

To save money, we are going to process our barred rocks, so we won’t be feeding them when they aren’t laying in the winter. We collected some of their eggs. We have the silkies hatching them right now. In the spring they should start laying.

Sell hatching eggs and baby chicks from our Lavender Ameraucanas. Use the money to pay for chicken feed.

Lilac Heritage Turkeys:

  1. We are getting another lilac hen for a trio.
  2. Keep moving them around in the chicken tractor.
  3. Collect all the turkey eggs that we can so we can hatch turkey poults.
  4. Raise the lilac turkeys and process the other colors.

Blanc De Hotot Rabbits:

  1. Have our first litters of kits. Raise all the best quality rabbits for breeding and the not as good ones for meat.

We bred one doe already and we are waiting to see if she is pregnant. We will breed the other doe when she is ready.

 Cortunix Quail:

  1. Keep hatching baby quail and process the older not needed males.

Building:

  1. Completely re-do the electric fence.
  2. Finish the other 3 chicken tractors.
  3. Add a hog panel divider in between  every pasture.
  4. Finish greenhouse.
  5. Get gutters and lean twos on the car port.
  6. Maybe? french drains.
  7. Better shade structures.
  8. Create two more wooded pastures.
  9. Revamp our second farrowing stall.
  10. Revamp our water barrel waterers.

 

Advertisements

Getting the Pastures Ready for Fall

Today I am going to write about the pasture management My Mom and I have been doing over the past few weeks.

Our pastures haven’t been the best this summer. They are filled with weeds due to how acidic the soil is from pine trees being there originally. It also didn’t help that it didn’t rain at all when we seeded them and then birds came and ate most of it. Daily, we have been pulling out the worst weeds to ever exist- sickle pod and horse nettle. We have pulled out countless gravel bags of sickle pod , filled the wheel barrow up and dumped it into the woods or taken it to the dump. Sickle pod is very toxic to livestock.

cassia-tora_41

horsenettle9-10c.jpg

To make less weeds grow in our pastures, we have been adding agricultural lime to them. Adding lime to a pasture is very important as it:

  •  Raises soil pH making it less acidic
  • It increases nutrients availability and stimulates microbial & earthworm activity
  • Lime decreases the availability of toxic elements
  • It helps stabilize soil structure with the addition of calcium

Normal powdered agricultural lime requires a expensive agricultural spreader to work. So we bought fast acting pelletized lime. This is different from regular pelletized lime as it works faster. It should start to take effect when it gets wet. Hopefully it does its job. We added 640 pounds to our first pasture and 600 to the second. Next summer we will have our soil tested to figure out what we need to add for better pasture health. We are adding lime for now as it is the most used way to increase soil health.

Our two back pastures are very nice, they also have barely any weeds. This is due to the previous owner of the land tilling and liming the area regularly. I hope we can get our front two pastures like them.

14191532_1119931051423481_147822510_o.jpg

In the fall we will be seeding our pastures again with a  pasture seed called Kentucky 32 fescue, oat grass, red clover, and a forage mix containing a blend of brassicas, clover, field peas, turnip. Kentucky 32 withstands heat and drought and its vigorous growth beats weeds, diseases, insect infestations and it is Endophyte free. Endophytes are a fungi that are transmitted through the seeds to the  grass or plant. It is toxic to insects. It is toxic to livestock so you don’t want to seed a pasture with anything that contains endophyte.

Our goal for the pastures it to kill off the weeds and always have a new seed growing in so the animals always have something to eat. With a lot of work it will eventually happen.

Updated Farm Goals: July 2016 “Mega Update”

Here is our list of updated farm goals. We are hoping to do one of these every three months to see what we got done and catch you up with what’s going on on the farm. 

This post written by Connor and Cristiana.

 Check out our photo gallery, then scroll down to see what we got done and what’s up next!

