A Kid’s Perspective on Home Butchering

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It’s Just the Facts of Life

Ever since I can remember, I have grown up with home butchering. Whenever we got some kind of poultry or livestock, we always had the intention of butchering them later on, so it was never a surprise to me when Fluffy the bunny was in our stew the next week.

In my eyes, they weren’t really pets, but they weren’t really livestock, either. We just had animals that I loved to snuggle, and then later . . . loved to eat.

That was that, no hard feelings.  

A Kid's Perspective on Home Butchering 1

Should You Name Your Meat Livestock?

My favorite part has always been when we first get the animals and they are all so cute and tiny. As soon as I heard that a new litter of bunnies had arrived, I would race out to the garden to marvel at the pink little squirmy blobs. Of course, I wouldn’t pick them up until they were old enough, but the moment they were, those poor little bunnies would be dressed up in bows and sent through little obstacle courses made out of cardboard boxes and various bits and pieces from around the house.

My mom always insisted that I didn’t need to take the bunnies out to the trampoline to learn how to jump, but I was sure that it was my job to teach them this important life skill.

Some people have a rule that they don’t name their livestock, but I’ve never had a problem with it. As soon as I could tell them apart, they all had names. Some of my favorite names were BunBun, Officer Hoppers, Gravy, and Pinky. It seems like every litter had a bunny or two named Fluffy. (Thinking of names is hard—sometimes you have to reuse a name a few times!)

Even when they grew bigger, I would often bring them inside and continue to dress them up and snuggle with them against my dad’s will.

One Benefit to Home Butchering Is Learning Anatomy

When it came time to butcher the bunnies, I would help my mom round them up and bring them to the barn, where I would then pick out who goes first. This sounds really morbid, and my 7-year-old self didn’t think much about it, but I would determine who gets butchered next by how much they liked snuggles. If you were squirming to get away, you were next . . . .

I have a vivid memory of one time when my mom was butchering a rabbit and my brother, who is 2 years older than me, was crying and pleading for her not to do it. I didn’t really understand why he was so upset about it, because I knew that’s why we had rabbits in the first place, and I really liked rabbit enchiladas . . . soooo, what’s the problem here?

A Kid's Perspective on Home Butchering 1

That was also the very special day that I got to hold a real heart for the first time. For as far back as I can remember, I have always been intrigued by anatomy and how the things inside of your body work, so I would always hang close to my mom and ask what that weird organ was and if I could touch it. I thought the heart was the coolest organ, so when I got to hold one for real, I was ecstatic.

It’s a Badge of Honor

I was much more involved with the bunnies because they were nice to snuggle with, but when we had chickens, I would sometimes play with them when they were at prime cuteness.

A Kid's Perspective on Home Butchering 3

Although I don’t mind the butchering of our chickens, I do mind defeathering 50 to 70 chickens in one day. Usually we will get a hundred or so baby chicks in the spring, raise them up, and then butcher them all in the summer. Not all of them survive getting here and growing up, but still, 50 chickens is a lot of birds to pluck, even with 4 or 5 other people helping.

My brother and I would invite some of our friends over to help, and to our surprise, they were all excited to learn about home butchering.

Actually, most of the kids in our neighborhood wanted to learn how to process a chicken.

My mom says this is a skill that all kids used to know, and apparently, most kids are into it if given the opportunity. Even my older brother became proud that he could teach his buddies how to do it.

I enjoy having the bunnies and chicks around for a while before they land on the dinner table. There is one kind of animal, however, that I am ready to butcher as soon as we get them . . . geese. I’ve never liked geese, and I never will. They’re bullies, they hiss at you for no reason, and they poop anywhere and everywhere that they can get their butts to.

You can tell me that geese aren’t that bad, and they are actually sweet animals on the inside or whatever your reasoning is for liking geese—but in my opinion, having goose stew is like sweet, sweet revenge.

It’s Important to Honor the Full Circle

I’m sure that each kid is going to have a different reaction to home butchering. Although not every 7-year-old is going to want to play with all of the organs in a rabbit, I do think it’s nice to include kids in the butchering process somehow.

It’s a good learning experience about death and giving thanks.

A Kid's Perspective on Home Butchering 4

My mom and I would always do a little ceremony and sing a special song after each rabbit died to recognize its life and what it was giving us. If you want to see her perform this ceremony, it’s in the butchering section of the Grow Your Own Groceries DVD set. You can click here to pick up your own copy. (There’s also some footage in there of me doing dishes when I was little.)

The whole butchering process really made me think about where my food is coming from—and about how much of a blessing it is for a living being to give its life for my nourishment.

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The post A Kid’s Perspective on Home Butchering appeared first on The Grow Network.

From Bacon to Baby Backs: Hog Butchering at Home

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CAUTION: This article, and the photos in it, include graphic details about hog butchering. If you are disturbed by information and images of this nature, please use your own discretion when determining whether to read further.

This is part four in a multi-part series on processing pigs at home. If you’ve been following along, in the previous posts, we’ve covered preparing for the slaughter, making the kill, and post-kill processing including hair removal, evisceration, and head removal.  We are now onto the hog butchering process.

In case you missed those earlier posts, here are the links:

Article #1: “Preparing for a Pig Slaughter”

Article #2: “The Pig Slaughter”

Article #3: “Hog Processing: Skinning, Scalding, Scraping, and Eviscerating”

Hog Butchering While the Carcass Is Hanging

Now, it’s time to turn a carcass into useful meat cuts on the homestead. At the grocery store, you usually find tenderloin, pork chop, Boston butt or shoulder roasts, precooked hams, presliced cured bacon, and baby back ribs.

You can certainly try to duplicate these cuts at home. However, when you process at home, you have more options about how to make your cuts. Since we only process a few pigs a year, we try new techniques for making roasts, ribs, and chops each time. But, there are a few key cuts we always make.

1. Make the Belly Cut

The first cut we make is to remove the belly. Doing this makes it easier to remove the tenderloins and to cut the carcass in half.

Pig ribs are very similar in shape to human ribs. They start wide near the sternum, then taper toward the waist. The belly area, which can be used for bacon, is basically the fat-covered muscle area that runs between the two sides of the ribs and in the bone-free area between the ribs and pelvis.

Some bacon lovers even cut up and over the ribs and use the back meat for bacon. This works well with market-style pigs like Yorkshires. However, with our pasture-raised Berkshires, there’s just not enough fat marbling to make good bacon from that area.

The only tricky part about removing the belly is that as the ribs begin to widen, there are soft-floating ribs that are tender enough to slice with a knife. Sometimes, in our eagerness to get more bacon, we cut too close to those floating ribs and end up with bits of them in our belly cut.

In the photo below, you can see where I cleared them on the first belly I removed, but nicked the first one on the other side and had to readjust my knife before continuing to remove the belly.

The non-skin side of the belly is covered with a layer of fat called leaf-lard. Use your fingers to pry that layer of fat off the meat. You can render that separately for use as “pastry lard” (if you have enough of it). Or just lump it in with the rest of your lard trim for later use.

Once you have removed both sides of the belly, next up is the tenderloin.

2. Remove the Tenderloins

The tenderloin is the most tender cut of meat because those particular muscles don’t get as much use as areas like the shoulders. They are located inside the carcass, on either side of the back bone near the hind legs. Some people call them filets because of their fish-like shape.

Tenderloins should be removed before you begin to halve the carcass. Once you locate them, gently cut around the connective tissue holding them in place. Work slowly so you can get every bit of this delicate cut.

3. Split the Carcass

Now you are ready to split the carcass into halves. Cut a line down the skin and meat side of the back as a guide. Then saw from the inside of the carcass following the spinal cord. If you get off course, back your saw up and straighten your cut.

Now that you’ve got your carcass cut into manageable pieces, you can take it off the gambrels and over to your work table. This is easiest if you have two people, each taking a side, and remove the halves simultaneously. If you have to do this alone, put a tarp down to catch the other half of the carcass in case it slides off the gambrel when you remove the first side.

Hog Butchering on a Tabletop

For the rest of this process, we use a stainless steel table and keep a few large cutting boards handy to cube trim for sausage and clean up roasts.

1. Remove the Hocks and Trotters

Hocks and trotters come off first for us. We use a knife to cut at the knee joints and a saw to go through the bone.

We aren’t so fond of eating these, so we use them as treats for dogs or chickens.  They don’t mind the hair and skin, so we don’t bother scraping these areas.

2. Separate the Hams

We cure and cold-smoke our hams so they can be stored without refrigeration. For country ham curing, we like to keep just a short hock on the ham (as shown in the photo above and below).  For prosciutto-style hams, we just remove the trotter (foot) and leave the hock long.

I like to rotate the ham around the hip joint to find the narrow point for separating the ham. Leave the ribs facing down on the table and roll the skin side of the ham in the opposite direction. Cut around the meat to the bone. Then use a saw to cut through the bone.

The last step is to trim up the ham to make the front face mostly smooth for curing.  Any scraps of meat or fat you remove can be put in a trim pile for use in sausage or as cubed meat for stewing.

3. Remove the Back Fat and Skin

From this point forward, there are lots of different ways to butcher a pig. I love pork skins. So, I try to remove the skin and back fat in large slabs. I put the skin-side down and use my knife to separate the skin from the meat.

Once I have a large slab, I trim off any residual meat for my sausage meat pile. I put the fat in our freezer to chill it, because that makes it easier to remove the fat from the skin.

4. Cut the Pork Loin

After you have removed the fat and skin, you can see the long strip of muscle that runs along the spine next to the ribs. This is the loin.

We’re not big fans of pork chops, so we usually cut this into 3-4 roasts. We prefer to use the fat for lard and sausage, so we don’t leave much on the loin.

5. Separate the Ribs

We love our ribs, and pigs can have between 15 and 17 of them. We have no problem sucking meat off the bone or even off the floating ribs.

We like to cut what we call “dinosaur ribs.” Basically, we separate the shoulder from the ribs. Usually though, we break the shoulder area about 4-5 ribs down from the neck.

We use the saw to cut off the spine so we can fit the ribs in our pot. We follow the spine closely, though, rather than cutting down the center of the ribs to make classic baby back ribs.

6. Cut the Shoulder and Picnic

The shoulder is the area above the front leg or picnic. The meat in the front leg has lots of silver skin and is not very tender. We usually cut that up and use it for sausage. Then, we cut multiple 2-pound roasts from around the shoulder blade.

For one of our shoulders, though, we kept the leg with the shoulder, removed the skin, and slow roasted that entire primal cut. We also saved another one to try cooking in a hot smoker in order to make a several-month supply of prepared pulled pork to enjoy all summer long.

Miscellaneous

As you are making all these cuts, you’ll be able to cut trim from odd-shaped roasts, areas around the bones, and in spots where the meat has more ligature. You will also be able to cut extra fat from your belly cut, the back, and around some of the muscles. As we are making our other cuts, we also cut all that trim into pieces that fit into our grinder and throw the fat into one bowl and the meat into another to use for sausage later.

The bones that we cut from the meat—such as the spine, shoulder blade, and front leg bones—go into the stockpot for making bone stock.  Extra bits of skin that aren’t used for pork rinds also go into the stock to make gelatin. You can read more about how we make bone stock here:

Read More: “Benefits of Bone Broth: Myth or Magical Mystery?”

Hog Butchering in Warm Weather

In cold weather, we can allow our pig to hang overnight to chill the meat. This makes hog butchering a lot easier. However, when processing in late spring (as in this photo series), we have to work quickly to get everything safely processed.

We have a marine cooler lined with frozen bottles of water sitting in the shade ready to hold cuts.

We don’t use ice because we don’t want our meat cuts—like the belly or hams—to take up extra water before we cure them. We keep a fan blowing in the area where we are working to keep insects away.

My partner, Matt, and I, work as a team. As one of us butchers, the other immediately takes the cuts and puts them in the cooler if more processing is necessary. Roasts and ready-to-cook cuts are immediately packaged and put straight into the freezer.

Fall or early winter is certainly our preferred time to butcher. But there are ways to make processing safe at home even in warmer temperatures.

Now that we’ve got hog butchering wrapped up, our next installment in this series will be on some post-butchering preparations, like making country ham and bacon. In the meantime, I am going to go cook up those tenderloins and savor the flavor of pork that’s been raised, processed, and prepared at home.

How about you? Do you have any hog butchering techniques, cuts, or preparations you prefer? Let us know in the comments section below.

 

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The post From Bacon to Baby Backs: Hog Butchering at Home appeared first on The Grow Network.

Congratulations, May Certification Graduates!

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Congratulations to the following Community members on completing one or more of our Certifications in May!

As many of you know, one of the perks of membership in our Honors Lab is FREE access to several amazing certifications in our Honors Lab area—and lots more are in the works.

These Certifications dive deep. They’re essentially multi-lesson master classes, full of practical know-how so you can immediately start reaping benefits for yourself, your family, and your garden.

(And if you’re not an Honors Lab member yet, you can gain access to these Certifications + lots more perks of membership by joining today. Click here to learn more!)

 

Backyard Chickens for Egg Production Certification

Backyard Chickens for Egg Production 

In this awesome certification, TGN blogger (and homesteader extraordinaire!) Tasha Greer covers everything from breed selection and coop design to flock health and egg storage — plus lots more….

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members on completing this Certification:

  • Brian Moyers
  • Nanciann Lamontagne
  • Sharon Companion
  • Suzette Carlin

 

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification 

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification

This 8-week course teaches the principles of bio-intensive gardening—one of the easiest, most sustainable ways to produce big, delicious fruits and vegetables!

It covers everything from starting and transplanting seedlings to the basics of garden beds and soil, and from making compost to garden maintenance. There’s even a section on harvesting and processing grains!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members for completing the Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification in May!

  • Downing
  • Nanciann Lamontagne

 

Home Medicine 101 Certification

Home Medicine 101 Certification

The Home Medicine 101 Certification is a perennial favorite in the Honors Lab!

This eight-week class teaches you how to remedy:

  • Burns, stings, and rashes,
  • Wounds and lacerations,
  • Coughs and colds,
  • Fevers,
  • Indigestion,
  • Anxiety and insomnia,
  • Muscle pain, and
  • Topical infections …

… with readily available plants you may already have growing in your backyard!

Congratulations to the following Community members on completing Home Medicine 101:

  • david jones
  • ginaBacigalupo Zappia
  • goldenangel0819760
  • JessicaPatel
  • Kerry Lowe
  • MarilynSunia
  • Nanciann Lamontagne
  • Nelly P
  • Ray Harney
  • Shelli Haun
  • Sherriamaro

 

Instant Master Gardener Certification

Instant Master Gardener Certification

In just 8 lessons, The Grow Network’s Instant Master Gardener Certification reveals gardening secrets, tips, and tricks that most people spend years discovering.

Lessons include:

  1. “The Secret to a Green Thumb”
  2. “How Much Land Do You Need?”
  3. “The Power of Herbs”
  4. “The Easiest Way to Prepare a Garden Bed”
  5. “Three Facts About Seeds Every Master Gardener Knows”
  6. “Transplanting Baby Plants”
  7. “The Four HUGE Advantages of Backyard Food Production”
  8. “A Homemade Fertilizer So Powerful, You Could Create a Business Out of It”

Congrats to the following Honors Lab members for completing this powerful certification in May:

  • ChimneyFieldFarm
  • Daviddulock
  • Diane Massey
  • jbartlett
  • Nanciann Lamontagne
  • Whtwtrldy

 

Saving Quality Seeds Certification

Saving Quality Seeds

Learn how to save seeds that will ensure an abundant harvest in years to come with the in-depth information in TGN’s Saving Quality Seeds Certification.

This 7-lesson Certification teaches which plants are easiest to save seeds from, how to plan your garden with seed-saving in mind, how to do a garden soil inventory, the basics of dry and wet harvesting, the best way to store seed, how to determine seed quality—and more!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members on completing this Certification:

  • Nanciann Lamontagne
  • Suzette Carlin

We’ve also got several more certifications in the works, including “Making Medicine,” “Growing Mushrooms,” “Raising Ducks,” “Beekeeping,” and “Growing Medical Marijuana.” We’re working with some fantastic experts on these, so you’ll definitely want to check them out in the Honors Lab once they’re ready. Exciting stuff! 🙂

 

The post Congratulations, May Certification Graduates! appeared first on The Grow Network.

International Heritage Breeds Day 2018

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Nearly one in five of the world’s farm animal breeds are at risk of extinction.1)FAO. (2015). The Second Report on the State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Retrieved from www.fao.org/3/a-i4787e.pdf The reason? They’re underemployed.

For thousands of years, farmers have carefully bred and raised diverse animals perfectly suited to their corners of the world. These animals are well adapted to local environments and are designed to produce products that meet the needs of local communities. But over the past century, farming in many parts of the world has evolved into highly specialized operations designed to produce as much meat, milk, eggs, fiber, or other products as quickly as possible in order to maximize efficiency. For example, in 1927, the average American Holstein milk cow produced less than 4,500 pounds of milk per year. In 2017, she produced just shy of 23,000 pounds of milk2)USDA- National Agricultural Statistics Service (2018). Retrieved from https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Todays_Reports/reports/mlkpdi18.pdfmore than five times that of just 90 years ago!

While numbers like these are impressive, placing too much emphasis on productivity sometimes leads to the diminishment of traits like drought tolerance, parasite resistance, mothering abilities, fertility, foraging instincts, and even flavor.

Meanwhile, the populations of many slower growing but still incredibly valuable “Heritage” breeds have crashed. Livestock like Wiltshire Horn sheep, Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs, and Oberhasli goats can’t keep up and have now found themselves on endangered lists of conservation organizations around the world. Although heritage livestock and poultry may not be as efficient as mainstream breeds, they are important sources for valuable genetics and traits, protecting them from being lost.

In addition to animals known for food and fiber, rare equines have seen sharp declines, particularly over the past decade.

But there is still hope!

Today has been designated by fifteen livestock conservation organizations around the world as International Heritage Breeds Day to raise awareness about the status of rare farm animals, highlight examples of how they are still relevant to family farms, and bring choice to the marketplace. Breeds like Leicester Longwool sheep, Caspian horses, Tamworth pigs, Aylesbury ducks, Silver rabbits, Spanish chickens, and more than 1,400 other breeds worldwide need our help.

What’s the best way to support these breeds? By giving them a job!

Many livestock conservation organizations have compiled directories to help consumers locate products from breeds historically used in their local regions. By purchasing eggs from Heritage chickens, pork from Heritage pigs, milk from Heritage cattle, or wool from Heritage sheep, you encourage farmers to raise more animals, and can discover the difference in the kitchen and on the loom for yourself.

According to acclaimed French chef and proponent of Heritage breeds Antoine Westermann, “An animal who has pure roots, the life, and food he deserves, offers it back to us in his meat.” By establishing their spot in the marketplace, biodiversity for these Heritage breeds is secured.

To learn more about how you can get involved and where to locate Heritage breed products in your local area, visit HeritageBreedsWeek.org or call 919.542.5704.

 

References   [ + ]

1. FAO. (2015). The Second Report on the State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Retrieved from www.fao.org/3/a-i4787e.pdf
2. USDA- National Agricultural Statistics Service (2018). Retrieved from https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Todays_Reports/reports/mlkpdi18.pdf

The post International Heritage Breeds Day 2018 appeared first on The Grow Network.

Congratulations, March and April Certification Graduates!

Click here to view the original post.

Congratulations to the following Community members on completing one or more of our Certifications in March and April!

As many of you know, one of the perks of membership in our Honors Lab is FREE access to several amazing certifications in our Honors Lab area—and lots more are in the works.

These Certifications dive deep. They’re essentially multi-lesson master classes, full of practical know-how so you can immediately start reaping benefits for yourself, your family, and your garden.

(And if you’re not an Honors Lab member yet, you can gain access to these Certifications + lots more perks of membership by joining today. Click here to learn more!)

 

Backyard Chickens for Egg Production Certification

NEW! Backyard Chickens for Egg Production 

In this awesome new certification, TGN blogger (and homesteader extraordinaire!) Tasha Greer covers everything from breed selection and coop design to flock health and egg storage — plus lots more….

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members on completing this Certification:

  • Cherlynn
  • Connie
  • daviddulock
  • Debbie Kennedy
  • Diane Massey
  • Donna Detweiler
  • Downing
  • griesjoe
  • Heather Duro
  • Jennifer Walton
  • Joanna Newcomer
  • Luetta
  • Mark Davis
  • MikeF
  • Nata Porter
  • Rebecca Potrafka
  • Scott Sexton
  • suzan.mckillop

 

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification 

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification

This 8-week course teaches the principles of bio-intensive gardening—one of the easiest, most sustainable ways to produce big, delicious fruits and vegetables!

It covers everything from starting and transplanting seedlings to the basics of garden beds and soil, and from making compost to garden maintenance. There’s even a section on harvesting and processing grains!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members for completing the Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification in March and April!

  • bonhil777
  • Cherlynn
  • elizsiracusa
  • griesjoe
  • Heather Duro
  • Joanna Newcomer
  • Kathryn Magoon
  • Lauren Premo
  • Linda Clardy
  • Mary Ellen Rowe
  • MikeF
  • Richelle John
  • Sharon Companion
  • Shelli Haun
  • susanna.schuch
  • suzan.mckillop

 

Home Medicine 101 Certification

Home Medicine 101 Certification

The Home Medicine 101 Certification is a perennial favorite in the Honors Lab!

This eight-week class teaches you how to remedy:

  • Burns, stings, and rashes,
  • Wounds and lacerations,
  • Coughs and colds,
  • Fevers,
  • Indigestion,
  • Anxiety and insomnia,
  • Muscle pain, and
  • Topical infections …

… with readily available plants you may already have growing in your backyard!

Congratulations to the following Community members for completing Home Medicine 101:

  • alyssabpanico
  • AmyMatter
  • andreasexton
  • Anna-Marie
  • barb.stinson
  • bayetdelatour
  • bonhil777
  • Brenda Nicholson
  • cathyneumans
  • CeceliaStubbs
  • Cherlynn
  • ChristieWeixel
  • Chuck Belshe
  • CindaDunham
  • crowe.martin
  • DavidColley
  • Denise Poundstone
  • Diane Massey
  • Dianne
  • Donna Raygoza
  • elizsiracusa
  • equussue
  • ewbroach
  • fostermom30
  • Gee
  • Greg
  • griesjoe
  • handhinternatl
  • Jamie Carels
  • jasabelle6
  • Joanna Newcomer
  • KarinHolzscheiter
  • Katrina Rhoades
  • Kevin White
  • KrisLaubach
  • Lann
  • Lisa Petrillo
  • M
  • Marilyn Nepper
  • Mary Anne Chase
  • Mary Linda Bittle
  • michaelbuzel
  • nancybekaert
  • nicolette_b_2000
  • NINITAKELLER
  • NoeleneChadwick
  • ntcherneva
  • philipcabrams
  • rikkamojica
  • rleneraigoza
  • Shane Kraus
  • Sieglinde
  • smith4536
  • suzan.mckillop
  • tjm5
  • Tracy

 

Instant Master Gardener Certification

 

Instant Master Gardener Certification

In just 8 lessons, The Grow Network’s Instant Master Gardener Certification reveals gardening secrets, tips, and tricks that most people spend years discovering.

Lessons include:

  1. “The Secret to a Green Thumb”
  2. “How Much Land Do You Need?”
  3. “The Power of Herbs”
  4. “The Easiest Way to Prepare a Garden Bed”
  5. “Three Facts About Seeds Every Master Gardener Knows”
  6. “Transplanting Baby Plants”
  7. “The Four HUGE Advantages of Backyard Food Production”
  8. “A Homemade Fertilizer So Powerful, You Could Create a Business Out of It”

Congrats to the following Honors Lab members for completing this powerful certification in March and April:

  • 4cheers4u
  • Angel Nance
  • Barbara Maneja
  • Bill Burger
  • bonhil777
  • Bonnie Guffey
  • cathyneumans
  • CeceliaStubbs
  • Cherlynn
  • Constantine Spialek
  • Dale M Sieting
  • Denise Poundstone
  • dianamlott
  • Donna
  • Downing
  • Edge
  • EllenHomeister
  • griesjoe
  • Heather Duro
  • HeidiRockwell
  • Janet MacLennan
  • janicepizzonia
  • Joanna Newcomer
  • Kali Mason
  • Kathryn Magoon
  • Lauren Doyle Kerins
  • MarieCrum
  • Marilyn Nepper
  • Mary Ellen Rowe
  • MikeF
  • Nadia Cassar
  • preacher
  • Rebecca Potrafka
  • Selene Staehle
  • Sharon Companion
  • Shelli Haun
  • susanna.schuch
  • suzan.mckillop

 

Saving Quality Seeds Certification

Saving Quality Seeds

Learn how to save seeds that will ensure an abundant harvest in years to come with the in-depth information in TGN’s Saving Quality Seeds Certification.

This 7-lesson Certification teaches which plants are easiest to save seeds from, how to plan your garden with seed-saving in mind, how to do a garden soil inventory, the basics of dry and wet harvesting, the best way to store seed, how to determine seed quality—and more!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members on completing this Certification:

  • Carol Williams
  • Cherlynn
  • griesjoe
  • Heather Duro
  • Joanna Newcomer
  • Mark Davis
  • MikeF
  • Sharon Companion
  • Shelli Haun

 

 

We’ve also got several more certifications in the works, including “Making Home Medicine,” “Backyard Meat Rabbits,” “Bird-watching,” and “Beekeeping.” We’re working with some fantastic experts on these, so you’ll definitely want to check them out in the Honors Lab once they’re ready. Exciting stuff! 🙂

 

The post Congratulations, March and April Certification Graduates! appeared first on The Grow Network.

8 Homeopathic Remedies for Plants and Animals

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Recently, Marjory was kind enough to feature me as a Local Changemaker on The Grow Network blog. When I completed the interview, I felt there was more to share. We especially did not discuss how homeopathic remedies extend beyond medicine for humans to include the treatment of our pets, livestock, and agriculture.

Read More: “Meet Elena Upton, Local Changemaker”

Homeopathic Remedies for Plants

Did you know that homeopathic remedies can help weak, pest-infested, and frost-damaged plants—and can even build them up?

Give Your Plants a Springtime Boost

You can strengthen plants in the early spring by giving them Silicea 200C (made from silica, a building block of all cells). Place 6–8 pellets in water to melt them, then use that liquid to water trees and shrubs by pouring it directly on their trunks and in the soil around them.

Treat Downy and Powdery Mildews

Since homeopathy is symptom-driven, different presentations of the same disease may require different homeopathic remedies. That is the case with both powdery mildew (which thrives in dry, warm weather) and downy mildew (which appears in damp conditions).

Use the following homeopathic remedies to treat powdery and downy mildew, but pay special attention to the symptoms of the disease and treat accordingly.

When the symptoms of each disease are as follows, the remedy of choice is Cuprum metallicum 30C:

  • Powdery Mildew: White, moldy layer on the upper sides of leaves (can be wiped off)
  • Downy Mildew: Gray-to-violet coating underneath the leaves after rainy weather

But the remedy of choice is Natrum sulphuricum 30C when the following symptoms are present:

  • Powdery Mildew: Grayish-white mold on stalks and upper sides of leaves
  • Downy Mildew: Gray or grayish-violet under the leaves after warm, humid weather

Treat Gray Mold on Strawberries

Another homeopathic remedy that benefits plants is the use of Calcaria phosphorica 6C and Ammonium carbonicum 30C to treat gray mold (Botrytis) on strawberries. This condition is due to deficiencies of calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium and to excess nitrogen in the plants. Using Calcaria phosphorica 6C and Ammonium carbonicum 30C resolves this deficiency and toxicity.

Also keep in mind that when Botrytis is present, you should not use artificial fertilizers or fresh or composted animal excrement. Just apply compost made from plants to ensure a less acidic environment.

Homeopathic Remedies for Animals

Let’s move on to animals. As I mentioned above, homeopathic remedies are chosen based on symptoms. This is as true for animals as it is for plants and humans.

Following are some examples of symptoms commonly found in horses (although you could replace the word “horse” below with “goat,” “cat,” “cow,” etc.—the same remedy would be used for any animal exhibiting these specific symptoms):

  • Do you have a horse with anxiety that is restless, fearful, or suffering from gastritis? Try the remedy Arsenicum album.
  • Or has he gotten sick with a fever, developed bronchitis, become irritable (wants to be left alone), and started thirsting for large amounts of water? Try the remedy Bryonia.
  • Or maybe she has digestive issues, along with apathy, indifference, sluggishness, and lack of reaction? Try the remedy Carbo vegetabilis.

I use a horse as an example with 3 different sets of issues to demonstrate how observation is key to choosing the correct remedy. Again, if you see these specific symptoms being exhibited in an animal of any other species, the same remedy would be used.

To offer another example, if a dog overindulged in his food (and everyone else’s he could steal when you weren’t looking) and later appeared bloated and irritable, I’d give him Nux vomica. If the horse out in the pasture overgrazed on grass and was bloated and irritable, Nux vomica would also be the remedy to relieve his discomfort. 

How to Administer Homeopathic Remedies

Homeopathic remedies for animals can be dropped into their water.

Dosage is not an issue with homeopathy. It is not like milligrams of pharmaceuticals. Remedies consist of little sugar pills, and the medicine is sprayed on the pills during the manufacturing process. The sugar pills serve as the carrier for the medicine, so 4 pellets, 6 pellets, or 8 pellets are all okay. Use your best judgment based on the amount of water you are dropping them into. You can also dissolve a few pellets into a little water and use a syringe to dispense the liquid directly into the animal’s mouth. 

In addition, you can purchase remedies as liquid tinctures. Although they aren’t readily available in the United States, you can purchase them online from other countries. My favorite source is Helios in the United Kingdom. Ordering from them is easy, and the tinctures usually arrive within a week. Here is the link: https://www.helios.co.uk/

3 Major Differences Between Homeopathic Remedies and Pharmaceuticals

So what are these remedies? Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (1755–1843), who developed the concept of homeopathy, recognized something that most doctors did not (and still don’t): There is an energy that drives all of nature. It is also referred to as a life force, vital force, vitality, or energetic signature.

Difference #1: Restoring Balance

The human body is subjected to a number of insults at every moment—changes in temperature, physical strains, and exposure to toxins or germs. In spite of all this, we rarely fall ill. And even if we do, we get well most of the time. We cannot escape the conclusion that there is a force within all of us that coordinates our system—a force that helps to keep the balance between us and our surroundings. Hahnemann recognized it as a function of life itself.

When we do get sick, it is because that life force, or vitality, has been disturbed. The disturbance of the vital force is the real dis-ease and that is what needs correction.

Homeopathy addresses these disturbances. Just as it takes a clear signal to tune into your favorite radio station, a clear energetic signal is the key to restoring balance to the organism, whether it be plant, animal, or human.

This is the first major difference between homeopathy and pharmaceutical medicines.

Difference #2: Like Cures Like

The second difference is the concept that “like cures like.” You see this in nature everywhere you look.

Let’s use stinging nettle as an example. It comes by its name quite honestly. Who hasn’t accidentally run into a patch and come out hollering, knowing you are about to come down with an itchy, burning rash? The homeopathic remedy Urtica urens is made from the stinging nettle plant that has been diluted and attenuated. When utilized for a rash, hives, prickly heat, or any other skin issues that exhibit similar symptoms, the results are nothing short of miraculous.

Difference #3: Dosage

The third difference between homeopathy and other forms of medicine is the tiny amount it takes to be effective. As mentioned previously, it rebalances disturbed energy patterns.

The body is a brilliant mechanism and only needs the correct information to right itself (as do plants and animals).

My point in moving from explaining the use of homeopathy for humans to discussing plants and animals is that we all have the same carbon structure, and therefore we are all healed in the same way. I have used these remedies on plants, animals, and humans for nearly 30 years—and I have yet to be disappointed.

Interested in Learning More About Homeopathic Remedies?

If you’re interested in learning more about homeopathy, you might want to consider reading my new book, MASTERING ALTERNATIVE MEDICNIE: Your Family’s Guide to Wellness, Volume I, which will be released in the next two months.

The companion book, MASTERING HEALTH: Secrets to Success, is geared toward those who are new to homeopathic remedies, and it offers a much more in-depth explanation of homeopathy and other natural medicine practices. It also covers top homeopathic treatments and their uses, plus case studies so that readers can gain a better understanding of how to dispense the remedies.

I will be offering a free download of MASTERING HEALTH: Secrets to Success to members of The Grow Network Community when they purchase MASTERING ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE: Your Family’s Guide to Wellness, Volume I. More details will be available soon, so stay tuned!

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Hog Processing: Skinning, Scalding, Scraping, and Eviscerating

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CAUTION: This article, and the photos in it, include graphic details about hog processing. If you are disturbed by information and images of this nature, please use your own discretion when determining whether to read further.

This is part 3 in a multipart series on slaughtering pigs on the homestead. In previous posts, I wrote about preparations for the slaughter and making the kill. You can read the previous entries here:

Read More: “Preparing for a Pig Slaughter”

Read More: “Pig Slaughter”

Now, we are moving on to hog processing. Here’s a quick overview of the basic steps that we’ll cover in this post:

  • Step #1: Choose How You’ll Handle the Pig Hide
    • Option #1: Remove the Hide
    • Option #2: Remove the Hair
  • Step #2: Remove the Head
  • Step #3: Disconnect the Rectum
  • Step #4: Risks in Evisceration (Gutting)
  • Step #5: Remove Internal Organs
  • Step #6: Chill the Carcass

Step #1: Choose How You’ll Handle the Pig Hide

Option #1: Remove the Hide

After you make the kill, you have a few choices about how to handle the pig hide. Some people prefer to skin a pig. This is probably the fastest, easiest method and requires fewer tools. However, if you want to use the pig skin for curing, in your bone stock, to make pork rinds, or to make leather, you’ll want to remove the hair first (see “Option 2: Remove the Hair” below for more details).

I have never removed a whole hide on a pig. I have skinned other animals, and it is easy as long as you are comfortable using a sharp knife. I prefer to remove the head and tail before skinning. Then, you need to cut a few openings through the skin, like seams, and use the tip of your knife to gently separate the skin from the muscles and fat.

I start skinning at the feet by opening a seam around the hooves and along the inside of the legs and working the skin free from the muscles with the knife. Next, I make a slit from the neck to the pelvis on the bellyside and work the skin away from the muscles until it is loose on both sides (like flaps). Your cuts should only be skin deep—don’t cut into the belly yet.

In male animals, you need to separate the penis and urethra from the skin. The penis area is visible, and you can find the urethra by feeling around with your fingers starting from the penis. The urethra feels like semi-hard tubing or  straw. Cut around the penis and under the urethra until it is free from the skin.

Don’t disconnect the urethra from the rest of the urinary tract yet.  You’ll remove it later when you eviscerate.

If the pig is hanging by the hind legs, work the skin over the hind quarters and down the back, then move on to the sides, and finish with the front shoulders. Using this method, gravity works for you and the hide comes off in one piece.

Option #2: Remove the Hair

There are a couple of different ways to remove hair. Both involve scraping the hair off the pig after heating the skin to loosen the hair follicles.

Straw Scalding to Remove the Hair

A few years back I wrote a blog series about our first pig slaughter. We had a lot of awesome reader comments and suggestions on hog processing. One of the ideas came from Anne. She said:

We raised and butchered many pigs growing up. Instead of the scalding to get hair off we burned straw to singe it off and then scraped. Laid the pig on a bed of straw first and did the burning and scraping in sections.

Glen also chimed in with his experience:

Instead of heating water to scald the hog, we buried it in straw and set that afire. You found that some areas weren’t sufficiently scalded to allow for easy scraping, and we had a similar situation. Whereas you spent “a lot of time, elbow grease, and [disposable razor blades],” we hit the stubborn areas with the flame from a propane torch to make them scrape-able with normal effort. Don’t overdo the flame, burning through the skin into the meat! Just fan the torch over the stubborn areas enough to make the scraping work with reasonable effort, similar to the properly scalded areas.

I haven’t tried this method yet. But, I wanted to share Anne’s and Glen’s experience since this also seems to be an effective and common way to remove hair.

Water Scalding to Remove Hair

Water scalding is our method for softening the hair follicles. We heat a tub of water to 155°F. We use a hoist to raise and lower the pig carcass into the water. For smaller pigs, you can use a 55 gallon drum. For pigs over 225 pounds, though, you probably need something larger.

We modified an old oil drum to make it work like a big bath tub. This took a lot of cutting and welding. But, the shape allows us to put multiple propane burners under the tub to heat the water faster. You can use any kind of vessel that holds water, fits your pig, and is safe to heat.

The key to a good scald is to get the water uniformly to about 155°F before you lower your pig into it. Use a paddle or a 2×4 to stir the tub and mix warm water over the burners with cool water near the surface. We also made an insulated lid to fit our tub so that our water heats faster and retains more heat between pigs.

You need a way to lift your pigs into the water. Friends of ours use their front loader. We use a manual engine hoist rigged over a scaffold.

You need a way to attach your pig to your hoist. We make a slit between the hind ankle bone and the tendon. Then we push each side of a gambrel through the slits.  We also use a gambrel on the front hooves as a directional to help lift and lower our pig safely into the water.

We lay chains over both sides of our tub in the water under the pig. Then we use the chains to agitate the pig in the water, if necessary, to keep the hide from sticking to the hot metal of the scalding vat and to readjust if some areas aren’t underwater.

Air temperature impacts scalding time. Also, every hide is different. Start pulling on patches of hair after about 2 minutes of soaking onward. As soon as the hair is easy to pull out, raise the pig out of the water and immediately start scraping. Scalding too long sets the hair.

Also, keep a bucket handy. If areas of skin start to cool before you get them scraped, pour hot water from the scalding tub over the area to warm it up.

Pig Slaughter -Scraping

Photo by Tim Miles

Scraping

When you get a good scald, scraping is easy using a tool called a bell scraper. It’s not very sharp and the handle and the cupped shape of the blade work well to scrape the hair without ripping the skin.

We scrape the hams, back, belly, and jowl areas first while the scraping is easiest. After we have our key areas hair-free, then we work on the hocks, the rest of the head, and the front shoulders. Removing the hair on these parts of the hide is less critical for our later processing.

For tough patches, we use flat razors or even dull knives to fine-tune our scraping job. Once the carcass is scraped, hose off  residual hair and hang the carcass at a height that makes it convenient for you to squat down and remove the head.

Photo by Tim Miles

Step #2: Remove the Head

To remove the head, you need to cut a ring through all the meat and ligature down to the bone. We cut high on the back of the head so we leave more meat with the shoulder area. We cut below the jowl meat on the nose side so we can make bacon from the jowls.

After you have cut through to the bone all around, have one person hold the carcass steady while another twists the head by holding the ears. The head will twist off. You can manage this alone, but it’s easier with two people.

If the head doesn’t come off with twisting, you probably still have some meat or ligature to cut through. You should not have to saw through the spine to remove the head.

Step #3: Disconnect the Rectum

Hang your carcass at a height where you can easily reach the anus.

Pigs have chubby cheeks—and yes, I mean butt cheeks. This makes it hard to get your hands where you need them to cut out the rectum and tie up the anus. The first thing I do is cut through the pelvis bone on the belly side of the pig to give myself more space to work.

As a rule, cut meat with a knife and bone with a saw. I slice through the meat covering the pelvis bone and then saw through the pelvis bone. Similar to a human pelvis, the organs are behind the pelvis bone. As long as you aim your saw toward the sky through the legs of your pig and stop sawing as soon as you break through the bone, you won’t hit anything dangerous.

Also, similar to a human stomach, there is a layer of fat underneath the skin area just above the pelvis, so as long as you don’t cut through the fat while you are starting this process, that is a fairly safe zone, too.

With the pelvis bone cut, I cut a wide round hole around the anus to make sure I don’t hit anything important. Then I connect the line I started at the pelvis bone up to my circle cut around the anus. This way you can see the shape of the rectum (the poop pipe connected to the anus) and avoid puncturing it. You can use your fingers and the tip of your knife to cut the connective tissue holding the rectum in place.

Work carefully with your knife until the rectum is freed and can be pulled up a couple of inches to allow you to tie it off with twine to prevent spillage. Do not remove the rectum at this point, the goal is just to free it up so you can pull it through with the other internal organs from the belly side.

Pig Slaughter - Tasha Gutting

Photo by Tim Miles

Step #4: Risks in Evisceration (Gutting)

When we first started processing pigs, I was terrified of evisceration. Every article I read about hog processing emphasized not to accidentally cut the intestines like it was a criminal act.

There are some bad things that could be lurking in your pig’s intestinal tract. Bacteria and parasites like Salmonella, Campylobacter, Trichinella spiralis, Toxoplasma gondii, Listeria monocytogenes, methicillin‐resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and Escherichia coli can all be found in a pig’s gut.

In fact, except for Trichinella spiralis and Toxoplasma gondii, which have mostly been eradicated from modern pork production, these bad things are commonly and routinely found in retail pork products from your grocery store or local butcher! Yet, despite being the most consumed meat worldwide, pork products have lower rates of foodborne illness than other meats.1)https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1541-4337.12001

Pork products are only relatively safe to eat because they are chilled, well-cooked, or long-cured prior to consumption. As long as you apply the same processes to your pork products at home, your risks are the same at home as they are at the grocery store. Even if you bust a gut!

Busting a gut is stinky and messy. It also makes extra work because you will want to carefully hose off your carcass. So, do be careful, just don’t be paranoid! And keep a hose handy just in case.

Step #5: Remove Internal Organs

Pigs have large chest cavities and a lot of ribs. Before we begin cutting through the belly to free up the organs, we like to cut through the breastbone. Like you do with the pelvis, slice through the skin and muscle tissue over the hard sternum. Then use a saw to cut through the breastbone. Keep your saw parallel to the breastbone and stop sawing once you break through the bone.

As explained in the skinning section, in male pigs the penile area and urethra needs to be freed up and moved aside before you start cutting into the belly to get to the organs.

Now, get your gut bucket ready. Position it under the neck area of the pig, between your legs, while you face the belly. Insert your knife carefully under the fat and tissue where you cut the pelvis. Face your knife blade back out toward you from underneath the pig’s belly fat and skin so it is facing away from the organs. Cup your hand around your knife, to use the back of your hand to hold back the organs inside your pig and prevent punctures. Then cut a seam down the belly.

As you start to unzip the pig, the organs will start to fall toward you. Direct them toward the bucket between your legs. Once your seam connects to where you cut the breast bone, use your fingers and your knife to rip and cut any connective tissue and free up the organs. There are shiny whitish diaphragms on either side of the ribs along the back that need to be cut free with a knife and scraped out. Otherwise most other organs you can work free with your hands and occasional cutting.

We keep the kidneys, heart, caul fat, lungs, and liver (remove the gall bladder). I separate those out as I come across them and put them in a different bucket.

For our friends who use a front loader in their pig slaughter, they don’t use a gut bucket. They drop the viscera on the ground and scoop them up later with their front loader and bury them.

The important thing is to have a plan for how you will dispose of the parts you don’t want to eat. We dig a large trench in advance and bury the organs right after processing to avoid drawing unwanted animals to our slaughter area.

Step #6: Chill the Carcass

At this point, you have a hanging pig carcass that has been split from sternum to anus. The carcass will still be warm,  especially if you scalded the pig. To make butchering easier, you want to chill the meat and allow the fat to firm up.

Most people try to process when the overnight temperatures will be close to refrigerator temperatures so they can allow their pig to hang outside or in an unheated outbuilding to chill.

Make sure to chill your pig in a location where it won’t be bothered by other animals like coyotes. Hanging high, under lights, or in shelters can help.

We Want to Hear From You!

Have you processed a pig?  Do you have any tricks to share?  Are you thinking about it? What are your concerns? Please use the comments section below to share your views and experiences or to ask any questions.

Also, if you’d like to read more on hog processing before we move on in the series, you can check out my earlier posts from my first time processing pigs:

Read More: “Part 1: Raising Hogs”

Read More: “Part 2: Hog Killin’”

Read More: “Part 3: Hog Cookin’”

 

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References   [ + ]

1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1541-4337.12001

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Book Review: The Basic Butchering of Livestock and Game

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Basic Butchering of Livestock and Game is a book you need to have if you are going to try to become self reliant. The ability to process your own food is vital. I find that of all the food skills, butchering is one that is often overlooked. It seems simple to cut up a large chunk of meat into smaller pieces, but this in an area of endeavor that the more you know the easier the process becomes. I like the Basic Butchering of Livestock and Game because it is practical, has lots of very clear illustrations, and is short enough

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Crowing Hen? Is That Even Possible?

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OK—so, the title of this post is really a trick question. If your laying hen is crowing, then she’s already undergone a hormonal change that is causing her to display rooster-like qualities.  And since roosters don’t lay eggs … guess what? Neither will your crowing hen.

I only know this because a few days ago, I was in my goat barn, milking one of my goats, when I heard this poor, strangled little rooster crow coming from just outside the barn.  I set down my milk pail and headed toward the sound, expecting to find one of the neighbor’s young roosters in my yard.

Instead, there stood my fattest Buff Orpington hen with her head cocked back, crowing like a rooster.

Yes, this is a true story. And I have a video to prove it.

3 Small Livestock Preparedness Tips

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One of the most rewarding things I have ever been apart of was raising livestock that produced something for my family to use and eat. Of course, you are not to get too attached to the animals but you are still responsible for taking care of them. Also, following a disaster these animals will be …

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Cold-Weather Chicken Care: How to Keep Chicken Water From Freezing

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In my neck of the woods, winter weather is almost behind us. But some parts of the globe are still up to their ears in some of the worst winter weather conditions they’ve had so far. So, as our final post in our cold-weather chicken care series, I want to offer up a few solutions for how to keep chicken water from freezing even when the temperatures plummet.

In case you missed our earlier posts on cold-weather chicken care, you can check them out here.

Cold-Weather Chicken Care: 11 Quick Ideas to Improve Chicken Comfort

Cold-Weather Chicken Care: The Tale of the Frostbitten Chicken and Lessons Learned About Prevention and Treatment

Cold-Weather Chicken Care: Cold-Hardy Chicken Breeds

Now for some ideas to warm up your chicken water!

On-Grid Solutions

If I lived in a place where dealing with frozen water was a regular issue, I would most definitely get some power to my coop and use some kind of electric heat to keep my chicken water flowing. Plug-and-play devicesonce you have a reliable electricity source installedare about the most headache-free way of keeping chicken water from freezing in extreme conditions.

Even after you have electricity, you still have some decisions to make on which devices will work best for your purposes.

The Heated Coop

If you are giving your chickens supplemental heat and light to keep them laying in winter, and you have an insulated coop, then you likely just need to keep your water bowl close to your heat source.

If you are thinking about going this route, brooder lamps are a classic go-to for winter heat. But newer technologies like chicken-safe heat walls may require less maintenance, and are definitely better from a fire-safety perspective.

Heating Units That Work With Your Existing Watering Devices

If you have a lot of chicken-watering devices and just want to find a solution that works with what you’ve already got in place, consider these.

Fount heaters, which are basically heated pedestals, can be used with your existing self-watering founts and poultry waterers. They can also work well with the nipple-style bucket watering devices. They often look like an upside down pie tin with an electric cord. A high-quality unit will usually cost around $50.

DIY Fount/Bucket Cinder Block Heater

You can also make your own fount pedestal heater for around $10-$15 using a concrete block, paving stone, lamp socket with cord, mounting bracket, and a 60 or 100 watt bulb. Alternatively, you can use an extension cord and a plugable light socket.

The lamp socket you buy should be rated for use with a 100-watt light bulb. Also make sure you get a good fit between your cinder block and your paving stone to ensure that no water can drip into your light socket and create an electrical fire hazard.

