Killing almost done.

Number four of ten.

Today was the day!  I was hoping this was going to be the last of the sheep killing for the year.  It won’t be but it was close.  One of my friends wanted 9 lambs and he comes to the house and we kill them and his dad cuts them up.  This is a lot more work for me but for Don, the nicest guy I know, I make exceptions.  I did tell him that we would need to kill our ram also.  As an added bonus he usually has to help me band and tag a few babies when we are sorting the sheep and today was no different.  I knew there was at least two babies without tags.  I had just ran them into the barn right before he arrived.  Zeke is proving just how smart a border collie can be today.  We went out to get the sheep and they were all the way down by the school house on the upper hillside.  So we walked down but the gate was at the top of the hill and the bottom of the hill and we were in the middle of the hill.  I was able to teach him how to climb up the rock jack and jump over the fence at the top.  It took some prompting but he did it!  First time ever for this trick.  I then just stood on the hill and hollered commands while he herded the sheep down below to the open gate and over to the barn.  His only mistake was letting one of the babies break ranks over by the barn and get trapped on the wrong side of the fence away from everyone else.  He had to go down and circle behind the baby and push it back to the herd.  Every once in a while he lets a couple squirt out from the edges.

We sorted the sheep using the fancy sheep chute and tagged and banded two new baby boys about three weeks old.  We sorted off fourteen boys and kept them in the barn then chased all the babies and mommys out of the barn.  This is where the killing doesn’t end.  We have an all white ewe from a Katahdin ram that mysteriously died of a wasting disease. She is literally wasting away, very skinny with bones sticking out.  No one else in the whole herd looks like her.  She looks just like her father did before we had to put him down.  I will put her down in the next week and just take her body up to the boneyard.  His death is what caused us to go pick up all our new rams from their homes.  It allows us to see how the animals are raised and what their herd looks like before we purchase a ram.  We are sticking to that rule with all new rams.  Our current ram came from a beautiful home and has thrown wonderful babies, but he now has granddaughters in the herd and his bloodline is making everyone jumpy and scared all the time.  So it was time for him to go away, and with those beautiful horns he was not going to a new home. 

We then resorted the fourteen boys and put ten of them into the chute for processing.  Don’s dad wanted to know how I killed them.  I said I had learned to kill them by slicing the carotid arteries with a fillet knife by stabbing them behind the trachea then turning the blade 90 degrees and hold the wound open so they bleed out without starving for air because the trachea is not cut.  I said someone had told me this is how the local Basque gentleman had taught him so I have been practicing it.  He said this is how a Kosher butcher would do it without the blessings.  I didn’t know that.  Don and I hung each lambs head out the barn window and I proceeded to bleed them out.  I did the first nine without missing.  Perfect every time. Unfortunately, I was saving the ram for last as he is the largest of the animals.  He was getting very nervous by the time we snatched the last three boys out of the chute.  He tried to jump out on the last animal.  So I told Don we had to get him as soon as we finished the ninth one so he didn’t jump out of the chute.  We got him into the small section of the chute and I tried to get in with him.  He kept trying to ram me with his very large horns.  It was not safe, then he tried to jump out by going over a gate and caught his back foot in the gate and broke his leg.  I had to go inside the house and get a 22 pistol and shoot him in the head inside the barn.  Next time the ram goes first and I will start taking the pistol out to the barn when I am killing so it is handy if needed.  He was a lot bigger than I had estimated.  He weighed over 150 pounds!  I have him hanging out on the skinning pole.  I will buy some suet tomorrow and then bone out his carcass.  We are going to grind him up and make mutton burger.
 

Our ram, soon to be mutton burger.

I make a great summer sausage that is even better with a strong flavored meat.  Its pretty good with plain hamburger but with a strong flavored meat it is divine.  Not sure why it is so much better with a strong flavored meat.  I just purchased a meat grinder for our Kitchen Aid and it came two days ago in the mail, all hail the great AMAZON! 

Pasture progress

Mowing lawn one last time for the year.

