Friday, December 2, 2016

The Amazing Donkey Milk

There has been a lot of growing interest in donkey milk in the last few years. 
Big donkey dairies in Europe are getting more and more attention!
And now here in the USA donkey milk is slowly starting to be known for the amazing milk that it is. Luxury donkey milk products are even hitting the markets! 
Historically donkey milk is nothing new. Since it's not a very efficient, commercially viable product it's not well known in our modern world. 
It's making a comeback as people rediscover its value!! 
Primarily it's used for its nutritional value to infants because it's so similar to human breast milk , it's many medicinal reasons and for people who have milk casin allergies.
It's sweet and light and wonderful!
I started milking because I had a health problem I wanted to see if it would help and bad milk casin allergies that were getting worse every year. I missed having milk products in my life!
Donkey milk does heal my digestive issues and has served as an allergy free dairy choice for me.
However, After around 6 to7 months of lactation , around the same time the foal is getting most all its nutrients from solid foods , the donkey milks healing effects aren't as good. 
But it's still an allergy free , sweet tasting milk! 

Donkey milk is wonderful used in many things.. Some things donkey milk is better at than other milks!
Like this....
The magic of Kumiss now even has my husband totally addicted to donkey milk. 
Drinking just 4 ounces of the fermented wonder drink is like getting a B shot!
I've been a coffee drinker for a good 20 years.. I'm totally addicted to caffeine .,
But this is better than any caffeine I've ever had and yes,,the energy , it wears off. But there's no crash like with sugar or caffeine and it's much longer lasting!
I actually find myself wishing I could start the morning with kumiss instead of coffee sometimes. 
Unfortunately Donkey milk is scarce right now at our house with Rani nearing the end of lactation and no foal in sight until spring so I hold off until mid morning for that wonderful energy high!!

Ok.. So you might be thinking 'what the heck is Kumiss' 
Traditionally it's fermented mare's milk drank by the people of Central Asia. Made famous by the Mongolian warriors. 
I totally see how they almost took over Europe if they were on this stuff! 
Donkey milk is very similar to mares milk in high lactose sugars, fats and proteins so it ferments well into the slightly effervescent drink. 
It's absolutely amazing, fairly easy to make and only takes 24 hours!

Now this is really something normally made with cows milk. It's milk liqueur ..
Donkey milk liqueur! I used a traditional recipe from Portugal but left out the sugar since donkey milk is naturally so sweet.
Smooth... Decadent are two words that come to mind when I sip this! 
I can not imagine cows milk and sugar would be better! It's also better than any cream liqueur I've ever had. 

Other things donkey milk excels at is being used desserts as I've mentioned previously and yes! I will be posting recipes on my website! 
I've noticed recently a very expensive donkey milk chocolate being marketed in Europe. I can personally say donkey milk and chocolate are a match made in heaven! 
There are so many things this milk does well!

Through all the trials on the farm with dairy livestock I am blessed for every experience because it prepared me to milk and manage such an amazing *dairy* animal. 
It's very ironic to me that one of the modern worlds most neglected and mistreated animals holds the key for so many healthier lives. 

I am thankful for donkeys and their milk that's made such a difference in my quality of life and added such flavors to my food and drink!
Praise to God for leading me to this very unusual adventure! 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Always Trying not to go broke farming