Assemble the light kit, mount the light inside the block, and cover the block with the paving stone. Some people will drill holes to run the cord through the concrete block or will buy notched cinder blocks and use a file to deepen the notch to pass the cord through. If you have an elevated wood floor, you can also just drill a hole in your floor, run the cable through the hole, and set the open bottom of the cinder block over your light.

Plug in your cord. Turn the lamp on. Put your waterer on top of the paving stone. And voilà! The lamp will heat the paving stone and the paving stone will heat your watering device. The concrete barrier also provides some degree of fire protection.

You can build this in just a couple of minutes. In many cases, a 60-watt light bulb will be sufficient to keep the water flowing. But depending on your temperatures and the density of the paver top you choose, you may need to upgrade to a 100-watt light bulb to fully heat your water. As with any DIY project of this nature, you must keep a close eye on your homemade heater to make sure there are no safety issues until you are completely confident that your setup is working well.

Submersible Water Heaters

In addition to pedestal heaters, you can also modify your existing watering systems using a submersible deicer. These work particularly well for watering systems that have easy-access openings at the top. They can range in price from $15-$50 depending on design and quality. Many chicken keepers who live in extreme cold opt for higher-end heating models because they tend to last longer and end up costing less over time.

If you have larger water systems, like Marjory’s 55-gallon drums, then you would need to opt for a higher-powered submersible device. Make sure the device you choose is rated for the number of gallons you plan to heat.

To learn more about Marjory’s watering systems, check out this video:

(video) Simple And Effective Watering Systems For Small Livestock

Watering Devices With Integrated Heaters

For about the same price as high-quality submersible or fount water heaters, you can buy watering devices with built-in heaters.

This one is not my favorite method because I like to fill up my water containers in my house on cold days and bring a fresh container to my chickens as needed. So, I keep several watering devices ready to fill on my porch and just swap them out as needed. That means I’d have to buy three or four of these waterers with built-in heaters, and that’s a lot more expensive than just plugging in one fount base heater and using my regular fount water containers or buckets.

If your coop is close to your water source, though, then using a watering device with an integrated heater might be right for you.

There are lots more on-grid options for heating chicken water, but these are a few of the more common, tried-and-true methods to consider.

Off-Grid Solutions

Not all of us are able to run electricity to our coops. Luckily, there are some good off-grid solutions to keeping chicken water from freezing. Some of the ideas that follow are geared more towards us hard-core off-gridders who love to tinker and push our homesteading limits. But even if they seem a bit out there, most of these can be adapted to your average suburban backyard.

Easy Fixes: Double-Wall Waterers, the Saltwater Trick, Placement, and Insulation

Depending on your conditions, you may be able to keep water from freezing longer with a few easy fixes.

Metal, double-walled chicken waterers have better insulation and may keep water from freezing a bit longer than your standard single-walled waterers.

Saltwater has a higher freezing point than fresh water. By submerging a plastic bottle filled with saltwater inside your chicken waterer, you can increase the freezing point of the surrounding water. Make sure your submerged bottle is well-sealed and does not leak into your fresh water, though, or you may overload your chickens on sodium.

By using a dark-colored waterer and placing it in sunlight, it will absorb more heat and be less likely to freeze even in cold temperatures. I like to use blue or black buckets or black rubber concrete mixer containers set against a south-facing wall on top of dark-gray gravel. The dark containers draw the sunlight. The wall and gravel act as heat sinks, absorbing heat and releasing it back to my water container even when the sun slips behind the clouds or horizon.

Create an insulated water area in your coop, such as by making a bagged wood-shaving igloo. If you use wood chips in your coop anyway, just stock up and use the box-shaped bags as building blocks. Or, create a permanent insulated watering nook inside your coop to buy you lots of time between waterings. Similarly to protecting your pipes, buying appropriate insulation and creating a more weatherproof space for water access might even get you through extended subfreezing conditions.

Keep in mind, if you change your chicken water area in cold weather, you want to make sure they know where to find it. I like to leave a fermented scratch trail to the new water station as both a cold-weather treat and a training device.

Longer-Lasting Lake Effect: Use Large, Deep Containers Filled With Warm Water

In cold weather, I give my chickens warm water. I do this because they love it, and because I discovered that it actually buys me time in bitter cold before I have to bring out fresh water again. Here’s why.

When I use large buckets filled with warm water, the water at the surface actually freezes a bit faster than when I use cool water. This is something called the Mpemba effect. And it’s the reason why you can make ice cubes faster if you fill your tray with warm rather than cold water. However, once that surface-layer freezing occurs, that ice layer actually insulates the water underneath, keeping it from freezing. The ice layer will become thicker over time, but it will happen at a much slower rate than if you had the same volume of water in a shallower container.

With their powerful beaks, my chickens will then just break through the ice as needed to get to the fresh water below. Frankly, my chickens love breaking the ice, so this adds a bit of bonus entertainment for them in less-than-pleasant weather conditions.

Even during a string of single-digit days, this little trick meant I only needed to water once in the morning when I let my chickens out and once again in the afternoon when they were doing their heavy pre-roost eating.

Overnight, in cold weather, I remove access to food in the coop and do not try to offer water again until morning.

Keep in mind that chickens are not designed to be water animals. So make sure whatever container you give them can be easily accessed from the ground and does not create a risk for drowning.

If you are a really hard-core off-gridder and have the space, then you may just want to let nature do the work for you with our next suggestion.

The Drip Effect: Offer Constant Drip Water Sources

We have a spring-fed pond that always has at least one section that continues to flow even in our coldest weather. If it does start to ice up around the flow point, I’ll just break that area up with a shovel and keep it flowing longer.

Even if you don’t have a spring-fed water source, you can use this idea to keep water flowing in your coop. By using a bit of grit, you can jam up a nipple feeder to keep it dripping. Make sure to put some kind of collection receptacle below it to collect the constant flow so you don’t get ice patches in your coop.

Similarly, if you set up your watering system with ball valves, you can create a small wedge with a pebble in your valve suction so that the water keeps flowing in. This is like what happens when your toilet handle is breaking and the toilet keeps on running after you flush. If chickens don’t keep up with the flow, then you may need to set your water bucket or bowl in an overflow box full of absorbent material like wood shavings or sawdust.

In both of these scenarios, water will be constantly dripping, so you will need to keep a close eye on it to make sure your watering system doesn’t run out of water or overflow your collection areas.

The Underground Winter Coop

Now, this idea is speculative. I haven’t tried it. But, since we all know a well-built root cellar will keep liquids from freezing, adding an underground component to your coop should also work great to give chickens a suitably warm location for year-round water.

Keep in mind that a cellar will only work if you dig it well below your frost line. So make sure you find out the cellar specifications for your area before you build. Also, you need to take special precautions in your design to avoid potential flooding in your wet season or structural failure over time.

Now, a chicken cellar is probably only worth considering in extreme cold, or if you have a lot of time and are looking for a fun project to tackle.

Here’s one more idea that takes a bit of work, but also gives you great compost in the end.

Watering Chickens the Jean Pain Way

A Jean Pain Mound is basically a giant compost pile of wood chips with a heat-safe coil of tubing buried inside. (The method also calls for a methane digester—but that’s not necessary for chicken watering.) When the compost heats up, cold water is drawn through the coil and forced up through the pile where it comes out hot on the other side. This is called a thermal siphon.

Now, Jean Pain used this method with a really large pile to heat his whole house and also to trap methane gas. But you can also use this concept with smaller piles—like, say, your standard 4′ x 4′ compost pile.

During the winter, when I am giving my goats extra bedding materials and hay rations, I clean their barn thoroughly every 3-4 weeks. That gives me enough material to build a 4′ x 4′ compost pile in just a day. Since the chickens love to hang out on this pile anyhow, I discovered that I could make a divot in the center of the pile after it starts composting, insert a bucket, and keep water from freezing for several days. As the pile shrinks, I top it off, dig a new divot, and insert my bucket.

If you wanted to take this idea up a notch, you could install a thermal siphon that feeds into a bucket from a storage receptacle using a ball valve. The water may come out too hot to drink direct from the siphon, but thanks to Mpemba effect, it will also cool rapidly.

If you are really clever, you could even go further and create a repeating loop with a watering nipple system by harnessing the natural heating and cooling cycles of the water in relation to the thermal siphon. You’d just need to make sure to place your nipples at a point in your loop where the water is cooled enough to drink.

Check out this tutorial from Cornell University to get a basic idea of how to use compost piles to harness heat. Then you’ll be ready to start designing your own creative methods for turning that information into a winter water supply for your coop!

Learn More: http://smallfarms.cornell.edu/2012/10/01/compost-power/

There are literally hundreds of ways to supply your chickens with warm water, even in freezing conditions. I’ve just covered a few to get your creative juices flowing. If you have a wacky, innovative idea for watering your chickens in winter, please share your ideas with our readers using the comments section below.

Now, as winter eases into spring, be on the lookout for more posts on chicken care—including ways to effectively use chickens in your garden and more!

 

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The post Cold-Weather Chicken Care: How to Keep Chicken Water From Freezing appeared first on The Grow Network.

Congratulations, February Certification Graduates!

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Congratulations to the following Community members on completing one or more of our Certifications in February!

As many of you know, one of the perks of membership in our Honors Lab is FREE access to several amazing certifications in our Honors Lab area—and lots more are in the works.

These Certifications dive deep. They’re essentially multi-lesson master classes, full of practical know-how so you can immediately start reaping benefits for yourself, your family, and your garden.

(And if you’re not an Honors Lab member yet, you can gain access to these Certifications + lots more perks of membership by joining today. Click here to learn more!)

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification 

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification

This 8-week course teaches the principles of bio-intensive gardening—one of the easiest, most sustainable ways to produce big, delicious fruits and vegetables!

It covers everything from starting and transplanting seedlings to the basics of garden beds and soil, and from making compost to garden maintenance. There’s even a section on harvesting and processing grains!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members for completing the Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification in February!

  • Robert Held
  • Scott Sexton

 

Home Medicine 101 Certification

Home Medicine 101 Certification

The Home Medicine 101 Certification is a perennial favorite in the Honors Lab!

This eight-week class teaches you how to remedy:

  • Burns, stings, and rashes,
  • Wounds and lacerations,
  • Coughs and colds,
  • Fevers,
  • Indigestion,
  • Anxiety and insomnia,
  • Muscle pain, and
  • Topical infections …

… with readily available plants you may already have growing in your backyard!

Congratulations to the following Community members for completing Home Medicine 101:

  • cathy.marcotte
  • DeniseChristensen
  • emull
  • Heather Duro
  • James Douglas
  • RoseBruno
  • Barefoot Kent
  • Catherine
  • JaneMcCutchen
  • George
  • Ruthie Guten
  • Bonnie Guffey
  • Shelley Buttenshaw
  • Debbie Kennedy
  • cathieonline
  • Emma May HunterHunter
  • janetch2008
  • russraiche
  • ShirleyJohns
  • Markkroneberger
  • Sharon Companion
  • joysong42
  • Carol Harant
  • jonhg
  • Lisa Cannon
  • Ericka Bajrami
  • rachelthudson
  • Patricia McBurney
  • PamWatros
  • Scott Sexton
  • Jane Mobley
  • Kim McClure
  • Waylon Olrick
  • Lisa Carroll

 

Instant Master Gardener Certification

Instant Master Gardener Certification

In just 8 lessons, The Grow Network’s Instant Master Gardener Certification reveals gardening secrets, tips, and tricks that most people spend years discovering.

Lessons include:

  1. “The Secret to a Green Thumb”
  2. “How Much Land Do You Need?”
  3. “The Power of Herbs”
  4. “The Easiest Way to Prepare a Garden Bed”
  5. “Three Facts About Seeds Every Master Gardener Knows”
  6. “Transplanting Baby Plants”
  7. “The Four HUGE Advantages of Backyard Food Production”
  8. “A Homemade Fertilizer So Powerful, You Could Create a Business Out of It”

Congrats to the following Honors Lab members for completing this powerful certification in February:

  • Robert Held
  • PatriciaWolfe
  • tnsh5699
  • Lisa Carroll
  • Scott Sexton

 

Saving Quality Seeds Certification

Saving Quality Seeds

Learn how to save seeds that will ensure an abundant harvest in years to come with the in-depth information in TGN’s Saving Quality Seeds Certification.

This 7-lesson Certification teaches which plants are easiest to save seeds from, how to plan your garden with seed-saving in mind, how to do a garden soil inventory, the basics of dry and wet harvesting, the best way to store seed, how to determine seed quality—and more!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab member on completing this Certification:

  • Scott Sexton

 

Backyard Chickens for Egg Production Certification

I’m excited to announce that we’ve put the finishing touches on another multi-lesson, deep-diving Certification, which has just been added to the Honors Lab:

NEW! Backyard Chickens for Egg Production 

In this awesome new certification, TGN blogger (and homesteader extraordinaire!) Tasha Greer covers everything from breed selection and coop design to flock health and egg storage — plus lots more….

We’ve also got several more certifications in the works, including “Making Home Medicine,” “Backyard Meat Rabbits,” “Bird-watching,” and “Beekeeping.” We’re working with some fantastic experts on these, so you’ll definitely want to check them out in the Honors Lab once they’re ready. Exciting stuff! 🙂

 

The post Congratulations, February Certification Graduates! appeared first on The Grow Network.

The Pig Slaughter

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CAUTION: This article, and the photos in it, include graphic details about pig slaughter. If you are disturbed by information and images of this nature, please use your own discretion when determining whether to read further.

To read the first entry in this multi-part series on pig processing, start here.

Read More: “Preparing for a Pig Slaughter”

I really love raising pigs. Their innate joy for rolling in the mud, chasing each other around their paddocks, pig-piling, and enjoying long-lingering naps is inspirational to me. I honestly think they can teach us a few things on how to bring more joie de vivre to our human lives.

Unfortunately, not all pigs get to live like this. Some spend their entire lives in spaces so small they can’t run, play, feel the sunshine on their bodies, or use their powerful snouts for digging up dirt and searching for food.

So, whenever someone asks me how I can stand to kill pigs when they are so adorable and affable, I have my answer ready. And here it is.

Mental Preparation for the Slaughter

I have a deep and abiding love for pigs – not just the pigs we raise, but for pigs in general.

I can’t imagine eating a pig that spent its life in industrial squalor. I also can’t stand the idea that these beautiful, domesticated beasts would become hated feral pests, or be forced into extinction, if we stopped eating them. They grow to be hundreds of pounds. Their powerful digging ability, in the wrong locations, can decimate whole ecosystems. Their nearly insatiable appetites for both food and adventure is the reason why packs of feral pigs end up digging through trash in urban shopping areas. Without a cultivated, co-dependent relationships with human care-takers, more and more pigs would quickly become dangerous to us. This is why so many of them are hunted with impunity and hated around the world.

Plain and simple – in my opinion – the best thing for pigs is to be raised on small farms, by farmers who care about their well-being and do have a hard time killing their pigs on slaughter day.

My point in sharing this is not to proselytize my pig views. It’s because, for me, having a genuine love for pigs and meaningful philosophical reasons for raising and slaughtering them is the only way I can face doing the act when the day comes. Coming to terms with my reasons for doing this is my method of mentally preparing for the slaughter.

Preparing Piglets for Slaughter

My other preparations for slaughter day actually start well before that final moment. As soon as a new set of piglets join our farm family, I begin training them by feeding them in a line at the edge of the electric fence.

After a few days of standing close by as they eat, allowing them to become comfortable with my presence, I begin to touch the tops of their heads. At first they shy away, but after a few attempts, they let me scratch behind their ears. In time, we move on to back scratches, then belly rubs.

Petting piglets is a pleasure. Like puppies, they can easily get riled up and start nipping excitedly at your fingers and feet. So, I am really careful not to let this happen. Instead I focus on making them calm with my petting practices. If I am effective, they stretch out like cats do and bask in the affection. Then they flop over on their sides and expose their bellies as a sign of trust.

As much as I enjoy this bonding, it also serves other purposes. It helps if I need to inspect or treat them for health problems. Most importantly though, when their final day comes, our pigs come easily to the fence line for feed. I give them a calming pet on the head and behind the ears, as they put their heads down and eat.

They have no fear of death – not even as we take aim. And if something were to go wrong with our first shot, I can use this established pattern to lull them back to calm quickly so there is no unnecessary suffering.

Only when they are calm and quiet, and distracted by the food in front of them, do we take the shot.

Taking the Shot

When we first started processing pigs, we would stand back some distance and take our time waiting for the perfect shot. We’d seen this on videos and figured this was the best way to do it.

It worked well most of the time. But we had a couple instances of the pigs turning their heads at the last moment and the shot bouncing off their tough forehead plates. The pigs were then frightened and had to be coaxed and calmed for a long time before we could get them back in the slaughter zone. We even saw signs of stress in the meat of one of our pigs.

Now, since I take so much time to tame our pigs from the moment they arrive on our homestead, we stand just a couple feet in front of them and take the shot. This way we don’t miss.

The target for the shot is right between the ears and the eyes. If you draw an “X” in your imagination between these locations and then shoot for the center of the X, the pig will drop on its side and twitch with nervous convulsions.

We use a .22 rifle do to the job. But we suspect that at that close range a .22 handgun might work just as well.

Also, make sure you are not on the downhill side of the pig when you take the shot in case they roll in your direction when they drop.

Bleeding out a Pig

The shot stuns and immobilizes the pig so that you can then use a knife to bleed the pig. You don’t want the pigs to be in pain as they die, but you do want to keep their heart beating until the last of their blood flows from their body. This makes evisceration (gutting) much easier.

There are three common techniques for bleeding out a pig.

Cutting the Carotid Arteries on each Side of the Neck

The first method is to cut the carotid arteries on each side of the neck. The arteries basically run along either side of the throat. Because we like to make jowl bacon, we try to make our cut below the jaw line closer to the clavicle. Then we use that cut as the line for decapitating the pig later.

Since the pig normally drops on one side, you can cut the artery on whichever side is facing up first. The blood will run quickly and thickly if you have cut the artery. If it doesn’t, then you know you have missed and need to cut deeper. To cut the other artery, you usually have to flip the pig to the other side and repeat the procedure.

The pig will die faster if you cut both arteries. However, depending on the size of your pig and how they fell, it’s not always easy to flip them over or get your knife in position to cut the other side. If the pig is bleeding out quickly and shows no signs of suffering, sometimes you can just cut one side and still get a quick death.

Cutting both Carotid Arteries from One Side of the Pig

To get both arteries from one side of the pig, poke your knife through both sides of the neck tissue on the stomach side of the pig. Then face the blade of your knife towards the pig’s throat and cut until you cause both arteries to gush. This is the method most of the “old-timers” (experts of a certain age) seem to use in my area.

Photo Courtesy of Tim Miles

Severing all of the Arteries at the Heart Junction

Alternatively, you can severe all the arteries at the juncture where they meet the top of the heart. Plunge the knife in the space between the clavicle and the neck tissue and direct your knife towards the center of the pigs body at an angle until blood gushes. You can see a really simple diagram of the correct angle at this site.

Read More: https://www.hsa.org.uk/bleeding-and-pithing/bleeding

This method is a bit easier than cutting the carotid arteries. However, many people who use this method also tend to puncture the heart. The tissue damage and subsequent clotting can make the heart a little unappetizing if you plan to eat it.

Photo Courtesy of Tim Miles

With any of these methods, when the blood begins to slow, you can lift and lower the pig’s front foot to force pump any remaining blood.

Reflection

After the blood visibly stops flowing, before we drag the pig the few feet to our scaffold area for scalding, we pause to have a moment of silence and honor our now deceased pig. We also let out a sigh of relief at giving our pig the most merciful death we were capable of.

If you are processing more than one pig, you’ll probably be pretty surprised to realize that the other pigs don’t seem at all bothered by the loss of their paddock mate. In fact, they will often come over and push the dead pig out of the way so they can eat any food and blood on the ground.

Photo Courtesy of Tim Miles

When things go well, even your last pig of the day still has no concerns about what’s coming. However if things go wrong, such as you miss a shot and one pig squeals in fear, the other pigs do notice, and are wary of you until their moment comes.

We learned this the hard way our first year of raising pigs. Now, we strive never to have our pigs know the fear of death again.

Writing this is nearly as difficult as doing the deed. I have five pigs up in the paddock now who will meet this fate just a couple months from now. So, this seems like a good point to pause and go give them some pets and appreciate their perfect pigness while I can.

Next Up

Our next installment in this series will cover scalding and evisceration. Then, we’ll move on to butchering. And after that we’ll get to sausage making, ham curing, bacon making, and more. So, stay tuned for more posts to come!

Also, if you feel as we do and want to raise your own pigs, now is the time to start thinking about piglets.

Depending on breed maturity rates, you’ll want to get your piglets about 6-8 months before you plan to process them. Since you want fairly cool, but not freezing temperatures for processing, in many climates, most people starting thinking about getting piglets in spring time to have them ready by fall. Piglets from good breeders tend to sell out quickly, so if raising and processing pigs is on your radar for this year, start looking for your piglet source and get your reservations in early.

If you’ve managed to read this far, I’d love to hear your thoughts on raising and slaughtering pigs at home. Please use the comments section below to share your views, experiences, or ask any questions you may have.

Also, if you’d like to read more on pig processing before we move on in the series, you can check out my earlier posts from my first time processing pigs.

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Cold-Weather Chicken Care: Cold-Hardy Chicken Breeds

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WOW! Did we have some crazy-cold weather this winter?!

I don’t know about you, but some of our cold nights had me rethinking my chicken breed choices. Luckily, most of my ladies are pretty hardy to begin with. But my lightweight, giant-combed Lakenvelder rooster and my dear, sweet rooster Rasputin had me a bit worried. And as I discovered, when it came to Rasputin, I was right to be worried.

You can read more about the plight of my poor frostbitten chicken, Rasputin, here:

Read More: “The Tale of the Frostbitten Chicken and Lessons Learned about Prevention and Treatment”

Now, read on for some recommendations to help you choose chicken breeds that will come through the cold with flying colors!

When picking chickens for cold weather, there are three simple things to keep in mind: weight class, feathering, and comb size.

Let’s look at weight class first.

Weight Class

Choose chicken breeds that have a fair amount of fat. Heavier birds tend to have more cold tolerance than lean birds. In most climates, dual-purpose breeds that are good for egg and meat production are usually sufficient for cold temperatures just above single digits, and maybe even a little below, on the Fahrenheit scale.

Consider these breeds for winter-friendly fattiness:

  • Plymouth Barred Rocks
  • Black Australorps
  • Rhode Island Reds
  • Delawares
  • Buff Orpingtons
  • New Hampshire Reds

If you live in conditions where you also have warm summers to contend with, these breeds tend to have decent heat tolerance as long as they are given sufficient access to shade and lots of fresh, cool water.

Feathering

For even more winter protection, choose chicken breeds that have extra-heavy feathering. The feathering gives a few more degrees’ worth of cold tolerance. However, in some conditions, feathery feet may actually be more at risk for frostbite if wet feathers ice over. So, in extreme conditions, take measures to keep your chicken’s feet feathers dry.

Consider these breeds for extra feathers:

  • Cochins
  • Favorelles
  • Brahmas

Comb Size

One of the biggest risks to chickens in cold weather is frostbite on their combs. In warmer temps, combs are actually a cooling device that helps regulate the rest of a chicken’s body temperature. This is why roosters, who often have more fat and more feathering, tend to have larger combs than hens. (Well, that, and because those great big combs are like flashing neon signs of virility and masculinity that help attract the beautiful ladies.)

Unfortunately, in wet, windy, and icy conditions, large combs are a liability. They are more prone to losing circulation from the cold and becoming frostbitten.

Choosing chickens with compact combs, such as pea or rose combs, can cut down on the risk of frostbite. Also, paying special attention to the condition of larger rooster combs in winter is important.

Cold Hardy Chicken Breeds - Buckeye

Consider these breeds for compact combs:

  • Buckeyes
  • Dominiques
  • Wyandottes
  • White Dorkings*

*Note: The Dorking breed may have either single or rose combs. If you are looking for cold-hardy combs, choose the White Dorking with a rose comb.

The really wonderful things about all of the cold-hardy breeds above is that they are great egg layers, excellent backyard chickens, and happen to be beautiful to boot! So, you don’t have to compromise chicken cuteness, productivity, and good disposition, to also get great all-winter birds.

Regardless of which breed you choose, if you live in areas with potential cold conditions, you want to make sure you give your chickens a coop that offers sufficient protection from the elements, while also being well ventilated.

Additionally, you want to be prepared to offer your chickens some emergency cold-condition remedies if you have weather that’s more extreme than normal (as many of us did this year). You can read more about some easy ideas for increasing chicken comfort in winter here:

Read More: “Cold Weather Chicken Care: 11 Quick Ideas to Improve Chicken Comfort”

Also, remember the lessons learned from Rasputin, the frostbitten chicken. And make sure you have a plan for how to prevent and treat frostbite.

In our next installment of our cold-weather chicken care series, we’ll cover methods for keeping water from freezing in the coop. In the meantime, though, you can check out these general tips on winter livestock watering for inspiration.

Read More: “7 Ways to Keep Livestock Water Tanks from Freezing”

Thanks for reading, and please share your comments about your cold-weather-breed favorites using the comments section below.

 

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Cold-Weather Chicken Care: The Tale of the Frostbitten Chicken and Lessons Learned About Prevention and Treatment

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Frostbite isn’t normally something I worry about in my holler here in Surry County, North Carolina. However, this year, with record-breaking cold temperatures lasting for weeks at a time, I learned a few lessons in preventing and treating the frostbitten chicken.

It all started when Rasputin, my rebel rooster, refused to use good sense and get out of the cold. As our temperatures dropped into the single digits and 40 mph wind gusts sent the rest of the flock running for shelter, Rasputin planted his feet firmly—in a few inches of frozen-over snow—and held his ground.

I don’t know if it was the wind that made him crazy, or if the idea of being stuck in a coop with 22 unhappy hens kept him from the coop. But, even as his comb began to swell, then turned white at the tips, and his feet flushed red … he stood tall.

Now, Rasputin happens to love being held and cuddled. So I repeatedly picked him up, gave him a warming snuggle and took him to one of our many straw-laden sheltered areas. Yet each time I went back out to deliver warm water to my flock, I would find him out in the cold. Again.

So, here’s lesson No. 1 in frostbite prevention:

Lesson 1: If your chickens don’t have the good sense to get out of the cold (and stay there), lock them up!

Our coops keep predators out, but they can also be used to keep chickens in. They might not like it. But for their own safety, don’t hesitate to keep your chickens in the coop during extreme cold.

Now, I have to confess, I wasn’t really thinking about the frostbite when I carried Rasputin back to the coop. I was concerned about how much feed he would eat if he burned all his calories out in the cold. He’s a big rooster, with a big appetite, and I like to keep my feed costs low. Also, I had a few other hens out in the yard—namely my Buckeyes and my Salmon Faverolles—showing no signs of cold whatsoever.

It was only later, when I noticed that some white spots on Rasputin’s comb started fading to black and shriveling up, that I realized what had happened. Now, Rasputin is descended from a rescued fighting rooster, so he is very heavy and tall and has a few circulatory problems. His comb is more susceptible to episodes of ringworm than the combs of my other chickens. So, even though the timing was odd, I thought those white spots were just a little ringworm recurrence.

Discovering that I’d missed the early signs of frostbite in my big boy helped teach me these next two lessons:

Lesson 2: Comb size matters. Pay extra attention to your roosters with large combs and wattles and to any chickens with standard combs.

My cold-hardy breeds like the Buckeyes and the Salmon Favorelles have small combs that sit tight on their heads. In cold weather, your chicken’s body will preserve heat by cutting blood flow to the comb. This puts chickens with larger combs at greater risk because large combs are more exposed to the elements.

Many people who keep chickens in cold climates swear by slathering petroleum jelly on larger combs and wattles to help prevent frostbite, and some talk about lanolin as a more eco-friendly alternative. Keep in mind that humidity, even more than cold, is a factor in causing frostbite, so make sure you have proper ventilation (but no drafts) in your coop to keep the humidity level as low as possible.

Now, even cold-hardy breeds, with cold-suited combs, can be subject to frostbite on their feet. Which brings me to my next lesson:

Lesson 3: Know how to identify the early signs of frostbite and take action sooner rather than later.

Early frostbite looks a whole lot like a minor case of ringworm. Patches of pale white appear on the affected areas on the comb and wattles. As the frostbite continues, the areas start to darken and spread. If the area becomes solid black, it then begins to dehydrate and look a bit like crispy bacon (though not nearly as appetizing).

On the feet, frostbite shows up as splotches of red. The tend to be most prominent between the toes, but the splotches also show up on the legs. Some cases may result in swelling and blistering.

Severe frostbite can also impact behavior. Frostbitten chickens can become lethargic and disinterested in normal activity, and can lose their appetites.

Once you know what to look for, then you need to be prepared to act if necessary.

Treating Early Frostbite

If you see the early signs of frostbite while they are happening, take your chicken to a warm place and slowly bring affected areas up to temperature. For example, have your chicken stand in a warm foot bath (around 100ºF) and gently press a warm wash cloth around the comb area. Do not rub either of these areas as that will likely be painful for your chicken.

Once your chicken is sufficiently warm, give them time to dry before returning them to their coop.

Treating More Severe Frostbite

If your chicken is showing signs of lethargy and loss of appetite as a result of frostbite, this is likely a more serious case. Keep your chicken confined to a warm area and monitor their affected areas and behavior for a couple of days before returning them to their coop.

If they develop more severe symptoms like blistering or continued loss of appetite, infection may be a concern. At that point you will want to refer to your chicken health manual for details on how to treat infection and when to enlist the help of a veterinarian.

The one I use and recommend is The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow.

 

What Happens After a Chicken Suffers Frostbite?

In Rasputin’s case, he recovered quite quickly from his frostbite. He never faced infection and always had his appetite. However, the most affected areas on his comb are in the process of sloughing off as the damaged skin dries and withers. A little while from now, he may lose some of the tips of his once-stately rooster comb. He probably won’t notice this loss most of the time. However, in hot weather, his reduced comb area may impact his ability to cool himself quickly. So, I’ll need to give him a little more attention in hot weather now, too.

In case this crazy cold weather has made you consider cold-hardy breeds for your coop, the next post in our series Cold-Weather Chicken Care will highlight a few breeds to consider for your spring purchase. Or for emergency cold-weather care ideas, check out this post:

Read More: “Cold-Weather Chicken Care: 11 Quick Ideas to Improve Chicken Comfort”

 

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Book Review: The Complete Book of Butchering, Smoking, Curing, and Sausage Making

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One self-reliant project that I enjoy, but haven’t got around to videotaping is home sausage making. I believe that the ability to cure and store meat is a vital skill to anyone interested in producing a majority of their own food (vegans and veggies excepted). I can deal with a lot of things, but a life without bacon and sausage are just not worth dealing with (IMHO).  All preppers need to know how to How to Harvest Your Livestock and Wild Game Luckily I found this little gem. The Complete Book of Butchering, Smoking, Curing, and Sausage Making is a

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Cold-Weather Chicken Care: 11 Quick Ideas to Improve Chicken Comfort

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Until recently, if you asked me about cold weather chicken care, I would have said, “Choose the right chicken breeds for your climate and build your coop for your weather conditions.” With iguanas freezing and falling out of trees in Florida and alligators using weird ice-survival strategies in North Carolina, I have realized that answer needs an addendum.

Let’s face it. Our climate is changing. As a result, weather patterns are becoming more extreme and erratic. We have to start  preparing for worst-case scenarios in our livestock care.

We also have to be ready to act quickly because weather patterns and predictions are not as reliable as they used to be. This morning, for instance, I woke up to a few inches of snow when last night my forecast said there was a 0% chance of precipitation. Having a repertoire of simple solutions using things you already have on  hand is really helpful.

We’ll be running a series on different cold-weather chicken-care strategies in the coming weeks. But, today I want to kick things off with some easy strategies you can use to keep your chicken coops comfortable during unexpected cold snaps.

Adult chicken body temperatures run around 105-107F. A chicken’s body temperature can drop as low as 73°F before it will die of hypothermia. Chicken feathers do a darn good job of trapping body heat, so luckily chickens don’t get chilled easily.[note] However, if your chicken is molting when the cold hits, or has missing feathers due to roosters or hen-pecking, they will lose heat fast.

Assess Chicken Feather Health

As a first step to cold weather chicken care, assess the feather health of your flock. Any birds with missing feathers may need special care for the duration of any unseasonably cold periods. Also, if you have Mediterranean breeds, that are lightly-feathered, treat those breeds as you would a more hardy chicken in mid-molt.

If you are facing extreme cold and have a half-naked chicken in your uninsulated, unheated coop, you may also have to consider moving that chicken to a heated area or offering heat in the coop. For less severe conditions, some of the following tricks might be enough to keep your at-risk birds, and the rest of your flock, cozy in the cold.

Make a Chicken Sweater

For birds with feather damage mainly in the saddle area (the back), you can consider using a chicken sweater to help protect your chicken’s skin from the cold. You can make or buy fancy versions like those found on Pinterest and Etsy (just search “chicken sweater”). Or you can also just cut up an old sweatshirt, blanket, or towel and use twine to make as less-fashionable, still-functional version.

Create a Chicken Couch

Feather loss in the bum area is a bit more tricky to protect though, since that’s also the drop zone for chicken poop. Provide butt-naked chickens with warm places to sit (other than the nest boxes) by adding lots of extra litter to your coop floors or filling empty boxes with straw, hay, or wood shavings to make chicken couches. Just be careful not to make your chicken couches too cozy, such as by providing head cover or tucking them into a dark corner, or your cold-weather couches might get mistaken for new nest boxes.

Up Your Chicken Feed and Offer More Cracked Corn

Chickens eat more food in cold weather in general. However, in extreme cold, you want to make sure they have access to an all-you-can-eat buffet of high quality chicken feed so they don’t burn through their fat stores trying to keep warm.

Extra carbohydrates can also help chickens keep a bit warmer. I increase the amount of cracked corn in my fermented scratch grains during cold-weather snaps. Scratch grains are not the most nutritious food source, but just like humans have a cup of hot cocoa to warm up on a cold day, a little carb-loading in extreme cold can be helpful.

Read More: “Ferment Your Feed for Healthier and Happier Chickens”  

Shrink Your Chicken Coop Space

Hatcheries ship young chicks in batches and small boxes, even in cold weather. By forcing chicks to huddle together, they keep each other warm in a confined space.

You can offer your adult chickens a similar option by using stacked straw or hay bales or plywood to make larger coops smaller and force chickens to group together. A smaller coop, coupled with the cold, may make them a bit moodier, though. So scatter scratch in your coop floor or hang a cabbage on a rope to give chickens something to do during forced confinement.


Shrink Your Chicken Roost Bar Area

If you have extra roost bar room in your coop, consider taking out a bar or two to force chickens to roost closer together at night. It may mean getting out your drill to detach a bar. But this might be easier than trying to rig up a way to supply supplemental heat for really cold nights, particularly in an off-grid coop.

Cover Hardware Cloth Windows

If you live in warmer areas and have hardware cloth windows for good ventilation, you may want to consider covering them with clear trash bags temporarily. This still allows in light while also helping trap more heat in your coop during cold spells. Keep in mind that chickens still need ventilation so they don’t develop respiratory issues as a result of inhaling too much ammonia. If your coop is already super-sealed in other ways, then covering your only ventilation source with plastic might not be the best option for you.

Put Up a Tarp Tent

Similar to covering windows, if you have coops that you can stand up in, then putting up a tarp tent in cold weather can help trap the warm air generated by your chickens closer to the ground and roost bars where chickens spend most of their time.

Since my coop is shed-style with wood slat walls, I can just use a few scraps of wood, a handful of screws, and a tarp to make my coop into a fortress of warm air. But if you don’t want to drill holes in your coop walls, then you can also rig up a tarp using ropes, bungee cords, and even things like Velcro to make it work.

Bring in the Hot Water

I give my chickens buckets of warm water to drink on freezing days because it takes longer for the water to freeze and buys me time before I have to bring them another bucket. Chickens also seem to love drinking hot water as a cold weather pick-me-up.

Bringing in a five-gallon bucket of hot-as-you-can-get-it water and placing it in the center of your coop, particularly after you have shrunk your chicken space and put up a tent, can also help warm the area. Similarly to how we use drums of water in a greenhouse, all that heat in the bucket will dissipate out in the small coop area and infuse the air with more warmth.

Now, you won’t get big gains with this little trick, but sometimes all you need is a few extra degrees to avoid having to think about electric heat. Also, keep in mind that water weighs about eight pounds per gallon, so you may want to fill the bucket halfway and then top it off with water from another bucket to lighten your load.

Install a Heat Source

In really extreme conditions, you may need to use drastic measures—like running a power cord to your coop and adding some kind of space heater. It’s important to think about safety when you go this route. Cold, confined chickens are liable to have a few more disputes than happy, foraging, spring chickens, which means they could accidentally bump into your heat source and injure themselves or knock over your device and start a fire.

Rather than trying to heat the whole coop, create a cozy corner by hanging a brooder lamp or setting up a ceramic heater in a less-traveled area of your coop. Cold chickens will flock to this area, while hot-tempered, more energetic chickens might keep their distance. And check on your heat sources and your chickens often to ensure their safety.

Turn Off Your Laying Light

A lot of people use supplemental light to induce chickens to lay eggs in the winter months. However, in extreme cold, your chickens are already working overtime to keep themselves warm. So, unless you are also offering supplemental heat to keep your coop well above freezing, then consider giving your layers a break and turn off your laying light until temperatures pick back up.

There are many more great ways of keeping your chickens warm in the cold, both on and off grid. If you have some good ideas you want to share with our community, please include them in the comments section below.

And remember, your chickens rely on you to take great care of them and to do that, you also need to take great care of yourself. So, check out these other posts to help you stay warm and healthy, too!

Read More: “3 Tips for Working Outside in the Cold”

Read More: “Mustard Greens: What You Need to Know Before You Grow (With Recipe)”

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Congratulations, Members, on Completing These Certifications!

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Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members on completing one or more of our Certifications!

As many of you know, one of the perks of membership in our Honors Lab is FREE access to several amazing certifications in our Honors Lab area—and lots more are in the works.

These Certifications dive deep. They’re essentially multi-lesson master classes, full of practical know-how so you can immediately start reaping benefits for yourself, your family, and your garden.

(And if you’re not an Honors Lab member yet, you can gain access to these Certifications + lots more perks of membership by joining today. Click here to learn more!)

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification 

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification

This 8-week course teaches the principles of bio-intensive gardening—one of the easiest, most sustainable ways to produce big, delicious fruits and vegetables!

It covers everything from starting and transplanting seedlings to the basics of garden beds and soil, and from making compost to garden maintenance. There’s even a section on harvesting and processing grains!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members for completing the Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification!

  • Brian Moyers
  • Debbie Kennedy
  • Jennifer Walton
  • Alice Krueger
  • Ann Kudlicki
  • Carole Barrett
  • Chantal Turcotte
  • David Clark
  • Diane Jandt
  • Ellie Strand
  • Fern Cavanaugh
  • George Griggs
  • HP P
  • James Tutor
  • Keith Gascon
  • Kristina Head
  • Lori Rupp-Reagle
  • Lyndsy Schlup
  • Marlene Wild
  • Michael Clayton
  • Michael Oden
  • paulasmith
  • Rachel Tardif
  • Revola Fontaine
  • Robert Wohlfiel
  • Rogers George
  • Saunya Hildebrand
  • Shawn Skeffington
  • Stephen Biernesser
  • Stephen Bolin
  • Susan Faust
  • tnsh5699
  • William Torres

Home Medicine 101 Certification

Home Medicine 101 Certification

The Home Medicine 101 Certification is a perennial favorite in the Honors Lab!

This eight-week class teaches you how to remedy:

  • Burns, stings, and rashes,
  • Wounds and lacerations,
  • Coughs and colds,
  • Fevers,
  • Indigestion,
  • Anxiety and insomnia,
  • Muscle pain, and
  • Topical infections …

… with readily available plants you may already have growing in your backyard!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members for completing Home Medicine 101:

  • Raelene Norris
  • Alfredo Moreno
  • Alice DeLuca
  • Alice Krueger
  • Alta Blomquist
  • Amanda Gossett
  • Amy Blight
  • Amy Marquardt
  • Andrea Hill
  • Angel Hartness
  • Angela Wilson
  • Anna Zingaro
  • Anne McNally
  • Annette Coder
  • Antony Chomley
  • Arlene Woods
  • Barry Williams
  • Beth Zorbanos
  • Bohn Dunbar
  • Bonnie Shemie
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Brian Moyers
  • Camilla-Faye Muerset
  • Cara Hettich
  • Carol Bandi
  • Carol Ryerson
  • Carole Barrett
  • Carolyn Winchester
  • Carra
  • Catie Ransom
  • Chantale Mitchell
  • Charles Marian
  • Chelsea
  • Cherisbiz
  • Christi Crane
  • Christina Hawk
  • Christine Lawler
  • Christine Sadilek
  • Cindy Farley
  • Constantine Spialek
  • Craig Mackie
  • Cynthia Parker
  • Dale Bolton
  • Daniel Shook
  • Danielle Stenger
  • Dave Danner
  • Debbi Sander
  • Debbie Ford
  • Debbie Hill
  • Deborah Scribner
  • Debra Jensen
  • Debra Miller
  • Denise Callahan
  • Desiree Garcia
  • Diane Devine
  • Diane Jandt
  • Diane Massey
  • Dianna Burton
  • Don Wong
  • Donna Detweiler
  • Donna Norman
  • Dr. Carol Viera
  • Ellen Reh-Bower
  • Emily Bell
  • Emma Dorsey
  • Felicitas & Leandro Cometa
  • Fern Cavanaugh
  • Gail Maynard
  • Gary Flinchbaugh
  • George Griggs
  • Gilbert Sieg
  • Gina Jeffries
  • Ginger Cline
  • Hannelore Chan
  • Heather Munoz
  • Helen Bailey
  • Helen McGlynn
  • HP P
  • Irida Sangemino
  • Jamie Birchall
  • jamingo62
  • Jane Burkheimer
  • Janna Huggins
  • Jaudette Olson
  • Jessica Bonilla
  • Jessica Conley
  • Jim Hadlock
  • Jodee Maas
  • John Kempf
  • Jouski
  • Joyce Tallmadge Tallmadge
  • Judith Johnson
  • Julene Trigg
  • Julian San Miguel
  • Julie Kahrs
  • Juliet Wimp
  • Justin Talbot
  • Karen Brennan
  • Karen Suplee
  • Kat Sturtz
  • Katherine Keahey
  • Kathy O’Neal
  • Kathy Williams
  • Kelly Pagel
  • Kim Adelle Larson
  • Kim Kelly
  • Kim Osborne
  • Kimberley Burns-Childers
  • Kimberly Dolak
  • Kimberly Martin
  • Kristen Fitzgerald
  • Kristen McClellan
  • Laura Elliott
  • Laura Riches
  • Laurie Swope
  • LeanneTalshshar
  • Leediafast Bailey
  • Leslie Carl
  • Liann Graf
  • Linda
  • Linda Adair
  • Linda Beeth
  • Linda Cavage
  • Linda Grinthal
  • Linda Maes
  • Linda Raymer
  • Lisa Emerson
  • Lisa O’Connell
  • Lois Pratt
  • Lori Rupp-Reagle
  • Lori Spry
  • Lyudmila Kollin Kollin
  • Mandi Golman
  • Mandy Allen
  • Marcel Legierse
  • Marie Kidd
  • Marilyn Lange
  • Marjorie Hamrick
  • Marlene Moore
  • Martha Stanley
  • Mary Atsina
  • Mary Coons
  • Mary Dove
  • Mary Holt
  • Mary Sanderson
  • MaryAnn Kirchhoffer
  • Michael Hedemark
  • Michele Langford
  • Michelle Messier
  • Mike Scheck Scheck
  • Millicent Drucquer
  • Mimi Neoh
  • Monika Thompson
  • Nancy K. Young
  • Natalie Burton
  • Nellie Bhattarai
  • Nikki Follis
  • Nikki Thompson
  • Pamela Morrison
  • Patricia Scholes
  • Paula Frazier
  • Pete Lundy
  • Phil Tkachuk
  • Rachel Tardif
  • Rebecca Hale
  • Rebecca Riddle
  • Renee Hume
  • Revola Fontaine
  • Richard T. Tungate
  • Rick Horton
  • Robert Harris
  • Robert Kennedy
  • Robin Marshall
  • Rochelle Eisenberger
  • Rodger Huffman
  • Rogers George
  • Ruth Hester
  • Ruth Macrides
  • Ryan Johnston
  • S. Henshaw
  • Samantha Stokes
  • Sandi Huston
  • Sandra Mikesell
  • Sarah Cowan
  • Sarah Schwartz
  • Shalise Klebel
  • Sharon Marsh
  • Shawn Elmore
  • Shelly B.
  • Shelly Vogt
  • Sherry Hofecker
  • Steve Frazier
  • Sue Mortensen
  • Susan Abdullah
  • Susan Auckland
  • Susan Friesen
  • Susan Gray
  • Susan Phillips
  • Suzanne Oberly
  • Tammy Gresham
  • Tamora Gilbert
  • Teresa Elston
  • Teri Moote
  • Terra Eckert
  • Terry Bomar
  • Theresa McCuaig
  • Theresa Schultz
  • Tracie Velazquez
  • Wanita Martinelli
  • Wendy Meredith
  • William Torres

Instant Master Gardener Certification

Instant Master Gardener Certification

In 8 lessons, The Grow Network’s Instant Master Gardener Certification reveals gardening secrets, tips, and tricks that most people spend years discovering.

Lessons include:

  1. “The Secret to a Green Thumb”
  2. “How Much Land Do You Need?”
  3. “The Power of Herbs”
  4. “The Easiest Way to Prepare a Garden Bed”
  5. “Three Facts About Seeds Every Master Gardener Knows”
  6. “Transplanting Baby Plants”
  7. “The Four HUGE Advantages of Backyard Food Production”
  8. “A Homemade Fertilizer So Powerful, You Could Create a Business Out of It”

Congrats to the following Honors Lab members for completing this powerful certification:

  • Brian Moyers
  • Debbie Kennedy
  • Dianne
  • Jennifer Walton
  • Aldo
  • Alice Krueger
  • Andrea Hill
  • Annie Degabriele
  • Barb
  • Beth Zorbanos
  • Bonnie Tyler
  • Bryson Thompson
  • bydawnsearlylite
  • Christina Hawk
  • Christy Dominguez
  • csells815
  • Cynthia Parker
  • David Clark
  • Debbie
  • Debbie Kennedy
  • Deborah Gonzales
  • Debra Frazier
  • Debra Hollcroft
  • Doc Hecker
  • Elmer Caddell
  • Gary Conter
  • Gayle Lawson
  • Geraldine Christmas
  • Gregg
  • HP P
  • Ibeneon
  • James Judd
  • Jamie Barker
  • Jeanette Tuppen
  • jeff780
  • Jennifer Johnson
  • JoAnn
  • Joe Prohaska
  • John Kempf
  • Karen
  • Karyn Pennington
  • Katycasper
  • Kcasalese
  • Keith Gascon
  • Kenneth
  • Laura Mahan
  • Leah Kay Olmes
  • Lisa Blakeney
  • Lori Rupp-Reagle
  • Marti Noden
  • Mary Falkner
  • Megan Venturella
  • metaldog227
  • Michael Clayton
  • Michael Merriken
  • Michael Dirrim
  • Nicole Mindach
  • Philip Vance
  • Rachel Tardif
  • Robert Wohlfiel
  • Robin
  • Rogers George
  • Ron Atkinson
  • Samantha Straw
  • Sammabrey
  • Sandy
  • Shawn Skeffington
  • Sheila Robadey
  • Sherry Ankers
  • Sherry Baer
  • Spraygsm
  • Stacey
  • Teddy Plaisted
  • Teresa Wolf
  • William Torres

Saving Quality Seeds Certification

Saving Quality Seeds

Learn how to save seeds that will ensure an abundant harvest in years to come with the in-depth information in TGN’s Saving Quality Seeds Certification.

