A healthy bird after three weeks of feed and care. (click to enlarge)
We are at week three on one farm. This bird should weigh about 1.8 pounds at this point. In my opinion birds this size start going through the ugly duckling stage. They have lost most of the fuzz and are putting on feathers. The house temp is kept around the upper 70’s.
A four-week-old chicken on the Bolen farm.
On another one of our farms, the birds are 4 weeks old. This bird should weigh about 2.9 pounds. As always, his environment is close to perfect to keep him healthy and growing well. I don’t know the actual calories per day they are getting from the feed, but I’m assuming it would be like a rib eye and baked potato plus a chocolate cake three times a day for us. That may be a stretch, but they are getting all they want any time of the day except at night when they are asleep.
This baby chick is less than a day old. On day one, we keep the temperature around 90 at the floor level. Baby chicks need to be kept warm and dry and have plenty of food and water to be profitable at the end of grow-out. Chicks have part of the egg yolk still inside that provides some nourishment and immunity passed on from the mother hen. Our job is to brood them better than nature would so they survive and perform to their genetic potential.
A chick after a week on the Bolen farm.
This chick is 7 days old and should weigh about .35 of a pound at this stage. The temperature in the house has dropped to the lower 80s. He has learned to eat and drink from the automatic feed systems, so we start removing the additional feed trays placed for baby chicks.
A chick after two weeks of food, water and warmth on the Bolen farm.
This chick is 2 weeks old and should weigh about .85 of a pound. The house temperature is around 80 degrees. This stage of the flock is what I call the coast time. I get asked all the time what the mortality rate is. The rate for the first seven days is usually under 1 percent – most of the time 1/2 percent. Week two will drop even more if we have done a good job the first week of keeping them at a near-perfect environment.
Baling the last of the 2013 Bermuda hay on the Bolen farm.
The first week of September we baled our last cutting of Bermuda grass for the season. We could probably get an October cutting, but we will use the last growth for our weaned calves. Usually we will cut the last cutting close to the end of September or first of October. This year has really been a good hay year, so we have satisfied our customer base and are happy for a break. The alfalfa will have to be cut at least one more time though.
The girls’ show season is in full swing. We attended our county fair the first week of September. They showed a total of seven sheep, and two sheep made the sale. This past week we attended the Oklahoma/Arkansas state fair in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. All three girls took two sheep apiece. They had three class winners, two second place and a dough place. As the picture shows, Bay had reserve champion cross and third-best overall. All three girls received super showman awards as well.
Bay Bolen with her reserve champion cross and third-best overall lamb at the Oklahoma/Arkansas state fair in Ft. Smith, Arkansas.
We really enjoy the livestock showing program as a family. As a parent, there are numerous learning opportunities surrounding these events. I could write a book on the lessons I think our girls have learned by this program. I’m sure Myndi and I have learned a thing or two along the way as well. I guess the main thing they have learned is that you have to stay dedicated and disciplined to have success. I also believe we are enjoying the journey as a family, and it just doesn’t get much better than that.
As always we are busy with numerous chores. We have been blessed with some rain and a couple severe storms. We lost an old barn to the wind but will always take a rain in July or August.
A barn is damaged by the severe winds that come with a summer storm.
Our hay yields and quality continue to be excellent. Even with a glut in local hay, quality still sells and we are thankful for that.
The haying process is underway at the Bolen farm.
We have been on the hunt for a new ram and found just what we were looking for with a buck named Crown Royal. It’s always intriguing waiting to see what new genetics will do for next year’s lamb crop.
The Bolen’s new ram Crown Royal.
Our breeding season for the sheep will start at the end of August for late January lambs. The girls are busy almost daily working their show lambs for the fall show season which kicks off the first week of September at our county fair.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but our days just run together during the summer months. Whether we are tending to our chickens or baling hay or messing with the sheep or whatever.
We have completed our third cutting on most all of our hay fields. We had some rain early in June and the end of May, but I think we have been about three weeks with zero rain. We did have a few days that the humidity and temperature were low but that quickly changed. We are back to highs in the mid 90’s and humidity levels above 40 percent.
The alfalfa has been yielding pretty well, but I’ve been having to irrigate it more than I would like. The bermuda grass is doing well with good yields as well.
Thinning the Bolens’ thick patch of pecan trees.
The picture of the pecan trees is something I have always put on the back burner. In the fall of 1999, a neighbor who harvested nuts for a living had a large pile of nuts that didn’t make the grade for some reason. I asked him what he was going to do with them, he said burn them probably. I asked if I could haul them off and he told me to have at it. I had a piece of ground that I thought needed trees on it, so I loaded this pile up and spread them with my poultry litter spreader and disked them in. I really think two trees came up for every seed. I couldn’t believe how thick of a stand I had. So that fall I took the brush hog and made a sort of rows out of the thick stand, leaving about a two-foot strip of trees every twenty five feet or so and then every summer just kept mowing the same path. So this summer I hired a guy with a mulcher attachment to thin in between them. I’m sure I left them too thick, but I’m also thinking of digging some up to transplant to other places or sell.
Our cattle are doing well and we have almost decided which lamb each of our girls will be showing this fall and next spring.
This past month has really been its normal busy time for us. Photo opportunities have been afterthoughts, and I apologize.
We have sent off another flock of birds for processing and have already placed a new batch this past week. We did a complete clean-out of the litter of all our houses. Most went straight to the pastures or hay fields, and we stored some in the barn for future use.
We have been blessed with about four inches of rain in the past week that will really get the summer grasses going. We also got our 70 yearling heifers artificially inseminated the past couple of weeks. We also turned all our bulls out for the sixty- to ninety-day breeding season for our older cows. Our next project with the cows will be to get them all wormed and the calves processed with vaccines and castration of the bull calves.
Also, all our hay fields are ready to be baled. On any given day between now and frost we will be tending to our normal chores in the poultry houses and baling hay. I really enjoy the haying season, though. I love the challenge of making superior quality hay for livestock consumption.
The girls have finished school and will be deciding which lambs they will show this summer and fall. I missed a photo of the sheep shearing processes, which happened about two weeks ago. We hire a contractor to shear the wool off all our sheep annually. It is a very labor intensive, back-breaking job, but the guy we use does it like a pro. He gathers the wool in large sacks and sends to a processor for us to sell. The wool brings a little less than what it cost to have them sheared, but the ewes really need the wool removed before the really hot part of summer.
Hopefully over the coming weeks I will do a better job of slowing down and getting some more photos to share. In the meantime, I would encourage you to Google YouTube videos of folks shearing sheep. It amazes me how fast some of these folks can shear a sheep.
The first cutting of alfalfa on the Bolen farm. Swathed alfalfa is on the left.
We caught a window of dry enough weather to cut and bale our first cutting of alfalfa for haylage. This is the first crop of alfalfa we have had in years. We generally cut ryegrass this early to make our haylage. We expect we will have to make haylage out of the second cutting as well. Our springs are usually way too wet for curing about any hay crop so the haylage process is a must for us to capture as much quality as possible.
We are blessed to be caretakers of God’s creation. We strive daily to be efficient producers of food for a needy world. Every day is Earth Day on our farm. We have set aside about 70 acres of our place as buffer zones for creeks with about 20 acres of young pecan trees.
Making haylage on the Bolen farm. Haylage allows high-moisture hay to ferment in a plastic wrapping, providing the benefits that silage has.