Category Archives: turkeys

Busy Spring

I am horrible at keeping up with everything that is going on within my life and on the farm right now. I am horrible at time management when it comes to blogging too. I apologize for this and will work harder at doing better at staying in touch and keeping all informed of what’s happening.

Update on Fencing: Still nothing started. Another meeting scheduled for on the farm this afternoon that will hopefully change that.

Update on calving: Including the calf born in February, we are up to 4 new calves born this year. Three of which are heifers!!!! The newest one came last night at around 11 pm. We have just one more to calf. I’m almost hoping it’s a bull so that we have something around to raise for beef.

Update on grazing: Things have been going good. We have extended the rotational grazing out to total around 13 acres for the time being. It’s still all set up with step in posts and single strand braided wire but it’s working 99.9% of the time. We have had just one issue since Spring turn out in April. That was Monday morning…I will explain more further in the section on new seeding.

Update on crops: I am excited to report that the entire farm is now replanted in GRASS! No more bare ground at all!!! So if anyone is interested in a good old Brillion seeder, give me a shout! The last 26 acres planted on May 18 is growing good. The forage oats and grasses are growing great…well, other than where they were grazed due to loose animals anyway. They only “clipped” a few of the tops and minimal damage was done thankfully. Some of the growth is now to our knees! First cutting will be ready before we know it!
Last years new seeding came in fabulous this year! We’ve had some issues with harvest…so let’s discuss the next topic.

Update on Spring Hay Harvest: This is the one area that we are having a horrible time. Between the rain and inconsistant people who have backed out on us (three to be exact) we still have yet to get first cutting done. Last years new seeding is all headed out and not necessarily a bad thing but it would still be nice to get the grasses cut since they are as tall as I am at 5’8″ now.

All in all, it’s been a busy and productive spring. Even with the issues we face as a small farm with limited capabilities, we are managing. Are we managing to the extent we want to be? That’s a big NO. Unfortunately, without the purchase of equipment we don’t have funds for, we just have to go with what other’s working with us do. At some point, this will be easier due to the fact that we do have our own equipment but until then we will make do. Hopefully we aren’t spending out another $1,000 for hay over the winter again.

We have lots of irons in the fire between the beef, dairy and poultry. Between the eggs, meat and milk we are doing okay. But that’s just it…okay. Not great, not fabulous. I hate feeling that we are in a rut but it drives me to work that much harder to get things done. I’m optimistic that someday, I will be able to kind of sit back and be able to look around saying, LOOK at everything that has been done. LOOK at the struggles we overcame! Nothing that’s rewarding ever comes easy and the struggles make us remember how important hard work and dedication are.

I’m out for now…more work to get done. Big meeting to prepare for and hopefully a little more good news by the end of the day today!

 

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Goin’ Crazy

Things have been kind of busy around here lately. Cheese making has become a high priority item lately. I think we have made about 10 lbs this week alone….

The animals are all doing well. Two of the Dexter’s have lost their mucus plugs this week…so within the next month or so we should have a couple of new calves floating around here! I am so excited. One of the Dexter’s has hit the extremely uncomfortable stage of her pregnancy. She is exhibiting that maternal instinct to remove herself from the herd and spends most of her time nosing the hay to create a “bed”.

My chickens are doing really well. I think the additional whey they are getting from the cheese making process is making them lay more eggs. I have been pulling on average about 35-36 eggs per day. That means I am running an overall group laying ratio of 80%. Of course if I deducted the 8 hens that are too old to lay….I would be at almost 100%!

Unbelievable, all of our eggs are being sold locally to a few neighbors but the majority are going to the Amish….Crazy huh? Who would have thought that? Not me. Not ever.

Our milk cow is producing milk like crazy. All three of the calves are still drinking milk, which is much longer than I normally would give them milk…but it’s cheap food for them. They are really growing well too. The bull calf that was born this last fall is going to stay on milk for most of his time here as we are attempting our first calf as rose veal.

It’s almost time for the turkeys to start laying their eggs too. The toms have starting battling for dominance already…just doesn’t seem possible that it’s that time of year already. Tonight I am going to tackle the ordeal of getting the saddles on the hens to prevent skin tearing when the toms breed them. They are handy little “capes” that go around the wings and protect them from the base of their neck to their tail. I hate putting them on but, it is better than allowing the tops to tear out their feathers and ripe through the hide on their backs.

