Overall this season has been going great. Our first batch of chickens is in the freezer, we have a new item for sale in the form of goat sausage, our last batch of chickens is out on pasture and our ducks and goats are just a few weeks a way from being processed. A lot of days have involved waking up at 4 in the morning in order to be at work at 6 and usually wrapping as the sun disappears and we are inside eating dinner by 8 or 9.
A big piece of this season is that we set our intentions on scaling up our production, figuring out more efficient ways to pasture our animals. For the most part we have been successful in being more efficient mainly through increasing our flock and herd sizes. For example, the past few seasons our chicken batch size has been 100 birds. This season our chicken batches are at 175. After watching them work their way through their pasture spots we know that we could comfortably add more to our batches next year. It essentially takes the same amount of time to feed and water 100 chickens as it does 200. We still have a long list of items that will make our pasture system even more efficient. We hope to implement even more of these next year through purchasing equipment that will make everyone's lives easier.
While generally we have had a successful season there have been a couple of events that have set our production back. Our second batch of ducks was held up by the postal service for 3 days. We were suppose to get our ducklings the day after they are hatched. The stress of being without water and food for that long resulted in our batch of 140 ducklings that were shipped only netting us 16 ducks that survived the trip and the recovery time afterwards. We are brainstorming ways of not having our ducklings shipped any more as we were not really impressed by the way our hatchery or the postal service handled the ordeal. We are obviously concerned about the welfare component of shipping day old chicks and ducklings but from a production stand point we only have small windows of time to raise these birds as we are a seasonal pastured based farm. By having an entire batch be a scratch there is no chance of making that up a week later as the brooder and pasture infrastructure are scheduled way in advance. We are hoping to keep the 16 ducks that made it as a breeding flock to supply a batch of ducklings next season. We will also most likely make the trip to Pennsylvania ourselves to avoid the postal service all together for any ducklings we buy in.
Lastly, we were reminded this week of how vulnerable a pastured farming system can be. We learned a very hard lesson on Friday morning. When I went out to do chores it was apparent from the kitchen window that something was off because our first batch of ducks were all outside of their paddock on the other side of the pasture. Out at their pasture spot it was very obvious that there had been some very serious predation the night before. What we surmise as being a weasel had killed just about half of our original bevy of 140 ducks. The remaining 70 ducks were immediately moved up to the other side of the pasture to be closer to the goats. They were separated earlier in the week as to allow the goats to start using the top of the pasture which had regrown since we grazed it earlier this summer. It certainly seems like having the presence of the goats has kept any predator pressure at bay. Just the three days of having the goats on the opposite side of the pasture from the ducks caused us, and the ducks a lot of heartache. This is a huge lose financially as these ducks were just two weeks away from their processing date.
While on paper we were anticipating producing around 250 ducks this season we are hoping to finish with the 70 surviving ducks after the loss from our shipping fiasco and the losses due to predation on pasture. We continue to learn a lot from raising pastured duck and hope to come back stronger next year.
We are taking pre-orders for our Pastured Duck which will be available the last week in September. Fill out the Pastured Duck Pre-Order Form to reserve your order today.
We have Farm Grazed Chevon available including Chorizo, Hot Italian and Breakfast Sausage.
Pastured Chicken is also availible. Email us to place an order.