Farm Life 2.0

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Farm Life 2.0

Malakai
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Malakai
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03 Apr 2016, 03:59 #1

Pic - Calves
PIC - Mini Rex Rabbit, Female
Pic - Mini Rex Rabbit, Male
Pic - New Zealand White Rabbit, Female
Pic - Supposedly a New Zealand Cross, Female
Pic - Another pic of New Zealand cross, female
Pic - New Zealand white, female, head shot

So, I've begun the transition from horticulturalist and gardener to full-fledged farmer, with live animals. My goal is to raise 5-7 calves each year, to make extra money, to fund my various gardening/farm projects. This investment means that I won't be getting my planned 16x24 greenhouse for the fall or winter. I still will need a tropical greenhouse within the next couple of years, because I have many tropical plants and seedlings which are going to continue to grow, but I'm hoping to make due without it until then.

So, what could raising calves potentially fund? I hope to find a balance between plant and animals, using animals for as many purposes as I can, like manure production, sales of farm animals, and vermicomposting, for worm castings, which can be used in the garden, as well as potentially to feed the worms to aquaponics fish.

I'm even considering options for sort of a duckpond aquaponics system, the reason being that small duck ponds (like kiddie pools, or even stock tanks) have to be cleaned out pretty much daily, which is a huge waste of water. People are now connecting those systems to swirl filters and media/grow beds, to raise vegetables in. So, the ducks have clean water, you use less water (and save $$$) and veggies grow in it. When the swirl filter is cleaned out every so many days, the solid waste can also be used to feed plants or to go into a compost bed. Why not allow solids to get into your grow beds? Apparently it's common that solid waste clogs the media bed up, usually with leftover fish food or fish poop. There is some arguments that worms wont' actually eat fish poop, although you need them in an aquaponics system, to feed off of dead roots of plants you've grown before. With well-aerated water, worms actually survive, surprisingly.

But anyway, if one animal has only a single task, that's OK, but if they can serve multiple purposes, that's even better. For example, chickens can be used for egg production, meat production, manure for compost, or for breeding, to potentially sell the hatchlings. Rabbits can be used for meat, bred to sell the babies, manure for gardening & vermicomposting, with a possibly limited market in their hide. Their droppings can be put directly into a garden bed without composting, or directly into a worm bed, which would basically create a nice web of life, supporting plants, worms, fish, and ultimately, people. Ducks, worms, chickens, cows, pigs, all of these animals can also eat a lot of the food you have that goes bad and is unfit for human consumption, like moldy bread, greens that have started to decay, or garden scraps. So, you save money on feed, while using something that may have otherwise not been used.

Although our family has been on-again off-again farmers for years, it's been a long time since we've raised rabbits, ducks, chickens, and cattle. So, it's going to be a bit of a learning process, to strike a fine balance and to make sure not to be overloaded or overwhelmed with too many of one type of animal, being stuck with huge food bills. I have a really long way to go, and it's going to be a pretty expensive journey. Since the majority of my tree buying is over, funds that I would have used to obtain more plant materials can be used to move forward with new farm projects.

I do plan to have chickens, ducks, more rabbits, possibly turkeys, and possibly, a pair of emus or ostriches. Really, ratites are a big gamble, due to low demand, but that low demand has also restricted where people can buy them locally, which has made the prices skyrocket. One female emu can lay many eggs in a year. and there is potential for thousands of dollars in profit, but only if you're successful with breeding them, hatching them out, and finding potential buyers. To me, emus are more of a novelty item than anything else. I haven't ever eaten their meat and don't really plan to.

Turkeys are also a gamble, because they eat close to 1 pound of food per turkey per day. You could not raise a turkey for meat purposes for even close to what you can buy it in the grocery store for. So, the only reason to raise turkeys is to sell the hatchlings. Luckily, in my area, hatchlings are hard to come by. So, I wouldn't suspect it would be hard to sell day old turkeys. Turkeys supposedly can lay many many eggs each year.

Ducks are something everybody loves, unless they've had them invade their swimming pool or something, leaving a big mess where they stay. Peking ducks are relatively easy to find locally, which are the top meat duck there is. Khaki Campbell ducks are the most proficient egg-laying ducks there is, and they're said to be able to lay more eggs than the best laying chickens. I don't eat eggs, and I' may have eaten duck as a kid one time but am not 100% sure. However, duck eggs are currently going for about $5 a dozen. Ducklings, about $5 or slightly more apiece. With an aquaponics-type system in a duckpond, it kind of gives them the potential to be multi-purpose.