We will be heading off to the NY Farm show tomorrow…so hopefully, Saturday I will be able to find some time to share the photos and highlights of the day. It also means that I have lots to do today to make up for the lost farm time tomorrow….need to get more hay in the barns, pick up feed and make sure that everyone is well stocked so that all we need to do in the morning is get up, do milking and feeding and then be able to get ready to head out the door…..

Phew….I am tired already just thinking about it! Anyways, time to make a run to the feed store so I can get my cheese started before it gets too late and I end up staying up half the night to finish it…..

God Bless and Have a great day!

Diversity on the Farm

Diversity on the Farm: What is it?

For the last decade, I think I can safely say, that most farms have produced just one or maybe two items. Dairy farms produce milk and Ranches produce beef. Grain farms produce soy, cotton, wheat and other grains like oats. Cotton growers produce cotton and vegetable farms produce vegetables. The list goes on and on.

As times have changed and advanced machinery has become more readily available, it seems that most farms either “go big or go home”. Too bad this leaves us dependent upon markets to determine whether we will have a profitable year or not.

Is there a solid solution? I think the simple answer is YES!

Diversity comes in many different forms. It is crucial for the survival of a small farm.

As a producer, how do you get the most bang for your buck? You have to think in terms of a commodity broker, salesman and ultimately a consumer.

Maybe the combination of beef and eggs doesn’t sound good to you unless it’s on your breakfast plate…but, ultimately it may just save the farm. By raising chickens to go along with your beef farm, you create market diversity.

Profitability is always key. Knowing the when’s and why’s are also just as important. As a farmer, it is key to look at the futures market to give yourself an awareness of some potential pitfalls that can be seen. If grain prices are expected to skyrocket, maybe it isn’t profitable for your farm to raise chickens to supply eggs within the local market. If your input costs are nearly as much as what the local market says is a good price per dozen of eggs, you need to consider if having those chickens is really worth the time and effort.

Beef is different. Maybe you have been considering a rotational pasture grazing with minimal inputs of grains or no grains at all. If grain prices are expected to go up, now is the time to take a step back and make a business decision. Don’t get locked into the bubble of: “We have always feed grains, so we are going to stick with what we have always done.”

Too many farms that I have been working with or been on lately seem to have that mentality. If you are one of those farms, I think you need a little wake up call. Okay, maybe a big one in my personal opinion.

If you are operating a farm and are selling goods from your farm to a consumer, you are a business! No matter how you want to argue otherwise, you are a business.

I am now going to give you a comparison to show you how you look to someone else.

Alright, we are going to substitute milk for plain white t-shirts. They have no writing, logos or emblems. No embellishments or decals, just plain white t-shirts.

Now you are the consumer. If you are in need of plain white t-shirts, where would you go? Yup, to that store that sells just plain white t-shirts. But, what happens if you want one with a pocket? Or a design on the front? Then where do you go? I bet you don’t go to the all white, no design, no logo t-shirt store.

Now let’s compare again. Now you have a dairy and beef operation. You only sell milk and whole animals. Converting that into the t-shirts again, now you sell plain white boring t-shirts and colored one’s in bulk groups of 25 only. Can you see how this expands your market but also creates just two niche markets? What happens if a consumer only wants one red t-shirt and one white. The white one is easy to do, but you would be left with a bundle of just 24 red shirts that you would have to find another way to sell.

As a small farm, let’s compare again. We are still operating with a t-shirt comparison. Milk will be plain white, beef will be plain red, and poultry will be yellow. Eggs will be yellow with a logo on the front. Beef halves will be burgundy with a logo on the back. Beef quarters will be pink with a frilly collar. Hay will be green. Custom harvesting will be brown with a cool logo on the front.

I think you can easily see where this is headed. By providing a variety of “goods” you offer the consumer a wider variety and you a little bit more flexibility. And if you really look at all the comparisons above, I didn’t even get into value added products either. Not one mention of cheese, actual butchering and packages of meat or the differences in custom harvesting like wrapping. I didn’t even mention gardening either!

I also hope that you can see how your farm is represented to the public/consumer too. Yes, I know that it is difficult to keep up with the demands of a milking/dairy farm. You just need to sit back and consider the implications of what could happen if milk prices plummet again like they did in 2009. We are a business and some of the farms out there just need a friendly reminder of that fact.

I am fully aware of the passions that drive us into agriculture, it’s just how we choose to live and make an income. Diversity on the farm just eliminates some of the risks for loss. No matter how much we love to farm, we cannot continue to keep fighting what the consumers want. You have to bend a little and be able to provide different products and/or services.

