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Thursday, February 9, 2017

New Chicken Hatchery & New Technology for Ontario

The Stratford Beacon Herald reports that a new chicken hatchery is scheduled to be constructed in Stratford Ontario, starting in May 2017, producing up to 16 millions chicks per year, starting some time in 2018.

This farmer-led partnership will use the latest technology from Europe, HatchCare providing the chicks a light, feeding and watering as soon as they hatch.  It is hoped that this will reduce the industries dependency on antibiotics.

Prior "technology" (more like Witch Doctor's Voodoo) relied upon injecting antibiotics and/or vaccinations into the eggs before they hatched, vaccinating and/or continual dosing of the parents with antibiotics and other drugs while they layed eggs for incubation.  This pseudo-science worked OK for the hatchery and the chicken factory farmer, but had significant consequences on the environment and human health; See:

Disclosure of Chicken Factory Antibiotic Use

MCR-1: Tragedy of the Commons for Antibioics in Agriculture

Organic Chicken Fraud

After Thousand of People Made Sick and many deaths, CFC finally bans use of human antibiotics in Chicken Eggs

B12 and Antibiotics for Chickens

Risk of 'Black Death' (Beubonic Plague) from Chicken Factory Antibiotic Use

and our most popular posting:   Frankenstein Chicken from Factory Farms

There are a total of 40 or so postings on his issue.  You can find them all by typing "antibiotic" in the search box in the top of the right hand column of this Blog.  If you dare read some of these posting, you may never be able to stand the revulsion of buying factory chicken again.

Dr. Blaser's best selling book Missing Microbes notes how humans are now subjected to various epidemics from the over-use of antibiotics.  He notes that this is being fought against for Caesarean births by the inoculation of the child with the mother's flora and fauna that the child misses by skipping the trip through the birth canal.

What about the baby chicks that are stolen from their parents and hatched in a sterile incubator?  Can we not avoid the majority of the disease and early death of chicks by prudent inoculation of the baby chicks with farm specific starter mix?  This would be the same as being naturally hatched under Mom and living in close proximity to her in the chick's early days.

HatchCare share some research that floor eggs (found on the barn floor instead of the nesting boxes) are more contaminated, tend to explode during incubation, and of lower average weight upon hatch.  Attempts to wash the eggs, or fog them with disinfectants don't make it much better.  If that contaminated mucous dries quickly, and the humidity is kept in he proper range, there is some (but not too much) inoculation of the egg shell, absorption through the shell and membrane, and to the chicks that eventually crawl all over the cracked shells when they hatch.  I agree that they need some of this natural inoculation, but not too much.

Note that the chicken's vent is the single opening that discharges the chickens' feces and its eggs.  The eggs are naturally coated by the feces contaminated mucous that quickly dries on the exterior of the egg.  This mucous tends to seal the pores in the egg shell, limiting the microbes that pass through the shell.  Chickens naturally share the flock's shared biome by consuming small amounts of their own feces (recycling), as well as the manure of their flock mates (cross-inoculation).  This helps ensure a homogeneous biome shared by all members of the flock.

However, the hatchery barn inoculation doesn't get them inoculated to the very different biome that exists on the farm to which those chicks are eventually sold.

A flock naturally develops a symbiotic biome of bacteria, protozoa, virii, and other microbes that is unique to its micro environment.  Inoculation with a different biome will not adequately acclimatize them for the specific destination for those chicks.

That means each farm would have to develop its own unique blend of microbes to which their chicks are inoculated.

I tried to do this for my chicks in my on-farm brooder by starting with well composted litter that was re-used from the previous flock.  CFO quoted the CFC rule book to me that assume all farmers will use antibiotics, and I soon received a non-conformance from CFO in my on-farm audit.  Presenting these theories and supporting research to CFO and CFC did no good, the rules are the rules, no exceptions, no discussion.

I was forced to remove all used litter from my brooder, immediately clean and sanitize between flocks.

Starting with clean litter, there is nothing in the CFC rule book that says I can't inoculate that new litter with some of the composted prior litter.  So that is what I now do.  As soon as the previous flock has left for the green grass pastures at 3 weeks of age, I crank up the heat to maximum, composting the old litter for 24 hours.  I save a 45 gallon drum of this composted litter, taking the rest to the compost pile.  I clean sweep and sanitize the brooder, and fill it with clean shavings.  I then sprinkle some of the old composted litter into the clean shavings, inoculating them with my farm's natural biome (approximately 0.01% old, 99.9%+ new).  I hope that this adequately inoculates the chicks with what they will eventually be exposed to when they go out to pasture.

To improve on this method (I have not yet done this step, but think I will in 2017), I suggest adding to your compost inoculant a garden rake full of green grass clippings and a shovel full of topsoil taken from your pastures (each pasture if you have more than one, or multiple samples randomly distributed over your one pasture).  Mix that with the old brooder shavings to create a hybrid biome, incubate it with the right moisture and C:N balance, and use this to inoculate your brooder.

