Cabin fever is starting to set in around here. The sun is higher in the sky, days are getting longer and the mud is a sure sign spring is on its way. Very glad to file last year away into memory book titled Holy Cow the World Needs a Valium. The best therapy is getting outside and getting dirty. So let’s do it, and let the world entertain us.
As far as poultry and putting food on our tables and in our freezers more back yard growers are emerging. Some new customers to the slaughterhouse tell us they use to buy their chicken, eggs and turkey from other growers but wanted to experience it and then finding fun and not as hard as they thought. Many of you with years of growing birds may have even found yourself giving out advice to the greenhorns, with that smile as you remember asking the same question years ago. It nice to see people sharing and socializing at chick day pick up and then again at processing time.
Now last year also had its setbacks and challenges, all being part of the crazy activity we call farming. The climate cycle of 2016 with the high temperatures, humidity and drought conditions effecting everyone from the breeders to the growers to even the retail levels of finished products. Chicks can dehydrate during shipping happens for sure but is less likely as they are still receiving nutrients from the yolk sack for the first 72 hours from hatch. The bigger culprit of rapid dehydration is overheating in the brooder as outside temps change hour to hour. Even for the most experienced grower the first 3 to 4 days see the highest incidence of “starve outs” and dehydration deaths. Chicks can be seen drinking but still die from dehydration related to an electrolyte imbalance which can happen fast due to their lack of body mass. The symptoms of dehydration is lethargy, ataxia (drunk walking), and weakness to name a few. Depend more on reading and understanding the chick’s behavior and less on thermometers. Remember chicks can handle being more on the cool side vs on the hot side and never a draft. Think of that infrared brooder lamp( not a 100 watt bulb) like the wood stove in your living room, you can move closer when your cold and further away till you find your comfort zone. Needless to say we will be working very closely with the hatchery leading to shipments being delayed by 12-24 hours. Last year Emily and I met the hatchery truck in upstate New York to pick up 2000 poults, as they did not want to FedEx them do to heat index. It worked out great less stress on the birds, less than 24 hours from the egg to the farm leading to less starve outs.
New ideas for 2017 Ice, We have been listening ……many people want ice but we haven’t been able to spar the ice we make for chilling birds so we have been in contact with a commercial ice company who will be putting in a big ice chest freezer and supply us with 20 pound bags of crushed ice. Now as long as it pays for itself we’ll have it.
Secondly, Shrink bags A good number of growers have asked about the commercial grade shrink bags available now. We tested these bags last Thanksgiving and were totally amazed. There is a whole science to packaging not all shrink bags are created equal. We found 90% less breakthrough of tips. tails and bones. We also found 99% less frost formation, as these bags “breath”. You will now have a choice of the standard poly-poultry bag or the added cost of a shrink bag. The extra cost of these bags will add about 40 cents per bag for broilers and about 75cent for turkeys.
Third New York Dress No this is not something you go dancing in! In an attempt to help those that want to help themselves we are willing to offer a New York Dress. This is old school processing still practiced at the ethnic markets in New York , Chicago and Boston . The bird is killed and plucked clean, head and feet left on the bird then given back to the owner. The owner is responsible for the gutting, chilling and packaging of the bird at their farm. We are still trying to set a price which should save any grower 50%.
Looking forward to hear from you soon!