Llamas are pretty good fence jumpers. If they don't bond well to your herd or flock they can jump your fencing, and once they're out they can cover a lot of ground fast.
A ranch I worked on had two llamas for 300 cows one calving season and we didnt lose a single one to coyotes. Very effective in that regard. They are really curious animals and I think just the action of running up to new things in the field scared off the coyotes.
However, if they had a mind to it they would run far and they were hard to herd back to the field. 15km in an afternoon the last time. Then they were herded into the corral and taken to town.
They guy I worked for didnt give them time to bond properly with the herd. I think they could be an effective guard animal with enough preperation and oversight.
I don't know how well forested the area is where you live, but standing deadwood and windkill from the forest definatly helped me make it through the winter two years ago, when I was stuck without a seasoned wood supply. Look for trees killed a year or two ago (if you know the history of the weather in the area you live, big wind storms, tornados, etc). If there is still bark on the tree but it peels off easy or has a bit of bark off in places it should be good to burn. Standing naked trees will be all punky and will burn with no heat.
I've also heard, although I haven't tried it myself, that submerging logs in running water (like a stream) for a time will wash the sap out of them and make for quicker drying once bucked and stacked.
After completing the harvest (end of Oct., mid-November?) in SK, I will be moving to Calgary to help my fiancee go through school to become a butcher, and will be looking for full time work for the winter (until about the beginning of April).
For the past three years I have worked at a cattle (cow/calf, custom feeding cow/calf and steers, and a small purebred Limousin herd) farm of anywhere from 200 to 550 head at a time. I am comfortable around livestock and have experience sorting/handling bulls, cows and calves, processing calves and diagnosing and treating cows. I have experience driving and maintaining quads (450 and 700), pickup trucks, 2 ton dump trucks, 2wd, front wheel assist (with FEL) and 4wd tractors. I have a Saskatchewan class 5 drivers license (regular license) with a clean record, and a 3/4 ton 4wd pickup truck with a fifth wheel hitch that could accompany me here. My fiancee and I raise rabbits, chickens and sheep at our own farm, and butcher them ourselves.
I also have varied experience in construction and renovations, as well as working at a plant that produced bio-diesel from heated canola seed for a year.
I've done a lot of reading about permaculture, and try to incorporate those ideas and ethics into my life as much as possible.
I am looking for full time paid work around or in Calgary. Doesn't have to be farming-related. I have a positive attitude and I learn fast, and enjoy learning new skills through my employment. If you need a hand send me a PM.
I feed my rabbits grass, weeds, hay and veggies along with pellets and have never had a problem. I've read that grass actually helps rabbits digest the pellets better. The best way to introduce new food to anything is slowly, with observation and one new food at a time. Grass, clovers and plantain are pretty safe bets to start.
I think if you're feeding the mother a diverse diet including veggies and fresh greens her milk will be richer and help the young ones adapt quickly to a broader diet.
I've used a Haybuster Drill to seed clover, wheat, corn and a mix of pasture seeds, and it's worked great. It's a ground drive too, which helps save on hp. Not sure if a 25 hp would do to pull it though. New they're listed for up to 20 000, but used I've seen them for 6 000 with some fixing to do. Renting is always a good option too, especially when establishing permanent(-ish) plantings like living mulchs, etc. If there's someone who sells pasture seed around where you're at, they'd probably know where to find a small no till drill for rent.
But, a part of me wonders if an old 15 ft. grain drill with sharpened discs and refitted with higher tension springs wouldn't do just as good of a job with the grains. That and a cheap broadcaster for grass and clovers/vetches/alfalfa would cover all bases nicely probably.
If where you're at, with a lot of conventional farming going on is anything like where I am, most farmers will have lots of old equipment that is still in good shape that they don't use anymore. As farms get bigger, folks just park the old stuff out back and let it sit, since there's no market for smaller equipment anymore. Still in fine working condition. Just talking to farmers, asking a couple guys about small drills or broadcasters they might have could lead you to some deals. I've found a lot of great stuff by just getting the word out that I'm a crazy person who actually wants the "old junk" out back. Got three 10ft cultivators last fall for a handle of whiskey. That's turning into a keyline plow and spare metal for other projects this spring. Talking to neighbouring farmers is always a better deal then craigslist or kijiji. Good luck!
If you are intending to keep the long quills for any sort of beadwork or art be sure to take them out asap. They have a tendancy to break off in the hauling out and skinning process. Also, if you're going to eat it you'll want to brine it overnight. It'll probably still taste a bit like whatever its favourite trees are. Good luck.
The Country Grind is a magazine by and for alternative minded-folks living with a DIY attitude in a rural setting, or transitioning to from an urban to a rural setting. We cover a really diverse range of topics all eith the Do-It-Yourself mindset firmly in place. You can check out the blog at http://www.countrygrind.net. In the blog is a link to view the first copy of the Grind online, for free.
We reach a large audience all across north america. I think that advertising in our mag would be a great way to get the word out if you need some sort of farm labour/WOOFers/harvesters, etc., as our magazine reaches a lot of folks who are interested in or already are working jobs like that. We have really reasonable rates, and if anyone has any questions they can PM me, or send an email to ian s petrie AT g mail dot com.
