Processing Equipment

We often have two schools in our house….Anita’s school of planting seeds around the community and seeing if they will grow into a business; and my school of ‘if we build it they will come’. These schools met head on when it came to processing equipment. The cautious school wanted to process the birds by hand to learn from the experience, while my school said ‘this is the make or break step in the process for most producers- we should throw money at the problem and at the very least give this a fair shake’ (I am sensing slight bias here – anyone else picking up on that). Since we will have friends and customers helping with the processing we really want this to be a good experience for all – we went for the equipment.We picked the Featherman pastured poultry insta-kit – everything we need to become processors in one shipment. We ended up with a Featherman Pro plucker, a 40 gallon scalder, and dunking helper, and a carousel killing cone setup. The Featherman folks were great to work with and everything arrived in good condition. They also threw in David Schafers’ book(which I am almost finished with 12 hours later), a couple of feeders, a float for the scalder, and a threaded ball valve for the drain. They did a good job giving us a complete package.Today we are going to look at a used trailer to mount the equipment and create a mobile processing unit. The Featherman folks are also looking at adding a rental network to their website for equipment. We are thinking about this option; however, we really want to fully break in the machinery before sending it out. Rentals are definitely on the horizon. We tried to rent a unit from the Willamette Valley but couldn’t work out the logistics on our end.Next post will hopefully showcase the Mobile Processing Unit (MPU).

Precious Pasture

The whole premise of our farm is to provide the best forage possible for our animals. If you’re at this site you probably have a pretty good idea about the benefits of grass fed animals. In this post let’s talk about what the animals leave behind rather than what they take from the pasture.

When we ran our layers on the lawn we could definitely see a nice green rush of new growth about 3 weeks after we moved them off. These days we do not run our layers in pens on the lawn anymore- they have too much work to do around the place to be limited in anyway. The broilers are a different story- they play a specific role in our pasture management. We need concentrated fertilizer in order to maintain a healthy poly-fodder. I am pretty sure that the favorite food for all chickens are dandelions. They love them. Quick side story:

We laid sod in our backyard….the decision was should we strip out all the old turf/weeds and place the sod on bare dirt or level it off a bit and place the sod on top of the weedy stuff. We opted for the second option…it kind seemed like lasagna composting and we were a bit pressed for equipment. We laid out the sod and it looked great…..however, after a couple of days the seams started sprouting dandelions. The hens were on them like white on rice. I am sure we would have been doomed without the hens out there standing guard on the grass waiting for the seams to share some candy. The short version- if you are going to lay sod over weeds….your seams will need to monitored and chickens work great!Fertilizer

The broilers go about their work methodically. First they hit the weeds, then trim the pasture consistently eating it down below a mower’s level, then they seem to settle in for the day. They work on and off throughout the day and we have yet to develop a pasture to the point where we are really happy with it (i.e. the chickens are happy with it). So things may change as the pasture develops- right now we run out of fodder in 24 hours and the broilers are ready for a move.

The area left behind when the pens are moved is usually completely covered in ‘fertilizer’ it is a bit rank in the hot sun for a couple of days, the blades of grass start to unfold themselves where they have been trampled, the ‘fertilizer’ starts to fade away and in a week it is gone. We see a quicker green rush the older the birds get. I would guess this has more to do with the increased consumption than any development changes. In other words, the day one rush comes at the same time as day five. I hope you can see from the picture how much better the pasture looks after two weeks. It truly is amazing. I wish I could make a bug count!!