I keep getting behind on my blog posts.  I do try and make them in a timely fashion but it can be hard to sit down and write when I am on a TV marathon of one show, currently the Game of Thrones.  I love binge watching seasons at a time.  On Monday, I mowed the lawn for the last time this year!  As always I went the easy way and let 50 sheep into the yard and had them mow it for me.  It is far more efficient plus they will get the hillside I cannot mow.  No fossil fuels were burned in the grooming process of our lawn.  See how green I can be?  Annmarie has another word for it, but any good redneck will tell you that sheep are the best lawnmowers ever. 
 

Upper prime pasture getting ready for grass seed.

I had just gotten started on discing the upper prime pasture so it can be replanted.  The sheep and horses had pretty much stripped it down to nothing so it was perfect to work.  There was too much dead grass in places and did make it kind of hard in places.  I had to clean out the harrow multiple times as it kept building up clumps of dead grass.  Tuesday was supposed to be kill sheep day but it was raining so Don and I decided to move that to Thursday and I spent all day on the tractor dragging the disc around then the harrow.  It was wet which meant the tractor had to stay in four wheel drive all day, but the ground was easy to work.  I got it all ready for grass seed.  I had Richard come out and I asked him to give me pointers on using the seeder.  I am still nervous and not sure if spending 2-3 hours working on it then it being too heavy for my little tractor is worth the effort.  I may still seed by hand then run over it with the harrow.  The good thing about it only being four acres.  If I had to do large areas I would have to use equipment.  I still do a lot of things the hard way!  I realize that they are not always the most efficient technique available.  We are supposed to get more rain this weekend and my week is booked up solid with other things so squeezing in the seeding is going to be hard and yet essential.  It may have to wait till Sunday.  I am running out of good weather and time, a killer combination to beat. 



Upper prime pasture ready for grass seed.

Sasquatch assist.

Who do you call when you need to open the barn first thing in the morning?  You call sasquatch!  No longer having a child at home has allowed certain clothing restrictions to loosen when it comes to errands first thing in the morning.  I can positively state that is not freezing outside yet. 

Sasquatch to the rescue.  

Annmarie grabbed my cell phone and rushed upstairs to our bedroom to catch this elusive creature on a digital image.  May many more assists happen in the future. 

I am still trying to catch the chicken killer.  Yesterday, I placed an egg in the trap and thought it had gotten eaten but no it had just been moved.  Tonight I baited the trap with some squirrel food.  I know it is a raccoon.  I found footprints down by the front ditch in the soft dirt this morning.  Now that it knows there is chicken inside that wooden structure it will come back every night looking for a way inside.  I found a couple of rocks that had been rolled out of the way so a tunnel was open underneath the chicken coop.  The raccoons did this a couple of years ago also.  The war has begun and I am to finish it. 

Predators 3, farm 0

It has begun. War has been declared and I did not even fire the first shot. When your chicken yard looks like a feather pillow exploded it is never a good sign. I know why this happened, I started to like a certain breed over the rest. Both Annmarie and I really like the brahma chickens. They are pretty, mellow and fun to watch. I only had three white ones and two buff colored ones survive the brooder this year. I found the wings only of one, a whole body dead one and no body for the third one. This sucks as I really liked them.  The two buff colored ones are still alive, I saw them after investigating the feather explosion. I am suspecting a raccoon. I set the live trap but I had to bait it with horse treats as I could not find the sunflower seeds. I will try and pickup some sunflower seeds on Friday. The best part of the seeds is the cats don’t eat them so it cuts down on extra animals in the trap. 

I let the cows into the car area. Unfortunately, I did not stake the panel nearest to the oak tree. Our bull lifted the panel and then popped it open and pushed the tree over so they could eat the leaves off the tree. I came home the next day and staked up the tree. Put some tree wrap around the tree and tied it up to the stake.  I put in three T posts and then put in a second fence three feet out from the first one!  It should now be cow proof!   I have high hopes that the tree will snap back and survive this heinous assault. 

I have started discing the upper prime field. I would like to get it planted but it needs to be ready for seeding. I keep getting distracted from this job. My third load this summer. It needs to go to the back deck but it keeps getting pushed back.  
I need to concentrate on my battle plans for eradicating the chicken killer!

Last of the gravel.

stepping pad so the gate can open and you don’t have to stand in the mud.