You don't need much inoculant, as the brooder temperature and humidity will rapidly grow any microbes that are inoculated.  As the chicks grow, the concentration of the biome microbes in their liter can also grow.  You do not want to overwhelm the chick's immune system or its gut bacteria by a high concentrated dose.

With this combined biome inoculate and apple cider vinegar (with mother of vinegar if possible) in the drinking water supply, I believe you can operate without antibiotics or coccidiostats.

Please let me know what you think, your alternative methods, or ideas to further improve our small flock technology.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Selling Your Chickens

Dear Small Flockers:

We are an artisanal farmer who grew chicken last year. We still have quite a bit of chicken left that we processed in November. They were grown free range and on a vegetable based feed. They average 4.5 lbs dressed and they are frozen and whole in vacuum packaging. 

Do you know of anyone looking for free range chicken?

We are just deciding how much to grow this year. Any help would be appreciated. 

Thanks,
 
Dear Artisanal Chicken Farmer:
 
Thanks for contacting me.

When CFO announced the Artisanal Chicken program, I had a tough decision to make:  stay Small Flock, or become an Artisanal Chicken farmer.  Everybody told me the customers would beat a path to my door, so I applied for and was authorized to raise 3,000 chickens last year, the max. available.

I decided to do grass pastured, free range chickens as I feel this is the best opportunity, the type of chickens people want the most, people are willing to pay a premium price, and have much less competition with the commercial, factory farm chickens that are sometimes sold as a "lost leader" in grocery stores (as low as $1.49 per lb).  Statistics Canada reports the average fresh whole chicken retail price in Ontario in 2015 is $6.69/kg ($3.04/lb).  The average price for 2016 was $6.59/kg ($3.00 per lb.), down an average of 4.03% per year.


In my home town market, the historic market leader for commercial, locally grown barn raised chickens are raised and sold at $3.85/lb in 2016.  I decided to sell our chickens at $4.50/lb, then backed off to $3.85/lb for fresh, never frozen (only available the 2 days after we go to the abattoir).  I now sell frozen chickens at $4.50/lb due to the higher cost to freeze and store them long term.  In Ottawa, they sell grass pastured whole chickens at $6.00/lb. in retail stores.

When I ask other Artisanal Chicken farmers: "Is it tougher to grow them, or sell them?", everybody agrees selling is the tougher nut to crack.

Unfortunately, I too have many chickens raised in 2016 that I still need to sell.  When I calculate that my first flock was available to sell in June 2016, and the last was November 2016, and my next flock thereafter will only be ready in June 2017, so there is a 7 month hibernation when frozen chicken must supply the local demand.  At the rate of sale from June to Nov. 2016, if I project that same rate for the 7 months of winter 2016-2017, I come very close to 3,000 chickens total that will be sold.  That calculation suggest that my freezers will run empty just as the first flock of 2017 is ready to go to the abattoir.  Therefore, maybe I shouldn't worry.

However, projections to the future are very inaccurate.  Rather than trust in this bare hope for the future, I suggest a proactive approach.

Here are some ideas to get your Artisanal chickens sold (* marks the ones I have personally done or tried to do for my farm):
  1. * Local radio station spot ads
  2. * Google Adwords ads
  3. * Internet website
  4. * Internet Blog postings (daily or weekly)
  5. * Facebook
  6. * Twitter
  7. * Local newspaper ads
  8. * Letters to Editor for local newspaper
  9. Op-Ed article in local newspaper
  10. * Year-round "farmers markets".
  11. * Local seasonal Farmer's Markets and other rural markets
  12. * Local butcher shops
  13. * Convenience stores
  14. * Local restaurants
  15. * Local hotel restaurants & conference centres
  16. Banquet halls
  17. * Catering companies
  18. * Grocery Stores
  19. Wedding planners and their clients
  20. * Abattoirs that have retail/wholesale meat shops attached thereto
  21. * Meat wholesalers
  22. * Halal community (must be decided before abattoir, and killed in conformity thereto)
  23. * Kosher community (must be decided before abattoir, and killed in conformity thereto; much more demanding than Halal, needs Kosher certification by COR or equivalent)
  24. * On-line Internet Marketing
  25. * CSA (Community Support Agriculture)
  26. * Food Hubs
  27. * Organic food stores
  28. * Local food stores
  29. Farmer Co-ops
  30. Community presentations at local halls where you invite the public to learn about sustainable farming, then sample your roasted chicken, and can place an order
  31. * Partner with a local appliance store for a 10%+ discount for your customers to buy a freezer to store their own food, then fill it with your produce.
  32. Home food delivery route
  33. Buy a used propane fired convection oven, put it in an enclosed utility trailer, find a grid of sites (every compass point) around your farm where you can go to sell roast chicken (whole roasted chicken to take home, or 1/4 chicken dinners for one person), advertise that you will be at that site on a regular basis arranged in a sequence that doesn't rob customers today from where you will be next time.  Start small so you are sure to sell out, or you can eat your unsold product excess (or sell it as frozen cubed chicken pieces for chicken Caesar salads or stir frys).  Record the time of each sale.  As soon as you sell out, leave a sign that late arriving customers know they missed out, call this # to reserve a chicken for next week, and head home with your cash.  Based on your sale rate, estimate how many chickens you can sell in a reasonable time on location.
  34. Food truck selling quarter chicken dinners at local fairs, hockey tournaments, and other events.
  35. * Canada Post flyer advertising a chicken sale with the coupon flyer
  36. * Enter your info for free into SFPFC's chicken farmer database, so customers can easily find you (see http://canadiansmallflockers.blogspot.ca/p/small-flockers-database.html )
  37. Other
Perhaps Arisanal Chicken Farmers (and/or Small Flock Chicken Farmers) can work co-operatively on solving this marketing challenge.