Fish/aquaponics.. I've never eaten aquaponics fish before, but I'd probably raise channel catfish and some type of perch, for eating, and I'd probably raise mosquito fish, to help feed them, along with the worms from the vermicomposting process. With aquaponics, the higher the filtration and aeration, the large capacity, in fish weight, you can have. It's strange to think that you can have a comparable number of fish in a 600 gallon stock tank as you would be able to have in a 1/4th acre pond, but that's all due to aeration, filtration, and food sources. Some of the best ponds have to be rebooted, basically started from scratch over and over, to maintain a balance of predator vs prey, or the whole system eventually fails. With aquaponics, you generally grow fish out to a certain size and then harvest half. Then the remaining fish grow out more, and then you harvest half, until the last remaining group of fish are pretty large. For example, the first harvest of channel catfish are usually 2 pounds. The second harvest, they're about 4 pounds. The third, probably 6+ pounds. By your last harvest, you may pull out a single 20 or 40 pounder.

As much as I wished I already had a working aquaponics system, they are expensive, even hard to figure, because of so many different things you need to do it properly, and the planning and commitments take a long time. As of now, I couldn't tell you for certain that I could create a 625 gallon aquaponics system for $1,000, or if, by the time it was completed and working correctly, if it would cost $2,000, $3,000, or more. It is likely something that you commit to by buying a tank first and then go from there. PVC, bulkheads, water pumps, grow media, liners, lumber, this, that...

Well, that's about it for now...
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Malakai
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14 Apr 2016, 21:52 #2

PIC - Baby Pekin Ducks
PIC - 4 new muscovy ducks
PIC - 3 muscovy ducks, in their 'pond'

So, tractor supply has been having its chick days events, where every Wednesday, they get new chicks and ducks. So, I bought two pekin ducklings and 6 pullet chicks, and later, came back for four more pekin ducklings. I then found a good deal on 4 muscovy adult ducks and 7 easter egger (suppose to lay colored eggs, not white or brown) chicks. Also got a rooster chick from someone, for free.

So, why muscovy and pekin ducks? I found out that all mallard duck-derived breeds, with the exception of pekin ducks, require a special game bird permit in Florida. It's free and probably not a huge hassle to get, but you also can only sell these ducks to licensed people and have to account for all purchases and sells, who bought them, how many were laid and hatched, this and that, for a period of three years, not to meant strict caging requirements, to make sure your ducks don't get out into the wild and breed with native ducks. Pretty much all domesticated ducks, with the exception of muscovies, were derived from mallard ducks. Are mallard ducks not native? Well, they are migratory birds, and Florida is part of their native migration route. In that sense, yes, they are. It's when people start feeding them, or when they have them as pets and let them go, or they escape, they don't generally leave, and they end up breeding with the wood ducks and wigeons and such.

Muscovy ducks are an interesting choice though, because of two laws that were passed. The first one was a federal law that added them as protected species as migratory birds. When this law was passed, it apparently P'd a lot of people off in Florida who consider them a nuisance bird, and a new Florida law was passed, saying that people couldn't possess, breed, sell, release, or relocate them. You basically could trap them and either eat them or call someone out to get them, to kill them. That law was mostly repealed, and fast, with the exception of not being able to release them into the wild, as people (and wildlife rehab centers) were outraged. Muscovy ducks have the lowest fat content of any duck. They may not have the highest egg production, but they can be used for that. There apparently are a lot of people in the US that do duck shows with their muscovy ducks as well. As far as federal protection goes, it's hard to say what will happen in the long run. As of now, Florida doesn't consider them native, and Texas is one of the few (or the only?) state that you can't bother them at all. There is some talk that, if you possess muscovies before any ownership laws go into effect, that they are going to grandfather you in, which means you can continue to keep (and hopefully breed) them. Does that mean you can or can't sell them, if these future laws take effect, as long as you can prove they were captive born and bred? I don't know.

I find the whole game bird and class III laws in Florida to be a complete joke, as it doesn't seem like you can own any geese at all either without a permit. It's not that anyone is likely to bother you if you own them, but when you go to sell babies or something, that's when trouble starts.

-

Everything has been pretty hectic here. We have been working on moving or putting up new fences, as well as taking care of all of the new animals. We're basically at a point where we need more animals yet need proper caging and fencing for those animals and are basically broke and can't get anything else until payday.

