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Welcome to the blog.
Posted 5/5/2010 10:58am by Renae Schlatter.

Our growing season is now in full swing. Last Thursday was a big day for our first batch of broiler (meat) chickens as they were moved from under the warm brooder to the floorless pens we have out on pasture. They were three weeks old and ready to be moved to the next stage. Since this was our first batch to be moved out it took a little extra time in getting the pens set up and feeders and waterers arranged and ready to go. Finally, we were then ready to get the birds moved out. We were thankful that it did not rain the first night they were out. It usually takes them about 24 hours to get their new surroundings figured out and after that they do pretty well. The following picture is of the 4 wheeler and wagon. This is one of our most used pieces of equipment we have on the farm next to our Bobcat loader. On the wagon are the waterers and water and feed buckets.

taking feeders and waterers out

Next are the chicken pens all lined up and ready for the birds. We have five pens lined up here. They have chicken wire around the front half and aluminum on the back half. This allows for them to be able to get out of the rain if necessary, but also into the sunshine. They have no floors in them so they do have the opportunity to forage for grasses and bugs. The pens get moved once a day to fresh grass. You may also notice a white furry creature in the picture. That is our guard dog.

chicken pens lined up

Sampson, is our Great Pyrenees guard dog. We got him as a pup and he has lived out with the chickens ever since. His job is to guard the birds from any predators. In the past we have had problems with anything from owls, skunks, raccoons, opossoms, and fox getting into our chicken pens and causing trouble. Ever since we have had Sampson we have not had any predator problems. For that we are thankful. When we go out to feed the chickens he is standing by their pens waiting for us to feed him. He really likes to be played with, but caution is needed as he is a very large dog and could probably knock me down if he took me off guard.

Sampson

The birds were finally taken out to pasture and put into the pens. They soon get used to the routine of getting moved every morning.

chickens on pasture

Then, on Friday we got our next batch of chicks in. These birds change so fast. The above photo is the chicks at 3 weeks and the below are they day old chicks that came on Friday. 

second batch of chicks

This time of year there is something new everyday!

 

-Renae

Posted 4/15/2010 4:40pm by Renae Schlatter.

What a beautiful day! I had the opportunity to do some lawn mowing this afternoon. While I was mowing I looked down and saw a tiny little Painter Turtle. So, I brought it in for all to see and get some pictures. We put him next to a quarter to show how small he is.

Painter Turtle

Painter Turtle

Painter Turtle

A view of the freshly mowed lawn.

the lawn

farm sign

And some of the tulips that are blooming right now.

tulips

tulips

The cows also really enjoy this weather! The milk is changing color to a nice yellow from the cows eathing the fresh grass which turns into really nice cheese!

It looks like we're in for a beautiful evening.

-Renae

 

 

 

 

Posted 4/10/2010 2:14pm by Renae Schlatter.

Well, I have decided to selflessly give up my Saturday afternoon house cleaning detail to update the blog with some springtime news and photos! I know, I really shouldn't do that...but sacrifices must be made! :)

The most exciting news is that the animlas are getting back out onto green grass. The first to go out were the dairy cows. A few days before it was quite fit to send them out they would stand at the gate and longingly look at the pastures. After the ground firmed up enough to send them out they were on their way. I had wanted to document their first trip out in pictures, but was not informed of the exciting event in time. So, I had to settle for pictures once they were grazing away. Dairy cows on their first pasture for the spring 2010

Then I was able to get a picture later of them going out the lane to the "grassture" as Ralph like to call it!

Dairy Cows going out the lane 4-2010

Yesterday we had some excitement when our first chicks of the season arrived. They come via USPS mail. The mail carrier said she had some noisy chicks with her! I was able to get them into their pen and under the brooder which keeps them warm. Here are the boxes that they come in.

chicks in the mail!

The following are pictures of them once they were out of the boxes and exploring their new surroundings. When we get them they are just a day old. The label on the box said they were hatched at 10:00 AM Thursday.

Little chick

New chicks finding the water

First chicks finding the feed

We have also let our laying hens out to their grass area. They are always so excited to get to forage for grass and insects!

The first laying hens coming out

The girls foraging

Our beef cows have been out all winter. They were on some ground that we were able to stockpile some grass on last summer. They were able to graze on this stockpiled grass until about the first of the year. Then we did feed them the dry hay.

