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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Milking Donkeys, From cattle pasture to milk barn

Update:
Here are my Milking princesses impatiently waiting for their daily grooming session , followed by a little aromatherapy before milk time. I'm not kidding ...
The things I do to get donkey milk from these 2 excellent milking girls! lol
It's that good! They are that good!
Some of you know my journey with these two and their buck wild foals.. Which btw are sweet as they can be now and on their way to being halter trained.
So they are all getting better all the time. I have devoted lots of time and effort figuring out how these girls think and what they need to feel comfortable. Because they haven't been loved and handled like most of my other donkeys it's not been easy.
They weren't super wild like that jack I bought in 2015.. Wow! Was I out of my skill set there! He too, started to calm down. After a year! As much as I could expect a crazy intact, never been touched  jack to calm down.
For awhile I doubted these two would have a real future as milkers here though. 
I'm seeing progress and that gives me hope! They are such gorgeous , healthy , strong examples of donkeys. They produced such gorgeous foals too!
With Fae being a super milker and Mina having such an excellent udder and teat structure .. It would have been a shame to have to sell them.
They have truly tested me... 
All of them!

What a journey ....

What a blessing.... 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Why Quail work for us.

Coturnix Quail are really amazing little birds. For me They are the easiest livestock to care for on a daily basis taking up very little of my time. They have been extremely productive. Require very little space. They are so quite. 
Their eggs are good for people who have chicken egg allergies. They even contain anti inflammatory properties.
I think they are delicious! A more delicate taste than chicken , goose, Guinea or duck egg. They make some really yummy ice cream and the best ever gourmet pickled eggs! 

I have 28 laying females. I get well over 100 eggs a week. 
Yes, quail eggs are tiny. It's takes 3 quail eggs to equal a small chicken egg.
But as long as you keep a light on them in the winter the coturnix quail lay more eggs than most all chickens! They need approximately 15 hours of light to be productive. 
Cracking quail eggs can be annoying.
But There are special scissors to open quail eggs And they make all the difference. They make cracking the eggs simple and fast! 
Most of my quail are color variations of the regular size coturnix. I have one jumbo female and she is larger in the breast and lays a larger egg. She doesn't lay as often though. For a flock where meat is more the goal I'd raise jumbo. She grew just as fast as the others and started laying just as early. 
Look at her egg compared to a regular coturnix ... It's almost as big as my bantam chicken eggs! Only she starting laying at 8 weeks, my bantams didn't start until 5 months!
The meat is amazing! They are the easiest things we've ever processed. 
I have heard some complaints from people that they have to eat 2 or 4 quail at a time because they are small. Honestly we've not had this problem. I eat one and it's plenty! My husband only eats one at a time also and he's a big guy. We tend to make more side items than most people possibly. 
If you don't eat many side items you may find them to be to small of a portion. I'm happy to pile on the veggies to make up for the small size! 
The regular coturnix yields around 4 oz of meat. Which is considered the standard amount of a protein serving for a woman per meal.
To me they are perfect! So no con there for us anyways! 

They do not incubate their own eggs. Which I think is a good thing.
When a bird incubates and raises its own babies that's 2 months or more you're not getting eggs from her. This is a problem if your goal is lots of eggs. 
Even if your goal is meat at best she might be able to hatch 3 or 4. That's a lot of time getting no eggs from her for only a couple of meals.
Having a good incubator will be necessary if you want to raise meat or your own replacement quail.
I personally enjoy incubating and hatching out eggs.  Brooding can be more labor so I try not to hatch during peak seasonal work here on the farm.
Quail eggs hatch around 16 days,, then they are ready to eat ( and laying) around 8 weeks! In less than 3 months they are productive members of the farm. 
Their hatch rate isn't very good for most people. I say most people because I have seen a few people claim 80% success. Unfortunately I have not mastered this learning curve!
My incubator holds 64 quail eggs even at a 50% hatch 32 quail to eat in less than 3 months is a lot of food. Or perhaps replacement egg layers and some extra males for meat. Males will fight to the death when they become sexually mature so it's necessary to keep numbers to a minimum on the males. 1 male per 4 females seems to work well.  
What a quick food chain! We have not grown any other livestock that becomes that productive that quickly. 
       The chicks are so tiny and fragile extra care has to be taken so they don't drown in their waterer. There are special waterers made just for quail chicks. 

