Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Double yolks, pullets and green eggs.

We don't mind that the eggs in the carton aren't all the same. We prefer it that way because it means our flock is that much more diverse in the field. And of course we'll share an in use image of one of our favorite feeders and egg basket
Premier chicken keeper and occasional catalog copy-editor, Vivian, provided us with an update on the poultry flock on Premier's East Farm—

My flock of 24 pullets are beginning to lay, offering an incredible selection of size and color. The chickens hatched in early October and as fluffy chicks, were models in a number of Premier product photos for the Poultry catalog that was in production at that time.

Oh the potential! Quiche, souffle, omelets galore and so much more. 

The eggs are even more colorful than they appear in the photo. The greenish egg in the center is aqua, and the far right is an olive green.

The flock is at least five breeds, which I've figured out as the chickens matured. The dark red-brown eggs are from the 5 huge New Hampshire Reds; medium brown from 2 Red Star; greenish eggs from an assortment of Ameraucana pullets (which have "lambchop sideburn" feathers on their faces); white from 3 Leghorns; light brown from Black Australorps. Still haven't figured out all the breeds—a small one looks a bit like a pheasant hen. 

What is suspected to be the "pheasant hen." She appears to be a Golden Campine, anyone else have thoughts?
Also, I'm getting quite a few double-yolk eggs, which I never saw from my previous flocks of Wyandottes. Among the eggs shown,  I strongly suspect at least 3 double yolks, just in the past 2-1/2 days. 

Well it's off to a garden symposium for me, which is another sure sign of Spring!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Lambs, tags and getting out of the office!

It's been a long time coming but I was able to get away from my desk and out to the lambing barn.
The smell of fresh bedding and the low rolling tones of ewes talking to their lambs was a pleasant change to the stale coffee and ringing phones of the office.

What's going on outdoors? Well, it's lambing season, all the lambs need to be tagged with their flock ID tag and/or Scrapie tag. The lambs needing tags provided an excellent opportunity to produce a Premier How-to video with the staff.

While in the barn, the farm-crew noticed a lamb that was not in the best of shape. It appeared dehydrated. The lamb was treated and is now on the mend. Its dam only had enough milk for the lamb's stronger sibling, so the ill-lamb was moved to the orphan pen. 

Dehydrated lambs can easily become dead lambs—which results in less lbs produced and less $$ in your pocket. It's easy to miss so be aware. 

Signs a lamb may be dehydrated:

  • Gaunt or not well filled out.  
  • If a twin, triplet, etc—its sibling(s) appears healthier and stronger. 

To determine if a lamb is dehydrated—

Pinch the skin along the back. After pinching:

If the skin stays momentarily tented or peaked, the lamb is dehydrated. Immediately treat the lamb (consult your veterinarian for proper procedure). 

Causes of dehydration:

  • Scours. 
  • Ewe lacks adequate milk to support the lamb(s).
  • Larger/stronger siblings outcompete their sibling for milk.
  • The lamb has sharp teeth and the ewe won't let it feed.  

If a lamb appears unhealthy but is not dehydrated, consult your veterinarian. 

With the lamb cared for we were able to continue on with the How-to video. The shepherd, Heather, demonstrated proper eartag procedure while longtime consultant, Gordon, provided voiceover narration. 

Topics covered were:

  • Lubricating tags—this provides easier insertion for those with weaker hands. 
  • Proper tag placement—in the center of the ear and away from any veins. 
  • Applying Catron IV fly spray during fly season. 
  • Making sure that there is room for ear growth if using loop tags.

A quick note: the tag applicators below may differ but the process is the same for each style of tag. 

Applying SuperLube.

Finding the veins to determine proper placement. 

Applying Catron IV to ward off flies. 

Providing room for the ear to grow (when using loop tags). 

It's lambing season therefore it's also ear-tagging season at Premier. Premier Shepherd Heather is applying antiseptic SuperLube to an eartag prior to insertion. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Importance of energizer output in tall-grass

If the grass gets this tall, mow it! 

We all know that electric fence and grass contact don't go together all that well. The energizer sends the pulse through the fence, the grass leeches energy from the fence so that there is less energy when an animal touches the fence.

But overcoming grass contact is possible if a higher output (more joules) energizer is used. How does this work? By sending more energy through the fence than the grass can leech, you will have more available energy when animal contact is made to the fence.

If you're expecting significant grass contact (though not as much in the photo above) consider going with a higher output unit. Consult us (800-282-6631) if you have any questions.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Chicken Nipple Waterer Tips

Premier's Heated Poultry Water, Chick Nipple Waterer and Bucket Nipple Waterer

For those having trouble getting their chickens to drink from a nipple type waterer, here are a few tips:
  • Remove alternative sources of water. If a trough type is available, chickens will use it instead of the nipple drinker. 
  • Tap the nipple with a finger. The resulting sound and water drop will draw the birds' attention—they will investigate the source. 
  • Take a bird and hold its head to the nipple. Touch its beak to the nipple so the animal knows where to get water. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

A major fence energizer mis-truth

Those who have researched energizers have more than likely (almost certainly to be exact) encountered the Miles or Acres claims on energizers.

That's too bad, as this often causes folks to purchase an energizer that is too small for their fencing needs. How so? The number of miles or acres advertised roughly energizes a single strand conductor, above the ground (no grass contact) with moist soils for that distance—essentially lab conditions.

In comparison—an in use energizer's field conditions involve moist or dry soils, one or many conductors of varying conductivity and grass contact—much more resistance to and drainage of the energizer's pulse.