Ahhhh... The life of our Meishans!
Hanging out, eating and sleeping!
It's true that the Meishans are very low energy pigs. 
But they need good nutrition and plenty to eat in order to have all those babies they have and give so much milk like they do!!
Seeing as how this is not only our pig of choice to raise for our food and lard needs, it's also a major conservation effort we have undertaken. We have A LOT of pigs to maintain diverse examples of all 3 bloodlines. 5 grown boars, 2 junior boars, 6 sows ... I'm not sure how many feeders and junior gilts my husbands got! Lol
So we've been reaching out and finding alternatives to the feed store. 
The bread store is a great resource! I can't believe they throw all this out! It's perfectly good bread!
Feeding all these different breads allows us to cut way back of the carbohydrate portion of our pigs feed!
Chickens too!!! We get a whole truck load every week now.
Brewers grains... Very high in protein and fiber! So it must be kept to around 20% of the pigs and poultry feed.
I can feed higher amounts to the dairy sheep because they are ruminants and can handle the high fiber. 
This allows us to cut back on the protein portion of feed we have to buy for the pigs, poultry and sheep. 
This is something I do for the poultry and sheep mostly. Dehydrated alfalfa cubes rehydrated and made soft to mix into their feed. Adding some green food and great nutrients to their diet! It's especially liked by the geese and the sheep! The alfalfa cubes are less expensive than alfalfa meal for poultry and go farther than the pellets do for the sheep.
And we are hopeful that we will soon be getting bags of shredded lettuces and cabbages too!
It's not as easy as pouring out a bag of dry animal feed but we are seeing a major decline in our feed bill for the poultry, pigs and sheep by utilizing these things. Plus they absolutely love the variety they get!! I believe with a greater variety of foods they will be healthier happier animals! They sure get more excited about feed time!

Farming on a small scale you will find yourself paying the highest retail prices for feed which leaves you with a feed bill so high that many new people trying to farm struggle with the fact that their feed bill is now higher than their grocery bill used to be.
It also makes it very difficult for the small farmer to make any profit if they sell their products! Most of the time they actually lose money. 
Certainly the type of livestock you raise needs to fit the size of your acres and be adaptable to your climate , this also helps!
We are constantly looking for ways to save on the feed bill but keep the animals super healthy! Being out in the open air certainly helps with that too! 
Look around your area! You may find some ways to save on your feed bill and put to good use something that may have other wise been wasted!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Donkey Hay Stations and then some 😀

With standard donkeys eating as much as they do I needed to start feeding round bales. It's just to expensive to feed square all the time. 
But Then we needed to figure out a way to keep them from wasting almost as much as they were eating!
And I think we have a good idea here..
Check it out!!! Our donkey hay feeding stations!
Now the barn stays cleaner with the bales not being inside plus there's more room for everyone if they want to go in out of the wind. 
It cost us less than $65 each to make these. Keeps the hay dry.. It's sturdy.
And it keeps them from pulling so much hay on the ground and pooping on it.
The hog panel cut into keeps the hay back nicely , no one steps in and they can just lean in and eat.
Wish we had thought of this last year!! But oh well.. I had lots of mulch hay!
The materials used: cattle panel over the top, 4 tpost to steady the sides, tarp over the top, pallets to sit the hay on and help keep it from getting wet and moldy, a modified hog panel tied across the front to hold the pulled out hay in.
This is really going to also cut down on my chore time without having to constantly shovel up wasted poop hay! As well as save us money!
Here's another of my husbands ideas.. My quail feeder!
It's 2 aluminum bread loaf pans.. Clipped on each side and holes cut in. 
This has reduced the quails feed waste to almost nothing!! Quail are huge feed wasters . That's the only thing I haven't liked about them. But now that problems fixed!
Also this feeder only has to be filled maybe twice a week for 6 quail. 
Love cutting back on chore time!
And On another note...
This is Shani... Just brought her in last night. I was able to get her because her owners were divorcing and just needed her gone. Sad circumstances have left her a little neglected but not to bad.
She's a little thin, needs her hooves trimmed and needs deworming as well as her vaccinations.
She is awesome though! Halter and lead trained and I was told she's been started with riding too!!
I was also told she was bred to foal in April. I'm hoping that's true!
She's the prettiest sorrel I've seen on a donkey. She's my largest donkey now.
I think she will be impressive once I get her in shape and in good health!

Fall and winter have finally arrived here on our farm. Harvest from our garden has been great along with All I preserved and we raised, we are very well fed.
For that I am so thankful! For many many things I am so thankful!!
It's been an amazing year , filled with real blessings and wonderful opportunities but it's almost over. I'll be kinda sad to see 2016 go!!

