Friday, April 15, 2011

livestock and deadstock

My Jumbo Cornish Crosses are ready for their date with destiny. I made the appointment at the poultry farm in Greenwich (and here in Washington County that is pronounced green-which)—they are going to take my crate of 10-15 plump birds and professionally slaughter, clean, eviscerate, ice, and wrap them. I will get a cooler of wrapped birds in plastic with Cold Antler Farm printed on a label. It's a step up from processing them all at home, but a step I am happy to take. I learned the hard way how a mistake in backyard meat production can nearly put you in the hospital. While I have processed rabbits, chickens, and game here myself since (without incident. lesson learned.) I have learned that the price of three dollars a bird from live-in-crate to bagged meat is a price worth paying for a full-time employed office worker with lambs to castrate and a sheep shearing coming in the morning....So you pick your battles. I'll help catch and wrestle sheep, but I won't be preparing this lot for the freezer alone. And here's something worth celebrating: already enough coworkers have signed up for the birds to cover their purchase price and feed. That means the one I keep were free-of-charge (minus my labor and time) and that's an economical milestone as well. I'll deliver fresh chicken to the office on Wednesday. This place is becoming place people think of to get dinner.

I was in Manchester today to pick up a few meat rabbits from Wannabea Rabbit Farm. Bruce is an expert, I mean it. This man knows his trade and he sold me three beautiful rexes (one buck and one bred!) and a giant Chin/New Zealand cross I've named Bertha. Now they will join my heavy Palomino Doe and the young black buck in the barn. Five hefty meat rabbits. I can smell the crock pot already...I think rabbit might be my favorite of all meat.

The two Angoras I bought both died earlier this week. They had coccidiosis, I think, and the breeder refunded the money I paid for them. It was quite the hit, but I don't know what else I could have done to prevent it. They were set in a completely clean cage with the same feed the breeder handed me. They had clean water, protection from the elements, natural light and twice-a-day check ins from me. But three days after I bought them one was dead in the cage, and the sister died a few days later. I tried electrolytes, diet changes, grass (that is what saved my Palomino doe when she was ill at that age) but no luck. We failed each other in the end.

It's a part of all this, I know, and the girl who removed those corpses was a lot tougher than she would have been if that was Bean Blossom or Benjamin in 2008...But as I explained to a non-farming friend today, it's simply how the farm functions. Where there is livestock, there is deadstock. Birth and death are so common. They do not cease to be awe inspiring or incredibly sad, but they both become common. You keep a stiff upper lift and tend to those among the living.

Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of buying this farm. The shearer is coming and I am going with a small army of friend to see Iron and Wine perform at Mass MoCa in North Adams. Not a bad way for a farm to spend its birthday.

27 Comments:

Blogger Chris said...

OMGosh the people here in Kansas say Greenwich just like that too!! What is wrong with people? lol Ok off to continue reading. ;-)

April 15, 2011 at 10:10 PM  
Blogger Tami said...

Farming does leave you scratching your head sometimes doesn't it?!?! You think you are doing everything right, and then some still die. A stiff upper lip is getting easier for me, I still struggle at times. And you are SOOOO right..paying the three dollars a bird to pick them up already bagged and ready for the freezer is VERY worth it!!! Our Cornish are on their way next week...YUMMMY in the freezer!

April 15, 2011 at 10:19 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Sorry to hear about the angoras... they're beautiful little creatures.
Just wanted to say Happy Birthday CAF!!

April 15, 2011 at 10:26 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

So what happened with the chickens to make you sick? We process our own birds. I'm wondering if there's a hazard I'm unaware of.

April 15, 2011 at 10:26 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Laura, it wasn't the birds - it was me. Last may I was in a rush while gutting a chicken and I cut open bile from the intestines by accident, too fast knifework. I got campylobacter because it got into my mouth from not washing the bile off my hands properly and wiping hair or hay away from my mouth some time later.

It was when Gibson was a puppy, I had already slaughtered and ate ten other birds, a documentary person was on the phone...I was just not paying attention and got sloppy. I paid for it.


Wear gloves, work with focus, and it will never happen.

April 15, 2011 at 10:30 PM  
Blogger Anon said...

$3 per chicken? You have piqued my interest in meat birds! I live in Rensselaer County on 150 acres with chickens, rabbits and horses, although our primary crop is hay. Can you share the contact info of your processor? We are long on eggs, but I have a freezer begging for humane chicken flesh and a drive up north would be worth it. You can reach me at wendy at besch dot org. Many thanks. Love your blog, your books, your gusto.

April 15, 2011 at 10:33 PM  
Blogger Cindy said...

I am surprised to hear that you've only had CAF for one year. I only found your blog a few months ago, but you seem like, well, a veteral farmer.

With a home, a few chickens and a vegetable garden, I have my hands full. I am frequently amazed at what you are able to do while also working an office job.

Cold Antler Farm is quite an accomplishment.

April 15, 2011 at 10:48 PM  
Blogger MilkMaid09 said...

