sorry for not keeping this thread updated. my day job has gotten busy so there isn't much time for online forums this year
here are some pictures and some info on things we have been up to
One of my cows had twins in October. I've not separated them or milked her at all yet for fear that she would then struggle to feed them both. However, now that they are 6 weeks old, can I start separating them at night and milking mum in the morning? Or will she then not have enough milk to continue to sustain two calves?
what kind of cow and what kind of forage?
most modern diary cows will make enough milk to feed 3-4 calves (assuming decent forage)
Rebecca Wooldridge wrote:You've got a really inspiring set-up going there, Kelly! Thanks for sharing what you're doing, I've only just now read through it but there is a lot of good stuff going on.
You mentioned raising your rabbits colony-style and I was wondering what your set up is like, and if you would you mind sharing a bit more detail of your rabbit tractors? We're getting ready to build some tractors of our own for next spring and I've been checking out what other people are doing as a starting point for our design. Do you use them solely for growing out litters, or do you keep the rabbits in some sort of tractor on grass all the time? What are you feeding them? I've researched colony raising meat rabbits but so far I haven't come across a lot of examples of it being pulled off. All of your animals seem to be in very good condition so I'm really curious about how you're doing it!
Also, could you tell or show a little more about how you process and package your birds entirely on your own farm? What kind of regulations do you have to meet there to do that, and how have you set up to do that on the small scale?
Thank you for the thoughtful reply. I hope i can answer all your questions. I will add some pictures later as well -
We haven't gotten around to raising rabbits in a colony style actually. currently the rabbits are still in the rabbit tractor, moving daily. we are actually going to take a break on rabbits for a bit. we have some other things going on and i dont want to spread myself to thin.
That said - i can tell you how i planned to do it. I planned to have a colony mainly for the winter and tractor the bunnies during the growing season. We only planned 2 does and 1 buck to start with. when you setup the colony, set up the feeder where you can close the rabbits off. use the feeders to help corral the babies and add piles of dirt for them to burrow in.
we planned to breed each doe and put her and her babies in the tractors at ~a month old. tractor them all around together until ~5 weeks or so before the fryer rabbits are ready to process. remove the doe and put her back in the colony with the buck so her next litter is ready soon. we planned to do this with both does 2-3 times in a growing season. the buck would have the colony to himself most of the growing season.
the rabbit tractor i built is based on the "Stress Free Chicken Tractor Plans" ( https://farmmarketingsolutions.com/stress-free-chicken-tractor-plans/ ). I used shade cloth on top and closed in a small part in the back. I will take some pictures of the rabbit tractor later today and post soon. we planned to use the tractors only for growing out litters in the growing season (aprilish - novemberish). we do supplement with a pelleted feed. i am under the understanding that you could raise meat rabbit with no food inputs, but the grow out times would be much longer. i try to give them enough food that the feeder is pretty low during night chores. i want the feeder to be empty and the ground cover to be eaten. i did find if you dont feed them enough they will dig our and go find food at the neighbors.
i also havent found many examples of meat rabbits in a colony only setting. i would be afraid it would turn into a rabbit feedlot.
you could keep the does in tractors in the winters if you wanted to. there isnt much to eat around here so for time sake, we would have kept them in a colony (i 'think' colony chores would be less than moving tractors)
as for the poultry - in Colorado we are allowed to process up to 1000 birds on farm, for sale direct to the consumer (not restaurants). there is some labeling that is needed but for the most part none of that is enforced unless you are at a farmers market. we are WAY under 1000 birds
currently our poultry processing consists of a 2 cone kill stand, a keg/propane burner (scalder) and featherman pro plucker. we eviscerate on large food grade cutting boards that can be washed as needed. we soak/chill in coolers. we bag in "poultry shrink wrap bags" .
currently we are limited to about 30-35 birds a day. we need more space/cooler to chill finished birds in.
next year we plan a fancier label and adding the ability to buy birds (some get get a set price - not pay by the lb)
hope this helps. please feel free to ask follow up questions or for clarifications (i am multitasking while typing this!)
i found and updated overhead shot of our property where you are able to see the "irrigation control ditch" (ditch sloping at 1% towards the 'ridge')
you can also see our managed grazing pattern just above the swale as well as in the far south (lowest/wettest/best growing during the summer!)
we continue to use the laneway as access to the paddocks (also visible below) - we are using premier 1 electronet (sheep quikfence) and a kencove 6 joule charge. it seems to keep all of the animals (sheep, cows and pigs) EXCEPT the goats contained.