Hope y'all have a Happy & Blessed Thanksgiving!! 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Fall Farm and Dairy Donkey updates

Yes... It's a warm one but Leaves are turning and it has cooled off enough for fall garden crops to take off and sheep breeding to begin!
This years late heat wave took a toll on my fall garden.. But God is good and we have lots of greens!
The silkie chickens have started laying eggs like crazy!! And I'm patiently waiting for more fall veggies and goose eggs again!  
I think all of my donkey Jennets have settled but 1 girl... Our jack may need to get a little taller to breed her!
I'm ok with waiting though! His coloring and temperament are something special!
So I'll give him more time..
I know this is an odd picture below...
 A donkey udder! 
Who takes a picture of that!
Someone who milks donkeys and that's me 😃
Rani is a 40 inch small standard donkey that has been a joy to milk. She is almost 6 months fresh now and still milking wonderfully this fall! 

I was told by a self appointed donkey milk expert 🤔 that a small donkey wouldn't give hardly any milk , be to hard to milk and not be worth my time. That the large standards and mammoths are the only donkey worth milking.
He obviously did not know what he was talking about , seeing as how he hasn't milked all the donkeys of the world and probably underestimated the fact that I've got a few years of managing dairy animals under my belt. 
Small donkeys can be wonderful milkers and fill your needs for a much smaller feed bill! Tiny Rani has certainly filled our needs here!

By the grace of God, Rani is an excellent donkey I was able to purchase to begin with!
Along with careful and creative management I'm happy to say that Rani has given us so much milk there's not a day that's went by I've not drank some this summer and I have several months of donkey milk frozen stored up too!
I've also had enough to do some experimenting like making donkey milk fudge , truffles and ice cream!
I manage her like a dairy animal with special needs!! It's complicated but not impossible.
A little donkey giving a whole quart a day is a big deal! That's only what the big donkeys give! Right?
So wrong...
And her udder is so easy to milk out too!

I'm not saying every little donkey will give this much... Maybe Rani is special . I mean, I've not milked all the donkeys of the world either And the donkey hasn't been trait bred in this country to be a dairy animal so who knows what will milk well and what won't. 
I'm just saying it's not wise to give advice on things you know nothing about. It's very misleading. 
I almost followed that ill given advice. I would have missed out on a fantastic milking donkey and 
Leaping into bigger donkeys than I needed would have been a disaster for me at the time I was beginning this journey. Bigger donkeys need bigger barns, bigger pastures And have a much larger feed bill. 
Even my small and standard donkeys are hay burners! Sure they can have a low quality cheaper hay..but they need ALOT of it!

I love my easy keeper donkeys ...,
Rani's perfect , easy milking udder... 
Future dairy donkeys grazing on the rough ' no founder' pasture!
Now that my husband has finished this 4 acres my feed bill has been less than half of what it was for the donkeys. Winter is coming so it's a short lived break though!
Hopefully next year I'll have another 6 acres to add to it. 
Fall brings most of our Meishan farrowings to a close. We've farrowed 6 litters of piglets this year. 
We've sold all but 1 boar piglet from those 6 farrowings! 
He is from a lost line of USDA boars we are keeping to make available as a future breeding pair with a gilt piglet from a December farrowing we are expecting.

We will not be breeding Iowa state to Iowa state any more. The outcrossing to Illinois and USDA lines are producing  faster growing piglets. Genetic diversity is critical in this rare breed if it's to survive with the qualities it had when it was imported.

Our Future Meishan herd sire!
This guy is out of Illinois/Iowa state lines..
Ears for days...and wrinkling up fast!
This piglet is a wonderful product of the 2 long isolated lines crossed..
Minghou is USDA line Meishan... 
Piglets are USDA/USDA lines. 
Since we have in our herd distinctly different and documented pedigrees of the USDA unrelated lines we don't have to worry about inbreeding depression by breeding USDA to USDA. 
I'm very excited about these piglets!!!
Fall and winter are for fiber arts!!!
And I'm very excited about a sheep called Karakul...
This is some karakul lambs wool from Letty Klien, long time karakul breeder in Michigan. 
A breed I've looked at for awhile now...
A breed I hope will be a perfect addition to our farm next year..,
More on that later! 😀
Seasons change and the farm chores may adjust somewhat but there's always plenty to do on a subsistence farm!