We have such great opportunities as farmers and ranchers to start generating additional income. Now that it is February, let’s put on our thinking caps and see what types of additional items we can add to our “store front” without adding additional equipment or too much in the way of high expenses and let’s get this farms and ranches making some money!

The closing question is:

What is one step that you could do to generate additional income of your farm?

 

Farming and Food

For some reason, the average person today doesn’t think about how much work actually goes into every meal they eat. I decided that since it is freezing outside this morning (2 Degrees F with a windchill of -10) I would take some time to walk you through the hours of my day. Not a day when I work both farms…just my own.

5:30 AM- That annoying alarm clock goes off. It sounds like a tractor trailer backing up. Nee, Nee, Nee. Hit the snooze to shut it up!
5:45 AM- That annoying alarm on my phone goes off. It sounds like a rooster. Cockadoodle doo. Cockadoodle doo. Hit the dismiss button, miss and hit the snooze. Alarm disappears. Swing out of bed, head into bathroom. Pee.
6:00 AM- Make coffee, get partially dressed. Jump out of your skin when the damn alarm goes back off. Cockadoodle doo. Quickly followed by Nee, Nee, Nee. Feel like you want to rip your hair out while attempting to locate the buttons in the dark.
6:15 AM- Kiss Hubby Goodbye since he has a “regular job” and needs to be in by 7 am.
6:20 AM- Head to the barn. Milker pail and wash bucket in hand.
6:25 AM- Start the milker pump, wash milk pail, feed grain (cows and turkeys), feed a small amount of hay, wash teats, put on milker. Get more hay into feeder. Check water (refill if needed).
6:40 AM- Measure fresh milk into two pails (2 pints each), feed calves milk, get more hay (second cutting grasses from small square bales), clean up manure, rebed, refill water and grain buckets. Clean milker pail with wash water. Take milker and pail of milk into the house.
6:55 AM- Shut off water (if it was needed), check the other pastures water. If needed, dig out hose, run from other barn, fill tub. Open the doors for the chickens. Gather eggs, check water, clean up manure piles out of nest boxes, feed scratch grain. If needed, mix up 50 lbs of scratch. 50% cracked corn, 25% crimped oats, 25% wheat. Mix in other barn, carry to chicken barn, fill bin and proceed with feeding.
7:10-7:15 AM- Shut off water hose, talk to cows (The Dexters and one steer). Talking the cows isn’t for pleasure. It is to check them out physically and personality wise. All the while asking yourself things like: Do they look clean? How’s they bedding? Any sores? Runny eyes? Any lethargy? Are they eating and drinking? How do the hooves look?
7:30 AM- If anything looks off, fix it. Make sure to make notes when returning into office inside the house. If something like a sore appears, take a photo (not the easiest thing to accomplish either). Speaking of photos…it’s about time for the sunrise, so make sure you take a photo to share.

