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Got'cha ... Predation Transparency

After relaying to our readers the impacts of predation upon our laying flock, a number of people have asked if it’s stopped.  So, here’s an update.  

We installed trail cameras at different locations in our Poultry Park … our name for the new poultry facility we built this past year.  The predator’s “calling card” was the same every time … a carcass with only the top part of the breast eaten and the rest left.  I won’t get into the details, but suffice it to say, it was the same kill style each time.  The only exception was that smaller birds vanished all together, but anything in the 3 to 4 pound range or larger, only had partial consumption.  All predation occurred at night, with one exception. 

The cameras were loaded nightly and checked each morning.  Finally, after about a week, here is what we captured on film (see below for the image) …  this obviously told us a lot.  As a result of this shot we were able to implement a defense strategy that included protective wall netting on our roost, and the predation stopped.  However, in the end, we lost 60% of our replacement pullets for this coming year and don’t have time to replace them to meet the start up of this coming year’s spring laying season. 

Predation is a significant problem, especially for farmers who are committed to free ranging their birds, which is what we want and what our customers want.  We are in the process deciding how to proceed with rebuilding our aging laying flock of Rhode Island Reds and will keep you posted on our progress.

11/14/2018  This Week's Ranch Headlines

Time seems to compress into a moment, but when examined, unfolds into a kaleidoscope of events that took place.  The dark of winter accentuates this feeling.  At the query of What’s Happening, “Oh, nothing,” is a common response that’s honest in the heart, but errant.  So lets unpack the What’s Happening at Newland Ranch, in headline fashion. 

Turkey Harvest Day at the Ranch – November 14

Egg Production Continues Seasonal Decline – November 13

First Real Frost of the Season – Hoses Froze – November 12

Gleaned Fields of Cauliflower & Cabbage for Pigs – November 11

Breed Cow Herd Returns Home to the Ranch – November 11

Expanded Freezer Capacity in Time for Turkey Harvest – November 10

Pulled 40 Bales from the Loft for this Week – November 10

Sold Bred Heifer to Scio Herdsman – November 10

Newland Rancherette Mending from Surgery – November 7

Those are the headlines for the past week, and know there’s a story in each.  Send me a note if you’d like to hear more on any of these and I’d be happy to expand.  It’s time now to finish my second cup of coffee, pull on my jeans and sweatshirt, leave the glow of my pellet stove and experience the crisp air of this new day.  It’s a day made just for me, and you, and I promise you, that I’ll live it all by the time I’m in bed tonight.  Enjoy it!


Cows Out is No Treat - Just Trick

I was out putting birds away at about 8:30 last night, in the dark ... "putting  birds away" means being sure the chickens and turkeys are all on roost for the night, which helps to avoid predation.  With a headlamp on, I was also arming trail cameras and traps, as we've lost 2 more replacement hen poults in the last day.  DAMN IT!  When flashlights, 3 or 4, started moving up and down Vick Rd which forms Newland's north boundary.  At the same time there were a number of vehicles lining up on Hwy 213.  Being Halloween I was suspicious of devious activity and headed to the house to get Marilyn.  At the house, the Schnauzer was raising hell at a pair of headlights stopped at the front gate.  Clearly, something out of the norm was going on.  Upon mustering the troops, or troop, as the case may be, I returned to the field area to monitor the goings on.  When I got there I became somewhat alarmed as now the flashlights that had been on Vick Rd were in our field and heading, somewhat haphazardly, toward the house and barn area.  As the lights got closer I could see it was a couple adults, not adorned in costume, to my relief, and I went out to meet them.  About that time, Marilyn had a chance to get boots on and join me.  Just at that time I could make out that the adults were herding #161, one of our registered Hereford heifers, who Marilyn refers to as Houdini, through the field toward the barn.  And, at joining me, Marilyn tells me that the lights at the gate turned out to be a Sheriff's Deputy asking if we had cows.  As it turns out, #161 had decided to take a trip to Portland and was heading north on Hwy 213 when she stopped into the neighbors for a bite to eat on their lawn.  Thankfully, like most people in the Molalla area, the neighbors knew how to herd cows and brought her back down Vick Rd, found a gate in the fence, and returned her to her field of origin.  So, as I sit here in the dark of the morning, drinking my first cup of coffee at about 5:30 a.m., I'm rearranging my day that will now include the accumulation of fencing equipment and a day of stretching new wire, and patching old.  How was your Halloween ... any cows come trick or treating?  If so, let me know, and I'll be right over to retrieve what most certainly will be Houdini.


Remember, Its Farming Not Shopping

As talked about below, we are experiencing a decline in egg production due to the seasonal reduction in daylight.  But sadly, we've also lost, in just the last 2 days, from predation, a laying hen each night.  Both of these hens were Novegens, which were flock replacement hens reared last year, and were in their prime laying time of life.

I haven't been outside yet this morning, so I'm hoping all survived last night.

Laying hens of this age are expected to lay about an egg a day, or 6 eggs per week.  Between the two of them, that's a dozen eggs a week.  And, because they were young, the effect of waning daylight does not effect them as much it does a 2 or 3 year old bird.  So we rely on these young replacement hens to make a major contribution to our overall egg production numbes.

To offset further losses, we've turned the lights off at night in the coop and barn, which we've had on to offset the seasonal production decline.  We've turned them off to make life tougher for our predator ... we think it is either a racoon or skunk.  We're also taking night time tours about the barnyard to be sure all birds are on their roost.  A "Have-A-Heart" trap is baited and out, but we haven't caught anything yet.  And, we're locking up at night as many hens as we have space, which is something we usually don't do.  Night sensitive trail cams will be in place tonight, and we have a flashing "Predator Wary" light that we're moving to different locations around the ranch to scare our chicken thief away.

It takes several months to raise a chick to production age, and each hen means income for us and choice cuisine for our customers.  Losing birds to predation has an immediate and lasting impact on all of us.

We'll do what we can, but know that these losses, coupled with production losses due to the seasonal impact of shortening daylight will mean fewer eggs in the near term.

I try to remind you all, that Newland Ranch products are the result of "farming," not shopping, and I know you get it.  And that, just by it's nature, makes each bite that more savory and, strangley enough, more nutritious.  It's the real deal.

As always, thank you for your support and commitment to our efforts.  We'll keep you posted.

Please let me know by eMail or by calling 503/806-2177 if you have any questions.


Laying Hens & Light

Well, we are at that time of the year when laying hen production naturally declines.  A general rule of thumb is that laying production is effected by the increase or reduction of daily light at a rate of 10% for every hour of daylight.   At 16 hours of light a laying hen is at full production, down to 10% of production at 6 hours of light.  

Given that, as of this date, we are now at 10 hours and 38 minutes of daylight, which means that, on average, production is off about 50%, and that's what we're seeing.  To offset this effect we are keeping lights on in our coop and barn where the hens sleep.  This is often done by laying flock owners to offset the affects of waning light that occurs with the onset of winter.  

For our eggs customers though, it means that there will not be many days when we will have eggs beyond those needed to meet our egg subscription customer quota.

In some respect, its a bit of numbers game as well ... its thus reasonable to ask that since we know that with the reduction in light the number of eggs per week per hen falls, so, why not add more hens to offset the predictable seasonal decline?  And, we are doing this with the addition of 15 new laying pullets last year, and another 15 added this Fall.  These birds, Black Sex-Links, are now in their adolescence and are expected to come online in February.  For the time being though, we are going to have fewer and fewer eggs in the coming months for our valued customers.

Please let us know if you have questions on this or any other topic and we'll address it as we're able.  Thanks.