PIGS

Accomplished:

  • Shelters & two farrowing stalls– DONE
  • Fence – DONE, but will be expanding woodlots in the Fall
  • Rotational grazing – DONE, pasture management- in progress
  • Frodo DNA Test – DONE, unfortunately inconclusive. Since Frodo can’t be registered, we will be processing him within the next few months, as we can’t have an intact/unregistered boar in our herd.
  • 2 Sows bred and on homestead – DONE
  • Not on the January list, but we got a Karakachan livestock guardian dog and are training him to be full time with the pigs. DONE- but training is constant!
  • Piglets born April/May- DONE! Cassie farrowed 4/21, Chickie farrowed 5/2 for a total of 11 live piglets out of 12.
  • Build small pig shelters in rotational pastures for summer shelter – DONE
  • Sell higher quality piglets for breeding or pets, keep lower quality for meat- IN PROGRESS. We sold a few piglets as pets, are keeping one as a herd barrow, possibly donating two barrows into 4H and raising two larger gilts out for processing.
  • Built sun shade areas for pigs in each pasture with wallows, kiddie pools and rain barrel watering systems.
  • Built another small piglet pasture, safe within the central garden area. Also can be used for warm weather farrowing if we add crush rails to the shelter.
  • Learned all about vaccinating pigs for various things, how to give vaccinations and establish a vaccination/worming schedule. The importance of herd immunity, even on a small farm or homestead. We are keeping an online, detailed health record for each pig and litter of piglets.

Upcoming Pig Goals:

  • Frodo and Tiberius to processing at Carolina Grower’s Group. This will be our first experience with Kunekune pork, which is supposed to be amazing pastured pork. We’ve been giving these guys the best diet possible- Non-GMO feed, lots of grazing pasture and supplemental produce. And love. They will provide food for us for many months, lard for cooking and soap making, and other parts ground for use in making dog treats!
  • Welcoming our new registered piglets from Suwannee Valley Kunekunes! We worked hard on a business plan and application for the USDA Youth Loan, and it’s been accepted, allowing us to finally have registered Kunekunes here on our farm. We welcome Hilda- a ginger Jenny/Andrew gilt, Anna- a black/white Rona/Tonganui gilt, Dante- a cream/tri Mahia Love/Wilson’s Gina boarling, Giuseppe- a black/white Tonganui/Wilson’s Gina boarling
  • Building a new pair of sleeping stalls, on higher ground- in our central pasture area. We’ve had water drainage issues! Possible plans might be creating another carport barn with two large and very secure stalls- one for boars, one for sows… they would sleep in these stalls and be moved out to their pasture areas early in the morning. This will help us keep them separate and prevent any accidental breedings.
  • Dealing with water drainage issues in farrowing stalls and barn- we need to install a series of gutters, and lean-to roofs, rain barrels and water cachement/drainage. Our farrowing stalls quickly became flooded when the Spring rains began… we hope these upgrades will solve the problem.
  • Adding two square woodlot pastures in back- these will be nice large, shaded pastures. Plentiful area to forage, lots of oak trees dropping acorns.
  • Continued pasture management/seeding- We are working hard at removing weeds and trees from the pasture that pigs won’t eat. It’s been hard to get any new seed established during what’s been an extremely dry and hot summer. We also got two goats to help eat down the weeds.
  • Revamping electric fencing- we turned the electric off during farrowing and while the piglets grew up, and it has been damaged in many places by the pigs and our LGD during that time. We have a lot of work to do on it.
  • Adding a second breed of pig to our herd. This is a surprise! We’ve put a deposit down on a breeding pair of a unique, Heritage Breed pig. The gilt should be born soon, and the boar in the Fall. We’ll tell you more soon…
  • Experiment with growing Fodder for Chickens and Pigs to eat in winter.

CHICKENS

Accomplished:

  • Chicken coops assembled – DONE
  • Safe chicken runs made (three of them) – DONE
  • Getting eggs by spring– DONE
  • Eggs to sell- DONE
  • Selling chicks/hatching eggs– DONE
  • Our chicken goals have advanced quickly! Not only did we meet mostly all our goals, we exceeded them. We have three Ameraucana breeding pens, a group of laying hens just for eggs (Easter Eggers/Barred Rocks), a breeding trio of black mottled bantam Cochins, and two Silkies, one which is currently sitting on a nest. We started incubating eggs and hatching chicks, and have 27 Ameraucana chicks growing out right now. We will choose the best of them for next year’s breeding pens.
  • Building chicken tractors to move breeding groups to pasture area- the area where we built our runs is very wet, so it isn’t a good place for them. – ONE COMPLETE, THREE IN PROGRESS
  • Get some meat chickens to raise out- IN PROGRESS
  • Get some bantam Cochin chicks- DONE – we have buff barred, smooth and frizzle black mottled Cochins, all hatched on our farm
  • Choose chickens to use for breeding program, and sell the rest.
  • Guinea eggs are in the incubator, and hatching at end of month. We want guineas for tick control and because they’re so cool to watch.- DONE, 14 guineas are growing out!
  • Possibly quail- for meat and eggs- DONE, 23 quail grown and due to lay their first eggs
  • Possibly NPIP testing in the Fall, so we can ship hatching eggs and chicks- IN PROGRESS, waiting for appt. times.
  • Experiment with growing Fodder for Chickens and Pigs to eat in winter.