January 4th Sunrise

7:35-7:45 AM- Check furnace. We have an outdoor boiler that provides all of our heat and hot water. This step is crucial!
7:45 AM- Strain milk, put into fridge. Make sure eggs are clean and dry, load into carton and store in fridge.
8:00 AM- Time for a cup of coffee! Take cup into office. Start making notes on animals into computer. I keep track of things like the weather, time of milking, any abnormal activity, amount of feed (both hay and grain), amount of milk produced for the milk cow. For all of the young stock, aka the calves, I track things like how much milk, how they drank it down, body condition, how much grain and hay they ate from the night before. Once per week, I take measurements of their rib cage and torso length and also note their growth. I also make notes for the poultry. I mark things like body condition (typical feather appearance), what grains they peck at first, how many eggs, how much laying mash (cornmeal, wheat, barley, oats, millet, grain sorghum, and finely ground dried distillers grains typically around 14-16% Protein) has been consumed, how much of the oyster shells remained, and how much water they drank. I also note things like hours of supplemental light in the winter time. How many hours, what wattage of bulb and the overall temperature in the barn when I first open the doors.
8:30 AM- Since I already have the computer on…time to check Facebook, Twitter and Emails. Sometimes, I even talk with my cousin over a cup of coffee. She lives about an hour or so away…not like I can just pop my head around the corner to chat.
9:00 AM- Time to get to work. Phone calls for the business, farm and personal business. Mr. Farmer usually calls me around that time too. He makes sure that everything went good for AM chores. If I don’t answer, I have to notify him immediately that I am alright or he is calling in the neighbors to come check up on me.
Sometime between 10-10:30, I usually start a batch of cheese. Lately we have been making a ton of cheese curds. Everyone seems to like them and just trying to keep up with family demands are crazy. Yesterday, I didn’t get started until about 12:30.
Since you need to watch the temperatures, stir and wait for time to elapse. I usually try to take that time to bake something. Yesterday it was bread. Today, I think I will make dessert bread.
Things are slower in the winter time. No gardens to weed or harvest. No fields that need to be checked. No harvesting that needs to get done. There are more trips to the feed store or local grain farmer. Too bad I never hurry when I go to them though. Winter gives me time to chat with the “help”! Also gives me time to see all of the different stuff they have…which really isn’t good sometimes!
The great part about winter is that you can spend more time scouring through the pantry to come up with some fantastic dishes to fix. Like our dinner last night. Fresh white bread with fresh churned butter resting in a big bowl of Corn Chowder laced with bacon and rum with cheese curds floating in the soup. Here in a few minutes, I will walk you through my afternoon (with photos for most). I will put it in a separate post…too many good things to add to this one.
Well, now you have walked through a “normal” morning for me in the winter. Most farms do more than that. Usually with two or more people working year round to produce all of those foods on your table.
The next time you sit down to eat a plate of food, ask yourself this…”Where did this come from?” Knowing where and how your food is produced in important in my mind. Maybe it’s because I have an inquiring mind that wants to know. Maybe it’s just because I have spent so much time on the farm that knowing where my food is produced is important to me. They are valuable lessons to learn. Make sure you just don’t look at the package and say “Oh yeah, that’s a familiar name so it has to be produced the right way.” Look into the background of where it comes from. Is it one huge commercial producer that has been known for animal neglect or abuse? Or is it from a cooperative of small farms that have received recognition for their humane practices? Or better yet, is it from a local producer?

Ag Stats

Yesterday provided me with two seperate opportunities to discuss agriculture within my region. The first meeting I attended yesterday morning was a Tioga SET (Sustainable Economies Together) that is focusing on increasing bioenergy awareness and development within the Southern Tier Region of NY. During the meeting, our major focus for this month was demographic, statistical trends and how trends could change through the development of bioenergy within the region.
One attendee made a comment that within the Ag Statistics, he felt that the farms with an annual sale of less than $10,000 should be dropped off the list because they are considered hobby farmers. I will admit, this did upset me greatly. I haven’t delved into my mind about the reasoning on exactly why it bothers me so much…so I am going to discuss it here.
I am one of those farmers that takes in less than 10K/year. Now, I don’t work any less on each individual animal than a farm that makes 500k/year. If anything I think I am more concerned about animal well-being, how my crops grow, how clean my barns are…the list goes on and on. What other reasons concern me about this? According to the NY State overall Ag Stats, this makes up a fair percentage of our farms. Then the rebuttle I recieved when asking what the real issue was over not including those farms, I recieved the following answer: Because they are not really contributing to the over food supply chain within the state. If those farms weren’t factored for Ag Stats, they wouldn’t recieve tax deductions and would have to pay tax on all the goods they buy.
Now, that develops into a whole different issue for me. As a land owner that pays 26% or more of the land value for taxes every year (grand total is 140/WEEK), I would atleast like to be able make enough “farm sales” to be able to pay for my taxes every year. I don’t consider myself a hobby farmer. I consider our farm part time employment! Two hours every morning and night equals four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year….more hours and devotion than someone flipping burgers at McD’s. Now considerating just those hours contributed, wouldn’t I still be qualified as a worker in agriculture?
Now, taking a step back and accessing this from the bioenergy sector…I personally think that these farms are the ones that could contribute the most. I think they are much more capabile of diversity too. Flexibility in agriculture is growing in importance due to the swinging shifts in Ag Markets. It makes each farm less dependant upon just the price of corn or hay.

Now let’s consider this…in Chemung County says there are 116 farms with less than $1000/year in annual sales. My mind tells me that these are probably farms that produce seasonal products for local farmers markets or they are selling something like eggs directly off the farm.