As for rabbits, pretty much all of the caging and waterers have been bought as used, and many of those waterers leak a little bit, not to mention some are pretty small. So, I spend a whole lot of time re-filling rabbit water bottles. The plan is to eventually put in an automatic watering system, but until we have a permanent area to put the cages, along with proper roofing and a way to hang the cages (vs putting them on stands) before that happens. The cost of hardware cloth and cage wire, for the bottoms, is pretty out there. So, I'm hoping to find more used cages at the flea markets and such. It sort of is a bummer, because I'd like to stack 2-3 cages along a 30' run, have the bottom feed a huge worm bed, and the top one or two cages would have trays, to collect the manure for put garden usage.

So, we have 10 ducks now, the six pekins and four muscovies. At least one female muscovy duck has been bred. I'm hoping that the muscovies have a couple broods this season and we can basically set up a way to have backup breeders, as well as a group of lone females for egg production. Excess males could be sold or used for meat. They say muscovy ducks don't taste like duck but taste more like veal or sirloin steak. Males get to be around 13 pounds too.

I'm hoping to free range the ducks I have right now, as soon as we get a fencing system installed. That'll mean having to clip the wings of the muscovy females. The pekins will probably need another 7 weeks or so before they can be put out, but we will probably need some type of coop for them soon, with a lighted/heated area.

Lastly, I'm hoping to get another calf or two in the next couple of weeks. I probably would like 3-5 before the year is over. Part of the fencing I talked about, for free ranging the ducks, will also be used for the calves. Through a series of fenced-off areas and gates, they'll be able to access and graze the land. If it gets too wet in one area, I can close it off and have them on higher ground. If they eat all of the grass down too low, I can close that area off until it regrows some. I am considering allowing a small hole or doorway in the fences for the ducks to go through all of the gates and area, even if the calves are closed off.

As always, stay tuned for more..
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Matt
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15 Apr 2016, 18:19 #3

I think it's safe to say you're more prepared for hard times than I may ever be. I'd be lucky to have an indoor garden at this point.

I will say, however, that Backwoods Home Magazine and its counter part- Self-Reliance, are great reads for people into homesteading tips and independent living. I still subscribe to BHM, since I would like my next home to have some generous yard space and be away from the big city. (Quiet suburb or exurb will do.)
I can be found at these places online:
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Malakai
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15 Apr 2016, 20:23 #4

Matt @ Apr 15 2016, 01:19 PM wrote:I think it's safe to say you're more prepared for hard times than I may ever be. I'd be lucky to have an indoor garden at this point.
The biggest issue for me is that, if I continue to go on this path, I will eventually have to buy more land. I would have to buy, at minimum, 10 acres, to get an commercial agricultural tax exemption status for cattle. With enough land and head of cattle, the cattle will basically pay for themselves, as well as pay for many other expenses. It would also mean that I'd have to move, because I would not want to leave cattle unattended. I know a lot of people in Texas have their cattle in areas where it would be easy to steal 10 or 100 head over night, but in Florida, I wouldn't be comfortable doing that.

So, could I get an agricultural tax exemption without 10 acres? Maybe. In this state, you can get tax exemption status on property by gardening, aquaculture, and various animal farming endeavors, but whether or not you get approved probably depends on the person who comes out to inspect your agricultural operation and what they believe is considered acceptable, as commercial agriculture.
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Malakai
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17 Apr 2016, 01:22 #5

PIC - New pics of pekin ducklings, shot today

The above pic was taken today, ten days after the last pic of the Pekin ducklings. It's amazing how much they've grown. They're about two weeks old. At three weeks, they should start to transition to a maintenance food. After they're 13 weeks old, the females can be switched to a layer pellet. It's not good for males to have layer pellets, or females to have them if they're not in the laying season. Since I have no way to separate the males and females right now, they're all (the muscovies) getting it, but I'm trying to supplement their feed with vegetables, fruits, and foraged foods too. They seem to be pretty picky eaters, way more picky than the pekin ducklings.
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Malakai
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04 May 2016, 03:24 #6

PIC - Rescued Duckling
PIC - My newest farm additions
PIC - Pekin Ducklings, progress pic
PIC - New Chicken Coop
PIC - New Chicken Coop, different angle
PIC - Smallest set of chicks/pullets (Rhode Island Reds)
PIC - Older set of chicks (supposedly Easter eggers, but not 100% sure)