Andreas Brevitz wrote:I don't think it's very humane to let those critters die by drowning
i just wanted to address this real quick.
if you arent putting water in the bucket you have to check the trap EVERYDAY. if not the mice will become so hungry that they will eat each other - the "winning" mouse normally doesnt wait until its friend is dead to start eating. normally starting at the eyes.
we now keep water in the bucket to prevent this as to me, drowning is better than being eatin alive
Julia Winter wrote:Is that a pregnant hair sheep in the top photo? She's huge!
I'm curious, have you harvested a Kune kune pig, if so how did you find the meat? We have a couple of American Guinea Hogs, which are similar. . .
If you give your pigs access to a wet spot, they might be able to make a pond for you. There's a thread here that documents pigs making a pond in what started out as a gravel pit.
yes that is our main ewe in that pic - she is HUGE. she had twins again this year
we havent harvested any kunekunes yet - but our plan is to do that this summer. we want to butcher them here at the farm so that we can make sure we can use all of the animal (our processor, like most, do not scald/scrape).
we are also trying to figure out how to chill the meat for a few days without a walk in cooler. we may have to quarter them and keep them in a fridge or we will need a large chest freezer and a temp controller. i will post when we actually get around butchering them for sure!
we arent technically allowed to have ponds here - or at least you cant call it that. we may add a "tail water control pit" at some time but we have a few other projects to get to first.
Wyatt Bottorff wrote:Folks surely are interested, just busy I'm sure.
It's amazing, the amount of progress you have ushered in in a few short years! The diversity is beautiful, exactly what any of us could hope for. It will be so exciting for you when all those fruit trees come in. I love the decision to get into raising rabbits especially, many folks are skittish of (culturally) uncommon food sources; I assure you though that they are a common site for many of us here.
In the years you've ran this farm, how have you seen the community change? Both locally and permaculture in general?
most people in my area are either keeping horses or growing hay. most are on smallish (5-15 acres) irrigated parcels. I dont see a ton of people raising food. very few are thinking of their farm as a system (as far as i can tell).
we do notice people slow down on the road that goes in front of our farm - it happens a lot when we have all of our animals out grazing together. we kind of keep to ourselves as i have found that unsolicited farming advise is almost never welcomed - similar to unsolicited parenting advice
there does seem to be a decent size permaculture surrounding Colorado Springs. there is a group up there that, as far as i can tell mainly works with smaller properties. they are mainly doing urban lots, gilded apple trees and the like.
we have been so busy (baby #2 arrives in Oct!) that i havent had time to reach out to the group lately. i would like to host one of their monthly meetings here at the farm and see what they think and hopefully get some ideas
we planted about 200 tree seedlings over the past few weeks:
we chose a lot of edibles this year.
paw paw, persimmon, hazelnut, elderberry, apples, osage orange, and red mulberry.
we even planted some non edibles honey locust and eastern red cedar.
we planted 50 antonovka apple root stocks this year. these are a card hardy apple from Siberia that produces fruit large enough to be considered "forage value". any that live will drop fruit for our chickens and pigs, and the trees that do great we will graft on known good cultivars
we are slowing down for this year, but we are still:
milking a cow / operating a raw milk herd share. - currently trying to AI her for a Jan/Feb calf.
angus calf - we still have "lucky" - the calf we rescued from the irrigation ditch last year. she is doing good. we will likely sell her later this year as we continue to downsize.
raising hair sheep - currently 5 ewes, 9 lambs and a ram. (we sold half our flock in early April) - we are going to year-round breeding. we will see if our forage can keep the ewes in good body condition and the number of lambs will also show the results of that (singles = not enough nutrition, twins = good enough nutrition - generically speaking)
kunekune pigs - currently have 1 litter (9 piglets) on the ground and 1 sow due in mid May. we plan to process our first hog once the pigs have been out on pasture for a few weeks/month.
layer chickens - 25 layers this year - still waiting on 10 to start laying.