They are also huge feed wasters so feeders with small holes are necessary. 
Most chick feeders work well. My husband came up with a homemade feeder that we like using because it holds more feed meaning I don't have to pour out feed every day! 
It's in a previous post. 
Their colors are beautiful! 
I find them very pleasant to deal with, very easy to care for, extremely productive.
They have been so productive and easy I really don't need the chickens!
Oh, but I love the chickens.

Poultry can be super addictive, fun and add a lot of variety to your meals with different meats and eggs. 
At the end of the day it's about time management here. I only have so many hours in the day. Quail take up, at most, maybe an hour and half a week.
Comparable to daily care for meat rabbits. But rabbits don't give food daily , much harder to process , more expensive to feed, take longer to be productive. And to us, quail have a much better flavor.
These and a few other reasons is why quail occupy my rabbit hutches and not meat rabbits. 

I avoided quail for years because I didn't think they would fit it here. 
I'm so glad I finally gave them a try!


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Shady Fae and Sketchy Mina , aka; milking difficult donkeys

So if you read my previous post you have read about my quirky girl Fae.
Here's a update... For 3 days she milked like a dream.. It was wonderful! Bliss!!
Then out of no where her shady ways came back and she backed away during milking,, tired to brush me off with a light kick ( yes there's such thing as a light kick if it was hard my hand would be broken and I wouldn't be posting right now) , she seemed annoyed and restless. What is it now? What could it be?
Did she hate my purple jacket?? I took it off.. Was she mad because Mina was staring into the stall at her? I lured Mina away .. Was she mad because her daughter was being annoying.. This she should be used too!
For days I couldn't figure out what was up.. Then I figured it out. I had added a probiotic to her feed she didn't like 😒
Seriously... 
She also doesn't like when I smell like certain essential oils.. She prefers lavender or peppermint..
Please don't misunderstand the problem here.. Fae is not an unfriendly or high strung donkey! She's pretty laid back.
Although she doesn't care for brushing ( maybe I'm using the wrong brush?? ) she loves hugs and scratches! She likes her belly rubbed and doesn't mind having her udder touched or milked. She always comes to me in the pasture, always easily follows me into the milking stall. 
She's just unpredictable and it's like all the stars must be in perfect allinement  for her not to throw shade my way. Her quirks come out if anything is out of place during milking time! 
And if you read my last post you know why I put up with it.. Fae is a rock star for donkey milk and holds the record here for production. She milks more than donkeys much bigger than herself. Meaning my feed to milk ratio on her is excellent And I am possibly retaining her daughter because of this. 
Oh Fae!! Please stop your shady ways you could have such a bright future and a pampered life that a million donkeys would kill for! 
Plus she's SO gorgeous!
Then there's Mina.. I just started milking Mina last weekend.
Mina loves hugs and scratches! Stands so perfectly still to be groomed with any brush whatso ever!
She has no problem with me touching her udder But actually milking her udder she's not cool with unless I'm constantly feeding her hay cubes.
No hay cube and she will kick me across the field and she's not playing!! Her sketchy behavior is actually very dangerous And I'm extra careful with her. So I let her have her way. I do countless squats getting up and down to give her hay cubes in between milking. 
Maybe I'll have firmer thighs after her lactation is over.. Looking for a bright side here!
She can't be like a normal donkey and want grain... No! That's not getting you any milk! 
It Must be hay cubes.. And a specific brand to I might add!
I don't know that Mina will be the rock star milker that Fae is but it'd be nice if she let me find out! Her milk is sweet and early lactation milk is extra healing.

 I truly love donkeys and believe their milk is one of the healthiest and most helpful things I've ever had. 
On another exciting note it's a wonderful ingredient to my skin line I've been developing since 2011. Best milk ever!
Milking donkeys isn't for everyone and I've certainly milked much easier donkeys!
I believe these girls can be dealt with and be less shady and sketchy someday.
If I'm patient , persistent and I'm observant to their sensitivities.
No 2 are alike that's the only thing I'm certain of!

Beyond blessed for the opportunity though.. Even with all the things to work out I love these donkeys. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Some girls want expensive handbags but I want a saddle donkey!