I ask everybody, Small Flockers and Artisanal Chicken Farmers, to use the comments section below to share their favorite sales & marketing method, or comment on the above.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Arsenic in Canadian Chicken, Round 2

It has been 4.5 years since Canada banned farmers from adding poisonous arsenic to their chicken feed.  Arsenic addition was primarily done by CAFO factory farms of the Supply Management Overlords (ie. The Chicken Mafia) to artificially increase their profits and reduce their personal risk..

I have previously made many posts and inquiries of government authorities about this barbaric practice of adding a known carcinogen and acute poison to feed animals that will eventually become human food (see Arsenic In Canada's Chicken ).

On Nov. 8, 2013 I emailed a number of questions to Health Canada about their surveillance of CAFO chicken to ensure that CAFO chicken farmers actually implemented the arsenic ban, versus ignored it and continued with their evil practice as if the ban didn't exist.

I never got a response from Health Canada, in spite of a few reminders.

I received a comment a while ago on my previous Blog postings about arsenic, asking if there has been any update.  I decided to try once more to get some straight answers out of Health Canada.  Perhaps with the new Liberal Government under Justin, Health Canada would be more inclined to answer.

Therefore, I copied the Nov. 8, 2013 email and sent it off again to Health Canada's Veterinarian Drug Directorate ("VDD") who is in charge of these things.

So far, I have received VDD's apology for their tardiness in answering the 2013 email.  Good first step.  I was told the answering of the email has been assigned to one or more of VDD's "experts".

Agri007 picked up on my renewed effort to get arsenic answers.  This cross posting prompted some additional questions about the arcane historic practice of arsenic additions to chicken feed:

  1. Has there been any anecdotal evidence, or formal scientific study that Canadians arsenic loading (ie. food, air, dermal, or water born arsenic intake) has been affected because of the arsenic ban?  Is a study of this issue planned in the future?  If not, why not?

  2. Has there been any anecdotal evidence, or formal scientific study that Canadian human health has been affected (pro or con) because of the arsenic ban?  Is a study of this issue planned in the future?  If not, why not?

  3. Has there been any anecdotal evidence, or formal study of the health status of CAFO chicken flocks (ie. farms that previously used arsenic in the feed) has been affected by the arsenic ban? Is a study of this issue planned in the future?  If not, why not?

Stay tuned.  It will be interesting to see if there is a "Trudeau II" effect on openness, transparency, and accountability by the Federal Government.

Any bets?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Customers Seek Artisanal Chicken

If you are an Artisanal Chicken Farmer, or a Small Flocker, I have waiting customers for your live chickens. Call or email me, and I will put you in touch with these eager customers.

Enter your info for free into SFPFC's  Artisanal Chicken Farm Database so your prospective customers can more easily find you. 

Sometimes it takes a while for the rain to soak in.  That's why we have things called puddles and wetlands, to hold the excess water until it can be handled.  Puddles and wetlands form when there is too much rain, or it rains too quickly.

Similar to rain and puddles, in the chicken business, we use on-farm inventory of live birds, delaying the trip to the abattoir, and large freezer capacity all help absorb and hold any imbalances in supply and demand.

The prospective chicken customers who contacted me say they want to buy all of my live chickens currently on farm, and all of my production for 2017.  I am licensed for 3,000 Artisanal birds, but they need more than that.

You may have already received an email from me about this opportunity.  Either way, I await your response if you have chicken for sale.

These prospective chicken buyers asked me to notify all other prospective Artisanal chicken farmers in Ontario, asking them to put their hand up if they would like to sell some or all of their current & future production.

Most of these eager customers tell me they have special slaughter and further processing requirements, so they want live birds that they can get processed to their exacting specifications.  Therefore, most of these customers are not interested in fresh never frozen meat, nor are they interested in your frozen birds awaiting sale.  However, other customers may come along who want already frozen birds, so everybody can put their name forward.