This 7-lesson Certification teaches which plants are easiest to save seeds from, how to plan your garden with seed-saving in mind, how to do a garden soil inventory, the basics of dry and wet harvesting, the best way to store seed, how to determine seed quality—and more!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members on completing this Certification:

  • Debbie Kennedy
  • Brian Moyers
  • Diane Jandt
  • Gary Conter
  • HP P
  • Janna Huggins
  • Phil Tkachuk
  • William Torres

Backyard Chickens for Egg Production Certification

I’m excited to announce that we’re putting the finishing touches on another multi-lesson, deep-diving certification, which will be added to the Honors Lab very soon:

Backyard Chickens for Egg Production 

In this awesome new certification, TGN blogger (and homesteader extraordinaire!) Tasha Greer covers everything from breed selection and coop design to flock health and egg storage — plus lots more….

We’ve also got several more certifications in the works, including “Making Home Medicine,” “Backyard Meat Rabbits,” “Bird-watching,” and “Beekeeping.” We’re working with some fantastic experts on these, so you’ll definitely want to check them out in the Honors Lab once they’re ready. Exciting stuff! 🙂

 

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Meat Rabbits: Raise Half Your Protein in 10 Minutes Per Day (VIDEO)

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Back in November, the awesome Justin Rhodes and his family stopped by my Central Texas homestead to learn how to raise half of the protein requirements for a family of four in less than 10 minutes a day.

I showed Justin and his wife, Rebecca, my no-worry, low-work system for raising meat rabbits using paddock rotation, gravity-fed watering systems, and regenerating food systems.

Watch the video to learn how I do it!

In the video, I also share the No. 1 reason why it’s much easier to raise meat rabbits and other livestock than to grow edible plants. I produce both, of course, but I do think the livestock take less work!

(Btw, I made that hat myself – but I’m not sure I’m going to wear it on camera anymore! 😉

 

The post Meat Rabbits: Raise Half Your Protein in 10 Minutes Per Day (VIDEO) appeared first on The Grow Network.

Preparing for a Pig Slaughter

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CAUTION: This article, and the photos in it, include graphic details about pig slaughter. If you are disturbed by information and images of this nature, please use your own discretion when determining whether to read further.

Raising and processing your own pigs at home is a great way to provision your family with a year’s supply of meat. If you start with weaned piglets that are about eight weeks old, it takes around four to six months to raise your pigs to “market weight,” which is around 250 pounds.

A 250-pound pig, also called a hog, will yield about 140–145 pounds of meat products. Anything you can’t eat, you can trench compost to improve your soil (assuming you have a place on your property at least 50 feet from your wellhead or watershed to dig a trench). And if you want to do some extra processing, you can also grind bones into bonemeal for your garden and make a year’s supply of bone broth to up your protein and gelatin intake.

Read More: “Benefits of Bone Broth: Myth or Magical Mystery?”

Raising pigs is the easy part. They simply require adequate space to root inside a really robust electric fence, fresh water, a lot of food, and a three-sided shelter for weather protection.

Training your pigs to the wire when they are small is important, and if you can find piglets that are already wire-trained, that’s even better.

When they are young, or if you raise them through winter, you may also need to give them some bales of straw to use as bedding to help keep them comfortable and avoid weight loss during cold spells.

Planning for the slaughter, though, can be a bit daunting.

Technically, you can field dress a pig, like you would a deer, by basically removing the guts and hide. But, if you plan to make any kind of fancy products like bacon and cured ham or pork rinds, then you really want to think about your setup and plan to have on hand all the necessary equipment that will make your pig slaughter as easy and organized as possible.

Here’s what we do to get ready for our hog processing each year.

Assemble Your Team

One person can slaughter a hog. But we find that having two to four people available to help makes the process a lot easier. And if you plan to make it a whole-day event and do multiple pigs at once, like we do, having more help for shift relief makes things go much faster.

We tend to make our hog killings a bit of a community event by inviting friends interested in learning to come for the experience. However, making sure that you or your helpers have the necessary skills for each task is the most important factor.

We tend to plan our team with the following skills in mind.

The Shooter

If you get in the habit of standing in front of your pigs while you feed them, your shooter will basically be able to shoot the pigs at almost point blank when processing day comes. This way, there is no chance of missing the mark. But, even with such an easy target, an experienced shooter is a good team member to have. We also like to have a second shooter ready just in case something goes wrong with the first shot.

The Sticker

This person sticks the pig in the heart to bleed it out after the shot drops the pig in convulsions. The sticker can also be the shooter, but in this case, you’ll need someone nearby for the shooter to pass the gun to. That person can then put the safety on the gun, and put the gun back in its case so no accidents happen. Alternatively, you can set up a chair, table, or even picnic blanket to set the gun on if your shooter is your sticker and there is no one there to take the gun.

The Heavy Lifters

We personally raise our pigs a bit bigger than 250 pounds, so we like to have two strong people who can help haul the pigs the 15–20 feet from their paddock down to our scaffold.

 

Pig Slaughter -Scraping

The Skinner or Skin Scrapers

If you plan to skin your pig, that’s pretty much a one-person job. But if you are scraping, a few extra hands get the job done quicker. Up to four people speed up the process, but if you get more than four sets of hands on the hog at once, you just start running into each other and flinging hair on the person below (yuck).

The Gutter

Gutting is delicate work, but intestines are also heavy. So you want someone with steady knife skills and the ability to hold back 40 pounds of innards with their elbow during the “unzipping.”

The Splitter

Splitting a hog carcass down the spine with a saw is extremely physical work. You can use power saws to make it easier. But it still requires a fair bit of strength and stamina. It’s also a bit easier if you have two other people hold the sides of the carcass to steady it while the person operating the saw cuts through.

The Butchers

You need one skilled butcher who can find their way around a carcass to cut off the bacon, hams, Boston butts, etc., and who can distinguish pork chops and roasts from sausage meat. But after those initial cuts, butchering is the part of the process where more hands really make light work. Quite a bit of hog processing is sausage making, and that means cutting your meat and fat into chunks or strips that will fit in your grinder. There is also a lot of curing and packaging to be done. So if you want to involve people interested in learning, this is the part of the processing where almost anyone can get in on the action.

Prepare Your Equipment

Beyond having the right people with the right skills lined up for your pig slaughter, you also need to prepare your equipment.

We’re minimalists on the equipment front because we like to do things fairly “old school.” But we still have a pretty lengthy list.

Here’s what we use:

General

  • Deboning Knives—For gutting, head removal, and butchering
  • Knife Sharpener and Steel—For knife maintenance, as needed
  • First Aid Kit—With lots of bandages, disinfectant, and superglue to close skin cuts
  • Disposable Gloves—In case you get cuts that bandages won’t stick to and for anyone who prefers to work with gloves
  • Three Five-Gallon Buckets—To set up a washing station outdoors; we fill one with soapy water, one with bleach, and one with clean water to use for cleaning equipment, hands, and whatever else you use during processing

Pig Slaughter - The End of a Life

For the Kill

  • .22 Rifle With Bullets—For stunning the pig
  • Sharp-Tipped Knife—For sticking the pig to bleed it out
  • Two Ropes—To drag the pig down to our processing area
  • Hose—To wash the pig off before scalding

For Scalding and Scraping the Pig

  • Scaffold—For elevating the pigs into the scalding vat; a front loader or tripod will also work
  • Two Engine Hoists—We hang one over the scalding vat and another next to it to use to hang the pig for gutting. You can also gut the pig on a pallet on the ground if you only have one engine hoist.
  • Scalding Vat—Large enough to hold an entire pig, ours is a 250-gallon oil tank cut in half and welded into a horseshoe shape. For smaller pigs, 55-gallon drums work, too.
  • Hose With Sprayer Nozzle—With access to a clean water supply for filling scalding vat and using to wash the pig, hands, tools, etc., during processing
  • Cinder Blocks—For stabilizing scalding vat
  • Chains—For use to agitate the pigs in the scalding vat to keep them from sticking to the bottom (if the flame is on, as it often must be in cold weather)
  • Two Gambrels—These are placed through the front and back legs and used to hoist and direct the pigs when lifted and lowered onto the scaffold.
  • S-Hooks—For attaching the gambrels to the engine hoists
  • Propane Tanks and Burners (or Lots of Wood)—For heating the water in the scalding vat
  • Thermometer—For checking water temperature prior to scalding to make sure you reach 150–155ºF
  • Bell Scrapers—For scraping the hair from the skin

Pig Slaughter - Splitting a Carcass

For Gutting, Beheading, and Splitting

  • Bone Saw—For splitting the carcass and cutting through ribs
  • Deboning Knife or Knife with Gut-Hook—For gutting
  • Twine—To tie up the anus
  • Gut Bucket—A really large bucket to catch the guts and store them until you get a chance to take what you need and bury the rest
  • Smaller Bucket—For the organs you plan to keep, like the liver, heart, and kidneys

For Butchering, Processing, and Packaging

  • Large Cutting Boards
  • Large Cooler—This works great to hold the heads until you process. Just leave the lid off so the heads stay as cool as it is outdoors. Then, after you process the heads, you can use the cooler to organize your cuts until they can be packaged.
  • Lots of Buckets (or Pots, Bowls, and Whatever Large Vessels You Have)—For holding fat or meat chunks; and to use to brine heads, for curing bacon, etc.
  • Pressure Canner—For making stock and head cheese and to use to can stock and lard after processing
  • Slow Cooker or Other Large Stove-Top Pot—For making lard
  • Canning Jars and Lids—To hold stock and lard
  • Meat Grinder—For making sausage
  • Sausage Stuffer and Casings—If you plan to make links
  • Vacuum Sealer With Bags, Butcher Paper, or Freezer Bags—For packaging
  • Food-Grade Scale—For weighing cures and meat cuts, etc.
  • Permanent Marking Pens—To label your packages
  • Pillow Cases or Old Sheets—To use for curing hams
  • Parchment Paper and Twine—To use to keep the cure in place on the hams
  • Rope—For hanging hams

Pig Slaughter - Tasha Gutting

Storage, Space, and Special Planning Considerations

In addition to the equipment necessary for processing, you also need to make sure you have the space to do this. Pig slaughter is easiest when you have room to move and have planned where you will store everything while you work through that large amount of meat.

Short-Term Needs

You will need some fairly big, sturdy tables to work on. We have a stainless-steel table for breaking down the carcass and a really large picnic table that we cover with plastic and use to cube and cure meat. If it is really cold, we also use our indoor dining table covered in plastic and our kitchen island for doing the curing and bagging.

A stainless-steel or granite-topped table is also really helpful if you plan to make sausage links.

You will also need some equipment for safely storing your meat overnight so you can finish processing the next day. We put some of our meat on pallets in a truck bed, tied it in with tarps, and covered it with chairs to deter critters. We also hung some of it with our engine hoists.

But if you have a secure, unheated outbuilding, that would work best.

You will need a place to store your bacon while it cures for 14 days. You need to flip the bacon once a day, so this location should be easy for you to access. We usually use the same cooler we used for heads and cuts, and keep it on our front porch so we remember to flip the bacon daily.

Long-Term Needs

You need a place to hang your hams to dry for 60–75 days while they cure and for another 6–18 months while they age.

You need a freezer to store your bounty of meat for the year.

Special Considerations

If you plan to make fermented sausage, you will likely need a fermentation chamber to control humidity and temperature for a 30-day curing period or longer.

If you plan to smoke your meats, you will also need either a hot or cold smoker, depending on your preference. Cold-smoking is used for flavoring meat after it is cured by other methods (e.g., salt and Insta Cure). Hot smoking is usually applied to meat that will be used quickly or frozen.

Plan Your Recipes and Prepare Your Ingredients

We are total foodies, and so half the reason we raise our own pigs is so we can make our own gourmet products at home for a fraction of the cost we’d pay at gourmet grocery stores.

Before we ever set the date for processing, we plan which recipes we’ll use for making bacon, ham, and any other cuts we want to cure.

We decide what kind of sausage mixes we plan to make. Then we shop for items we don’t grow ourselves and make sure we have adequate stocks of everything else.

Regardless of which recipes we use, we always need large quantities of the following:

  • Sea Salt—For curing and seasoning
  • Demarara Sugar—For curing hams and bacon
  • Insta Cure No. 1—For bacon and smoked sausage
  • Insta Cure No. 2—For dry-cured hams and salamis
  • Garlic—For sausage and bacon
  • Wine, Beer, Water, or Milk—For sausage liquid
  • Spices—Marjoram, oregano, paprika, black pepper, cayenne, thyme, rosemary, fennel seed, etc.

I also like to make up my mixes for bacon, ham, and most of our sausages in advance of processing so that we don’t have to worry about tracking down ingredients when the meat starts coming off the carcass.

For example, I’ll make up ham cure in 50-pound increments, but then I’ll weigh the cure, divide by 50, and leave a note on the cure indicating how many ounces of mix to use per pound of ham. This year it was 1.2 ounces of cure to a pound of ham. So, my helpers weighed the hams. The first was 28 pounds. They then weighed out 33.6 ounces (1.2 ounces x 28 pounds of meat), and rubbed that into the hams before wrapping.

I also had parchment paper, twine, and pillow cases all ready so they could get the hams ready for hanging.

I do the same with the bacon cure.

I also prepare sausage spices in 20-pound batches so that as soon as we’ve got 20 pounds of the appropriate quantities of meat and fat ground, we can immediately start mixing up our first batch of sausage.

Check the Weather and Make the Final Call

About three days before our pig slaughter, we check the weather and make sure we are on track for our proposed date. Rain or excess wind are deal breakers for us, because we do most of our processing outdoors and we want to be as comfortable as we can be while we are doing this. If you have a large outbuilding to use, your considerations may be different. For us, we like daytime temperatures in the 45°F–55°F range and hovering above freezing overnight. If the weather looks good, we alert our team and start setting everything up.

We check the weather again the day before just to make sure our forecast still looks good. This year, we had a snow storm sneak up on us on our first planned date. So we had to cancel the day before. But the next weekend turned out to be perfect.

Even with good preplanning, you’ll inevitably forget something. Part of being prepared is knowing that you’ll still likely have to do some improvising the day of. Flexibility and ingenuity are also key skills that you want every member of your team to have.

Pig slaughter requires a lot of preparation and work, and you should know that going in. However, I find that if I keep in mind the fact that I am literally provisioning most of my meat supply for the entire year with those few days of hard work, it’s a lot easier to get through. And, at the end, I have the satisfaction of knowing where my food came from, how my animals were raised, and what went into their processing every step of the way.

I’m pretty experienced at pig slaughter now. But a few years ago, I was a total novice. You can read my posts about a first-time hog killing using the following links:

Then, stay tuned for some new, upcoming posts with more specific details about processing and product making from your hogs at home.

If you have experience at home processing or are thinking about doing it, we’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Please share any thoughts or information you have in the comments section below.

 

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The post Preparing for a Pig Slaughter appeared first on The Grow Network.

Tips & Tricks To Protect Livestock During Winter

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Taking care of livestock and poultry during warm weather is hard enough, but when frigid weather hits, it can be downright difficult.

Yet if you know what you’re doing, your livestock can survive and even thrive during winter weather.

This week’s guests on Off The Grid Radio — Shawn and Beth Dougherty — take care of cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens and ducks throughout the year on a large farm in Ohio. They tell us the tricks they use to care for their animals when cold weather hits.

Shawn and Beth – the authors of the book, “The Independent Farmstead” (Storey) – also tell us:

  • What they feed their animals during winter.
  • How they keep the livestock’s water from freezing.
  • What they do to protect their animals when temperatures approach 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

Shawn and Beth also tell about the vegetables they grow in the garden during winter – and how they do it.

If you own livestock or poultry, then this week’s show is for you!

How to Butcher a Chicken

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Chicken slaughter is often a tough topic for new, and even experienced, chicken keepers. Even if you theoretically know how to butcher a chicken, actually doing it is another matter entirely.

Even though we all know where meat comes from and what has to happen for it to make it to our tables, there is some part of us that wants to pretend it just magically showed up at the grocery store or farmer’s market booth.

Part of becoming a backyard butcher is facing your meat consumption habits head on.

The most important advice we can give you on butchering your first chicken is, don’t overcomplicate the process.

Historically, backyard butchering was the norm. It didn’t take weeks of planning and preparation. It just took the will to do it, a little skill, and some basic tools.

Do Your Homework

Most of us didn’t grow up learning these skills, so we do have to do a little homework to prepare in advance.

But, unless you want to spend an unnecessary fortune or will be processing a ton of chickens, you probably want to make your process very similar to what your grandma’s (or great grandma’s) would have been.

There is an art to home butchery that comes only with experience.

Your first time butchering will be rough on you and possibly on your chicken.

In fact, even when you have become very skilled at doing it, it will probably still be rough on you.

You are taking a life, and if you don’t recognize the sentience of the being on the other side of that transaction, then maybe you need to seek psychological help!

That said, if you have been buying chicken at the grocery store, you have already been an active participant in slaughtering birds that were likely treated with less dignity and respect than you have shown the chickens you will be processing.

For meat eaters, home butchering could be one of the least ethically compromising decisions you can make.

Philosophical considerations aside, let’s talk about a few practical aspects of processing chickens.

Slaughter Planning

A clean kill starts with good planning. You need to decide how you are going to do it and what tools you are going to use.

Three Methods

Using a kill cone and sharp knife to slit a chicken’s throat on both sides is most common for small poultry processors. When using this method, some people put a straw bale under the cone area to collect the blood.

Since this is not a job you want to have to do twice on the same chicken, make it a habit to cut to the bone on both sides.

Chickens often try to back out of the cone in response to having their throats slit, so hold the head tightly and don’t let go until the chicken is no longer moving. This also prevents blood from splattering and making a big mess as dying chickens twitch.

You can also decapitate your chickens using a sharp knife and a butcher block or tree stump.

This method is easier if you have one person to hold the chicken and another to do the beheading.

One blogger decapitates her chickens using a feed bag to hold and then hang chickens during and after the kill. This method works really well and saves you the cost of a kill cone. Straw bale blood collection works in this scenario too.

You can also break a chicken’s neck. This method requires no tools for the kill, but as the blood is not drained during the process, it makes for a messier evisceration process. So be prepared to collect or clean the blood when you take the chicken to the table for evisceration.

Whichever method you use, speed and accuracy is critical. Watching videos of other successful kills and studying pictures in advance can help mentally prepare you for the task.

The neck has valuable stock meat and flavor, so the closer you can make your cut or break to the head, the more you get to keep.

Be Well-Prepared Prior to Culling

Set up your station before you start.

  • Slaughtering at home can be messy, so a lot of us opt to do it outside.
  • Having a hose with a sprayer makes it easy to keep things clean.
  • A work table makes evisceration easier.
  • Having some kind of hook for hanging to defeather helps.
  • If you plan to scald, you need a burner to heat your water.
  • You may also need electricity if you use a plucker.
  • Some people like to set up a three-bucket cleaning station, with soapy water, bleach water (1 Tablespoon per gallon), and fresh water to use to clean your knife and other equipment as needed during processing.
  • You also want to choose a location with good drainage so you don’t end up with chicken blood and scraps stinking up your backyard.

Plucking

Once you’ve dispatched your chicken, the next step is to defeather the carcass.

There are a couple ways to do this:

  • You can skin, dry-pluck, scald, and hand pluck.
  • You can scald and machine pluck.

Skinning

Some people skin the entire bird. However, for many, the skin is delicious and worth the extra work. You can check out this blog posting for a look at the process.

Dry-Plucking

Dry-plucking is exactly what it sounds like. You simply pull out the feathers after slaughtering.

It helps to hang the bird by the feet and pull down to extract the feathers.

The rule of thumb on defeathering the body is to pull away from the direction the feathers grow in. For wings, you need to hold the tip of the wing and then grip and pull the feathers straight out. Tail feathers are also easier to pull straight out.

Scalding

You can also scald a chicken before plucking, which makes it much easier to pull out the feathers.

You need a pot big enough to hold your entire chicken, a pair of tongs for dipping and stirring, and a thermometer (e.g., a fry thermometer) so you make sure you get the water to 135–145°F for scalding dry birds.

If I am processing a large flock, I like to use a garden hose to rinse my poultry thoroughly before scalding so the water does not need to be changed as frequently.

When I soak before scalding, I aim for a water temperature between 145–155°F since the cold water from the rinse, retained in the feathers, will drop my scalding pot temperature.

Also, birds like the Cornish Cross which have been breed for easier defeathering and are processed at a younger age scald well at around 135°F, and more heavily feathered birds are easier to pluck if scalded on the higher side of the scale.

  • If you’ve got your water temperature right, it takes about one to three minutes for the feathers to loosen. Use the tongs to move the chicken around, up, and down in the pot to make sure the hot water penetrates the feathers and reaches the skin.
  • After the first minute, tug on the body feathers with your tongs every 15–20 seconds to check.
  • As soon as the feathers are easy to pull, take the chicken from the pot, hang the carcass, and begin defeathering as described for dryplucking.
  • Pluck quickly for best results.
  • Also, don’t leave the chickens in the water too long, as they begin to cook and the feathers get harder to pluck.

Plucking manually, whether you scald or not, is about the hardest part of the process. It takes time and there are always some small feathers you have to pluck out with tweezers, torch off, or shave off with a straight razor.

If you’ll be processing chickens regularly, machine defeathering is a good option. You can build your own, like the Whizbang Plucker. Or, if that’s outside your budget and time constraints, you can buy drill attachments like the one that Marjory found at the Mother Earth News Fair a few years back. See her quick video about it here.

I like to think of plucking as a kind of meditation. And, sometimes, having company helps pass the time.

You can use the feathers for craft projects like jewelry, writing quills, and Halloween costumes. And anything you don’t use can be composted. Feathers are very high in nitrogen.

Evisceration

Once the feathers are removed, your next step is to eviscerate (remove the internal organs).

This is also usually the time you remove the feet, head (if not decapitated), and oil glands. Once you get the hang of it, evisceration is pretty easy to do. But it’s easier to learn if you have a coach or watch a few good videos, like this one with Joel Salatin.

Also, if you get your copy of the Mother Earth News Summit hosted by Marjory Wildcraft, it includes presentations from Joel Salatin and Patricia Foreman on raising and processing chickens. Patricia’s presentation on processing has very detailed pictures to make the process accessible to newcomers.

After you have a basic idea of the process, then keep in mind these few tips to have a successful first experience.

  • Use a clean cutting board or table. Plastic or stainless steel surfaces are easier to clean and disinfect, so they are recommended.
  • Have a hose at the ready in the event of accidental contamination, such as could be caused by cutting the intestines and contaminating your chicken area or work table with feces or by nicking the gall bladder when removing it from the liver.
  • Lungs don’t always come out clean in scalded chickens, so rinse the interior of the carcass and use your fingers to scrape out residual lung tissue if necessary.
  • Chill the heart, liver, and gizzard as soon as possible. The quality of organ meat degrades quickly once it comes in contact with air.

There are a lot of different techniques used to remove the head and feet, so feel free to use whatever works for you.

One method is to cut the feet above the orange socks and around the knee joint. Then, fold the knee in the opposing direction to loosen the tendon and cut through it. After that, twist and cut until the foot is off.

For the neck, you can cut the meat around the spine, twist the neck once around and then slice through the ligature.

Chilling, Aging, and Storing

Chilling

If you are processing poultry professionally, your goal after evisceration is to chill your meat to an internal temperature of 40°F as quickly as possible. That usually means plopping it into a cooler of ice water, like you would a bottle of champagne.

The longer it takes for a chicken to cool down, the more risk there is for bacterial contamination of the meat. And unless you happen to have a flash freezer at home, ice water baths are the fastest, safest, and cheapest way to chill your meat at home.

Ideally, you want to leave your carcass in ice water for about one hour per pound of carcass to make sure it is properly chilled.

Aging and Storing

At that point, you can package your chicken and place it in your refrigerator for aging or in your freezer for storing.

Whether you age your meat right after processing or after you defrost it, your meat will be more tender if you give it a day or two to “rest” at refrigerator temperatures. You can do double-duty by letting it rest in marinade before cooking, as well.

Some people keep chicken in their freezer for years. But, for best results, you should eat chicken within six months of processing.

Safety and Sanitation

When it comes to keeping things safe at a molecular level during processing, the No. 1 rule is to use common sense.

  • If you plan to process more than a chicken or two at a time, you’ll want to clean all your surfaces and equipment at least every couple hours.
  • If you suspect any kind of contamination (e.g., chicken feces, fly-by droppings from a wild bird, etc.), stop and sanitize.
  • A tablespoon of bleach in a gallon of water makes a good sanitizer.
  • Use clean towels for handwashing.
  • Avoid touching your face or other body parts while processing.
  • Sharpen your knife before each kill and as needed during processing.

Again, use common sense. If your basic hygiene is bad, you could pass on norovirus and other nasty stuff, but only if you also fail to properly cook the meat before eating. Poor hygiene while processing and unsafe cooking procedures are both necessary for bad things to happen.

Just use your brain, and you’ll be ok!

You want to raise your own chickens, which means you’re probably a smart person. So use your own good judgment to keep risks out of your process.

Appreciation

After you raise, kill, and process your own chickens, take a few minutes to sit down, think about the experience, and figure out what worked, what didn’t, and how you want to do it better next time.

Then remember all that went into it—from picking your breed, to brooding your chicks, to moving them around in your pasture tractor, to watching them chase grasshoppers in your lawn.

Be amazed at all you learned in the process.

Celebrate your success in raising high-quality food for you and your family.

And of course, give thanks for the way nature provides, for the chickens who will grace your table, for anyone who helped you along the way, and for the fact that you have healthy food to eat and choices about how to provide for yourself.

The post How to Butcher a Chicken appeared first on The Grow Network.

The Lone Sock

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

It’s a mystery in many houses – where in tarnation do the odd socks go? In others, there’s people like me who have a special ability to wear and snag holes … in just one sock … at a ridiculous rate.

This leaves many sad, lonely “survivor” socks waiting for their mate to appear, or hoping the next ripped sock matches it.  Then, commonly, after ages spent waiting with other sad, lonely survivors accumulating beside them, they’re sent to the landfill.

  

Happily, it doesn’t have to be so. Those socks have massive potential for increasing our preparedness.

They can save us money and effort now, and they can be especially useful in a protracted crisis! Unmatched socks have a place from our kitchens and baths, to our gardens and back, winter and summer.

Garden Tie-Ups

One of the best-known uses for socks in in the garden is as ties for our vining plants like tomatoes and heavier squash or melons. They can be used whole and as-is, although that can be bulky. They can be split longwise down to the toe to create longer lengths, or cut off in rings or shorter strips.

Socks can also help us by holding the fruit itself. We can split them and tie them at the center to make a 4- or 6-strand “X” that we tie up from around the bottom of fruits to suspend from a trellis, enabling us to grow vertically and save space. Doing so can also limits some of the garden munchers.

Alternatively, with thick-stemmed autumn-winter squashes and melons, ties can be suspended from near the base of the fruit to the supporting rack. (Psst … check to see if they’re ready to slip regularly.)

I also use socks to tie and cover the plastic bundle I make when I propagate by air layering, to tie young trees and shrubs to their protective posts, and when I create limb spreaders for young trees or am creating an espalier or diagonal cordon fruit tree.

While they do hold more moisture than garden twine, they’re also less abrasive. I like the fact that they have some elasticity, too. Instead of snapping, they bend like a willow in the wind, and in some cases, because of the “give”, they can absorb some of the damage we get from summer and winter storms.

Pollination Protectors

If we’re gardening with a long-term disaster or instability in mind, eventually we turn to seed saving. Many of our garden plants are promiscuous, which can present challenges. To keep seeds true for another season, we can cover up flowers before they open (to include corn) and hand pollinate. Hose and dress socks excel here, ensuring we have another harvest we can count on from our efforts.

If flowers are delicate, we can slice up yogurt cups, plastic bottles, seed tray cups; bend wire clothes hangers into spirals; or create a couple thin willow rings to form a hollowed-out frame and keep our thin socks and hose from putting too much pressure on our forming flowers and their young fruits.

(Full disclosure: Pro’s actually use paper bags for breeding corn – zero chance of pollen seeping through the weave.)

Pest Barriers

Socks and hose can also help save our fruits from predation. As with breeding stock, some fruits may benefit from a ring or frame that keeps the cloth from making direct contact.

Coddling moth on tree fruit is the most common foe defeated this way, but it can help with everything from birds and bramble berry bunches, to tomatoes and hornworms. Cloth socks can also be substituted for newspaper when protecting transplants from cutworms.

 

Wicking with Socks

Heard of Earthboxes, or sub-irrigated planters and beds (sometimes called self-watering)?

DIYs from buckets, storage totes, and 2L bottles regularly call for a wick. There’s no need to buy mops or pond baskets, though. A polyester sock filled with coir, wood chips, or your planting soil will work just as well and last nearly as long. Cotton and wool socks can be cut into strips to perform the same functions for smaller containers.

On a different note, farmers and gardeners have started cutting up cleaned waste wool pieces from shearing, and tilling it into gardens or sticking it near root zones, especially for particularly thirsty crops. The wool absorbs water, keeping it available to plants longer. Natural-fiber sock pieces can do the same.

Allium Chains

Never really got the hang of braiding garlic and onions into chains for storage? No big deal. Thin dress socks or hose can make it faster and easier to accomplish the same.

Once cured, just bundle them up. You can use bread ties, paper clips, or clothespins to separate bulbs in a chain instead of tying knots, or you can cut right below the knot. (Remember to save the “toe” for flower & fruit protectors.)

Goo Grabbers

Got any bottles of oil in the kitchen – or one of those oil sprayers to replace Spam? Get any dribbles down them?

No? Can you teach my entire family how to not do this?

If you do, or if you have slick stuff it’s tough to grab in the kitchen or shed, socks can help. Cut the toe off, slide it over, fold over if desired. Dribbles will catch in the sock, not pool under the sprayer or bottle, and you can gain a little extra traction on those bottles.

Their ability to prevent accidental splatter or drippage also extends to paint cans and shoes.

When you’re ready to paint, roll or twist your sock(s) into a thin rope, and tie it around the can. As with the oil, it’ll catch any drips from the rim.

When you’re painting and staining and priming, you can also slide mismatched and sole-survivor socks over your shoes (and your hands) to help limit any drips or side spray from making contact.

  

Washing Up

Got a carpet mess to clean up? Stick bar soap in one of those sole survivors of the laundry, dunk, scrub, repeat. Bar soap in a sock will also make it easier if you’re planning to hand-scrub your laundry at some point, with or without a board.

Tired of losing those little slivers of bar soaps, or of dealing with the mushy mess?

Stick them in a sock, and hang the sock from a hook. You could hang it to drip into the sink, but for even less waste, set it up so it drips onto a sponge or the floor-scrubby louffa squash you grew.

(Psst … that sock thing also makes it fast and easy to wash hands over a catch bucket while camping.)

When it comes to cleaning up, we can also repurpose lone socks as reusable “Swiffer” pads for dusting, sweeping, and spot mopping.

Socks also make excellent dip stick wipers (and “hot pot holders”) to tuck along the inside rim of a vehicle hood. Tuck a few in with your air compressor to save your hands (and knees) there, too, so you spend a little less time using soap, scrubbing stains, and patching holes with them.

    

Critter Care

Got a small dog or pup prone to getting super cold in winter? Piglets or rabbits that need a sweater? Doggy child like to dip its ears in its dinner? Or shake them after an injury?

Socks can be the answer.

With a few snips we can create hoods and sweaters for our pets, as well as some of our small livestock.

They can also be turned into chicken vests, or used to create stockings and suspenders to keep animals from reopening leg wounds or chewing “hot spots” that may develop from allergies to grasses and insect bites.

A quick knot, piece of Velcro, or old belt can work to hold them over the shoulder, or you can use some garden twine to tie off between their shoulders or to a harness.

Those stockings can also be used in winter to help dogs gain some traction on ice. There’s some limited assistance for dogs that end up with balls of packs snow between their toes, too.

The biggie for me in winter, though, was always in limiting how much deicer ended up on their feet and in the house. It only works for front paws, but since that’s what mine will sit there and lick most often, that’s a win.

Every tiny speck that turns their socks crunchy-crispy is a speck they’re not consuming, so it was worth it to me even not being a perfect “boot”. A quick coat of spray sizing or waterproofing limits that exposure further.

Hoofstock can have fitted socks used to replace light brush guards as well as help keep them from messing with an injury. Socks can also be soaked as fly repellents, or help keep a heat rub or anti-inflammatory dressing in place.

If socks aren’t big enough to slide over a hoof, we can still use them instead of ACE type flex-compression bandages. As with garden supports, we can slice them long wise from the opening to the toe and use them as a wrap.

Just make sure they fit well, won’t slide off, and that we use tape or a salvaged piece of Velcro, especially for animals we won’t be watching – constantly and closely.

Applying a medical aid does little good if Rin Tin Tin or Silver manage to swallow an ACE clip or step on a safety pin. (That goes for brand-new, purpose-specific items, too, not just repurposed items.)

  

Solar Boosts

Got a water bottle that boils in summer? Pull a white sock over it. Want to help water absorb solar rays, either to stay warmer in winter or cut down on boiling time for instant meals in summer? Sheath it in a black sock instead.

The black sock trick can also be used as a heat sink for winter plants, with cans, bottles or emptied jars.

Socks as Saviors

We spend enough money on preparedness. Save it where you can. There are all sorts of things that can be given new life. Unmatched socks in particular are pretty useful around a home and yards – and we barely brushed the surface of their potential.

From feminine hygiene to small pouches, mittens to coin-roll saps, homemade draft rolls and dusting gloves, even as a washable alternative to paper for windows and mirrors – it’s a pretty big list, with pretty wide applications. They don’t have to cycle from waiting to the trash.

Go ahead and stash some back for hard times, but get started seeing nothing as a waste product now, too.

 

The post The Lone Sock appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

How To Recognize Copper Deficiency In Goats

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What you don’t know about copper deficiency, can hurt your goats

It all started with goat cheese more than 30 years ago.

When I had my first bite of goat cheese at a party, I was 19 years old. I wondered where this amazing food had been all my life. Why wasn’t everyone eating goat cheese? When we started our homestead in 2002, I wanted a couple of goats, so I could make that wonderful cheese, which was too expensive for me to buy as often as I wanted.

Making goat cheese, which I learned was called chévre, was incredibly easy.

However, raising goats wasn’t quite so easy…

…And I never expected the little darlings to steal my heart.

Then the problems started

My goats started having problems with infertility, losing babies at all stages of pregnancy, and even dying. I was determined to figure out why. About a third of our does were not getting pregnant. Some never came into heat. Some gave birth to babies too small to survive. For the first five years that we had goats, we never had a buck that lived past three years of age. I went to more than half a dozen vets, including the university vet hospital. I paid for necropsies and tests that told us nothing.

One day my teenage daughter said to me,
“Mom, I think our goats are copper deficient.”

She showed me the information she’d found online. The symptoms matched everything we saw with our goats. The suggestion was to get “injectable copper,” which was only available with a vet’s prescription. I called four different vets and asked for the prescription. They all said, if we were feeding a commercial goat feed and had loose minerals always available, copper deficiency was impossible.

Then one day…

…a doe died and left behind two scrawny looking doelings that were barely two-months-old.

Even though it was June, the doe had not shed her winter coat. She had not been pregnant the year before. I called the vet and asked for her liver to be tested for copper. He replied, “You’re wasting your money!” I said, “Well, it’s my money.”

A few days later…

…he called with the results. Normal copper levels in goats are 25 to 150 ppm.

My goat’s copper level was 4.8 ppm!

I again asked for the prescription copper and to my complete shock, he said “no.” He told me that just because her liver test showed low copper levels that didn’t mean that all of my goats were copper deficient. It was just a fluke.

So, I read and learned all I could…

…about using copper oxide wire particles (a supplement made for cattle) to increase the copper level of my goats. I purchased it and asked an experienced goat breeder how much to give my goats. The giant cattle boluses (a large pill) were ripped open and redistributed into smaller goat-sized capsules.

I only gave it to the goats that I thought had a deficiency.

Within two weeks, the goats that had the copper looked so much better than the goats that did not. It was an easy decision to give it to all of them. When the goats looked like they needed it (based on their coat conditions), I provided extra copper. The next fall all of my goats became pregnant. They all carried their pregnancies to term and gave birth to healthy babies. Our oldest buck celebrated his fourth birthday! He ultimately lived to be ten-years-old!

copper-deficiency

Causes of copper deficiency

Goats can have primary or secondary copper deficiency. Primary deficiency means they are not consuming enough copper. Secondary deficiency happens when they are consuming enough copper, but they are also consuming a copper antagonist that reduces how much copper they absorb. Providing a loose mineral may be all some goats need. On farms with well water that is high in minerals, the loose minerals may not be enough. Iron, sulfur, and calcium bind with copper and cause secondary copper deficiency. The well-water goats need even more copper.

Want to learn more?

Even though veterinary researchers and breeders have learned a lot about goats and copper in the last ten years, there is a lot of misinformation being passed around. Outdated websites are still shared on social media. I’m lucky that I teach college, so I have access to scholarly databases, which include published research studies in veterinary journals. However, most people can’t read the research unless they’re willing to spend $20 or more. A lot of the studies are hidden behind paywalls.

Unfortunately, most vets graduated from vet school more than ten years ago, which means they were taught that the risk of copper toxicity was the only thing they needed to know about copper. They were told that deficiency in goats was not a problem. Goats are also considered a “minor species,” not too many vets use their continuing education hours to update their goat knowledge. That means it’s tough to find reliable information.

If you are interested in keeping your goats happy and healthy, I’ve created a free online course about copper deficiency in goats.

No one else should have to learn the hard way like we did

Watching goats die or give birth to premature kids is heartbreaking. The symptoms and causes of copper deficiency are easy-to-recognize and easy-to-treat. But there is no one-size-fits-all dosage. It has to be customized to the goats on your farm. That means you have to be informed and empowered to recognize when you have a problem. Then, you’ll have the means to take action.

 

 

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The post How To Recognize Copper Deficiency In Goats appeared first on The Grow Network.

7 Reasons to Bug Out in the First Wave

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One of the more challenging decisions you may be faced with is when to bug out. A lot of us who consider ourselves seasoned preppers with a good number of survival skills might be tempted to wait until the last minute because we’re not convinced the situation is so dire that we couldn’t survive. Also, admit it, we don’t want to look foolish in front of our friends and neighbors if the crisis turns out to be a big, fat nothingburger.

However, if any of the following scenarios are a part of your life, it would be prudent to be in that first wave of people heading out of town.

  1. You have a loved one with special needs. Recently I became acquainted with a middle-aged, single lady who lives with her elderly parents. Her father has dementia and her mother has mobility and health issues. She, herself, uses a CPAP machine. I wondered if this family would make it if they ever had to evacuate their home or city, as they live deep in hurricane country. Packing up medical equipment, remembering which prescriptions to pack (and then getting refills if necessary), and helping elderly and ailing loved ones into a vehicle is going to take time, along with energy and physical strength.
  2. There’s a baby in the family. Similar scenario. When I think of the road trips we took when our kids were little, the logistics were nearly mind-boggling. The strollers, toys and other diversions, the travel cribs, diapers, breast-feeding paraphernalia, blankets, clothes and then even more clothes — the list goes on and on. You can’t fully pack what you need to evacuate when you have an infant unless you have plenty of time. In that case, start your bug-out prepping a few days before you think you might actually need to leave.
  3. You have kids. Infants or not, kids are going to slow you down, guaranteed. When they’re little, they won’t be able to find their left shoe or they have a meltdown because it’s time to watch Sesame Street. When they’re older, they’re going to argue and question everything — why do we have to leave now? Can I take my best friend? I have to text my girlfriend/boyfriend first. And on and on and on. Then, once you hit the road, there will be frequent potty stops, “You need to burn off some of that energy” stops, and before you know it, you’ve been on the road 8 hours and have driven only 100 miles. So, yes. If you have kids, plan on bugging out at least a couple of days earlier than you might otherwise.
  4. You have nowhere to go. Think about it. If you wait too long to evacuate, you’ll be competing with thousands of other people for scarce hotel rooms, campsites, etc. If you don’t have any bug out location in mind, and let’s face it, that applies to most preppers, then by getting out on the road early you’ll have first dibs at the best locations. (By the way, take a look at sites like Airbnb and Vacation Rentals by Owner for places to stay in a pinch. Both require deposits of varying types and dollar amounts, but if you really do have nowhere else to go and don’t care to live out in the wilderness with the wife and all the kids, these might be a much better option.) This book, by The Survival Mom, has a list of some very creative bug-out location options and expert advice for planning an evacuation.
  5. There’s a chance you may not be able to return for a very long time. In this case, you’ll need time to pack several month’s worth of supplies. Not necessarily months worth of food — you can buy more wherever you’re headed, but you’ll want to pack clothes for different seasons, maybe homeschooling supplies, and important documents (marriage license, professional resume/certifications for future employment, medical records, birth certificates, insurance policies, financial papers, etc.). You may also want to liquidate such things as insurance policies, retirement funds, and investments, and possibly sell things to add to your cash stash. Wherever you end up, you’ll need funds to survive until you can get another job. All this is going to take a good deal of time, so once you’ve made the decision that you’ll need to leave and may be gone for many weeks, get started and then move out.
  6. You have pets and/or livestock to care for. On one cross-country move we had 4 cats and an elderly incontinent dog with us. Good times. It wasn’t easy to find hotels that were THAT pet friendly, and we had to make sure we packed their food, water/food dishes, disposable litter boxes, and litter. Abandoning our animals is unthinkable — first, I’d have to fight off the kids and wife, but second, and more importantly, those animals then become someone else’s problem, and that isn’t fair to anyone. If you have animals to consider, then you need to make those plans and preps right now to either take them with you or find somewhere for them to stay until the emergency has passed.
  7. You’re going to be part of a larger caravan. The more people who are involved in anything, the more likely there will be delays. We learned this with a sports team carpool recently. All it took was for one kid or one parent to wake up a few minutes late or unable to find their uniform to make the whole lot of us to arrive late to practice. This truth is going to be multiplied exponentially when your group is under extreme duress. This bugging out isn’t a rehearsal — it’s the real deal. You can bet a paycheck that once adrenaline sets in, some won’t be thinking straight, mistakes will be made, arguments over minutiae will slow everything down. So, as soon as you and yours are all set to go, head over to the group’s meet-up place, even if you arrive a few days early.

As always, the big question is, “How do you know when it’s time to bug out?” You may want to head over to our partner blog, The Survival Mom, and read this series of articles about when to know it’s time to bug out, as adviced by folks such as Jim Cobb, James Rawles, Claire Wolfe, The Apartment Prepper, and a dozen or so others. This article by Howard Godfrey contains more good advice.

The post 7 Reasons to Bug Out in the First Wave appeared first on Preparedness Advice.

Back to Eden Chicken Run Composting: Easy and Productive!

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Paul Gautschi of Back to Eden fame has a method of composting where he throws food scraps and garden waste into his chicken run and lets the birds eat and till and manure it down. Then he takes a wheelbarrow and sifter out and harvests the rich compost/soil in his chicken run and throws it on his gardens.

I have done the same for the last few years and find it works wonderfully.

You can see how I’m using this Back to Eden garden method to make plenty of the good stuff in this video:

It’s really simple and doesn’t take much thought. I’ll share how I do it, then you can tweak in your own gardens however you like.

Back to Eden Chicken Run Composting

The basic idea: throw everything out in the chicken run (or inside the coop, if it has a dirt floor like ours does) and let the chickens turn it into compost.

If you have free-range birds without a dirt-floor chicken coop, this method is a non-starter. I have found that letting birds totally free range is often more trouble than it’s worth, as I’ve lost many birds to predators, plus finding where they lay the eggs is a total pain.

Ideally you can balance “outside time” with safety, as keeping birds locked up in a coop all the time is sad… but finding eviscerated corpses of birds dragged behind the barn is also sad.

Currently we keep our setting hens locked up in the coop for the safety of their eggs. Mothers with young chicks are also kept inside. The other birds are free to wander during the day, but if they start sleeping in the trees and not coming back to the coop, we lock them up for a few days to reset them.

But… back to chicken run composting.

Here’s step 1:

Throw Compostable Items to the Birds!

Yard “waste”, weeds, kitchen scraps, picnic remains… if it’s organic and will break down in a reasonable amount of time, throw it to your hens.

Back To Eden Chicken Run Compost

When you prune trees you can take the entire pruned branches and toss them into the chicken run. When all the leaves fall off, pull the branches out again and throw them into a hugelkultur mound, turn them into biochar, or use them for rocket stove fuel.

The leaves will be turned into compost by your birds, and then you can use that compost in your garden.

This mother hen and her chick started tearing into the leaves and garden “waste” as soon as I dropped it in the coop:

Back To Eden Chicken Composting

Chickens want to work for you if you give them a chance.

Make a Compost Sifter and Start Sifting

I used to have a proper compost sifter made from pressure treated wood with hardware cloth nailed on it. Now I just use a bent piece of hardware cloth. Redneck, but it works.

Back To Eden Chicken Compost Sifting

Throw the dirt and compost from the floor of your coop or chicken run onto the hardware cloth and sift it through. This keeps the rocks and big pieces of junk out of your garden, though if you were going to use this chicken run compost for fruit trees you could just shovel it into a wheelbarrow and skip the sifting.

I love handling dirt so I enjoy sifting.

Back To Eden Chicken Compost Paul Gautschi Sifting

You can see various twigs and debris left behind by the birds. Eventually everything woody will break down, so I don’t take the little twigs out of the run – I just leave them to be turned and manured by the chickens until they’re compost.

Wrapping It All Up

The compost I harvested from the chicken coop in today’s video was the remains of a thick layer of leaves and grass we raked up during a yard clean-up day. The inside of the coop was mostly 6″ deep in it and you can see how thin the layer is now.

I harvested a total of two five-gallon buckets of compost from the coop when all was said and done.

Back To Eden Chicken Compost Handful

Five gallons of compost was spread across my garden beds and the remaining five gallons I set aside to make potting soil.

The Back to Eden garden method, in its whole, works best when you have access to lots of cheap or free wood chips. I do not, so, like most of my gardening, I borrow the pieces that work for me and throw out the pieces that don’t.

Heck, I can’t even follow a recipe in the kitchen without changing it, let alone do so in my garden.

I love the Back to Eden chicken run compost method… it’s amazingly easy and creates rich compost in only a couple of months, and it’s one of the methods I share in my book Compost Everything. I like it so much that I’m going out this afternoon to load up the bottom of my chicken run with a bunch of fresh organic matter.

The chickens enjoy it and I don’t have to spend any time measuring C/N ratios or turning a pile. Win, win, win!

Finally – I posted a video on my site of Paul Gautschi using this method a few years back. You can see that post here.

The post Back to Eden Chicken Run Composting: Easy and Productive! appeared first on The Grow Network.

9 Smart Ways To Stay Safe Around Livestock

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9 Smart Ways To Stay Safe Around Livestock

Image source: Pixabay.com

No matter how long you’ve been around farm animals, and even though you consider many of them as pets, there always will be times when they’ll behave unpredictably. A sudden movement, a loud and strange noise, or even just the scent of a female animal in heat, picked up by a male, can elicit the most erratic behavior – endangering even the seasoned homesteader.

