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Pastured Poultry: Introduction to ‘Factors to Consider’

July 10th, 2012 | Posted by miker in Poultry - (Comments Off on Pastured Poultry: Introduction to ‘Factors to Consider’)

Pastured Poultry: Introduction to ‘Factors to Consider’

 Each week we move our chicken coops to a new section of pasture.  At this time the Farm Worker is responsible for the following items:

  •  Where is the coop moving to, and what is the best way to get there?  Where will the coop be moved to next time – such that the new position leads smoothly to the next placement.
  • Open fence to allow access for ATV to move coop to new location.  Hanging feeder inside coop should be secured to avoid wild swinging and injury to birds.  Move at slow, steady rate, avoid sharp turns and steep inclines.
  • Pre mow new pasture perimeter to facilitate fence set up.  Fence should be set up without sagging and bottom edge of fence must be fully in contact with ground.  Over uneven ground additional fence stakes may be necessary to secure bottom of fence.  Be sure that all additional fence stakes are collected and move with each new pasture.
  • Coop Orientation is Important!  Main solar access should be to the South East (morning sunshine) to encourage laying.  Windows should not be to the West as this leads to potential overheating on summer afternoons.
  • Coop Placement in pasture is Important!  Pasture should be assessed for best forage, worst weeds, and previous placement.  The chickens will kill whatever is beneath the coop, so placement in the midst of a nasty patch of weedy growth can be beneficial.  Likewise their poop is concentrated below the coop and so placement in the pasture should be rotated to allow for uniform fertilization of the area over time.
  • If predation is an issue, choice of pasture location must be as close to human activity as possible, followed by within electric fence.  At the very least, nearby boundaries should be mowed to reduce cover for foxes and regular monitoring is necessary.
  • Mowing the pasture after chickens have moved off can be beneficial to control the seed set of undesirable plant species.  Reseeding with desirable plant species can also be done after chickens have moved on.

Poultry Report 2011

March 5th, 2012 | Posted by miker in Poultry - (Comments Off on Poultry Report 2011)

Poultry Report 2011

Materials Reviewed: MikeR, Nov. 2011.

 

Statement:

Regular records are kept of Feed Comsumption, Egg Yield and Special Expenses.  In the winter, eggs are sold wholesale (Whole Earth Center, Bent Spoon, Zone 7) and income is tracked through regular invoicing.  During the Farmers Market Season, sales are recorded at each market, and a summary of sales prepared at the end of the season.

It is our intention to use these numbers to track our real cost and income from the season of 2011, and publish the results, right here.  Ultimately, this effort is intended to encourage similar cost assessment amoung the agricultural and food consumming communities.  Hypothesis:  If we accurately track our real costs of production, we can accurately price the product…adjusted by our real yield.

Challenges:  Accounting for costs – Infrastructure, Labor, Intangebles (sometimes as benifits), Markets.

The final goal is a strong “Wholesale Value” that NorthSlopeFarm will stand by as a reasonable value for our product.

Off the cuff calculations now show very little money left to pay for labor after we’ve shelled out Thousands of Dollars for Certified Organic, Fresh Feed.  Its an important topic, and the report will be published here.

MikeR, March 5, 2012

 

 

Fresh Eggs from North Slope Farm

December 8th, 2010 | Posted by miker in Poultry - (Comments Off on Fresh Eggs from North Slope Farm)

Fresh Eggs from North Slope Farm

December 8, 2010

If you like a fresh egg and are interested in supporting a new agricultural venture, then read on…

North Slope Farm is invested in managing small flocks of hens for the production of eggs.

If you would like to join the list of interested consumers, please email northslopefarm@comcast.net, subject eggs.  We will reply and then update you as to egg availability.

The cost per dozen is $7.  Buyers clubs are encouraged and can receive reduced prices with minimum orders of 10 dozen per week.  Available at Hopewell Farmers Market, Wednesdays 2-6.  Local deliveries can be arranged.

During the Summer Season, the eggs are available at our farmstand and at the farmers markets we attend.

