Saturday, November 13, 2010

Farmers Feeding the World

Farmers do it every day.... But now there is a charitable effort called Farmers Feeding the World in which American farmers are enabled to do more to feed the hungry.

Farmers Feeding the World works through charities with a proven track record of effectively helping the hungry. Their premier charity partner is Heifer Project International, which gives the gift of livestock to poor families worldwide to help them to help themselves. The person who receives a cow or goat from HPI promises to give one of the animal's offspring to a poor neighbor--- sometimes to a poor neighbor from an enemy tribe!

Here is a video that tells more about Heifer Project International. If you like it, pass it on! And give if you can, pray if you can't.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New Marketing Resource for Sheep/Goat Farmers

Just found out about a new marketing resource for the sheep and goat farmer. It's called and it has a directory where you can list your farm and which breeds you have. Potential customers can search by breed for what kind of sheep they want. You can also list what you have available for sale right now.

It also has a lot of good info about marketing your meat lambs, which I know a lot of Shetland sheep beginners may be having trouble with. They even have posters which show the steps for halal butchering of lambs. 'Halal' is the muslim version of kosher, and a lot of Muslim sheep buyers may be inexperienced in doing the actual butchering themselves--- daddy did it back in the Old Country--- and so sheep farmers can put up the posters in or near their on-farm butchering area.

In the past I have heard about great new sheep breeder directories but when I actually got there they had maybe about 4 sheep breeders, and were no longer free.  This one is very much better. Unfortunately it's USDA funded in part, but you are not required to support the USDA's more totalitarian ambitions to add your farm to the directory.

So--- I hope you all will support SheepGoatMarketing by adding your farm information. Remember, every farm that adds info makes the directory more useful!

There is a similar but more limited project, the US Sheep Breeders Online Directory, which has been around for ages in Internet terms. Even though a lot of the entries in this directory are old, people still search there, so be sure your farm's web site is listed there too!
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Article: Grazing Methods on the Small Farm or Homestead

Whether you have one or two pet goats or a herd of a thousand cattle, there are grazing methods you can use to save money and get the most use out of your grazing land even if that "grazing land" is just your backyard.

The commonest grazing method is called continuous grazing. This is when you have one fenced grazing area and you keep your animals there year-round. This has the advantage that it is cheaper, as regards fence costs,
than the other method. A properly designed grazing fence will keep your animals where you want them, and keep them out of the garden and away from the rosebushes and other temptations. It will keep bears and stray dogs from being able to harm your animals.

But there are disadvantages to continuous grazing. Over time you will find that they overgraze the grass nearest the barn and undergraze the most distant areas.

Read More:

An article of mine published on Associated Content.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Article: Which Sheep to Keep?

Every year sheep farmers are faced with a decision: which of the ewe lambs born on the farm should be kept in the flock. Here is how such decisions should be made.

Every year, just as the sheep farmer is recovering from the chaos of lambing season, another tough time looms— the time when the farmer must make the decision on which of the new lamb-y bundles of joy get to stay on the farm and which must be sold.

Read more:

This is a recent article of mine published through

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Article: Beginner's Guide to Buying Sheep

Are you looking to buy your first flock of sheep? Sheep are amazingly useful animals, as well as being fun. There is a sheep breed for every need, and with a little research you can find the one that is right for you.

The first question to answer is what you want your sheep for. If you are a handspinner and want lovely wool, there are breeds such as the Shetland, Icelandic, Border Leicester and many others that are beloved by handspinners. If you don't want wool at all, there are hair sheep who shed their scanty wool naturally and don't need to be sheared, such as the Dorper or St. Croix.

If you love to eat lamb, an important factor is the flavor of lamb you prefer. Read more....

Friday, October 22, 2010

New Edition of Paula Simmons Sheep book is out

When I first started out with raising sheep, the best book I found was Raising Sheep the Modern Way by Paula Simmons. It provided a wealth of information, and the description of the Shetland sheep breed was what inspired me to choose the breed for my flock.

More recently I acquired Storey's Guide to Raising Sheep: Breeds, Care, Facilities, which is the same book but very much re-written and updated. It also had very useful information (but lacked a bit or two out of the earlier edition).

Now I see that a new edition is available. Is it worth getting? Judging by my past experience, yes it is, and I hope to be able to get a copy of my own soon.

