Friday, 13 March 2009
Paying their way.
When we first decided to keep livestock we both agreed that they would have to pay their way. Not necessarily make a profit, that would be asking a lot but to cover their costs in either food or usefulness and as we have very little land we wouldn't be able to carry any that didn't.
So three years on this Easter how are we doing ?
Pigs: They have done extremely well. We buy them in as 8 week weaners and keep them for 4 - 5 months. In that time they dig over the ground ready for re seeding, reason 1. They provide, at the end of their time, fantastic meat both for ourselves and for family & friends. Much of which I swap for produce we don't grow ourselves, also from one friend scallops, lobsters and crabs, from another all veterinary requirements, reason 2. They also provide an added bonus..they are such good company, fun and entertaining and a pleasure to look after. I could possibly sell their meat if I was looking for further income from them but at the moment we are happy with the way it works.
Turkeys: They too have been successful. Last year was our first year. We bought four 7 week poults. They too were no problem to look after and also great fun. The time we had them fitted in well with the rest of the livestock. The killing and plucking was easier than anticipated, in fact strangely it turned into quite a pre Christmas family event with three generations mucking in together and ending with an outdoor picnic of mince pies, sausage rolls and home produced cider. In fact the turkeys were so successful we are planning to hatch our own this year and keep a breeding trio for the following year.
Sheep: OK.We started off Easter 2006 with four cade lambs.The idea was to make use of an acre of land that had pretty much been neglected for the past ten years.The lambs did well, 2 went back to their owners, one a male we had for the freezer and the ewe lamb we kept to breed from. We bought a second to keep her company. Last year both ewes produced twins which we grew on for meat, again sharing & swapping between family and friends. This year I lost one of the ewes to liver fluke, the other is due to lamb in three weeks. They do pay their way both in meat and in keeping the grass down. I am sure we could make better use of their fleeces and skins but haven't yet done so.
Geese: Now we come to a different story.Mostly, no definitely my fault and inexperience. We have seven, two pairs and three of last years goslings. The goslings were due to be culled at Christmas but due to family circumstances it didn't happen.We don't have enough grazing for that many geese and the sheep. The two pairs live separately which isn't ideal as we can't rotate their grazing so easily. Breeding hasn't been very successful so as yet I haven't sold any goslings or hatching eggs and until this year we didn't eat their eggs. So we have pretty much been carrying them, but I do think now I have got it sorted. A friend is interested in the 'paddock geese', which will just leave me with the three in the orchard, a nice family group. I will then be able to move them around to follow on from the sheep. Also the goose lays and broods well. This year she has built a nest, in the house !! and at present has four eggs so fingers crossed for a more successful year! and their presence does seem to deter strangers.
Chickens: Yes well, this is where I fall down completely ! After months of planning etc I bought 4 geriatric hens from an elderly gentleman. Not in the plan! but they came with a fantastic hen house and all necessary equipment for a silly price. So I guess they have paid their way so far. However they have laid very few eggs and are now unwell, I am not sure if it is old age or an illness, so I can't buy in anymore until I'm sure. Also we now have the unenviable task of deciding if they are going to improve or if we should call it a day...and I have grown very fond of them.