These prospective customers do not have any CFO quota for buying/marketing chicken, or do not have sufficient quota, but have a need for more chicken for their hungry customers.

In case you didn't realize, Canada has a quota system on growing chicken, and a separate quota system for buying chicken.  You need a license, and must pay a fee to buy chicken in Canada.  Some think this is extortion when you have to pay to enter a business.  Others realize this is Canada's crazy Supply Management system.  The buyers who want Artisanal Chicken are willing to pay the $/kg to the farmer, but don't want to pay the supply management quota fee for buying chicken.

In this case, these prospective customers would rather buy from Artisanal Chicken Farmers, where no chicken buying quota is required, rather than purchasing quota so they can buy chicken from the CAFO chicken factory Supply Management system.

If you are Artisanal or Small Flocker, feel free to place all your info and particulars in the comments below, so everybody can find you, or send it to me by phone, fax, or email.

If you'd like, I will create a free database of Ontario's Artisanal Chicken Farmers, with all their particulars, so prospective customers can find their nearest or best supplier of this non-SM chicken

Friday, September 23, 2016

Artisanal Chicken: Is it Working?

I have been contacted by a number of people, curious to know my experiences with raising chickens under the Artisanal Chicken program of Chicken Farmers of Ontario ("CFO").

Application deadline for new entrants for chicken farmers to join the Artisanal Chicken program for January 2017 closed as of 2016/09/09.  However, true to form, CFO has changed the rules at the last minute, and has extended the CFO Artisanal Chicken deadline to 2016/09/30.

Therefore if you are an Ontario chicken farmer (or wanna be), there is still time to join the Artisanal Chicken pioneers.  CFO doesn't share all of the details, but I will.  Here is the info you need to make a great decision.

  1. In short, as an Artisanal Chicken farmer, CFO has treated me in a friendly, respectful, and reasonable manner.  Lord knows they had reasons to do otherwise to me due to this Blog.  More or less, CFO has left me alone to grow my chickens. If they have treated me well, they will likely do the same for you and other Artisanal Chicken applicants.  Of course, all that can rapidly change whenever CFO unilaterally decides.  Trust takes along time.
  2. CFO reserves the right to terminate the program any time they feel like it.  Of course, if CFO did that (or some other big player in the Supply Management system forces CFO's hand for their self-serving monopolistic, crony capitalism reasons), that would leave me and most other Artisanal Chicken farmers financially stranded with no recourse.  I doubt I could scream "Unfair" loud enough to make a difference within a reasonable time.  If you borrow money to do Artisanal Chicken, you will be at suicidal (or significant) risk until you get the loan paid off, likely losing everything if CFO harpoons you, you become a beached whale, and the bank come to collect its pound of flesh.  Knowing (or fearing) CFO, I would recommend against borrowing money to enter the Artisanal Chicken system.
  3. After you apply, CFO will come to your farm to interview you and view your farm, barn(s), and infrastructure (eg. water supply, barn yards, pasture, etc.).  My audit was very low key and accepting of where I was staring from.  CFO currently seems to accept you where you are currently at, and makes allowances for you to learn and grow into the program.  You are not expected to be perfect, nor to have everything already in place (eg. your barn doesn't have to be already built before applying).  Of course, CFO could change that approach tomorrow, so be ready.  You should have a reasonable plan for each step that you will have to achieve for your entire first year as an Artisanal Chicken farmer.  I would suggest it would be frowned upon to tell CFO "If approved, I will buy 500 day-old chicks, and once they arrive, I'll figure out what I'll do next", and you likely won't be approved by CFO with this half-baked plan.
  4. CFO will likely approve your reasonable plan and application, as there is more quota available than farmers available to fill it. I base that upon CFO extending the application deadline.
  5. CFO has a tendency to notify tour acceptance at the last minute, which put me at great disadvantage, requiring me to start construction on January 1st.  It wasn't easy.  Be prepared for that.
  6. Once approved, CFO will send you a bill for immediate payment of CFO's fees & levy & license for the entire 2017 year.  Your cash flow for capital purchases will be stretched even thinner by this, but that is CFO's desire to make sure they get their pound of flesh.
  7. You may not be able to get the chicks you want, when you want them.  Call your hatchery before you apply to find out the details and get a tentative commitment (eg. if you get approved by CFO, the hatchery will guarantee to supply you the chicks you need).  You may have to order chicks 6 to 8 weeks in advance.