Many sheep books I have owned have not been worth much, but this book, in all its editions, is worth its weight in gold.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

New Forum for Prolific Sheep (Booroola, Romanov, Finn, Thoka Icelandic)

There is a new forum that has just been started on the topic of prolific sheep--- prolific breed sheep such as Booroola, Finnsheep and Romanov as well as ordinary sheep being bred to be more prolific. The forum is at:

I don't have prolific sheep myself, in fact I only had 2 sets of twin lambs out of the whole herd this spring. But I certainly would like to have more prolific sheep and am interested in the breeds and methods of doing so.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Building With Stock Panels: Basic Hay Feeder

Hay costs money. Anything which will increase the amount of hay from each bale which is eaten rather than wasted is a good thing.  A basic, box-style hay feeder will keep the hay from being stepped on and trampled while being eaten, and so less will be wasted.

Building materials for this feeder are hog-type stock panels. Combination panels can also be used. If you have some stock panels which have been damaged but which still have good sections, they are good to cut up for this purpose. To cut stock panels, use a bolt cutter. Long handled ones work best.

The long sides on my feeder are 5 units/holes long, the short sides are 3 units/holes long. This makes a size that fits the hay bales I get around here.  I took hog panel sections and cut them to the lengths I wanted, then cut off the top sections so the bottom/remaining sections were a bit over 1 foot high. 

The reason I used hog panels and not cattle panels is that the hog panels, as you can see, have narrowly spaced bars at the bottom and so will hold the hay in, and also the sheep and goats cannot eat through the bottom section the way they could through a cattle panel section.

Now, I fastened the stock panel sections to each other to form a rectangle with U-bolts, 1/4 inch size. You could also use wire or baler twine if you are short of cash, at least until you can afford the U-bolts.

Now, take the cut off tops from the side sections and cut off any protruding sections of bar. Fasten one of these sections to the bottom of your rectangular box with more U-bolts. It will only cover about half of the bottom, but that's OK. The purpose of it is to keep your rectangular box rectangular.

The next cut-off section will be your feeder's top. Place the top across the middle of the feeder. On one side, attach with some quick links or spring clips. These will act as a hinge. On the other side, use one or two spring clips to hold the top in place. (You can also use wire or baler twine as a cheap substitute for the quick links and spring clips.)

To put hay in the feeder, unclip the spring clips which hold the top in place and put the hay bale in. Be sure and remove the baler twine from the bale and put it away wherever you keep your 'building supplies'. Clip the top back in place with the spring clips.

The feeder top serves to prevent your sheep and goats from standing on the hay bale.  Since it does not cover the whole top, the animals can eat all the way to the bottom of the bale.

You can also use the feeder without the top. This is great when you have an animal you don't want to get in the pen with. Just put the feeder close to the fence of the pen and toss the hay in.

This is a U-bolt. I think sometimes they are called cable clamps. (One of the nuts is missing from this one.) The 1/4 inch size is great for working with stock panels. It's also a good idea to have a few 1/2 inch ones for working with bent stock panels and complicated situations.

If you have a bent stock panel, sometimes you can use a 1/2 inch U-bolt to fasten it tightly, then put a 1/4 inch right next to the 1/2 inch U-bolt and remove the more expensive 1/2 inch one.

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Buckwheat lays an egg

Last year I bought a pair of guinea fowl and was looking forward to hatching some eggs out this year. The female, Buckwheat, just never started laying eggs though. I bought some guinea eggs on ebay and hatched out a batch of guinea keets. When they got to the right age I had to move them from the small brooders to the outdoor brooder room in the barn, but I was worried about cats.

A couple years ago, I had a cat who climbed the walls to get into the brooder room and eat chicks. There is a tiny gap at the ceiling she could climb in through. I had to put an adult goose in there with the goslings as a bodyguard.

So, what I decided to do was see if Buckwheat and her mate Alfalfa would be willing to adopt the keets--- and some ducklings as well. The keets instantly started following Buckwheat and Alfalfa around and the older birds seemed to accept the role of parents instantly.

I was afraid that this would interfere with Buckwheat started to lay eggs, since she already has a large 'family' out in the brooder room. But yesterday I found a guinea egg in there. Hopefully she will lay more that I can hatch out.

I also decided it was high time to put up an ad on Craigslist for the guinea keets I was NOT planning on keeping. They are six weeks old now. So I rounded some up to take their picture.

The reason the keets are looking in the same direction is that there were some curious cats on hand who were wondering if the keets were going to be their lunch. No, no, bad kitties!