Upcoming Goals:

  • Completing chicken tractors for our breeding pens (3-4 remaining, first one turned out awesome)
  • Choosing which birds we keep to breed. Unwanted roosters will be sold, or processed for our freezer.
  • Getting NPIP/AI certification so we can sell/ship hatching eggs/chicks
  • Awaiting our first quail eggs and learning how to process quail for meat. Possibly selling quail eggs, or hatching more quail to sell.
  • Releasing guinea fowl to free range, once they are NPIP/AI tested and leg banded.
  • Moving small wood chicken coops to a more shady area. Will require some man-power!
  • Reworking quail pen frame and putting a roof over it

GARDEN GOALS

Accomplished:

  • Got garden beds assembled, thanks to an Upstate Farmers Helping Farmers event at our farm.
  • Built a cattle panel trellis between beds – DONE
  • Greenhouse halfway assembled- This greenhouse assembly was way past our skill set, so thank goodness for Upstate Farmers Helping Farmers!
  • Getting garden beds filled with mulch, compost, soil- DONE
  • Start seedlings or go to a plant sale to start summer garden, since we missed out on Spring preparation– DONE
  • Planting berry bushes- DONE, kind of- we got 4 blueberry bushes.
  • Finish greenhouse – need to add panels, windows and door. – NOT DONE!
  • Plant fruit trees – Apples, Pears, Peaches, Figs- DONE
  • Winter crops in greenhouse- NOT DONE, it’s not winter!
  • Selling produce– NOT DONE, maybe next year…

Upcoming Goals:

  • Add compost/soil to remaining metal raised beds
  • Start planning Fall planting
  • Continue adding compost to the “no till poop garden”
  • Work on establishing/planning perennial beds of herbs and things like artichokes, asparagus, etc…
  • Finish Greenhouse

OTHER GOALS:

  • Continue learning how to build things to use around the farm- pens, fencing, coops and hutches, etc. – STILL LEARNING< BUT WE BUILT A LOT OF STUFF!
  • Research heritage breed rabbits and choose a breed.- DONE! We now have a breeding trio of rare Blanc de Hotot rabbits.
  • Build a rabbit hutch- HAD ONE BUILT FOR US in trade for a piglet, and it’s wonderful.

Compost Management

Today I am going to write about compost management. I will tell you what is good and bad about it and some easy ways to manage it.

In a pasture having some waste is important as the animals grind it down into the soil where it fertilizes the ground. Also the sun and rain will break it down into soil. Having to much poop in a pasture though is unsanitary, it breeds bacteria which can get your animals sick.

When I first started farming I never realized how much poop there would be. So we decided to build a compost bin, but the pigs thought it would be a fun idea to break the compost bin and go through it all. So we decided to use a No-Dig No-Till idea. With the idea we laid down around a 20×40 area of cardboard for a weed barrier and for it to break down as well. Daily we pick up around a big bucket full of poop and threw it over the fence with other things like old food, baby chick brooder flakes, straw and hay, stuff from the gardens, etc. To pick it up we use a dog poop scooper and a bin.

To make a successful area like this you will need to make the foundation, then you will need to add a balance of the two types of compost which are:

  • Green compost

    grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, tea leaves, pretty much any plant matter.

 

  • Brown compost

    dry leaves, pine needles, straw, peat moss, poop, wood shavings

In about a year the area will be ready as it takes a year for pig poop to break down. When that time comes we will plant pumpkins, corn, watermelons and cantaloupe. This method is cool, it is very easy to make and take care of. I am excited to feed the pigs giant watermelons.

Easy Pig Shelters

Hello, today I am going to explain why having a shady, safe shelter for your pigs is so important, and some cheap, easy ones to build.

One of the most important parts of having livestock is that they need a nice, cool area to go in during the summer, and a warm, safe area in the cold. Shelters also provide a very nice relaxing area if there is no brush or trees around.

