Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What do you feed your poultry and pigs?

Chickens and pigs can forage on pasture for a great deal of their food, but do require supplemental feed to meet their nutritional requirements.  A rule of thumb is that they can get about 10-30% of their nutrition from forage.  You might ask, how do they survive in the wild?  Part of the answer to that is that they are not confined and can move to "richer ground" seasonally and as they need to.   But in a normal homestead situation, poultry and pigs will need supplemental feed.

You can reduce the amount of store-bought feed by growing some feed sources and creative scrounging from local farms.  Growing grains seems obvious, but consider growing crops such as turnips, mangel beets, winter squash, pumpkins, carrots, and sweet potatoes, too.  Dairy products are a good supplement for both pigs and poultry, and dairies or small producers might let you have some of their un-salable product.  Other sources include spent grains from a local brewery, or vegetable waste from local canneries.  A member in SC asks neighbors if he can rake acorns in their woods and comes home with his truck bed full.  Another farmer has a deal with a couple farms who raise sweet potatoes to turn his pigs into their fields after the harvest.  They glean the remaining roots and eat the plants.  The same can be done in orchards after the harvest, this works great for both pigs and poultry. And what about raising earthworms to feed your pigs and poultry, or sources for meat scraps?  Poultry and pigs are omnivores, and will appreciate these high protein feeds.
Giant Yellow Mangel Beet - 50+ Seeds Chickens Love Them!
Mangel Beets.  Photo from Seed Savers Exchange.

Many heritage breeds are active foragers, especially if they have been selected to do well on pasture.  Among the chicken breeds, some are more active than others.  The Mediterranean breeds are typically good foragers with high egg production but are lightweight birds (though I've eaten many a Leghorn cockerel).  Among the dual purpose birds, most are good foragers, such as Dorking, Java, Buckeye, Dominique, Holland, Chantecler, & Crevecoeur.   Waterfowl are good grazers too, and some ducks rival chickens in egg production. 

What creative sources have you found to feed your pigs and poultry?  have you found any good books or websites that compare different feeds?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Finding Rare Breeds

The most commonly asked question about heritage breeds is, “Where do I find them?”  Heritage breeds can be hard to find, especially finding the breed you want near you.  That’s the thing about endangered breeds – they are rare! 

Top 5 ways to find heritage breeds

Buff Orpington
1.     The Livestock Conservancy’s online Breeders Directory.
Livestock Conservancy members are some of the most passionate about conserving their breeds, so they may be aligned with your breeding objectives.

2.    The Livestock Conservancy’s online Classifieds.

3.    Breed Associations. Finding a breeder through the Breed Association is a great way to find knowledgeable and dedicated breeders. And if you’re just starting out, this is also a great place to find a mentor.

4.    Networking with local farmers. Raising the same heritage breeds as others in your area can create a strong community of breeders, raising the effective “herd” size in the region. Some breeder groups have even banded together to leverage volume buying discounts or co-marketing to larger customers.  Start asking around to find out who is raising heritage breeds in your area.

5.    Heritage poultry. Many serious poultry breeders are members of the Society for Preservation of Poultry Antiquities (SPPA). Their breeders directory is a great place to find unusual and rare breeds of poultry.

Monday, December 2, 2013

What makes a Colonial Spanish horse?

In October we spent a few days in Oklahoma checking in on some Choctaw horses, and progress toward our new Choctaw hog project. The horses greeted us at the cabin door of our gracious host Jim Stephens. On a roadtrip to nearby ridgelands, Bryant Rickman, who is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge of Choctaw horses, introduced us to several free ranging bands. Jeannette got more great pictures, despite steady rain. Choctaw horses are both culturally and genetically significant (see Looking Back and Looking Forward With Choctaw Horses, Winter 2013 Livestock Conservancy Newsletter).  
Alison with Lightnin'
This brief visit gave me another opportunity to "train my eye" on horses, an important job skill for telling breeds apart, and most especially, telling the influence of cross breeding.  With a landrace breed like Colonial Spanish horses, the breed standard is "descriptive" rather than "prescriptive", and the variation between the different strains of Colonial Spanish horses is important to being adapted to the local region.  Nevertheless, all the strains have a number of characteristics in common that make them distinctly Spanish in origin.

Below is a partial reprint of the Colonial Spanish Horse Score Sheet (or breed standard, if you like).  The entire sheet can be found in "Managing Breeds For a Secure Future", by Drs. Phil Sponenberg and Don Bixby, or write the Conservancy to obtain a copy.  

Colonial Spanish Horse score sheet developed by D. P. Sponenberg and Chuck Reed. Horses are scored on various aspects of conformation and type. The final result is not a simple average of scores, but rather a close look at the number of not typical (high) versus typical (low) scores. The head character weighs in heavily in the final determination, especially if the body scores well. Put another way, a high-scoring body with a low-scoring head is still rejected because these horses are unlikely to be Colonial Spanish.  NOTE:  This is a partial reprint, showing only the characteristics for the head.

most typical – score 1
not typical - score 5
1. concave/flat on forehead and then convex from top of nasal area to top of upper lip (subconvex)
2. uniformly slightly convex from poll to muzzle
3. straight
1. dished as in Arabian.
2. markedly convex.
Wide between eyes (cranial portion) but tapering and “chiseled” in nasal/facial portion. This is a very important indicator, and width between eyes with sculpted taper to fine muzzle is very typical.
Wide and fleshy throughout head from cranial portion to muzzle.
Small, thin, and crescent-shaped. Flare larger when excited or exerting.
Large, round, and open at rest.
Small to medium length, with distinctive notch or inward point at tips
Long, straight, with no inward point at tip. Thick, wide, or boxy.
Vary from large to small (pig eyes). Usually fairly high on head
Large and bold, low on head.
Refined, usually with the top lip longer than the bottom lip
coarse and thick with lower lip loose, large, and projecting beyond upper lip.
Fine taper down face to nostrils, slight outward flare, and then inward delicate curve to small, fine muzzle that is narrower than region between nostrils.
Coarse and rounded, or heavy and somewhat square as the Quarter Horses, rather than having the tapering curves of the typical muzzle.

Other characteristics on the complete score sheet include appearance of the neck, height, withers, back, croup, tail set, shoulder, chest, chestnuts, color, hind legs, rear, hip, front cannon bones, and overall muscling.  

Train your own eye by looking at these characteristics for animals you know to be of different breeds.  It works for other species too.  If you raise goats, pigs, sheep or cattle, what are the characteristics that distinguish your breed from other breeds?  How well trained is your eye?