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New Mandarin duck forum

Mandarin ducks are a small ornamental breed of ducks from the far east which are becoming quite popular with duck breeders in the US and elsewhere. The North American Mandarin Duck Breeders Association has just started a new web site with a discussion forum. Please, if you are interested in Mandarin ducks, join the forum! It has only three members so far, but two are breeders of Manderins and should be good sources of information.

On the BackYardChickens forum, there have been many threads in the duck section relating to Mandarin ducks. There is one on incubating Mandarin eggs. And there is one on aviaries for Mandarin and Wood ducks.

We don't yet breed Mandarin ducks, but we do have 4 Mandy eggs in the incubator and so have got started with our Mandarin duck adventure.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The New Muscovy Ducks

I bought a breeding pair of Muscovy ducks at the Fur and Feather Swap in Stephenson. They are the black&white critters in the center of the picture.
Directly behind them, outside the enclosure, is Imelda the Chocolate turkey. I'm letting her free-range, but she sticks close to the pens with the chickens she regards as her 'babies'.

And here are the new Khaki Campbells.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Little Lame Duckling

This is a picture of a duckling (on the left), only a few days old, who is dragging his leg behind him. The other duckling hatched about a day earlier than this one.

Both of them are Indian Runners.

The little lame duck is able to get around its brooder and eat and drink. I only have 4 baby chicks in the brooder with it, so he isn't being picked on by bigger birds. I'm hoping he will improve as he grows older.

Update: as of May 11th, the Little Lame Duckling, aka Claudius, is still alive--- here is a picture of her from today.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ancona duckling picture

I've finally gotten around to taking some pictures of my week-old Ancona ducklings! They were hatched in my new Brinsea Octogon ECO incubator, along with a batch of guinea eggs I bought off ebay. I had a pretty good hatch in it.

I tried vent sexing two of them and either they are both females or I don't know how to do it yet.

I have another batch of duck eggs in 'lockdown' that should be hatching soon--- more Anconas, plus some Khaki Campbells, and Indian Runners. I've also got some Silver Appleyards and Dutch Hookbills in other incubators. I'm going to have quite a variety of duck breeds before too long!
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Picture of my Ancona ducks

Here is a picture of my Ancona ducks. The two males are tri-colored while the two females are black-and white. They are laying very well already and I am already selling some of their hatching eggs on Ebay! I'm also hatching out seven eggs of my own and so far all seven are fertile and alive. I'm also getting some good eggs by some of the chicken hens with my rumpless Araucana rooster.  These are the auctions:

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Too many drakes!

Last year I bought some Ancona ducks from Cackle Hatchery. I ended up with six ducks at the end of the season. I checked to see which ones had the curly tail that marks a drake (male). I identified 2 males and put red and blue leg bands to mark the drakes and ducks (females).

This year I noticed one of the red-band ducks had a curly tail. So yesterday I went in to inspect the whole gang. I found that I had 4 drakes, not just two, and only 2 ducks.

I also noticed that I had 2 tricolor drakes, not just one as I had thought. So, what I did was I took the two black-and-white drakes and put them in the pen with my extra roosters.

I'm hoping to hatch out ducklings--- both black-and-white and tricolor. I'm thinking of trying to vent-sex the ducklings so I can raise a group that has more ducks than drakes for next year. I'm also hoping to have many others for selling at the fur and feather swaps this year.
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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Guinea Fowl Fever

Last year I bought a pair of guinea fowl at a Fur and Feather Swap. I liked them so much that at the next swap I bought three more. The runty one died, and two others blew away in a blizzard, but I ended up with a pair, one male and one female.

They are very nice. I housed them with my spare roosters in a pen made out of a six-foot-high chain-link dog run, with an old calf hutch for a winter shelter. The guineas quickly learned to fly out of the shelter to forage, but flew back for overnight.

This spring I decided to get more guineas. The guinea-pen now has netting on the top so they can't fly out, so I will get all their eggs. I'm also haunting eggbid and other sources looking for hatching eggs for sale. I just got my new incubator so I have greater hope that hatching eggs will hatch.

It seems like the first signs of spring is the time when I get all excited about poultry, ordering more kinds than I really need. But I'm hoping this year to hatch out quite a few to sell at the fur&feather swaps. In addition to my guineas I have Ancona ducks (who have already started to lay) and an assortment of chickens including 4 rumpless Araucana types. I also have 2 self-blue silkie bantams--- a hen and a rooster, and if I can only set them up in separate quarters I'll be set....
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