So, I've been super busy with the 'farm' stuff.... Rabbits, calves, ducks, ducklings, chicks, and goats.... Putting up fencing, building a chicken coop, buying cages, feed, and materials and other accessories. Like just about anything else, it's hard to factor in all of the expenses an animal will cost, just based on the price of the animal and/or feed and/or fencing. You basically have to build or buy a lot of different things, to get some type of acceptable system setup. For example, goats waste a lot of hay, and having a hay rack that collects dropped hay onto a tray or bunk feeder is the only way to salvage it, because goats will not generally touch any food that has touched the ground. To buy a ready-made hay rack with bunk feeder is about $300. Another example is a hanging poultry waterer that is top-filled is about $30 by itself. Otherwise, you may be looking at taking the container portion apart from the tray, filling it while upside down, then turning it back the right way, to let gravity do its thing.

So, how much work and money does it take to raise a chick from day old to fully-feathered? Tractor Supply has been having their chick days for a few months, every Wednesday. Their pullets (females) were like $2.99 or so, with a minimum of six. That's $18. Tractor supply keeps their chicks in a galvanized tub or stock tank, sort of like the metal version of a rubbermade/sterlite storage container. So, you may have something like that hanging around your house. Then, saw dust or shavings or newspaper for the bottom... and a red heat light with lamp (about $20)... The red lights are used to prevent chicks from seeing blood, as they will attack another chick and possibly kill it, if it somehow got cut or picked on too much from the other chicks. So, you'll probably start out with a $2.99 feeder and $2.99 waterer. If you don't have mason jars to use for those things, you'll probably spend another $5+ on two bottles for them. Next, chick starter food. It's probably around $16 for 50 pounds.

Very soon, you'll realize that raising chicks (or ducks, or anything for that matter) in a container is a bad idea, because of how often the bottom material has to be cleaned, or gets soaked, especially when you're dealing with waterfowl. The older and larger they get, the more they eat, the more mess they make. So, you realize that you need them in an outside cage, one where the bottom allows the droppings (and spilled water) to go down to the ground. If you buy something like a rabbit hutch, like many people use, you could be looking at $100 or more. If something a little simpler, potentially $70. Something used, maybe a lot less.

Soon, you'll realize something else: those waterers and feeders aren't big enough. So, you'll want to upgrade them, to maybe a 1 gallon waterer and 2-3 pound feeder. That's probably another $12-$18 or so. You may be able to do chicks from day old to fully feathered with this setup, but if you're looking as ducklings or goslings, think again, unless, of course, you want to change out the food and water 5 or more times per day. Just about every day, my pekin ducklings seemed to eat and drink probably 1/3rd more than they did the previous day.

When your chicks or ducklings start to transition from starter food to maintenance food, they may start to waste a lot of the food. Chicks, if they're not in a coop with a dirt floor by then, they'll need some type of supplemental grit, which are small rocks that stay in their gizzards, to help them to break down scratch food.

If you are raising ducklings, chick starter isn't the only thing that is needed for them. They can easily get a niacin deficiency, where their legs go weak, or they could get paralyzed and even die. Some people sprinkle brewer's yeast on the starter food to combat this, but you can actually combat this by offering them a green diet. You can give them rabbit pellets, but what I decided to do was give them about 10% rabbit pellets mixed in with their chick starter AND gave them tons of pesticide-free lawn weeds, like clover, sow thistle, grasses, pennywort, and bidens. They also got melon rinds, and when I would juice for lunch, I'd also give them the pulp from the juicing. They were also getting kale and various other greens from my garden. Literally, these 6 pekin ducklings were probably eating 3+ lbs of plant materials, as well as going through at east 3 quarts of their food daily, and they still acted like they were hungry all of the time. At night, the heat lamp also attracted all kinds of flying insects, which the ducks would eat off and on throughout the night. They were also probably going through 7 gallons of water daily.

I've heard from a duck breeder that pekin ducks don't forage like some of the other hybrids do, but since I gave them tons of foraged weeds as babies, they didn't seem to have any problem from the instant they hit the ground.

I've got a lot more to talk about, but it's getting late and time for bed. Hopefully I can continue talking about this here tomorrow.
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Malakai
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04 May 2016, 19:43 #7

OK So, part II of what I started talking about yesterday...

The Rhode Island Red chicks also came from chick days at tractor supply. They were bought as pullets, which means they were sexed as female day-old chicks before being sent to their stores. We got 7, but one of them didn't make it.