     
  8. Once you start, be prepared to continue along your plan, assuming all goes according to plan.  If you hesitate at each step, awaiting proof that each step works as you hoped before you move forward to the next step, you will be lost before you get once through.  Plan well, think about all of the things that could go wrong, what is the earliest point you can detect plan failure, and have remedial plans ready for each of those major risks.  Once you have your plan perfected, put the accelerator to the floor and go for it full speed.  You can re-assess further at the end of your first year.
  9. Abattoir capacity is likely even more constrained than hatchery supply.  OMAFRA has admitted that they nearly killed all of Ontario's small local abattoirs 5 to 10 years ago, and we're still recovering from their bureaucratic mistakes.  I suggest you have a primary abattoir who will process 66% to 90% of all your chickens, and a backup abattoir who will do 10% to 33% of your chickens.  That way, you have a foot in the door if your primary abattoir has a problem and can't serve you as you need.
  10. Due to the long trip to the nearest abattoir, economics said I must raise flocks of 500 birds to keep costs down.  Therefore, I needed a brooder that could handle 500 day-old chicks, and maybe some turkeys and ducks.  I chose a 40 ft. decommissioned sea container.  I made the necessary customizations to create a state-of-the-art brooder.  A
    Inside a brooder compartment with 100
    chick who are 2 days old, maintained
    at 35 deg C, 2 drinkers and feed trough.
    An electric radiant heater is shown at
    the bottom of the photo, added to
    each compartment for the first 48 hrs.
    for those chicks who need extra heat.

    Roof vent cut into steel roof of sea container

    Inside the brooder, showing the 6 compartments (4' x 6' each),
    with a 2' wide aisle on the right, and sheets of Silverboard
    foam wall insulation as lids, 3 LED lights in each
    compartment, and fresh air makeup distributed to each
    compartment via a 4" diameter pipe (5 compartments
    currently in use @ 100 chicks per compartment)

    Propane fired hot water heater (from travel trailer),
    and hydronic heating system for brooder.  Each brooder
    compartment has a separate radiant floor heating zone


    Fresh air inlet to brooder, with hot water heating coil to
    pre-heat air to 35 degC






  11. You will need to do some CFO training via watching 1 or more video.  While this is a mandatory requirement, CFO still doesn't have this set up so it can be accomplished, so I have not yet been able to accomplish this step 10 months after CFO approval.
  12. You will need to prepare a written farm manual saying how you will meet all of the mandatory requirements of the CFO and Chicken Farmers of Canada ("CFC").  Fortunately, CFO has a template manual as a Adobe Acrobat pdf form.  You can fill in the form on your computer and print it off, or print the blank form and fill it in via pen & ink.  The CFO form is a little flakey (ie. the form has limited space in the fields, and won't print properly if you have a long answer).
  13. CFO will do an on-farm audit to see if you are in compliance with your stated methods described in your farm manual.  For example, your manual says what you plan to do, the on-farm audit ensures you are doing what you said you would be doing.

     
  14. You will need to keep documentation on a daily basis to support and prove that you are following your plan (eg. brooder temperatures, mortality, treatments, chicken feed retention samples or Lot Code numbers, etc.).
  15. I have a 17 to 23 hr day when I go to the abattoir, starting at midnight to catch and crate the birds.  You will likely need some help.
  16. Your vehicle will likely be contaminated by the live birds on their way to the abattoir, and want a clean vehicle before loading your eviscerated meat so it doesn't get cross contaminated.  I have limited vehicle space, and can't afford to make 2 trips to the abattoir (ie. one trip to take live birds to the abattoir, a second trip to pick up the cold, eviscerated meat).  To solve this problem, I had to design a insulated 4' x 8' x 4' cooler box that is stored in pieces in the back of my pickup truck while I travel to the abattoir with my live birds in crates in my trailer.  Once I have offloaded the birds at the abattoir, I go to a truck wash to clean the empty crates and trailer, offload the crates, build the cooler box in the trailer, reload the crates in the pickup truck box, then await the cooled meat from the abattoir.  I load the cold, eviscerated meat in the insulated cooler box, throw a temperature recorder in with the chicken so that I can prove I kept the chicken at the proper temperatures, throw on the ice to keep the chicken cool for twice the expected travel time (in case of a flat tire or other travel emergency), close up the cooler box, and head home.  A long, hard day!  If you have other animals on farm, you still have to do farm chores before you go, and after you get back.  Think about that and get the help you need.  Don't plan on being Superman.
  17. I haven't figured out how to get 500 customers to rendezvous with my trailer full of cold fresh never frozen meat when I return home.  I sell some of it fresh, but am forced to freeze most of it.  Freezing isn't as simple as throwing 300 chickens into a standard home chest freezer.  The typical chest freezer has a limited freezing capacity, and will take up to 2 weeks to freeze the chickens in the middle of the freezer if you load it full of cold chicken.  The chicken in the middle of the freezer will be cold but spoiled (ie. rotten smellly meat unfit for human consumption) by the time it starts to freeze.  To solve this problem, I tightly pack about 30 chickens into the bottom of a large chest freezer.  I then spread 25 kg. of dry ice (-90 deg C) on top of those chickens, then place another layer of 30 or so chickens on top of the dry ice layer.  I continue to add layers of chicken and dry ice until the freezer is full.  I close the lid, and the cold CO2 gas comes blowing out of the freezer as the chickens are rapidly frozen (you need adequate ventilation of the CO2 gas escaping).  Within 12 to 24 hours, the 300 chickens are frozen solid, and the chest freezer's compressor can take over the job to keep the frozen chicken at -18 deg C.  Dry ice is expensive, so I charge 16.9% more for frozen chickens vs. fresh never frozen chickens to help pay for the dry ice.
  18. Growing your chickens is probably the easy part.  The hard part will be marketing.  You will have long days at Farmer's Markets, and costs for advertising and marketing.  Be sure to keep those $/hr labor and marketing costs allowances in your planned selling prices.
  19. Artisanal chicken can sell at a premium price over the crap CAFO chicken that is sold in the grocery store.  I raise grass pastured, free range, no drug, no antibiotic, no chemicals, no hormone, all natural chicken and sell it at $3.85 per pound fresh never frozen, and $4.50 per lb frozen.  I make more profit when the birds are heavy (eg. 7 lb chickens at $31.50 per bird), but most consumers get sticker shock when the birds are too heavy.  You may find it an easier sell at 4 lb birds at $18 per bird.
  20. I will be applying to do Artisanal Chickens for 2017.
  21. There will be some people who need the high quality Artisanal Chickens, but can't afford them.  Please consider:

    •  A discount price to sell some of your chickens to your local Foodbank; or
       
    • Donating some of your chickens to your local Foodbank; or
       
    • My insulated wood box, 4' x 8' x 4', disassembled, awaiting
      my next trip to the abattoir.  One person can pick up each
      piece, and assemble the box.  Add eviscerated chicken and
      ice, and off you go.  The box is re-assembled with about
      20 screws and a 25' long cargo web strapping around the
      middle.
    • Donate a part of your gross sales or profits to the Foodbank so that those who can afford your chickens help subsidize affordable food for those who can't.
I hope this helps you decide if CFO's Artisanal Chicken is for you.  Please add your comments and experiences, tips, and questions to the Comments section below.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Free Training: Poultry Farming in Northern Ontario

Attention Poultry Producers:

Interested in learning about the challenges and opportunities of growing poultry in the North? 

Join OMAFRA Specialists (including our Provincial Poultry Specialist, Al Dam), as we discuss the F.L.A.W.S. principles of poultry management.

Other topics will include: poultry production and nutrition, husbandry, disease and biosecurity, rodent and predation control, barn structure and ventilation, loading and transport and more. 

These workshops are aimed at the small flock and Artisanal and Niche Market farmers.  Come with your questions and be prepared to take home plenty of material. These are free workshops, so don’t miss out on this unique learning opportunity!

Schedule and location of Workshops:

Manitoulin
Spring Bay Hall, 9298 Hwy #542, Spring Bay,  7:00 PM-10:00 PM, Wednesday June 8

Sudbury
Massey Arena,  455 Government Rd, Massey, 10:00 AM-1:00 PM, Thursday, June 9

Algoma
Johnson Township Community Centre, 1 Cameron Road, (upstairs in the Desbarats Arena), Desbarats, 7:30 PM-10:00 PM, Thursday June 9

Nipissing
Caldwell Township Hall, 11790 Hwy #64, Verner, 7:00 PM-10:00 PM, Friday June 10

Nipissing/Parry Sound
Chisholm United Church Hall, 1469 Chiswick Line, Powassan, 10:00 AM- 1:00 PM, Saturday, June 11. 

For questions regarding these upcoming workshops please contact Brian Bell, ADA, OMAFRA at 705-282-1638 or Mobile 705-690-5020 or email brian.bell2@ontario.ca  


Brian Bell, Agriculture Development Advisor
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
35 Meredith Street, P.O Box 328
Gore Bay, Ont. P0P 1H0
brian.bell2@ontario.ca
1-877-424-1300/1-705-282-1638
Fax: 1-705-282-2792
Cell:1-705-690-5020
For information on upcoming meetings and events, go to OMAFRA Dateline at:  http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/rural/edr/events-training.htm

Death by Sea Container

My 20 ft. de-commissioned sea container, used to store
animal feed and farm equipment
I built a state-of-the art brooder inside a 40 ft. sea container that handles up to 600 day-old chicks for the first 3 weeks of their life.  It works great.  However, that sea container-brooder could now be the death of my farm, and my dream of supplying safe, nutritious, locally grown chicken for my small community.

For the forth time, my municipality wants to pass a By-law to ban sea containers.  After the first 3 attempts to pass a banning By-law were all failures, I thought the municipality had finally given up due to their repeated problems with the By-law's wording, and the public backlash.

Not so.

In baseball, three strikes you're out.  Apparently, that doesn't count for municipalities.

Attacking sea containers for the forth time, the Municipality certainly demonstrates their perseverance, bordering on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Maybe I do too, as I continue to defend these de-commissioned steel boxes that are both affordable and useful on my farm (and elsewhere).

So why is the Municipality so insistent to get rid of sea containers?