It’s always wise to make safety a priority. Who wants to be accidentally stepped on, knocked over, kicked, bitten, squished, head-butted or thrown off a large animal just because it got spooked, stressed out or over-excited by something? Sprains, bumps, bruises, bites, abrasions and all kinds of injuries can be avoided if precautionary measures are taken when working around livestock.

Every animal tends to have its own temperament above and beyond its breed characteristics, gender, size and training. It also tends to be irritable and aggressive when it’s hurt, isolated from the herd or brought to new surroundings. Mothers are extra protective when with their young, while males are particularly excitable when it’s mating season.

It’s best to approach each animal with care — especially if children, elderly, strangers or inexperienced guests and neighbors are around.

Diatomaceous Earth: The All-Natural Livestock De-Wormer!

Here are a few tips to help you:

1. Always handle animals in a calm, non-threatening way. Approach them deliberately from the side where they can see you, but not directly from the front which they can misinterpret as aggression. Make it a habit to announce your arrival by calling or talking to them. Work calmly and confidently around large animals. They can sense the stress, anger and nervousness of humans, and that could make them uncomfortable, too. When milking, grooming or handling, touch them first on their front or side. Most animals have a wide range of view, but they have a blind spot around the rear. Touching them suddenly in the hindquarters could give them a jolt. This is especially true when dealing with young or spooky horses. Stay close to your fidgety animal, keeping your hand on its body as you move around it, and speak to it so it knows where you are the whole time. When milking or trimming goats’ hooves, keep your face away from its legs. Goats are known to kick in all directions; whereas horses and mules kick out to the back, and cows to the front and sides. In all cases, keep out of their kicking zones.

2. Don’t put your face or head directly over an animal’s head. When petting or handling them, keep your head to the side. Bucks and rams, especially, may head-butt even their owners – usually for play and excitement. And don’t ever trust a bull — even a sitting bull. If you lean over them, you could get a bruised chin or worse, a broken nose. (Be sure to de-horn your goats and cattle.)

3. Always open the gate inwardly, not out, when entering a pen or corral. This would prevent the quick, sly little ones from escaping.

4. Always have an escape path. Many injuries involve livestock being startled and pinning their handlers against a hard surface. When working with large animals, always have a way out, especially in closed quarters.

5. Don’t wrap the lead rope around your hand when walking an animal bigger and stronger than yourself. If it bolts, the noose would tighten around your hand and you’ll get jerked and dragged along. Simply holding the rope firmly so it doesn’t slip from your hand should suffice.

6. Don’t put your fingers inside a goat’s mouth. Even though they don’t have upper teeth and don’t bite on purpose, sticking a finger in there to check the inside of their mouth or steal a cud could hurt you. The teeth on a goat’s lower gums are very sharp, able to snap off tree branches and peel bark off trees easily.

7. Wear protective clothing. Long-sleeved shirts and pants, gloves, boots. When working around cattle and horses, steel-toed boots are recommended. Ordinary leather or worse, running shoes, are no match to heavy horse hooves! Additionally, it won’t hurt to wear a helmet and shin guards when riding horses.

8. Keep facilities and equipment well-maintained. Make sure gates are swinging, hinges are greased, latches are working, and animal restraining gear are available. Keep walkways and work areas dry, tidy and free from tripping, falling and slipping hazards.

9. Wash hands and remove soiled clothing after handling livestock. People can catch diseases, like rabies and ringworm, from animals. If your animals show signs of illness, treat it promptly and monitor it closely. It pays to familiarize yourself with symptoms of common diseases. Remember to wear disposable rubber gloves when working with sick animals. And if they die, be sure to dispose of them properly and to disinfect possible contaminated areas. Always practice good sanitation and hygiene. If you have a cut or a wound, keep it covered while working with animals.

What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below: 

References:

  • http://nasdonline.org/44/d001612/handling-farm-animals-safely.html
  • https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/farm-safety-handling-animals
  • ipmnet.org/tim/Farm_Safety/Farm_Safety_Tip_-_Livestock_Safety.pdf
  • http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/10-simple-ways-to-keep-you-safe-on-your-farm-zbcz1605

3 Clever Ways To Save Money On Animal Feed

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3 Clever Ways To Save Money On Animal Feed

Image source: Pixabay.com

Having livestock on your homestead or farm can be a wonderful source of meat, eggs and dairy — not to mention that animals are fun to have around!

But livestock love to eat, and if you’re feeding your animals through the winter, or feeding them primarily store-bought grain, their upkeep can get expensive fairly quick. If you want all the benefits of having livestock, but want to save a little money while doing it, there are several things you can incorporate into your feeding system that will help cut down the bill.

Free-Range and Pasture

Perhaps one of the simplest ways to cut down on your feed bill is to make sure your livestock have access to fresh pasture. In addition to your typical grazers like goats, horses and cows, poultry thrive when they have access to the protein-rich bugs and worms found in healthy pasture. If you live in a climate with lots of creepy crawlies like spiders, grasshoppers, etc., you won’t need to purchase as much grain. Not only will it save you money, but the extra protein will keep your birds healthier, too!

In addition to whatever pasture may naturally occur on your property, you can plant specific fodder crops in your field that will cut down on your store-bought feed bill; it also will increase your animals’ nutrition, even during winter when natural pasture is scarce.

Diatomaceous Earth: The All-Natural Livestock De-Wormer!

For the growing season, plant tasty forage species in your pasture like Timothy grass, alfalfa and clover. During the winter when your grain and hay feed bill would be the highest, you can plant cold-tolerant species like cereal rye, winter wheat and rape. If you have pigs, cattle or sheep, then plant the fodder varieties of root crops like beets, turnips or other brassicas for winter grazing. It’s best to have a mixture of annual and perennial, and cool-weather and warm-weather species in your pasture to ensure that there is plenty of variety for your animals year-round.

Grow Your Own

Many farmers feed their animals hay, but hay can be expensive, depending on that year’s prices, and you’ll need to have storage for a fair bit of it. Growing or sprouting your own fodder grains during the winter is a great, fresh alternative to feeding hay. It’s also a great solution if you don’t have access to a significant amount of pasture.

3 Clever Ways To Save Money On Animal Feed

Image source: Pixabay.com

Fodder can be grown from a variety of different grains, including barley, wheat or whole oats, although barley is often cited as one of the easiest to grow. Fodder grains for sprouting are often inexpensive for a 50-pound bag, and that 50-pound bag of grain can turn into almost 300 pounds of sprouted fodder for your animals! Not to mention, it’s a fairly simple process.

Simply soak the grain in water, spread the grains out in a tray, water occasionally and reap the rewards 7-10 days later!

Fodder can be fed to a wide range of livestock, including goats, pigs, chickens, cows, horses, llamas, geese, rabbits and turkeys. Do a little bit of research to see just how much of your particular livestock’s feed you can replace with fodder.

Feed Kitchen Scraps

Rather than composting them, consider feeding your kitchen scraps to your chickens or pigs. Both chickens and pigs love to go through a wide variety of vegetables, including garlic, leafy greens, tomatoes, squash, onions, etc. It is usually safer to stick to only vegetables and avoid dairy and meat products when feeding scraps to your animals, but you’ll be surprised by the wide variety of scraps your animals will appreciate getting.

Just 30 Grams Of This Survival Superfood Provides More Nutrition Than An Entire Meal!

In my experience, pigs are much more likely to chow down on kitchen scraps when they aren’t being fed on free-choice grain, so if you’d like to save on your feed bill by feeding them kitchen scraps, consider putting them on a rationed grain diet.

You also can scale this up beyond your own kitchen. Talk to your local grocery stores and restaurants to see what excess food or scraps they may have available. Not all restaurants and grocery stores allow this, but it’s worth talking to them to see if they do. You may end up with a steady supply of perfectly good food for your animals to enjoy.

In addition to vegetable scraps, contact your local breweries for spent brewer’s grain. This grain is a by-product of the brewing process where brewers soak the grain in hot water and then harvest the sugar that is produced from the enzymatic activity. What is left is a fiber and protein-rich grain mash that is great for chickens, pigs, cows, ducks and more. Many breweries are happy to give this by-product to farmers at little to no cost.

Although I mentioned avoiding dairy products above, it should be said that pigs, in particular, seem to grow well on some milk products. If you have excess milk from your own animals, or know where you can get milk that is still good but maybe just past the sell-by date, feeding it to your pigs can reduce their grain consumption.

Happy growing!

How do you save money on animal feed? Share your tips in the section below:

5 Dual-Purpose Livestock If You Have Limited Space

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5 Dual-Purpose Livestock If You Have Limited Space

Nubian Goat. Image source: Flickr / Creative Commons

 

When you have a large amount of acreage at your disposal, it is easy to find space for lots of animals. Each animal might have a special purpose on your farm. For instance, you might raise two different breeds of sheep: Suffolk for meat and Merinos for wool. But what if you don’t have room for several breeds? Using dual- or even triple-purpose animals can meet the needs of homesteaders with limited space.

Check out some of the most popular choices:

1. American Guinea Hogs

American Guinea Hogs are a great addition to any farm, big or small, because of their versatility. They are a perfect introduction to raising pigs, as their smaller size (boars only get up to about 250 pounds) and docile temperaments make them a joy to work with. They fatten up nicely and convert their feed well. Their ability to till up a garden and keep a yard free from rodents and other pests adds to their charm and desirability.

5 Dual-Purpose Livestock If You Have Limited Space

American Guinea Hogs. Image source: Flickr / Creative Commons

Along with the obvious production of meat, American Guinea Hogs produce large amounts of lard. This, combined with their rooting and foraging abilities, led to their early popularity as a backyard or small farm pig. While their numbers have dwindled, they are experiencing a comeback due to more interest in heritage breeds as well as multi-purpose livestock.

2. American Miniature Brecknock Sheep

These personable little sheep are a favorite addition to backyards and small homesteads. Imported to America from the UK, the breed originated from the Cheviot lineage and is often mistaken for that breed. The American Miniature Brecknock is one of the smallest sheep breeds, producing excellent wool and a nice meaty carcass. Their wool colorations range from the most common white to browns and even black.

Diatomaceous Earth: The All-Natural Livestock De-Wormer!

Brecknock sheep have gained popularity for several reasons, but their liveliness and personality are at the top of the list. They are also known for high productivity, easy lambing, and living long lives. Because of the sturdy lines they descend from, their hardiness is another sought-after attribute. The rams can get up to about 100 pounds, with the ewes being a little smaller.

3. Dexter Cattle

Dexter cattle are one of the best examples of a multi-purpose livestock breed. While they are excellent dairy cattle, they also provide superb cuts of beef. Many farmers use Dexters as oxen, even though they are one of the smallest natural cattle breeds in the world. They train them to the yoke and use them to pull wagons and equipment.

These versatile cattle originated in Ireland as a perfect animal for homesteaders with little to no acreage. Their ability to thrive in harsh climates with poor feed makes for a sturdy and adaptable animal. Dexters are docile cattle that are stout, easy calvers, and have a high feed-to-meat conversion rate. They are desired by those wanting superior grass-fed beef.

It is encouraging that Dexters again have become popular for small holders. This may be due to that even temperament and how easy they are to work with. They were considered a threatened breed at one point, but are making an impressive resurgence as more people discover these wonderful little cattle.

4. Faverolle Chickens

5 Dual-Purpose Livestock If You Have Limited Space

Faverolle Chickens. Image source: Wikipdia

Aside from the fact these fluffy-feathered, five-toed chickens from France happen to be beautiful additions to your yard, they also are a dual-purpose bird for the farm. Known for their longer laying seasons, they are prized for their tasty meat. Faverolles are hardy in cold weather climates while still thriving in warmer temperatures. They tend to be a docile breed and are easy to handle, even for kids.

Faverolles come in standard size as well as bantam — and in several colors. The Salmon Faverolle is the most popular, with the rooster being exceptionally colorful. This attractive breed was created in the early 1800s by crossing several breeds to get the bird of today. The goal was a chicken who would provide hundreds of eggs each year as well as a nice-sized carcass for the dinner table.

5. Nubian Goats

Even though Nubian or Anglo-Nubian goats are famous for their high butterfat milk, they actually are a dual-purpose breed. Due to their large stature and the fact that they carry more weight than most breeds, they are also used for their meat.

Nubians have a very distinctive appearance, with long, floppy ears and their claim to fame – a large Roman nose. They are well-suited for warmer climates due to their Middle-Eastern ancestry but do well in most areas. This breed is now found in most parts of the world because of its adaptability and versatility.

What is your favorite dual-purpose livestock? Share your tips in the section below:

Comfrey: The Livestock Feeder, Soil Builder & Plant Disease Stopper

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Comfrey: The Livestock Feeder, Soil Builder & Plant Disease Stopper

Image source: Pixabay.com

Comfrey (Symphytum spp.) is one of our most distinctive weeds, with its broad hairy leaves, tall flower stalks and deep taproots. It’s also one of the most persistent. Many varieties don’t spread by seed, but they do spread laterally in clumps. Their tough leaves effectively squash out competition. It’s practically impossible to pull their deep roots up in their entirety, and any fragment of root left in the ground is likely to regrow.

Fortunately, comfrey also has many useful properties for the homesteader, including its leaves being used as livestock feed, soil conditioners and preventers of plant disease. All these uses derive from the fact that comfrey’s deep taproots reach down into the subsoil and bring up minerals and nutrients to a level where they’re available to us.

Feeding Comfrey

Comfrey has been used traditionally as a feed for various kinds of livestock, including horses, cows, pigs, sheep, goats and poultry. Comfrey leaves, cut early before the plant flowers, are as protein-rich as clover and alfalfa, and their mineral-rich quality also provides many micronutrients that can improve animal health.

In recent years, studies have come out showing that comfrey contains compounds which may cause cancer or damage the liver. This has understandably left people worried about either taking it as an internal medicine themselves or feeding it to their livestock.

However, the studies that show these results have focused either on feeding comfrey as a very large percentage of the total diet or on taking a concentrated distillation of comfrey. Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats (2010) also recommends comfrey as goat-safe, according to extensive anecdotal evidence rather than a formal study. I have heard from many homesteaders who offer comfrey to their animals along with a wide variety of other feeds; their animals eat it and show no ill-effects. This mostly matches my experience.

Comfrey: The Livestock Feeder, Soil Builder & Plant Disease Stopper

Image source: Pixabay.com

Some of our pigs have been enthusiastic eaters of comfrey, which is supposed to be an appetite stimulant for them as well as a nutritious feed. So have some of our goats and all of our chickens. We’ve never offered them comfrey only; it’s always been part of a wide range of options. We’ve offered comfrey to our rabbits, but they usually refuse to eat it. I have read that animals are more willing to eat comfrey after it has “wilted” for a day. This seems to work for some farmers; our animals either eat it fresh or don’t eat it at all. I have also read that comfrey can be dried and fed, but none of our animals have been willing to eat dried comfrey, although they’re happy to tear into dried burdock.

Comfrey for Soil-Building and Weed-Stopping

Comfrey’s high nutrient and mineral content also make it an excellent garden or orchard soil-builder, and so far this use remains non-controversial. Incorporated into your compost pile, comfrey leaves will break down quickly and add generous amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and other minerals. (For quicker breakdown, add the leaves under a layer of other wet materials so that they start to decompose quickly instead of air-drying.) Undecomposed comfrey leaves can be buried in planting holes along with seedlings to provide a quick localized nutrient boost.

Comfrey leaves also make good organic mulch. They’re broad, thick and tough, presenting a good barrier to weeds, and their high nutrient profile means they’ll enrich your bed as they break down. As with other green mulches, don’t pile them much more than an inch deep, lest they should rot and turn slimy. A British gardener reports that slugs are drawn to decomposing comfrey leaves, which distracts them from eating actual growing vegetable plants. I don’t have much of a slug problem, so I’ve had no chance to verify this.

Some sources suggest being selective about which plants you use fresh comfrey on. One specific website says that comfrey, because of its high potassium content, is especially beneficial for flowers, fruits and fruiting vegetables like tomatoes and cukes. Other sources recommend planting comfrey in orchards, partly for this reason (also, perhaps, partly because it outcompetes grass so effectively).

Leafy greens or root crops mulched with comfrey may go to seed prematurely. I think this must apply only to true root crops—carrots, parsnips, beets, etc.—and not to tuber crops. Some people bury comfrey leaves along with potatoes to reduce the incidence of scab. I have done this for the last two years and have had much less trouble with scab.

What’s your experience with comfrey—in your garden, your orchard, or the diets of your animals? Share your thoughts in the comment section below:

Lessons from History – The Importance of Water

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Throughout history, settlements form near water. The largest and most successful settle with plentiful water. There are a number of reasons for that. One, water really is life. We require water for drinking. We also use it for cleaning and laundry. As the human species advanced, we needed additional water for livestock. Then we became stationary, mastered various forms of irrigation, and bred our crops to become more and more dependent on water. Doing so allowed us to reap larger yields of sweeter and more mild crops, but it also tied us inexorably to water systems.

Historically we were further tied to water systems for faster and easier travel and trade, and we eventually turned to it for some of our labor. First with direct-labor systems such as grinding mills, then for the generation of power that could be sent across distances, water made life easier as well as sustaining it.

We are no less tied to water now than the caveman, Viking or European colonist. We just don’t always notice. And because most of North America enjoys easy, low-cost water, we aren’t great about conserving it.

Test Your Water Use

Want to see just how influential water is, and how much we use? Easy enough. Turn off the water at the main for a day. Remember to also tape or turn off faucets so you don’t empty any hot water heaters and end up with problems.

If you’re on a well, use your backup pump system. If you don’t have a backup system, one immune to fire and earthquake and the prepper-minded EMPs, you don’t actually have a water system. Turn it off.

Do it on a standard day. A day you’re not off backpacking, not working on your three-day bare-minimum drill doing a dry camp in the living room or backyard. Really ideally, do it in summer or autumn on the day(s) you’d be watering if you irrigate gardens, and on a day you’re hunting or harvesting some doves, chickens and rabbits.

For less-immersive comparison, just monitor the water gauge. For livestock on a non-metered system, fill containers that can have checks and tally lines added quickly.

Don’t let yourself become complacent or say, “well, that’s just because” to justify the amount of water used. Yes, our grooming standards can go down and change, and we can adopt some laundry methods and clothing treatment from the past that limit our uses more. Eventually, though, hygiene suffers.

If water’s out, something else is regularly going on, from “small” family-sized crises to storms and other disasters that affect the area and region. Roads and doctors may not be available if someone does become ill.

If anything, a crisis is a time to focus more on proper hygiene.

Handwashing, especially, can make a major impact on fecal-oral route infections, which tend to be the root of most of the illnesses laymen call “food poisoning”.

If your hygiene is dependent on wipes, run that test as long as you can to get the best possible average for how many you run through per day. Whatever your backup toilet system is, use that.

Use the data to create a baseline. How much do you use? How long will your stored water last? What seasons can you reasonably count on resupply?

From there, we look for ways to increase our sources and our efficiency in harvesting and using the water we can access.

A Double-Edged Sword

Water is one of the few things we can’t do without, and a functioning stream, river or lake system or even just a marsh can make a huge positive impact on our preparedness. They aren’t without hazards, however.

Flooding is a primary risk, although healthy marsh systems can actually mitigate and minimize floods. Still, the levee systems in the U.S. are aging and Midwest floods aren’t uncommon. Colorado and Tennessee have both had major, devastating disasters due to river- or creek-originated floods.

In a protracted crisis, the hydro dams put in by the Tennessee Valley Authority and in the Northwest are likely to suffer failures, on top of the failures we see washing out roads and creating mudslides and large floods right now.

In addition to those failures, there are mines and factories along our waterways these days. We’ve seen in just the last year what can happen as they fail and toxins leak out. Nuclear plants are routinely along waterways.

Failures combined with flooding can wash those contaminants into our farmlands, cities and suburbs, affecting creeks and wildlife long before and long after we can see the effects.

EPA Accidentally Turns Colorado River Orange With Pollution, Putting Drinking Water At Risk

Livestock are also a contamination risk to both well intakes and streams, just like human waste can already be right here in the U.S. Those risks are even more prevalent in some of the third-world nations that live without our level of basic services. Disease is rampant after earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods due to fecal wastes, and can be expected to go up after a major disaster.

Mosquitoes and the spread of ever increasing and previously “dead” diseases by insects are another risk.

Many of those risks can be limited with site selection and sculpting the land a little, by planting a few things that can help create buffers, predators, and sinks for water and its diseases and pests. An interruption in “easy” water after we’ve become accustomed to it is still the bigger and more likely threat for most of us.

While a gravity-driven well with a pressure-driven cistern would be ideal, not everybody is there. Not every well can either reach or hit the amounts needed for livestock and crop irrigation.

Self-Sufficiency through Streams

 

A moving channel is a fantastic element to site. One aspect to watch for with small systems is that they don’t dry out in summer. Ideally, they won’t even dry up in the 25- and 50-year drought cycles.

Through much of history, moving water has helped us either with direct labor, such as the old mills we can still find here and there, or later by producing power for us to then use however we like.

Running streams, creeks and rivers can also turn water wheels that help us by lifting water into aqueduct systems or into cisterns that will produce enough gravity from water weight to push water further away from the source.

With even a small amount of motion, there are sling pumps capable of moving water for us. Even if a sling pump won’t reach all the way to gardens and livestock, saving us the bend-lift labor of filling buckets and being able to fill a cistern while we move the first load can make an enormous difference.

With greater rates of movement, we can create hydro re-directs to lessen some of our labors and in some cases produce small amounts of energy. We can dam small waterways to increase pressure or create channel- or pipe-based systems to generate power.

In some cases it’s not going to be a lot of electricity, but even the ability to slowly charge electric tools, appliances, and our music and photo devices can be a huge boost.

Slow it, Sink it, Spread it, Store it

In permaculture, there are several “S’s” promoted in regards to water. They simplify the desires to:

  • Catch water for future use
  • Prevent flooding even on the “daily” and seasonal scales, and by doing so prevent erosion and soil hardening via water (runoff, soil compaction)
  • Allow water to infiltrate so roots can access it, and to lift the water table for springs and swale systems
  • Keep chemicals and waste from running across landscapes and polluting our waters or gardens

Catchments are one way we capture water – storing it for later and preventing it from running wasted over the surface of the soil.

Water catchment on a huge scale was and still is used in Australia, with systems similar to water towers and large roof-to-cistern systems both above ground and below ground.

Sheep and cattle stations and small farmers also create nearly lock-style channels to store water for the three- to six-month dry seasons. Those systems can be duplicated in North America depending on local laws.

In places where regulations prohibit such large scale water harvesting or hoarding, it may be possible to obtain permits to put in lakes or ephemeral or permanent pond systems, which can function similarly and have added benefits for homesteads.

On a small scale, water can be stored using systems as complex as we like, or we can go simple and create pyramids or triangles of trickle-over buckets and barrels with no plumbing and just mesh or permeable cloth to prevent mosquito infestations.

Small, shallow swales sequester less, but can prevent damage from rains over years. Larger swales can hold more water, allowing that water a greater amount of time to infiltrate. That water then creates a “lens” beneath the surface of the soil and allows plants a longer period of time to access it.

The slope of the land and the soil type and structure play the biggest roles in the types and sizes of swale systems we put in.

Preexisting vegetation and the type of vegetation we want to put in, if we plan to move livestock through the swale systems and what type of livestock also affects what type of swale system will work best for us.

Reducing Reliance On Systems

We have to have some water, and ideally a constant source. However, even with the best of planning and siting, sometimes we run into droughts or damaged systems. One way to build resiliency to those is to lessen our overall dependence.

Silvopasture over turf can provide forage and fodder even in drought years, and lessen dependence on irrigated grains and delicate pasture and hay. Some silvopasture is coppiced, but most will be either pollarded or selective-drop of large limbs from each tree.

The type and number of livestock and the amount of labor desired affects what style of silvopasture is effective.

Our livestock selection can also lessen dependence.

Ducks tend to be wasteful of water, while with drip waterers, chickens can be highly efficient. Pigs really need a lot of water to gain weight efficiently, and they need regular access to it. Comparatively, dairy and meat goats need a little less access and less total water per pound of produce.

If we veer a little further away from the American norm, camels need less yet, and have traditionally been used for milk, meat and hides and in some cases angora just like llamas.

We can also look into more water efficient breeds from typically dry regions of the world. They may be more expensive as an initial investment and have less-efficient feed-milk-meat ratios, but in a survival situation, the fact that they do survive with little water may make them invaluable.

If we have a fair bit of property, we can also tailor habitat for hunting small game, and focus our water labors on egg and dairy producers.

Hugelkultur beds are another way to limit use and dependence on rainfall and irrigation. Once established, a properly sized and layered hugel bed requires almost no assistance at all. It retains and essentially generates moisture from within.

When we do use water, we can use it as many times as humanly possible instead of letting it run and flow past our fingers.

Gray water systems, using cooled cooking water in gardens or for livestock, and reclaiming runoff from sprouts and sprouted fodder for livestock or re-watering can all help decrease our total draw.

Then there are little things like using a cup of water to rinse while brushing teeth, and having catch basins for washing hands or rinsing produce that then gets used for laundry or put back into the garden systems – at least once, and in some cases, several times.

Water Is Life

We have always been dependent on water as a species, and civilization and modern post-industrial life has made us more so. However, we can look back at history and to some of the underdeveloped nations to find ways that we can harvest and store water against need, and in some cases, use water wheels and even small creeks or lake properties to help us move water or generate a little bit of power.

There are a few tips here. The TPJ article about gardening in droughts has additional lessons from fairly recent history that can be applied to reduce water uses for human and livestock food production, large scale or small, urban or rural.

When we’re ready to delve into long-term disaster planning, water needs to be a focus. Without water, and a backup plan for water, all the rest of our preparations become null and void in a large-scale emergency.

Water can also be dangerous. It’s worth researching the local flood patterns, especially pre-levee system, and looking up the diseases, symptoms and cures common to waterways in third world nations and after disasters.

 

The post Lessons from History – The Importance of Water appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Dirt-Cheap, Non-GMO Livestock Feed? Yes!

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Dirt-Cheap, Non-GMO Livestock Feed? Yes!

Image source: Pixabay.com

According to many recent books on animal husbandry, livestock feeding has become much easier and better with the advent of commercially prepared feed mixes. These mixes are scientifically formulated to provide everything your animal needs, and you don’t have to bother with thinking about them.

I followed this advice for my first few years of farming, and then I began to think and to see some of the disadvantages that come with this convenience.

One is freshness. Commercial mixes have been finely ground, blended and reformulated. They decay faster than whole grains. It can be hard to tell just how long your bag of feed has been sitting around or whether it’s still safe to feed. Back when I gave our goats commercial premix, I occasionally got bags that the goats absolutely refused to eat. I couldn’t see or smell anything wrong, but apparently they could. By the time we started raising rabbits I had stopped using commercial feeds for most of our animals, but I heard from other rabbit growers who lost many animals to bags of spoiled feed.

Another concern is provenance. Some feed bag tags tell you how much fat, protein and fiber are in the feed but aren’t specific about the ingredients. Sometimes when ingredients are listed, they seem inappropriate for the animals in question. For instance, feeds for rabbits and goats, which are naturally vegetarian, sometimes contain animal fats.

The factor which first got my attention was genetic modification. Many experts tell us that there is no health risk in GMO foods, but some of us have doubts. And most commercial feeds are based on soybeans, corn and alfalfa — commercial production of which is dominated by GM varieties.

Diatomaceous Earth: The All-Natural Livestock De-Wormer!

You can buy certified non-GM feed with appropriate ingredients listed. This feed is often prohibitively expensive, and freshness still may be a concern.

There is another option, and it’s more health-conscious than buying standard commercial feed, cheaper than buying certified GMO-free feed, and more shelf-stable, too. This is mixing your own ration from recognizable, whole, non-GMO ingredients. This approach requires more attention and flexibility than buying prepackaged rations, but in the long run it may be better for your health and your pocketbook.

Feed Components: Grain and Seeds

Most of the calories in concentrate rations come from grains and seeds. While corn and soy are likely to be GM unless certified otherwise, many grains have not yet had GM varieties approved for commercial production. You can buy these fairly cheap and be sure that they’re GMO-free.

Non-GMO grains include wheat, oats, barley, millet and triticale. (Rye is also GM-free, but it’s highly susceptible to a fungus called ergot which can sicken or kill animals, so most resources I’ve read recommend avoiding it.) These are a little less energy-dense than corn, but also a little higher in protein. Some studies say that beef cattle fed on these grains instead of corn eat less and gain weight a bit more slowly and show greater feed conversion efficiency. In place of soybeans you can use such non-GMO legumes as peas, lentils and broad beans or fava beans. Sunflower seeds are rich in protein and vitamins and also high in fats; a little fat in your ration is helpful, but too much may not be healthy for your animals.

There are plenty of online information sources that describe the energy, protein and fat content, as well as the palatability and other relevant information about different grains. Feedipedia.org has detailed crop-by-crop information. GMO-Compass.org has information on which crops are genetically modified. Brief introductions to different feed grains are available here and here.

Dirt-Cheap, Non-GMO Livestock Feed? Yes!

Image source: Pixabay.com

You’ll also want to read up on the livestock species you have. Find out what they need in terms of energy, protein, fat and vitamins or minerals. Also find out how readily they can digest whole grains and what their particular food intolerances might be.

Also, learn which seeds are available locally. Our local feed mill only offers wheat, oats and sunflower seeds from the list above, so we feed our chickens, rabbits and goats with those grains. Each type of animal gets a somewhat different mix. The chickens thrive on a higher percentage of fats than the goats, so they get a higher proportion of sunflower seed (and would get even more if it was less expensive.) The rabbits do better on a low-fat diet and only get sunflower seeds when they are lactating. Our mix is lower in protein than I would like, so we supplement protein in other ways. There’s more about that in the next section.

Feed Components: Supplements

Whole grain-based feed rations may need to be supplemented with extra protein, vitamins and minerals. There are several ways to approach this.

Pigs and chickens can thrive on animal-based protein. Ours get extra milk, broken eggs, whey, and cheeses that don’t turn out right. The chickens also get bugs picked from our garden and scraps from our rabbit butchering. (We don’t give raw meat to our pigs, lest it should give them ideas, as they are large and have powerful jaws.)

Herbivores, of course, need plant-based protein. That’s easy during the growing season. Most new green growth is reasonably high in protein, and you can collect and feed them especially high-protein plants. In our area, these include willow, mulberry, clover, dandelions, comfrey, redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus; some other plants commonly called pigweed have poor feed value), chicory and purslane. Ask your local extension about high-protein weeds in your area. Some of these weeds dry well for winter feeding. You also can increase the protein content of grains by sprouting them. (Read more about that here.)

Vitamins and minerals can be provided through commercial salt-mineral mixes or through feeding a wide variety of foods. Our goats and rabbits have free-choice access to mineral and salt mixes. We also see that they have access to a wide variety of grasses, forbs and woody plants, which tend to concentrate different vitamins and minerals.

Our chickens get oyster shell as a calcium supplement; the rest of their vitamin and mineral intake comes from the wide variety of animal and vegetable foods they eat. We’re still feeding our pigs a commercial ration now, trying to figure out how to transition.

The Ongoing Experiment

Statistics about the nutritional content of weeds or grains can be a useful jumping-off point, but they don’t provide the last word. The nutritional content of plants depends somewhat on the content of the soils in which they grow, the time at which they’re harvested, and many other factors.

You can try to formulate a ration that seems, on paper, to meet the needs of your livestock. The next step is to feed it and see how your animals respond. Do they eat what you offer? Do they keep producing well? Do they lose or gain weight? What do you notice about their overall health? Keep paying attention and making adjustments. You are the expert on what works for your animals, in your circumstances.

How do you keep your animal feed prices low? Share your tips in the section below:

Discover The Secret To Saving Thousands At The Grocery Store. Read More Here.

These Meat Livestock Will Give You The Most ‘Bang For Your Buck’

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These Meat Livestock Will Give You The Most ‘Bang For Your Buck’

Image source: Pixabay.com

When choosing a meat animal for your homestead you may begin wondering, “What animal will get me the most bang for my buck?”

Each animal uses feed differently, and some are able to turn that feed into pounds of meat more efficiently than others. This is usually expressed by what’s called a feed conversion ratio. Feed conversion ratios are a rate of measure that expresses the efficiency with which an animal converts feed into the desired output. For cattle, broiler chickens and pigs, the desired output is body mass. For dairy cows, the desired output is milk. For the purposes of this article, we are just going to focus on animals where the desired output is body mass, or pounds of meat.

The mathematical formula for a feed conversion ratio is as follows: FCR = feed given / animal weight gain.

This feed conversion ratio (FCR) is typically expressed as one number and is dimensionless, meaning it is not effected by whatever units of measure are used to calculate the ratio. A low FCR means that the animal is efficient at converting feed to the desired output, while a higher FCR means the animal is relatively inefficient. In other words, the lower the FCR, the higher the weight gain obtained from feed. It is important to remember that FCR can be calculated using several different metrics.

Some farmers calculate FCR based on live weight, for example, while some calculate based on dressed weight. Although a good place to start when looking at the feed efficiency of different livestock, FCRs also can be hard to compare between species unless the feed in question is of similar suitability to the animal in question.

Diatomaceous Earth: The All-Natural Livestock De-Wormer!

That being said, let’s dive into the different FCRs of some common homestead animals.

These Meat Livestock Will Give You The Most ‘Bang For Your Buck’

Image source: Pixabay.com

One of the most common animals found on any homestead is broiler chickens. Broiler chickens are chickens being raised for meat, and their FCR varies widely depending on the breed raised and the conditions in which they were raised. Commercial livestock operations boast broiler chicken FCRs of 1.8 for Cornish Crosses raised in factory farm conditions. Chickens raised on pasture or free-range systems are more active and therefore have higher energy needs, translating into a higher FCR. Cornish Cross broilers can have an average FCR of 3.5 when raised on pasture, while some heritage breeds of chickens have FCRs of 4.0 or higher.

Many homesteaders choose to raise rabbits because of the relatively low cost of feedstock, ease of breeding, high protein content of their meat and short time between birth and butcher. Just as with any animal, the FCR of rabbits is highly dependent on breed and raising method (pasture vs. high grain diet). Rabbits raised on a high grain diet have an FCR anywhere between 2.5 to 3.0, and those on pasture average an FCR between 3.5 and 4.0. When choosing whether to feed primarily grain or pasture, it is important to not only look at the FCR. Consider the cost of feed (grain costs money, forage is free) and your desired turn-around time from birth to butcher.

Due to the prevalence of beef in the average American diet, there has been a lot of research done on the FCR of beef cattle. In modern feedlots, an average FCR of 6.0 is common. In this method, cattle are fed on pasture until they reach approximately 600 to 900 pounds, then they are brought to the feedlot to be raised on grain until they reach 1,300 pounds. The FCR of beef cattle raised strictly on pasture is not nearly as well researched, but preliminary data shows that the FCR will be higher for beef cattle raised strictly on pasture.

Pigs are one of the most efficient sources of red meat on the homestead. When butchered between 240 and 250 pounds, commercially raised pigs have an average FCR of 3.46. Like cattle, data for more pastured-based systems is not as easily come by, but some farmers report FCRs anywhere between 4.5 and 5.5 for pigs raised on both pasture and a ration of grain.

There are obviously many more factors to consider when choosing livestock for your homestead than just the FCR. You must take into account how much you’re willing to spend on grain, the value of raising animals on a pasture-based system, your preferred type of meat and what resources you already have available to you. FCR is not the “end all, be all” for determining how efficient an animal is or if it is the right choice for your homestead. However, it is a measurable number that can be factored into your decision, and it is a good place to start when looking at the wide variety of factors that influence raising animals for meat production.

From your experience, which animal is the most efficient for meat? Share your tips in the section below:

Aryn is a farmer and writer living in Homer, Alaska

Discover The Secret To Saving Thousands At The Grocery Store. Read More Here.

The Livestock Feed That Grows Even During Droughts

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The Livestock Feed That Grows Even During Droughts

Image source: Pixabay.com

When you think of natural livestock feeding, what do you picture? A smooth, green pasture with animals grazing on grass and clover? That provides a large part of what’s needed. But trees and brush also can be valuable livestock feed. They have several uses.

Woody plants provide extra fiber/roughage and can help to settle digestions upset by too much rich food. Their deep roots bring vitamins and minerals up from lower levels of the soil and make them accessible to livestock. In dry years, these deep roots are especially valuable. During the long rainless summer of 2016, when my family ran drip irrigation on the gardens 24/7 and watched the pastures turning brown, the deep-rooted trees and bushes remained green and growing, giving us something fresh to feed our livestock.

Who Wants Brush?

Goats are champion brush-eaters, and they naturally prefer browsing to grazing. Sometimes, ours get diarrhea when they’re turned out on lush spring pasture. Feeding lots of branches gets enough fiber into their systems to settle their digestions. Sheep also enjoy a certain amount of browse. Some farmers report that heritage breeds of sheep are much more willing to eat browse than recently developed breeds. Horses and cows are primarily adapted for grazing, but some browse can be a useful fiber/vitamin supplement for them, as well. Rabbits should have some woody plants to add fiber to their diets and to keep their teeth from overgrowing.

What Can You Feed?

Willow (Salix spp) and mulberry (Morus spp) are particularly nutritious high-protein feeds. They can grow very rapidly in favorable conditions, which makes them easy to coppice for continual growth (mulberry is even considered invasive in some areas). Willow is also pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory; salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin, was derived from willow bark. We feed plenty of this to our goats after kidding. Siberian peashrub (Caragana arborescens) is a hardy legume with protein-rich leaves and seedpods. It’s supposed to cope well with drought, poor sandy soil and other challenging conditions.

Diatomaceous Earth: The All-Natural Livestock De-Wormer

The Livestock Feed That Grows Even During Droughts

Image source: Pixabay.com

Other palatable trees and shrubs include apple, birch (Betula spp — which also has mild de-worming properties), staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina — do not ever feed your animals poison sumac, Toxicodendron vernix), rose (another mild de-wormer), blackberry (also has some disinfectant and digestion-settling properties) and raspberry (beneficial to animals during pregnancy and soon after birth, and will do no harm at other times). Do not feed branches from stone fruit trees (peach, plum, cherry, apricot nectarine), yew, poison sumac, mountain laurel, or any type of laurel or rhododendron.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. Check with your local Cooperative Extension and with your neighbors about what grows and what is palatable in your area. Be prepared for conflicting answers. There’s controversy over whether or not to feed some types of trees and brush. Some sources list maple as toxic; our goats sometimes eat dried sugar maple leaves as a treat alongside their hay and come to no harm. Some sources say to avoid feeding any kind of evergreens, but we give our goats small amounts of white pine branches when they suffer from worms, though we don’t feed pine regularly.

How Can You Offer Browse?

This depends very much on your animals and your land. Goats usually will eat any browse included in their pastures, so enthusiastically that they kill the plants — they’ll completely defoliate low shrubs, and girdle the bark of trees so they die. That can be useful if you have goats and you want a wooded/brushy area cleared; you can just remove toxic plants, fence the area and turn the goats loose in it. The other choice is to keep your goats on grass pasture, cut branches elsewhere and throw them in.

Browse, as well as grass, can be stored for winter. My family cuts willow early, when the leaves have just reached their full size and their nutritive peak. We then bundle the branches and hang them high in the barn rafters. After several months, they’re thoroughly dry and ready to go into a bin for winter feeding. We also bundle and dry raspberry plants.

For obvious reasons, browse for rabbits needs to be cut and put into their enclosures.

I haven’t raised cows or horses. Some sources say they won’t eat browse if they have access to plenty of graze. Others report that they will eat cut branches that are offered them and will nibble on trees or shrubs in their pasture without killing them. So far as I can tell from reading, sheep’s willingness to browse depends on the breed and the particular flock. In a dry year when fresh graze is less available, most natural grazers may show more enthusiasm for branches. I hope that some of you who raise horses, sheep and cattle will comment on this post and tell us about your herd’s eating habits.

Have you ever fed your livestock trees and bush? Share your tips for doing it in the section below:

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Find Out More Here.

7 Invasive Weeds You Can Turn Into Livestock Feed

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7 Invasive Weeds You Can Turn Into Livestock Feed

Stinging nettles. Image source: Pixabay.com

Most homesteaders have to deal with some kinds of invasive plants. On our farm in upstate New York, the main culprit is multiflora rose. People planted it as deer feed back in the 1960s and now, it’s everywhere, taking over hayfields and pastures with its sprawling big-thorned fast-growing stems. Multiflora rose removal was one of my least favorite chores: heavy, prickly and never-ending. Then we discovered that our goats enjoyed eating multiflora rose. And then we learned that it was actually good for them.

I still spend time every summer hacking down multiflora roses in the orchard and pasture, but my attitude has changed. Instead of endlessly beating back a useless nuisance, I’m harvesting a forage crop.

Deciding What’s Safe To Feed

I’ll discuss some specific nutritious invasives below. I likely won’t include all the invasives in your area, so you’ll need to do some of your own research. This may be complicated by the fact that there’s a lot of conflicting information out there. Some plants, for example, appear both on lists of safe food for rabbits and lists of plants toxic to rabbits. Here are a few factors to keep in mind as you decide what to feed your animals:

Many plants are safe when fed as a small portion of the overall diet, but become problematic in heavy concentrations. It’s generally not a good idea to offer only one or two types of forage to your animals, or to feed huge quantities the first time they’re introduced to a new food. Offered free choice, as part of a varied diet, many weeds can be safe and healthy. Some, like mountain laurel or locoweed, are truly poisonous and should be completely avoided. But if you find a lot of recommendations and some cautions around a particular plant, you might try offering your animals a small amount of it and seeing what happens.

Diatomaceous Earth: The All-Natural Livestock De-Wormer!

Toxicity and nutrition may vary depending on your location and soil type. Try asking local farmers and/or your local Cooperative Extension about the effects of plants grown in your area.

Some plants are healthy at one stage, problematic at another. For instance, we feed young leaves of burdock and curly dock to our rabbits, but after the plants have flowered we stop feeding; older plants may accumulate nitrates to the point of mild toxicity. If you keep cutting plants off before they go to seed, you can harvest young leaves over a long season.

Plants that are safe in themselves may be unpalatable or unsafe if they’re diseased. Clover is generally a safe and healthy feed, but in my region in wet summers it can develop white mold; we take care not to feed any of this to our rabbits, since rabbits are highly mold-sensitive.

Many different plants may share the same common name. Use Latin names in your research to be sure you have the right plant.

A Gallery Of Gourmet Weeds

1. Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), the thorny invader previously described, contains 10-13 percent protein, and it can help ruminants to expel worms. Goats, sheep, cows and horses can eat it. Our goats don’t mind the thorns. After the rose has flowered, our goats may get diarrhea from eating too many of the hips at once. I’ve seen one report of a horse injuring its eye on the thorns.

2. Kudzu (Pueraria montana). Farmers south of us have reported great success with feeding kudzu to cows, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens and horses. It’s high in protein, and apparently highly appealing to many animals. Given its legendary growth rate, it’s a nearly inexhaustible food supply.

7 Invasive Weeds You Can Turn Into Livestock Feed

White Mulberry. Image source: Pixabay.com

3. White mulberry (Morus alba) is an invasive tree in many states. Its protein-rich leaves and stems are a valuable feed for cows, goats, sheep and rabbits; pigs and chickens will eat its fruit.

4. Burdock (Arctium spp.) is a nuisance in pastures. Its flat leaves spread widely, killing everything else; its burrs tangle in animals’ hair. But young burdock leaves, cut before the plant flowers, are rich in protein and minerals. We feed tender small burdock leaves to our rabbits, who tolerate them, and larger leaves to our goats, who relish them. Chickens and cows also will eat burdock leaves, up to a point. Older leaves may accumulate excessive nitrates, so don’t feed them heavily.

5. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) does just what its name suggests. I was very displeased when it started taking over a corner of our pasture. Then I learned that it’s rich in protein, iron, calcium and vitamins. Once it’s dried, it no longer stings. We give our dried nettle to nursing mother rabbits in the early spring before other rich foods are readily available. Chickens, pigs, cows, horses, sheep and goats also can benefit from eating dried stinging nettle.

6. Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) self-seeds copiously and comes up in dense mats. Since it starts to grow earlier than many other annuals, its leaves can provide an early treat and a vitamin boost for chickens, rabbits, goats, cows and sheep. Later in the year it may be less palatable—and any way you’ll want to cut it or graze it before it goes to seed. Some sources say it shouldn’t be given to horses.

7. Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) takes over garden beds and farm fields. It’s widely agreed that young plants which haven’t yet set seed are safe and nutritious feed for chickens, rabbits, pigs, sheep, cows and goats. We’ve fed seeded redroot pigweed to our rabbits with no ill-effect.

What are a few of your favorite weeds to feed livestock? Share your tips in the section below:

Discover The Secret To Saving Thousands At The Grocery Store. Read More Here.

Why Homesteaders SHOULDN’T Own Livestock

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steven gregerson pic for emailAs homesteading continues growing in popularity, many wannabe homesteaders face sticker shock – surprised by the costs of a self-sufficient life.

But this week’s guest on Off The Grid Radio says that homesteading doesn’t have to be expensive. Homesteader Steven Gregersen, who lives on 20 acres in Montana, says too many homesteaders begin with the wrong outlook and goals, thus dooming their endeavor.

Gregersen wrote a book, Creating the Low-Budget Homestead, that explains how he homesteads on the cheap.

Gregersen explains to us why he urges first-time homesteaders not to buy livestock – and how they still can get free meat. He also tells us:

  • How to find inexpensive land that, with a little work, can be perfect for homesteading.
  • How the proper view of budgeting can place a homesteader on the path to success.
  • How he “gets by” without having a lot of things Americans take for granted.
  • How he earns money off-grid, and how you can, too.

If you’ve ever wanted to homestead but didn’t think you could afford it, or if you simply want to learn new ways to save money, then this week’s show is for you!

10 Overlooked Ways To Keep Livestock Warm During Winter

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10 Overlooked Ways To Keep Livestock Warm During Winter

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When the mercury is dropping and the wind is blowing a gale, most people would rather be indoors than outside braving the elements. The same is often true of livestock. I am among those  who prioritize keeping all of my animals as comfortable as possible throughout all seasons, and have developed a repertoire of effective ways to keep them warm during the cold of winter. Even if your motivation to keep livestock warm is centered more on avoiding a drop in production or merely basic survival, the following list is a good reference for livestock safety in winter.

1. Time grooming and treatments with intentionality. Avoid shearing and trimming coats when cold weather is approaching, of course. But beyond that, it may not be a bad idea to limit shots, hoof-trimming, and other routine procedures in winter as much as possible. Anything that causes an animal stress can detract from the energy it uses to stay warm and healthy. I am not suggesting a moratorium on livestock handling, but only to try and do the bulk of it in late fall and early spring so as to keep it to a minimum in winter.

2. Give easy access to shelter. Laws in some states specify minimum housing required for livestock. Whether a certain level of shelter is mandated or not, even animals that are adapted to cold often do better if they can get in out of the wind and precipitation. Insulation is great, but could be considered extravagant. If a barn is well-insulated and airtight, it is important to allow for ventilation in order to prevent excess moisture buildup inside and keep healthy air circulating.

3. Provide plenty of clean dry bedding. Depending upon your infrastructure and the type of animals you have, this may include cleaning out waste every day or two before applying fresh shavings, straw or other litter.

Diatomaceous Earth: The All-Natural Livestock De-Wormer!

