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Go Back   BHM Forum > Homesteading > Homesteading

Homesteading Talk or ask questions about homesteading in general, your homestead, or any other related topic.

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  #721  
Old 12-10-2012, 12:01 PM
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Smile Holy Cow!

Folks - I have to apologize that I haven't updated this thread since this past spring. Yep - I am now starting to look at my time of the year by seasons Our transistion to rural life is nearly complete!

Let me first say, that I OFTEN think about all of you and the advice and great conversations (especially when I am welding - thanks Patience!). I many times would sit down and start to write but get diverted be it the kids, animals needing help, or our new soon to be neighbors (I will tell you more about that).

I commit to you all that I will provide an update very soon. This past year has been a very busy year for us and has in all honesty left me with little time to just get the needed things accomplished. One big announcement which I will share now and naturally the most important of all is Ginger is expecting number 6!!

We have completed a number of projects and are in the midst of several more as I write this. God has continued to bless me with consulting work to help keep things moving here on the farm and our animals continue to multiply and grow in numbers. I haven't quite had the camera discipline I normally do but will go around and take a few pictures in additional to what I have already.

Mostly importantly, I wanted to pass along our heart felt Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas as we rapidly approach the holidays.

I hope this message finds you all well and I will post some followup updates soon!!

Take care,

Dave & Ginger and Family..
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  #722  
Old 12-10-2012, 01:04 PM
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Best holiday wishes to you and yours, Dave! Great to hear from you and learn that you are doing well. We will all enjoy the updates when you can manage it. Lots of folks here have really loved following your progress on the new homestead since the beginning.

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  #723  
Old 12-12-2012, 12:27 AM
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Hi Dave & family,
So glad to hear from you.
First of all a great big congrats to you all. I remember the last one when ya'll were starting the move.
I have so missed your updates but understand completely about the time it takes to get things done. First things first.
I look forward to the updates & maybe a few pics of the family. lol I'm sure they have grown a lot, & love the life change.
Thank you for sharing your life with us all.
sissy
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  #724  
Old 12-12-2012, 01:51 AM
MagicHands Female MagicHands is offline
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Default Congrats!

And Best wishes to you and Ginger! Please don't forget the family Christmas Fence Picture this year. All the little "Strykers" must be getting so
big now, and we wou;d love to see the progress!

Actually, we are thinking of moving back to Fl. from TN., but have to sell our home here first. We might want to wait until spring, when our driveway is actually useful, Lol! We will be visiting family in Palm Coast for Christmas,
and might pre- scout out some properties while we are there.

All the best to Your family!

Michele in TN.
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  #725  
Old 12-12-2012, 12:40 PM
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Patience,

It is likewise great to hear from you too! We know it was a popular request to take an updated picture this Christmas and in preparation Ginger grabbed some new pants for the boys who have a knack for ripping the knees out of all of their pants I certainly use your welding training crash course often and it has no doubt paid off - Thank you!

Sissy,

I promise, updates and pictures will be coming. I am working on one now and will post it soon. I will hopefully have plenty for you to read and see soon! Thank you for the congrats!

Magichands,

I think you will find some great opportunities for land in Florida. I certainly would recommend looking in our area of North central Florida. Thank you for the thoughts and congrats.

Take care,

Dave & Ginger and family.
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  #726  
Old 12-12-2012, 12:49 PM
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Default Update: The Big Storms

There are many stories to tell since we left off but I figured the tropical storms would be a good place to start. This whole fiasco started with a prayer for rain by my lovely wife. Here we were in May after already having a dry spring and the ground was parched. Ginger specifically asked for a small tropical storm to give us the rain we needed in prayers one night. Less than a week later an early season tropical system developed called Beryl. It was obviously a huge coincidence or an answer to a prayer? I have always heard you should never pray for something you do not want since God may just give it to you. Well in this case, he gave it to us - TWICE! Within a month of Beryl we were hit by Debby and our area of the Suwannee river valley saw more flooding than even the old timers could recount!

Both storms were tremendous and impacted us in different way. To that end I will tell you a little about both.

First was Beryl. Naturally we prepared as weathered native Floridians for the inbound storm. We made sure to have the typical things on hand like fuel for the generator and plenty of food and water (with the latter two never really an issue) so really the only problem was making sure we had fuel for power loss. We were prepared for the rain that we both have seen in many of hurricanes and tropical storms but what we were not prepared for was a particular band of rain that dumped over 15 inches of rain in just ONE hour. The band hit early in the morning (about 4:30am). We were just getting up when the rain let up and decided to survey the damage around 5:30am. We were not prepared for the massive flooding to areas of our property we have never seen standing water. It was impressive.

