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7 Stockmanship Lessons for Success

Pigs raised outdoors.by Kelly Klober

I was raised in a house full of books and given a pretty broad view of my world from the seat of an old Studebaker pickup, atop many a sale barn gate, and perched on straw bales at livestock shows and breeder auctions. Dad began and ended each day with the stock, and I believe he could eventually spot one just when it was starting to get sick.

That highlights lesson one of my continuing life course of study in stockmanship. It is, simply, go out and go out often to look at, listen to and really study the animals in your charge.

1. OBSERVATION

Thirty minutes just before full light and just before sunset are optimal times to walk among the creatures in your care. During those times they are generally more closely grouped, are settling in or rising up from a night of rest and are more easily approached for closer examination. These are also times when livestock are more vulnerable to predation. Continue Reading →

Snap! Build a Weasel Trap to Protect Your Poultry

It’s another idyllic evening on your patch of rural heaven. Tired from a long day, you drop off to the Land of Nod, but all is not peaceful in the kingdom this night. A feathered commotion shatters your slumber. What could it be? Grabbing the flashlight, and perhaps your trusty scattergun, you plunge into the inky darkness to defend your livestock. Needless to say, mayhem ensues and your light reveals your worst fears. A weasel has been on a murderous rampage. What do you do when nature invades the coop? Bite back!

Few wild creatures have the reputation for barnyard mayhem that the tiny weasel does. A member of the mustelid family, it shares the same bloodlust as its cousins the mink and wolverine. Tipping the scales at just a few ounces and barely a foot long, this tiny hunter is well-equipped for relentless pursuit of a meal. Slim and slinky, it is astounding the cracks they can crawl through to get at a rabbit hutch. Poultry fencing is no barrier either, and they can find a way into any building.

Continue Reading →

A Passion for Quality Meat

This article appears in the March 2016 issue of Acres U.S.A.

by Samm Simpson

Alice and Simon Carter (front) with Lucy, Amanda, Matilda and Will Carter on their farm in North Carolina.

Alice and Simon Carter (front) with Lucy, Amanda, Matilda and Will Carter on their farm in North Carolina.

In 2007 Amanda Carter discovered the underbelly of the industrial food system after she and her husband, Will, drove from North Carolina to Washington state in their newly converted grease-powered panel truck.

Carter wrote a research paper on yellow grease, replete with details on roadkill, chicken carcasses and scraps being recycled into animal feed. She decided her family would never eat commercially fed animal protein again.

“We’d already eliminated trans fats, HFCS, hydrogenated oils, Red #40 and artificial flavors, so we decided we’d raise our own meat.”

The Carters experimented with broilers and rabbits and practiced humane backyard processing while introducing Simon and Alice, their first two children, to farm life. Carter developed a feed business, driving 800-mile round-trips to buy and supply non-GMO feed for her 150 customers. She crafted a newsletter with an eye to animal handling, health and ever-changing government regulations. Continue Reading →

Integrating Poultry into Multi-Species Operations

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With the right tools for alternative feeding systems and pasture enrichment, farmers can successfully incorporate poultry into free-range, multi-species pasture or agroforestry production, based on the results of a USDA-ARS Arkansas study. The Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE)-funded project, “Integrating Free Range Poultry with Ruminant and Agroforestry Production in a Systems Approach,” examines the various ways pasture can be used as a resource in ecological poultry production.

“In ecological poultry production, using a pasture resource effectively can be key to sustainability. You can use the pasture to its full benefits, but the challenge for farmers is to know how to do it,” said Anne Fanatico, an assistant professor at Appalachian State University in North Carolina.

Fanatico and her colleagues looked at alternative feeding systems, parasite control and pasture enrichment.

“When integrating poultry with other animal species on pasture or agroforestry systems, high-quality forage can be an important source of nutrients for poultry, but the birds also need a concentrated source of feed, particularly energy feed because they do not ferment fiber like ruminant animals do,” said Fanatico.

The researchers studied two feeding systems: free-choice feed and choice feeding as an alternative to fully formulated diets that can make use of the pasture resource.

In the choice feeding studies, researchers found that birds on a fully formulated diet gained more weight than those on a choice feeding diet. However, feed efficiency in the choice feeding diet was greater and was less expensive.

This report appears in the May 2015 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Thinking Outside the Nestbox ─ Getting Started with Alternative Poultry

ducks

by Kelly Klober

A few times in my life I have found myself on a very old homestead. When visiting them I am nearly always impressed at how they are laid out in such a thoughtful and efficient manner. On nearly every one a section of the farmyard was given over to poultry care, a poultry yard. Not a chicken yard, but a segment of the all-important farmyard given over to brooding, rearing and maintaining all manner of poultry that were kept for meat and eggs.

Yes, large fowl chickens were generally the primary birds kept, but turkeys, ducks, geese, guineas and more were also often kept — first for the needs of the family and then for sale into local markets where regional favorites developed. One such item is fried young guinea that is a late-summer and fall favorite here in eastern Missouri. A short time back our local farmers’ market did a survey of poultry producers as part of a SARE grant-funded project. The group surveyed included attendees at one of the Acres U.S.A. conferences.
One of the more telling things that the survey revealed is that while most kept large fowl chickens, over half kept one or two more varieties of poultry. A good many actually kept as many as four different poultry species. Continue Reading →