Same song, different dance – The Harris Family

Spraying a wheat field in southwest Oklahoma.

Spraying a wheat field in southwest Oklahoma.

Well its very cold and dry STILL in Southwest Oklahoma.  We are working on several projects and planning for this year’s crops. Zac has began micromanaging each of the fields to try to maximize production.  We began this last year, instead of putting all the fertilizer on the wheat at one time, but rather applying it in a timely fashion before a rain, etc.  This way we can split the fertilizer over a 2-month span and hopefully gain maximum benefit by the crop having ample nutrition at all stages.  Not only does this add time covering 6000 acres twice, but also our overhead costs of engine hours on equipment, diesel and the opportunity for break downs.  We feel like last year it improved our yields despite the four late freezes that caused significant damage; providing more of a safe product for the world.

Chopping ice is a necessity to ensure livestock have water during cold spells.

Chopping ice is a necessity to ensure livestock have water during cold spells.

With weather all over the place it makes it really hard on all life, including livestock.  One of my chickens died; the kids have had them since last spring and they had just began laying eggs consistently.  Really warm days followed by harsh cold fronts and polar vortices give opportunity for cattle to be sick quickly.

Zac has bought 2 wheat trucks that needed complete overhauling- in fact one of them was a wrecked truck.  Apparently, the driver had gotten too far in the ditch to allow a vehicle to travel along the same road and the wheat in the box shifted and caused the truck to flip on its side.  So he has spent a lot of time straightening and tweaking the bent iron to make this a useable truck for the years to come.  Over a year ago, he also bought a very similar truck that needed a motor overhaul.  So this is the year of the trucks at the Harris Farms.

Kenda's horse and 4-H steer get to know each other across the fence.

Kenda’s horse and 4-H steer get to know each other across the fence.

Kenda has been busy washing and working hair on her Oklahoma Youth Expo steer project.  She has shown mini Herefords before but this is her first official 4-H project.  Her brother and sister have been very helpful! Trale’ feels like she needs a “widdle steer” herself!

Just staying busy. If you come SW give us a shout we’d love to buy your dinner!

Zac and Amy

 

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The bird life continued, weeks three and four – The Bolen Family

A healthy bird after three weeks of feed and care. (click to enlarge)

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.

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.

A chick’s first two weeks on the farm – The Bolen Family

A chick that is less than a day old.

A chick that is less than a day old.

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.

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.

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.

Springtime and shearing time – The Bolen Family

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.

Spring is … somewhere – The Harris Family

Planting potatoes is a family event on the Harris farm.

Planting potatoes is a family event on the Harris farm.

Well I hope everyone has enjoyed this beautiful spring weather we have been having! Oh but wait, it’s Oklahoma and as the old saying goes, “If you don’t like the weather, wait ‘til tomorrow!” That has definitely turned out to be true during this spring break!
Harris Farms has had a productive couple of weeks … our garden finally has potatoes planted. We finished them on the 15th, barely in time by the traditional St. Patrick’s Day deadline! Onions are in the ground ­- Amy is taking a stab at potatoes again; last year was not successful, so she’s hoping this year is better. Any potato experts out there, please don’t mock our planting abilities!

We purchased baby chicks to finally go in the chicken coop Amy’s dad built a year ago! The kids are super excited, but Amy is not happy about the funny smells from the mud room. Yesterday a few started flying out of the box we had them in, so they graduated to an empty stock tank. I think Amy is counting down until they can go officially outside, but with this cold snap, it may not happen as soon as she would like.

Paw Paw and the Harris kids with a new shredder.

Paw Paw and the Harris kids with a new shredder.

I was busy moving cows to spring pastures last week, so I didn’t get to go to the Young Farmers and Ranchers Legislative Day at the Capitol. I kept the three small children so Amy could go. After hearing all she had to say, I almost wish I would have dusted off my tie and made the trip! Representative Todd Russ and Senator Mike Schulz are so ag friendly I knew I didn’t have anything to worry about, but Amy spoke with each of them for about 45 minutes. Something Senator Schultz said that really struck Amy was, “You can’t have freedom without responsibility.” That statement carries so much weight. If we as Americans aren’t willing to take responsibility for things like protecting the environment, caring for those in need, etc., the government will be happy to take that responsibility, but with that comes greater regulations and taxation just to name a few.