The unfortunate matter of the flooding was our two to three week old turkeys and meat chickens were near ground zero (about 100 in these two particular cages). As you all know, we grow pastured chickens and turkeys. We typically turn the turkeys loose after a couple of months; however keep the chickens moving in our open air cages. Unfortunately, our turkey cage took the brunt of the flooding while our chickens seemed to have fared better.

As we walked out the back door we had to take a double take and then rub our eyes and look again when we saw all of the flooding. We rushed out to the cages and were heartbroken at the site of turkeys and chickens floating in the water. We immediately began rushing all of the living remains to two other cages that were on higher ground. We ran extension cords out to the cages and turned on heat lamps to help dry the survivors out. We lost all but 3 of our entire turkey flock; however fortunately the chicken losses were minimal. Here are some pictures of the flooding in this particular area.

Here are two pictures of the water lines on our cages we saved our turkeys and chickens from:




Here is one particular area that had water about 5 to 6 feet deep as you can tell by the water line on the ground:


Out of all the animals, the ducks did the best! LOL. There is something about watching ducks have the time of their life as they swam about the multiple temporary ponds throughout our property that buoyed our spirits a bit.

Here is a picture of the ducks swimming around:


I didn’t have a rain gauge but had several 5 gallon buckets sitting around. I was checking the water depth in the buckets and then dumping them out. Up until the night of the down pour we had accumulated about 12 inches of rain throughout the day. Before going to bed I dumped out all of the buckets rather late in the night. After we took care of the rest of the animals the morning following the downpour I checked the buckets from the night before and they were all over flowing. This particular storm brought us more than 24 inches of rain in just 24 hours.

In general, minus animal losses, we did not sustain any real damage. The winds were minimal and God certainly answered the prayers for rain so for that we were grateful and didn’t complain a bit!

I will continue the story of Debby in my next post.

Take care,

Dave & Ginger and Family..
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  #727  
Old 12-12-2012, 01:03 PM
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Dave,

WOW! That was some rain! Be careful what you ask for, huh?

Glad you didn't have any worse damage.
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  #728  
Old 12-12-2012, 01:56 PM
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Dave,

WOW! That was some rain! Be careful what you ask for, huh?

Glad you didn't have any worse damage.
Patience,

The rain accumulation was epic! Between both storms we had nearly 5 feet for precipitation. To this day - there are still flooded pastures and homes that have not fully drained.

Dave
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  #729  
Old 12-12-2012, 02:28 PM
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So glad you didn't loose more than you did. And the family are safe. Tell Ginger to be a little more careful what she prays for, lol. So glad to be reading about ya'll again.
sissy
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  #730  
Old 12-12-2012, 05:02 PM
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Default Update: The Big Storms - continued..

The next tropical storm was Debby. After our experience with Beryl we moved all of our animals to higher ground and prepared for the heavy rains sure to come our way. Debby brought a little more wind than Beryl; however the rain was just as heavy BUT consistent. We didn’t have a heavy 15 inch one hour downpour like Beryl but the 24 hours rain accumulation was the same if not more. The majority of the rain fell during the day which was nice so we could better monitor water levels and flooding.

Our area was hit hard especially considering the already saturated grounds from the previous storm. The rain kept coming and coming. Our sandy road out front began to fill with water which did not happen with Beryl. The same areas of our property flooded plus a few new areas. Again the rain fall was tremendous with some areas near by seeing over 3 ft (I estimate we had 30 inches). Downtown live Oak was completely flooded with an average of 3 ft. of standing water AND massive sink holes opening up all over. In fact the county court house was essentially condemned along with several structures in downtown Live Oak due to a massive sink hole smack dab in the middle of town. Even the old timers were at a loss for words and didn’t have any stories to top what just happened. There was an unusual quiet following the storm as people simply starred bewildered at the sights.

The nice thing about the water in our area outside of the purity is the rather abundant amounts of water streaming through our aquifer and underground caverns. There are actually entire underground rivers that flow throughout the Suwannee River Valley. There are places where old sink holes fill up from time to time from these underground rivers bringing all sorts of fish and other aquatic life overnight (the locals know these spots and fish there when the time is right) and disappearing as quickly as it comes. The negative is of course the tendency for sink holes to open up anywhere as was the case for this storm. Entire roads, homes, cars, pastures, and even a few people were enveloped by these sink holes. We had a few small ones on our property but nothing of consequence.