We don't really know for sure, except for the cryptic statement in the draft By-law, claiming it’s “in the public’s best interest to control the placement and use of sea containers”.

I don't believe that window dressing explanation of the municipality's motivations.

Excellent municipalities deliver sustainable services at minimum cost. This challenging goal is aided by sea containers.

If a sea container isn’t on concrete foundations, it’s neither a permanent structure, nor a building, nor MPAC assessed, nor property taxed.

Mediocre municipalities think sea containers are a loophole in their quest for maximum tax revenue and maximum spending.

The Roman orator and statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero frequently asked "Cui bono" [latin phrase meaning "Who benefits?"].

Special Interest Groups (ie. home & apartment builders, U-store developers, and others) sometime conspire with mediocre municipalities to ban sea containers. If banned, the next best alternative will likely benefit a Special Interest Group.

So if sea containers are banned, mediocre municipalities and their Special Interest Groups both likely benefit.  A devil's pact against the citizens.  Fascism at its worst.

It is unknown if these motivations are the root causes of the 4th attempt at a sea container banning By-law in my case, but it may be true in your case.

Has your municipality banned sea containers?  If so, let everybody know what happened & how you coped by posting a comment below.

My newly minted family farm uses sea containers in an extensive way:
  • to store animal feed and seeds,
  • on-farm storage;
  • as a brooder for our day-old baby chicks, and
  • for storing the fresh and frozen meats produced by our farm. 
 We customized a 40 ft. sea container to be a world-class brooder.  Without that brooder, we can no longer raise pastured poultry.  Without the income from our poultry operations, our farm cannot survive.

After a sea container has had 5 to 10 years of strenuous use on the high seas, it is forced to retire to its second career. The environmental 6R Rule (Refuse, Reduce, Re-use, Repair, Re-purpose, Recycle) tells us to re-purpose sea containers, rather than recycle them as scrap steel.

By acting in a sustainable, environmentally sound manner, I have backed my farm into a dangerous corner with my municipality.

The proposed By-law specifically prohibits using a sea container to house animals (or people, also eliminating sea containers as a source of affordable housing for all).

Besides my farm, I am also concerned about current farms that have no sea container but could soon realize a need for one, or future farms that might need sea containers if they are to be a viable farm startup.  What do they do after this By-law is passed?

While I might get "grandfathered in" (ie. become legal non-conforming), others likely will not be entitled to grandfathering.

I am aware of the Ontario law "Farming and Food Production Protection Act, 1998, S.O. 1998, CHAPTER 1 (see https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/98f01 ) which states:
Normal farm practice preserved
6. (1) No municipal by-law applies to restrict a normal farm practice carried on as part of an agricultural operation. 1998,
c. 1, s. 6 (1).

My brooder-sea container is quite innovative, so it likely meets the definition of innovative farm practices that are protected by the Act.  The other sea containers have pretty standard farm uses, so I assume they would meet the definition of "normal farm practices".

So why isn't my farm, and all other farms excempt from this encroaching By-law?

I have proposed the following amendment to the Municipality's draft By-law:
"All farm lands, farms, farmers, farming operations, and farm processes are expressly exempted from this Bylaw, irregardless of what Zone they happen to be located in, and notwithstanding anything else in this By-law, and notwithstanding anything else in the latest amendment of By-law 2002-07 Zoning."
So far, no comment from them on my "reasonable" suggestion..

I told the Municipality that if the municipality proceeds with this draft By-law as it is currently written, I plan to apply to the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board under this law to strike down the Bylaw as ultra vires the Municipality's authority under this Act so as to better protect my farm and all other farms in Central Manitoulin from this ill advised By-law.

When a Municipality does a frontal assault onto a small, local, family farm, it truly is:

 "biting the hand that feeds you"

My farm's LGD's (Livestock Guardian Dogs) know better, and have better manners than this.










Monday, February 22, 2016

Artisanal Chicken Brooder

In the spirit of Blog 3.0, this post will share my ideas and plans for a low cost, effective brooder for use under CFO's Artisanal Chicken program to produce 3,0000 birds per year.

I have previously posted numerous descriptions about the evils of the CAFO chicken factory. I believe in pastured poultry.  However, that's kind of tough to do when the grass is under 3 feet of snow.  Even in the short Canadian summers, the chicks can't be tossed out into the pasture on they day they are hatched; they must spend time under Mama's wing, or in a brooder.  After 2 weeks, they will be ready for the great outdoors.

It's 17 hours round trip to the nearest abattoir that slaughters poultry.  It's 2 years in jail if I try to do it on-farm.  That regulation isn't for any particular health or safety reason, as it has been repeatedly shown that a farmer with a sharp knife can produce eviscerated chicken with 97% less bacterial contamination that the government approved Chicken Mafia system.  The mandatory abattoir visit is due to regulatory capture by the Chicken Mafia, helping to enforce their monopoly.