The other chicks were from a small farm nearby, the same place I got my muscovy ducks from. They were only $1.25 apiece, vs about $2.99 or so from the pullets at tractor supply, and they were potentially 2 weeks old or more, vs about 2-4 days. Chicks are born with a 3 day supply of food in their bellies from the yolk they absorb. So, hatcheries can get away with shipping them via 2-day shipping to most places.

Goats.... that may seem out of the ordinary for me, but my family actually raised goats in the 1980s. The difference between then and now is that I'm focusing on dairy goats. I currently have three: a 4 month old Swiss Alpine male, a 9 week old Nigerian dwarf male, and a 3 month old Alpine/Nubian cross female. Sometime before fall, I'll have to have a second pen setup, to separate the males from females, to prevent the female from being bred too young, and I will likely get a Nigerian dwarf female, as goats don't do well alone.

Getting pure breed goats has been a challenge here. For every 15 inquires I've made, about 12 or so either didn't ever respond or were already sold. I even considered doing a bottle baby and driving further distances. The first one I bought was the Swiss alpine male. Then, I sort of settled for a mixed breed female, which probably doesn't have a high monetary value but does have a high dairy/milking value, since they can produce something around a gallon of milk per day. I bought her from a goat dairy farm. There are way more males out there for sale than females too. One of the local people actually sells pygmy goats, and she claims that their goats usually have males, with very few females being born. Most of the females, she keeps too.

Lastly, the Nigerian dwarf male, I got for really cheap. I told myself that I'd probably have to pay a pretty good price for a female, but I wasn't in any hurry to get a male, until the price was right, but within a few hours of them putting the ad online, I inquired about it. I'm not going to say how cheap it was, but let's just say that the same farm sells females for $300, and the male was a fraction of that price.

I had to get a goat trough, to feed the goats in, because the muscovy ducks got a taste for sweet feed and have been basically ignoring their own food and eating all of the calf and goat feed. Since letting the Pekin ducklings free range yesterday, they came up to the front part of their range, where the calves and goats get fed, and they really dirtied up the water bowl, and I'm talking about all day, until I finally locked them in their cage. Within five minutes of cleaning the bowl out, they'd have it filthy with mud. So, I'm going to have to look at some type of watering trough they can't get in, but something the goats and cattle can all drink from. In the long run, I may have to look at some alternatives for the ducks. I'm considering building an area up, in like a sandbox, with a wet area too. So, they could have both a wet and dry area.

I still haven't bred any rabbits, but I did buy a roll of welded wire, to use for cage dividers and for doors, to get at least half of the cages completed. After that, I'll still need to build some type of stand for them and a roof. Then, of course, get feeders, waterers, and boxes for them to have their litters in.

So much to do, so much to consider, plan, save up ($$$) for, etc.
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Malakai
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24 May 2016, 19:50 #8

So I'm taking an even bigger step, as I've recently ordered some turkey chicks (poults, as they call them) from a hatchery. Turkeys have a bad rap for being difficult to keep alive. It has taken a lot of thought and consideration, not to mention a lot of money, due to order minimums. I guess I'll back up just a hair before going forward though.

For the past couple of months, I've been looking online and at the flea markets and such, to find some grown turkeys. I wanted at least a pair or trio of pure-bred heritage turkeys. I've found them for between $75 and $95 per adult bird, and I've seen some royal palm varieties for as cheap as $40 for a pair, which seems to be a good price. Either way, I don't want to pay $150 or more for a pair of turkeys. You really don't know if you're getting an ex breeder, or a turkey that isn't a good brooder or doesn't lay fertile eggs for some reason. So, fast forward............

So, heritage, game, or broad-breasted birds were decisions I had to choose from. Broad-breasted birds are the ones you get when you don't want to breed them and just want to raise them up for 4-5 months, for the dinner plate. Game birds, well, they're just wild turkeys. Sometimes you can read about how this variety or that variety of wild turkeys were bred into some other type of turkey, to have created heritage breeds. Many states make it illegal to have game turkeys, and some require permits. Lastly, the heritage breeds. Why do they call them heritage breeds? It's because they are generally considered obsolete, taken over by the broad-breasted types, due to their 6:1 foot intake to weight gain ratios. Many of them were created in the early 1900s.