For the first 24 hours we were stuck on our land do to the flooding. For the first couple weeks we had no way out of our area except through a 3 hour detour south. Fortunately, we did not need to really go anywhere but we did go explore after the first day. Here are some pictures of roads we typically travel in and out of our area.

This is one near by road we travel just about every day. We were able to drive around this sink hole by staying on the shoulder..


Though we were able to navigate around the above sink hole we were ultimately stopped by flooding:




Just by this you can see the amount of damage sustained by the local area in general. These sights were common throughout the path of the storm and in some cases are still the same today as I pass by on the days I travel for work.

Slowly our area has returned to normal (or the new normal); however, all of the extra rain combined with the mild winter has caused an explosion in insect populations and played havoc on our cattle. I attribute at least four losses of our heifers and steers to the weather and resulting conditions. We also lost additional turkeys in a new batch from mosquitoes carrying avian pox likely from nearby chicken farms.

We also had several friends out here that spent literally months stranded in their own homes due to the depth of standing water on their properties and access roads, so in retrospect we were pretty fortunate.

All of that aside, we are still thankful for the answered prayer of rain and have learned to be more “specific” on what we pray for because apparently God is listening!

More stories to come…

Take care,
Dave & Ginger and Family…
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  #731  
Old 12-12-2012, 05:16 PM
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All I can say is dang!
sissy
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  #732  
Old 12-12-2012, 06:43 PM
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All I can say is dang!
sissy
Yep - That is about how I felt towards the end of the day. The only time I saw that much rain in that short period of a time was when I was a kid during another tropical system.

Today is ironically, the first rainy day in quite some time. Being stuck inside I might hammer out yet another update because I hate to leave it on such a down type of note.

Take care sissy,

Dave
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  #733  
Old 12-12-2012, 08:09 PM
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WOW!!
The road is a sink hole!!

But the ducks are happy==LOL

Glad you folks are ok----and have a Merry Christmas.

from SE Texas
Annie
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  #734  
Old 12-12-2012, 08:10 PM
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Smile Update: Molly McButter and Swiss Miss

As summer began we became conscience of a problem. Bessie and Stepher (our two Jersey Milking cows) would be calving in late fall and we would be without milk once we dried them off in late summer. It is hard for me to explain the urgency of this situation. Once you get used to having your own supply of milk, cheese, ice cream, and the like you really can’t go back. Anyone that has had the pleasure of milking their own cow(s) will certainly understand that. The kids have been completely spoiled to the point we have to bring our own milk where ever we go since they turn their noses up to anything other than our own milk or the milk from our friends’ farms (privately Ginger and I get a laugh out of that).

With that being said, Ginger did what she does best and began combing the Internet for possible options. We were primarily looking for short bred cows that were due to calve naturally before we dry off our Jerseys. That being said our options were pretty slim.

We considered quite a few deals but everything was a long drive away and we were just not interested in going far like we did for the Devons. We checked with many of our friends and no one had cows for sale that met our needs. Additionally, we did not want cows that had been treated with medications on a regular basis and wanted cows that had mainly grass/forage based diets. This really limited our options. We were striking out on pretty much every lead until one day Ginger came across a pair Brown Swiss cows due to calve this summer.

After doing a little research on the breed and talking to the current owners we found that these two cows were born near the same time and have spent their lives together. About 4 years prior a local dairy owner had two grandsons’ that just started high school. His grandson’s wanted to raise a couple of milking cows to compete in the local 4H competitions so their grandfather (the dairy owner) allowed them to pick out two calves to raise from a Brown Swiss breeder who happened to come down once a year with a small heard of calves and was a personal friend of grandfather’s. Long story short, those two calves are the Brown Swiss cows we were looking to purchase.

For the most part they met most of our qualifications. They were rarely medicated if at all and their diets were mostly grass and hay based since they lived at the personal homestead of the dairy owner. They were fed small amounts of sweet feed but not enough to concern us. In most cases, when you intend to purchase cattle and plan to feed them grass or forage only they will be perfectly fine with the transition from grain in their diets assuming you provide them enough nutrients, protein, etc. to satisfy their needs. A good way to wean cattle from grain is with the use of alfalfa and molasses.