Many blessings! 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The long process of sheep to shawl

'Sheep the Shawl' that sounds so cool doesn't it? Much like the farm to table movement where people like to know their food comes from well cared for animals.
Fiber artist like me like to know their fiber comes from well cared for animals!

Processing raw wool into yarn and then crocheting is one of the few things I do in which I enjoy the process just as much as the end product. 
Even better is if I get to grow the wool on my own sheep!
It's a long process , so I better enjoy it! 
Picture above , My sheep Latte' is growing a gorgeous fleece!

Many times I enjoy the product I craft but not the entire process of crafting it!
 For example, I don't really like making jewelry but I love the product so I do it since it doesn't take to long.
 I love quilts but I hated the long, very long process of making them so I leave that to my mom and new daughter in law, who seems to have taken right up with all this creative process around her.

Producing a product from the raw fiber off the animal is more like a journey to me! A very interesting journey I never get tired of. 

I know many people that get into farming look to fiber as a way to make a profit.
A fiber business , with the right fiber animal, can be very profitable! 
The producer needs to understand the fiber and be prepared to make a big commitment to producing some great stuff though! Fiber artist are a picky bunch and raising fiber animal isn't the easiest way to go for most new farms.

Most sheep , cashmere goats, alpacas , llamas, yaks and camels only give 1 fiber harvest a year.
  A few breeds of sheep and angora goats can give two. Angora rabbits give around four.
A lot can go wrong in that year or six months waiting for that fiber to be ready!!
It's no small thing to grow an amazing fleece on a fiber animal!!
If fact I'm never sure what I think is harder....
Milking and care of a dairy animal or the care and growing of great fiber on an animal!
 Both take a lot of involvement, commitment and are no small expense!
I've not been very good at growing fiber animals on my farm so far. I've had some success but not as much as I would like! 
My humid climate here in the southeast and the brambles that line the pastures don't make it easy!
Then there's dirt, hay, wool eating pest,good fiber growing nutrition to take into consideration.
It's no wonder good fiber is expensive!

If you get past all that can go wrong and find yourself with some gorgeous fleece from your sheep then it has to be sheared with special blades and a powerful tool called a shearing machine..please don't try to use clippers 🙈🙈 I promise you they will not work!
If you're lucky maybe there will be a professional shearer in your area. Be prepared to help if needed though!

Once the fleece is off.. Shake it out, skirt it, shake it out and roll it up! Store it properly. Better like the smell of sheep because you're going to be covered in it!
I personally love that lanolin wool smell ❤️
Then it must be washed! Depending on how dirty it is I wash and soak a fleece 2 or 3 times.
Then spread out on a screen to dry for a day.
I love to watch the dirty wool transform into gorgeous clean fluff!

Now the real fun! 
If I dye the fiber, that's a day of color mess and drying on the screens.
Oh but it's so fun!!

Then prep for spinning! 
Picking and carding the wool!! Mixing with fun fibers like bamboo or silk!! 
A drum carder is best for this.

You can see how time consuming this is right? So far we have, A year growing it,
A day shearing and storing, a day washing and drying, maybe a day to dye and dry, a day to prepare and blend...
And then finally I'm ready to spin it into yarn!!!
There are so many options for yarn depending on the type of fiber you have! 
Fat and fluffy yarn.. Slick and smooth.. Or quirky art yarns!

After its spun then it needs to be plyed for balance and strenth.
Set over night.. Then unwind on the skein winder. 

I have yarn !! Finally!!!!
Now I soak the yarn in hot water and hang dry for a day to 'set'.
Then it's ready to whind into a ball!

after all this... It's ready for me to crochet into the final desired product!!  
Which can take me anywhere from 2 hours to 2 years depending on the project. 

Ofcourse with fiber the possibilities are so many..crocheting is probably my favorite thing to do with it right now but there's Felting, wet or needle!
Knitting , rug hooking, rug braiding and then there's weaving!
I do wish I liked weaving it's an amazing art!
I'm sure I'm leaving many things out that can be done and I just haven't discovered yet!

If you like crafting and learning there's a chance you will like some part of the fiber arts.
If you love animals and fiber then perhaps a fiber farm is in your future!

