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TAS Country : March 8th 2012
Friday, March 9, 2012 Tasmanian Country 25 News Hobby farming Start small for success on the farm HOBBY farming Paul Healy CHOOK WISDOM: Buy fowls direct from a breeder who specialises in just one or two breeds. CARE: Check sheep for signs of infection around the face, nostrils and ears. YOU have bought your first small farm, safe perimeter fencing is in place, a secure water supply is assured --- now it is time to add stock. And my recommended order of introduction for your first venture into stock keeping is: Year 1: Poultry, waterfowl, and rabbits. Year 2: Weaner pigs (slips) and or goats (does in kid) Year 3: Sheep (mated ewes off shears, that have been de-liced and wormed, prior to delivery). Year 4: Weaner calves. Year 5: Alpacas, miniatures or other boutique pure-bred stock that you may fancy. The only way to gain knowledge of the many little ins and outs and unseen extra traps and hours of work and cost that are associated with keeping any form of livestock, is to make the many mistakes that always yield the best form of learning. The point about starting out with poultry in your first year -- and avoiding the keeping of larger stock until you have gained some experience -- is that starting small ensures your first errors and mistakes with housing, yards, feeding and management will not be unbearably expensive ones. You do not need large stock to keep the grass down, not in your first year. It will pay big dividends -- in the end -- to have your first crops of spring pasture and weeds slashed by a contractor, or cut for hay which is then on hand for any large stock you may buy form the second year on. By delaying the purchase of sheep or cattle for a year or two, and beginning with poultry, the extra time will bring essential insight as you pass through the seasons with your land. You will see where the water runs and lies; where the ground is well drained, or boggy; where the grass dries off first, in early summer; and where the best ground hides as you learn where best to put your internal fencelines, sheds, yards, water lines and access roads. Buying smallstock first makes sense as well -- for our first mistakes are usually made with the first purchase -- buying the wrong type of stock or breed to begin with, or else, getting our first purchase from the wrong place. I can remember, as a young lad, the days of expectation that preceded the coming of my first pen of so-called purebred Rhode Island Red fowls -- an excitement that soon turned to bitter disappointment and dismay when the birds arrived, by train, covered in lice, with the tips of their beaks shorn off, and displaying all of the signs of being New Hampshire crosses. I was just a kid at the time, knew no better, and had made the cardinal mistake of buying stock unseen and of buying from a slick poultry trader and dealer who handled thousands of birds and kept dozens of different breeds. It was a valuable lesson in stock buying --- and one that taught me some ground rules that are recommended for all newcomers. These are: Do not buy sight unseen and if you do not know much about livestock, or the breed in question. Do not buy your first birds or beasts yourself but commission an experienced breeder or a licensed, reputable stock agent to buy on your behalf. (Stock agents advertise in this paper.) If an agent is buying on your behalf, go to the sale or place of purchase with him, and ask him what his criteria are and what he is looking for in the stock that he is buying for you. Every conversation with a farmer or an experienced stockman is a chance to learn. Do not buy poultry or waterfowl from sales or shows, but go straight to the breeder, preferably finding some- one who does not take their birds off the farm to shows and sales. Poultry are more prone to transmissible dis- eases and viral infection, when brought together in large numbers, than any other form of stock. Always buy purebred stock -- especially fowls -- direct from a breeder who specialises in just one or two breeds, and who has been in the business for years. Ask them what their background is with the breed that you are seeking. If they are loath to discuss their breed experience -- or do not want you to see their breeding stock -- walk away. If you are buying any form of stock -- bird or beast -- ask the breeder for the animals to be treated for internal and external parasites (worms, lice, mite, ticks etc) before they are boxed or shipped. Reputable breeders will have done this, as a matter of course. Mature sheep should be bought off shears (very recently shorn) -- and remember to have the feet of sheep and goats, especially, checked before you decide to buy. Basic things to check on large stock, before buying are: No signs of cancer around the eye or of cancer of the vulva in stock with pale pigmentation in those sun sensi- tive areas; no signs of excessive mucus, or infection or infestation around the face, nostrils and ears. Bright clear eyes, good teeth, sound feet, no lameness. No sign of pronounced knock knees, badly bowed backline, poor condition and excessively hollow flanks -- though remembering that fertile, productive dairy goats and cows should be lean. No tumours or multiple lumps on the udders of females, which may indicate a history of mastitis, with the udder well attached, squarely and firmly to the body, with teats well clear of the ground (in older does) and not splayed at sharp angles forward or back (in cows) but hanging reasonably straight down from the udder. For hand milking, the cows' teats should not be less than 50mm long, while 75 mm is ideal. Animals' fur or coat not dull and staring at you, but bright and shiny; no sign of scurf or scabs on skin or of excess skin detritus in the hide or fur, possibly indicating lice or ringworm . In free-range laying hens the body should be long, wide and deep; the legs long and set square, toes straight, the eye fully round and bright and prom- inent, not sunken and narrow, but concave -- and standing out from the skull and able to spot raptors and- predators at distance. The pelvic bones should be fine, pliable and springy; the keel or breast bone should not curve up at the end to leave a narrow gap between it and the pelvis, but should be long and straight, run- ning parallel with the backbone. Our first workshops at the farm for 2012 on Sustainable Poultry and Smallstock Keeping will begin on March 18. For details email: email@example.com 2063036-120309 • Simmentals -- 16th March • Shorthorn & Poll Shorthorns -- 23rd March • Angus Autumn Sales (2) -- 30th March • Poll Hereford & Herefords -- 6th April • Murray Grey -- 13th April • Santa Gertrudis -- 20th April For advertising enquiries contact Upcoming Cattle Features: Tracey Wright p: 62 300752 firstname.lastname@example.org Carolyn Baker p: 62 300640 email@example.com
February 23rd 2012
March 15th 2012