After much discussion with the owners we agreed on a price and purchased the two Brown Swiss cows whom we now call Molly McButter (Molly) and Swiss Miss (Missy). They are very gentle and sweet cows. They both calved within a month of each other and were great mothers. Molly went a little long with her calf and Ginger had to help her deliver with the help of little David. It was quite an ordeal; however, it ended well with two healthy calves. At this point we are milking both of the Brown Swiss cows with Bessie and Stepher dried off and due to calve within the next few weeks.

The Brown Swiss are a MUCH larger breed than our Jerseys. I would say our Jersey cows are approximately 600 to 700 lbs. whereas the Brown Swiss are 1200+ lbs. Naturally with twice the size the consumption is twice as much BUT we get a good amount of milk averaging about 4 to 5 gallons a day which is not bad on just grass.

Here is a picture of Molly McButter (Molly):


Here is Swiss Miss (Missy):


And one together:


There is only one problem with a cow this big…… They DO NOT fit in to our milking stanchion for the Jerseys LOL! You’ve guessed it – time for another project.

Take care,
Dave & Ginger and Family..
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  #735  
Old 12-12-2012, 09:01 PM
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Wow, those are some big cows. I bet the steers of that make and model pack a lot of meat on their bones
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  #736  
Old 12-12-2012, 10:04 PM
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Wow, those are some big cows. I bet the steers of that make and model pack a lot of meat on their bones
Yes Sir they are quite large! From our research the Brown Swiss are a great dual purpose breed. One of our calves was a bull so we intend to do exactly that and raise it for beef.

I should think we will get a pretty nice sized bull come next fall.

Take care,

Dave
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  #737  
Old 12-12-2012, 10:48 PM
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Hope you have a use for all that milk! I dunno what I'd do with 8 to 10 gallons a day. Lots of butter and cheese making going on, I suppose.

Yeah, I got spoiled on Jersey milk when I was a kid. When we first bought milk at the store, I asked what the heck they'd done to it? Didn't taste like milk to me.

I did spend more than my share of time cranking an old Dazey churn, and we had all the thick cream you could want, although Dad was selling milk.

Mom went to the hairdresser very early one Saturday morning and left me note saying to fry myself some pancakes for breakfast. Batter was in the fridge in a square plastic freezer container. At 10 years old, I could properly use a skillet, no problem. Okay, I got the container out put a dollop of butter in the skillet and filled it with batter. It never got the tiny bubbles on top that indicated it was ready to turn over. Instead, it burned and stunk me out of the kitchen.

I dumped the skillet in the cats' dish outside and cleaned up the mess. Second try, same result. I called Mom and asked what did I do wrong?

She ran me through the steps, and I said yep, did it like that. She finally figured out that there were TWO containers like that in the fridge. I had gotten the one that had cream in it! THICK cream--as thick as pancake batter! Hard to tell the difference unless you tasted it. (Cream doesn't fry worth a darn, BTW.) But yes, we had GOOD cream!
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  #738  
Old 12-13-2012, 12:16 AM
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Patience,

You had Ginger and I both laughing with that story. The cream is MUCH thicker than the thick milk that get passed as heavy cream in the store. When we cream our Jersey or Brown Swiss milk it stays liquid when it is warm (obviously you cream once you are done milking) but once it sets up in the refrigerator it has the consistency of soft butter if not harder.

Making butter from cream is really nice since there is hardly any milk left to squeeze out of the butter once the butter fat solids seperate. On a few occassions when making ice cream from our cream I inadvertently made a bowl full of butter. Once the seperation starts the whole bowl turns in just a few moments. On the occassions I make butter I just finish the process and put it in the fridge and try again. That of course is the beauty of milking is you can make a lot of mistakes and have plenty to try and try again with until you get it right.

We actually sell quite a bit of our excess milk to the point where we haven't had the oppurtunity to cream in a while. Once our Jerseys' calve we should be back in cream within a few weeks so I am looking forward to keeping a supply of ice cream on hand. I probably made the equivalent to 30 gallons of ice cream over the summer and burnt out two gear motors on our 6 quart white mountain ice cream maker. I guess it is time to upgrade the ice cream maker in spring of next year as I imagine we will be making a lot more!

If we have plenty of milk we typically just cream and feed the skim to the pigs. It takes about 2+- gallons of milk to make a quart of cream so you are only going to get about 1.25 to 1.5 gallons of cream out of 10 gallons of milk. Naturally we can use the skim to make things like cottage cheese or cream cheese. Milk products are really a great staple in the diet.