Extending that out to my afternoon, I attended the Local Food, Fiber and Fuel Event at Cornell University’s Mann Library. There were vendors that produced hydroponic fruits turned into jellies and jams, a weaver that made socks/hats/sweaters/gloves from alpaca fur, local vegetable producers and even local organizations that assist agriculture. Our both was set up to discuss how Ag and biomass can work together for alternative energy. While there, I started circulating through the tables and held conversations with each table about Ag Marketing and NY Agriculture. Not one person could tell me when they last time they saw any type of advertisments supporting NY Ag. This is one of my major concerns and issues. There is no development to educate the public about what products are produced throughout the whole state. Yes, the wine manufacturers have done a fair job of promoting their products…but yet, there are still limited advertisments or write ups across the state.
No one seems to know where advertising money for NY Ag comes from or where it could even be established. My growing concern is that one of the major players that should be promoting NY Ag states, “Even if every available acres was planted, it could still only supply 30% of the food requirements for NY.” I ask you to consider this, NY Ag also supports the major city zone around NYC. I am not saying they aren’t part of the states population but do they really factor in under the Local food supply chain for the Northern District of NY, which is about 8 hours away? Or even my local food market when NYC is a four hour drive? I am going to start breaking the state down by region and the amount of food “stuff” that could be supplied within those regions. More will follow up on this topic over the next couple of days!

Feel free to comment or add your input, it is extremely valuable knowledge as I move forward in developing some type of consideration advertising for AG in any area.

Summer’s Gone and So Is Fall

Well, the title about sums it up! Hard to believe that we are into November already! We still haven’t completed the addition on the barn either and I am sure that snow isn’t too far out in the forecast!

This fall turned into a slow brewing nightmare. Corn harvest still isn’t done on some of the fields because they are just too wet! Nothing like trying to get a chopper into a mud pit! Only got stuck once with the tractor but that was definately more than needed to happen.

Trying to keep up with harvest while building a ten foot addition down the full 72 foot length of our barn has not worked out so well. We got the poles in the ground, the roofing on and a new water system put in but that’s about the extent of what we have managed to complete so far.

Our herd has expanded yet again too! We now have three calves here. One bull calf that already has a group of girls to spend next summer at pasture with and two lineback/jersey cross heifers! Along with those three additions, there have also been three Dexter cattle added to our mix! I will post photos in our photo page as soon as I get some time. Our jersey rescue cow is looking good and we are awaiting the arrival of her calf! The vet was WAY off his estimates when he preg checked her…by nearly two and a half months!!!! We have been anxiously waiting too…mostly because it will be the first calf born on the farm in 25 years!!!!

Two of our steers went to the butcher shop last weekend…I miss them but I do like to eat. They were well cared for when they were here and raised with the intention that they also had a purpose.

Our young group of chickens are doing well. They have moved into a temporary hut shelter until the barn addition is completed and they are loving their barn yard! A few have started laying eggs but we still are not keeping up with the local demand for our eggs! We are selling around 15 dozen eggs a week now!!!! Everyone who buys from us keeps telling us that these are the best eggs they have ever had! Makes me happy to know that how we treat our animals here shows through!

I (Doreen) have been working more on spending time doing social media things too. Sometimes it is difficult to keep up with a new business, a farm (which really is another business) and just life in general. You can find our facebook page for the biomass happenings at and on twitter! I have my own account through twitter too…CNYFarmGirl! I know I am not as informative or as busy within the ag industry as some others are…but I do ask some good questions and have some thoughts about things on ag.
Right now, one of my newest questions: Are cows better off today with regard to animal welfare than they were 20 yr ago? Please give reasons on why or why not.
I am gonna talk more about that very soon! Hope everyone has a great day…time for me to head back to the barn!

Inspiration Number Six-Teaching Children

Well since the last one was a big toss up between quiet times and when there is a flurry of activity. Today, I will talk and show the flurry of activity.
My number six inspiration for being a farmer is to pass down what has been taught to me. To be able to work with kids to show them that farming is hard work but, with the right temperment it is extremely rewarding. Farming also teaches us all valuable lessons in where our food comes from and what goes into that food.

One of the neighborhood kids petting "Big Momma"

Fresh corn off the cob for the birds on the farm
Learning about how tall corn grows and how it's harvested

Talking Turkey with three farm visitors

Our daughter and son-in-law are even doing what they can to pass the farm legacy on.
Our granddaughter and her first calf

Each and everyone of us that farms knows that it takes lessons to learn and grow to love what farming can do for an individual. In my prespective, every kid we show increases the chances of the future of agriculture on the family farm sized scale. We listen to our president all the time talk about how important an education is to the youth of today. Why not work with a kid, teach them valuable lessons so they can provide for themselves and spark their imagination and dreams in ways we may never be able to understand.
If you are in my area and would like to bring your children for a hands on visit to the farm, please contact me to set up an appointment. We NEVER charge and if you ask nicely, you might even get a farm fresh breakfast with most of the items provided directly from our farm!