Broad-breasted turkeys have something like a 2:1 or 3:1 food intake to weight gain ratio, which means they grow faster and can be ready to eat in five months or less. This means they're also cheaper to produce, by the pound. The issues with broad-breasted turkeys are that the males get too heavy to breed. So, females have to be artificially inseminated. Their legs are known to not be able to hold themselves upright after a certain age and size, and they are prone to having heart attacks and dying young. In other words, don't buy them for breeders or pets, as they have one purpose.

So, which ones have I ordered? I ordered six breeds: blue slates, bourbon reds, royal palms, black Spanish, chocolate, and white Hollands. Since these are unsexed, I don't know how many will be males or females. All in all, I've got 16 ordered total. If these do well, I may consider getting some rio grande wild turkeys and some narragansetts in the future, and excess males and non-pairs will also likely be sold off. However, it's too early to be planning for more, as turkey poults are known to be difficult to raise. It was a huge decision to go ahead and try these, riddled with a lot of anxiety. If I don't have good luck the first time around, I won't be trying again.

-

In other news, I'm suppose to be getting a male New Zealand white rabbit this upcoming weekend. Luckily, I already have a cage, feeder, and waterer for it. It may still be awhile before I breed them.
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Malakai
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27 May 2016, 01:25 #9

I've come up with my own recipes, for a turkey starter feed. I know there are people out there that use solely catfish floating pellets, grinded up in a blender, as turkey starter, when they can't find game or turkey starter feed, but I'm actually going to be using 5-part mixes, using a 48% soybean meal, a 20% chick starter, and a 32% catfish food.

1 part soybean meal
3 parts chick starter
1 part catfish feed
= 28% protein turkey starter

2 part chick starter
2 part catfish feed
1 part soybean meal
= 30.4% protein turkey starter

So, why not use a standard chick starter, which usually comes with 20% or 24% protein? People have raised turkeys off of 20-24% chick starters, but they usually grow slower and are reportedly less vigorous, maybe not ever reaching their full potential. That's 'their' words, not mine. But yeah, it may produce runts of adults or sickly adults or something. Of course, some people swear they've never had a problem with it.

I've so far not been able to find any local supplier that sells a 28-30% turkey or gamebird feed. If this feed does well, I can adjust the protein levels, to also create a maintenance/grower feed. A layer feed could probably be made too, just by adding extra calcium to the feed.

Catfish feeds can come in 32% and up to 36% protein, and soy bean meal can come in anywhere between 44% and 49% protein, possibly more. So, you just have to figure out how many parts to divide it by, to be able to get a final recipe down, close to where you want it to be.

So, let's figure the cost to make a 50# of these starter recipes.
Soy bean meal $13.40 a bag locally, IIRC
Chick Starter $9.66 a bag locally
Catfish feed $15.99 a bag locally

For the 28% protein mix, it'd cost around $11.68, to make 50#
For the 30.4% protein mix, it'd cost around $12.94, to make 50#

Obviously, you have to buy more than 50 pound of feed, to make these mixes. So, let's look at the minimal costs, to make 250#s of feed.

For the 28% protein mix, it'd cost around $58.37, to make 250#
For the 30.4% protein mix, it'd cost around $64.70, to make 250#

How did I figure it? 5 parts = 1 50# bag per part. For mix one, we'd use 150 lbs of chick starter, 50 lbs of soybean meal, and 50 pounds of catfish feed. For mix 2, we'd use 100 lbs of chick starter, 100 pounds of catfish feed, and 50 lbs of soybean meal.

Why we probably wouldn't want to mix more than 1 part of soybean meal into any 5-part mix is probably due to minerals and such that poultry and game birds may need. When you add a single ingredient, you're diluting the minerals of other things, unless that ingredient also has the needed minerals too. Who knows. poultry may need just a little bit more minerals than what's in any of these mixes.
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28 May 2016, 01:49 #10

PIC - Pekin Ducklings + 1 muscovy that snuck in the frame, Progress pic
PIC - Calf progress pic

As you can see, the pekin ducklings have pretty much gotten their white colors now. I believe I'll end up with 4 males and two females, but no way to know for sure yet. In time, the males should get a curly set of tail feathers. I probably would have preferred 1-2 males and 4-5 females.

