Archive for June, 2009
If you own cattle or are in charge of taking care of cattle, it’s important that you are well versed in their specific dietary needs. After all, cattle are no different than humans in that they need the right vitamins in the right amounts in order to be as healthy as possible. The main difference, of course, is that those specific vitamin and quantity needs vary between cattle and humans.
One of the major necessary vitamins for cattle is Vitamin A, which means your cattle should have plenty of green and yellow plants in their diet. For this reason, don’t skimp on items such as corn. If you’re at all concerned that your cattle are experiencing a Vitamin A deficiency, though, make sure that you look into cattle vitamins. These are sure to be full of the Vitamin A they need as well as other nutrients essential to their health and well being.
Baby chicks are just so adorable when they are a couple hours old and it seems, as if, they would be the easiest little creature to take care of and most of the time they are. You see them at the local farm store for sale and you pick one up and hold it your hand and think something that tiny wouldn’t eat very much so you decide you want a few to have around and you take them home.
You purchase a waterer, a feeder and some Chick Grower/Starter feed to get them all set up. You are so pleased and happy, then you get home and then what? Where do I put them? Do I need a large cage/coop or a small one? How do I keep them warm? How do I keep them safe and the cats, dogs and other 4 legged critters away from them?
Now, you are in a panic, wondering if it was a mistake and what were you thinking, can I take them back and HELP SOMBODY! comes to mind.
Let me, first, ease your mind a little and say that chickens are probably the easiest animal to raise, in my opinion. I have had chickens for three years and all has been pretty good. A weasel and coyotes once in a while but otherwise okay.
Next, let me confuse you some more. I learn something new everyday when it comes to my animals, whether it be my chickens, calves, goats, cows, horses, dogs and cats. There is always something that I don’t know and need to learn. When I was a newby at raising chickens, it seemed to be a no brainer. Just feed and water them, gather the eggs and butcher them when they are ready. I did not realize that there were chickens for just laying eggs and there were chickens for just their meat and that there were chickens that did both, served as layers and meat chickens. I, also, didn’t realize there were so many different breeds of chickens. It just amazed me. Here I thought it would be simple.
There is much more to raising chickens than one would think. So I decided I would list a few basics, that I have learned, for you. They are as follows:
- Keep their waterers clean and filled with fresh water daily. This is a must. For Meat birds, access to fresh water is a necessity. If they do not get plenty, they will not eat well and not gain the necessary weight as they should.
- Keep feed to them at all times and keep free of feces. I found that hanging feeders help prevent this problem.
- Keep their coop cleaned and fresh bedding put down at least 2x a year.
- Watch their droppings for change of color, normal being gray with white tip. Any other color or texture, such as diarrhea, could mean an illness or disease.
- Watch them when you feed. Take a moment to just look at them for changes. A normal, healthy chicken will have it’s head high and be active with a good appetite. One that is lethargic or nonactive may be ill and need medicine or, at least, separated from the others.
- Watch for cannibalism, may need to remove the culprit from the others.
- Give them plenty of room to roam and, at least, 6 to 8 hours of sunlight/daylight daily.
- If chickens are confined, such as meat chickens, they only need enough room to get to waterers and feeders and room to rest.
- Just like for other animals, there are horse vitamins and cattle supplements, chickens may need supplements also. Giving them some extra protein, such as Oyster shells, will nourish them and also strengthen the shell of their eggs.
- Watch the outside temperature. When it is high in the summer, place a fan in the coop to keep a breeze flowing. If it gets up to or over 105°F your chickens can die, they cannot handle that kind of heat. When it is cold in the winter, the temperature in the coop needs to be at or above 35°F in order for them to stay warm. Did you know a roosters comb can freeze off?
- Watch for diseases and worms. The disease Coccidiosis, caused by parasites, can be treated by vaccines. Round worms and tape worms can also be treated. If suspected, take a fecal sample to the vet, collect it and put it in a plastic bag, to be tested. The vet can then tell you the treatment needed.
- Chickens can get Cancer. There are two that are more common than others; Merek’s which affects chicks under 4 months of age, to which there is a vaccination available and Lymphoid Leucosis, which affects those older than 4 months of age, and no vaccine is available, death is likely.
- Make sure your coop is critter free and safe for your flock. Train your chickens to come in at night, at feeding time is a good way to train, and shut them in for the evening. Then let them out to roam and play of a morning. This will keep them pretty safe from the varmints that like to sneak around at night.