Beef cows

Beef cows grazing

The thing we are most concerned about this time of year is that all the animals stay where they are supposed to be. With the ground still being pretty soft it is not pretty if they get out and into the lawn. I so appreciate living in an area where the season changes are so distinct. We were able to get some early crops planted in our garden last weekend and the daffodils are blooming and the tulips are up and about to pop open.

Daffodils

Some of my nieces and nephews were here a little while ago and they were full of energy so we decided to take a walk. They like to investigate and see what's new around the farm.

kids

One of the things I enjoy the most are the sunsets over the pond.Our kitchen window over the sink in the house and the store look out over the pond and a lot of times we're doing dishes around sunset so we get to see the beautiful landscapes they make.

Springtime sunset

Springtime sunset

So, the grass is growing again and we are gearing up for the growing season once again. In about 3 weeks, depending on what the weather is, the chicks will be moved out to pasture and we will be getting our next batch of new chicks in. We get chicks every three weeks eight times throughout the spring/summer.

The dairy cows have been calving. I think there are about 20 more cows to calve yet. I will talk more in another post about our calf raising this year. We are developing a nurse cow herd so we don't have to spend man hours feeding the calves. It is a learning experiance as most changes are!

I guess there may still be time to do some cleaning. Hmmm...what else can I write about???

We appreciate the support and interest our family farm is shown. Until next time!

-Renae Schlatter

 

Posted 3/4/2010 5:08pm by Renae Schlatter.

Just this past week I was visiting with a neighbor and we were talking about different types of birds. She has a bird feeder and likes to watch and see what different types come to her feeder. I was thinking how quiet it has been here on the farm all winter with very little bird song. Earlier this week I heard the first Song Sparrow singing for the year. It was music to my ears as it is definitely a sign of the coming spring.

During the spring, summer and early fall months the air is often filled with the songs of many different species of birds. Since we have all of our land planted to grass we often get meadow and prairie birds that haven't been in this area very often before. One of these birds is the Bobolink that is around in late spring/early summer. They generally come and are very noticeable through the nesting season which goes through about June. After the nesting season we don't see them a lot. Another meadow bird that we see and hear is the meadowlark. They are around all summer and into the fall. Blue birds are quite common now also because we have several blue bird boxes on our fence posts. I think some of the blue birds stay around all winter now. The most important way to help the blue birds survive is to keep the common English sparrow out of their nests.

Here around the farmstead we have a lot of barn swallows that nest in our buildings. They are often swooping around and are very helpful in the regard that they eat a lot of flies and mosquitoes. They also go to the pastures and eat insects there. Tree swallows are also very plentiful and almost exclusively spend their time swooping over the pastures catching insects. The barn swallows are usually the first birds up in the morning; you will hear them twittering by 4 in the morning.

There are many other birds that spend their time around our farm; far too many to list. One of the reasons that we can observe this broad range of birds is because our farming practices encourage them to be around. We don't have large machinery that goes to the fields every day. And often when we are out working it is relatively quiet and we can hear them. Since we do not have row crops, and encourage different grasses, meadow birds that are often thought of only being seen in the western prairies are finding homes in our pastures.

Posted 2/10/2010 2:21pm by Renae Schlatter.

We have had snow here since Monday morning. It finally quit around 10:00 this morning. I'm not sure how much we have gotten exactly, maybe 6-8 inches. It's really pretty and the sun is shining right now.

Last time I talked about how grass is healing for soil. The process is also helped along by earthworms and dung beetles. The past few springs we have noticed some strange sounds when we walk in the wet pastures. It's a sucking sound that comes from the soil. We finally realized that this is coming from earthworms. When the ground becomes very wet in the spring time the worms will come to the surface. As soon as they feel the vibrations from our feet then will go back into the soil. There are so many of them that when this happens there is literally noise coming from the soil as they all go back underground. It really is amazing. The earthworms serve many purposes including converting organic material into nutrients that plants can use, increasing the soils water retention, and bringing minerals and nutrients that are deep in the soil up to the top where plants can utilize them. This is another reason why when we get heavy rains our pastures soak up far more water than neighboring row crop fields. 

Dung beetles are also amazing little creatures. From what we understand, dung beetles will not come unless the soil is healthy. We have noticed them on our pastures for several years now. They live off of dung piles. They will take little balls of dung and burrow them underground. This benefits us in multiple ways. One is that it is a way of utilizing our natural 'fertilizer.' They take the nutrients from the dung and burrow it underground so it can help and the organic matter goes far below the topsoil. This is kind of a composting mechanism. Flies like to lay their eggs in dung piles. Flies have always been a problem for us, as they are for all livestock farmers. As the dung beetles have populated our pastures we have noticed our fly problem has decreased. This is because the dung beetles are burrowing the dung underground leaving no habitat for the flies to lay their eggs. This past summer we put some cattle on rented pasture a couple miles from our farm here that has only been pasture for 2 years. We noticed how many more flies were at that location than here where our pastures are well developed and dung beetles are prevalant. Isn't it crazy that we don't have to spend money on pesticides and insecticides to get rid of the flies?