meat chickens - only doing 25 meaties this year - hope to supplement this with rabbit meat
turkeys - we are doing 10 turkeys - we arent doing the heritage breeds we did last year (Narragansett and Royal Palm) as they didnt grow big enough - they also roosted on the top of the barn (20ft up) which wasnt ideal. the colored feathers were also not ideal. we plan to do white birds this year - we hope they will stay on our property and help with grasshopper infestation that is predicted again this year.
meat rabbits - we are starting meat rabbits this year. we plan to raise them in a colony type setup instead of cages. currently have 1 doe and we are working on getting the colony setup. i hope to have 2 does and and a buck in a colony by fall.
we are about to plant another 200 trees this year. we ordered trees from the CO forest service as well as the MO state nursery. the MO nursery seems to have a better selection of edibles than CO, but CO has a lot of good shrubs. we also have 50 apple rootstock that we will plant this year. the hope is that we can graft good varieties onto the good trees over the next few years. there is a local apple variety that i am looking for called the - penrose apple.
we are still managing 10 acres in total. grazing our pasture and haying the other property. we are going to work/focus on cycling carbon this year. we plan to start feeding any hay we do use out in the field with an attempt to get 100% ground cover. we are also hoping any seeds in the hay will help fill in our pasture bare spots.
work continues on the swale/irrigation control ditch. we have to fence it to keep the pigs out of it as they have rooted a bit in the mount.
hope everyone is doing new/fun/permie things.
id be happy to answer any questions about what we are doing if anyone has any.
you might need to build the dog a pen that only he can jump into and out of, but the pigs cant get into.
cattle or hog panels would work best.
you can add a "lgd jump gate" so only the dog can get in. see below:
Steve Taylor wrote:Years ago I read an article about how roundup ready crops cause the insects eating it to have their abdomin opened up and their guts spilled out.
this isnt a 'feature' of round up ready crops. roudup ready crops have the ability to withstand being sprayed with roundup, while all other plants around them die.
i think you are referring to Bt Corn. when the corn borer eats the Bt Corn (which is technically a pesticide), the BT created by the corn plant kills the borer in a similar way to what you describe.
round up, as i understand it, "locks up" nutrients in its matrix, thus making them unavailable to the plant. imo, its not to far of a stretch to see roundup doing that same thing once inside the human body.
we are still here and still farming.
we have recognized that the market isnt rational and are attempting to pull back a bit. we dont want an irrational market to mold they way we farm.
for instance - the market wants meat chickens. but in order to grow meat chickens i have to buy the chicks as well as buy their food. to me this isnt sustainable. i would prefer something like rabbits as a meat source. they can reproduce on their own, as well as eat forage we already grow. the market doesnt want to eat cute rabbits, even know imo, its FAR FAR more sustainable than chickens.
i would say it sounds like the feed requirements are being met.
we raise kune kunes without any grain during the growing season. they graze our pastures using electric netting along with 3-4 other species. during the winter we will feed a small amount of grain and a lot of alfalfa hay
C Gallas wrote:
This is separate question but can you purchase Antonovka Apple rootstock and just grow it out for Antonovka apples? I'm seeing the rootstock is much cheaper than nurseries are selling whips for planting. It makes sense but I wasn't sure if something is done to the rootstock when it is used primarily for rootstock.
this is what i plan to do.
i plan to mass plant them in areas where animals can harvest the fruit drop. I will go back and selectively graft specific trees with "human grade apples" once i have a better idea of what their growing habits are.
last sunday (8/14) we found a ~2day old calf in the local irrigation ditch. we spend most of the day trying to locate her momma and owner. we even had someone take her, but brought her back when his fresh cow wasnt interested in the calf.
after bucket feeding her for a few days the local brand inspector took the calf back. apparently, with lost livestock, the State takes them and feeds them for up to a week while they try to locate the owners. if no owners can be found the animal is taken to the local auction.
so we called thursday to check on the calf and found out no one had claimed her and that she would be at our local auction on Saturday. so we went out there and were able to successfully bid on her.
In your context, you may look at a smaller compost spreader and ATV combo.
until then, i would do what you are doing now - manually spread compost onto the pastures.
as for the time of year, i think most of the time except late fall/winter would be good in your climate.