Something else that was discussed during the luncheon was the rainfall. Get ready, there was a prediction made that we will only see 1.5 inches of rain during the months of June, July and August. So as much as we would like to avoid the topic of drought and set aside all the worry that comes along with drought, I do believe it is here and not leaving anytime soon. Also, some concern from the legislators is that water is not really a topic at the Capitol and we should be screaming it. A story was told about some friends in Lubbock that their water bill is twice whatour electric bill is in any given month. The fact remains here in Oklahoma we don’t pay for water when we pay our water bill, we pay for the infrastructure and maintenance. My food for thought is how would our usage of water change if we had to start paying for the water that runs through the tap? Or what if you were only allotted 250 gallons a month? What would we give up? Food, water and shelter are the 3 biggest needs of survival. You can survive 10 days without food, but only 3 without water!

Kenda showing her miniature Hereford at the 2013 Oklahoma Youth Expo in Oklahoma City.

Kenda showing her miniature Hereford at the 2013 Oklahoma Youth Expo in Oklahoma City.

We were able to enjoy the Oklahoma Youth Expo. The staff did a great job with the schedule changes and additions, such as Miniature Hereford Steer Show. Kenda was first in her class. I think there was 11 head and 5 classes. Such fun to watch 4-year-olds to 9-year-olds in the ring handling these animals.

We finished top dressing the wheat with fertilizer about 10 days ago. The crop adjuster was out about that time and disastered out about 150 acres and will be back out to do a tiller count in about 10 more days. What has been disastered already will be planted to milo after this cold snap is over, with hopes of harvesting in July.

A lot of our neighbors have had to spray for bugs in the wheat. We chose not to spray this year for three reasons. The first reason is I haven’t seen a lot of bugs in our wheat and, the second reason is that wheat can outgrow a small bug problem and with the weather and the rainfall coming at the right time I think it will outgrow that problem fairly quickly. Thirdly, I used sulfur in our topdress and bugs do not like it. I hope I’m right.

Until next time….

The return of the feed grinder – The Bolen Family

Probably like a lot of folks, our feed grinder got brought out of retirement this past year. We had gotten lazy with somewhat cheap feed and just bought it already ground and mixed. With the high price of corn and all the added cost at the feed store, we went back to making our own ewe and lamb creep feed. We mainly dry-lot our ewes because if we allow them to graze it seems we struggle too much with internal parasites (worms).

Grinding sheep feed on the Bolen farm.

Grinding sheep feed on the Bolen farm.

We also received a new flock of baby chickens in the four houses close to our home place. We have the other four houses set a week apart, so we have the work spread over a little more time.

We are still in full-blown calving season. We have close to 60 on the ground now. In fact, I’m sitting in my pickup writing this on my iPhone waiting on and watching a first-calf heifer.

We have been blessed with rain and mild weather compared to the rest of the state. One thing that keeps concerning me is how quickly it dries out after these rains. We are normally knee-deep in mud this time of year. We will see what this next spring and summer has in store. None of our ponds are completely full. They are, however, in way better shape now than they were last fall.

Next week is our county livestock show, so I hope we are reporting success from the competition.

Cleaning out the chicken houses – The Bolen Family

Removing Wet Litter

Bedding Remover

This machine removes the wet cake and clods and leaves drier bedding on the floor in our houses. We do this right after the birds are removed. We take the caked litter and either spread it or store it in a shed for later use.


Windrowing Litter

Poultry Litter WindrowerThis is a poultry litter windrow attachment for our skid steer. We windrow every time between batches of birds unless it’s our annual complete cleanout. Windrowing will cause the litter to heat in excess of 160 degrees, which kills a lot of the bacteria. It is my opinion that reused litter is better for the next flock than new shavings, and it costs less as well. Windrowing also helps control darkling beetles that live deep in the litter. Darkling beetles eat chicken feed and spread diseases.


Final Bedding Check

After windrowing, if I think the bedding is going to be more than 5" deep when spread back out, I remove some of the litter. Pictured is my case sr 200 skid steer along with a load of removed litter  This skid steer is by far the most used and versatile peace of equipment I own.  It has a pressurized ,air conditioned cab which makes working in these conditions a lot more tolerable. After windrowing, if I think the bedding is going to be more than 5″ deep when spread back out, I remove some of the litter. Pictured is my case SR 200 skid steer along with a load of removed litter. This skid steer is by far the most-used and versatile piece of equipment I own. It has a pressurized, air-conditioned cab, which makes working in these conditions a lot more tolerable.