Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Marketing Assignment Video

As some of you may know, I'm doing the Social Entrepreneurship Certification Program or SECP course at GIBS this year. My sister Pippa did it last year and it has helped her allot. A part of one of our recent assignments was to make a short, 1 minute video. In real life I would get a voice-over professional to speak for me so forgive the poor narration. I thought it would be a nice little thing to post while I round up all my photo's. 

So much to report!

I know, I know. I haven't updated this blog in a while but hopefully things are a little more organised in my life these days and I'll be able to keep the updates coming thick and fast!

I sometimes wonder if people think that nothing has been going on on the farm since I haven't been posting. I assure you it's exactly the opposite. So much is happening day to day that I can barely keep up.

I'm busy filing all the pics from the last few months into the different categories and I'll give you an update on each shortly.

Reading back on my earlier posts it's cool to see how things are actually taking shape and everything I dreamed about and imagined could happen is all coming together and happening right now! :o)

TLC Farm is making TLC's dreams come true and creating the sustainability envisioned from the outset! And yes...I quite possibly have the best job in the world.

Hang in there, I'll be posting in just a little bit!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Our First Batch of Free Range Chicken!

I Know I've been sparse with the news lately but lots of things have been happening as you will soon see. I wanted to start with the latest bit of news first. I'll get onto all the other stuff later

Yesterday morning I took our first batch of 44 Broiler chickens to the abattoir to go and get...processed. It's been an experience to observe what is accepted practice by the chicken industry.

These chickens arrive as day old chicks of about 40 grams. Within about 40-50 days have reached weights of 2 kgs!(4.4lbs) They are able to do this because they have been selected and cross bred to have the genetic predisposition to grow at an accelerated rate.

They have about 400 square metres of range but I'm starting to wonder if they would actually do better to have their movement considerably restricted because as they grow so fast they have begun to have trouble supporting their weight. I had a gentleman visit the farm who used to keep racing pigeons and suggested that the reclining position they take when they are sitting down indicated to him that they may be experiencing joint pain.

These are chickens that, if you were an environmentally responsible shopper, you might buy under the label of 'free range'. To get around, they flap their wings while they run to ease the pressure on their legs but because the bones grow so fast, they are weak and the wing tips get damaged which was pointed out to me by the Foreman at the abattoir.

If you buy free range, these are the types of chickens you eat. and if you don't buy free range you don't even want to know the kind of lives those chickens are forced to live. We eat them too and unless everyone radically changes their eating habits, this is what the average chicken has to go through especially if we want to keep chicken prices under R20per kg.

I don't intend on stopping our broiler production very soon but with the facility we have available and a little imagination I'm sure I can come up with a solution where the chickens we eat get to have lived happy chicken lives before they end up on our plate. If I or anyone else can't do that in a viable way then I think we should all start thinking about the real cost of a piece of meat.

I did read an article recently about some breeders trying to breed slower growing broilers. It's a step in the right direction but most people want to be able to buy what they want at the lowest price, regardless of the pain and suffering of any creature or individual along the way. Those things are out of sight and out of mind.

At least in TLC's little corner of the earth, we can minimise the suffering our human presence causes and teach our children about the real price is of what they put on their plate. If they decide to become a vegetarian we'll definitely support them. Now that I'm beginning to see, practically, what it takes to produce different types of food I think it's not unreasonable for us to at least look at slightly scaling down our use of meat products and consider alternative, more sustainable options.   

On the upside. Everyone is very happy with our 44 chickens in the freezer!!! That's going to be four meals for TLC! The biggest one was just under 2.5 kg(about 5.5lbs) My workers are looking forward to the heads, feet, intestines and kidneys and actually right now just pulled me away so I can dispense it to them :o)

  Lastly, While I was at the Abattoir the week before to make arrangements for yesterday I happened to run into a gentleman who makes pies (which I have also happened to try) and sells them at the local farmers market. He grows all his own chickens for the pies ORGANICALLY! So with the money I saved with these chickens I offered to buy 9 dozen of his delicious pies ( to make it worth his while ;o) and he is coming tomorrow to deliver them and give me a few pointers on growing happier, healthier chickens that are healthier to eat. He also gets his chicken food for less than I do so I'm sure his input will be valuable!

Sorry if the post was a little depressing but it's because the situation is unsatisfactory and we are just beginning down a road to come up with a solution.


Friday, February 11, 2011

A Goat Gloat.

So last Saturday I took Benji and Keiran down to Bloemfontein, a city about 4 hours from Jo'burg, to buy a goat for the farm. They were having the National Mich Goat Sale so I decided I had better not miss the opportunity to get a good stud.
They actually had to squish in the front most of the way and we were giving Kieran a bit of a hard time
but we all survived.
The auction was scheduled to be at the end of the show that they had at the end of the week. I couldn't make the show, which may have been useful as I might have been able to get some young ewes/does but all the female goats for sale were in milk or not the breed I'm after so I'm looking around for a breeder now to get our man goat some company.