These are just a few of the things I have learned raising chickens. I did not plan on being a “chicken farmer” so to speak but, now that I am, I enjoy my flock.
One other thing I have learned, is that chickens are great for your compost pile and your garden. All that scratching and eating bugs sure helps around the farm.
So, as I mentioned, chickens are pretty easy to raise and most of the time there are no serious problems, just keep to the basics and you’ll do just fine.
A big “Thank You” must go out to the local farmers and schools for giving our children a day to explore and learn about one of the oldest and best lifestyles around, Country Life on the Farm.
Here in Illinois, we have local schools that get together, one day a year, with farmers and let children see, hear, touch and get the feel of the farm. Farmers use the local livestock barn to bring in baby animals, such as calves, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, rabbits, horses, kittens, puppies and even the mamas for the children to pet and see.
A lot of these children, even though we are a farm community, do not get the opportunity to actually see farm animals because they live in town. This gives them a chance to learn about farm life and how these animals are cared for and raised.
There are also tractors brought in and wagons, and the children get to go on a wagon ride, they get to climb up in a tractor to see the inside, as well as a combine and fire truck and other farm and livestock equipment.
Also available, was different grains in which the farmers plant in their fields to grow for crops and feed. The children all get to touch and feel the different textures of the grains.
This is a wonderful field trip for the children. It gets them outside and helps them learn of another way of life. It is amazing to me that there are so many young people today that have never been on a farm or even seen a farm animal up close and most of them have just seen them on tv.
It is a wonderful way of life and yes, it is a lot of work but well worth the effort. I commend the schools and farmers for taking time out of their schedules to do this for the children. The children will always remember that moment when they held that little animal and had so much fun.
This is my nephew’s pre-k class at Franklin Park School in Salem, Illinois.
With all of your animals, making sure that they are properly fed and cared for is the biggest concern. Every animal has a set of specific dietary needs, but it’s also different based on individual personality. This means that even if you’ve had a cow, a dog, or a horse before, that doesn’t meant that your next cow, dog, or horse is going to eat the same things in the same way. The important thing is to ensure that the food you’re providing for your animal is tailored to that specific animal.
Each food formula has specific ingredients based on what the animal will need. That’s why it’s never a good idea to have any animal subsist on scraps or other human food alone. Their bodies, after all, are simply different than humans, and as such, they need different vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and proteins, and they need them in a different balance. Also, if you’re a farmer or you own livestock, it’s a good idea to purchase a livestock feeder. This will allow you to easily and quickly distribute all this nutritious food to your livestock.
When you wake up to start your day your attitude, within the first few minutes, can set your day for you. Are you feeling good or run over, did you sleep well or toss and turn? Depending on how you look at things and how you feel will make it a good, bad or great day.
If you are in a grumpy, irritable, grouchy and mean mood, you may take it out on those around you, this includes your livestock. When not at our best, we tend to be a little short with whatever or whoever is closest to us at that time. Our animals can sense that something is not as it should be and they will react accordingly. They may act up, as in not paying attention, and someone could get hurt.
Horses are real sensative to us. The can smell fear on and around us and if we are out of sorts, they can tell. Some of them take advantage of us just to see how much they can get away with and others just stay calm and wait to see what happens next.
When we are frustrated with ourselves or upset about the days happenings, we shouldn’t go to the barn and begin our chores or take on a task that has to do with working with and around the animals or livestock. Most of the time we end up yelling or even worse, get hands on upset with the animal and it has nothing to do with them.
Our livestock has feelings too, believe it or not. They may not always seem like the sharpest tool in the drawer but, they are not stupid. Some of them are pretty clever and will even surprise us at how they can achieve certain acts like walking through electric fences, jumping over them, tearing up livestock equipment and feeders, getting into places we didn’t even consider they could and pushing every button on us that just really gets our crawl.
So, they do have brains. They can tell by our tone of voice and actions if we are calm and caring or irratible and grouchy.
Our personality around our animals is a big deal. If you enjoy them and care for them, they understand that. They may not just stop, roll over and do everything you want but, they will be more apt to remain calm and allow you to work closer with them.
I talk to our animals every time I chore. I walk into the barn and say hello to the boys, our horses, as I put them in their stalls for the night, and I talk to the cattle and call them by name as I feed, and of course, I have to talk to my goats and chickens, just like they are family.
No one has to go to the extremes of naming their animals and having a converstation with them like I do, they just need to enjoy being around them.
If you are having a bad day, step back, take a deep breath, count to ten and then proceed. The animals will thank you for it and you will feel better.