Conversely, the dung of certain livestock such as goats and sheep is sufficiently small and dry that it can be allowed to build up over the winter. This creates a thick mattress of composting material which contributes to the animals’ comfort. Whether you clean out regularly or not, a clean dry space is important.

4. Increase protein intake. For ruminants and other herbivores such as cattle, sheep and goats, this is usually accomplished by way of grain. This can be done by switching up to a higher-percentage grain, adding a top-dress of kelp or other supplement, or increasing the amount of grain. Protein for omnivorous animals like pigs and poultry can be fed meat fats as well.

5. Allow communal living. Animals will group together for warmth if they need to do so. Snuggling into the hay, or even moving about in close proximity to one another, will help them create and retain body heat. Sometimes the animals within a herd need to be split up for management reasons, but they all need at least one or two buddies during frigid conditions.

10 Overlooked Ways To Keep Livestock Warm During Winter

Image source: Pixabay.com

6. Allow them to rely on their own instincts. Animals will gravitate toward warm areas on a cold day if they can. If they have access to sunny barn windows, draft-free zones, or spaces up against buildings or solid fences that reflect the sun, you are likely to find them availing themselves of nature’s hotspots.

7. Use a plastic livestock curtain in doorways. These vertical strips of heavy plastic purchased from farm equipment catalogs — or made at home using clear shower curtains — hang in doorways and are effective barriers to inclement weather. They allow animals to move freely in and out, are loose enough to provide crucial ventilation indoors, limit snowfall beyond the threshold, draw the sun’s heat on cold clear days, and help retain interior warmth.

8. Maintain some dry ground outdoors if possible. Livestock often balk at fording deep snow, possibly because as prey animals they do not want to get bogged down, or because their instincts cause them to avoid expending unnecessary energy, or perhaps they just do not like it. A roofed outdoor area, plowed paddock, or even some shoveled paths to their favorite locations are a plus.

9. Use added heat if absolutely necessary. The best way to do this is to provide heavy-duty water jugs — tightly closed and kick- and chew-proof — of hot water, or bricks heated near the wood stove, for the most frigid snaps. Another way is by using heat lamps, but only with extreme caution. I see at least one news story every winter about a barn fire that started from heat lamp use. It is so easy to make a mistake or for accidents to occur — they end up too close to combustible materials, or the hanging apparatus breaks, or animals knock them over or chew the cords, or the outlets are bad. Except for extenuating circumstances — compromised newborns, animals that are sick or must be isolated, or other extreme situations — the use of heat lamps is probably not worth the risk. Choosing the right breeds, maintaining infrastructure, and facilitating a way for the animals to keep themselves warm naturally are all better choices. If heat lamps must be used, it is vital to use only those that are high quality and are designed for use in a barn.

10. Choose the best breeds for your climate. Some breeds of livestock are more naturally suited to extreme temperatures than are others. Animals with thick coats or other cold-weather adaptations are more likely to thrive in colder regions, but obvious physical attributes do not always tell the whole story. It is helpful to consider where the breed originated or was developed — did it come from the desert, or the tundra? Another consideration is the size of the animal: Very generally speaking, larger animals tolerate cold better than smaller ones, due to the ratio of skin surface to body mass.

Short of bringing livestock into the house, these are some of the best ways to help keep farm animals safe and comfortable in the harshest of winters. Due diligence and a little forward thinking can work together to create an atmosphere that will provide the best possible care for animals and peace of mind for owners.

How do you keep your livestock warm during winter? Share your tips in the section below:

Discover The Secret To Saving Thousands At The Grocery Store. Read More Here.

Winter Prepper Project Ideas – Outdoors

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

There’s a lot that winter (or early spring) can tell us about our properties, both for planting decisions, siting various things around our property, and for mitigating some of the weather that comes with winter and spring.

The post Winter Prepper Project Ideas – Outdoors appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Stacking Functions: Increasing Efficiency with Multi-Function Spaces

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Analyzing homestead elements for multi-functionality and redundancy were covered in the first article. This time we’ll look at combining them into multi-function spaces.

The post Stacking Functions: Increasing Efficiency with Multi-Function Spaces appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Free-And-Clever Tricks To Keep Livestock Water From Freezing

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Free-And-Clever Ways To Keep Livestock Water From Freezing

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Homesteaders know how important it is for livestock to have access to fresh, clean water at all times, but in some areas of the world, winter makes this a much more difficult task. I can remember many winter days as a young girl when I would break ice out of buckets, carefully carry fresh water to the animals, and sometimes, spill it on myself in the process. Fortunately, we now have much better ways of dealing with freezing water.

In a previous article, we learned of several ways to keep your livestock’s water thawed. Electric heaters and deicers, heated buckets, water circulators, and automatic waterers are all very popular methods, but they require some sort of electric source.

If your water trough is out of reach from electricity, and you don’t have a reliable natural water source, there are a few methods you can try to eliminate or minimize the amount that your livestock’s water freezes.

Manure

Before technology was an option, some people began using manure to keep their water troughs from freezing, and no, I’m not suggesting that you fill your water tanks with manure. Most people are aware of the danger of manure pile fires, so if you have no other option or want to try a more natural approach, you can pile fresh manure around your bucket or trough.

Diatomaceous Earth: The All-Natural Livestock De-Wormer

Once you’ve piled the manure around the water source, you should cover the entire thing with a black tarp or plastic and cut out a hole for the animals to drink from the trough. The heat from the manure trapped under the plastic will help keep your water from freezing.

Molasses

Animals love molasses, and it can often be used to encourage them to drink from an unfamiliar water source. It also can serve the purpose of preventing water troughs from freezing. People have been using this method long before electricity could be accessed so easily. All it takes is a very simple mixture of warm water and molasses being poured into the water trough. Molasses do not freeze as easily as water, so it slows down the freezing process. If you are in an area where the temperatures drop quite drastically, this method may not be as effective. However, more often, it will leave the water slushy but not frozen, so it is still drinkable.

Saline solution jugs

Another great and very simple option for keeping your livestock’s water from freezing is floating milk jugs in the trough. The milk jugs should be filled with a saline solution, which can either be purchased or just as easily made. The salt keeps the water from freezing in the jug, and as it floats around, it keeps the water moving enough to prevent it from freezing partially if not completely. This method likely will still require you to clear out the surrounding ice, but it should be enough to make sure your animals can drink between waterings. It is important to note that the salt should only go in the jug and not in the drinking water!

While these options are not perfect, and certainly are not as reliable as most of the electric options, they can make a big difference for livestock owners who don’t have access to electricity. You hopefully will find that they will make your life easier this winter and prevent you from having to chip away at those pesky, frozen buckets and troughs.

What is your favorite method to prevent water from freezing? Share your tips in the section below:

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Find Out More Here.

Stacking Functions: Increasing Yields & Decreasing Labor with Multi-Function Elements

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Stacking functions is a quick term for the concept of planning things (elements) and areas (space) to perform the most services for us.

The post Stacking Functions: Increasing Yields & Decreasing Labor with Multi-Function Elements appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Planned Parenthood for Preppers

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Managed Livestock Breeding Livestock keeping is one of the things that those interested in self-sufficiency regularly end up considering. There are factors involving breeding, especially, that can increase our success and let us custom-fit our livestock’s needs to our situations. While some aspects of controlled breeding may seem obvious, especially to experienced livestock keepers, other […]

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The 5 Best Livestock For Beginning Homesteaders

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The 5 Best Livestock For Beginning Homesteaders

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There’s nothing more exciting than purchasing your very first homestead. As you mend the fences and fix your new outbuildings, you realize it’s time to think about putting some animals on your property.

That, though, can be a scary thought, especially if you don’t know where to start. Educating yourself and creating a plan for exactly what you want out of your homestead will make things much more enjoyable.

Here’s the list of our five favorites for beginners:

1. Chickens

Chickens are super simple to take care of, and their return is well worth any time and effort you put in to making them happy. They need little space, and so if you are just starting out with a few chickens, you won’t need much room. A chicken coop and a small run is sufficient. Five hens will produce approximately four eggs per day. In no time at all, you’ll have an overflow of eggs and you’ll be in good shape. Chickens also provide great compost for your growing garden.

2. Ducks

Ducks are also great starter animals for your homestead. Like chickens, they don’t require a lot of space and are quite happy as long as they have water to bath in and food to eat. Plus, they are excellent foragers.

Get Diatomaceous Earth Here! It’s The Time-Tested Way To Get Rid Of Bugs

Ducks are very good for your garden, as they are great at keeping pesky bugs off your plants. Their eggs are an excellent source of nutrition, and their meat is also quite nutritious.

3. Rabbits

The 5 Best Livestock For Beginning HomesteadersAdding rabbits to your homestead can be a lot of fun. They cost very little to feed, eating mostly hay and pellets, but they enjoy garden scraps as well. Rabbits also take up very little space; a 4×4 enclosure is perfect for one or two of them. They are an excellent meat source, and just like chickens they provide compost for your garden. Unlike cow or horse manure, you can use rabbit manure right away.

4. Goats

Goats are our fourth pick for beginner homesteaders, especially if you don’t own a lot of land. Goats can be a meat source, a dairy source and are excellent brush-clearers. Remember that goats are natural herd animals, and so owning more than one will be best. Goats are also climbers; having a high fence or even an electric fence will keep your goats safe. If you are raising goats for dairy, they will provide you with approximately one gallon of milk per day. But remember: They do produce less cream than do dairy cows.

5. Pigs

Our last pick for a beginner homesteader probably requires the most time and energy. Pigs only need a pen with strong fencing, but if you have the land, you may consider free-ranging your pigs. This can reduce the amount of food they eat and will also take care of the smell that can come from a stinky pen. Although pigs do require more of us as homesteaders, they obviously provide us with an excellent and very delicious meat source. Keep in mind that sows can have litters up to 10 piglets and can have as many as three litters per year. If you are raising the piglets for meat, it will take a full year before you will get a sufficient amount of meat from them.

Do you agree with our list? What would you change? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Harness The Power Of Nature’s Most Remarkable Healer: Vinegar

Yes, You Can Butcher Homegrown Chickens

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Have you ever considering butchering homegrown chickens? Chickens are a very convenient source of meat.  Whether you’re living on a large property in the country or a small suburban block, you can usually find room for a few chickens, they are cheap to feed and they are relatively small and easy to butcher.  However, I have talked to (and read blog about) many people who find the idea of killing a chicken very difficult.   Hi, I’m Liz, and I’m joining Marie here today to share with you about getting ready to butcher homegrown chickens. I live on eight acres in south

Smart Homesteaders Save Tons Of Money This Way (So Why Doesn’t Everyone Do It?)

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The Overlooked Way Smart Homesteaders Save Tons Of MoneyMost of the meat, dairy and egg production in this country comes from monocultures — confinement operations raising only one type of animal. This is said to be “efficient,” and maybe it does make it easier to maximize short-term profits. But polycultures — farms that raise many types of animals and plants — are more resource-efficient and more practical for homesteaders looking to raise healthy food in healthy soil.

Often, waste products from the garden or the animals can supply the needs of other parts of the farm system. Called “farm symbiosis,” this can save lots of money on the homestead – and reduce our waste, too.

I’ll start with the model I know best, the farm I’ve worked for the last 16 years. We grow a big garden and a small orchard as well as goats, chickens, rabbits and pigs. These are all raised in separate spaces, but they use each other’s waste products.

Diatomaceous Earth: The All-Natural Livestock De-Wormer!

The garden is mostly fertilized with compost, which is rich and quick to break down because it contains plenty of animal manure. Our other main fertilizer is rabbit manure, which we apply directly to the garden beds. Rabbit droppings provide a rich slow-release source of nitrogen and phosphorus, and they don’t burn plants the way other uncomposted manures might. The garden also helps to feed the animals who feed it.

The Overlooked Way Smart Homesteaders Save Tons Of MoneyWhen we have to pick bugs off the garden plants we collect them in a jar and feed them to our hens, who benefit from the protein boost. A substantial part of our rabbits’ diet comes from the garden. We grow carrots, radishes, turnips and kale for them. They also eat cover crops like clover, buckwheat and oats that we plant to keep the soil sheltered and active between crops, as well as nutritious weeds like dandelions, comfrey, purslane, pigweed, chicory, chickweed and prickly lettuce, which we have to clear out of the garden beds anyway.

We keep two goats for milk. During the winter we get just enough milk for our daily use. During the growing season we have a lot more than we need, and sometimes more than we can give away to neighbors. Excess milk goes to the pig. So does some of the vitamin- and protein-rich whey from our cheesemaking. The chickens drink the rest of the whey.

We raise rabbits for meat (and manure, of course). They eat small amounts of store-bought whole grains and large amounts of roots and greens from our garden and pastures. When we butcher rabbits, the offal goes to feed our chickens.

We raise one pig each year as our other meat source. The pig eats milk and whey, spoiled apples from the orchard, and cracked eggs from the chickens as well as store-bought grain. We don’t butcher our own pig, but we ask to have jowls and all organs sent to us; we don’t eat these ourselves but we cook them up and feed them to the chickens.

Be Prepared! Store An ‘Emergency Seed Bank’ For A Crisis Garden

The Overlooked Way Smart Homesteaders Save Tons Of MoneyThe chickens get extra protein from all the other animals, as described. They also have constant access to a pile which we start with half-finished compost and weeds from the garden. They tear these up, add nitrogen-rich manure, scratch it in, and produce very rich compost.

Other farmers combine several types of livestock in the same space, although not necessarily at the same time. Joel Salatin has popularized a rotational pasturing system. First, cows are rotated intensively through small segments of the pasture using portable fencing. Then, chickens or turkeys are moved across the same pasture in tractors. The birds break up the cowpats so they’re more of an effective fertilizer. They also eat parasites and eggs which might otherwise re-infest the cattle on their next visit; this provides protein for the chickens as well as protection for the cows.

Grazing multiple species in the same space at the same time also can improve land and animal health. Cows tend to prefer grasses and clover, sheep forbs and weeds, and goats brush and browse. Grazing all three animals on mixed pasture ensures that the different types of plants are eaten back at roughly the same rate so that nothing gets crowded out. (You may sill have to manually remove those plants that nobody wants to eat, like thistle and horse-nettle.)

By raising several different kinds of livestock as well as gardening, homesteaders can greatly reduce the waste we produce and the purchased inputs we need.

What do you raise? How have you learned to generate resources and reuse waste? Write your tips in the section below:

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Biosecurity: 7 Steps To Protecting Your Livestock From Deadly Disease

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Biosecurity: 7 Steps To Protecting Your Livestock From Deadly Disease

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Twenty-first century homesteaders have the advantage of being able to pick and choose between ancient practices and modern technology, selecting the one that works best in every situation. At my place, I love old-fashioned methods, but not when it comes to biosecurity.

I get some startled looks when I say the word “biosecurity” out loud to farm visitors. It sounds a little scary, like a scene from a sci-fi movie with people running around in crisp white hazmat suits. While biosecurity may or may not look a little like that on huge corporate agriculture farms, that is not how it is on my small sustainable farm. However, it is every bit as important here.

I learned about biosecurity the hard way. I purchased two registered heritage breed goat kids one spring and did not quarantine them before putting them in with my existing herd. Later that year when a college class conducted an animal health workshop in my barn, the professor expressed concern about one of the young does. She took fecal samples to examine back in her office, and called me the next day with the results. The animal was loaded with barber pole worms, she told me.

I had no choice but to embark upon a steep learning curve. Just as I was beginning to acquire the knowledge and skills I needed in order to take biosecurity seriously myself, a big dose of similar reality landed on the doorstep of a neighbor. Symptoms, fecal samples, and vet visits revealed the words no owner of small ruminants ever wants to hear out loud. Caseous Lymphadenitis.

“No,” I half-whispered when she told me. “Not CL.” A disease that is highly communicable and can mean a death sentence for much of the herd, it is said to sometimes remain onsite even after the animals are gone. Nobody wants that.

Diatomaceous Earth: The All-Natural Livestock De-Wormer!

When it comes to livestock diseases and parasites, complacency is not a friend of the homesteader.

Protecting yourself and your animals is crucial. It is also imperative to avoid infecting other homesteads. Although I am not a livestock health care professional, I do have a few tips that may help other owners create and maintain a barrier to keep animals healthy.

1. Boot wash. This is one of the most effective preventions you can do, and one of the easiest and least expensive.

Biosecurity: 7 Steps To Protecting Your Livestock From Deadly Disease

Image source: Pixabay.com

I use a black rubber feed dish, a wide shallow model that sells for very little money at most feed stores. In it, I place a gallon of cool-to-tepid water, and a cup of household bleach. This is a very strong solution, more potent than I would use elsewhere. I also provide a long-handled utility brush. Both the dish and brush are dedicated to this purpose only.

Bleach solution does not maintain its efficacy for long. If visitors are not arriving until later, I set the supplies outside in the shade and mix the solution once they arrive. The liquid is about an inch deep in the feed dish, adequate for reaching organisms on the bottom of most farm boots. I ask folks to step one foot into the dish at a time, dunk the brush, and use it as needed in crevices of boot soles.

2. Shoe coverings. If people show up in sandals or dress shoes, they will not want to dunk their feet in an inch of bleach water. I do not blame them—I would not want to either! In cases where boot wash is impracticable, I offer plastic grocery store bags as coverings. They are easy to slid over footwear and can be tucked down into the tops of shoes or secured with a gear tie or little piece of duct tape.

3. Hand washing. Preventing transmission of disease in animals is similar to doing so in humans, in that washing between contacts makes a difference. I happen to have a barn spigot in summer and a utility sink conveniently located just inside my back door the rest of the year. Other options could include rigging a handwash station using a garden hose, or an old-fashioned bowl and pitcher if needed. Antibacterial products can be used, as well.

4. Screening. If I know that someone just came from a barn full of animals infected with Johne’s Disease, I really might secretly wish I had that hazmat suit. But in reality, I will ask the person to take extra care at my place. Farmers and homesteaders are generally honorable and genuine folks who will readily disclose where they have been and do whatever it takes to avoid transmitting infection. But they are also people with plates so full that they might not think to take precautions unless asked. Screening visitors amounts simply to asking the questions.

5. Commercial products. There are many choices on the market, from disposable boot covers to convenient boot-brush setups to many other types of disinfectant.

Be Prepared! Store An ‘Emergency Seed Bank’ For A Crisis Garden

Biosecurity: 7 Steps To Protecting Your Livestock From Deadly Disease

Image source: Pixabay.com

Bleach is not everyone’s first choice, nor should it be. It is not the most effective solution in all situations, and is not without risk. I choose it for reasons of my own, but fully respect others’ preference of alternative solutions.

6. Professional advice. Although nearly last on this list, consulting a veterinarian or other expert should never be a homesteader’s last resort. I cannot stress enough how important it is to make use of whatever knowledgeable people are available to you, from your vet to a cooperative extension professional to an animal health educator to someone within your support network. Ask, listen and learn.

7. Share information. Be generous with your knowledge. Keep in mind that there are livestock owners who — like I once was and you may have been, also — do not even know what they do not know. Spreading the word about biosecurity is in everyone’s best interest.

I am not advocating that livestock owners become overly paranoid, but I do recommend taking care. Prevention is always easier than treatment, and careful biosecurity practices are a great way to avoid livestock loss, worry and veterinary bills on any size homestead.

How do you protect your animals from diseases on the homestead? What are your biosecurity tips? Share them in the section below:

Harness The Power Of Nature’s Most Remarkable Healer: Vinegar

How To Grow Livestock Grass During Winter — Quickly & Easily

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Joanna Hoyt

Joanna Hoyt

During the growing season it’s easy to pasture livestock, offering them a healthy and varied diet. When the snow flies, though, things get harder.

But even in a Northern winter you can offer your animals fresh greens by sprouting grains indoors. This sprouted grain grass is often called “fodder” — a slightly confusing term since it’s also used generically to mean animal feed.

Many types of animals can benefit from fodder. My family’s meat rabbits live mainly on fodder and root crops through the winter. We’ve also given fodder to our chickens and goats, usually as a supplement rather than the main feed. I’ve read about other farmers who give fodder to their horses, cows, sheep and pigs.

You can buy an expensive ready-to-go fodder system in order to enjoy these benefits. Or you can spend a little bit of time and a very little bit of money and create a fodder system of your own.

What You Need

Seeds

How To Grow Livestock Grass During Winter -- Quickly & Easily

Joanna Hoyt

In theory you could sprout any kind of grain or nutritious seed. In practice, some are easier than others.

Wheat and barley are the most common fodder crops. They’re GMO-free. They also germinate quickly and easily. Speed matters — the faster your fodder grows, the less likely it is to be colonized by mold. We grow wheat because it’s available from our feed mill and because it thrives in our cool, 50-60 degree (Fahrenheit) greenhouse temperatures. I’ve read that barley grows best at around 70 degrees.

Sprouting Setup:

For the early stages of sprouting you’ll need watertight containers that are easy to clean and rust-free. We use plastic coffee cans. Cut small slits in the bottoms of nearly half the cans; you’ll need one more solid than slotted cans.

How To Grow Livestock Grass During Winter -- Quickly & Easily

Joanna Hoyt

For the later stages you’ll need trays or pans where you can spread your sprouts out in a thin layer and water them. We use 10-inch-x-20-inch plastic nursery trays. These also need notches cut in one end to let the water drain out.

You’ll need some kind of frame or table on which you can spread your trays. Prop the un-slotted ends up slightly so the water will wash through slowly and drain out the slotted ends. Put some kind of gutter (rain gutter or split PVC pipe work well) under the slotted ends; slope it and run it into a bucket.

Growing Fodder

Winnowing

Feed-store grain may contain a lot of chaff and dust which increase the chances that your fodder will turn moldy unless you take time to winnow your seed before soaking it. Take two large mixing bowls or cooking pots. Put a manageable amount of grain in one. (I find 3 quarts is the most I can winnow effectively at one time by the easy method described below.) Stand outside in a breezy place, or inside in front of a fan. (In the latter case, spread out a tarp or blanket to catch the chaff.) Hold the full bowl at shoulder height and pour its contents slowly into the other bowl. Wipe the dust out of the newly empty bowl, switch the bowls and repeat the process until no more dust and chaff blow out.

Soaking and Rinsing

How To Grow Livestock Grass During Winter -- Quickly & Easily

Joanna Hoyt

Soak one day’s worth of grain in room-temperature water inside one of your solid cans. Let it stand for about 12 hours. Then pour it into one of the slotted cans, and set atop a solid can to catch the drips. Start soaking another batch in your solid can. Keep all cans loosely lidded.

Rinse the seeds in your slotted cans twice daily with room-temperature water. In two or three days, when seeds have visibly sprouted, they’ll be ready for spreading.

Spreading and Watering

Gently pour the sprouts out into trays and spread them evenly. (Three cups of dry seed will make enough sprouts to nicely fill a 10-inch-x-20-inch tray.) Set them under grow lights or in a sunny window to encourage quicker growth. Water gently with room-temperature water twice daily until you decide your fodder is grown enough to harvest. We usually feed wheatgrass to our rabbits at day seven or eight. The chickens will eat it at this stage, but they’re also are happy with less-developed fodder that still looks more like sprouted grain than grass.

How To Grow Livestock Grass During Winter -- Quickly & Easily

Joanna Hoyt

Feed the whole plant — root, shoot and seed.

Troubleshooting

Mold is the main threat to fodder systems. Scrub all cans and trays with soap, hot water and bleach between batches of fodder. You also can add a very small splash of bleach to the water in which you soak your seeds for their first 12 hours. Temperature is important. We don’t try to grow fodder during the warm season, and we don’t rinse or water seed with warm water.

We still check each batch before feeding it, looking at the tops and the roots and smelling the whole thing. I’ve read that moldy feed can be fatal to livestock, so be careful.

Have you ever grown fodder? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:  

7 Simple Ways To Minimize Veterinary Costs For Livestock

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7 Simple Ways To Minimize Veterinary Costs For Livestock

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It is no secret that health care is expensive. If you have animals of any kind, then you know that this fact is not limited to health care for humans, as a visit to or from a veterinarian can cost a lot of money.

For homesteaders operating on a shoestring budget, an unplanned livestock vet visit—or even a planned one—can be an undue burden on the finances. The price of treating animals not only can increase the overall cost of meat and dairy, but also can take earmarked money away from crucial projects elsewhere on the farmstead.

While it is unlikely that any farmer can completely avoid veterinary expenditures, the good news is that there are steps which can help mitigate them. Most of these cost-control methods are inexpensive or even free, and are simple to implement.

1. Prevention is key. The best way to avoid paying medical costs is to avoid incurring sickness and injuries. Watch out for broken fences, protruding hardware, and rickety milk stands. Keep adversarial animals separated. Ensure feed quality and maintain sanitation. Use prevention techniques such as practicing diligent biosecurity, testing for communicable diseases, and quarantining questionable animals. It is always easier and cheaper to keep animals safe and healthy than it is to treat them after they become ill or get hurt.

2. Develop a network of like-minded livestock owners. Build a community of neighbors, relatives and fellow homesteaders. Include the people who sold your animals to you. There are often also breed clubs and show groups. Don’t be shy about asking at the feed or farm store—many workers there have a lot of experience with livestock.

Look for online resources, such as trusted go-to websites which are recommended by others. Also, try public resources such as your state’s cooperative extension or universities.

Diatomaceous Earth: The All-Natural Livestock De-Wormer

Social media is a great connection, too. I belong to several different regional groups—one strictly for goats, another for general livestock, and a third for farming and homesteading. I also follow national groups that are specific to my breed of goat. All of these offer a wealth of information, education and advice.

If you can ask someone in your network, they might be able to help you monitor and treat the animal on your own instead of paying for treatment. If nothing else, they may be able to rule out a few possibilities up front.

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

It pays to know when to contact your veterinarian early instead of waiting until things get worse, and a network can help you make that call. I once described my goat’s eye symptoms to a local farmer and she urged me to call the vet immediately—it sounded like pinkeye and the animal could lose the eye if not treated quickly. I followed her advice, and was glad I did.

3. Barter for services (once you have your network in place and have built mutual trust). Dairy goat owners in my area are always ready to help with disbudding, offer advice about parasite prevention, and even show up at two in the morning to assist with a difficult birth—and they expect the same in return.

I’ve driven 15 miles in a snowstorm to help with a friend’s injured goat, and spent an hour on social media walking a stranger through the process of shipping blood test samples off to a laboratory. On the other end of things, I’ve had a dairy farmer drop what he was doing to help me save a dying calf, and a friend diagnose a case of shipping fever on the phone and advise me what to do next.

4. Keep medications and supplies on hand. Having things like bloat relief, blood stop powder, antibiotics and thermometers in your home supply kit will help you deal with emergencies as they arise. If your livestock network gives you solid treatment advice, you need the supplies to follow through. Consider, too, that crises often strike at the worst possible times—on Christmas morning, or in the wee hours during a hurricane. Livestock veterinarians show up anytime, but after-hours care typically comes at a premium. Even if you administer only enough medication and care to tide the animal over to office hours, you can save a bundle.

When you hear of another homesteader wrestling with an animal emergency, take stock of your own supplies that might be helpful and make the offer. In return, they might have what you need someday. I’ve loaned out my microscope and fecal float supplies to a local sheep farm scrambling to control disease, and when one of my goats had a dangerously low temperature, my shepherd friends were quick to suggest and deliver a warm thick coat.

5. Do a lot of procedures yourself. You can learn to administer shots, trim hooves, apply topical medication, neuter, disbud, draw blood, and examine fecal samples. The thought of doing all of that might be intimidating, but not to worry. Acquire the necessary skills for treatments like you would anything else—one step at a time. Learn the easiest thing first, ask people in your network to help with a few others, and call the veterinarian for the rest.

“The Big Book Of Off The Grid Secrets” — Every Homesteader Needs A Copy!

Pick up additional skills by tagging along with people in your network, signing up for classes and demonstrations at fairs and agricultural events, volunteering or apprenticing, and consulting your cooperative extension experts.

7 Simple Ways To Minimize Veterinary Costs For Livestock

Image source: Pixabay.com

6. Know your animals. Not all individuals behave like the textbooks say they will. For example, self-isolating behavior in goats is usually a signal that something is wrong. However, I once had a goat that was just naturally stand-offish and would routinely stand with her face in the corner for no reason. A vet who was on site for other reasons noticed the goat’s behavior and asked about her. Because I knew what was normal for that goat, I was able to assure the veterinarian that it was nothing out of the ordinary. Conversely, an animal might display behavior characteristic of its species or breed but atypical for that individual, alerting you to keep an eye on it.

7. When you do have to call the vet, be ready. Before you make that first call, be prepared with the answers to the questions they are likely to ask. Take the animal’s temperature, notice if it’s eating and drinking and eliminating normally, and have a list of what medications and procedures have already been given. This will make the vet’s job easier, and he or she might be able to give you advice over the phone instead of seeing the animal – thus saving you money.

If the animal does have to be seen, make sure it is ready when the veterinarian arrives. I am always astounded at the television reality show where the vet shows up and has to chase a cow around the pasture before he can treat it. In my region they charge by the minute, and the clock starts ticking the minute they pull into the driveway. I always have the animal caught up, penned, or crated ahead of time.

I expect that most veterinarians do not want to waste your money or their time any more than you do. It has been my experience that they appreciate having clients who are knowledgeable and capable, with whom they can work as a team and trust to follow instructions.

By following these guidelines, you can develop a good working rapport with your veterinarian, ensure that your animals receive excellent attention, and keep your homesteading operation running smoothly. And best of all, in a world where many costs are skyrocketing, you can save money on health care for your animals.

What advice would you add for lowering veterinary costs? Share your tips in the section below:

Harness The Power Of Nature’s Most Remarkable Healer: Vinegar

Cold-Hardy Livestock Breeds That Thrive Anywhere (Even In Alaska)

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Cold-Hardy Livestock Breeds That Thrive Anywhere (Even In Alaska)

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Editor’s note: The writer lives in Alaska.

Choosing the right livestock for your homestead is an important decision. You may know what kinds of animals you want — ducks, chickens, pigs, cattle, etc. — but how do you choose the right breed?

Too often when choosing a specific breed of livestock, the winter hardiness of the animal gets overlooked. When winter rolls around with her cold breath, you want to ensure you have livestock that will require little supplemental heat. Heat is energy, and when you’re already trying to keep your family warm, you don’t want to waste precious energy trying to keep your livestock warm unless it is absolutely necessary.

In this article, I will go over some of the common types of livestock people choose for their homestead and then explore some of the most winter-hardy breeds. For poultry, I will focus on breeds that are typically used for laying, assuming that any poultry kept through the winter will be primarily used as a source of eggs.

Choosing livestock that is appropriate for your geographical area is incredibly important and can save you a lot of time and energy while making your winter preparations.

Ducks

It is hard to find more winter-hardy poultry than ducks. Domestic chickens evolved from tropical regions and by their very nature deal much better with drier and warmer conditions. Ducks and geese, on the other hand, can handle much colder and wetter climates with ease. Another benefit of ducks is that they require a lot less added light to keep them laying. In some areas of the country, you may not have to add supplemental light at all.

Diatomaceous Earth: The All-Natural Livestock De-Wormer!

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

Swedish Blue ducks are a winter-hardy bird that are known for both their meat and laying qualities. You can expect about 120-180 eggs a year from them, with males weighing about 8 pounds and females around 7 pounds. They do mature slower than some other breeds of ducks, however. Originating in Germany, they are very winter-hardy and have a calm temperament.

If you are looking for a duck for just egg production, I recommend the Khaki Campbell duck. The Khaki Campbells we have on our Alaskan farm keep laying straight through the winter, and we are still getting good yields from ducks that are over a year and a half old. You can expect 250-325 eggs a year from the Khaki Campbells and, while they are a smaller duck, they are extremely cold hardy. Males top out at about 4.5 pounds and females around 4 pounds. They are very noisy, however, and can be flighty birds.

Another duck you may consider is the Cayuga. They are very cold-hardy, and lay approximately 120-180 eggs a year. Males weigh about 7 pounds and females 6 pounds when mature. Although very loud, they are calm and only go broody occasionally.

Chickens

Chickens are a homestead staple. To have them lay throughout the winter, keep in mind that they will need added light during the darker winter months. Chickens lay best when they have at least 15 to 16 hours of light provided. When the amount of daylight dips below that, either keep a light on in their chicken coop, or set it on a timer to add the extra light needed when the sun goes down. Although you will need added light for chickens, if you choose winter-hardy breeds you may be able to avoid having to add extra heat.

If you live in an extremely cold climate where frostbite can be an issue, you’ll want to choose a laying hen that has a small comb. The Chantecler chicken is an excellent example of a winter ready chicken. Originally bred in Quebec, these chickens are made to handle the extremely cold winters of the Canadian prairie. They have small combs and wattles, making them resistant to frostbite and will lay throughout the cold winter months. They do have trouble in extremely hot weather, however, so if you live in an area with hot summers, these may not be the right chickens for you.

Another breed that we have been very happy with on our farm here in Alaska is the Black Australorp. The hens do have larger combs that could be susceptible if your winters are especially harsh, but they do extremely well in areas that have winter temperatures in the 10-35 degree Fahrenheit range. They are also prolific layers, laying 280 eggs a year or more.

Pigs

Although many homesteaders purchase piglets in the spring, raise them through the summer and then butcher them in the fall when the weather turns colder, there are several reasons you may want to keep pigs through the winter. Maybe you are starting to breed your own piglets for butcher or want to do two rounds of butchering a year instead of just one.

When choosing a breed of pig to carry through the winter months, I’ve found it most beneficial to look to the heritage breeds. Heritage breeds of pigs typically do better on pasture and are hardier for the outdoors. Breeds that are used in confinement operations, like Yorkshire crosses, will invariably be bred to live in conditions that have them inside year-round with an extremely controlled environment. Heritage breeds retain a lot of the characteristics that make them suitable to living outside, and if you choose breeds that originated in climates with colder winters, they should do just fine with minimal shelter provided from you.

After doing a fair bit of research, we finally settled on the Tamworth Hog for our Alaskan farm. One of the oldest heritage breeds found in the U.S., the Tamworth originated out of Ireland, where it was known for its ability to forage and grow on pasture. They have quite a bit more hair than some of your other breeds of pigs and do perfectly well in our winter climate. We know of one breeding operation in Michigan that lets their Tamworth sows give birth in the middle of winter with just a small shelter and straw, no added heat or attention. In addition to being hardy, the Tamworths are also extremely intelligent and very personable. We couldn’t be happier with them.

Although it is always tempting to get whatever livestock may be readily available to you at your local feed store, it is always worth the effort to carefully research and select breeds with climate in mind. The result will be happier animals and a more efficient homestead.

What are your favorite winter-hardy breeds? Share your tips in the section below:

Discover The Secret To Saving Thousands At The Grocery Store. Read More Here.

What We Don’t Know Can Hurt Us – Livestock Edition

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Livestock keeping requires some research. It seems obvious, but it’s apparently not. It really merits researching in great depth, because there are a lot of investments and there are some issues that regularly crop up, having somehow have escaped a fair number of the people who choose to get livestock. I developed this article because I’m running into some of the same issues, regularly from people who really ought to know better. This is basically a primer on those situations. The information is not hidden, but seems to somehow end up overlooked – repeatedly.

I’m going to hit a few things that I run into (regularly) in quick little bullets. They’re tips for animal safety, the protection of genetic lines (ours and also a buyer’s), and successful breeding. They may be taken at face value, or they’re points for research.

I don’t mean to insult anybody’s intelligence. Some of them just keep repeatedly cropping up. With any luck, old hats will read it as well – if nothing else, maybe for some commiseration. I’d really like them to add the trends they see as well, though. The more information available, the better off all livestock keepers will be.

The Biggies BLUF Style

First off, I’d like to say: Do the research. This article and every other TPJ article about livestock in general and specific species and breeds should only be part. “Back To Basics” is only a primer. There are too many resources, completely free in many cases, for folks to end up as overwhelmed as they sometimes do.

Second: Go buy one of the type you’re going to raise or breed, just one. A spring kid, a rabbit, an aging-out hen, even a calf – although I suggest the smaller animals. Care for it for a season or longer. Then slaughter it. If you can’t, there’s only one animal eating you out of house and home, not a pair or a handful that can continue to multiply until it’s out of control. Even if you hunt, even if you slaughter poultry, make sure you can do it with the next livestock type – a lot of people can’t.

Hobby Farm Animals: A Comprehensive Guide to Raising Chickens, Ducks, Rabbits, Goats, Pigs, Sheep, and Cattle

Hobby Farm Animals: A Comprehensive Guide to Raising Chickens, Ducks, Rabbits, Goats, Pigs, Sheep, and Cattle

I mention these two because I’ve volunteered for livestock rescues, I consult on sustainable systems (which include livestock), I’m on several forums, and I have personal relationships with livestock keepers. I have run into livestock costs and numbers getting out of control in numerous ways.

Rescues end up taking on the burdens in a lot of cases – when it’s just too much work or too much effort, too much expense, when it’s too hard to kill and eat an aged-out hen or the fluffy bunnies, when things spiral so long that the whole experiment fails and people lose their homesteads.

So beginners and expanding keepers: Start small – very small.

The Birds & The Bees

Sperm wilts in Summer. This is especially true of rabbits, who already face a lot of physical stress from heat. Litters will be typically smaller and there will regularly be fewer fertile eggs in the hottest periods for all stock. In some cases, you’ll need to plan more frequent and longer exposures to studs to have a pregnancy take.

farm-sign-iiHens make eggs. They don’t need males to do it. Males are only needed to make more birds.

Dairy animals need “freshened”. Cattle, sheep, llamas, yaks, camels, and goats…

A.) Must have a baby (and thus be bred) before they make milk.

B.) Only produce that milk for a period of months before it dries up, and they have to have another baby.

Animals lack sexual mores. Livestock has no qualms about inbreeding with parents, siblings, grandparents, and close cousins. Wildlife ends up spread out and thus genetically diverse by numerous mechanisms. They cover more territory than domestic equivalents, and in some cases – like science is proving for wild ducks – they’re rampant adulterers even when forming seasonal or lifetime partners. We take that away from livestock. It can lead to serious genetic faults.

Livestock breeds early. By species, livestock can be breeding by 3-5 months of age. Failure to identify and separate or neuter males leads to inbreeding and overpopulation.

Separation is necessary – breeding I. Livestock will mate again as soon as they’re able. This leads to worn-down females, as well as overpopulation.

By their size, it’s easily possible that these rabbits have all reached sexual maturity – which means half or more of these animals could be gestating another 6-12 rabbits each. If they’re a mother and kits, especially if they’re not handled and examined regularly and a male hid his limas for a while, it’s not just the potential 48 new hoppers. It’s also inbreeding.

By their size, it’s easily possible that these rabbits have all reached sexual maturity – which means half or more of these animals could be gestating another 6-12 rabbits each. If they’re a mother and kits, especially if they’re not handled and examined regularly and a male hid his limas for a while, it’s not just the potential 48 new hoppers. It’s also inbreeding.

Castrating hoofstock creates options. Once altered, especially young, male animals are no longer a threat to the studs, or to our genetic lines and feed/housing budgets. They can stay with sisters and mothers, or go be a stud companion. They can also leave our properties, even if they come from faulted genetic lines, because they’re no longer a threat to others’ bloodlines even if they prove too cute/clever to slaughter and become a pet.

Neuter/Castrate early I. Testes will drop in a matter of days or weeks. The longer we wait, the more the at-home tools to castrate cost and the fewer options we have. By 2 months, some species are already getting too big for some of the less-invasive, non-surgical methods, and by 4 months, anything non-surgical is usually off the table.

Callicrate Smart Bander Kit

Callicrate Smart Bander Kit

Neuter/Castrate early II. The earlier we alter male mammals, the easier it is. One, smaller is easier to wrestle. Two, there’s less time (and pain) involved in either crimping or banding a small mole than there would be for crushing off or wrapping a rubber band around a finger and waiting for it to rot off. Same deal with testes.

Separation is necessary – breeding II. Males are really into the passing down of their genetic material, and they will bloody and kill each other to do so. Wildlife doesn’t fight to the death over sex because the losers have enough room to run away. Livestock doesn’t (usually).

Separation is necessary – breeding III. Stud pigs and rabbits will kill off even their own young, and mothers will attack other pigs or rabbits and the young of a previously peaceful companion. They want the chance to mate again, or to eliminate competition for resources for their own litters or possible threats to their litters (it’s instinct).

Friends are fine. There’s nothing wrong with combining studs or grow-outs from different species while separating them from their original herds, or keeping the cow (and her calf) with the ram. They’ll gain valuable socialization. They can also share in the protection of numbers and combined body heat.

sheepcow

Limit unaltered males. It helps reduce the competition. That can lead to quieter, more peaceful barnyards. Especially with chickens, at high ratios of hens to roosters, you’ll find roosters are less sexually frustrated (and more tired), and thus less like to attack vehicles, other animals, and people.

Breeding affects female health. Pregnancy and lactation take a physical toll on dams, even with proper feed. So does egg production. Even though most livestock mammals can become pregnant again while still nursing the last young, it’s not always the best choice. A break in the cycles for recovery is of huge benefit for both poultry and mammals. Especially with mammals, we can gain years of useful life by providing rest cycles.

Dairy Drive-By’s

Sample goat milk before you buy. Not just any goat milk; that doe’s. If it’s not possible to sample the milk of the doe you’re getting, sample her mother’s and sisters’. While some breeds vary hugely animal-to-animal, most will have some similarity to their nearest relatives, especially if the stud line is the same.

Separation is necessary – Bucks effect milk. Lots effects milk flavor, from breed and feed to how fast we can cool it off, to a tiny little amount of dust.  But bucks really do contribute hugely to that goaty flavor.

Separation is necessary – Milking.  If we want to milk once daily, we can separate overnight after the first milks finish. If we want to milk twice daily and bottle feed numerous times a day, we can separate as soon as the colostrum finishes.

lucy-triplets

Separation is necessary – Weaning. Livestock will not usually forcibly wean their own young until they are near birthing again or naturally dry off. Even then kids/calves/foals will sometimes try to continue to nurse – even off other dams. This creates undo stress on the dual-nursing mothers, and competition for the newborns losing the highest fat and highest production milks.

Triplets are trouble – the birth. Sheep seem to handle triplets like champs, but goats and especially cattle regularly end up needing help with them – or with the last one, at least. It’s not uncommon for that third to be stillborn, or unable to nurse a first time.

Triplets are trouble – the kids. Between bottle feeding and super-productive dams, there are plenty of survivors. However, one of the triplets is sometimes seriously stunted, and due to competition for colostrum and high-fat milk, is likely to lag behind and be more susceptible to illness for life. Conversely, sometimes one kid is significantly larger than both its siblings and will take a lion’s share, leaving both behind the curve as they split the remains.

Triplets are trouble – the dam. I know people who won’t burden a doe with a third kid, because even if she has enough milk early, it will put enormous strain on her body and she may not be able to maintain that production when they get to the pre-weaning stage and are taking quarts off her. I also know people who milk colostrum and early milk for runts, then bottle feed a different mother’s milk to get enough volume for all three. Time available, the presence of other dams, whether we want to share that much milk for triplets (or cull early) all impact our decisions, as do our future herd needs.

Chickens Are Vicious

chicken-647226_640(Newsflash: So are geese.)

Roosters are lean & active. The earlier we harvest our male birds, the less tough and “gamey” the meat will be – and the less disruption from excess roosters we’ll deal with over weeks and months.

Roosters are rough lovers. Even within the unaided egg season, hens can use a break from roos. Roosters break and pull feathers as they mate, and their favorites can end up pretty bedraggled. Unfortunately this leads to…

Hens Peck Injuries. Chickens will keep after a flock mate with a visible wound or bare patches of skin, reopening and enlarging injuries, and can end up killing them.

chickensaddle1_large

Chicken Saddles & Blue Dot can help. We can cover a love-torn or injured bird in a chicken saddle (or sock sweater for young/small birds) and we can treat with a spray (which leaves blue dots). Ideally, we also use them on uninjured senior animals. If all (or half) of the flock also sports saddles or blue dots, the flock won’t focus its attention on the oddball, and the oddball has a chance to recover without separation.

Separation is necessary – Injuries. Chickens especially may need separated if they have a serious injury. All livestock may need a smaller pen or box to provide recovery, limit activity, or so they aren’t taken by predators while injured.

Chicks need protection. Chicks commonly need heat lamps, special food, and water they can reach. They also slip through smaller cracks, are susceptible to damp grass and cold ground, and fit in more mouth sizes. Whether we incubate and box chicks, or provide them with a broody hen, they need some help.

Chicks can be left in a flock. If a broody hen is of high enough seniority, and a flock is relatively small (under 10-18), hens can raise their nests right there in the existing coop. Otherwise, multiple hens that will sit nests within 4-6 weeks of each other can be removed to an adjacent coop. Being adjacent, having high-ranking, dominant mothers, and being in higher numbers can ease…

chicks-in-flockPecking Order – It’s a real thing. It’s when birds use pointy beaks to peck others and establish their dominance. It gets brutal.

Integration of flocks takes time. One, separated and new birds need to be exposed to the flock through a fence or crate for days and weeks, not hours. Two, new and re-introduced birds really need to be of compatible size with flocks, especially big flocks. Otherwise, birds will be injured and-or killed.

chicks-separated

Roosters don’t share well. Sometimes birds raised as brothers will share a flock, just like lions sometimes work in pairs. Usually, there’s fighting. And if a stud is kept with hens, and sexually mature baby roo’s are outside that fence, they will …

A.) Fight through the fences.

B.) Crow challenges constantly.

C.) Find new and creative ways to get inside the fence to the hens/rooster.

D.) Regularly become aggressive/more aggressive with other living and inanimate beings. Good times.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Some rabbits get along. Many don’t, especially rabbits accustomed to life in their own cages, and rabbits that aren’t spayed and neutered.

Breeding pairs need introductions. You arrange hutches so that a male can ideally be between two females, so his hutch slides and overlaps two females’, or leave empty spaces he can occupy for at least a couple weeks. That way, they’re accustomed to each other when they’re plunked in together.

Bunnies need buddies. They’re social creatures, just like dogs. Adjoining hutches allows for social interaction, as well as the potential for combined body heat if temperatures dip.

rabbits-hutches

Females go to males. Neutral ground is iffy, but a male entering a female hutch can lead to…

A.) Distraction, with the male sniffing and marking instead of crooning Barry Manilow.

B.) The female taking offense to a male rushing right up to her.

C.) A female taking offense to a male poking through all her private spaces (especially if she’s raised kits in there and has a permanent box).

Bunnies need watched. Even if introductions and mating went well, sometimes you want your own space back, or somebody’s toes get stepped on. Hot weather makes everybody more cranky, too, and rabbits are no exception. Bunnies do their business, then get separated again.

Feeding – Them & Us

Feed is expensive. Whether we’re feeding off forage that takes time to recover, or buying sacks, there’s a cost associated. We need to know how much animals eat, and how many we can afford, before we create situations for breeding.

baconMeat animals are for eating. Don’t breed animals until you’ve tasted that species’ meat, and don’t breed animals whose meat you don’t like. (Riiiigghhtt???)

Harvest meat by size/age, not season. Big animals might lend themselves to waiting until after frosts, but when we’re feeding ourselves or other livestock off what we raise, we don’t have to wait for some magic season any more. In the case of chickens and rabbits especially, just a month or two delay greatly affects meat quality and flavor.

Eat some early. Doing so can save money on feed and wear on pastures, lower water hauling in late summer, and prevent aggression or breeding within the confines of limited infrastructure and labor. Just because typical butcher weight is 100-350# for pigs doesn’t mean we have to hold a whole litter for 6-9 months, especially the males. Some species lend themselves to waiting at least a while, but we can select 28-day poussin or 3-month pullets, lamb and kid and veal are traditional feasts, and suckling pig is a treat, whether it’s truly <8 weeks or we’re harvesting tender vittles once a month until the last few are freezer-filling beasts.

