Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The New Loading Ramp

This is the loading ramp I was talking about earlier. It only took me 2 hours to build and is fairly simple. I made it about 36" high which should cover most farm trucks. I had to build it so we could load the large sow into the stock rack in the back of a customer's truck who had come to pick up a 60 pound Large Black Boar. Loading the little boar was easy, we just threw a big sack over him and put it over my shoulder to carry to the truck bed. Getting the sow up the chute was not as easy but it worked finally. I was happy to see the ramp easily handle the weight of both me and the 250 pound sow!

Our new sow

A couple weekends ago, I needed to get some more pigs for the meat market. There is an older fellow north of Edmonton that had some piglets and at the same time wanted to give me the two sows! I took both of them and then passed along one of the sows to some folks who had just bought our little Large Black Boar. I kept this little red sow. It looks as though she has some Tamworth blood and/or Duroc. She is a beautiful sow and will cross well with Bubbles, our Pure Bred Large Black boar. I have been calling her Big Red Pig and my son thought of the name "Burp" because of the initials BRP. Clever! So, Burp it is. She still has 4 little ones sucking, but they will soon be weaned.

Sheep at the feeder

Here is one of the latest carpentry projects that I have completed. At first I built the crib for the hay to set in. Quickly though, the sheep started using it as a bed! I then had to install the dividers of 1x4 at roughly 12" apart. This keep everything except their head from entering the feeder. At the one end I have installed two plastic troughs. One is for the salt and the other is for the mineral. This way I can simply pull the feeder to wherever the sheep are without moving all their mineral troughs too. In the future, when we have more sheep, I will copy this design and use several.

Monday, January 29, 2007

New Carpentry

I have to say that my carpentry skills are improving. A few years ago, building something like a loading ramp or a simple feeder would have been fairly easy but it would certainly not look very good! These past few weeks I have had the challenge of building two projects for the farm. First, I needed a hay feeder for the sheep. I needed to build something that would keep them out of the feeder, yet be large enough to throw a good supply of hay into. The second project was just this past weekend when it was determined that I needed a loading chute to get a large sow into the back of a customer's pickup. My wife even made the comment that the chute looks professional! I will post both projects separately tomorrow after I get some photos.

A Recent Trip

This is a little footage from my recent trip to S. Alberta to pick up the sheep. I love southern Alberta, especially at sunrise and sunset. The scenery is just amazing to be in a place so flat with such a big sky. Throw in some distant mountain ridges...awesome.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Little Boar For Sale

Here is the little boar from my last litter. He is a really good example of a young Large Black Pig. His conformation is excellent and he has really good length. I am happy with how he has turned out but I cannot keep him because he is related to my little herd. I brought in a new boar from Ontario last year so this little guy can go to a new home and spread some Large Black genetic material. The breed is actually good as a cross with Yorkshires and other commercial white breeds. The white breed is dominant so most of the piglets will look like their mom....white with little ears.

SOLD!!! This little guy was sold and his new owners Lindsay and Brenda came all the way from near the U.S. border to pick him up. We had a great visit over the weekend and loaded both him and a mixed breed sow without too many difficulties. I am glad I got the chance to meet Brenda and Lindsay, they are going to give this boar a great home and I am looking forward to hearing about his progress.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Butchering Cows

We have had two Hereford cows on our farm since early Summer. They belong to friends of ours that were short of pasture and we had an excess. Besides, it was alright for our cow Henny to have a little herd with her and her calf. Alas, the time came for us to process these two cows and downsize the "herd" considerably. Instead of simply trailering the cows to a processors where they would be scared and stressed, we hired a mobile processor to come to our farm and take care of the business without transporting them at all. It really is the best way to process meat for your own use. Stress is a common problem with transporting animals and decreasing the quality of meat. All of this is besides the point that perhaps the traditional method of processing meat is not the most humane procedure. I'm not sure about that, but what I am sure of is how easy it was for us to accomplish the task on our farm. We hired a fellow to come to the farm and he quickly dispatched the animals and bled them. The hard part was over in a matter of less than 2 minutes. After that, the cows quickly started looking like the meat that we know and appreciate. He skinned, gutted and split the carcasses using our old Allis Chalmers tractor with the front end loader to hold them above the ground. We loaded the quarters into the truck where they were carefully wrapped and from there, he took them to the meatcutters' shop where they are now hanging. For our troubles, our friends have given us a quarter of beef. We will intruct the cutter on how we want our meat cut and wrapped and fairly soon we will have some nice organic pastured beef in our freezer!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Sheep!

Over the holidays I made a trip down to Lethbridge Alberta to pick up our newly purchased flock of Clun Forest Sheep. I bought three ewes and a ram. This picture shows the group of young rams that I had to choose from. We have been researching sheep for several months now and have been thinking about them for the farm for a lot longer than that. For several reasons we decided to track down and purchase the Clun Forest breed of sheep over all the others. We have talked to many people, read many books and publications and made a list of the priorities that we had, or the goals for our flock. Since we are a diversified farm and we have little experience with sheep, we wanted a breed that had tremendous mothering instincts and the ability to lamb without assistance. Nothing would turn us off of sheep quicker than spending the spring pulling lambs and dealing with orphans and dead lambs and ewes. I cannot overemphasize that different breeds have different characteristics. We want sheep that do well on a grass-based diet...not grain. We want sheep that are hardy and resistant to disease and parasites and most importantly, we want sheep that can produce a good crop of lambs with little help from the shepherd. Clun Forest fit the bill in all these categories and we are excited for the future of our herd. They are a multi-purpose breed that make good gains on pasture for the meat market and also produce a fine wool that is in demand by spinners. We plan to direct-market our meat products in the same way that we sell our pork. The lambs will be processed by a licenced facility and the wrapped & frozen meat will then be delivered directly to the customer. There appears to be a good demand for farm fresh lamb and of course, our lamb will be produced organically with a grass based diet to make it even more desirable by customers.

Large Black Pig

This is Prudence...one of my sows. She is quite large as you can see. I haven't had any luck with her this year as far as piglets go. I had a old lame boar up until several months ago and his replacement has been too young to breed such a large sow up until recently. I hope that she is bred now and I suspect that she is due to farrow in the next month or so. In this video, she has just been placed into her new pen with the farrowing hut relocated and cleaned out. She was quite content to sleep, uninterupted, in her new house soon after I left her alone. She will stay in this pen until after she has farrowed and weaned her pigs.