The calves seem to be doing pretty good. I just steered the bottom one yesterday. The top one, I may keep as a breeder, and there is a reason. In 2017, a new federal law called the veterinary feed directive will make it illegal to buy or sell medicated milk replacers/feeds over the counter. They make you form some type of special relationship with a vet, have the vet come out to inspect your herd, and you would then have to apply well beforehand, to get medicated feed. The vet would then prescribe you medicated feed, and it could take weeks (or longer) for your prescription to get filled. So, if a heifer rejected a kid or she somehow became incapacitated, there would be no way to get medicated milk replacer on a whim. Milk replacer only has a shelf life of six months. So, it wouldn't be a good idea to go hoard thousands of pounds of it before the law goes into effect.

This new law will affect a lot of small-time farmers and 4-h kids that just want to bottle feed some calves, goats, pigs, sheep, or whatever. In fact, I believe it'll probably also make it extremely difficult for dairies to sell their excess calves. Dairies like to sell their bull calves at day old, if they can, and sometimes they want a high premium for them. There may be a point where they'd just about have to give away calves. On the other end of the spectrum, this may actually make people go out and hoard female calves, to do small time breeding on their own. As it is now, most dairies and ranches that sell babies only sell bulls, and on the rare occasion they sell a female calf, it's two or three times the cost. This could make female dairy calves go from $500-$700 apiece to thousands.

For me personally, I'll be on the lookout for a female calf in the coming months. Money is going to be tight, considering I need to also get another (hopefully yearling) female dairy goat before September, build a turkey pen, setup the rabbit cage stands and roof, setup a second foraging area for the goats, possibly setup a hog pen, and maybe expand the duck/goose area, with a really large stock tank/pond.

If that wasn't enough projects, I'm also considering getting and breeding a few special breeds of chickens, like Sumatras, phoenixes, white faced black Spanish, Golden Spangled Appenzeller Spitzhauben, possibly yokohamas, and according to Darwin, the original chickens, jungle fowl, not to be mistaken for Saipan jungle fowl, which aren't the same breed. I probably have a bit of research to do before committing to one or more, and at least one of these breeds doesn't generally hatch their own eggs, which means incubation. I'm in no hurry to get in to these things, as the majority of these breeds are more show chickens than anything. It could be next year before I commit. Then again, knowing me, it could be sooner, or maybe never. The cost of getting these day old from a hatchery is pretty cheap per bird, but minimum purchases and shipping costs always hits your wallet pretty hard.
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28 May 2016, 02:50 #11

Remember to tend your plants and fishes while you build your new farm. Sounds like you might need some more hands to ease your work load. Just try not to bite off more than you can chew. Let me know what you think of Backwoods Home Magazine. It's a great farm do it yourselfer series with all kinds of goodies for what you're doing now.

Their site can be found at www.backwoodshome.com

Highly recommended reading!
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28 May 2016, 16:01 #12

Do you know if there are any third-party resellers that sell the backwoods magazine for a significant discount? I use to get my subscription to Reptiles magazine through a third party reseller, because they were half the cost or less.

As far as tending to everything, I think running a small farm is all about getting into the groove of things, at least after all of the cage/fence building is done. It doesn't take long before you realize that you don't have to spend as much time tending to a single animal or group of animals, once you get the hang of everything.

From a financial standpoint, the gardening endeavors are definitely suffering due to getting in to animals. This is mainly because I need more potting soil and compost and such, to pot up individual plants, repot plants into a larger container, top off soil or compost in the raised beds, and maybe build new raised beds. The new goat pen is going where one of my last raised beds was built, to grow peanuts, sweet potatoes, and cassava. So, I'm going to yank out the sweet potato and cassava plants and replant them in another bed. I'm not sure if goats will eat cassava, because they're poisonous, but they will definitely eat sweet potato vines.

For the most part, I don't really have any money in building the last raised bed, because it was frameless, and I had the sand and shredded paper and leaves, some extra top soil, and the only thing I added was a little bit of compost. It's kind of a shame, but things happen, and I needed the space for something else.

In the next year or two, I should have more compost than I could ever need or use on the land I have. I'm not sure of the conversion rate between fresh cow manure and how much compost it will make, but I know some manures compost down to about 50% of what was started with. I'm probably getting 20-30+ lbs of cow manure every day right now, with just two cows. The compost pile will have cow manure, a small amount of cow urine from the hay we collect, rabbit manure and urine, a small amount of goat manure and urine, poultry manure/urea, fresh grass clippings, fresh kitchen scraps, and fresh and dried leaves, not to mention that it is often watered down with coffee beer, which should make it cook/compost faster and have more nitrogen. In fact, each day, I can see the pile fall more and more, which is a good sign.
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28 May 2016, 18:01 #13

Interestingly enough, they just reported losing much of their middleman support like newsstands and third party merchandisers such as Anderson due to costs. So direct purchases are now more imperative than it used to be.