Another new chapter on the farm journey for me...
Saddle donkeys!
This is something I wanted to pursue from the first year of farming and I'm finally getting a chance to now!
Meet Liron , it means 'for me, he sings'
Due to his very loud bray it's a fitting name!
He is a beautiful 13 hh trained riding donkey. I'm excited to get him settled and get all his tack together. 
This is seriously a dream come true.
Hey... Some girls want diamonds and silly expensive purses.. I want a riding donkey! That's just me 😀
I am not a horse person but I am taking riding lessons on a horse to learn balance and riding safety since no lessons on donkeys are available here.
Maybe you are thinking why the heck would anyone want to ride a donkey when you can ride a horse. Nice broke horses are so much easier to find and honestly less expensive most of the time. 
Well, why not? As I've said, I'm not a horse person so it's a mule or a donkey!
Donkey it is! Why not stick to what I know!
I think this may be the most fun thing I've done since training my Dobermans in schutzhund! Possibly even more fun But we will see!
Now I can put all those logging trails up in our woods to use. Of course, I'm looking for my husband a saddle donkey too! Wouldn't be much fun riding all on my own all the time. His donkey will have to be bigger than Liron though!
What does this have to do with 'farming'? You may ask...
A lot! I love the farm and what we do. I'm happy to get up everyday and blessed to be surrounded by such a beautiful place.
I love that we are taking the farm in a new direction.
 However, farming is a lot of hard work and I've said it before... Sometimes the farm/home starts to seem like a job site. 
Burn out can, does and has occurred!
There's a need for recreation and enjoyment. I don't always like to go out to unwind so I'm hoping this activity will be a nice relaxing , fun change of pace from the work of everyday here on the farm. 
A new way to spend time with donkeys is always welcome! 
Fun on the farm.... Now that's the good life!

Finding this donkey was a blessing and we went through some obstacles to get him here from PA. He's a big present from my ever supportive husband who likes to make sure I'm a happy farm girl. 

Wonder if my husband wishes I'd just ask for a silly pricy purse though? Might be easier on him 😉 but that's no fun at all!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The story of quirky Fae ... Milking donkey in the making or not

This is Fae. She's a gorgeous dappled Jenny donkey! 
She's just one example of why I tell people , finding good milking donkeys isn't as easy as it sounds! 
Even the *friendly* ones can have issues! 
Donkeys are really amazing creatures and I love them dearly. Figuring them out can be tough sometimes. 
Getting a totally wild one or an abused one that acts very aggressively isn't in my best skill set! Nor do I have time for this. 
I don't mind untrained donkeys though.
I love working with donkeys and figuring out how to train nice friendly ones but I know my limitations. 

Fae has been here for a month and I've been milking her for 3 weeks. She is an excellent milker! She gives a great amount of milk and is a record holder here! At only 11 hh this is a great amount for a donkey of any size! 
Great udder and she's friendly ... Sort of!!

Now when I go to look at a donkey to buy that's supposed to be *friendly* I don't put to much faith into that donkey being friendly the way I think a friendly donkey should act. 
Friendly to some people just means they might take a treat from you, maybe a little scratch if you are on the other side of a fence and they won't kick at you maybe if you move real slow. 
This is not my idea of friendly ....
Especially for a milking donkey. 

Fae is what I call a kinda, sorta friendly donkey with a lot of odd quirks. For lack of a better description. 
Examples of her quirks; She's fine if you pet her and likes to be scratched, just not to much! 
She will let me put a halter on her but if I do it before milking time she's extra suspicious of me and won't let me milk as much. So if I want to work on lead training I have to do it after milking time.
Some days she lets me milk her out easily with no issue. Other days she acts like I've never milked her before and backs away or tries to kick.
I also have to milk her with my right hand only! If I try to milk her with both she backs away or tries to kick me off .. Yeah, quirky! 

I'm learning her quirks and trying to work through them.
But in all honestly I'm not sure she's got the temperament to be a milker.

I've had dairy goats that just didnt have a temperament for milking and they were bred to be milking animals! 
So it's really no shock to me that some donkeys wouldn't be up to the task. 

She's not aggressive and I do think I can lead train her. 
As a milker, we will have to wait and see! 
I'm certainly hoping we can get the quirks worked out .. Seriously look at the milk above! She's worth the effort. That's over $60 worth of milk! 
Meanwhile I'm a week away from milking Mina. Mina came from the same guy as Fae. I am working with Mina and looking for quirks! 
She's got them but will they get in the way of her being a milker is the question I'm concerned with! And training her jack colt so he doesn't freak out to bad when I start taking him away for a few hours so I can milk her.  Like Fae's Jenny foal he'd never been handled. He's younger so it's not been quite as hard to win him over thankfully! 