Points to consider regarding overall fence resistance and pulse strength:
  • Poor conductors (high ohms = high resistance) inefficiently carry an energizer's pulse throughout the fence line. 
  • Multiple conductors increase a fence's overall resistance. 
  • Grass contact (weed-load) drains energy from a fence. 
  • Dry soils lack the conductivity to adequately carry an energizer's pulse back to the negative terminal of the energizer. 
An accurate way to gauge an energizer's performance is its joules of output rating. A joule is the volume of electrical energy in a pulse. The higher the joules, the more energy available (after loss to weed and poor conductivity) to be sent down the fence—the larger the pulse, the higher its strength at the end of the fence.

But how many joules are needed for a specific fence?

The answer is it depends. A rule of thumb some go by is .25 joules per roll of net. Gordon (a Premier Consultant) goes by .5 joules per 3-5 nets (ElectroNet) if you maintain weed-load. That means if you keep the grass short enough (not totally eliminated) you should be able to get 3-5 rolls of 164' net energized (depending on soil conditions).

For more tips on choosing a fence energizer, read this blog-post. It goes over how to use our Energizer Comparison charts.

The miles rating is certainly an effective way to sell energizers but it doesn't say what the voltage will be at the end of that wire—there may be some, but possibly not enough to deter animals.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Fence connections (temporary)

There are right ways and wrong ways to bring power to a fence. The wrong ways often go unnoticed until the voltage drops and the livestock take a trek to the neighbor's garden. 

The cause (for this post) is insufficient metal-metal contact. If contact is poor, the pulse is still going to travel through the fence, but with a few added hiccups. Instead of directly traveling from the powerlink to the conductor, it has to 'jump' to make the connection. This jump is called arcing. 

The conductor above featured a poor connection so arcing occurred. This caused both the plastic and metal filaments to burn out. 

How to avoid poor connections—
If connecting at the end of a roll or net (or junction of two rolls), connect to the metal clip at the end of the net. This will provide the best metal connection (more metal to metal contact). 

If connecting at the middle of a net (or length of twine), wrap some MaxiShock around the superconductor (green/white strand on netting) or twine, then connect the clip. The MaxiShock will contact the conductors (in the twine) at more points than simply clipping to the net. 

If connecting to 4.5mm (or larger) conductors—wrap a RopeLink around the conductor (below). The rope link will touch the metal filaments at more points and provide a better connection. 

How to use a prolapse harness

How does it work? When a ewe strains, her neck drops and her back arches. This pulls the cross webbing of the harness tighter against the vulva and also pulls the retainer (if one is used) into the ewe. Most ewes soon cease to strain. 

Lay the harness along the ewe's back (adjustment buckle should sit near ewe's head).

Attach neck strap at base of neck and tighten so it remains comfortable.

Place tail through top hole (vaginal opening just appears through lower hole).

Take the rear leg straps and pass between the ewe's back legs, one on each side of the udder and snap into buckles on back strap (ensure that you do not trap the udder). Tighten the leg straps so they grip firmly.

Push the prolapse back into the ewe (contrary to the photo above, we strongly advise wearing gloves while doing so).
Adjust back buckle so the ewe cannot strain or push.

Check tension regularly to avoid chafing and manure build up.

Although it is possible (in most cases) for the ewe to lamb with the harness in place, we suggest that the harness be removed immediately prior to lambing.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Electric fence basics: Conductivity

An energizer sends a pulse (measured in joules) through the fence. When an animal touches the fence the pulse travels through them, to the soil and to the ground rod. The pulse travels from the ground rod to the energizer completing the circuit.

Conductivity is the measure of how easily an energizer's pulse flows through the electric fence. Better conductivity results in a more consistent pulse (no loss of strength) from the energizer to the end of the fence. 

The lower the conductivity, the higher the ohms. More ohms = higher resistance to the flow of the energizer's pulse.

Low conductivity means more resistance to the pulse (measured in ohms).
  • Low ohms = low resistance
  • High ohms = high resistance
How does this information apply to an electric fence?
The pulse is made up of a group of electrons that travels through the fence circuit. Over distance (throughout the circuit), the pulse loses electrons—similar to erosion—from the resistance. More resistance = more electron loss. The fewer available electrons at the point of contact/end of fence, the weaker the felt pulse.

The better the conductivity, the fewer electrons lost, better possibility for a deterring shock.

Dry/rocky/sandy soils tend to lack moisture, which results in poor conductivity. The best way to try and overcome this is to use wide-impedance energizers, increase the total feet energizer grounding (ground rods) or use pos/neg fence.

Build fences with low ohm conductors. This includes the majority of our white or green netting, black and white conductors and MaxiShock. This will aid in lowering the overall resistance of the fence.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Heat Lamp Dos and Don'ts

Heat Lamp DO’s
  1. Use 175 watt bulbs. 250 watt bulbs cost more to use and, in our experience, are rarely needed.
  2. Use PAR (pressed glass) bulbs. Far more durable and last longer.
  3. Tie or clip the lamps very securely—A lamp that fall onto animals and/or bedding has consequences that can be very serious—including fire.  

Heat Lamp DON’Ts
  1. Don’t hang them closer than 20" to bedding or baby animals that can't move away from them. If using to brood chicks, the lamp may be lowered as far as 12" above the ground. 
  2. Don’t enclose them in barrels or similar small spaces. The heat must be allowed to move away from the lamp.
  3. Don’t use longer than necessary. We hear reports of folks using them continuously for several months. If you need to do this, buy the black Prima Heat Lamp. 
    Lambs and kids only need extra heat when they are wet newborns or weak or suffering from hypothermia.