The day-to-day schedule is quite fluid on the farm and it is hard to delineate between work and private time. However, the difference between our production season and the off-season is quite dramatic. Over the winter we’ve had time to recuperate, plan, and experiment. It has been great. However, while it is still the rainy time of year and we are looking at several weeks until we are back in full swing, there are signs that the pace is once again quickening.
Our Nigerian Dwarf goat herd has already expanded. The milk is a dream. It is so creamy and sweet, and there is none of the goat flavor that Shae and I expected we’d have to grow accustomed too. We might be overly excited, but our enthusiasm for this breed encouraged us to seek new friends for Essie and we now have the wonderful company of an accomplished, and quite regal, buck named Bowtie and a very young and dainty doe named Poppy. The show-stopper, though, is Poppy’s 2-week-old son Tuxedo (Notice that our males are all named after men’s formal wear. We are praying for twins: Calvin and Klein). Tux is adorable and a genuine pleasure to watch. He is still learning the finer points of balance and decorum so he spends his days romping around and chasing (or being chased by) the chickens.
We also have three new rabbits on the farm! The two females and one male come from a great backyard breeder in Woodside and they will hopefully become the Adam and Eve(s) of a modest rabbit business. The biggest hurdle right now is working out the logisitics for how we’d like to house the rabbits. Rabbits are solitary and have a tendency to dig/burrow, so a free-range pasture net like our turkeys receive is out of the question. We are currently working on a couple of special pens right now, but everything is in the prototype phase so I won’t embarrass myself by going into their designs before they have had a chance to be tested.
Last, we have begun an experiment with a slower growing breed of meat chickens called Freedom Rangers. We have 100 of them in brooder right now and they look spectacularly healthy and active. These chickens take longer to grow than the Cornish Crosses that we principally raise and thus require more feed and labor. However, because they are older at slaughter and bred to be wonderful foragers, they develop stronger flavors in their meat. The tradeoff, however, is that in addition to their higher cost, the birds do not have as much white meat as the Cornish Cross and, because they are older, they are slightly less juicy and tender. Our plan with this experiment is to feed these birds an organic feed, and after running some numbers it looks like we will be selling them at $5.95 per pound (as opposed to our Cornish Cross broilers that are fed a non-medicated conventionally grown feed and cost $3.95 per pound). We already have a number of customers who have unofficially claimed a number of these birds (we are planning to start taking pre-orders in a couple weeks), and I expect that this experimental batch is just the start of a full-fledged enterprise for us. I think the Freedom Rangers will be spectacular and they will give the business the invaluable opportunity to offer customers two superb, but distinct pastured chicken options. I’ll, of course, keep you all up to date on how it goes!
So there you have it. We’ll be starting up full production of our pastured Cornish Cross chickens again in the beginning of March and that’s pretty much when we go back into full swing. We are so excited and we’ve only been spurred on by the calls we’ve been getting from our awesome customers about how excited they are too.