Nutritional needs change. As animals progress through their life-cycles, the nutrients they need change, as do the amounts of feed they need. Feeding everybody expensive game bird starter or lactating-female levels wastes money.

Feed type matters. Nutrients in bagged feeds & supplements and in pasture/forage/fodder vary, and affect health as well as the time to production or harvest.

Not everybody grazes. Ducks aren’t really grazers at all. In the case of free-range or foraging fowl, the accessible sources for feed changes by age, just as it does for wild birds like quail (quail lifecycle habitat is an excellent research point for creating pasture for poultry).

Llama grazing with sheep.

Llama grazing with sheep.

Worms steal nutrients. Parasites take from our animals. Regular deworming can prevent it. We can also rotate pastures. It limits re-exposure. It also allows pastures to gain height, which impacts hoofstock – worms occupy lower levels with the feces; if the livestock is grazing well above that level, it can break the fecal-oral route and lower belly loads.

Forage-based eaters are different. Free-range, pasture-fed animals that forage significant portions of feed are slower by as much as half-again or twice the time it takes commercial-diet fed animals to reach target weights, and production can be lowered for eggs and dairy as well. They’re also going to be leaner, and meat and eggs will change flavor seasonally.

Predators eat, too. Also, accidents happen and animals roam. Proper housing and fencing – before we bring home livestock – is vitally important. “Proper” varies by species and sometimes breed, and by climate. It’s also affected by rotation plans, keeping style, and the threats within our property and from our surrounding areas, or the natural barriers and safeties we can introduce, to include Livestock Guardian dogs, donkeys and llamas.

Not-So-Short Primer

So that’s the Big List of Bullets that made the cut for sharing. There are others, but I tried to come in under War and Peace, and the others come up more sporadically.

The over-breeding, misconceptions about which livestock needs mates and how often, when we harvest animals, and the inbreeding are biggies. Overpopulation due to males and females in constant exposure, and due to owners’ inability or unwillingness to cull flocks and herds also crops up – constantly, even among manly men who have deployed as grunt infantry and who hunt very similar deer, quail, turkey and duck. I also see a lot of people miss the opportunity to cut feed costs for other livestock or companion animals by using gluts of eggs and milk or meat they don’t want (goats), or who don’t *really* handle livestock and then run into problems moving and vetting them.

Hopefully, there was a nugget in there somewhere for almost everyone – and if not a nugget, some snickers and laughter and the joy of realizing you’re not the only one that ran into a head-scratcher.

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The post What We Don’t Know Can Hurt Us – Livestock Edition appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Why Donkeys Are (Often) Better Than Dogs At Guarding Livestock

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Love Cheese But Have High Cholesterol? We've Got GREAT News

Image source: Pixabay.com

It’s not uncommon to see dogs in pastures with livestock to serve as protection from predators, but many people do not realize that donkeys can be excellent guards, as well. They are typically suited for protecting calves, sheep and goats, and will easily fend off canine attackers, fox or even bobcats.

Of course, as it is with dogs, they should not be expected to take on several attackers, such as a pack of dogs.

Why Use a Donkey?

The donkey’s ability to protect livestock comes from its naturally aggressive nature toward dogs and coyotes. They are known for attacking canines by charging, braying, biting and striking. While most donkeys will try to scare the predator away by charging at it, many also will confront the predator if it comes down to it. They often bite at predators while slashing their front hooves, or they even may turn around to kick their back hooves.

Although the donkey’s instinct to fend off predators is a purely selfish motive, it is enough to keep an entire herd safe, provided there is only one attacker. Because of this and the donkey’s larger size, smaller livestock tend to hang around donkeys for protection.

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One of the more notable advantages of owning a guard donkey rather than a guard dog is the fact that donkeys will stay within the fence and not roam. Of course, there are instances in which you may end up with a particularly mischievous donkey, but they are far more likely to remain in the pasture, living among the rest of your livestock. They also tend to live longer than dogs, and you don’t have to worry about them being aggressive toward people.

Choosing a Donkey

If you think you may be sold on the idea of using a donkey to protect your livestock, you’re going to need to know some basics before you get one. Choosing the wrong donkey could not only cause you to waste money, but it also could put your livestock in some danger.

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Image source: Pixabay.com

The characteristics that make a donkey such an excellent guard animal are found in a particular set of donkeys. For example, it is important to make sure that you purchase a donkey that is bred to be of standard size or larger. If the donkey is too small, it will have more trouble defending itself against predators, and it may even choose flight over fight.

It is also important to choose a gelding donkey or a jenny over a jack because jacks tend to be aggressive toward other livestock and are more difficult to handle. With the amount of care donkeys need for their hooves and medical purposes, you do not want a donkey you can’t handle.

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Though baby donkeys are cute, they obviously will not make good guardians. If you can’t purchase an experienced guard donkey, I recommend purchasing one that is at least a few years old. Younger donkeys tend to want to play with the livestock, which becomes dangerous as the donkey gets older and bigger.

Introducing Donkeys to Livestock

Having only one donkey makes introductions to other livestock much easier. They are not very social animals, but they will associate with your sheep, goats and calves gradually if they do not have another donkey. If you are nervous about putting them together right away, you may want to consider fencing off a small section for your donkey within your livestock pasture.

I would recommend that you leave the donkey in its own pen for several weeks. During that time, you should get acquainted and comfortable with it. Animals can sense when you are nervous or anxious, so the more comfortable you are with the donkey, the more relaxed and trusting it will be around you. When you finally do decide to put the donkey with the rest of your animals, I would recommend that you use a halter and lead, so you can have some control over the situation; however, you should still be very cautious and try to make the process as calm and relaxed as possible.

Donkeys can make excellent guardians for your livestock, but some are better at it than others. If you are seriously considering getting a donkey to guard your animals, you should do more research to make sure you choose the right donkey that will become a part of your herd.

Have you ever used a donkey to guard your livestock? Share your thoughts and tips in the section below:

Harness The Power Of Nature’s Most Remarkable Healer: Vinegar

The Popular Homestead Tree That Could Kill Your Livestock

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The Popular Homestead Tree That Could Kill Your Livestock

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Many people love wild cherry trees because of the beautiful white and pink blossoms that show their colors during spring. While these trees are aesthetically pleasing and can add a nice splash of color to a pasture, they can present a grave danger to livestock.

Growing up on a farm, I was always told to be on the lookout for wild cherry trees when walking through the pastures. Once we learned just how deadly they could be to our cattle and horses, we took the time to remove all of the trees from our 40 acres of wooded land.

The Danger

The danger with wild cherry trees lies within the leaves and, in some species, the bark. More specifically, the leaves are only toxic to livestock if they are wilting. It is recommended that you research the species and speak to a veterinarian to learn about the dangers specific to your area.

The leaves of wild cherry trees naturally produce cyanide when they are wilted. When the leaves are alive and healthy, the two components that combine to produce the cyanide are kept separate, but when the leaves are broken down or wilting, the components combine, and cyanide is produced.

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The Popular Homestead Tree That Could Kill Your LivestockIf an animal ingests the wilted leaves, the cyanide will suffocate them by preventing the transportation of oxygen in the blood stream. The effects of ingesting the leaves happen very quickly, and often there is not enough time to treat the animal if a lethal amount has been consumed. For each type of animal, the lethal amount of leaves is different, and the amount of time over which the leaves are consumed plays a significant role in the animal’s survival.

More often than not, if an animal consumes a lethal amount, they will be found dead, and symptoms will not be observed; however, it is important to be able to recognize the symptoms so that you act quickly if there is any hope for survival. Most animals will show signs of weakness and distress in the forms of labored breathing, agitation and lack of coordination. If an animal displays any of these symptoms, immediate action should be taken, even if you are not sure that wilted cherry leaves are the cause. Time could be the difference between having a living or dead animal.

How to Prevent Poisoning

Though people say animals should not eat the leaves if they are well-fed and have plenty of grass, we were not willing to take the chance. We cautiously removed every wild cherry tree we found in our pastures. Obviously, cutting down the trees will cause the leaves to wilt, so it is essential to take special care and avoid leaving behind any branches or leaves. Leaf rakes should be used to gather any leaves that fall to the round, and they should be disposed of in a way that will ensure there is no chance of them blowing back into the pasture.

If you are unable or decide not to remove the trees, then walk through your pastures regularly and look for any signs of wilting leaves. You should also make a habit of doing a walk-through after any storms which may have caused any trees to fall or branches to break.

Wild cherry trees are beautiful additions to landscaping, but the threat they pose to livestock is far too great to ignore. Because of how deadly the wilted leaves can be, thorough research is important to learn exactly what species are dangerous in your area. Wilted cherry leaves have the capability to wipe out a small herd if not properly handled. Preventative measures can help reduce, if not eliminate, the chances of that happening to your animals.

What advice would you add on protecting livestock from wild cherry trees? Share your tips in the section below:

Harness The Power Of Nature’s Most Remarkable Healer: Vinegar

Here’s How Smart Homesteaders Avoid Cleaning Out Manure

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Here’s How Smart Homesteaders Avoid Cleaning Out Manure

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Winter is coming, and for those of us who live in snowy climates the task of cleaning our barns and chicken coops is about to get more complicated. One solution is simply to stop cleaning out over the winter and try the deep-litter bedding approach.

You’re probably already covering the floor of your stalls and coops with some kind of high-carbon material like sawdust, shavings, wood chips, leaves, pine needles, hay or straw. Instead of cleaning the bedding out once it’s been covered with manure, just leave everything in place and keep adding a clean layer on top.

The Advantages

Deep litter has several advantages.

First, there’s the convenience. You don’t have to chop through the snow banks between your barn or coop and your compost pile; you don’t have to struggle to pry up frozen-down bedding and break it into manageable shovelfuls or forkfuls.

Then there’s the warmth. As the pile grows deeper, the well-insulated manure and bedding below will begin to compost, creating heat which your animals may welcome on cold nights.

This composting process gives you a head start; in spring you’ll have partially decomposed material instead of raw bedding that has been frozen all winter long.

Diatomaceous Earth: The All-Natural Livestock De-Wormer!

Chickens love to scratch, and deep litter will give them more scope to amuse themselves. The composting litter provides a breeding ground for bugs and worms, which can be a valuable protein supplement. Harvey Ussery, backyard chicken raiser and author of many articles which you can find online, says that deep litter also breeds immune-boosting microorganisms.

The Disadvantages

Here’s How Smart Homesteaders Avoid Cleaning Out Manure

Image source: Pixabay.com

Deep litter has drawbacks, of course, although most can be avoided with careful management. There’s the mammoth task of cleaning up in spring, when you have a deep, dense, compacted layer of litter to remove. There’s the issue of air quality. Properly managed deep litter will compost fairly cleanly, but if you have too much nitrogen for your carbon-producing materials to absorb you may end up with excess ammonia. This is more likely to be an issue with chicken droppings, which are highly nitrogenous, than with ruminant droppings. Ventilation is also a factor; a tightly sealed building is much more susceptible to air quality problems than an open or very well-ventilated one. There’s also a need for vertical space. My goats may be on deep litter from November through March, and by then their stall floors are two-feet deep in compacted bedding.  Remember to think about door height as well as overall stall height.

You’ll need to consider all of these factors in deciding whether deep litter works for some or all of your animals. Here’s how that’s works on my farm in upstate NY, where the winters tend to be cold, snowy, windy and long:

How to Make it Work

I leave my two goats on deep-litter bedding through the winter. They’re in roomy open stalls in a shed that’s open to the outdoors on all but the coldest and windiest nights. I’m able to add enough hay to absorb the nitrogen from their manure and urine so the whole mix composts well. I have noticed the increased warmth of the deep-litter floor. I haven’t had trouble with smells and the goats haven’t had respiratory problems.

My chickens are another story. In summer they have a moving yard and also a fixed compost pile to scratch in. In winter they’re closed into a fairly tight winter coop with a lot of south-facing glass. The coop can get fairly warm on sunny days, and there’s not a lot of air circulating. I don’t use deep bedding for our hens in winter. But some folks do manage well with deep litter for chickens, including Ussery, who lives further down the coast where the winters are milder. He uses Joel Salatin’s recommendation of allowing at least five square feet of floor space per bird. Ussery adds that it’s helpful to bed with coarse materials very high in carbon, like leaves or wood chips; he says the coarseness makes the material easier to scratch up while the high carbon ratio allows the material to absorb more nitrogen. Some farmers report that wet straw in chicken coops is easily colonized by toxic molds; others use straw and say they have no problems.

Pay attention to what works and doesn’t work on your farm. Reading about other people’s experiences can be a helpful starting point, but you can learn most from your own experience. Check the bedding daily; cover over areas that are extremely wet or soiled, and monitor if there’s visible mold. If you notice a mild ammonia smell, add more dry high-carbon bedding. If you have a major or persistent ammonia smell or mold, you may need to muck out after all. Watch whether your animals seem comfortable and healthy. Then tell your friends and neighbors, and perhaps also your fellow readers here, what you’ve learned.

What advice would you add on using the deep litter method? Share your tips in the section below:

Harness The Power Of Nature’s Most Remarkable Healer: Vinegar

Skills Needed in a Survival Group

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Do you know what skill sets you have accumulated within your survival family? Think about it for a minute. What does each person bring to the survival group that is beneficial and needed in some way or another?

These are thoughts that have been in my mind for a few weeks now. So I sat down and did some research and put together a list of skill sets that are almost a must have for any group. One of the great things about this list is you can mark off what you have mastered and pick something else to work on. In doing this you become multi-beneficial to the group which is fantastic. Not only would you have the skill sets but you can teach the children.

Below are a few things to consider adding to your group or personal skills:

  1. Perimeter Security
  2. Plant Identification
  3. Gardening Skills (includes winter gardening, herbs)
  4. Butchering Skills (includes salting, smoking and curing meat)
  5. Food Preservation (canning, drying, dehydrating, smoking, grains)
  6. Raising Livestock (Chickens, ducks, rabbits, goats, pigs)
  7. Hunting/Fishing
  8. Medical Skills/Dental Skills
  9. Electrical Knowledge
  10. Carpentry
  11. Plumbing
  12. Welding
  13. Sign Language
  14. Mechanical Skills (cars, appliances, lawn equipment etc.)
  15. HAM Radio Skills
  16. Bee Keeping
  17. Candle Making
  18. Sewing Skills (Clothes & Blankets)
  19. Soap Making
  20. Shoe Making
  21. Baking Bread
  22. Churning Butter
  23. Charcoal Making
  24. Martial Arts
  25. Marksmanship/Weapons
  26. Brick Making
  27. Tool Making

These are the things I can think of and some I found doing research. I hope this helps you out and please feel free to comment on what you would add.

 

The post Skills Needed in a Survival Group appeared first on American Preppers Network.

Our Ancestors Used Farm Animals VERY Differently Than We Do

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Our Ancestors Used Farm Animals VERY DIFFERENTLY Than We Do

Image source: BoswellFarms.com

In modern society, we walk or drive down the street to find all kinds of food, many of them unrecognizable to our pioneer ancestors. (Thai noodles?)

For the hardy pioneers, however, a few animals could mean the difference between starvation or survival. Even if animals were too plentiful to be fed through the winter, they could be slaughtered as the season progressed and then sold for cash, which could then be used to buy staples such as flour or corn. Animals even could be bartered for other necessary items.

Most homesteaders have livestock of some kind, but if times get worse, it might be a good idea to know all the ways our ancestors used animals. You might be surprised.

Farm Animals

In order to survive the harsh winters, many pioneers had a hard rule that went something like: “It works or it’s food.” So while dogs were kept, they were considered working animals. Eating dogs is not something most people would do; however, in a pinch most people will eat just about anything.

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This means that our ancestors kept animals that either worked for them or that they ate.

  • Pigs – These were always a favorite as they ate just about anything and are also easy to breed. The fat from pigs could be used for soap and lamp fuel, and one good-sized hog could feed a family for a long time, with bacon to spare! Pigs were usually allowed to forage in the woods and were not always kept in pens or barns.
  • Chickens – Always a favorite, chickens provide both eggs and meat. They are easy to keep because most of the year, they can simply forage for insects. Grain need only be provided during the coldest winter months.
  • Sheep – For the pioneers, sheep were valued for their wool, which provided clothing, but also for the meat. Lambs were more commonly consumed than adult sheep, but this isn’t to say that when other food sources became scarce, that a sheep wasn’t butchered to make stew.
  • Cows – Cows were highly valued, but they were expensive to keep in the winter if you did not have enough hay stored. Some pioneers took their chances and left cattle out in the woods to survive the harsh winters. Stories of pioneer families forced to butcher and sell most of their cattle during a hard winter were not unusual.
  • Horses – While most of us like to think of the pioneers owning beautiful horses like the ones we see in the movies, most horses were working horses, such as Clydesdale or draft horses. These were intended for pulling wagons and plows. Some pioneers were fortunate enough to have a horse just for riding, but horses also mean hay and grain in the winter months, making them fairly expensive.
  • Mules – Mules have more stamina that most horses and are more surefooted when it comes to rocky or mountainous terrain, but like horses, they, too, need grain to keep them in top condition.
  • Oxen – This was generally the animal of choice for pioneers making their way to the West coast. If they survived the trip, oxen could then be used to plow fields and pull wagons. Oxen are not very fast, but they eat whatever vegetation is available and need only hay in the winter months. Also, because they aren’t very fast, Native people were not really interested in them and if they escaped a barn, they were fairly easy to catch.

Other Food Animals

Our Ancestors Used Farm Animals VERY DIFFERENTLY Than We DoSome animals that were popular food items during pioneer times aren’t eaten quite so often today. Some of these are:

  • Rabbits – Easy to breed, cheap and easy to feed. The fur could also be used to line boots, jackets, or to make blankets.
  • Turkeys – Although pioneers did not take turkeys with them on their journey, someone figured out that if you caught a pair or took some chicks and raised them, they were quite similar to chickens. Today, most of us only eat turkey for special occasions, such as Thanksgiving, but for the pioneers, turkey meat was consumed about as often as a chicken.
  • Geese or ducks – While most ducks were hunted or trapped, a few domestic ducks found their way to the plates of the pioneer, along with geese. Geese are very easy to keep, especially if the land has its own pond or lake. No extra feeding is required, although many pioneers did supplement with grain to keep the goose fat.
  • Doves and/or quail – Doves and quail are not much meat, but they eat relatively little and breed quickly. Added to meager soups or stews, doves and quail would be a welcomed source of meat.

Miscellaneous Animals

As mentioned, if animals weren’t being kept for food, they needed to be kept for work. A few animals that were often kept strictly for work were:

  • Dogs – Especially hunting dogs or herding dogs, although even a mutt would keep raccoons, wild dogs, bears and intruders from coming on the property. Hunting dogs and herding dogs were especially valuable. They would often be bred, and the pups sold for cash or in exchange for other items or work.
  • Cats – Not the pillow princesses we see today, cats kept in pioneer times were mostly for keeping mice and other rodents out of barns, houses and food storage areas. Although they might enjoy the fireplace during the winter months, they were rarely fed, as they were expected to find their own food.
  • Donkeys – These animals might be small, but they can carry a fairly heavy load and are very sure-footed. For carrying small amounts of items to and from the market, donkeys are hard to beat. They are not picky eaters and are fairly easy to keep.
  • Bees – Some pioneer farmers came to realize the importance bees had on their orchards and kept a few hives. Of course, in addition to pollination, bees offered honey, which was a real treat for the pioneer who generally relied only on maple syrup from trees or molasses for a sweet treat.

Our ancestors were tougher than we ever imagined. You won’t find many gerbils or hamsters mentioned in the history of the pioneers!

What thoughts would you add about pioneers and animals? Which ones do you think would be most important today? Share your opinion in the section below:

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Raising Rabbits: One Size Fits All Prepper Solution?

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Written by Guest Contributor on The Prepper Journal.

Rabbits truly are the “one-size-fits-all” preppers domestic livestock and after reading the reasons why raising rabbits could be ideal for any prepper, we think you will agree.

The post Raising Rabbits: One Size Fits All Prepper Solution? appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Why You Should (And Shouldn’t) Get An Electric Fence

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Why You Should (And Shouldn’t) Get An Electric Fence

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Electric fencing has been around in its modern form since the 1930s. Commonly used for livestock and wildlife control, electric fences can be found in nearly all parts of the world, doing nearly the same sort of tasks: keeping livestock where they belong and keeping animals out of places they don’t belong.

Are you considering an electric fence? Consider the pros and cons:

Pros of Electric Fences

Electric fences are cheap compared to other fences. They can be made with inexpensive wire, a low-cost fencer (the unit that sends pulsed voltage through the wire), steel rods and affordable plastic insulators. A fence can be put up in a few hours or less, and it will suffice for basic livestock and animal control.

They are easy to build or add to an existing structure. It doesn’t take an electrician to install a fence, and if you can set fence posts, you can electrify a field or garden. No special tools are required, and you don’t have to worry about how perfectly straight the fence is, or even the tension on the wire. If you already have a fence installed, then simply fasten some insulators to the existing structure and run your wire, and you are good to go!

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Electric fences are durable. Because they are designed for use in most any weather and for farm and ranch work, most components are built for long, hard use. As long as you have a fencer built for the type of work you want, it’s pretty hard to build a bad electric fence. In fact, it’s rather easy to do just the opposite, and it takes a serious dedication to failure to mess it up. Also, you can move an electric fence far easier than you can a traditional fence.

Why You Should (And Shouldn’t) Get An Electric Fence

Image source: Pixabay.com

They also are incredibly cheap to operate. Number crunching on even the most powerful electric fences show that they use just a few cents of electricity a day, often costing under a dollar a month to operate, depending on the wattage used. At the most, you are out around the cost of a fancy cup of coffee at Starbucks for a month’s continuous operation.

Cons of Electric Fences

They require a working power source. If you have access to the grid, that’s great, and your fence is ready to go. If you make your own power, then you will need to integrate them to solar power or another source. The power consumption is still low, but it is a constant low-level drain you must keep in mind.

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An electric fence must be maintained. Broken or damaged insulators can leak current, poorly grounded fencers can fail to perform, weeds and vegetation on wires can drain the voltage and negate the entire purpose of the fence, and a scared animal can run right through the fragile wire if they are spooked enough.

Getting Started

Your local farm and supply store can help you choose a fencer unit that is best for your needs and the size of your fence. Some units feature built-in solar panels to further reduce power use in the daytime, which may be an attractive option for those living off the grid. Modern plastic insulators are sufficient for years of use, but can break down under sunlight after a few years. Porcelain insulators are an old and somewhat expensive standby, but when chipped can soak up moisture. If you use a modern high visibility polymer/wire rope or tape, you face the same degradation issues after a few years in some environments, while aluminum wire can last nearly forever.

An electric fence is the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to secure your garden or keep relatively tame animals within a given area. Combined with traditional fencing, it is a surefire way to have a highly effective fencing system. It is portable, uses nominal amounts of power, can be quickly installed with unskilled labor, and lasts years.

A tall multi-wire fence can even deter the most determined deer or wildlife, and can make a big difference in protecting the food you grow. In the end, the pros far outweigh the cons, and unless you are determined to have a completely electricity-free lifestyle, then there is no reason not to try an electric fence into your homestead and survival plans.

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‘Living Fences’: The Way Smart Homesteaders Get Extra Food, Fodder & Fuel

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'Living Fences': The Way Smart Homesteaders Get Extra Food, Fodder & Fuel

Image source: Pixabay.com

A quick drive through the countryside provides a glimpse at perfect fields, some still outlined with old growth trees. While the sight is common, more and more of these fence rows are being uprooted for modern fencing and big agricultural endeavors.

Living fences, made up of many types of trees, bushes and vines, have been utilized for centuries as an effective way to separate livestock, protect gardens and orchards and designate borders and public spaces. Although seemingly outdated, these fences are very efficient and provide many additional benefits.

Though not a quick solution to your fencing needs today, investing time and effort into growing and maintaining a living fence is rewarding for many homesteaders. Living fences, also known as hedgerows, involve a dense grouping of trees, shrubs and other plant life that form a barrier between areas on the homestead. These living fences take a few years to establish, but they can be sustained for hundreds of years with proper planning and ongoing maintenance.

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We’re not just talking about the beautifully trained espalier fruit trees that provide minimal ornamental fencing, but hardy trees and shrubs, both fruiting and non-fruiting, that are combined to create barriers that are strong enough and tall enough to even control larger livestock.

Why bother establishing living fences on your homestead? In short, living fences add much good to the land. They provide privacy, security, livestock control and serve as windbreaks, and also help purify the air and balance accessible nitrogen in the soil. Depending on the species selected for cultivation, these fences can provide food for the homesteader, fodder for their livestock, and may be selectively harvested as a source for fuel. The root system of an established hedgerow along waterways and other contoured landscaping will reduce or completely eliminate soil erosion. Furthermore, the presence of this dense vegetation tends to keep the rodent and pest populations in check.

'Living Fences': The Way Smart Homesteaders Get Extra Food, Fodder & Fuel

Image source: Pixabay.com

Urban homesteaders can benefit greatly from incorporating living fences into their plans. In addition to providing privacy, these fences reduce noise pollution, produce enough shade to lower utility costs and clean the air by trapping dust and other airborne contaminants. Dwarf fruit trees thrive as part of living fences, allowing urban homesteaders to glean a modest fruit harvest from necessary fencing without sacrificing valuable space for other endeavors.

There are numerous trees, shrubs, vines and hardy perennials that will thrive when grown as part of a hedgerow. As with most homesteading additions, planning the exact location and determining the intention for the fence will guide your species selection. Fencing needs will vary depending on the average size of your livestock, or based on the type of wildlife you expect to prevent from destroying your crops.

By far, the most popular species for quickly establishing hedgerows is the Osage orange tree, or hedge apple tree. It is a dense tree that provides a strong windbreak and excellent livestock control. Natural pest control, superior wood strength and hardiness in a wide variety of soil conditions make the Osage orange a good choice for many homesteaders. Other popular choices for living fences include honey locust, black locust, autumn olive, hawthorn and blackthorn.

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Fruit trees, such as apple, peach, pear and cherry, are easily incorporated into living fences. Willows, hazelnut and many others with pliable branches, can be inosculated, or grafted together to form a tight barrier. One distinct advantage to this type of fence is the development of the root system. As the trees grow into each other, they begin to utilize the root system of every grafted tree. This allows the hedgerow to continue to thrive, even if the root system of one individual tree dies.

Maintaining the fence or hedgerow is a must. Depending on the species growing in the hedgerow and the livestock being raised on your homestead, pruning may be as simple as allowing your livestock to graze the fence back. This will take careful monitoring to ensure it is not overgrazed, and some additional pruning may be necessary. Otherwise, heavy pruning is necessary to keep fencerows in check. Much of the pruning can be added to livestock feed, turned into mulch or even used to start new fences.

Do you incorporate living fences on your property? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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Alternative Feeds for Livestock

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Having some backup ideas and methods in place as alternate feeds is rarely a bad thing, especially if we’re counting on meat rabbits and chickens, eggs, and milk in a collapse or Great Depression situation.

The post Alternative Feeds for Livestock appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

6 Overlooked Questions Every Homesteader Must Ask Before Buying Livestock

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6 Overlooked Questions Every Homesteader Must Ask Before Buying Livestock

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The verdict is in, and you have decided to keep goats. Or raise pigs. Or cattle, or other livestock. You have considered all the factors that must be taken into account, such as your amount of space, quality and quantity of infrastructure, and climate. You have thought about your own needs, too, and how your animals will mesh with your already-existing schedule.

Those are wise considerations. But there are additional questions you will need to ask, both before you get started and as you go. Following are a few of those questions, and some pros and cons of each which might help you with your own decision-making process.

1. Will You Keep Heritage Breeds?

These are the breeds that are not kept by large-scale commercial farmers and are far fewer in number.

Pros: Often the reason these breeds have fallen from favor is because they are less conducive to factory farming, but they can be stronger, smarter, better tasting, or easier hand-milkers than their standard counterparts.

By keeping heritage breeds, you will help preserve an alternative choice. If a disease comes along which can decimate the more common breeds, genetic diversity is a real plus.

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If you are raising animals for profit, heritage breeds have top dollar potential. Many chefs and foodies are willing to pay a little extra for the flavors of meat and cheeses from these breeds. In addition, other farmers expect to pay more for live animals.

Cons: It can be difficult to find adequate breeding stock. And when you do find it, you are apt to pay more. When I kept Oberhasli goats — listed as “recovering” by The Livestock Conservancy — it was difficult for me to find a sufficiently unrelated male in my area.

Some heritage breeds might be more or less prone to certain diseases or parasites, potentially causing certain very rare breeds to be problematic for veterinary care.

2. Miniature vs. Full Size?

Cows, horses, donkeys, goats, sheep, pigs and even chickens usually come in two size ranges — standard and mini.

Pros of Miniatures: They require a smaller browsing and grazing area and need less barn space, enabling them to be kept on smaller homesteads. It costs less to feed smaller animals, and some minis have a higher percentage of yield per dollar spent.

The reason many people choose miniature animals for meat and dairy is for the reduced output which is often more suitable for a modest household. Too much milk every day or more than a freezer full of meat can be wasteful.

Smaller animals can be less intimidating choices for farmers with less experience or of smaller stature. In addition, miniature livestock are high on the cute-o-meter, making them more popular and resulting in higher sales.

6 Overlooked Questions Every Homesteader Must Ask Before Buying Livestock

Image source: Pixabay.com

Miniature goats breed year-round instead of only during a certain season, which might be either bad or good depending upon one’s specific needs.

Cons: Consider how the breed was developed. When I was searching for a miniature milk cow, one breeder warned me that they are sometimes crossed with half-wild smaller breeds, yielding the size I wanted but not the temperament.

DNA is not yet fully understood. The genes that create a smaller animal can have unintended side effects on factors such as disease resistance, intelligence and longevity.

Miniature milking animals — particularly goats — usually have miniature teats, making them harder and more tedious to milk.

3. Registered or Not?

The lineage of registered animals is recorded on a publicly accessible data base and maintained by an association specific to that species and type. For example, the American Quarter Horse Association, or the American Dairy Goat Association.

Pros of Registering: Keeping registered livestock will enable you to study the lineage of both parents before breeding, in order to predict genetics and manage inbreeding. A national registry simplifies sales and networking among breeders. When I listed some of my Oberhasli for sale, prospective buyers half a continent away could easily examine their lineage online.

While it is debatable whether a registered animal is of higher quality, some people say that it is the owners of registered animals who are more desirable. People who invest in pedigreed livestock may be less likely to tie them to a leaky doghouse out back and abandon them.

Cons: Then again, people going for reputation and prize money may push their animals beyond their comfort limits. Registered animals with minor aesthetic flaws are unmarketable as breeding animals and usually go for meat — not an inherent con, but a fact to consider.

Crossing two breeds can create what some people refer to as “hybrid vigor,” which is harder to achieve within a registered herd.

And don’t forget—by registering your animals, you put information about them on the Internet. If you would rather keep your livestock information private, registration might not work for you.

4. Horns or no Horns?

This is a tough one for some people. Horns can be problematic, but the idea of removing them can be off-putting. The easiest option is to choose breeds which are naturally polled, meaning that the breed or strain has been developed without horns.  That isn’t possible or practical for all species, however. Animals such as Texas Longhorn cattle and Jacob sheep are popular because of their horns, so polled varieties are not going to be found. In goats, polled varieties are not achievable because breeding polled-to-polled yields undesirable side effects.

Pros of Removing Them: There will be more options available for the animal long term. If you have ever tried to re-home a full-grown animal with horns, you know it can be difficult. For many species and breeds, horned animals are less desirable. There are also strict rules within some registries and sanctioned shows regarding horns.

Horned animals can injure humans, one another and themselves. They can get their horns stuck in fences and in one another’s collars.

Cons: Horns can act as built-in handles, allowing a human to steer and control the animal. They are natural air-conditioners, too.

The process of cutting off horns or burning horn buds is hard for soft-hearted folks like me. Animals feel pain, and removing horns is painful no matter how it is done.

When choosing between keeping horns or removing them, allow me to offer this word of caution: It is inadvisable to mix them. Animals are acutely aware of the presence of horns on both themselves and others, and those with them can bully those without.

5. Preventative Parasite Control

6 Overlooked Questions Every Homesteader Must Ask Before Buying Livestock

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The traditional method has been to administer parasite control to every individual whether they needed it or not, but current wisdom is leaning toward the philosophy of less is more.

Pros of Prevention: Regular worming, dips and topical applications can free you from worry and require less monitoring. Many buyers require an animal to be up to date on worming, and lots of veterinarians continue to recommend it.

Avoiding preventative worming requires diligent observation practices, such as hands-on inspections, fecal exams and a keen eye for subtle changes. If something slips by the farmer, it can spiral out of control quickly.

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Cons: Overtreatment can cultivate superbugs. Worming kills off only the parasites that are easy to kill, leaving the rest to mutate into medication-resistant strains.

Allowing an animal to encounter and fight off an infestation on its own builds up parasite resistance on the farm. By treating only the sick animals, the overall herd health is improved. Most veterinarians I have spoken with are strongly in favor of using anti-parasitic treatments only as needed.

6. Keeping a Breeding Male

Let’s face it, the boys can be a handful. And around the farm, they really only have one function while they are living.

Pros of Breeding: Finding a breeding male can be challenging — research for the right genetics, make arrangements for a rental, and worry about transportation of either him or your females. You might have to watch your stock carefully for signs of estrus, and then be ready to skip a day of work to load up your livestock trailer and make your way through a thunderstorm snowstorm.

Cons: They chase the girls, smell up the barnyard, negatively affect the taste of goat’s milk, are often hard to handle and can occasionally even be dangerous. Keeping your own breeding stock means separate living quarters, which around my house includes shoveling an extra path and lugging extra water all winter and setting up extra fencing all summer.

You can choose artificial insemination instead, which has its own set of challenges.

There is little doubt that the practice of keeping livestock can be complicated. Along with work and responsibility, it comes with new questions which must be asked and answered every day. If you are among those who have decided to raise livestock of your own, be encouraged. The work is achievable and the answers are attainable, and the rewards are worth it all.

What advice would you add on buying livestock? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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Survival Homesteading: Crop Production and Storage for Livestock

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

One of the hardest cords to cut for homesteaders is dependence on commercial feeds. However, I’ve put together some ideas for root vegetables that can cut some of our feed bills and feed dependency and alternative or “forgotten” ways of storing and using grains.

The post Survival Homesteading: Crop Production and Storage for Livestock appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

How To Make A Super-Durable Chick Brooder That Will Last For Years

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How To Make A Super-Durable Chick Brooder That Will Last For Years

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The ancient Egyptians and Chinese are credited with inventing the first egg incubators, but it wasn’t until the late 1800s that the first commercial incubators were used.

Thus began the earnest attempt by poultry breeders to reduce the hen’s instinct to hatch her eggs.

Today, many laying breeds of poultry have almost no instinct to set on, and then hatch their eggs. So for the most part, you’ll have to resort to purchasing day-old chicks from a hatchery, or incubating the eggs and hatching them yourself.

The first thing you’ll need when your chicks hatch or arrive from the hatchery is a brooder to keep them in until they are old enough to regulate their own body heat without an outside source.

For a small number of chicks, brooders can be made from just about type of container. I’ve seen everything from cardboard boxes and baby pools, to large watering troughs.

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What I’ll show you can easily be used to brood up to 50 chicks until they are ready for the coop or pasture pen. Plus, it’s durable.

The materials you will need to make the brooder hover are:

  • 1 – 4×8 sheet of plywood
  • 4 – 2x4x8
  • A box of 1 1/2 inch screws

Start with placing two of the 2x4s about four feet apart and laying the sheet of plywood on top of them. Slide the 2x4s out to the edge of the plywood and screw them tight. Flip the plywood over and get a measurement for the ends. Cut two pieces for the ends and screw them on. At this point, you will have a sheet of plywood that is framed around the edges with a 2×4.

How To Make A Super-Durable Chick Brooder That Will Last For Years

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Next, take the remaining 2×4 and cut it into two-foot pieces. These will be the four legs of the brooder. Screw the four legs on each corner. You now have basically a two-foot-high plywood table. You will brood the chicks under the table. The heat is regulated by moving the lamps up or down and covering the sides with fabric.

Measure approximately 12 inches from the end and 24 inches from the side on each end. Drill or saw a hole at these locations big enough for an electric cord. This will be for using two heat lamps to regulate the temperature.

You can use any type of fabric to hang from the sides of the brooder to hold in the heat. I’ve used everything from feed sacks to old T-shirts. If you place the brooder in a corner, you’ll only need to cover the two sides that are open.

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Once you have the brooder in place where you want it, simply pull the heat lamp cords up through the holes you drilled and place the lamps as high as they will go. You can adjust them later once you check the temperature.

Place a thermometer on the floor under the heat lamps and turn on the lamps. You will want the temperature to be around 95 degrees Fahrenheit for the first few days. Adjust the height of the lamps to obtain the right temperature.

If your brooder is in the barn or other unheated area, be aware of temperature changes. A 30-degree night might need the lamps adjusted compared to a 60-degree day. The key is to watch the chicks. If they are huddled under the lamps, it’s too cold. If they are wandering around throughout the brooder, it is a good sign.

Once the birds are feathered out, they are ready to move to another location.

This is a simple and easy brooder to make, and when you’re done you can store it easily for the next batch of chicks.

What advice would add for making a brooder? Share your tips in the section below:

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Find Out More Here.

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6 Ways To Predator-Proof Your Livestock (No. 4 Is The One Everyone Forgets)

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6 Ways To Predator-Proof Your Livestock (No. 4 Is The One Everyone Forgets)

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Every organism needs to eat. It is a fact of life. Another fact is that a hungry creature is going to expend the least possible amount of energy it takes in order to reap the greatest possible reward.

For example, you would not walk a mile to get a banana if you could get a similar one by walking into the next room. Nor would you buy food for which you had to work three hours to earn the money for it, in lieu of buying comparable food for which you had to work only a half hour.

Animals operate similarly. If they can get your chickens more easily than they can catch a wild bird, they will. Like us, they weigh the costs and benefits. We compare cheap food with unsavory side effects to that which is higher cost and higher value. A wild predator, too, will have to take into account that scoring a chicken or lamb comes at the cost of ranging dangerously close to humans.

Do not hate wildlife. They are not evil beings for menacing your livestock. It’s nothing personal. They just want to eat the best food they can, at the lowest cost to themselves.

It is the job of the farmer and homesteader to make the potential cost of eating domestic animals so high that wild predators move along and choose a different option.

Diatomaceous Earth: The All-Natural De-Wormer For Your Livestock

At my place, we have an implicit agreement. My animals provide me with eggs, milk, brush clearing, poison ivy control, meat, and hides. In return, I give food, shelter, health care, decent living conditions, and as much protection as I can.

There are some things you can do to keep your domestic animals off the raw local foods menu.

1. Control your livestock’s whereabouts. This seems simple and obvious, and it usually is. Keeping your animals surrounded by fence, inside a barn, and near to the house is your first line of defense. The ability and need to do this varies among species, across geography, and even day to day. Beef cattle might live out on the range with less protection than week-old turkey poults, but they are less vulnerable. Small ruminants are often safe out grazing during the day but are better off being locked up in the barn at night.

6 Ways To Predator-Proof Your Livestock (No. 4 Is The One Everyone Forgets)

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2. Control predator access. We use a high-voltage charger on our electric mesh fencing and have been asked by visitors if that much punch is really necessary to keep goats in. The answer is no, but the fence’s primary purpose is not to keep goats in. It is to keep predators out.

Portable electric fence won’t keep out all predators and won’t operate year-round in some climates. Physical barriers can also be effective. Fence openings need to be small enough to keep out whatever species of predators are the greatest threat. I have heard of cases where a weasel repeatedly got into the chickens, and the owners kept replacing the enclosure until they got down to one inch mesh before they were able to stop the attacks.

Concerns of predators digging under fences can be allayed by burying the fence below the surface.

3. Use a deterrent. There are countless methods on the market, from electronic motion-sensor gadgets that emit light and sound to animal urine to deterrent powders. There are old-fashioned decoys available, such as lifelike owl statues to scare off birds. Some people advocate old-timey remedies such as scattering human hair or urine around the perimeter. As for the effectiveness of these methods, there are probably as many opinions as there are types of deterrents. If you see something that makes sense to you, try it. It might work for you but not for someone else, or vice versa.

4. Be present. The more time you spend out in the barnyard and beyond, the more it screams “Humans Live Here!” to hungry hunters scouting the area. Walk around the outer reaches of your property as much as you can, leaving the scent from the bottom of your shoes that will be off-putting to predators. I make sure my dog and I crisscross the area between the habitats of domestic and wild animals every day, just to let them know we’re still around.

5. Bring in some hired bodyguards. I don’t mean the kind of people who surround the president’s motorcade. I mean the kind of no-nonsense animals for whom barnyard security is a way of life. Livestock guardian dogs are often the go-to. They are usually big strong breeds with a streak of independence and the ability to make their own decisions. The need to protect their flocks and herds is in their genes, and some of them even sleep during the day and patrol the perimeter at night.

If a dog is not right for your budget or training skills, consider a guard llama or donkey. These animals are often used to keep goats and sheep safe from predation, and are known not only for engaging in physical combat when necessary but also for making some serious noise when a threat is afoot.

Sometimes an alarm call is sufficient. The loud bray of a donkey or screech of a guinea fowl warns everyone within earshot whether they speak the same language or not. When my dogs bark at something out front of the house, the goats browsing way out back drop everything and stampede to the barn. It’s a universal call of danger, and everyone gets it.

6 Ways To Predator-Proof Your Livestock (No. 4 Is The One Everyone Forgets)

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Barnyard animals will often seek the protection of one another on their own. My chickens follow the goats, not only to pick over anything left behind, but for safety in numbers.

6. When all else fails, do what you have to do. If it is legal to shoot a persistent barnyard stalker where you live and you have the ability to do so, sometimes that is the only answer. We had a fox after the chickens one summer, growing increasingly bold until it was slinking into the chicken pen in daylight hours while people were in the garden less than 50 yards away. We knew it was him or the chickens, and my husband lay in wait one morning and got him.

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Remember to make sure it is legal. Many states make exceptions to licensing and season laws for farmers, but not all do. And most laws regarding birds of prey are very strict. A bald eagle came after my chickens last summer, and the best we could do was keep them indoors for a few days until the eagle got bored and moved on. It is never legal under any circumstances to kill or injure an eagle, and laws regarding many other birds of prey are prohibitive as well.

Some people prefer trapping. I personally do not believe in it. Leg hold traps are dangerous to domestic animals and can cause the perpetrator to suffer unduly. Have-a-Heart traps do no physical harm to the animal, and can result in relocating a creature. I will not deny that traps are the best option for certain situations, so use your own judgement.

Extra vigilance is required in some seasons. Predation threats to livestock naturally increase when wild food is more scarce or harder to access. Winter conditions can cause hunters to become desperate, and can cause barnyard animals to become more easily attainable. Snowpack makes scaling fences easier and muffles sound.

Spring births place livestock more at risk, as well, for all the reasons one might expect — the birth event, possible weakness and distraction of the mother, and the irresistibility of the newborn tasty morsel.

If your predator threat is significant, you may well not be successful using just one method of predation protection. Livestock guardian dogs are extremely effective but not foolproof, and most of the other methods are imperfect. A combination of two or more methods is wise, especially if you change them up occasionally and ramp them up in periods of higher threats.

At the end of the day, while you cannot blame a hungry coyote or bobcat for wanting an easy meal, you will still be responsible for the safety of your livestock. Use these ideas and due diligence to stay one step ahead of predators and keep your animals from becoming victims of predation.

Related:

The 6 Easiest Ways To Protect Your Chickens From Predators

What advice would you add on keeping predators away? Share your tips in the section below:

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Find Out More Here.

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Antibiotic Resistance on the Move

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New Development in Antibiotic Resistance

A new study came out on Tuesday that investigates the way antibiotic resistance spreads on pig farms, and beyond.  What did they find?  Well, let’s just say that what happens on the pig farm doesn’t necessarily stay on the pig farm.

The study was led by Michigan State University’s Center for Microbial Ecology, with help from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the USDA National Animal Disease Center.

The Abridged Version

Working with pigs from a lab in the US, and pig farms in China, the researchers identified and sequenced 44 genes that are related to antibiotic resistance, and its distribution on pig farms.

What they found is a little alarming, but it shouldn’t be too surprising if you’ve been following along.  They found that there is a direct correlation between bacteria that can resist antibiotics, and the ability of those bacteria to spread their resistant traits to other bacteria.

In other words, the bacteria haven’t only learned to resist antibiotics – they have also learned to spread that resistance to their neighbors.

New Insights into Multidrug Resistance

On a pig farm, there is a rich and dense population of pig bacteria.  That’s not a bad thing in and of itself.  The same could be said for a large, centralized population of any other living thing – including humans.

When any particular antibiotic is used, bacteria can develop resistance to it.  So it stands to reason that bacteria may be resistant to antibiotics they have seen before, but they should be susceptible to antibiotics they have not seen before.

This study shows that it’s not that simple.  When one antibiotic is used, resistance to many antibiotics can increase.  The study identified single genes that lend resistance to 6 classes of antibiotics.

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Resistant Bacterial gone “Viral”

When multidrug resistance does develop, it can be passed between unrelated bacteria using a process known as horizontal gene transfer.

While science has been aware of the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and the concept of horizontal gene transfer, before now – this new research shows a direct link between the two.

As a result, when one bacterium develops resistance to one drug, you can end up with a community of unrelated bacteria that possess resistance to many drugs.

The study’s authors go so far as to say that “multidrug-resistant bacteria are likely the norm rather than the exception in these communities.”

There Goes the Neighborhood

Now for the really interesting part!

They also looked at soil from Chinese vegetable farms that use manure-based fertilizer.  In the fertilized soil, they found completely different bacteria than they found on the pig farm – as you would expect.

But the completely different bacteria in the soil did possess the same multidrug-resistant genes that they found on the pig farm.  Yikes!

According to Yongguan Zhu, co-author from the Chinese Academy of Science, “This indicates that on the Chinese farms, the potential for resistance gene transfer among environmental bacteria is likely.”  So, what happens on the pig farm does not stay on the pig farm.

Read more about antimicrobial resistance: Antimicrobial Resistance in the News

The Bottom Line for the Biome

Slowly but surely, the scientific community is arriving at the realization that antibiotics in the food supply, and antibiotic misuse in general, are a direct threat to human welfare.

As soon as the problem of antibiotic resistance began popping up in hospitals around the world, there was a call to separate the antibiotics that are used for animals from the antibiotics that are used in human medicine.  Some people believed that if we reserved certain antibiotics for human use only, we could keep antibiotic-resistance confined to the farm.

No such luck.  The use of one antibiotic in either location – the farm or the hospital – can result in bacteria that are resistant to multiple drugs, and that resistance can probably be passed from one bacteria to another unrelated bacteria, in real time, across environmental barriers.

So what’s next?  The authors of this study suggest that we need to monitor and manage known genetic pools of antibiotic resistance.  And we need to begin reducing the presence of resistant genes on farms – which means cutting out the antibiotics.

paul-wheaton-6-ways-to-keep-chickens


 

Sources:

1: Antibiotic resistance genes increasing – http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2016/antibiotic-resistance-genes-increasing/
2: Clusters of Antibiotic Resistance Genes Enriched Together Stay Together in Swine Agriculture – http://mbio.asm.org/content/7/2/e02214-15

The post Antibiotic Resistance on the Move appeared first on The Grow Network.