Build a shelter that fits the size of your animals and have good ventilation . Make sure the area stays dry and clean and has proper bedding, like hay. A pig that has no shelter during high temperatures can have heat stroke, because pigs don’t sweat to cool off.

  • Distress
  • Trembling
  • Red skin
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • A rise in temperatures
  • And even death

All things youo don’t want an animal to have.

At Corva Bella we have some shelters that are both cheap and easy to build.

We have our cattle panel shelter. Here’s what you need:

  1. six pallets (all same size, you can find pallets free at a lot of places)
  2. sixteen t-posts (5-6 foot, they are about $5 each)
  3. some zip ties (a bag of 100 is about $6)
  4. a tarp (8×10, medium weight is about $9)
  5. two cattle panels (From Tractor Supply, $23 each)

First put the pallets into a square shape with the t-posts holding them in.Next add the cattle panels inside in a U formation and a few more t posts to keep the shape. Then just add the tarp on top of them with zip ties. This shelter took under thirty minutes to make and was very easy. We added the seventh pallet for a wind break. (Final Cost $146)

Now here is our second shelter, this one we decided to use wood and surprisingly it is cheaper than the other one. Here’s what you need:

  • 4 Pallets (Same as above)
  • 2 fence posts ( $8 each)
  • 4 2x4s ( $2.50 each)
  • Wood fencing slats ( We got them for $1.50 each at Lowes) (we used 15 you may need more or less)
  • Two sheets of corrugated plastic roofing ( $13 a sheet)
  • Wood screws (8×2)
  • Roofing nails

First lay down the pallets in a square. Next connect the pallets together with the fencing slats. Then add the 2x4s on top with the wood screws and nail the plastic roofing on top. Dig two post holes 20 inches deep and add the posts in attaching them to the pallet with two slats. After that cut the boards to size and cover the opening all around leaving some area for ventilation ( we cut the slats in half on the sides so there could be some ventilation. (Final Cost $74.5) ( Also make sure that it is facing away from the sun so it stays cooler.)

 

Maybe in the future we will have a barn. But for now these shelters work just fine, The pigs really like to hang out in them.

Pasture Management

Today, I am going to talk a little bit about pasture management. It is very important knowledge to know when operating a farm. I will talk about what is good to have in a pasture and what is bad to have in a pasture.

IMG_1674

There are many types of grasses that you can have in a  pasture like orchard grass, rye grass, and Timothy grass . In a pasture it isn’t just all grass. For example legumes like alfalfa, clover peas, beans and clover are important in a pasture as they provide protein for the animal. Having nuts or fruit trees in or near a pasture is a good way to keep pigs fed. We are planting apple trees today and will plant our pecan trees soon.

Figuring out toxic plants in your pastures is very important here are a few toxic plants that are common. Fiddleneck , Lambs Quarters, and Pokeweed remove these immediately if you have any. 

In our pastures we have rye grass, oats, legumes, brassicas and clover. We planted the clover this spring but it hasn’t came up very much as it hasn’t rained much. We have been watering it by hand though. We have been watching what the pigs have not been eating and been pulling it out as we go. Every week or two we rotate the pigs into another pasture so the pastures have some time to recover.

In our second back pasture we have it wooded so the pigs can forage instead of graze. They have little tunnels dug in the leaves back there it is funny. We have oak trees in there so when they fall they can forage for nuts. If you have any feeder animals it is good to fatten them up on nuts before you take them to get processed.

Our farm is definitely different from what it looked like around six months ago, when we started working on it. Our goal for our pastures is to have plants growing year round. But for now we need to get some seed down that grows well in the summer.

Rotational Grazing on our small farm

If you don’t have massive expanses of pasture for continuous grazing you should look into rotational grazing, as it is an amazing way to make use of small areas. Rotational grazing is a strategy used to maximize small areas. Using multiple pastures livestock are moved into a certain pasture for a couple days where they will eat it down and move onto the next. The pastures that have been eaten down will regrow in the time it takes the livestock to get back to it. This will let you always have a grass filled pasture for your livestock when others are regrowing.

With our farm we made 5 different pastures to switch between. During the day we open up Pasture one or two or four and five depending on how the height of the grass is doing. When it starts to get dark we move them into their main pasture which is number three. We are raking up all the mulch that is left over from the pine forest and will be seeding when we finish. In the future we may and more pastures. During the summer we will have the pigs in pasture one and two the most because it is wooded and pigs love to forage.