We feel our pastures at the home farm have made a full circle to where they used to be, many years ago. Back in the 80s there was an older German soil scientist here at the farm and he went out and dug in our hard clay soil and said, "This soil is dead. It would have great potential if it were healed and made alive again." For the past several years we have had soil samples taken and tested from our pastures. Two years ago, the soil consultant came back with the results and was apologetic about the results. He said that he tried to scrape the ground as to take any organic matters off of the top of the ground, but the tests came back with such high organic matter that he was concerned that he took the sample wrong. The organic matters were high last year also. It is such a testimony that nature and time can heal the soil.

Why all this discussion about healthy soil? If the soil is of poor quality, so will everything else that comes from it; whether it be crops or livestock or any by products of these. Good soil is the root of proper nutrition.

Posted 1/22/2010 2:05pm by Renae Schlatter.

A few weeks back we had some snow that covered everything up and made the landscape beautiful. Since then, the weather has warmed up some causing some of the snow to melt away resulting in a not so beautiful landscape. There was not much frost in the ground before the snow came and it has not frozen hard since, so it has been more challenging this winter as far as feeding the cows go. We bale our hay into big round bales and transport them with a Bobcat loader. In the mornings while there is some new frost in the ground from the night they usually try to move a couple days worth of bales up closer to the animals. Every morning the cows are fed new hay. I've heard it said before that in Northwest Ohio there are two seasons, mud and summer.

The area where we are located is known for its heavy clay soil. If you walk through this soil when it is wet it will stick to the bottom of your boots or shoes and it seems like it will add inches to your height! We have often in the past bemoaned the fact that we have to deal with such heavy soil. It is really not suited well for row crop farming such as we used to do. We have since learned that it is actually an advantage for us to have the clay soil. This is because there are so many rich minerals and nutrients in the clay soil, if cared for properly, that will result in high quality meats and cheeses (from the milk). I understand that grass is a good soil 'healer' and what you see on top of the ground is mirrored below the ground as far as root structure goes. The more roots there are and the deeper they go, the less erosion there is and loss of the important organic matter that is most prevalent in the topsoil layer. There are many organisms that help improve soil quality and next week I will talk about earthworms and dung beetles.

Until then, enjoy what little sunshine we get this time of year.

Posted 12/30/2009 9:50am by Renae Schlatter.

Thanks for visiting cjgrassfed.com! We are excited to have our new website up and running. Please check back often for updates and news from the farm. We welcome all who are interested to sign up for our mailing list.

This time of year can be a bit slow for us. Since we are a grass based operation, most of our meat products are grown during the growing season. We do winter over our dairy cows as we are not seasonal and do milk year round. Also, we have a beef brood cow herd that is wintered over at our farm about a mile from the home farm. The dairy and beef animals are fed dry hay during the winter time. We were actually able to take the beef animals off of our farm for a few months this summer and to another location. This allowed to grass to grow and become what we call 'stockpiled.' This is nice because the animals are still grazing the pastures and we have not had to feed them any hay yet this winter. About the middle of January we will probably have to start putting hay in for them as they will have the grass all grazed down.

Our meat chickens and turkeys we only raise during the growing season, so we do not have them right now. We do still have our laying hens over the winter. We move them into our greenhouse where they are kept out of the wind and winter elements. They naturally go through a cycle that as they get older they slow down in their egg laying production. We try to keep a cycle of new hens rotated in so the egg production stays pretty steady. Also, during the winter months if the hens are not kept warm, they will spend all of their energy keeping themselves warm and not laying eggs.

We do keep the dairy cows close to the milking barn in the winter. This enables us to feed them hay conveniently. They are bedded down on a straw pack in a loafing shed where they can keep out of the wind. Since they are bedded down we do have the manure to haul out from winter bedding. But otherwise, when the cows are grazing on the pasture they spread their own manure.

As long as the ground is frozen the hay feeding and manure hauling is not too bad. If the ground gets soft it makes these chores more of a 'chore.'

Each season has its own ups and downs. But, we are thankful for the different experiences.