Monday, March 25, 2013

Raising Sheep - 2.0

Three months back, we bought our first batch of sheep. It was our foray into animal rearing so we were pretty excited about it. A few months into it, we are happy that the animals have become used to the 'stall-fed' life and our adjusting well. It took them about a week to understand the whole concept of climbing up the ramp and being secured in a stall.

During our research, we were advised that sheep were the 'grazers' and goat the 'climbers' and the former did not eat anything above ground. Well, that is not true! When they are hungry, they will stand erect on their hind legs and munch anything that is green and tasty. A handful of smaller and weaker Melia Dubia trees were defoliated by them. Thankfully they do not have a voracious appetite for mango leaves but they will eat tender Moringa leaves.

There is a stark difference between the comfort level of the male and female animals with our staff. The lone male is friendly, playful and occasionally head-butts people. On the other hand, the females are still apprehensive about our staff getting too close to them. I guess it is a matter of time or the mystery of the female thinking is universal! :).

A few sheep being fed CO4 fodder. The branches at the bottom of the picture is that of Agathi. As evident, leaves were cleaned up pretty nicely, leaving only the hard branches.

Deworming in process. Has anybody tried feeding Neem leaves as a deworming agent ?

For now, the animals are not strictly stall fed. With the onset of summers, grass has turned dry and are being fed CO4 grass. The day starts at 8 am and they are let out in the compound. Soon after, they are fed freshly chopped CO4 grass (approx 20-25 kgs) along with a bundle of Agathi or Subabul. They seem to have taken a liking towards Agathi and Subabul, however it is not advisable to overfeed. At 430 pm, they are fed another round of CO4, after which they are locked up at 6 pm.

 During a recent vet visit we were delighted to find out that quite a few females are 1-2 months pregnant. The gestation period is about 150 days and we hope to see Gen-Next by August. I am aware of a few blog followers have recently started their goat or sheep projects or are contemplating getting into it. Would anyone have insights into sheep's projected weight gain timelines or have recommendations around how to expedite weight gains?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Processing CO4 fodder for Goats & Sheep

After much delay, we were able to procure the chaff cutter machine last month. CO4 fodder which was screaming to be harvested finally saw the light of day of being chopped and processed.

The machine comes with a 2 hp motor and is available from Agri Engineering dept under subsidy. There is approx 50% subsidy available and the beneficiary pays about Rs 15000/-

While the stem of the fodder had become yellow and hard, it was chopped up and mixed with sheep manure. Eventually, we should get some good decomposed manure in a few months. Using the chopped material as a mulch was considered, but a couple of horticulture experts warned us about the risk of attracting termites.

I had posted a blog on the diet of goats and sheep a few weeks back. In case you missed it, you can find it here

Green fodder is chopped separately and the sheep seem to enjoy the taste of their new food.

CO4 fodder was harvested manually and will the bush cutter.

Part of the process was to finely chop the stalk for compost processing. Usually, we would try to use the fresh, succulent stem as part of animal fodder as well.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Musings : Farm Innovations, Emus and Farmer Consortiums

In this digital age, information is everywhere and sometimes there is too much to comprehend. Here are a few of my musings and tidbits of information that I discovered recently and found interesting so decided to share.

Frugal Innovations from Haryana : This was an interesting feature on an Indian farmer done by BBC. The innovation came in the form of a machine developed by the farmer to extract Aloe Vera jelly. Aloe Vera is an attractive option for many since it grows well in marginal lands. Problem with marginal areas is that they often have marginal infrastructure and resources as well. The issue is exacerbated since Aloe Vera jelly extraction process is a time sensitive given harvested leaves spoil within hours. Our enterprising farmer has developed machine(s) which allow him to extract jelly quickly, preserve and process it. Happy to see he has seen some success and even exported his machines to other countries!

Disenfranchisement of Emus :  Some of you will remember the Emu farming craze that swept the agri-community about 2 years ago. The forums were ablaze with how lucrative Emu farming can be. There were dozens of 'suppliers' touting Emu eggs and chicks on every online forum. However, there was a distinct lack of information on Emu consumption. Some folks did inquire but received little information on how & where to sell Emu products. Fast forward 2 years, Emu farms are now in dismal state across the country. There is very limited domestic demand for Emu products in India and international markets are no better. I cannot help but think of the proverbial 'told-you-so' when discussing this with my impacted agri-prenuer friends. It is unfortunate that hard-earned money was lost and now we have starving birds dying a slow death in numerous farms.

Farmer-Producer Organization Support in India : It was a welcome change when I recently read about the central govt. policy which promises tangible benefits to the farmer-producer community. Essentially, the policy will enable Farmer-Producer Organizations (FPO) a.k.a farmer consortium, to available of cheap funding. The FPO will need to be a registered consortium meetings the eligibility criteria set forth. In addition, such consortiums will also receive tax breaks since their earnings are considered taxable. While such measures are progressive, I am still curious how many farmers have actually benefited from it. With the ball set in motion, I am hopeful that the govt. is keen to implement and socialize such policies as well and this is not just lip service!

Credits : Original publishers withhold copyrights.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Fabricating our first goat shed...Completed!!

This has been a long over due posting and often requested. It is good to see the growing interest in goat rearing as a commercial pursuit. There is high level of optimism in goat rearing and probably right so. I do have a word of caution to the eager-beavers though. The economics of goat rearing are attractive but the big assumption most people make is on the sale price. Please research your local animal markets and sales channels for prevailing prices to confirm your project's economic feasibility. Exaggerated sales prices will escape most folks like us (smaller goat operations). At smaller scale of operations, most will not have the leverage to exploit retail rates and channels for lack of significant volumes. Larger abattoirs often show reluctance to work with small operations as well. With that said, there is still profit margins to be had if you are willing to reset expectations to a lower rate.

My recent travels had prevented this posting for a while and without further ado, here is a peek into our goat shed construction. Hope you enjoy it.

A 80ft x 25 ft shed was constructed to accommodate 100 goats + 180 kids. Columns being erected at a distance of 10 ft.

Truss and columns are ready for the roof to be fixed

Sivaganga gets pretty hot during summers. In order to combat the temperature, Galvalum sheets were fixed . They are a little expensive but worth the investment. This type of roofing sheet is more effective than asbestos or tin sheets in lowering ambient shade temperatures.

Shed vertical are being erected.

10ft x 10ft cubicles were made by putting chain link fence between the cells. Eucalyptus timber was used for floor reapers.  In hindsight, ensure your reapers are wide and sturdy. Inspect daily for cracks or damage since animal (young) hoofs can get stuck in gaps.

All set, ready to use! Soon after construction, the shed was put to use by our first herd of sheep. More on the sheep experiences later. 

We came across some hi-tech (and expensive) designs during our research but decided to scale down the complexity for our first project. It would be good to hear from readers who decided to employ interlocking rubber floors or decided on in-ground hollow brick structures. This structure, as it stands will house our first two herds. You may have also noticed that while the structure is self containing, we have also secured the perimeter of the premises. This allows us to periodically release the animals into the 'yard' while keeping them contained. More to come later on our initial experiences with sheep, until then keep grazing.. :)