Monday, June 19, 2017

Goat Score Card Part One

I have been having this same conversation for the last month, “Could you plea…, perty please slow down our lives an itsy bit? No, but I’ve got cold sores from stress and I’ve had to double my cortisol medication to stay functional -- well, semi-functional. Still no? Could you at least tell me what to do? I’m in a hard place. Our income is not in the same category as our expenditures and we have some really big expenses coming up. Our present roof is coming off, our siding is bowing and bubbling, and we have three windows that leak like a sieve when it rains and many more that they suspect were put in wrong. We are in deep do, do Lord. Oh what oh what would you have us do?”

The answers, well, they are still coming, but I feel impressed to make some changes. What I was told was to keep careful records and solutions would be revealed. I checked out the Internet to see if others had charts that I could use but gained only a little help there but other information on feed ratios was helpful as a starting point. I found some wonderful things like tips on feeding ducks in the winter but no record charts. I learned a little about how much to feed the average size chicken, not our over sized girls but it gave me a starting place.
  One gal had a pretty good chart for chickens in which she keeps track of the egg numbers produced and how many hens are laying and molting, with a spot for feed costs. But an even more business -like approach would determine how much feed it takes to produce what size of eggs. Is it more economical to produce large eggs versus extra-large or jumbo?  Can I really get a dual purpose chicken that produces eggs and meat economically? I’ve seen the industrial charts for such things but I’m raising free range chickens in the far north not in enclosed pens and so only part of the information applies. But it is food for thought that can be tweaked outside the box of industrial thinking.

What prayer, meditation, and research have made clear is that I need a more business-like approach to projects. What I’m after is fewer hours expended with an increase in the family’s health and of course less money spent. With records, goals, and a vision for what we want to accomplish in hand, I’ve begun to shape our course. I’m building detailed record sheets applicable to us. What I’ve learned already has been eye opening. We’re culling to the bare bones. There is just too much waste of time, money, and product. We are starting with the goats. We need to learn to use our milk far more cost effectively for too much is going on the garden for fertilizer. It is not the best fertilizer we could be using. 

Now is a good time to start as we have found a heifer bull to borrow for Ellie, the Brown Swiss / Normade  and so a large amount of milk will likely be coming in just a year from now. I need to get some basic cheeses down whose preparation is second nature. My butter making is just not what it should be and many other areas could be perfected.That means two does and one buck so I have less milk to master and less time spent caring for goats leaving more time to learn to handle the milk. 

Those that did not make the cut are Commitment who went back to her previous owner as her leg was not recovering.  Since we already sold 3 whethers and a yearling doe this spring, there are four doelings needing new homes; our Nubian buck, Jubul; and Belle, a 4 year old doe which means ten goats gone.
I'm going to share with you one record sheet that was instrumental in deciding our cull list. This one is on Hannah, our yearling Nubian.

After the basic information on the particular goat, there are scored categories. Number one receives top scores but if they excel they can gain pluses or on the flip side minuses. Number 2 above average. Number three is average. Sounds like grade school doesn't it, well where did you think I got the idea.

Hannah – born 2016

( She is a twin – two does) 

Score for 2017 - Age 1

(2) Personality – Good and calm but at times a bit noisy.

(1+) First kidding  -2017 – twin doelings , Abbey is black with brown markings and the second doeling born is Amy, who is brown with an attractive splash of white.

(3) Birthing Process – Abbey was born without a problem but Amy had to be pulled. She was tangled up inside.

 (2) Size of Kids - Quite small but not too much so since they were born to a yearling.

(1) Mothering Ability- Attentive with her own kids and good with other goat’s kids. Hannah is raising her own young.

(1) Milking Behavior – Hannah can be milked in the middle of the pen standing free. Good on the milk stand.

(1) Udder –Good teats and nice escutcheon, and linear attachment. Good fore udder.

(3-) Body – Shoulders a bit rough and posty back legs.

(1) Milk Production – Feeds her doelings to fat and happy and gives a pound or more extra a day.

(1) Good sized orifices and milks out quickly. High production for a yearly.   