Rule #1 (I need to come up with a #2 b/c my #1 list is getting long) - Not everything on a farm is romantic. That's too bad about your rabbits, I'd like to try Angoras someday. I lost a kid this spring, she was fine that morning and by 3 o'clock she was gone. Like you, I've gotten tougher about it, but it was still a hard blow as she was the first kid I had born on my farm.

April 15, 2011 at 10:53 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Cindy, I've been on my own land, as a homeowner for one year now. I rented and farmed for three years prior in a few other states.

thank you.

April 15, 2011 at 10:56 PM  
Blogger Kirstyn said...

Do you have any resources for folks that process chickens in other areas? I haven't had much luck finding somebody here (Montana) and I've butchered chickens and know very well I'd rather not repeat that if I don't have to...

April 15, 2011 at 11:05 PM  
Blogger Gwydion's mama said...

Congratulations on your farm anniversary. It doesn't seem like a year from this end. I'm sorry about the rabbits you lost but I'm happy that you've found a few more. May tomorrow be everything you want it to be.

April 16, 2011 at 12:00 AM  
OpenID urbanadaptation said...

Sorry to hear about the rabbits - I suppose these things happen sometimes, tough as they are, and we just get stronger through them (something I also suppose I'll have to deal with myself if I get my own place). Congrats on the anniversary, though - sounds like a great way to spend the day in celebration of CAF.

April 16, 2011 at 12:05 AM  
OpenID urbanadaptation said...

Sorry to hear about the rabbits - I suppose these things happen sometimes, tough as they are, and we just get stronger through them (something I also suppose I'll have to deal with myself if I get my own place). Congrats on the anniversary, though - sounds like a great way to spend the day in celebration of CAF.

April 16, 2011 at 12:05 AM  
Blogger Heidi said...

after having done this farm project for a couple years and losing an entire flock of pullets to marek's and 2 adult layers to freak accidents (one ate a huge chunk of glass and the other death is still a mystery), I've come to a profound acceptance of the death of animals. And not in a cruel way, but in a "that's life" attitude. In fact, I finally bought my first meat birds today since after the last bird died, I knew I was ready to take that step. I think that's what happens when you rear livestock over a period of time. You lose that child-like, storybook, anthropomorphized perception of the animals. Death may be disappointing but no longer tragic. Good luck with your meat rabbits!

April 16, 2011 at 12:45 AM  
Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

When you have livestock, you have dead stock is an old adage, and quite apt... As to the Coccidia- it would be good to treat any new Rabbits your get for any sort of parasite/protozoan before you bring them home- like worming sheep before you bring them home. Keeps your current animals healthy and prevents tipping the scales in favor of the death angel from the stress of the move.

April 16, 2011 at 6:29 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Milkmaid, i just saw your post....I'm so sorry. what was it?

And Anon, Ben Shaw. He's the guy.

And you guys looking for contacts for poulty in your area, craigslist! if they aren't there, ask in the farm/garden section for them!

April 16, 2011 at 6:52 AM  
Blogger daisy said...

Happy farmversary! You've come miles in just a year!

April 16, 2011 at 7:47 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Montero said...

I get all my chick food with an ACS (anti-coccidiostat) put it, and it has saved me money in lost stock. A rabbit feed company may be able to do the same, or there may be a starter food with ACS as standard. Just in case you didn't already know, no criticisms meant.

April 16, 2011 at 8:36 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Jen, I'll look into it. I did call a local rabbit farmer and he told me about a solution powder you add to water for rabbits called TDM, or TMD....

April 16, 2011 at 8:44 AM  
Blogger Fresh Eggs Farm said...

WOW - Congrats Jenna on your one year!!!!

April 16, 2011 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger Homesteader in Suburbia said...

Do you worry about liability issues selling your chickens? Down here on LI i would think that would be a lawsuit waiting to happen...

April 16, 2011 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger Maria said...

Congratulations! one year on your own farm, easier said than done and those who follow your blog know you've not had an easy winter. Enjoy Iron and Wine, and sounds awesome :o)

April 16, 2011 at 9:38 AM  
Blogger candisrrt said...

Wow! I just started reading your blog seriously a few days ago. I jumped to the computer first thing this am. Happy Anniversary! I can't wait to see your shearing pictures! I am reading your chicken book as we speak.
Candis, fl

April 16, 2011 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I'm sorry to hear about your angoras! :( but congratulations on a whole successful year :D

April 16, 2011 at 10:56 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

P.S. I did say enough coworkers are signed up for the birds, but it is not a "sell" - they are gifts to friends who hunt, farm, and fish or trades.

But if I did charge or sell them, enough were interested at a 2.89 a pound sell price to cover them: is what i meant.

April 16, 2011 at 12:22 PM  
Blogger Homesteader in Suburbia said...

Ok, just wouldn't want to see you in a jam...bet the girls will be yummy!

April 16, 2011 at 7:34 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

Deep litter is supposed to really help with keeping the coccidiosis down- parasites of coccidia start to grow in deep litter. It's also supposed to be a good source of B vitamins for chickens, although I don't understand how that part actually works. But a couple more plusses in favor of deep litter!

Congratulations on having your farm for a whole year already, which is a little staggering. This past year has just flown by!

April 16, 2011 at 8:19 PM  

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