Robert Plamondon's Poultry Newsletter, May 24, 2005As always, if you're tired of this newsletter, please scroll down to the bottom of the message for easy instructions to make your subscription go away.
Get 'Em Cheaper On eBay
Grocery Store Wars
Today's goofy online animation is Grocery Store Wars, which tells the adventures of Cuke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Canoli as they battle Darth Tater and try to save organic produce. Very funny and not too preachy.
Gustave Heuser's Feeding Poultry is full of interesting stuff, including a chapter on green feed (including free range).
It was written when free range was still widely practiced on commercial farms, while at the same time the abuse of pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones was at its peak. It makes for interesting contrasts!
The book was also written after all the major nutrients had been discovered, but before it was cheap to balance a diet with refined nutrients. Because of this, its feed recipes rely on actual feeds to achieve a balanced diet, not synthetic methionine or mysterious vitamin/mineral premixes. Not that there's anything wrong with these things, but it gives you a choice. Its recipes also use a wide range of ingredients tailored for what's cheap in different parts of the country. For example, here in the Far West, wheat can be cheaper than corn, and there are a lot of wheat-based recipes.
The book talks about all sorts of feed ingredients. As far as I can tell, ingredients haven't changed much since the book was written.
It's a large volume, with lots of summaries of research. If you've never read books that summarize research, you'll be struck at how the results of research often don't agree with each other. This is because the real world is complicated, and discovering all the causes of, for example, high egg production is a long process. "For every problem, there is a simple solution, and it is wrong." I find that reading these summaries tends to give me an idea of which things work almost all the time and which only work once in a while -- valuable information that's expensive to pick up by trial and error.
It has a good index, so you can dive in to answer your most burning questions first.
You can buy Feeding Poultry over the Internet (click the link), from my eBay auctions (click the eBay link), and you an order it from your favorite bookstore.
Web Site Updates
Electric fences for chickens. I've added a much-needed section outlining the basics of keeping chickens confined by electric fences. This keeps the chickens in and the predators out. I'd be out of business if it weren't for electric fences.
I'm experimenting with a new format where the sidebar on the right will (hopefully) contain ads that are actually relevant to the text, so if I talk about fence energizers or electric poultry netting, the ads will be from people with sites with lots of details about the wonders of their fence energizers and electric poultry netting.
Housing. I've expanded the poultry housing section as well.
A Web site of your own. When it comes right down to it, farmers need their own Web site more than most people, because the Internet is so much more convenient than dropping by the farm. It has gotten ridiculously cheap to have your own Web site with your own domain name (such as my www.plamondon.com). Doing the work isn't very hard, either. I've written a brief overview outlining the steps involved. (Tip: Get your kids to do it!)
News From the Farm
We've gone from our slimmed-down winter farm, which has free-range eggs as its only product, to hens, broilers, turkeys, and pigs! Things are very busy, as you can imagine. The lambs have come and gone already; we bought older lambs from a local hand-spinner who needed room for her new lambs, finished them on our abundant spring grass, and sold them.
The tractor is back, with the starter working properly for the first time in years. The clutch also had to be rebuilt, which didn't surprise me. Today's annoying tractor problem is that the water pump leaks if the cooling system builds up any pressure. For years this hadn't been a problem because the thermostat was stuck open and the cooling system always ran cold, and the radiator cap was defective anyway. Now I have to leave the radiator cap loose. Oh, well. I'll fix it when it becomes too annoying.
Which is not to say that we're not making progress. The tractor is running better than ever.
The farmers' market season is up to half-speed, which means that the Saturday market is in full swing but the Wednesday market is still pretty quiet, and will be until school is out for the year. We had a "buy a broiler, get a dozen eggs free" sale which kept us from drowning in surplus eggs and brought in a bunch of new broiler customers. Although high prices are absolutely essential to making a go of small farming as a business, you still need to have sales. Customers love sales, and sales are a way of keeping your list prices high while moving whatever you have too much of at temporarily lower prices. By my estimate, it costs over a dollar for us to produce a dozen eggs, and we're fairly efficient as free-range producers go. We have competitors at the farmers' market who are selling eggs for $1.50 a dozen, and we're sure they're losing money. Most of our eggs sell for $3.00 and up. This is why we've been known to increase our flocks, while our competitors never do. With more hens, they'd just lose more money.
We have mice everywhere. It's driving me crazy. Mice have taken up residence in our cars! This never happened when we had half a dozen barn cats. Unfortunately, our county government is run by clueless townies, who have cut their matching funding of the USDA-APHIS Wildlife Management Program, which means that the predators aren't being kept under control. This in turn means that most of my barn cats have been eaten by coyotes. A coyote killed one of my barn cats inside my barn! She was a nice cat, too.
And people blame developers for urban sprawl. I think it's more the fault of clueless officials not taking the time to grasp rural issues such as predator control. Eventually, their mistakes add up to the point where it's far better for the farmers to sell out and move to a more rural county than to continue farming in the face of all the obstacles. This bodes ill for the direct farm marketing movement, of course.
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Copyright 2005 by Robert Plamondon. Permission is granted for copying if the material from here to the end of the message is left unaltered.
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