I've spoken with some of the staff members on the phone many times when ordering or asking about their magazine content. They actually do a good job with phone orders (totally hassle free).

Backwoods Home comes up with special deals throughout the year like $50 off the complete anthology DVD normally priced $100- sometimes on sale for just $50.

As of now it only goes from 1989-2013- all those 2500 articles and 500 authors' works published the last 25 years. It only works on computers since they're pretty much pdf doc files saved to disc. There is also a CD "lite version" for normally $50 with about half the content.

The best deal I just got yesterday was getting 10 back issues for $15 (2012-current). Their mags are bi-monthly so the first issue is Jan/Feb, then March/April, and so on.

Sometimes there are subscription discounts that can span several years. They also offer what's called "The Whole Sheebang" for $420. This is all the 39 printed anthologies, 18 farming/gardening/canning/self-reliance books, an article index CD and two-year subscription. You get much more than getting them all separately. Great value for the money.

If money is still tight, I would get the 10 back issues while you still can, and possibly the DVD anthology if you can stand looking at them on a computer. That would be about $120 which would pretty much include almost all the issues they've published from the beginning.

I just figured for someone like you, doing farming, this would be a very appropriate magazine for you.

They are based in Oregon, but have a loyal following nationwide.
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29 May 2016, 00:54 #14

Thanks for the info. Even $15 is too much right now, as I just bought 100' of fencing, posts, cement, , 1,200+ pounds of animal feed, and of course, 16 baby turkeys from the hatchery. I'll try to make a note to re-evaluate my finances next payday, if they still have the offer available.

I pretty much have the second goat pen completed but need to do a couple more things before the females go in. Hopefully by end of day tomorrow, but you never know. I had to special order wall mount gate latches, the type which connects to a chainlink gate but mounts to a wall, or in this case, a post. The latches probably won't be here for at least 10 days, but I can use some wire or something to tie the gate shut.

I'll tell you something about goats though. They are extremely unruly when it comes to feed. They eat 24/7 it seems, hay, grass, weeds, trees/leaves, and then they act like they're starving when it's time to get grain or hay pellets. It's gotten so bad that I'm having to build a divider between the ducks/chickens and the goats, because the goats just stampede their way in to the shed where I keep the poultry feed every time the door is opened. I hear that the best way to train them to not to that is to shoot them with a water pistol when they're misbehaving, right on the head. At 50 or 60 pounds, the largest goat is hard enough to handle, and when he gets to be 170 pounds, watch out.
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02 Jun 2016, 14:03 #15

PIC - New Zealand X Flemish Giant cross rabbit, male
PIC - My first batch of 28% turkey starter feed
PIC - Turkey poults arrived today

So I didn't ever get a shipping notice from the hatchery, but the turkey poults (babies) arrived today. The hatchery threw in two extras, which was pretty cool. So, I'll have 18 if they all survive. They are all the size of baby chickens, and they really look like chicks when they're this young. I gave them some electrolyte water as soon as we unpacked them, and at least half were drinking the water or standing in it about as soon as they were put in their enclosure. Some were already pecking the sides of the enclosure. Turkey poults apparently shouldn't be fed for 6 to 12 hours after arrival, which I assume is because they could die from eating while dehydrated. If turkeys are like chickens, they are born with a 3-day supply of feed from the yolk that hasn't absorbed. This is why hatcheries can ship day-old chicks via 2 day shipping.

Also pre-made the turkey starter feed using the recipe I came up with, for the 28% protein feed. Basically, one part 32% catfish feed, ground up, 1 part 48% soybean meal, and three parts 20% chick starter. I used a blender to grind up the catfish feed and had to do it in small batches, probably 2-4 cups at a time. If you're measuring by volume, make sure to part the catfish feed out before grinding it, or you'll have a more dense ground powder that will probably tilt the protein levels off a bit. Hopefully they have no problems with this feed. From what I've read, their first feed offerings should probably be vegetable scraps, due to their ability to get pasty butt, which can actually act like a glue and cause them not to be able to poop and could possibly kill them, if it's not washed off.

As for the New Zealand white rabbit I was suppose to get, I think it turned out to be a New Zealand X Flemish Giant rabbit. It is huge compared to my pure bred New Zealand female. I hope that it doesn't cause a problem with breeding the female.
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