In any case, thanks for sharing the story!

Take care,

Dave
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  #739  
Old 12-13-2012, 12:13 PM
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Smile Update: Building a hay storage area..

With the addition of the two Brown Swiss giants our collective hay requirements for the dairy herd more than doubled. I have heard 100 opinions about storing and feeding hay since we moved out here. Many farmers have told me that the hay rolls wrapped tight in the green/white mesh wrap will “shed” water and maintain freshness so storing them outside is ok. After trying this for the first winter I have determined this advice to be “BAD” advice. The simple fact of the matter is the outside layer of hay will absorb water and mold. I routinely would peel off the outer 6+ inches of hay and trash it which means I am losing almost 10-20% of the hay out of the shoot. Then the cows pick through the hay like my 3 year old at dinner just eating a little here and a little there – obviously avoiding moldy hay. Molding hay can cause a lot of issues in cows, especially pregnant cows. You have to remember, cows really don’t have taste buds but have a great sense of smell. If you stick your nose in a roll of hay and smell mold then there is no question the cows will smell it. I even tried laying tarps over the hay and found that to be equally problematic because the tarps would trap whatever moisture was in the hay and in some cases accelerate the molding process.

After much debate I decided an open air structure would be needed. My current hay requirements are at around 60 rolls a year. Since I do not have a front loader on my tractor I would have to lay the bales end to end and side by side. This was going to be a large and expensive structure if I built this traditionally. By now, you should know I do things on the cheap and if possible use what I have. With this in mind I thought of several different ideas but ultimately decided on creating a large but rigid tarp structure. If you remember from the year prior I came in to possession of 26 ft. metal trusses at $50 a piece. I decided to use 3 long poles (18+ ft.) I had on hand and span the poles with two 26 ft. trusses at a height of about 12 ft. To protect the tarp from the metal trusses I wrapped the top of the truss across both spans with old carpet and duct tape. I then stretched a 48’ x 28’ tarp (a very nice heavy duty 18 mil used billboard sign) over the trusses and then stretch the tarp down with about a 4 feet drop creating an A-frame style roof. The billboard tarp has a sleeve on each side down which I ran 1’’ EMT conduit on the 48’ sides to stretch the tarp against. I placed 12 fence posts (8 ft. in length) at equal distance down each side (6 per side) and attached them to the EMT and placed them in the ground about a foot to keep them from moving around. I then used 12 ratcheting straps connected to T-posts as anchors and tensioned the tarp by tying off to the EMT conduit on the sides.

The 18 mil tarp was quite heavy and proved a significant challenge to get it in place. The billboard tarp weighed about 150 lbs which may not seem like a lot but when you are trying to push it over a truss at 12 feet with nothing but ladders and man power it was a challenge to get up and over and straightened out. However, once we got the tarp up it was downhill from there. Using the ratchet straps was a great way to evenly tension the tarp structure and to be honest even in a good wind (35+ mph) the structure hardly budges. The weight of the tarp alone discourages much flapping. Based on its performance I would not be concerned up to 50-60mph winds and perhaps even more which we rarely see here.

Here is a picture of the completed structure a long with little Ethan's tractor ready to park inside:


Here is another picture underneath the structure with hay inside:


As it stands, the effective floor space is about 24 ft. x 48 ft. which is enough for 40 rolls. I have a neighbor down the road with a tractor and a front loader and asked him if he would mind stacking my hay. He was happy to do so and now with a second row I can easily fit 70 rolls of hay. I suspect I will use this structure for quite a while before I see issues with it. I may reinforce the sides a bit more to protect it from wind gusts but for now I am quite pleased with it. My out of pocket costs on this project was around $400 with the majority of the costs for the billboard tarp which was about $250 delivered and the rest going to assorted items like straps, EMT conduit, and t-posts with the rest being on hand materials. If you are considering ways of covering your hay this year I would highly recommend you consider building a rigid tarp structure like this. I am already using the open areas of the structure for parking the tractor and storing carts and other items. It really has been a great addition!

Take care,
Dave & Ginger and Family..
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  #740  
Old 12-15-2012, 03:07 AM
Moolah Female Moolah is offline
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Dave,
We set up a hydroponic fodder system. you might want to look into doing something like this. We noticed that our animals are doing better, our milk production increased. We feed 2.5# per 100# body weight of the fodder, and then 1% of roughage.

Seed to feed in 8 days.
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