Hard to believe it is middle of May already! The cold hung on for longer than we would have liked and now it seems like summer is already here, especially when storms roll across the fields with warm air and gorgeous cloud patterns.
As we prepare for our Market Season, I wanted to share some updates about the Farm...
Free Range Eggs
Our 300 heritage egg laying birds are full grown now and are anxiously awaiting their new coop to arrive. We have purchased a spacious, comfortable, shaded home for them to sleep in. It’s a 20x36’ mobile range coop, that is on 2” pipe skids so we can drag it around where we want them to be. They really only sleep in it, since they spend the day foraging our pastures and following our main herd of cattle around our 40 acres. And the egg laying has begun! This month we have started to see just small and medium sized eggs and only from the early birds. That’s how chickens do it when they first start laying. But by middle of June I expect we will have plenty of large and extra-large eggs every day. For now, the birds are still hanging out at our “maternity ward”, the farm with our pregnant cows. However, as more calves are born, the momma cows don’t seem as tolerant with the chickens. But that’s just how mommas are...
Grass-Fed and Finished Beef
We have had quite an interesting season with the mommas, too many stories for this blog post. Most of the ladies have waited for the cold weather to pass and had their calves these past two weeks. So far, we have 2 beautiful heifers and as of this morning, 4 energetic bull calves born this spring. It’s an exciting time to be at that point on the farm when a calf could come at any time. We are still expecting 4 more...
Unfortunately, our broiler season got off to a late start. The slowest time of the year for us financially (late winter to early spring) coincides with the time of the year that we have the most costs. We were unable to get the funds we needed to get broiler season going, until recently. So, our pasture raised chicken won’t be ready until end of June at the earliest.
This year we will offer two different types of chicken. The chicken that is raised for meat 99% of the time is called a Cornish Cross. It’s an all-white bird, that reaches 4-6 lbs. at just 6-9 weeks old. Americans are so used to this chicken, that we decided to raise them as well - but raised and fed with our natural, clean practices.
We will also offer a different breed of chicken; a red feathered bird named the Freedom Ranger. In France, they offer a certification of sorts, for food that meets a different standard, such as a slower growing animal. It is called Label Rouge and this bird meets the standard. I have raised them before and notice the differences in body proportions. The legs and wings are bigger, the breasts are more narrow, not quite as white, and a little smaller.
Both birds will be amazing. We raise them all the same way. They are in a brooder (controlled temperature environment) until they are about 3 weeks old. Then they are moved to their movable range coop, where they live outside and get fresh pasture every day. All our birds get a non-GMO feed that we buy from an Amish feed mill. The difference in a chicken that is raised outside, in the sunshine, eating pasture plants and bugs, is amazing!
We spent some time this winter expanding pig haven. We use semi-permanent steel hog panels around the perimeter of the area we set aside for the pigs and this spot is now over several acres. Then we use electric fencing within this area, so we can move them to fresh pastures on a regular basis. No, they aren’t cattle, but they absolutely do eat pasture plants. There are videos of them on our website. It completely changes the type of fat they put on their bodies. When they eat green pasture plants, they add omega 3 fats. We will be picking up our piglets soon, probably near end of May. If you have any special requests, or want a roaster pig for this summer, now is the best time to let us know.
It may not technically be spring yet, but Spring preparations are in full swing at our farm. While we anxiously await the birth of 10 more calves, the melting of the snow and warmer temps mean the winter “break” is over. Of course we take the winter off ...right? Not really, but some people think that. Winter does mean less work, but everything is more difficult; for instance hoses have to be emptied out of every drop of water or they are frozen the next time you want to use them. Just getting to the farm is a challenge some winter days and when you get there, the farm road is often impassible even in a 4wd truck.
Now that most of that is over, the real work begins. We are increasing the size of our pig haven, so we can move them around even more. I think the area will be close to 5-6 acres now, just for the pigs.
We are purchasing two larger and more mobile chicken coops, one for the egg laying chickens and one for the chickens we raise for meat. Picture a “hoop house” 20’ x 36’ on metal skids, open air and the top covered with shade cloth. This allows us to drag the building to fresh pasture every day, giving the birds fresh grass and bugs, while leaving the droppings to fertilize the soil (and doing away with the chore of shoveling out the coop). The birds will enjoy 24/7 fresh air, sunshine and pasture. The egg laying chickens will only use the coop for sleeping quarters, as we will allow them access to free range our entire 27 acre pasture during the day. Most farms fence their chickens into a small area, or at most put them on pasture but fence up to 1000 birds into one small section of the pasture. We know from experience that the best eggs come from true free ranging birds, who get to forage where and what they want for food.
We are trying to keep up with the demand for clean, honest, organically and humanely raised meats. The response from last year was incredible, we had so much positive feedback and your support has been much appreciated. Please try to understand that even though some of our supply may be low right now, this is the time of year when our financial costs are the highest. Infrastructure has to be purchased (such as the two chicken coops mentioned above), additional fencing has to be put in, there are livestock and feed costs, etc. All of this has to be done now, in order to provide you with the products you want later. We really do need and appreciate your support year round, but especially at this time of the year.
We will have true free range eggs starting in May or June. We started 300 heritage egg laying birds in the middle of December, so we could provide you with eggs by the beginning of summer. These birds take up to six months before they start laying eggs.
If all goes according to plan, we will be able to provide you with a lot more chicken this year. We hope to raise enough chickens during the season to supply you with chicken year round. We believe strongly that the birds need to be raised out on pasture, so we only raise them during certain months. Right now the season has been delayed slightly while we try to procure funds for the coops we need. As soon as that is taken care of, we will have chicken again 7-8 weeks later.
Our next batch of beef should be available the beginning of July, after they have had a few months of fresh grass again. They have been eating hay (dried grasses) all winter but we like to finish them up on fresh grass. A second, larger batch will be available in the Fall 2018. We still have 100% grass fed beef to supply you, but are out of the prime cuts until June/July.
There is still plenty of pork available from this past Fall, and we hope this gets us through the Summer. Our 2018 batch of hogs will be started soon and available late Summer and early Fall. We plan to have a limited supply of whole pigs for roasting this year. Please let us know if you are interested, ordering ahead of time is the best way to secure one of these. As mentioned before, they have to be started now in order to be ready when you want them.
Once again, thank you for your support and we look forward to talking and working with you again this year!