There were 65 lots and the bucks came out last. There was a very impressive young specimen under a year old who had won loads of things. I put a bid on him but he eventually went for R7000!! The most at the auction. My goat, lot 49, had a number of accolades. He's about 1 year and 5 months and his mother and grandmother both had very high milk yields. His mothers lifetime yield by her 3rd lactation was 2539 kilograms and the Grandmother was 6079 kg by her 6th lactation.

Keiran being wierd at a nice chinese retaurant in Bloem.

Benji, Making sure the last bite went down.

                                                          Sunrise at the hotel. Time to go!

I'm not a goat auction pro but they seemed like the kind of numbers I was looking for and they were the highest of those details in the whole auction so I was pretty happy with my purchase. I wanted to make sure he had a Friend or not get a goat at all but I had to take the opportunity and I'm working hard at getting him some company. His new paddock is just about ready for him. He's been staying in the new chicken cage over the past week. I tried to put him in a paddock but he jumped straight out.  He seems pretty content where he is but there's not much space to jump around. I've taken him out for a couple walks to exercise him but he is actually very strong and it becomes more of a workout for me.

When I loaded him up I tied a tarp to the front of the trailer so the wind didn't get him the whole way home.

Everyone came to admire him when he got home.

He can get between 80 and 85 kilogrammes when he's fully grown. 

He'll be in his new home by Monday. I'll keep you updated. 

Thanks to Ricoh again for our newest addition to the farm. With thier help I'll be upadating this soon with the arrival of the girls!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Our new Chicken Cage. - The Chook Dome 4000 -

Thanks to the help of Ricoh who is helping TLC reach it's self sufficiency goals we were able to get this chicken cage to be made for the veggie garden. It's an integral part of the design of the veggie bed system. You can read more about the working of the system on the blog post. 'The Permaculture Veggie Patch Plan'
It's designed to fit over the beds exactly.

This new version of the chicken dome can't be moved by one person but we are never short of hands willing to help out at TLC so moving them shouldn't be a problem. I'm putting two layers of shade netting on the roof and I'll have a small section covered with a tarp to keep the chickens dry.

I was very happy with the quality of the work done by a local business, ABC Cages, and I've  paid the deposit for the second cage to be built for the second veggie garden system.

Right now we have a goat living in here, but I'll tell you about that later!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day Old Chicks!

Our day old chicks arrived today! It was a bit of an effort for the delivery guy. I had to meet him at the nearest intersection but he thinks he'll find the place when the next delivery is due. These chicks are broiler chicks which means they are especially bred for producing meat. The Afrikaans word is 'Braaikuikens' which directly translates to 'BBQ Chickens' which kinda fits them better. You don't hear 'broil' much these days...In my world anyway.

All 100 arrived in this little box this morning.

  They are so cute and fluffy...
And one day we'll eat them!

I let them run around at first,
but they need to be kept in an enclosure for the first few days.

They have a special feeder so they don't foul up their food
 and miniature little water founts so they don't drown

These broilers will be ready for the abattoir in just 42 days! they have a special diet of starter, grower and finisher mash to maximise their growth. I am very much still learning about chickens and although I've done what I can to make sure they are kept happy and healthy some may not make it. We'll just have to see what happens. The layer chickens are doing fine. One died. My worker said it had a floppy neck and wasn't doing he ate it.

 So one month and one fatality isn't too bad at all. I'll give a tally of eggs produced at the end of the month, next Monday, for whoever is interested . So glad to have this project functional. Still lots to do though.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

We Got Chickens!!

Things have been moving at lightning speed here on the farm at TLC. So let me first get you up to speed with our free range chicken facility!
One of this years main projects was our free range chicken facility sponsored by PPC Cement. The facility consisting of five 15m x 6m meter steel structures is designed to supply all of TLC's needs in terms of chicken meat and eggs.

We ran a bit over budget so stopped just short of getting our laying chickens but with the help of donations from Cornerstone Church to which one of our volunteers, Alanna Aughenbaugh, belongs and long time supporter Mabel Noyen, we are able to get the whole project online.

With this help we were able to buy feed and bedding and collected 100 point of hens which are currently producing about 35 eggs per day and should increase to about 75 per day. They have a 400 square meter open range where they can wonder around during the day. The funds also helped us fence off the last two ranges.

They huddled together when I first got them home.

They soon started inspecting the place.

 I don't think they've ever seen the sky before,

They stayed pretty close to the shed for the first few days.

These were their first 21eggs!

The day old chicks have been ordered and will arrive on the 25th of January. Everything is ready for them and I'm hopeful all will go to plan.

We are still awaiting quotes for the concrete floors which will be installed as soon as possible.

We've also decided that we will close off the area between the ranges and with the help of one of our corporate sponsors, Ricoh, we will stock those areas with ostriches. Among other benefits, they will provide a bit of security for the area down there as the facility is in the furthest corner of our 22 acres.

 Ostriches are very territorial with big clawed toes that are a significant deterrent to anyone wanting to scale the wall. I intend on keeping two males and four females separated into two sections running between the 5 structures and ranges.