In my experience rabbits are extremely cold hardy animals, and they'll do just fine in a sheltered hutch with a good bed of straw. I have three that've been doing great through our cold winter with no heat lamps or heat sources of any kind. We've had several week long cold snaps down to -35C/-31F (down to -47C/-52F with windchill). The rabbits are thriving, and it's all their first winter. Two come from some pretty hardy stock, with the other coming from a rabbit factory farm setting which never bred for winter hardiness.
I surrounded the hutch with flax straw, and put in a good deep layer (6-8 inches) of wheat straw inside for them. They also each have access to a south facing window for solar heat. My insulation isn't very thick, nor are the cages draft proof (for ventilation purposes). The rabbits are healthy with no signs of frostbitten ears, or any other exposure problems.
A friend of mine (who I got the hardy stock from) has rabbits in this same set up, with no heat sources beyond their collective body heat and the sun. Two of her rabbits just gave birth this week, and all the babies survived and are doing fine.
In my opinion, I don't think rabbits ever need supplemental heating sources as long as they are sheltered from the wind, and can get the sun as a heat source. I also think Craig Dobbelyu is right about the risks of heat source failure. Just my two cents. Cheers!
I had a bit of a mishap getting a bale into the sheep's pen the other day that had it fall into a pile and the sheep stomped it into a pancake fairly fast. Even with a new bale of the same good quality hay in there, and with space to eat it some of the sheep are still digging down up to eight inches to find the really good stuff (alfalfa leaves, etc.). This leads me to think they might dig for food if it's good and they like it, even without pushing them to eat it.
I was wondering if anyone has any experience in feeding sheep sugar beets, fodder radish, etc. by letting them graze the leaves and then eat the root out of the ground. Farmers around here have told me about people doing it, but it always seems to be a case of 'my buddy heard from this guy he heard that guy was doing that' and I can't seem to talk to anyone who actually has experience with that sort of feeding system. Google has also failed me.
I'm wondering how well sheep would do on roots alone, or what sort of other supplement they need to make it a good source of feed. Do they dig down and eat it out of the ground well? Would they dig through snow to eat them if I left the tops as guides? Any information would be great! Thanks!
I've never been in a spot where I'd be able to clean my kitchen in under an hour and get a chicken cooked after a butchering session, so I don't know about that. What I do is let them cool at room temp until I'm done butchering. When they feel cold inside I put them in the fridge for 24 hours or so, and then into the freezer after that. I learned this the hard way my first year. I put them all in the freezer within a few hours of butchering and they were all SO tough and chewy. Let 'em rest a bit. The organs are for eating that first day.
As a farm hand in Canada's grain belt, I think about this issue a lot. A lot of the land around that's farmed for grain is naturally large meadows of grass in between stands of trees. Replicating this instead of blanketing everything as forest seems to be the way nature has sorted itself out to work the best here . I think an edible and diverse shelterbelt system with large areas in between with a mix of a groundcover and a layered series of grass-ish crops could do very well, in a mimic of the way meadows naturally occur. Clover/vetch spring wheat quinoa sunflowers? I haven't done a ton of research into specific combonations, but you get the idea. Initial weeding and clean-up with animals to control weeds and spread nutrients around would be effective and low energy and once the groundcover was established well I don't think a lot of intense weeding would be nessecary. Just a browse-off by sheep at the right time to control competition? I think this could be done on a large scale, especially with a wooded, multi functional pasture grazing system in between weed control and clean up for the animals, and pigs in a summer fallow rooting set-up for switching crops.
Lots of people have been talking about mechanization as a negative and harvesting as a problem. I understand that using crazy machines to destroy the natural cycle of the ecosystem and then using more machines to artificially replace what you've destroyed is silly, but so is harvesting wheat with a scythe. Did it this fall. IT SUCKS. Extremely high energy input for what you get. I understand that combine harvesters are also a high energy input machine due to dependance on fossil fuels and also designed obsolescence with parts creates a lot of work fixing them, but it is nice harvesting the same amount with a straight cut header in under two minutes holding a rye and coke than you did all day by hand. What I'm wondering, is if you could reduce energy input (better build parts, wood gas engine, etc.), if a combine harvester might make large scale food prairie harvest possible. You can set a combine to run with all the screens set to wide open, and take in all the seed at the same time, and then screen it out after the fact into seperate products for consumption or reseeding or whatever. This would be reasonable around where I'm at because all the grain crops that are grown here ripen at nearly the same time. In a different climate with different crops I don't know how that'd go.
I was also thinking that perhaps one could use nature as a guide in dealing with the compaction issue. I don't know how much one pass a year with a machine would compact the soil. If a combine with a 30' to 36' straight cut header (no swather running ahead beforehand) compacted a small comparative area compared to the harvest, could one use that area to grow crops that are suited to that level of compaction? Anywhere here I see compacted soil, I see thistles going crazy. What if we looked at the compaction as a positive, and used it to plant even just a straight animal forage guild that would be turned into meat by the clean-up animals? This is assuming that the compaction would be contained to one small combine route per meadow and not degrade all the soil throughtout before a pig-powered soil aireation.
I realize that this doesn't change the transporting fuel costs, etc. and present a whole picture of a sustainable large scale food system, but as some body who is involved in the large scale farming end of things thought I'd add my two cents after reading through the thread.