That forecasted rain hit about 9:30 pm and just poured for about 5 minutes – storm over. The Mizzou game in Columbia, MO, however, looked like miseryfor a LONG time – it didn’t help that the hometown team lost badly.
Today dawned clear and bright and i managed to clean the frig, wash a load of laundry, feed the calves, wash windows, and start the oven cleaning before the day got started.
Paperwork has been gathered for my trip to Chillicothe in the afternoon to the license bureau. Allen and I had planned to purchase the pickup through bartering, however, i found out at the license bureau that that can only be done throught a dealership! No private transactions. That doesn’t sound fair. So, of course, i had to pay sales tax after all. The inspection for the pickup resulted in a $600 repair bill!!
Stopped in Meadville at my friend’s house and we had a serious heart to heart visit. I cannot imagine going through life without a close friend with whom each can share our joys, concerns, and heartaches.
Slow late afternoon since i’d allowed plenty of time for the license bureau, yet i was in and out in less than half an hour! Fed the calves, worked on my chicken tractor (this is my 9th design and build of chicken tractors and eggmobiles). I’ve been at the chicken tractor for months, but it’s the lowest item on my priority list, so I seldom have time to piddle around with it. Had hoped to have it done before i butcher our last 14 hens so as to see if it works, but that may not happen. Might get chicks next spring, but might not. I may just enjoy not having extra chores, but it’s fun building stuff – it just won’t get used.
Joel Salatin of Polyface Farmshttp://www.polyfacefarms.com/speaking-protocol/joels-bio/ is recognised around the world as a no nonsense, say it the way it is kind of farmer and marketer. His ideas are proven to work in his area (highly populated with customers), but the ground rules can work anywhere and even in the commodity markets. Some of his advice here needs more explanation, but most are just cut-to-the-chase, get ‘er done stuff. GO!
Final three days of testing for chooks verifies eating/trampling about 3/4s of a pound of grass per chicken per day. We’ve had about 7 inches of rain, however, on the last 6 days of testing and they really had scratched out some mud holes. In weather like this, they really need moving more often to avoid bare spots. Open soil not protected by forage will invariably be eroded by weather.
Egg production has stayed at 7 eggs per day. After this trial, their grain offering will increase up to whatever they’ll clean up in a day – probably close to 3-4 lbs per day for the lot of 14 hens.
They are over two years old, so that may have something to do with decreased production as well as the constant rain and no sunshine will also cause stress. That has certainly caused stress to all of our livestock and people as well. However, our hearts go out to those who are flooded beyond imagination.
Next project is to build a 7 ft by 16 foot low profile chicken tractor with little wheels light enough to be pulled by hand. Hopefully, this will take out the chore of moving all that electric netting!
Next 3 day replication started morning of 5 Jun 2015 with Dallas moving poultry netting to fresh pasture before letting the chooks out of their tiny eggmobile. Day 1 egg collection – 7 eggs. Day 2 egg collections: 7 eggs. Day 3 egg collections: 7 eggs. We’ve continued with one pound of the wheat screenings cleanout, but that is really not enough for them since they are eating it all and still seem like they want more. However, for the next replication, we will continue with one pound and increase it after the grazing trial.
We have discovered that this size paddock with this much forage results in far too much trampling of quality forage and not enough eating. Now that we are getting an idea of how much chooks eat in a day, we can determine how many chooks can be managed in smaller, more easily handled housing. A full length 164 foot poultry netting fence is too much work for only 14 hens eating .75 lb of grass per day. In other words, to be more cost effective, the 41′ by 41′ enclosure allowed with a poultry netting should allow about 41 hens, of course depending on forage quantity and quality. This would include realising that the taller forages would be unavailable for chooks to eat.
We realise that, by the book, chooks typically eat only 4 ounces of feed per day. However, i think that is a purely grain diet which would be more dense than grass, legumes, and forbes. Probably, most of what is being utilised, however, is actually scratching and trampling. Nevertheless, this needs to be considered to keep a healthy sward.
The opportunity cost of owning land is next to nil since the government insists on stealing our savings by keeping interest rates near 0% and printing money (inflation), so the easiest way to determine the cost of the grass consumed is by using current pasture rental rates, which in north Missouri is about $60/acre.
Too many times I read (even from producers, sometimes!) that grass is free. Whoa, Nelly! It is not free and, in fact, the cost of grass has sharply increased due to so much of it being ploughed up to raise more corn and soybeans. Folks, that is not sweet corn nor edible soybeans. This is commodity, GMO crops raised to be fed to animals like cattle, chickens, pigs, fish, horses, buffalo, and even lambs and deer!
But I digress – how much grass do pastured hens eat and how does that relate to a dozen eggs? Hopefully, these questions can be answered at least for our management style.
By measuring the amount of forage in a small paddock before the chooks are moved in and then again after they are moved out in 3 days (during the growing season, it is imperative to move stock at least every 3 days to prevent removing too much forage, however, if you need to improve the diversity, overgrazing is a good tool to use for establishment, but it must be part of the plan). As with any research, there are variables that are hard to control. While we will measure the amount of feed we give them and report that, there is no way of knowing how many bugs they will eat. We plan three replications.
Day 1 – Fourteeen mature egg laying Barred Rock hens – .039 acres with mature fescue and about 40% red clover. Estimated forage available is 4 inches times 200 lbs of grazeable feed is 800 lbs per acre or 31.2 lbs (800 x .039). I’ll measure what is left when we move them in 3 days to obtain what they actually consume. Chooks will mash down a fair bit, but that is okay since that will feed the soil microbes and organisms. We are offering 1 lb of seed cleanout consisting of wheat screenings – unsprouted. Sprouted would be better, but for this trial, we want to know how much forage they are eating out of the pasture.
Results: Eggs laid: Day 1: 12 eggs, Day 2: 11 eggs Day 3: 7 eggs. Indications are that without more grain – production decreases markedly, this may not be a bad thing – pencil out the costs and needs.
Grazing equivalent: The 14 chooks grazed in 3 days what 1 cows would grazing in one day
Bear in mind, however, the trampling/mob effect would be entirely different since cows would likely trample more and certainly put more poop in large piles which will then cover up more grass. With so much rain, even more grass would be destroyed. There would also be a considerable difference in mob effect with 500 or 1000 chooks vs 14 as well. Chickens range only up to 250 feet (extreme outer limits) from their nesting boxes, so more trampling would occur due to concentration. I would think with that many – chooks would need moving everyday vs 3 days.
Chooks will eat far more bugs than cows.
There are several differences in the grazing impact, so just comparing the potential grazing is just for fun.
Neverthess, this experiment demonstrates that no matter the species – pastures MUST BE ALLOWED ADEQUATE REST PERIODS TO IMPROVE AND ALLOW FUTURE GRAZING! Animal movement must be controlled and their keepers must balance animal performance and pasture production effectively.