I went out and did a few things with the tractor yesterday.  I had left it in the middle of the driveway with a bucket load of gravel.  I had a little bit of gravel left, about 1 yard, and used it to make a stepping spot so you can get off the concrete and open the new fence gate.  I also made a walkway so you can get to the barn lot gate without getting muddy.  I really do hope it is going to rain soon and this will be a needed feature.  The barn lot gets sloppy but I am hoping the gutters and downspout and drain make this much better.  Only actual rain for a few days and weeks will really make it known if this is the fix or else I need another ditch on this side of the barn with another drain line down to the front ditch.  We would like the area to not be a solid mud pit, but it is just a little soil over an entire rock bluff so not a lot of natural drainage. 

I forgot to shut the chicken run human door and the horses pushed it open and went into the run.  The only real problem with this is the door will shut behind them and then they are stuck!  I went out to get eggs and there they were stuck.  The funny part is they cannot get to any chicken food just the grass in the run.  They went out with a little coaxing. 

 

Gravel walkway to the barn lot so you can stay out of the mud and still see the horses.

Chicken financials for the first nine months of 2015.

On average I had 21.4 laying hens giving me 9.3 eggs/day for a productivity rate of 44% (no change in productivity.  I have not changed my collection methods).  I am feeding on average 150# chicken feed/month for a grand total of 1350# this year already (I have started to chase house finches out of the chicken coop, sometimes there is 30 of them in there!  They are eating a lot of the food, I need to hang some clear acrylic strips on the inside of the chicken door so the chickens can push through but the finches cannot fly into the coop).     My monthly feed bill is $35.75/month (almost a $2/month decrease).  My feed costs are $1.58/doz (35 cent/doz decrease since last report) with my total cost of production $2.05/doz (a 36 cent increase in cost since last quarter, attributed to another dozen baby chicks I purchased with very poor outcome).  My chickens are consuming 0.53lbs food/egg produced and it is costing me $0.13/egg in feed, this is great and hopefully I can keep my feed costs down. I have collected 1694 eggs to date (142 less than last quarter, poor collection and breakage issues, Sarah was in boot camp this entire time.  I am the only egg collector now, I really need to get more timely).  Total feed costs are $322, supply expenses are kicking in, new chicks for a total of $111, I purchased another dozen chicks this quarter. .  I currently have a profit of $243 (finally  $20/month for labor) for the year. I use my fancy chicken spread sheet.  It seems like every year I find something that needs to be added.  There are a couple of calculations that need to be changed.  It doesn’t count chick purchases as an expense against the chicken.  I had to make notes and now see if I can get Annmarie to make the changes.  Until that time I will continue to do the math myself. 

Chicken financials for first half of the year.

I decided it was time to catch up on some accounting this weekend.  I am on the last day of my vacation and am trying to get all caught up.

On average I had 21.5 laying hens giving me 9.4 eggs/day (I had a couple of mysterious deaths of some unknown illness), for a productivity rate of 44% (I like to be over 50% during the summer but I am getting some egg breakage because I am not getting eggs every day.  I need to improve my egg collection timeliness).  I am feeding on average 158# chicken feed/month for a grand total of 950# this year already (50# of this is baby food for the new chicks, which I just throw in here as an expense for feed.  ).  The ton of food I bought from BiMart is still going strong.  I don’t expect to buy any more till next year.    My monthly feed bill is $37.64/month (only a 30 cent increase over lst quarter).  My feed costs are $1.93/doz with my total cost of production $1.69/doz (a 24 cent decrease in cost since last quarter).  My chickens are consuming 0.56lbs food/egg produced and it is costing me $0.13/egg in feed, this is great and hopefully I can keep my feed costs down. I have collected 1694 eggs to date (268 more than last quarter).  Total feed costs are $226, supply expenses are kicking in, I purchased bedding and new chicks for a total of %80.  I am keeping with the new charge of $4/doz I started last year.  I am not going to raise the prices.  I don’t see me making as much as last year, but I am now covering expenses so I will let it ride for now.   I currently have a profit of $138 (an increase of only $54 for the last quarter, not even $20/month for labor) for the year.  My expenses for babies will be more this year because I kept killing them in the brooder for some reason.  Annmarie thinks I was getting them too hot, so modifications will need to be made next year.