‘Bullet-Proof’ Rural Home Security When You’re Miles (And Miles) From Police

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'Bullet-Proof' Home Security When You're Miles (And Miles) From Police

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Keeping your home safe in normal times really isn’t all that hard. Install a deadbolt or two, call your local alarm company and make sure your windows are all locked. That will take care of you for most situations. Of course, that’s in the city, where police can get to you rapidly, and it’s working under the assumption that the criminals you want protection from don’t want to attract attention.

But move out into the country and go off-grid, and the equation changes drastically. An alarm system isn’t going to bring police running, and neighbors probably won’t see what’s going on. Criminals won’t be worried about being caught, because they know that there’s no way the police can get there in time. Add in a disaster situation and you can forget about the police altogether.

People in these situations need to take care of their own home security. Actually, I have to say that we all do, considering that it takes an average of 11 minutes for police to respond to a 911 call, and the average home break-in is over in about 90 seconds. So, in a sense, we’re all off-grid when it comes to security.Start with the Right Alarm

Start with the Right Alarm

The typical alarm company will install a silent alarm, which will call the police if your perimeter is breached. Sensors on doors and windows activate if they are opened (and the alarm is not turned off). Some systems have motion detectors for the interior, as well, in case an intruder manages to bypass the perimeter sensors.

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'Bullet-Proof' Home Security When You're Miles (And Miles) From PoliceThe big fallacy with this sort of system is that it doesn’t activate until the intruder is already entering the home. You don’t want to wait that long. That’s why natural alarms are much better. Dogs, donkeys and guinea hens will all start making a racket the moment that an intruder steps foot on your property.

These aren’t silent alarms that call the police; they are noisy alarms to let you know what is going on. Hearing your natural alarm go off gives you an opportunity to take action, before the intruder enters your home.

You might also want to consider some sort of perimeter alarm, such as trip wires. The problem is that you need to build the trip wire in such a way that you’ll be able to hear it from within the house or anywhere on your property; otherwise, the trip wire doesn’t accomplish a thing.

Harden Your Home

The second step in this process is making it hard for any intruder to get into your home. There’s an old saying that “locks keep honest people honest.” The way that works is that if it is hard enough to break into your home, most people will give up. So, don’t just depend on a deadbolt to keep your home safe; make your doors and windows harder to break through.

The weakness for most entry doors is that the deadbolt goes into the door frame, with the striker plate held in place by ¾-inch screws. The average man can kick through that door, breaking the deadbolt out through the door frame, without much effort. But by changing out the normal striker plate out for a security striker plate, installed with 3 ½-inch long screws, you make it much stronger. Use the same screws for the hinges, and the door becomes very hard to kick open.

Of course, there are other things you can do to strengthen your door, like using a prop against the door. This old-fashioned method of securing a door is as effective today as it ever was. Simply cut a 2×4 or 2×6 to the correct length, to go from below the door knob to the base of the opposite wall. I don’t care how strong someone is — they aren’t going to get that to move.

'Bullet-Proof' Home Security When You're Miles (And Miles) From PoliceWindows are usually the weakest access point on any home, simply because they are made of glass. It doesn’t take much to break through a piece of glass, and any rock sitting around will do. But you can make windows much stronger by adding burglar bars or by installing security window film on the inside of the windows. While the film can’t totally stop them from breaking out the window, it will take them long enough that you’ll have time to stick a gun up their nose.

Finally, Be Ready to Repel Boarders

Ultimately, you yourself are the best security for your home. Unless you spend the money to build an indestructible bank vault for a home, there’s always a way to get in for someone who really wants to. Alarms and hardening your home are merely means of giving you time to react. Yes, those things might scare off some intruders, but the really serious ones will come on anyway. That’s when you need to be ready.

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Firearms have been called the great equalizer. With them, a small woman becomes able to defeat a large man. When you have firearms and are trained in their use, you become the best security system around. Even if they do manage to get through your hardened door or window, if you meet them with a gun in your hand, you’ve probably already won.

Most criminals aren’t proficient in the use of firearms, but you can’t count on that. Even though they mostly use firearms to intimidate, there are a few that enjoy target shooting, just for the fun of it. So, you can’t count on them being poor shots. What you can count on is your own training. Take the time to learn how to shoot well so that you can beat any criminal at their own game.

Keep in mind that a criminal isn’t going to stand there; they’re going to move and there’s a chance they’re going to shoot back. So, your training must include shooting at moving targets, shooting quickly, shooting while moving, shooting in low light and shooting from cover. Then, and only then, are you truly ready to defend your home from an intruder.

Related:

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What advice would you add to this story? How would you protect a rural home? Share your home-defense tips in the section below:

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4 All-Natural Livestock De-Wormers That Experts Use

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4 All-Natural Livestock De-Wormers That Experts Use

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Many small farmers and homesteaders use natural wormers for livestock in place of chemical alternatives. As with any alternative health protocol, do your research and consult with your veterinarian before starting any treatment protocol for parasites.

Let’s first discuss why you might consider an alternative to chemical wormers. Chemical wormers are easily obtained, easily administered, and touted as the answer to parasite infestations.

However, as with most chemical concoctions that can be used on the homestead, they come with some possible side-effects that you may want to consider.

One of the most prevalent side-effects of chemical wormers: Parasites may develop resistance, meaning that eventually they won’t be effective on your livestock and you’ll need to change wormers.

Diatomaceous Earth: The Best Natural De-Wormer For Your Livestock

Another consideration is the residual chemicals that can be deposited in your soil when the wormer passes through your stock.

If you are raising livestock for meat consumption, you should consider the residual chemicals that may remain in your meat. If you sell your products to others, many of today’s consumers do not want to risk chemical residues in their meat.

4 All-Natural Livestock De-Wormers That Experts Use

Image source: Pixabay.com

If you want to avoid the possibility of your wormer not working and the residual complications associated with chemical wormers, then consider some of these alternatives:

1. Herbal wormers. There are many pre-formulated herbal wormers available commercially for different types of livestock. You can also research and formulate your own. Be aware that herbs are powerful, and that caution should be used when mixing and dispensing to livestock.

2. Diatomaceous earth (DE). Food-grade diatomaceous earth is approved as an anti-caking agent in animal feeds. Make certain you obtain food grade, as other grades of diatomaceous earth are poisonous to animals or humans. For the best results, use DE continuously as a feed supplement.

3. Essential oils. Lots of small farmers have successfully used essential oils as an alternative worming protocol. Many of these oils should be diluted with a carrier oil such as coconut or olive oil before adding them. Some of the most common are: clove, nutmeg, fennel, vetiver, cumin, anise, tea tree, Idaho tansy, thyme and laurel leaf.

4. Garlic. Fresh garlic or garlic powder can be used as a wormer. Introduce the garlic over several days, to get the stock accustomed to it, increasing the amount over time. Garlic acts quickly on existing adult worms.

The best way to keep your livestock free of parasites is to use a regularly scheduled worming routine and practice good prevention methods.

Avoid keeping animals in close quarters for long periods of time. A good prevention method for keeping parasites to minimum is rotating your stock to clean pastures and shelters on a regular basis.

To test for parasite levels in your stock, it is best to have a veterinarian perform a fecal examination test — or you can learn to do these yourself.

As with any farming practices, do some research, test your methods and observe the results.

What are your favorite ways to de-worm your livestock? Share your advice in the section below:

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Find Out More Here.

Animal Communications: It’s Not Magic

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Communicating with Your Animals

He was running at me full on.  I stopped him at arms length by grabbing his neck.  This was true one on one animal communications.

I then shook him; not hard enough to hurt him, but firm enough that he knew I could break his neck if I wanted to.

My two eyes looked into his one for a long moment and then I slowly released my hand.  The communication between us was absolutely clear and he understood.

Training Male Geese

I have a new young flock of geese and it is almost a rite of passage that the leading male would someday challenge me.  He was almost full grown and the biggest of the flock.  And now he was testing his boundaries and wondering just how much authority he had in the world.

I feed, water, and protect them and I am very clear about our relationship.  And now he and the rest of the flock were clear too.

I will sometimes sit very still and let the geese come and look me over very closely, and even do some exploratory nibbles.  Is that grass on her head edible?  What do her changing feathers feel like?  How does she make the long snake spit water?  They are very curious, but never aggressive.  Especially now that we’ve ‘talked’.

Another reason to raise geese: The Barefoot Friendly Project; Transforming Harsh Land

Animal Communications – More than Just Talking

There are many different levels of communication between species.  And in fact you are communicating with all of the plants and creatures around you all the time.  Although you are probably not as aware of your message as they are.

The phrase “inter species communication” normally conjures up images of specially gifted mystics.  Maybe some one who can hear something we can’t – it’s just out of our frequency range.  Or perhaps it is a magical ability like the psychics who can also conduct seances to talk with loved ones now past into the world of the dead.

But communicating with plants and animals doesn’t have to be supernatural.

I am not discounting the direct ‘knowing’ levels of communication.  And yes, if you were to focus on developing that ability over time, those intuitive levels of communication may very well open to you.  In fact, I think it happens quite naturally for anyone who spends enough time in their garden or working with their livestock.

But most inter species communication is much more practical and easy to understand.

It’s Not Magic, It’s Physical

Have you ever heard the saying “your actions speak louder than words”?  The physical level of communication is extremely effective and is within reach of anyone, without any training.  Not to mention, it is something you are doing all the time anyway.

There are estimates that some 90% of communication is non-verbal. These are studies referring to human to human communications, but it applies to plants and animals too.  Your body posture, the quality or cleanliness of your clothes, your hand gestures, and the expression on your face, the smell your body is emitting – all of this communicates your mood and intentions.

There is also some degree of reality to that “vibe” you put out that others pick up on.

Different Ways of Communication

There really are many ways of communicating.  And this is quite useful since most of the other life forms on this planet don’t quite vocalize the way we do.

For example, once I had shaken that goose, he stepped back quickly with his head slightly tilted expressing a bit of shock.  When he was a few feet away, at a safe distance away from me, he began to compose himself by preening his feathers.

Watching him made me laugh at the recognition of an almost universal response after an altercation; that of grooming.  Embarrass a cat and it will almost immediately start licking its fur.  And humans once separated will start straightening their clothes and smoothing their disheveled hair.  A hen getting up from the rooster’s rough attentions indignantly ruffles her feathers back into shape.

My laugh was not derogatory, but served as a peace offering sound and let everyone know all was well in the world.  The rest of the flock who had been watching this with interest now cackled back in response, and everyone started moving off to find something else to do like nibble at some nearby grass.

Learning from Your Animals

I had learned about the power of laughter between species from two ferrets.

Don’t ask me why we have two ferrets.  We certainly don’t need any ferrets.  And we don’t really want two ferrets.  I can’t honestly think of any good reason to have ferrets.  But I have a young daughter who gets money for working, and she was convinced that buying ferrets was the best use of her hard earned funds.  Sigh.

Since we have the ferrets (ah, the relentless pressure of children), I can’t help but be fascinated by them.  One thing that interests me is that when I let the ferrets run free in a new area where they aren’t normally allowed in, they get so excited.  They jump around and make a funny sound sort of like a cross between a grunt and a gurgle.  That sound is so captivating (I’ve been trying to catch it on video and when I do, I’ll get it to you).  But what was it they were doing?

Then one day it occurred to me they were laughing with joy!  The ferrets definitely share the playfulness of their cousins the otters.  They are amazingly good-natured creatures and love having fun.  “Mommy they exude cuteness,” my daughter explains.  (They exude a few other things too but I won’t go into that here.)

But the ferrets were so happy they would laugh out load as they ran and played.

Sometimes they playfully come up and nip my feet and then bound away – chuckling the whole time.  I stand there dumb founded at the audacity of these eight ounce bundles of silliness daring themselves to play with a giant.  It’s completely disarming.

My daughter is right, they do exude cuteness.

Read about my daughter’s other pet: The Perfect Natural Camouflage

Pay Attention to Signals from Your Animals

The ferrets got me in trouble with the chickens.  One morning I decided to let the ferrets run about with me while I was working in the garden.  And as the ferrets did their jumping and playing and investigating they naturally came across the flock of chickens I keep for eggs.  Although these ferrets are pets and probably would never consider eating anything but the store bought supplies my daughter gives them, they were recognized by the chickens for what they are; carnivores.  And the chickens were upset.

The flock is free range so they moved off to another part of the yard.  But later that day when I saw the chickens again the rooster rushed me.  I easily kicked him back.  But from the way he looked sort of satisfied and did not come at me again, I became ashamed of my earlier annoyance.  The rooster had been trying to get my attention in about the only way a rooster knows how.  I was mystified what he was trying to communicate.  And then it dawned on me, he was letting me know how upset the chickens were at the ferrets being loosed in their space.

Read more: Channel Your Mama-Energy for Healthy Homestead Animals

Tell Pests to Leave Before You Kill Them

Before we built our home, our little family lived in a 20×20 room above the barn.  Mice also had quite an attachment to that room.  My husband whom I don’t normally think much of a big communicator totally shocked me with his solution to the problem.  He started by stomping around growling at the top of his lungs in the meanest bad-ass animal sounds I’ve ever heard come from a man.  He did this for quite a few minutes making sure to visit each corner to insure his message was being received.

Then he set out some traps.  But I think the mice got the message from his growls for we didn’t trap many and generally weren’t bothered by them again.  From then on, if an occasional new mouse showed up my husband would repeat the warning and that usually took care of the problem.

We aren’t always successful with communications.  I’ve tried communicating with fire ants for many years without success.

Dealing with Predators – Livestock Guardian Dogs

As you start to develop systems for producing your own food, you’ll notice that lots of other creatures like your food too.  After years of losses of both livestock and plants I came to the see how extremely useful a pair of good dogs could be.  In no way am I a professional animal trainer, and I had never been a “dog person,” but using dogs to protect your food supply made so much sense I had to learn.

The dogs live to chase off deer, raccoons, squirrels, and other dogs.  They will harass snakes, bark at hawks, and hold off a pack of coyotes until I can get there to help.  They don’t mind working all night while I sleep.  And they consider themselves well rewarded by a bit of praise and the scraps I toss them.

In the Grow Your Own Groceries video set, I have a section that goes into detail of how to work with dogs – and of course, you can pick up a copy at this link: http://growyourowngroceries.com/.

Embracing New Relationships

Opening up my relationships with other living beings beyond humans is one of the many pleasures of growing my own food.  Let me know your interest level and I’ll write more about inter-species communication.  Talking with plants is not quite as direct and requires more sensitivity, but can definitely be developed.  As with animals, learning to communicate on the physical level with plants is the easiest way to get started.

Drop me a note in the comments section below to let me know if you’re interested in communicating with plants.  I’m sure you have some interesting stories to tell…

I am also intrigued with communication on even more subtle levels; working with energetics or nature spirits as was reputably done at Findhorn, for example.

And then there is that other topic to deal with; how can I love the creatures I am raising knowing their fate is that I will kill them and eat them?  It is a difficult question that I struggle with and would be delighted to discuss with you.  Again, let me know your interest by putting a quick comment down below.

3 Part Series about Ethical Meat: Have You Ever Been to a Hog Killin’?

marjory-wildcraft-how-much-land-do-you-need

The post Animal Communications: It’s Not Magic appeared first on The Grow Network.

3 Shocking Ways Off-Grid Living Is Slowly Being Banned In America (And Canada)

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3 Shocking Ways Off-Grid Living Is Being Slowly Banned In America (And Canada)

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Off-grid living is slowly and methodically being regulated out of existence by many local governments throughout the United States and Canada, an Off The Grid News analysis has found.

Although there certainly are places where living off the gird is perfectly legal, there also are quite a few locations in America and Canada where zoning regulations, building codes and other local ordinances are driving those who wish to live off the grid out of many communities.

OTGN examined laws and news stories from across North America and discovered glaring examples of government regulation:

1. Livestock regulations.

The city of Visalia, California, threatened Gingi Freeman with a $1,000-a-day fine for keeping two Nigerian Dwarf Goats – which are the size of small or medium-sized dogs — in her yard. Freeman used the goats to provide milk for her babies. The mother of two is unable to produce breast milk because of surgery she had as a teenager.

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“My only options were to use formula or get breast milk from donors. There have been a couple times where we ran out of breast milk donations,” Freeman said.

Elsewhere, animal control officers seized three pygmy goats and six chickens from Dave and Sky Brown’s urban farm in the largely deserted Riverdale, Michigan, neighborhood in 2014. The officers were accompanied by police.

The animals were taken in an effort to enforce an ordinance against unlawful farm animals. At the time of the seizure, Sky Brown was worried that the animals could be killed by authorities.

The Browns were particularly upset because an animal control officer used a net to catch the chickens before they were put in crates and taken away.

“There are gun shots every night,” Brown wrote of her neighborhood. “There are meth addicts blowing up houses within blocks of us, and the city of Detroit finds it more relevant to rip screaming pets out of the hands of their devastated owners.”

3 Shocking Ways Off-Grid Living Is Being Slowly Banned In America (And Canada)

Image source: Pixabay.com

Disturbingly, it could be illegal to keep livestock even on rural property in some parts of Michigan. The state’s Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development ruled in 2014 that local governments have the right to ban livestock from any area zoned residential. That would include subdivisions outside the city limits.

The action will “effectively remove Right to Farm Act protection for many urban and suburban backyard farmers raising small numbers of animals,” Gail Philbin of the Michigan Sierra Club told Michigan Live. The Right to Farm Act is a state law that protects farmers from nuisance lawsuits and zoning regulations.

2. Utility regulations.

Simply refusing to connect to utilities is now illegal and punishable by fines or even evictions in many places. Some people have been told they cannot live in their own homes because they refuse to connect to utilities.

Robin Speronis of Cape Coral, Florida, was evicted from her own home by city officials. Her offense: She was not hooked up to the city’s water system. Speronis was cited by a code enforcement officer after she told a local television that she was living without utilities. Interestingly, city officials admitted that Speronis did not have to use the water simply; she simply needed to be connected. Even the magistrate who initially upheld Speronis’ conviction acknowledged that the case was irrational. (Listen to an interview with Speronis here.)

Just 30 Grams Of This Survival Superfood Provides More Nutrition Than An Entire Meal!

“Reasonableness and code requirements don’t always go hand-in-hand … given societal and technical changes (that) requires review of code ordinances,” Special Magistrate Harold S. Eskin said.

Speronis was not alone. Officials in Clark’s Harbour, Nova Scotia, refused to grant Cheryl Smith a certificate of occupancy for her new home because it did not have wiring for smoke detectors and ventilation systems. The home violated a building code that requires such a setup.

3 Shocking Ways Off-Grid Living Is Being Slowly Banned In America (And Canada)

Image source: Pixabay.com

A refusal to install smoke detectors almost got an off-grid Amish family evicted from their home in Eau Claire County, Wisconsin. Wisconsin Watchdog reported that Amos and Vera Borntreger had to retain a lawyer and go to court to keep county inspectors from evicting them and their six children from their home.

The couple had refused to install smoke detectors because such devices violate their Amish faith. The smoke detectors were mandated by the Uniform Dwelling Code or UDC, a common national building code. A judge actually issued the eviction order, which was later retracted.

“Eau Claire County has the unfortunate distinction of being the only county in the United States that has used placard eviction to put an Amish family out of their home,” said David Mortimer, the spokesman for the local chapter of the National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom.

Meanwhile, using a septic tank is banned in some areas, as North Carolina resident Ingrid Larsen discovered. The Southeast Brunswick Sanitary District would not let Larsen use a septic tank because there already is a sewer line near her property. (Listen to an interview with Larsen here.)

Larsen refused to use the sewer system because in 2005 a sewage pumping station failed and caused 10,000 gallons of human waste to flood her home. The waste was so toxic that her home had to be demolished.

3. Gardening banned.

Even growing a vegetable garden can lead to expensive fines and harassment from authorities.

Hermine Ricketts and her husband, Tom Carroll, were given a choice of tearing out their 17-year-old organic vegetable garden or face a $50-a-day fine. Officials in Miami Shores, Florida, ordered the garden torn out for aesthetic reasons; it was in the front yard.

“We are already feeling the impact of shopping for overpriced organic food,” Ricketts told The Miami Herald.

The city eventually backed down.

Need Non-GMO Seeds For Your Garden? The Best Deals Are Here!

Jennifer and Jason Helvenston of Orlando, faced a $500-a-day fine, also for planting a vegetable garden in their front yard. The home lacks a back yard.

The two had to lobby the city council with a petition to get the ordinance overturned. They also organized a movement called Patriot Garden, which encouraged residents to plant radishes in their front yards as an act of civil disobedience.

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

Elsewhere, Julie Bass of Oak Park, Michigan, was threatened with a 93-day jail sentence for planting a vegetable garden in her own front yard in 2011, ABC News reported. Bass faced jail for planting green tomatoes, zucchini and baby peppers in five large planters outside of her home in a Detroit suburb. She had permission from her neighbors to install the planters.

“Michelle Obama plants vegetables on the White House front lawn. I don’t think the jury is going to think that it’s suitable for the White House, but it’s not suitable for Oak Park,” Bass’ attorney, Solomon Radner, told ABC News.

Josée Landry and Michel Beauchamp faced a fine of $100 to $300 a day for turning the front yard of their home in Drummondville, Quebec, into a vegetable garden.

The couple credited the garden for helping them lose a combined 100 pounds in weight. City officials demanded that the two tear out 70 percent of the garden to comply with a zoning ordinance, or face the fines. The ordinance required that 70 percent of the front yard be a lawn or a flower garden.

Officials backed down after 29,000 people signed a petition created by gardening advocate Roger Doiron, The Huffington Post reported.

What is your reaction to this story? Which side do you take? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Are You Prepared For A Downed Grid? Read More Here.

The 3 Easiest Low-Maintenance Livestock For Homestead Meat

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The 3 Easiest Low-Maintenance Livestock For Homestead Meat

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So you’re thinking about adding livestock to your homestead? Consider low-maintenance livestock.

“Low maintenance” can mean many different things depending on your situation, but my definition is livestock that takes the minimal amount of time, energy and money to care for.

Here are what many homesteaders consider the four best:

1. Weaning or feeder pigs – Buying pigs when they are weaned from a farmer and raising them to slaughter weight is a good way to provide meat for the homestead.

Diatomaceous Earth: The Best All-Natural De-Wormer For Your Livestock!

It is around a six- to eight-month commitment. You simply purchase in the spring and slaughter in the fall. This avoids carrying stock through the winter. Winter, in many parts of the country, will always mean more maintenance.

The 3 Easiest Low-Maintenance Livestock For Homestead Meat

Image source: Pixabay.com

Pigs are easily contained using electric fence. Make sure to give them plenty of room, and buy at least two at a time. If you can give them a pastured area, they will forage in addition to the feed you give them. Use a self-feeder and watering system, and watch them grow.

2. Broiler chickens – Raising meat chickens from chicks to slaughter can be done in as little as eight weeks. Purchase the day-old chicks from a reputable hatchery and once they are feathered out (usually in two weeks or so), it is only a matter of feeding and watering them daily until they reach about five or six pounds. Slaughtering can be done by a commercial facility or right in your own backyard.

3. Rabbits – Many rabbits are for pets, but pet breeds aren’t good for meat production. New Zealand Whites are a common breed for producing meat. Although rabbits can be raised in any climate, they prefer cooler weather. If you live in a hot climate, you’ll need to make sure they are kept cool by shading them and avoiding excessive heat.

Discover 1,147 Secrets Of Successful Off-Grid Living!

Due to the short cycle from birth to maturity, most rabbit farmers have breeding stock on hand, as purchasing young rabbits for slaughter isn’t common.

Still, breeding three or four females and raising the young for butcher isn’t a huge undertaking.

When it comes to butchering and processing rabbits, there are more slaughterhouses that are processing rabbits than ever before, due to the growing popularity of rabbit meat. Rabbits are easier than poultry to process at home, and once you’ve done it a few times, you can process a dozen rabbits in less than an hour.

What would you add to this list? Share your advice in the section below:

Harness The Power Of Nature’s Most Remarkable Healer: Vinegar

The Self-Reliance Manifesto: More Than 300 Resources to Guide You on the Path to Radical Freedom

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Self-Reliance. It’s a revolutionary word these days and I thought it deserved a manifesto.

Manifesto: noun man·i·fes·to ˌma-nə-ˈfes-(ˌ)tō

A declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the

Read the rest

The post The Self-Reliance Manifesto: More Than 300 Resources to Guide You on the Path to Radical Freedom appeared first on The Organic Prepper.

The 6 Easiest Ways To Protect Your Chickens From Predators

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The 6 Easiest Ways To Protect Your Chickens From Predators

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Predator populations in many parts of the country are on the rise. That means the chances of a predator finding and preying on your chickens is high if you don’t take every precaution to keep them at bay.

First, realize that predators are lazy opportunist. Most attacks on your flock will be because something was too tempting to pass up for a hungry critter. Predators that actually work to break in and steal chickens by chewing through the side of the hen house or digging for hours etc., are rogues that must be exterminated.

The best practice for predator control is to never give them an easy opportunity to dine on your chickens. Yet there is no one tactic that is all-encompassing. It’s more like a lot of little things all working together to keep predators away from your chickens. Here are some tips to help keep your flock safe and sound.

1. Inspect daily.

Do visual inspections daily for holes, loose wire and generally anything that looks out of place or in need of repair to keep predators out of your chickens. In addition, keep your eyes out for any signs of animals prowling around, looking for an easy meal. This could be tracks, scat, signs of chewing or digging, feathers scattered about, or anything that looks out of place. With larger flocks, predators can get a chicken a night and you’re none the wiser until you realize your flock is shrinking.

Diatomaceous Earth: The Best All-Natural Wormer For Your Livestock

This could be tracks, scat, signs of chewing or digging, feathers scattered about, or anything that looks out of place. With larger flocks, predators can get a chicken a night and you’re none the wiser until you realize your flock is shrinking.

2. Keep a rooster with your flock.

The 6 Easiest Ways To Protect Your Chickens From Predators

Image source: Pixabay.com

A good rooster is the first line of defense against predators. If a hawk, owl or any other flying menace comes into view on the horizon, my rooster immediately spots it and sounds the alarm that sends everyone running for cover. Over the years, I’ve lost a few good roosters to predators because they typically will sacrifice themselves to allow the hens to get to safety. I’ve even watched roosters discipline hens for not taking cover when the alarm was sounded. If you don’t see this kind of behavior in your rooster, it may be time to replace him with one that takes his job seriously.

3. Teach your chickens to roost in the coop, not outside.

Training your flock to return to the henhouse each night is as simple as keeping them inside the coop for a week or so when you first get them. Be certain to provide plenty of roosting area. This reinforces to the birds that the coop is home and where they should roost. With an older flock that has never been accustomed to roosting inside the coop, you also can establish the habit by keeping them inside for a couple of weeks. It usually takes a bit longer with older birds that have bad habits.

All The Answers To Every Chicken Question And Quandary …

Rogue birds that will not cooperate should be culled. If you allow a few birds to roost outside, it creates temptation for predators that would otherwise leave your birds alone. They eventually get one of the rogue birds and then become a rogue predator that goes out of its way to kill and eat chickens.

4. Don’t tempt unwanted critters.

The 6 Easiest Ways To Protect Your Chickens From Predators

Image source: Pixabay.com

Open feeders, garbage cans, animal carcasses, or any other type of food will draw unwanted attention to your farm. If a chicken dies, dispose of it immediately, preferably where no other animal will find and eat it.

5. Create an environment that discourages predators.

Predators aren’t fond of wide-open spaces. Keep hiding places to a minimum around coops and buildings. Weeds, piles of junk and lumber all give predators a place to hide that makes them feel more secure. Avoid it.

6. Keep a farm dog.

I have never been without a farm dog. Over the years, that has been one reason we have avoided coons, coyotes, foxes and other creatures of the night. Some dogs can be trusted with livestock … but others can’t. I’ve had both. If they can’t be left out with the flock running loose, I keep them contained until the chickens roost and then let them run the property for the night. Even a dog tied to the doghouse at night near the animals is a big deterrent to predators.

Finally, consider controlling the population of predators through ethical hunting and trapping, or invite someone else to do it for you.

Remember: Predator control is something accomplished daily – and not in a day.

What advice would you add to this list? Share your tips in the section below:

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Find Out More Here.

hydrogen peroxide report

The Dirt-Cheap, All-Natural Way To Make Your Livestock Grow Faster On Less Feed

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The Dirt-Cheap Livestock ‘Food’ That Boosts Growth And Cures Disease

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Water is a crucial element of life. We sometimes spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars to ensure we have clean pure water for our family.

But what about our livestock? How clean is the water you provide for your animals?

I’ve been guilty of looking into a water trough and thinking, “Wow, that might need a good cleaning!”

Livestock will constantly drop bits of feed and dirt into the water trough when getting a drink. If it’s left unattended, then it’s not long before you’ll have some sort of anaerobic bacteria growing in the water.

This spells trouble for livestock. A good question to ask is: Would I drink out of that?

Diatomaceous Earth: The Best All-Natural Wormer For Your Livestock

One of the major battles in keeping any type of farm animal healthy and growing is managing the “bad bacteria” levels in the animals system. This is one of the reasons that sub-therapeutic antibiotics are used so heavily in modern agriculture. Of course, antibiotic over-use is fraught with side-effects. Two that come to mind are residues in the meat, and manure eliminating most of the good bacteria with the bad.

The Dirt-Cheap Livestock ‘Food’ That Boosts Growth And Cures Disease

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If all we ever do is kill bad bacteria, as in the case of antibiotics, then we end up with a very compromised immune system — so much so that if the antibiotics are stopped, there is a huge risk of illness until the good bacteria is re-established.

Aerobic versus Anaerobic

Good bacteria are aerobic. In other words, they flourish in high oxygen environments.

Bad bacteria are anaerobic and cannot survive in the presence of oxygen.

So, when we study the natural order of things, we find laws at work to help us keep our animals healthy. The closer we can mimic nature, the better. That’s the essence of natural farming.

Everything You Need To Know To Keep A Cow Healthy, Happy, And Productive…

I was first introduced to the idea of using hydrogen peroxide (H202) — for something other than placing it on a superficial wound — more than 20 years ago. Peroxide is water with an extra oxygen molecule attached to it. Notice the extra “2” on its chemical name?

What if we could foster an environment that encourages the growth of good oxygen-loving bacteria and discourage bad oxygen-hating bacteria? And what if it actually helped them produce more milk and grow faster?

When we need to clean and disinfect things around the farm, such as watering and feeding equipment, we wash it with a solution of peroxide.

Most folks would stop there. After all, we hopefully killed all the bad bacteria in the watering trough. But what if we could encourage it to stay dead and encourage the growth of good bacteria if there is any present?

That’s where hydrogen peroxide comes in. On our farm we use a solution of 35 percent food grade and add a tiny amount to all our watering troughs on a regular basis (roughly 25-30 ppm). (The rule of thumb is adding 8-10 ounces of 35 percent hydrogen peroxide to 1,000 gallons of water.)

The organic farming company AgriSolutions reported that:

When hydrogen peroxide has been used for cattle, an increase in milk production and an increase in butterfat content have been reported. Farmers have also reported less mastitis in their herds. Pig farmers have reported that they have been able to market their pigs using less feed in a shorter growing time (as much as 30 days less). Turkey and chicken growers reported increased weight per bird using less feed. It is told that the reproduction rate of buffalo increases by placing hydrogen peroxide in the drinking water.

A word of caution here: Peroxide in concentrated amounts is caustic and will take the skin off your fingers or anything else you dump/spill it on.

Using peroxide as a water treatment is not new, and you can find studies around the Internet on poultry, cattle and swine.

While I believe hydrogen peroxide works great on our farm to keep livestock healthy, you should study it, try it and make your own judgment.

Have you ever used hydrogen peroxide in your livestock’s feeding trough? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Find Out More Here.

hydrogen peroxide report

Low-Cost Tricks To Keep Your Livestock’s Water From Freezing

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Low-Cost Tricks To Keep Your Livestock's Water From Freezing

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One of the annual challenges on the homestead farm is keeping a fresh water supply available to livestock during freezing temperatures.

Depending on your climate, this can be for a few days of freezing weather — or months of sub-zero temperatures.

The first rule is to utilize every bit of solar energy that you can. That means placing water troughs where they will get the most sun during daylight hours. You should also place the troughs where they will get the least amount of wind.

The wind dissipates accumulated heat and causes the water to get to the freezing point faster, and it prevents it from reaching its highest possible temperature during daylight hours.

Diatomaceous Earth: The Best All-Natural Wormer For Your Livestock

Next, use either black plastic for your troughs, or paint them black with flat black paint. You should do this inside and out. Be sure and properly prepare the surface so that paint will adhere to it. You don’t want your livestock drinking paint chips.

Low-Cost Tricks To Keep Your Livestock's Water From Freezing

Image source: Pixabay.com

For added heat, you can place a black tarp over the top with a hole for access to the water. This will usually work for cattle and horses, but pigs will tear it off before you get back to the house.

For pigs, you are better off to use painted black plywood or metal. You can put a small hinged door on it, as they will use their nose and raise the lid to drink.

Another trick we have used with good success is to bury as much of the water trough as you can and/or mound dirt up around the sides. This will give you some added thermal heat from the ground.

This can be a challenge for large stock tanks that are used for cattle and horses, but for hogs it works very well. I use plastic 55-gallon drums sawed in half, length-wise. Bury the entire trough except for about three inches. One word of warning on this method: Do not use these if you have small pigs that could fall into the trough and drown or manage to get out but freeze to death.

Everything You Need To Know To Keep A Cow Healthy, Happy, And Productive…

If you try these methods and it still doesn’t work, you will have to start looking at alternative methods.

Submersible 12-volt water heating elements can be a good solution if you have months of sub-zero temperatures. These can be used with a battery bank and solar set-up, or solar and add a wind turbine for a dump diversion load.

If you have a hillside, you can set up your trough in the fall by leveling off a spot, which will give you some protection on the uphill side from the ground. On the downhill side, you can dig back under the tank to make room for a small propane heater. I have done this when it was the only choice for a few days of sub-zero weather that threatened to turn a 100-gallon water trough into an unusable chunk of ice until spring.

Try these tricks to help minimize the times you need to resort to more expensive and labor-intensive methods.

What advice would you add? Share your winter water tips in the section below:

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Find Out More Here.

hydrogen peroxide report

The Simple All-Natural Way To Keep Your Livestock From Ever Getting Sick

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The Simple All-Natural Way To Keep Your Livestock From Ever Getting Sick

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Keeping livestock healthy without the use of antibiotics or other off-the-shelf products is much easier if you understand the primary role of sub-therapeutic antibiotics in the livestock industry.

Companies add antibiotics to livestock feed to inhibit bacteria in the gut of the animal. This is not only for health reasons but to promote growth in the animal.

One of the many negatives of using antibiotics is that it wipes out the good bacteria, too.

The natural method to inhibit bad bacteria is to encourage the good bacteria in the animal’s gut so it keeps the bad bacteria in check. The result is that the animal is healthy and develops at a good rate.

That’s where clabbered milk comes to the rescue. Clabbered milk is raw milk that has been soured. You have to start with raw unpasteurized milk. I’ve found the best raw milk to use is milk that is one or two weeks old. Pasteurized milk will not clabber, as it is devoid of most of the beneficial bacteria.

The Best All-Natural Wormer For Your Livestock Is Right Here

The Simple All-Natural Way To Boost Your Livestock’s Immunity

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To make clabbered milk, place the milk in a sealed container and place on your counter or other warm place for a couple of days until solids appear. Shake the milk and if it’s white and thick, you’re done! Next, put it in the refrigerator or it will eventually begin to separate into curds and whey. Nothing wrong with that, but we’re making clabbered milk.

Clabbered milk can be used in many recipes that call for yogurt or buttermilk. You can also eat it like yogurt!

But it also makes a great immunity-booster for livestock. One of the tricks to getting the most benefit out of clabbered milk for your livestock is to feed small amounts on a regular basis. Feeding a large amount once in a while would be like the feed company putting all the antibiotics in the first couple of bags of feed, and then nothing after that.

On my farm, we feed it to everyone around here, right down to the dogs. Pigs and chickens absolutely love it. Others like cattle, goats and horses may have to learn to like it. You can always mix it with feed to get them to consume it.

We give it to our livestock two to three times a week. We currently have a batch of 30 grower pigs about 100 pounds each, that get a five-gallon bucket three times a week. So if everyone shares, they are getting just over a pint each, three times a week.

Clabbered milk is one more way to help keep your livestock healthy and growing without using chemical and pharmaceutical products.

The more we have worked to manage the bacteria levels in our livestock, the healthier they seem to be. In fact, I’ve needed a veterinarian only once in the last 12 years.

Try it for yourself. Your livestock will be healthier — and you won’t be calling the vet as much.

Have you ever used clabbered milk – for your family or your livestock? Share your advice on using it in the section below:

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Raising Goats: Perfect Survival Livestock?

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Written by Guest Contributor on The Prepper Journal.

Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from Willow101. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly win a $300 Amazon Gift Card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today. The Lowly Goat I have been a prepper since just before Y2K. It […]

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The 3 Best Livestock For New Homesteaders

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The 3 Best Livestock For New Homesteaders

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When it comes to choosing livestock for the homestead, everyone will have a different opinion about what type you should get started with. Here are three types of livestock best suited for the new homesteader or someone without much experience with raising animals.

1. Chickens

Hands down, chickens are the ultimate livestock for the homestead. These birds have a lot going for them.

  • Eggs: If you’ve never had farm-fresh eggs from happy hens, then you are going to be amazed at the color and texture compared to typical eggs from the grocery store.
  • Meat: You can raise your own meat breed of chicken or raise layers and cull the roosters for meat. Chickens are easy to process and don’t require the help of another person.
  • Pest control: Have a problem with insects? Chickens will take care of them. This is a great way to control bad bugs without resorting to pesticides.
  • Gardening: Tilling a garden is made easy with chickens. Just put up some electric netting around the area you need tilled and let them go to work. As a bonus, they will fertilize while they till. Chickens are also amazing at preparing land for a garden. They will quickly scratch out brush and grasses, leaving you with bare ground.
  • Composting: Using chickens for composting is a brilliant idea. The hens will quickly scratch up brown and green materials so you don’t have to worry about shredding. They will add in their own manure and leave you with rich compost — with hardly any effort on your part.
The 3 Best Livestock For New Homesteaders

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There really aren’t any disadvantages to keeping chickens. They are easy to care for, and many heritage breeds are quite independent and hardy. Chickens are very entertaining and you will find that they each have their own personalities.

The Best All-Natural Wormer For Your Livestock Is Right Here

Chickens are allowed within some city limits (no roosters!) so they are a great way for the urban homesteaders to add some food to their table.

2. Rabbits

Similarly to chickens, rabbits are a great addition to the homestead. Some of their advantages include:

  • Meat: Rabbit meat is delicious! It is very lean and healthy as well as easily digestible. Aside from taste and nutrition, rabbits are super easy to butcher and process. You won’t need to worry about feathers like you would a chicken.
  • Pelts/fiber: You can get pelts for craft use from all rabbits and fiber from certain breeds. If you enjoy crafts or hobbies like knitting, raising rabbits is a great way to contribute. You may even be able to make a little money from selling extra pelts or fiber.
  • Fertilizer: Rabbit manure is an amazing fertilizer and can be used as-is — no composting or maturing necessary (although it’s recommended). Extra manure can be sold to gardeners to help with the cost of raising the rabbits.
  • Green recyclers: Rabbits will gladly eat up grass and other green materials that you don’t want. They’ll also consume scraps from your vegetable garden.

A possible downside of rabbits is that they are cute! Some people can easily get over the idea of rabbits only being pets, but there are individuals who can’t bring themselves to viewing Peter Cottontail that way.

All The Answers To Every Chicken Question And Quandary …

Rabbits are quiet and don’t require a lot of space. They are easy to manage, and a good breeding stock should reproduce without a problem. Rabbits are especially good choices for urban homesteaders who can’t keep/don’t want to chickens or just want variety in addition to their hens.

3. Goats

The 3 Best Livestock For New Homesteaders

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While goats can be challenging at times, their versatility and the sheer fun of keeping them easily makes them perfect newbie homesteader stock.

  • Dairy: Sure, dairy cows are the ultimate milk machines, but dairy goats are a much better choice for the average new homestead. Their smaller size makes them far more manageable and also decreases feed costs. You won’t need anywhere near as much land, either. A small family can’t drink as much milk as a Jersey cow can produce in a day, so going with a goat or two makes much more sense.
  • Meat: You can raise a meat goat or two every year for the freezer. Again, meat goats are often much easier for the new homesteader to raise than a beef cow. Also, if you keep dairy goats, you may as well breed her to a Boer or some type of meat cross so you can raise her kids for the freezer.
  • Fiber: Fiber breeds offer a third way of getting something back from your goats. There are only a couple breeds of fiber goats and it can be tricky to find a breeder, but it’s worth it if this interests you.
  • Brush Clearing: While sheep are mostly grazers, goats are browsers. Have a wooded lot or brushy area you want cleared? Add some goats! This is a great way of naturally clearing out an area without backbreaking labor on your part.

People sometimes struggle with goats because they lack good fencing. Goats are escape artists and very intelligent. If you have a weakness in your fence or a flimsy-latched gate, it’s safe to say they will find it. Don’t skimp on quality fencing and you will enjoy having a small herd of goats on your property.

Do you keep livestock? Please share your stories or tips for new homesteaders below!

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hydrogen peroxide report

The Incredible Healing Power Of Essential Oils — For Livestock

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The Healing Power Of Essential Oils -- For Livestock

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Essential oils can be a great alternative to conventional drugs on the homestead farm. I have used them successfully to treat various illnesses, help control insects and parasites, and increase the growth rates of pigs and poultry.

As with anything conventional or alternative, they are not a magic bullet to overcome poor livestock management. Livestock of any sort need proper nutrition and housing as the foundation to health and productivity.

Essential oils – if you’re not familiar with them — are plant extracts that have many healing properties. Some, such as oregano, thyme and cinnamon, have antimicrobial, antibacterial and antiviral properties.

The Best All-Natural Wormer For Your Livestock Is Right Here

In the past several years, a good deal of scientific research has been conducted to explore the use of various essential oils in livestock management. One such study was published in the October 2014 edition of the journal Poultry Science, and it found that chickens that consumed feed with added oregano oil had a 59 percent lower mortality rate due to ascites, than birds that were not treated. You can find many other similar studies on the Internet with a simple Google search.

To help keep layer flocks and broiler chickens healthy, try a mixture of oregano and cinnamon oil in their water. A good rule of thumb is it takes about seven drops of oil in a gallon of water to equal 100 ppm. Oil doesn’t mix with water, so you’ll need to shake it up as you think about it through the day, or at least each time you refill the water.

heritage pigsOregano, cinnamon and tea tree oil are three of my favorite oils for use on the homestead. Oregano and cinnamon are hot oils, meaning they will burn your skin if used without a carrier oil to dilute it. When applying topically or mixing in feed, mix with a carrier oil such as vegetable oil, coconut oil or olive oil. I mix them in a three-to-one ratio. (Three drops of carrier oil to one drop of essential oil).

Essential oils are highly concentrated and should be used sparingly. The smaller the animal, the less you will need. A chicken or young pig may need only three drops where full-grown pigs or goats may need 10 drops.

If you are treating some type of illness in your stock, it is best to apply small amounts several times a day rather than a large amount once a day.

If I have young pigs that are showing signs of illness, such as coughing or just generally not doing well, I’ll mix up equal parts oregano, cinnamon and tea tree oil diluted in a three-to-one ratio with a carrier oil and simply drip three to five drops on the back of their neck or behind their ears as they are eating at the feeder.

Over the years, I have had pigs come down sick in the pasture to the point they were off their feet and seemingly not going to make it. We got them in the barn and began a treatment protocol of this mixture topically behind the ears, and three to five drops on their tongue at least twice a day (better if you can do three to five times a day).We have been amazed at how they make a complete turnaround in a week or less. I have helped neighboring farmers bring livestock back to health using essential oils when the veterinarian had given up.

Do some research on the powerful effects that essential oils can have on your homestead livestock. You will be glad you did — and so will your animals.

Have you used essential oils on livestock? If so, share your advice in the section below:

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Have You Ever Been to a Hog Killin’? – Part 3: Hog Cookin’

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In previous postings, I wrote about raising and killing hogs. But there’s still one more hurdle to overcome to achieve food security as Joel Salatin defines it. In his book Folks, This Ain’t Normal – A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World, he writes:

The defining characteristic of normal food, of secure food, is that it waits, in state, for us to call it from our kitchens.

After witnessing storm-related power outages decimate refrigerator and freezer sections at grocery stores city-wide, I knew Joel wasn’t just talking about pork chops. He mentioned a “larder” and “curing shed” in his explanation of hog killin’. As a fan of prosciutto, I had a vague notion of how to cure ham. That’s where my expertise ended. And despite lots of research, my fear that I would ruin all our meat, or poison someone, grew in direct proportion to our pigs’ waistlines. Matt and I considered taking classes, but the costs, including travel and time away from the farm, were prohibitive.

On a hopeful whim, I asked one of the presenters from the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville if we could hire her to help us. She was a tiny woman, with a big presence, named Meredith Leigh. In her “Introduction to Charcuterie,” we had watched her grind meat and stuff sausage, on stage, as she explained how ratios of salt, nitrates, liquid, lean meat, and fat made magic. She talked about whole muscle cures, fermentation, smoking, and aging. In that hour class, she taught basic meat preservation, but also hinted at the depth of information necessary to do it well – part art, part science, and entirely important to know. It was a five-hour round trip for her, happening near the release of her new book The Ethical Meat Handbook: Complete Home Butchery, Charcuterie & Cooking for the Conscious Omnivore, but incredibly, she said yes.

Meredith and I swapped emails and talked by phone to formalize expectations and finalize preparations. To be honest, she seemed so undaunted by the idea of converting four pigs into useful products in a single day, that I worried I hadn’t been clear about how little we knew. But then she sent me me her eBook, which I read in one sitting. Her words portrayed a deep relationship with pigs, bound tightly with her personal history, and I knew she was the right person to help us. In one of my favorite passages, she writes:

The pig cannot resist the land, and when the pig dies, we eat its body. If we’re really eating, we muse on whether the body is enough homage to the land. Whether we can taste the fog, and the seeds, and the fruit. For the better it tastes, and the better it feels, the better we know it lived…

We always talk of “terroir” in wine, but rarely in reference to other foods. Yet, this is precisely what’s missing from most of what we buy at the grocery store. We don’t know where it came from, what it ate, how it lived, how it died, or what happened to it after that. It may have been touched by a hundred hands before being picked from a shelf and served as supper. Surprisingly, the same people who use paper towels to open bathroom doors, and keep antibacterial gel at-the-ready, will allow anonymous food in to the most intimate parts of their bodies without a second thought. Food production, for all its importance in our lives, is something many of us leave up to others. As such, food with no terroir, and no tradition, must be heavily regulated because so much can go wrong along the way and there is very little accountability in the supply chain. For example, as I write this, the FDA has spent three weeks trying to track down the source of E. Coli O157 in Costco chicken salad with no results. Across 7 states, 19 people were infected and investigators can’t even identify the culprit.

As I read Meredith’s ode to pigs and land, and her later sections on butchering, curing, and food safety, my worries quieted. Her intimacy with food reminded me that my insecurities, which started this quest, stemmed from the lack of transparency in the industrial food system. I felt cut off from the skills necessary to ensure my own well-being. We weren’t trying to do rocket science, or even food science. We simply wanted to make our own wholesome pork preparations, full of terroir, and enjoyment of the process, like people have been doing at home since the beginning of civilization. Basic human stuff.

