Thursday, April 10, 2014

Now we have sheep! But we don't want parasites!

Ok, so the solution for sheep is threefold.

1. Garlic acts as a natural dewormer
2. mix DE in with the minerals at a rate of 1/4 DE to the mineral mix.
3. Rotate them on pasture, and don't let them stay on the same pasture more than 21 days. 1 week is much better. then rest the paddock for at least 2 months for the worms to die off.

learned this from Skyline Farms

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

SpotOn Farms is now alive!

A few weeks ago, Sharon sent an email to the owner of Organicare farm. She noted that we had wanted to become sustainable farmers and that we needed a mentor.

Gerald Cole graciously replied that we should talk, and a couple days later I was on his farm near Taylor and we are looking at his back pasture and he says to me, "I'll give you carte blanche on that pasture. I can't use it right now."

So, I pinched myself and got busy trying to figure out what I was going to do with it. Was I going to raise Pig, or Chickens or Cattle or Sheep or goats, or watermelons?


In the end (which took about three days) I decided that our best bet was to use Dorper sheep.
Dorper Sheep are very common here in texas as a hair sheep (raised for meat) and they were bred to work in a low rain environment down to 8 inches of rain a year.

Well we don't live in a desert but we do have moments where it sure feels like it.
At the moment, this pasture has some lovely grass. It is about a foot tall and growing like a weed!

Well, I tried sending an email to a few Dorper breeders that are listed on http://dorper.og
but I was getting a really low success rate at finding a breeder that has something for sale, and wants to part with them for a reasonable price.

So, I took the whole list of Texas breeders of which there are 185 or so. I don't know 90% of the towns listed, so I had to come up with a program that sorted this list by distance from me.

I spammed the breeders within 80 miles of Austin. Yes I did.
For a week, I was getting emails and phone calls and I found a few folks that I liked.

But we are talking the first batch now.

So Donnie Witt had some ewes with lambs he was willing to sell.
Now Donnie is a great guy, but he is a pretty conventional producer, in that he feeds medicated feed, worms and vaccinates his sheep. Much of the time, they are running around on bare ground, but they also get free range on pasture as well, though he seems to overgraze them and not move them too much.

But, you got to start somewhere.

I bought five ewes and each ewe brought twins with them.

Currently, that makes 15 sheep!

Here are the obligatory photos!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Apple Cider Vinegar for your rumins, and nearly every thing else...

If you fed the animals Apple Cider Vinegar, it will increase weight gain and reduce parasites, flies, and diseases.

Summary, put one pint of apple cider vinegar in every 40 gallons of water.

Here is a great writeup on it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Wholesale or retail?

On under the farm income forum, Adam Klaus said the following.

I started our farm 8 years ago, it has been a constantly evolving journey over those years. The one surprising development for me, has been my embrace of driving to higher value farmer's markets. I was really set on our wholesale and restaurant customers for the past four plus years. I liked the ease, the paychecks, the volume. But in time, it soured a bit for me. I have found the wholesale angle to be limited by the bottom line motivation of groceries and restaurants. They exist to make money, and will ultimately squeeze me to make more for themselves. They will place 'race to the bottom' with other growers to get the lowest possible price. Things start out good, but it has gotten frustrating over time. 

So this year, I took a chance, skeptically, and started participating in a high-dollar farmers' market. I drive about an hour and a half, to a resort town here in Colorado. The customers come for the good food, and pay a nice premium for everything. Yes, I take a risk in moving my volume. And really, I hardly ever sell out completely. But at the end of the day, I am making much better money. The customers arent trying to squeeze me for every penny so that they can make more profit for themselves. They pay well, and just as importantly, really appreciate what I do and the products I offer. I feel much better as a farmer delivering food directly to the end use consumer. I never imagined that it would be such a positive experience, both for me and my farm, but it has really exceeded my best hopes. The farm market also has much better legal restrictions than wholesaling, so there are many products that I can sell direct to customers, that I can not market through a grocery. My customers know and trust me directly, and do not expect me to have any official certifications, so I save big money and hassle not being organic certified, not having massive insurance premiums, etc. It is a much simpler relationship, that I much prefer. I am building direct relationships with many, many customers, rather than being dependent on a few wholesale channels. It feels much more stable and secure, rewarding and profitable. So I guess I would say, driving to Atlanta sounds like a pretty good opportunity to me!