Due to the high travel costs, I must max. out the abattoir on every trip.  My nearest abattoir can process 500 birds in one day, so my Artisanal Chicken system must learn how to produce flocks of 500 birds.

Joel Salatin says the poults are ready to go to pasture on the first nice day after they are 2 weeks old.  CFO sets a maximum density of 2.88 kg/sq. ft of barn space.  Using the curve in Figure 1 below, we can design the brooder.

Figure 1:  Chick growth curve for Frey's Whiterock meat birds.  I assumed the
chick was 40 grams when hatched, then used Frey's data, fitted by
Richard's (1959) generic chicken growth equation using 4 parameters (A, b, k, and n),
showing the birds have an ultimate weight of 3.233 kg.
Figure 2:   GFQ's 5 tier brooder
can do 500 chicks for about a
week or less, requires a warm
draft free room, electricity, and a
fat wallet.
GFQ makes a 5 tier stacking brooder at a cost of US$1,130.00 plus shipping, exchange, and taxes, which equates to about CDN$1,850.00 for Canada.

With GFQ's system, I still have to do something different after the first week.  GFQ takes 15 amps to run the 5 electric heaters (one on each level).  That much electricity on a 34/7 basis is close to impossible for my off-grid solar-wind power system to power.  In addition, I have to supply a warm, draft free building.  The living room of our house won't go over well every 8 weeks with my patient spouse.

After scratching my head for a while, and a few back of the envelope calculations, I decided the only available solution was a 40 ft. used sea container.  You can do it in a 20 ft. sea container (about $2,500 delivered, about $15.60 per sq. ft. vs. $75 per sq. ft. to build your own barn, or $150/sq. ft. to have a contractor build it.

I decided to buy a 40 ft. can, as I have other plans for the rest of the space, and a 40 ft can is cheaper than two 20 ft. cans.  I got my 40 ft. can for about $4,000 delivered to the farm and put in place.  Under Ontario Building Code, a sea container sitting on the ground (or 6" x 6" sleepers) is not a building and doesn't require a building permit, and doesn't add to your assessed property value.  Sweet!

Figure 3:   Interior plan view of sea container brooder for 500 chicks.  There are 5 brooders, and a central hallway
for wheelbarrow access.  If you have terrible weather and can't go to pasture after 2 weeks of age, you can throw
a few bales of wood shavings onto the hallway floor, and legally extend the brooder time to a maximum of 3 weeks.
The central hallway has to be 3 ft. wide to accommodate my wheelbarrow.  Double door keep out drafts, and open fully for easy loading, unloading, and cleaning.  Each brooder is designed to hold 100 chicks, from day old to 2 weeks of age, then its out to the pasture for them.  At 2 weeks old, the poults should be 0.412 kg, so at a stocking density of 2.88 kg/sq.ft., we need 14.30 sq. ft. which is exactly what we have in Brooders 2 -->5 (#1 is slightly larger).

Sometimes bad weather, or a delay at the abattoir could cause a backup, where the poults can't go to pasture on the planned date.  In that case, you can throw a few bales of wood shavings or hay down on the central hallway, and depopulate each brooder by 67 birds each, and place 338 poults in the hallway for an additional week, or the emergency has resolved.

At 75 birds per pasture pen (10' wide x 12' long  x 2' high), the birds start at a density of 9.6% of CFO's maximum, and grow to 70% of CFO's maximum density; thereby ensuring no overcrowding.

To protect the brooding birds from winter cold, 1.5" of thermal insulation, covered by 1/2" plywood is between the sea container's cold steel wall and the warm birds.  The floor will have 1" of thermal insulation, then 1/2" PEX tubing carrying 50/50 mixture of heated propylene glycol-water.  When a brooder is cold, the thermostat turns on the small DC recirculation pump for that zone, and sends hot fluid through the PEX to warm the chicks.  I tried getting a used propane fired water heater from a travel trailer for $100, but my supplier was out of supply, so I had to buy a new one for $600

The 2 ft. high 2x4 walls between each brooder keep the chicks isolated, carry the PEX lines to and from each brooder, are internally insulated to conserve heat, then skinned with plywood..  Hockey puck LED or halogen lights will light each brooder.  A sheet of 2" insulation board will be used for a roof.

Ventilation of the individual brooders is by propping up the brooder's insulation board as needed.  Overall, the sea container interior is ventilated by grated air inlets cut into the floor (predator proof), and multiple roof vents.

Minimal cost, maximum energy efficiency, and maximum comfort for the birds.  With Small Flockers, everybody wins.

SFPFC has made arrangements with the owner of this design as an aid to our members.  Anybody who is a member of SFPFC is hereby welcomed and automatically licensed to use this design.  All others must refrain from using our registered design.  The design owner is not vengeful, but can be provoked to attack mis-use or unauthorized use of this design.

Any questions, or suggestions to further improve the design, please comment below or by private email.