There you have Hannah’s report card.  6 number 1’s, 2 number 2’s, and 2 number 3, to make a total of 16. The lowest total score of is the best doe. Of course even with the score total you have to keep in mind the age of the doe and you future goals. Hannah is only 1 and kidding is more difficult the first year traditionally so her score in that category carries only so much weight. Since she had twin doelings her first year that makes us look toward a steady pattern of does. For the 34 years we've had goats, our does have fairly consistently had a pattern of what sex they give birth to. For instance Belle had twin doelings for two years and then a single buck but this year two does and one buck. See, three of the four years she had two girls. Doelings score higher than bucks for us. Have you found the same pattern?

More goat record keeping charts will be coming. Sorry so slow with the blogs but things are speeding up not slowing down.Why oh why does the Lord keep taking us to the breaking point.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Hen's Eggs Change Color

In pondering about how to set up a chicken record chart that will tell me whether or not I'm reaching my goals on how to save time, and money; I've learned an interesting fact. A hen's eggs become lighter in color as her laying cycle advances. I have an Australorp hen and a Rhode Island hen who are both two and just started up laying again. Good thing because I was going to put them in the stew pot if they didn't get a move on. Indeed their eggs are much darker than the majority. I have a couple, I'm guessing, that are at the end of their laying cycle because the eggs are very pale. This works great because I have hens that though they are not all the same breed, they do lay about the same shade of brown egg when they are at the same time of their cycle. If your eggs are all white then it is pretty hard to tell a white egg from a whiter egg. 

But if you know what hen lays what egg which is easiest if you only have a few hens, then you can keep track. Of course that only works if you camp out and collect eggs as they are laid and the egg shape is distinct. I don't have all day to do that and I'm sure you don't either. But there is that chance that comes once in a while where you peg a hen for the unique egg shape she lays. 

That is why I want to build nesting boxes again. The last ones were for normal hens and only a few would bother to squeeze in. Hens use the same nests each time so that would narrow down the number of hens I'm watching in a particular nest. Also an interesting fact. Hens lay in a twenty-five to twenty-six hour cycle. Which means they lay later and later in the day until the circle comes back to morning again. That I have definitely noticed. Easiest to do when you hens do not all look alike.
Look at the difference in the color of eggs. No, I do not have a hen that lays white eggs. I'd guess she is just about ready to molt. The one on the left won't be too far behind and the one on the right is just getting started, either it is the Rhode Island Red or the Australorp. 

I've also noticed that the same hens are on the nest almost every day. My two Australorps crossed with the mystery breed rooster are two of my prolific layers. There is one more of this cross but I need to check her out. I don't think she has every laid an egg. She is always just too pretty. 10 and a half pound Pearl looked this pretty  and I had no idea until she died on me that she probably never laid an egg in her life. She is the one who started my research on being able to tell when in her egg laying cycle a hen is. It is those pale, pale legs  and pretty feathers that has me suspicious about this one hen. I'm in the culling mood since the present work load is far too steep. Watch out girl you might just be on the chopping block next week. This girl was always going to become chicken noodle soup because she is quite light weight compared to her other relatives but I never got it done.Then this spring it was because I did not want to pass on her genetics. Does that happen to you. The not getting things done part? Now I'm desperate to lower my work load and financial drain on the budget. Great motivation.

 So that is what I plan on learning to do - keep track of who is laying, molting, and setting. The last one of course is easy. She sits there and hardly ever gets up. The tricky part is to figure out who is laying and not laying. I researched to have a  more scientific idea on who that is. We'll talk more about what I've learned later. I want to try out the information on the girls first. That means nighty night so I can get up and check the girls while they are still on their perches.  Easier to catch that way. I've got twelve to catch so if it takes me a couple or more days its okay. Just as long as the task gets done.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Fish Hatchery

To help motivate the girls in doing their chores during the week. I have promised to do something special on Friday afternoons. This week it was a trip to the fish hatchery just five miles away. We love feeding the fish.

Eggs at the hatchery.

Breeding fish in the pond.

They jump right up out of the water to eat the pellets.
Some of them are huge. One of the employers said they had had a hundren visitors by 4 oclock that day alone. The weekends they get far more.