During the Winter season, the “new girls” start laying and our supply steadily builds.  Our goal at North Slope is to focus on the wholesale value of the product.  If the wholesale price is valid to support the production, then the situation is sustainable.  Primary cost is feed.  We conciously support our local feed store, that stocks Organic Feed, (Rosedale Mills, Pennington, NJ), and that item is a baseline cost.  Additionally, the cost of labor, bedding and infrastructure.

North Slope Farm is committed to fostering a sustainable business from our Poultry Special Project and we encourage you to contact us if you want to invest in your food!

Poultry – Introduction

October 14th, 2010 | Posted by miker in Poultry - (Comments Off on Poultry – Introduction)

Poultry – Field Birds

Introduction

October 14, 2010

 Intent: To establish the viability and management practices of “small flocks” of laying chickens (layers), on seasonal pasture, free roaming except at night.

 Parameters:

  • Capital Investment; North Slope Farm.
  • Daily Management; North Slope Farm.
  • Site Details; infrastructure and fields managed by North Slope Farm.
  • Enterprise; 3 total flocks of 50 birds each, annually.  Each year 50 new chicks will be started and at the end of the season the oldest flock will be retired.  Each flock will yield 2 seasons of production, over a managed lifespan of 3 seasons.
  • Flocks will be managed according to Generally Accepted Organic Practices, with a focus on access to outdoors, and Organic Feed.  Ideally investment dollars will be directed to local businesses, ie; feed from Rosedale Mills in nearby Pennington, NJ.  Chicks currently purchased from Moyers Chicks, in Quackertown, PA, due to past business and good reputation. 
  • Regular records will be kept of costs and production.  North Slope Farm will be responsible for costs and income of the operation.
  • Information about the project, including annual summaries, will be shared on our website under Special Projects; Poultry.

 Data Points:

  • Baseline value of a dozen eggs wholesale: $4.50
  • Retail value: $7

Summary as of October 2010:

Farm manager and trainees currently manage two flocks of layers.  The ‘08’s have been retired from production, so the ‘09’s are the “old girls” now.  The 210’s (chicks started in 2010) are out of their baby pen, into the big girl housing but not yet on pasture.  Their coop is built into a fenced yard for the winter, so they will not be on pasture until Spring 2011.  They are first in line for special treatment though – vegetable waste from market garden as well as hay and sprouted grains for scratch.

2010 was hard on the field girls with serious losses to foxes.  We anticipate increased pressure as cold weather sets in.  To avoid loses over the winter we need to enclose the girls, ideally into a large greenhouse, but at least a fenced yard.  The winter setting for the 2010’s is established but where we’ll park the 09’s is still up for debate.  Getting them into a situation where we can build extra protection from the winter extremes is the priority.  Also critical is to have them near to our winter water source.

The costs of the enterprise are primarily in Feed.  Labor is the other major item.  The labor required at minimum is Morning and Night.  The opening of their coop in the morning, freshening bedding, filling feed and fresh water.  Evening chores include closing coop, securing feed and collecting eggs.  We typically visit the coops up to three times a day, collecting eggs and checking feed and water in the afternoon.  Each week the field coops are moved to a new section of pasture.  The section of pasture has a perimeter of 330’ as defined by two 165’ lengths of “Poultry Net” (from GrowersSupply.com) – Cost at purchase $170 each.  We sort the eggs into Market (clean from coop) and Farmer (needs cleaning).  The farmer eggs are available to our trainees (and community investors) at reduced cost.  The Market eggs are rinsed prior to packing and selling each week.  Current average yield for thiry layers is 13 market dozen per week, at $4.50 – about $60 for a weeks worth of tending (not enough even to support a workers responsibilities at $10/hr).  The goal will be two flocks of 50 each, yielding 43 doz, or $190 for a weeks worth of tending.  The working assumption is that more birds than that would exceed our ability to manage optimally.

Future discussion:  Establish a viable wholesale cost.  Assess production management; strengths and weakness.  Assess production potential and identify limitations to operation.  Identify values and costs of enterprise not reflected in hard data collected.

Click on picture below to visit our Photo Sets at Flickr.com
Moveable Coop and fence