But As always, I'm blessed to have these animals in my life... Quirky or not!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

For something to get bigger other things must get smaller

From homestead to small subsistence farm and now to farm business.
Our wild ride in different homesteading/farming ventures has been a blast of successes and crushing times of utter defeats! 
Now this new year,  as I've stated in other posts, brings more changes and it feels so overwhelming but totally exciting.
For 2017 Gods Blessing Farm is now Gods Blessing Farm LLC. 

The milking donkey herd is getting bigger, the addition of riding donkeys and the donkey milk skin care business is a major undertaking.
For this to get bigger other things must get smaller. Management of time is critical. No other dairy animal projects, no additional poultry projects and my gardens will be smaller.
To be honest, Over the years I'm realizing that my gardening and poultry efforts are ...
Well.... A bit to large! 
Ok much to large!!! 2 people do not need to raise over 80 goslings a year with no intent to sell them!
And 2 people do not need the extensive amounts of food I grow in my garden and market gardening is just not anything that interests me. 
So these things get much smaller, some things get eliminated. The donkey herd and donkey milk skin care business gets bigger. The training of riding donkeys take a place here. 
Other dairy animals I wanted ,unfortunately there's no time for me to dedicate there. The donkey milk is superior in skin care and I can't digest other milks like donkey milk so focus has to be on what keeps me healthy and makes the best product. 

I'll raise about half of what I raised last year in the garden and the more difficult things to grow will not be planted. 
I love my gardens and growing but I admit I do not like growing everything. 

I will only incubate some quail next fall for replacements but all other hatching will be left to the birds themselves. Thankfully my Pigrim geese and Muscovy ducks are excellent mothers and need no help from me!

I feel good that we reached an amazing goal of growing over 90% of our own foods here. This year that will be a smaller number. I'm good with that and looking forward to local sourcing from other farmers what I've decided to no longer grow. 
I feel the need to move on to other farm goals and challenges. I feel like these challenges have been put in from of me for a reason and I need to pursue them. 
My husbands farm challenges and goals with the Meishans have also grown and changed somewhat. The Meishan offers opportunities that the American Guinea hogs could not offer. 
Having be given the opportunity to preserve these extremely rare, diverse genetics and get them into the hands of other farmers is a huge undertaking. 
When I saw my husbands breeding schedule for the 2017 Meishans it was terrifying at first look!! 
The Meishans are a big part of the farm business. They are such wonderful pigs that I don't even mind having half our farm be a *pig farm* ! 
They are mostly my husbands responsibility and as the Meishans get bigger other stuff he does must get smaller. It's all about balance and dedication to the opportunity given.  
There's much to be organized, much to be built and expanded and certainly much to be learned with these new farm ventures we believe the Lord has led us too. 
It's a new day.... 
God is Good 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

New website announcements!!

We have much going on for the coming 2017!
The Meishans and Donkeys are certainly taking over here!
We will always have geese , ducks and other poultry for our own use but we are becoming a donkey and hog farm on a much larger level than I could have ever imagined.

In the coming weeks I'll be working on a new webstore and website for our newest and best products yet!
Latte d'Asina Soap and Skin Care!!
Latte d'Asina means the milk of a donkey in Italian. I first found out about donkey milk from an Italian donkey dairy website so it's a fitting name!
Our first batches of donkey milk soap sold out quickly! And more is curing and being made as fast as we can! 
As a professional licensed Esthetician it thrills me to be able to work with such an amazing natural skin care ingredient!!   
As a farmer I'm blessed that I have the ability to produce this milk myself so I know first hand that the donkeys the milk is taken from are loved and fed the best natural foods. And my milking donkeys are chemical free! 
Also my other newest website www.mydonkeymilk.com has been launched! It will be a work in progress for awhile as I learn more all the time myself! It's focus is on caring , managing donkeys and managing them as dairy animals. I see mistreated and misunderstood donkeys all the time. It's my hopes that this site can help people understand the donkey before they buy one and certainly before they try to milk one! And information on why you would want donkey milk. 
I adore these creatures! They deserve good homes and top notch care just like any other animal. Few people realize they are very useful animals to have on a farm. 

As always thankful to God for the wonderful opportunities he has put in front of us! All the glory is His!