Too often we are fooled into believing there are great mysteries behind food preparation that make it safer for us to let someone else more qualified handle it. By agreeing with this idea, we actually increase our risks because we become uneducated consumers, reliant on others to look out for our best interests. There are risks in home-butchered meat and Meredith explains some of them in her book. But there’s risk in falling down my front porch steps too. With a little awareness, risks can be minimized.

If you are new to butchering, I highly recommend that you read the guidelines for slaughtering, meat cutting and further processing, published by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. This manual is intended for use by professionals and supervisors in the meat industry. You can read it over a pot of tea or a glass of wine. What I took away was keep cutting surfaces and implements clean, chill your meat, and be really careful about transport. I combined that with Meredith’s “butcher shop rule” to keep stuff separate. Chicken, for example, has a higher potential for dangerous bacteria load than pork, so if you have chicken chilling in the fridge with your curing bacon, make sure there’s no chance of dripping or cross-contamination.

Now, you don’t need a professional to teach you how to butcher. And there are so many good books and blogs on butchering, written by people far more qualified than me, that I won’t try to cover it in detail here. But I do want to share a few experiences and lessons we learned that might help if you decide to have your own hog killin’.

Lesson 1 – Retail Butchering is Not the Same as Home Butchering

I knew what cuts I wanted… until we started cutting. Here was my “cut list” at the start:

Hams with 2-3 inch hocks, skin on; Boston butts cut to 3 pound roasts; feet and head with jowls (in brine); tenderloin – halved; baby back ribs – halved; 1 inch boneless pork chops; back fat cubed for sausage and lard; picnics cubed for sausage; bellies, whole, skin on, to cure for bacon; organs – liver (gall bladder removed), kidneys, heart for pâté.

With our giant pigs, lack of experience, and makeshift butcher stations this would have taken a week to cut. Luckily Meredith jumped in and made some recommendations that saved us time.

For the loin area, we discovered it’s not easy to cut through a rib cage with a hand saw, so we decided not to. We left the longer bones intact and just called them “ribs” (not cut to “baby back” uniformity). We turned the shorter bone sections into bone-in loin roasts. The bone adds great flavor and can be picked out when the meat is tender. We cut quite a few “porter house” chops which are family-sized chops that include the bone, rib meat, and residual tenderloin. We also cut our pork chops to about 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 inches thick because it made it easier to cut straight and meant less to cut.

For the Boston Butts, we cut larger roasts. Since our pigs got so big, some hunks were a foot thick and breaking that down into 3 lb. roasts would have required endless cutting and knife sharpening. This choice worked in our favor, because we get several meals from an 8 lb. roast, and I put some of the prepared meat back in the freezer to reheat when I feel lazy.

For the heads, Meredith suggested we only use two for head cheese and make jowl bacon with the other two. Two heads made over 10 pounds of head cheese. More actually, but I got tired of picking the meat and ran out of pans, so I packaged up seven pounds as dog food. Heads are often treated as waste, so it was eye-opening to discover how much delicious meat they make. And I am so glad Meredith talked us into jowl bacon. It may be even better than belly bacon.

Speaking of bellies, there’s an old adage that if you feed a pig too long, you’re raising fat. For most cuts, this didn’t prove true. But when it came to the bellies, it was right on. There was almost no meat with the belly fat. Meredith managed to salvage about 35 pounds of what turned out to be amazing bacon. But, since we hoped for 80 pounds, this was a reality check. If you want great bacon, you have to pick a breed that is known for meaty bellies and butcher them closer to the 250 pound range. More importantly though, we have to find ways to enjoy all parts of the pig. A little head cheese on morning toast or cracklings in your eggs can be as satisfying as a thick slice of farm bacon (well, almost).

After our experience, I still think it helps to relate familiar retail cuts with primal cuts before home butchering. There’s a simple representation available here to get you started: http://www.oda.state.ok.us/food/fs-hogweight.pdf. But I also suggest researching how the old-timers and people in other countries break down a pig. The mass-production of meat has created a very narrow view of what is edible, but cultures with strong culinary traditions and/or people living in less affluent conditions really know what to do with a whole hog.

Lesson 2 – Delicious is in the Details…

Since I learned to really eat, as Meredith describes it, by hanging out with European chefs, I was focused on end-products made with time-honored traditions. Visions of saucisson sec de Lowgap, prosciutto di Blue Ridge, and pâté de campagne de la région Surry County danced in my head. People warned us that we’d end up with more sausage meat than we could use. This may be true if you want breakfast sausage, but good fermented sausage like Spanish-style Chorizo or Soppressata comes “high on the hog.” It takes about 80-85% lean meat to 15-20% fat. And you have to trim the fat off your meat before you weigh to get your proportions right. This is too much work using meat scraps. So, we decided to sacrifice some prime meat including our “picnics” and any awkward shaped cuts from the loin, shoulder, and ham areas. We kept 120 pounds of lean meat for sausage since this was so important to us.

long-links-due-to-dry-casingsTo make the best use of Meredith’s time and expertise, we started with fermented sausages. Preparation-wise, there is not a lot of difference between a fresh (grilling) and fermented sausage (dry). Trim and cube the meat and fat to fit through your hopper, weigh and mix your ingredients, combine and grind. For fermented sausages, you have a few extra steps. Sprinkle starter culture (we used T-SPX) over the ground meat and spice mix. Meredith recommended we use about twice as much culture as the package called for to make sure we got it on all the meat. Then mix well again. Stuff your ground meat in the casings. Create link-sized sections by pinching, then twisting the casings twice around. Twist in opposite directions from link to link. This confused us, so Meredith demonstrated that if you alternate your direction, your links stay twisted, but if you go in the same direction, they unravel. You also tie both ends of the link rope with butcher twine, leaving one side longer to use to hang your sausage to ferment. After stuffing, prick the links all around with a safety pin or needle and roll the links in a shallow pan of Bactoform M-EK-4, a strain of Penicillium mixed with water that encourages protective white mold growth on the casings. Then ferment and age per your recipe directions.

I bristled at the idea of using cultures and nitrates, wanting to be “natural,” but Meredith convinced me that, for our first time, to control the output we had to control the input. Making fermented sausage by relying on native cultures is like making wine by relying on wild yeast. It might work, but it could taste terrible. Without encouraging good cultures to populate the meat, you’re leaving a lot of room for the stuff you don’t want. Also, once dry, fermented sausages can be your food security if your freezer goes down, so give them the best start possible using good cultures.

When working with sausage casings, humidity matters. As we stuffed outside in windy conditions, our casings kept busting. Out of frustration, we left some of our fermented sausages unsegmented which made it hard to get them in our “fermentation chamber” (an old fridge converted using a plug in temperature controller and a cool-mist humidifier with a control switch, explained in Meredith’s book). We thought the casings were bad. But later, I used them in the comfort of my kitchen with no problem. After experimentation, I confirmed that the wind and low humidity outside caused the natural casings to dry too fast. Next year, we’ll do the stuffing inside. The sausage also coils better on our smooth counter top than on our mega-picnic table.

prosciutto-hams-buried-in-saltIn our region, it’s still normal to hang fall-slaughtered hams in barns. Initial curing starts in cooler temperatures, but aging continues through our hot summers. We honored this regional tradition by making 5 hams “country style.” Here is an easy how-to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcwu6K4crHc. One ham was too big for the hanging-stocking, so we used an old pillow case as a substitute. So far it seems to be working. Another reason we opted for country hams over prosciutto is because cure ingredients were cheaper. For country hams, you rub the meat with cure and then wrap it in paper. With prosciutto, you bury the hams in salt. We are making two prosciutto hams, using re-purposed bee hive supers, but it took 75 pounds of salt to cover them.

hams-hanging-in-our-shedOn the country pâté front, we utterly failed. On Hog killin’ day, we put the organs in a bucket, set them aside, and… forgot to chill them. When we found them half way through cookin’ day, they smelled so bad we didn’t even give them to the chickens. Next time, I’m taking Joel’s advice. Organs go right into a pan. We won’t be using them for panhoss, but I’ll cook them up with onions, garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper, and run them through the food processor with a little port, and pack them in terrines to send home with all our helpers. It was still a good lesson – organs are best eaten fresh!

Now, don’t run all those breakfast sausage worthy scraps through the grinder with sage just yet. Instead, cube them (without separating the fat from the meat) and brine them for 24 hours (outside – if cool, but not freezing). Pour off the brine and rinse the meat. Bake on low heat in deep turkey pans, with thyme and peppercorns. When the meat shreds easily, strain the fat from the meat and set aside. Whip the meat with a wooden spoon until kinda creamy. Add salt, pepper, and liquid fat to your taste and texture preference. Ladle the meat into pint jars. Then pour more of the fat over the meat to create a fat cap. In the US, we call this potted meat, which has sadly become associated with the likes of Spam and other unspeakables. But in France, this is called “rillette” – a sublime concoction that is given its proper respect among charcuterie products. Serve it up with fresh bread, a dab of mustard, and tiny pickles for breakfast, lunch, or a snack. This will keep for months in the fridge or cool storage area. Once you start eating from a jar, refrigerate it and finish it within 3 days. As a bonus, jar up the rest of the fat (lard) for use in any savory recipe or preparation that calls for butter in the pan.

Lesson 3 – Be Ready to Make Adjustments and Take Notes for Next Time

We had a lot of help on hog cookin’ day. So, we had three stations of people turning primal cuts into recognizable cuts and one large group working on cubing meat and fat for sausage. We had food grade buckets galore and lots of freezer storage bags, but no real plan for where to start. Luckily Meredith directed us. She had us work on front shoulder sections so we could get the picnic cuts to the sausage cubers. Then we moved on to the loin sections to get the fatback to the sausage crew.

food-securityWe were all new to butchering, so it took time for Meredith to give us an orientation on the meat. But after she got a few of us cutting, we were able to show others and get them cutting too. Meredith then moved over to help the sausage crew until we got to the hams. Before we knew it, meat cuts started to pile up on our workstations. So, we distributed bags and Sharpies. But, we quickly learned that it’s impossible to write on a freezer bag after it’s been touched by a meat-juice covered hands. We then got a few people labeling bags first. The bagged meat was put in buckets and shuttled to the freezer. Also, not such a good idea as it took me hours to sort it all out later. Some bags were not fully closed, so we had icicles of blood to clean up from the bottom of the freezer too.

Next time, we’ll put cuts into pre-labeled buckets, e.g. one bucket for pork chops, one for butt roasts, one for bellies and so on. We’ll run labels in advance and designate one person to do the bagging. We’ll give them lots of towels to keep their hands dry. Once bagged, the cuts will also be sorted into pre-labeled containers, and the entire container will go into the freezer. This should make it easier to find things later and keep mess to a minimum.

baconWhen we asked Meredith to come help us, we wanted to learn how to do this for ourselves. But we also wanted to share the experience with as many people as possible through direct participation and writing about our experience. This was important to us because we know that true food security can only be assured when we are all involved in securing it at some level – either by growing, raising, and preserving food ourselves, or supporting farmers in our community by paying real prices for sustainably raised food. Besides, as Meredith puts it:

Cooking, and eating in general, should be one of the best things about our everyday existence. If it is truly just a chore, a necessity, then we have surely sold our souls.

Meat animals are just one way to approach food security. And I know this might not be the right path for everyone. But regardless of your food preferences and beliefs, I hope you will find ways grow your own food, get to know your farmers, and share your experiences with your community so we can all have a more secure future.

P.S. Thank you to all of you who have shared your comments and stories in response to this series. We have learned so much from you and have enjoyed sharing your experiences too. I also appreciate the non-meat perspective because we do need to continue contemplating these issues, particularly in the context of ensuring clean air, water, and secure food around the world. I believe all of us [Grow] Network readers are coming at this from the perspective of trying to figure out the right things to do, in a very complex world. I am glad we can respectfully engage the discussion and learn from each other.


This article is part 3 of a 3 part series called “Have You Ever Been to a Hog Killin’?” about raising, harvesting, and cooking pigs. You can read the rest of the series here:

Part 1: Raising Hogs
Part 2: Hog Killin’
Part 3: Hog Cookin’

 

Expert Warns It’s “Almost Too Late” to Stop Superbugs

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e coli wikimediaYou’re probably already aware of the dangers posed by the overuse of antibiotics. Doing so can lead to the creation of pathogens that are immune to antibiotics, and often can’t be treated by modern medicine. What you may not know, is that these dangers no longer lie in the relative safety of the future. They are already with us today, and these superbugs are killing thousands every year.

More importantly, the age of pharmaceutical antibiotics is nearing its end. Last month, a gene was discovered in several strains of bacteria in China, which grants these pathogens an immunity to colistin. This drug was one of the earliest forms of antibiotics, and also the only one that had yet to breed immunity in any strain of bacteria.

What’s worse, is that this gene can be passed to different strains of bacteria, so the genie is out of the bottle. Someday soon, colistin will be useless, and we will be well on our way into the post-antibiotic era. However, some experts on the subject believe that there is still a slim chance of avoiding this disaster. According to Dr. David Brown, who is the director of Antibiotic Research UK, society could turn this ship around if we changed our ways.

Dr Brown told said: “It is almost too late. We needed to start research 10 years ago and we still have no global monitoring system in place.

“The issue is people have tried to find new antibiotics but it is totally failing – there has been no new chemical class of drug to treat gram-negative infections for more than 40 years.

“I think we have got a 50-50 chance of salvaging the most important antibiotics but we need to stop agriculture from ruining it again.”

Resistance is thought to have grown due to colistin being heavily used in pockets of the agricultural industries, particularly in China, often to increase the physical size of livestock.

Worldwide, the demand for colistin in agriculture was expected to reach almost 12,000 tonnes per year by the end of this year, rising to 16,500 tonnes by 2021.

Unfortunately, “50-50″ may be wishful thinking. The gene responsible for building immunity against colistin has already been found in the UK. If it’s been found in China and the British Isles, then it’s safe to assume that it has gone worldwide. “50-50″ may still be an accurate assessment, but only on the condition that the agricultural industry of every nation, agrees to stop using colistin with such wanton abandon. However, the chances of that happening anytime soon are slim to nil.

Agricultural use of antibiotics has been one of the biggest drivers of superbug development, perhaps even more so than human usage. Doctors may be handing out these drugs like candy to their patients, but farmers have been giving antibiotics to their livestock by the shovelful. They’re not just used to treat individual animals who’ve become sick. They’re often laced with their feed as a preventative measure, and are known to induce growth in the livestock.

In other words, there is a ton of money to be made by dosing animals with antibiotics, and since agriculture is largely a corporate game these days, there’s going to be a lot of lobbying to prevent any new legal restrictions. That’s not to say that it’s impossible, or that it hasn’t been done before. It’s just that there are plenty of barriers that would prevent these laws from being made.

And in any case, the world has been fully aware of the consequences of overusing antibiotics in agriculture for decades, and yet, very little has been done to stop this practice. Now that we’ve finally reached the crisis point that has been predicted for years, is there any reason to believe that suddenly we’ll drop everything we’re doing and change? I doubt it.

It was short-term thinking that brought us here, and that thinking hasn’t changed. As far as the agricultural industry is concerned, it’s too late. So why not milk it for as long as they can? Besides, anybody who stops now is going to be out-competed by other companies that refuse to stop. It doesn’t matter that there’s a small chance of stopping this disaster. Corporations don’t sacrifice profits for small chances.

And finally, suppose that there was a concerted effort to ban this practice. Is it reasonable to believe that every country will go through with it? If even one small nation doesn’t stop using these antibiotics on their livestock, it will be enough to foster these immunity genes which will spread all over the world, as they have already done.

At the end of the day, there is no going back. There is no turning the ship around, and there is no last-minute solution. The antibiotics created by medical science are going the way of the dodo, and only natural alternatives will remain in the aftermath.

Joshua Krause was born and raised in the Bay Area. He is a writer and researcher focused on principles of self-sufficiency and liberty at Ready Nutrition. You can follow Joshua’s work at our Facebook page or on his personal Twitter.

Joshua’s website is Strange Danger

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Here’s How Experts Make Thousands Of Extra Dollars On The Homestead

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Here's How Experts Make Thousands Of Extra Dollars On The Homestead

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Earning some extra income from your livestock can be easy if you give some thought to it and do a little research. It can be as simple as raising an extra calf to sell, or selling your excess eggs to a neighbor.

Here are some ideas that I have used over the years — as well as observed others using — to earn a few hundred dollars from livestock on the homestead.

As with any business venture, make sure you understand any regulations that may be in place so you don’t end up finding yourself in a bad situation with local agencies, such as the board of the health or township trustees.

For this article, I’ll discuss ways to earn money from selling live animals. This is the easiest way to cash in on livestock without running into a tangled web of regulations. Let’s look at two popular livestock: pigs and chickens.

Money From Pigs

An obvious one here is raising one pig for yourself and one pig for a customer. Pigs are gregarious by nature and will grow and thrive much better with at least one other pig.

Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth: The Best All-Natural Wormer For Your Lifestock

Start with friends and family and you’ll quickly find people who would love to have you raise a pig for them to put in the freezer. I usually have more people that want me to raise them a freezer pig than I can handle.

Here's How Experts Make Thousands Of Extra Dollars On The Homestead

Image source: Pixabay.com

Another great way to earn some extra cash is to purchase a couple of gilts, breed them, and sell feeder pigs. Here in the U.S., small farm feeder pigs are a scarce commodity in many areas. If you don’t want to keep a boar, use artificial insemination. It’s easy to perform and most places that sell semen will give you advice and they have video tutorials on their website.

You can also keep a few piglets and raise them for roaster pigs. A 180-200 pound pig is the optimum size for most pig roasts. Find some companies or individuals who have a hog-roasting business and supply them with a few pigs.

Time your breeding so that the pigs will be about the right size in time for graduations and other summer holidays and celebrations. May and June are huge for weddings. This will ensure you have plenty of demand and can charge premium prices.

A 10-24 pound pig is called a suckling pig. These are largely a product for the ethnic market, although many high-end chefs are now touting the suckling pig as a delicacy not to be missed. I’ve sold 15-20 pound pigs for as much as $150 each for this market.

Cash in on Your Chickens

Selling chicken eggs is one way to help offset the feed bill for your layer flock. In the spring and summer you’ll see an abundance of “eggs for sale” signs along country roads. In the winter, that’s another story. Start a new flock of pullets in the fall and you can be producing a good supply of eggs when customers are having the most trouble getting them. They sell fast and at a premium price.

Have you ever considered purchasing an incubator and selling chicks? Another option is to sell fertile eggs for others to incubate. This works especially well with a rare or specialty breeds.

All The Answers To Every Chicken Question And Quandary …

I’ve sold spent laying hens to an “all-natural feed” dog kennel several times. They come, pick them up, and take them to the processor. I collect the money and wave goodbye!

Where You’ll Find Customers

There are two kinds of customers who will purchase your livestock or homestead products — those who will pay premium prices, and those who won’t.

It makes sense, then, to focus your efforts toward the customers who are looking for premium value rather than the cheapest price.

The best prices are obtained from marketing to customers who would like to buy from a small farm or homestead rather than the local giant chain store.

Here’s a list of what these customers may be looking for:

  • Locally produced.
  • Supporting small or independent producers.
  • Transparency – Knowing your methods and procedures for producing your products.
  • Health – Products that are free from harmful additives.
  • Integrity – Knowing your products are made with integrity, even if it costs more.
  • Hard to find – Products that can’t be purchased at the local chain store.
Here's How Experts Make Thousands Of Extra Dollars On The Homestead

Image source: Pixabay.com

While there are other reasons a customer may decide to purchase your products, these are some of the most common. Weave these messages into your marketing. Notice that this type of customer doesn’t consider price as the first criteria for purchasing.

So, where do you find this type of customer? It’s not as hard as you might think. They are looking for you! If you are remotely close to a major city, why not advertise your products in the newspaper and make sure they include your ad in the online version?

Go the Extra Mile

If you have a product that can be shipped for a reasonable cost, delivery is no problem. If you sell something that can’t be shipped easily, then have customers come and pick up their products or deliver it to them.

If you or a family member works in town, then you can set up deliveries to a central place and have several customers meet you at the same time.

Everything You Need To Know To Keep A Cow Healthy, Happy, And Productive…

For years, I hauled various products to town every week and delivered them to co-workers. Eventually, I had several other customers meet me at the end of the workday to get their products. I supplemented my income by several hundred dollars every week — which added up to thousands for the year.

Many times the biggest obstacle for potential customers is not knowing how to purchase from you. Go the extra mile with customers who have no experience buying direct from the source.  Remember, most people go the store, find what they want, and buy it. They have no idea about your process for purchasing and receiving your products.

Selling products from your small farm or homestead is an education process. Educate them on how your product compares to the mass-produced counterpart they can get anywhere. Give them a sample product, or share with them how to use it, cook it, etc.

Here’s one final tip …

Think about products you can sell around holidays. This can be pumpkins and gourds in the fall, hams and turkeys around Christmas or Thanksgiving, and flowers for Memorial Day, weddings and graduations. The opportunities are limited only by your imagination.

With only a few simple advertisements and some word of mouth through friends, family and co-workers, you can earn some significant extra income doing what you love!

How do you make money on the homestead? Share your tips in the section below:

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Find Out More Here.

Have You Ever Been to a Hog Killin’? – Part 2: Hog Killin’

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pigs-in-the-kill-zone-waiting-for-foodThe idea of “hog killin’” became an obsession for me after reading Joel Salatin’s Folks, This Ain’t Normal – A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World. But, my interest in it started much earlier. My grandmother was a farmer. She raised and butchered her own pigs and fed her family with food she grew. She taught her children to farm. But as the world modernized and making a living as a small farmer became increasingly difficult, her grown children ventured out to find work off the farm. When only my grandma and my mom were left at home, she sold the farm and moved to town. She continued to grow food in her postage stamp yard, but mostly she survived working as a maid for wealthier families. My grandma died when I was 8, but that short acquaintance and my mother’s memories ignited a fire for farming that survived my suburban upbringing.

According to Joel Salatin, his last hog killin’ was in 1985 because:

The old folks gradually died off and the young people were too glued to the television to care. Now when they want tenderloin they go to Wal-mart or Kroger.

Initially, Joel’s description of a hog killin’ made me realize my food insecurity. But as I read about Joel’s loss of his family tradition, I couldn’t help but think of my grandma and what it must have been like to trade her farm for a yard within city limits. When I connected Joel’s experience to my own family history, the desire to keep this vital community tradition from being replaced by lifeless rows of pre-packaged meat became even more important.

Hog killin’ is about so much more than meat for your meals. When you personally care for and take the life of a pig, you learn its real value. In every bite, there is appreciation for the work, wonder at how nature provides, a reminder of the community of people who helped you, and yes, some sorrow at the loss of life. You just can’t buy that at the grocery store. Slaughtering an animal you have raised is hard – physically and emotionally. It may be hard for some of you to read this posting. Yet, as a meat eater and a farmer’s granddaughter, I believe it’s important to know and share this information. The details that follow will not be politely packaged for the consumer, but they will be honest and written with respect for our pigs whose lives help sustain ours.

The hog killin’ itself really only requires a few things: a loaded gun, sharp knives, a bone saw, and the skill to use these tools. If you plan to keep the skin, you also need a hoist to raise the pigs, gambrels to hook through the ankle tendons, a scalding vessel, bell scrapers, and something to heat the water. Beyond equipment, you need good friends and family to help you with and support you in this adventure. When I use “we” from here on out, I am referring to Matt (my better half) and our wonderful community of friends and family who helped us in various ways from conception to completion.

our-scalding-stationWe opted for skin on, so we erected a 10′ tall, 8′ wide scaffold using pressure-treated timbers set in 800 pounds of concrete. We plan to do this annually, so a permanent structure made sense for us. You can also use a fork lift, front-loader, or the tripod Joel talks about. We welded half of a 300 gallon oil drum into a deep-sided ark to put under the scaffold as our scalding vessel. Others have used 55 gallon drums, but our pigs became too rotund to fit. We set the scalder on railroad cross ties so that we could situate a propane burner below to warm the water. We used some manual engine hoists, attached to the scaffold by galvanized hooks, to raise and lower the pigs into the water. Once you start cutting the carcass, you’ll need a lot of buckets or pots to put parts in and a way to keep the meat from spoiling until you process it.

The Morning of

Two hours before our crew arrived, we started heating the water in the scalder. We planned the first shot for 9:00 am, but the water took until 10:00 am to warm. As we waited, I plied all our helpers with food and coffee, but stomachs were already turning at the thought of what was to come. Our posse of experienced help included a former cattle rancher, a former butcher, a friend who had been raised on a hog farm, a foodie/hunter, and some hardcore homesteaders. We also had help from a few newbies like us who had watched videos in advance to mentally prepare. None of us were the faint-of-heart type, but breakfast was still not on the agenda.

The Kill

When the water hit 145 degrees Fahrenheit, I lured the pigs to the “kill zone” (a level spot close to the scaffold) using their familiar food bucket. I lined them up, and spaced them out, to give our shooter an easier time making the shot. When the pigs started eating, Matt pointed, aimed, pulled the trigger… and nothing happened. He checked the gun and tried again. Same result. The gun had malfunctioned. We fired with another gun, but the pigs had started fidgeting in response to our movements, so we missed the shot. The pigs took off running for higher ground. Daunted, but not deterred, I got the bucket and lured the pigs back to the kill zone.

the-stun-spot-marked-on-one-of-our-pigsThe next shot, made by the former cattle rancher, was text book. The pig went down and began convulsing. Within seconds Matt straddled her and buried his knife deep in her neck, searching for the carotid artery. Blood flowed all around. The pig’s convulsing gentled, and Matt and I patted her and told her she was a good girl and that it would be over soon. She didn’t seem to be in pain, more like shock. This is what we wanted. The .22 shot to the head isn’t enough to kill a hog. It is meant to stun them so you can bleed them out while their heart is still pumping. When her body stilled and her eyes closed as if in sleep, the burly men in our group dragged her carcass the last fifty feet to the scalding area.

The other pigs had scattered at the shot, but once we moved the first carcass, I lured the other pigs back with a bit more food and touched their heads to make sure they would stand still for the next round. I could have waited, but like getting back on a bike after a fall, I thought it would be easier to do immediately. In Joel’s description, hogs are loaded into a trailer before the killing starts because:

Once you shoot that first one and some blood gets in the trailer, you’ll never load another hog in that trailer that day. This is wisdom.

Against the wisdom, we decided our pigs should be free range until their final moments. Our girls hadn’t been confined since their car ride to our place, seven months earlier, and I thought containment would be too stressful for pasture-accustomed pigs. We were relying on all the trust-building and practicing I did with the pigs in advance and had no back-up plan if it didn’t work.

Amazingly, even the fourth pig, having witnessed the demise of her three companions, came back later that day and ate calmly in our kill zone. Unfortunately, when we took our last shot, we missed our mark and wounded but didn’t stun her. She took off running to the top of our hills. Knowing she would be too heavy for us to carry down the hill, we took our time and coaxed her back to the kill zone. I wished, for her sake, that it had gone better. I won’t speculate on her state of mind, because frankly, I know it would simply be a projection of my own. However, according to the Food and Drug Administration of the United Nations (FAO) in their “Guidelines for slaughtering, meat cutting and further processing” available for free online:

Stress immediately prior to slaughter… causes stored glycogen (sugar) to be released into the bloodstream. After slaughter this is broken down in the muscles producing lactic acid. This high level of acidity causes a partial breakdown of the muscle structure causing the meat to be pale, soft and exudative (PSE).

We saw no difference in her meat while making primal cuts. But the following day we noticed that a couple pork chops from her carcass were paler than what we had seen from the other pigs. The meat was still firm and there was no exuding, but I believe there may have been some excess glycogen in her muscles at the time of her death. Next year, I will give more credence to Joel’s wisdom and reduce their paddock size using electric wire for their final day.

Scalding

tasha-hosing-down-a-slaughtered-pigPostmortem, we dragged each pig to our scaffold, hosed them off, hooked the gambrels through their hind tendons, and hauled them into the scalder using the engine hoists. We lowered them in the water and sloshed them side to side for about 5-6 minutes, then tested their scruff for ease of hair removal. It was easy to scrape off the hair in the mid-section because that’s where the propane burner sat. But we had a hard time getting hair off the heads and hams. Because we didn’t want to cook the pigs, we ended up leaving the heads and the hams somewhat hairy with the intention of doing more detailed work with the later processing.

tasha-hoisting-one-of-the-pigs-to-the-scalderIn the areas that were adequately scalded, thanks to the bell scrapers, the hair came off like moistened wallpaper in strips and chunks. Bell scrapers are exactly what they sound like, bell shaped blades with handles. As long as you haven’t over-heated the pig, the skin stays taut and the scraper doesn’t puncture the skin. Periodically you have to lift the scraper and sling out the hair and skin that clumps in the center. The hair we couldn’t remove with a scraper took a lot of time, elbow grease, and many disposable razor blades to remove.

Next year, we’ll use a big paddle to stir the scalding water more frequently, and we’ll check the temperature in several spots to make sure it is uniformly warm before dipping the pigs. We may also find a way to use two burners to distribute the heat more evenly. Finally, we’ll get a tighter fitting lid to contain the heat between pigs so less waiting is involved. We also thought about sharpening the bell scrapers during processing, but most of the recommendations online suggest that sharpness is not necessary – just get the scalding right.

Evisceration

tasha-cutting-the-rectum-of-a-slaughtered-pigAfter scalding and scraping comes evisceration or gutting. Not puncturing the intestines is the main goal here. We split the carcass by scoring our way gently through the layers of skin, fat, and muscle on the belly-side, starting between the hind legs. After we cut an opening of a few inches, one of us put a hand in, and used the curve of our palm and first two fingers to act as a guide for the knife, while the back of the hand and upper arm held the organs back out of the way. Before you get too far, you have to stop, go to the rear of the pig, and cut around the rectum. You free it from the surrounding tissue, tie it off to trap the poop, and pull it through the belly side so it comes out, intact, with the rest of the guts. This part required incredible dexterity and patience. After this, you finish opening the carcass cavity. The organs are heavy and want to “fall out,” but as they are all linked and can make a big mess if you don’t get them all out at once, you need to time organ eruption with tissue disconnection. To do this, I had to awkwardly prop the organs up using the front of my thighs and belly, while crouching and slicing my way through the connective tissue inside the body cavity close to the ribs and spine. It was incredibly physical, but also hugely satisfying to stand up at the end and see an alien-looking blob of unpunctured organs in a tub.

beheading-one-of-our-pigsWe kept the heart, kidneys, and liver (gall-bladder removed) for pâté. The rest of the organs we buried in a compost trench. We removed the heads by cutting through the fat and meat and then gave the head a good twist to separate it from the spinal column. We cut through the meat with a knife and used a saw to get through the bones of trotters. Heads and trotters went immediately into brine buckets (2 pounds of salt for each gallon of water). Since we hadn’t done a good job de-hairing the extremities, after our help had gone home for the day, I dragged them out of the buckets and spent several hours shaving and scraping until they were hair free. Then we brined them some more to get them ready to use for head cheese. We separated the picnic and ham cuts (front and back leg areas) and split the body-sections down the spine before putting the cuts in ice water. We also trimmed up some of the fat and put it in a bucket to save for sausage making.

At about 6:30 pm, we called it a day. There were seven of us who were deeply involved from beginning to end. We also had a few more friends jumping in on scraping the hair and running for supplies, and two others who came to assist later in the day as we rushed to finish the pigs before dark. In about 8 1/2 hours, we managed to kill and partially butcher four huge pigs. We were slowed down by the scalding water not being hot enough and by running after pigs as a result of our choice not to confine them for the kill.

All in all, though, our first hog killin’ went really well. We had the good fortune of recruiting helpers who had experience and/or “get it done” attitudes. It would have been impossible for us to handle four hogs in one day without their expertise. We may have been hard-pressed to get through one because we would have had to stop to refer to our butchering books and videos frequently. Even though Matt and I did extensive studying up on this before we set out to do it, there is no substitute for hands on experience.

As our first day of hog killin’ came to an end, a sense of relief settled over me – partially because I could finally answer “yes” to Joel’s question – “Have you ever been to a hog killin’?” But also because I could answer “yes” to another question that had been plaguing me for months. I am an omnivore – which means I eat meat, among other things. I know there is a dead animal on the other side of my meat, dairy, and egg transactions, and I don’t pretend otherwise. But some part of me had been wondering if there really was such a thing as “humane slaughter,” or was this just something I told myself so I could feel OK about eating meat? In the quiet of my kitchen, as I scraped the last of the hair off the pig heads and removed their eyeballs, I came to the conclusion that even for the fourth pig, her final moments seemed less traumatic than when I separated her from her mother and transported her by car to our farm – which is an act even prized house pets must suffer. I believe it was harder on me, as a sympathetic being, to watch our pigs die, than it was on them to endure it. Perhaps this is why we call the standard “humane,” as in pertaining to human beings, rather than relating it directly to the animals’ feelings.

I thought I would feel more food secure after I knew how to kill a pig, but, I actually felt more insecure than ever. The killin’ is just the beginning. Doing this as a two day process meant we had to find a way to chill the meat quickly and keep it cool for the next 24 hours since our weather was warmer than preferred. We had also heard the yips of coyotes hanging around our property the last few weeks, so we needed to protect the meat. We decided to use six retired 55-gallon honey drums, cleaned and filled with ice water, to chill and store the meat. We knew this would work because it works so well for quickly chilling champagne. Once cool, you can maintain the meat temperature with minimal amounts of new ice. We fastened the lids on the drums and weighted them with cinder blocks. We also kept the work lights on all night long to discourage coyotes. And we slept very lightly…

If the meat made it through the night, then the real fun would begin. And I couldn’t wait because on day 2, Meredith Leigh, butcher, farmer, educator, and author of The Ethical Meat Handbook: Complete Home Butchery, Charcuterie & Cooking for the Conscious Omnivore was coming to help us convert those carcass hunks into delicious meat cuts and gourmet goodies. So, stay tuned for part three in this series – “Hog Cookin’.”


This article is part 2 of a 3 part series called “Have You Ever Been to a Hog Killin’?” about raising, harvesting, and cooking pigs. You can read the rest of the series here:

Part 1: Raising Hogs
Part 2: Hog Killin’
• Hog Cookin’ (Coming Soon)

 

Have You Ever Been to a Hog Killin’? – Part 1: Raising Hogs

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pigs-in-shelter“Have you ever been to a hog killin’?” Joel Salatin posed this question to his readers in his book entitled Folks, This Ain’t Normal – A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World. I remember reading it and shifting uncomfortably in my chair as he described the process:

Crack! The first .22 caliber rifle shot indicates the start of the day. The oldest and wisest man sticks the hog in the carotid artery to commence the bleeding…

Although I fundamentally understood where meat came from, his description made a previously abstract concept real for me. It wasn’t the killing that bothered me. It was the recognition of how much knowledge, experience, and independence we have lost by relying on factory farmed meat. After reading Joel’s summary, I knew with certainty that I would not be capable of safely butchering a hog. As that idea sank in, I recognized the depth of my “food insecurity.”

When Joel continued on to detail scalding and scraping the pig carcass, the womenfolk directing where the “pancreas, lungs (lights), liver, and kidneys go,” and the preparation that takes place while cuts are made, I determined that these were things I needed to know. So, I headed out to the pasture-raised pig farms in my area to get involved in the process. Although I learned a lot about raising pigs, none of those farmers were doing their own butchering. They were sending live pigs to USDA-approved facilities for processing and inspection so they could legally sell their meat to the public. I am sure those capable farmers could have butchered a pig in a bind, but none of them actually had.

Discovering that the very people who raised my pork answered “no” to Joel’s question reinforced my concerns. I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if the meat processors went on strike. Or what if there was an extended power outage and we had to do things the old-fashioned way? Would we be able to figure it out and did we even have the tools to do it? At the time, I had to assuage my worries with more canned goods in my basement. But the desire to know how to slaughter a hog at home remained. Two years later, after we started our own small farm in North Carolina, we were finally able to organize our own hog killin’.

In our rural neck of the woods, you can buy ready-to-butcher pigs. However, since we are building our homesteading skills, we opted to raise our own. We found a breeder in our county and put a deposit on four Yorkshire “weaners” (usually 2-5 week old pigs). We asked for females, because based on our experience with other livestock, females have been easiest to raise (castrated males are noted for docility as well). We needed extra time to get ready for pigs, so the breeder agreed to keep our pigs with their mama until 8 weeks of age. We learned later that the breeder did us a favor in more ways than one because the longer pigs nurse, the faster they grow and they fewer behavioral and health problems they have.

In mid-April we picked up our four power-packed bundles of cat-sized blubber. They squealed bloody murder as we tried to catch them and it took near Herculean effort to wrestle them into the hatchback of my Honda Fit (a.k.a. my farm truck). Luckily, other than the stench of pig poop, the rest of the ride home was uneventful. In retrospect, picking up the pigs turned out to be the hardest part of raising them.

pig-shelterInitially, the girls spent most of their time hiding under loose straw in their three-sided shelter. We constructed it with salvaged hardwood pallets, plywood, sheet metal, 2x4s, and fixed it in place on our hillside using 4x4s set in concrete. Pigs are notoriously hard on their shelters, so building a solid structure was important. However, having just been separated from their mother and relocated to a strange place, these pigs were so timid and quiet at first that I nudged them occasionally to make sure they were still alive. A few days later, they began to wait at their food bowls as I approached. Shortly after that, they started circling me like sharks whenever I stepped in their pen to give them breakfast and dinner. In the heat of the day, they napped under outcroppings of trees. Mornings and late afternoons they snouted up roots, loosened rocks, and tilled the soil. They created new wallows when it rained. This is pretty much how they spent their time until their final fated day.

We started the girls off inside an electric fence within a fixed fence because we had heard horror stories of weaners burrowing under wire and wreaking havoc or disappearing. Our pigs tore up the entire interior perimeter of the electric fence, but never tried to escape. To make sure they were “wire-trained,” I would set their food down outside the fence and walk away. The girls complained loudly with sorrowful wailing, but never crossed the polywire strands. Soon, I started to move them around our property using temporary fencing. I opted for $2 plastic posts placed 10 – 15 feet apart with polywire lines running at about 6″ and 14″ high. The posts had built-in slots to hold the electric wire, but after a few slots broke off, I started wrapping the wire around the posts for added stability. I used a portable solar fence charger on a grounding stake, that gave such a small electric jolt I still can’t believe it deterred the pigs. I lured the pigs to new paddocks with food buckets. Then I watched in wonder as they demolished large patches of brier and pushed fallen limbs out from under the best shady spots to make themselves at home.

During one heavy rain, a sow slid through the fence and buried part of the polywire in the mud. This stopped the flow of current through the fence. The other girls, sensing the change, tentatively stepped over the fence. Thanks to the wet soil, they cleared quite a bit of new ground before we coaxed them back inside their fence using a food bucket. After that I was careful not to run the fence across overly-steep areas. When I delivered food, I also touched the fence to make sure it was “live.” If the current felt weak, I walked the fence line and freed the wire from debris the girls had pushed against it. Overall, as long as the pigs had shade, food, water, land to work, and a live-wire identifying boundaries, they seemed content to stay put.

Most of the pigs’ drinking water came from passive rain collection. We attached gutters and a rain barrel to their shelter and placed the barrel inside their pen to make filling water buckets easy. When the girls started working as a team to tip the barrel and create wallows, we moved the barrel outside the polywire. That stopped the tipping problem, but the barrel was too small to last us through dry periods. We ended up hauling buckets of water to the pigs on some of the hottest days. Next year, we’ll use a bigger cistern.

On the subject of water, there is a lot of concern about the “water footprint” in meat. As clean drinking water is becoming less accessible around the planet, appropriate water use is a very important topic. But this is an area where there is a lot of misunderstanding and misuse of data to support particular views. The Water Footprint Network has a great tool to give you a sense of the amount of water used in agricultural items. According to their data, it takes 5,990 liters of water (global average) to make a kilo of pork. Beef takes about 15,400 liters for a kilo. Cabbage, by contrast, is only about 230 liters of water per kilo. That makes cabbage the clear winner in the water footprint race. Right?

Yes, but not by as much as you might think. A pound of cabbage has about 118 calories. A pound of beef has about 1137 calories. In terms of human energy, you need to eat 9.6 times more cabbage than beef to make a fair comparison. At that rate, cabbage will run you 2208 liters of water. It’s still a “win” for cabbage, but realistically eating 9.6 pounds of cabbage or similar amounts of any other vegetable would be hard. Therefore, most people include calorie-dense foods in their diet. Vegetarians eat dairy. Vegans eat nuts. Pork stacks up competitively with those alternatives. On a per calorie basis, pork beats eggs, chicken, and nuts, and runs a close race with dairy products and fruit.

On our homestead, our pigs drank about 4 gallons of rain water per pound of meat produced. This is more than in an industrial environment because we gave them extra water to wet their wallows. We used about 1/4 gallon per pound for cleaning and processing, which is less than industrial use. We bought some bagged feed which definitely left a wet footprint. But we sourced most of their food from local farms that required minimal irrigation since we get good rainfall here. About 30% of their diet came from our unirrigated garden. We probably beat the average water footprint for pork, but we’ll do even better when our pasture is developed.

Pigs can feed themselves totally on pasture… if there’s enough food growing in it. Our new paddocks were too full of inedible rhododendrons and mountain laurel, so supplemental feed was necessary. But the work the pigs did to clear the land and fertilize it with poop will reduce and eventually eliminate feed costs over the next few years. As the pigs tilled, I followed behind them to clear rocks and gather stumps, branches, and roots to use later in small hugel-swales. Pigs don’t sweat, so they need wallows (mud baths) to stay cool. So, I only moved the girls to new paddocks when there was a good chance of rain so they could make wallows without me hauling the water. In the vacated pasture, I raked out pig patties and over-seeded with buckwheat, mustard, hairy vetch, and winter wheat to prevent soil erosion and compaction. The rain also watered the seeds in before the birds could eat them all.

Come spring, I’ll scythe down these cover crops and seed the area with fast growing pig favorites – beets, turnips, beans, radishes, and greens of all kinds. When the plants hit maturity, I’ll move our next round of pigs in and let them feed themselves. When I move the pigs out of each paddock next time, I plan to convert sections of pasture to perennials like comfrey, berries, and black locust and crab apple trees for coppicing to evolve the system to be self-sustaining. I’ll also add more paddocks so I can move the pigs more frequently to reduce disturbance to the soil.

This time we spent about $400 per pig on feed over a 7 month period. The girls hit “market weight” (225-250 lbs) in late August, but we had to wait for cool weather to slaughter. We ended up feeding them 2 1/2 months longer than necessary. They were over 300 pounds by November, even though we reduced feed to limit weight gain. In addition to feed, the pigs ate garden scraps and long-producing greens like kale, chard, and Malabar spinach. They ate tulip poplar, red sumac, and black locust leaves like candy. Friends gave us spent beer grains which we mixed with feed at a rate of 30%. We gave them our leftovers (except pork which went to the chickens). Towards the end, we gave them deer apples since those were a cheap pig favorite.

Our feed costs per pound of finished meat product came to $2.05. Including the price of the pigs it was $2.50 per pound. These values don’t include our time or our set-up costs. Pig care took 20-40 minutes per day depending on how much water had to be hauled. Hog killin’ and meat product making took several days and lots of helping hands. Pasture creation is ongoing and will add up to weeks of time when finished. Running electric wire took a few hours per paddock, mostly due to time spent clearing brush. There was also time spent on feed pick-up, but we combined that with other activities for efficiency.

With a little ingenuity, you can eventually raise your own pigs at a lower cost than buying pork from the store. For budgeting purposes, a safe estimate on feed is 5 pounds of feed for one pound of meat. If you buy feed in 50 pound bags, just drop the zero on your target pig weight to come up with your number of bags, e.g. a 250 pound pig takes 25 bags of feed, at $16 a bag, that’s $400. Most of the feed expense will occur in the last two months of the pig’s life. You can buy weaner pigs for $45, but $85-$100 seems more typical for quality meat breeds. A 250 pound pig will get you roughly 150 pounds of meat products (more if you use organs, scrape the head, and pick bones clean). In our area, we can buy pork for an average cost of $6 per pound (more for loin, bacon, cured ham, less for breakfast sausage, lard, roasts). So, the market value of 150 pounds of meat for us is about $900.

If you only had to buy feed, and weren’t worried about assigning value to your time, you could save about $400 per pig. But if you are starting from scratch, you may not come out ahead your first year. Infrastructure costs for keeping and butchering pigs vary greatly depending on personal preferences. We spent about $700 on fencing and shelter, but others have found ways to do it for pennies on the pound. As you are making your choices, you may want to plan for: 1) enough fencing to let the pigs do some free-ranging, 2) shelter, 3) water storage and delivery method, 4) feed, 5) pig purchase price, 6) tools for home butchering or costs for professional butchering, 7) supplies/equipment for making sausage, meat cures, and packaging products, and 8) a place to store your 150+ pounds of pork per pig (e.g. freezer, larder, curing shed). Then to be safe, add 15% for the stuff you didn’t realize you needed! I also recommend that you don’t count your pork pounds before they are consumed. If you are hanging a ham, you’ll lose 40% of the starting weight in the curing process and you have to wait 8 months or longer for full flavor.

Finally, pigs are definitely social creatures, so budget for at least two pigs. If you don’t need that much meat, consider co-raising pigs with friends or neighbors. There are a lot of regulations about selling packaged meats after slaughter, but there is often more latitude if you co-raise animals and butcher together. Make sure you know your local and state ordinances. Your agricultural extension agent can usually point you in the right direction.

pigs-in-pastureFencing, watering, feeding, and budgeting for pigs is the easy part. Saying goodbye is hard. Despite my efforts at keeping a “professional distance,” I still fell in love with those girls. I couldn’t help but admire the single-mindedness with which they worked the pasture, their pure joy over fresh vegetables, or the hilarity of four giant beasts curled up together under some measly pine trees at noon. But I knew what was coming. As we got closer to the kill date I hovered over our pigs while they ate to acclimate them to my prolonged proximity. I repeatedly touched the “stun spot” (found by making an X between their eyes and ears) where we would eventually shoot them with a .22. I also practiced lining them up and spacing them out as I had seen in the “To Kill a Pig Nicely” video from Farmstead Meatsmith. The pigs even stood still as I measured them from shoulder to tail, and around their girth, to estimate their weight for planning purposes. It sounds so calculating in retrospect. But in fact, my actions evolved naturally because I wanted the events that followed to be as stress-free as possible, for all of us.

My girls were well over 300 pounds and still growing. Their ability to decimate pasture increased exponentially with each pound of flesh. As our first frosts came and went, our garden scraps dwindled, and our feed costs increased. The time had come to do what we set out to do at the start of this adventure.

In Joel’s description, the conversion from carcass to ready-to-eat meat occurs alongside the killing and cutting. Organs are boiled, hams rubbed down and hung in the curing house, and trimmings are converted into sausage along the way. But Joel’s hog killin’ was a regular event, attended by people who knew their roles. We were novices, making this up as we went along. To keep it manageable, we broke the process into a two day event. Day 1 – Hog Killin’: kill, scald, de-hair, primal cut, and chill. Day 2 – Hog Cookin’: make delicious stuff. If you are undaunted by what you’ve read so far, then hold tight for two more posts on Hog Killin’ and Hog Cookin’.


This article is part 1 of a 3 part series called “Have You Ever Been to a Hog Killin’?” about raising, harvesting, and cooking pigs. You can read the rest of the series here:

Part 1: Raising Hogs
• Hog Killin’ (Coming Soon)
• Hog Cookin’ (Coming Soon)