Just remember to try and enjoy the process as much as the end product because it can be a long one!!!

The Complexity of managing a donkey for milk

So you think you might want a dairy donkey? 
Donkeys are very wonderful creatures. 
Throughout history people have used donkey milk to drink for healing and for orphaned newborns.
 It's also been a prized ingredient for beautification of the skin.
They can be great livestock guardians on the right farm.
They can be pack animals, pull a wagon or even rode. 
And yes, they can give an amazing healing milk that is helpful to people with certain health issues or milk casin allergies. 
It's a wonderful dairy option on the farm for those reasons!
A multipurpose animal that gives milk! Sounds awesome, doesn't it? 
And It is, but let's talk about what makes them so different and possibly difficult to manage. All animals used for milk are not the same! 

They are very unlike our other popular dairy animals here in the USA.
First ,They are very inefficient producers of milk so do not be shocked to find donkey milk sells for $10 a cup if you wish to buy it. There are many reasons for this...

It takes a whole year , sometimes 13 months for a Jennet to have a foal.
Compared to a goat or sheep which only takes 5 months. A big cow only takes 10 months.
Most standard and mammoth donkeys give an average of a quart a day .. I've heard a few people get a little more and I've talked to a few who got much less. 
The donkey has not been trait bred in this country for dairy production so what they will milk isn't going to be as predictable as a well bred dairy goat with extensive DHI records and intensive line breeding on that trait. 

Donkeys don't need expensive high protein , fancy alfalfa hay or rich pasture. But they do eat a lot! The average donkey will eat 1.5 to 2% of its body weight a day. So an 800 pound standard breeding jennet donkey will need approximately 16 pounds of grass hay or pasture a day!
Compared to a large dairy goat that needs around 7 pounds of hay and feed a day and many can give a gallon of milk a day for 10 months or more. Yes, now you can see why goat milk is $10 a gallon and donkey milk is $10 a cup!
But there's more!
Once baby is here you need to wait 6 weeks before you can start milking. 
No taking the baby donkey away to bottle feed it cheap milk replacer so you can have all the milk like with a goat,cow or sheep!
The jennet needs to have her baby around nursing or she will dry up. You must share the milk with the foal throughout lactation in order for her to give milk.
Which also means if something horrible happens and the baby dies , yes she will dry up and you're out a lot of time and feed cost with no milk. 
Once the foal is eating solids and can be taken away it can only be taken for 4 to 6 hours at first. Donkeys do not have huge cisterns to hold lots of milk. She will be in peak production at this time. Taking the foal away for to long may decrease production and possibly hurt the Jennets udder.
The foal still needs a lot of milk itself at this point also!! 
So.. No being greedy with the donkey milk.
As the foal ages the Jennets production will decrease like with any mammal. 
They will usually milk for 6 to 8 months. 
Sometimes longer but production will be much less and not as nutritious at this point. If she's been bred back it's a good idea to let her recover and get in shape for the next foal too.
Keeping a jennet and gelding as guardians is easier to me than keeping a livestock guardian dog. As long as the sheds and pastures are big enough and you have a good source for hay they are the best depending on what you are having them guard. They are no more expensive than keeping a couple livestock guardian dogs but they do tend to need more room or they will turn areas into dry lots.
 However when you bring breeding into the program you have the added expenses of feeding more food to the jennet when she is heavy in foal and throughout lactation to get really good milk production. You also have the foal to feed. Which will be on the farm for atleast 8 months for lactation.
You also must keep a jack. An intact jack is no small thing to deal with! He can be dangerous at times.
He needs a pasture and shelter of his own when the foals come to insure they aren't hurt. He may bust through fences to get to Jennets in heat before you want them bred.
He will also be eating 1.5% of his body weight a day!
My jack above. He's a sweet boy , easy to work with but never for one minute do I forget he's a raging ball of hormones if the mood strikes!

The milk has been an amazing blessing to me. It's healed my digestive problems as well as many food allergies I had developed. It's light and sweet. The best tasting milk I've ever drank! I've used it in many dessert recipes and for iced lattes it's great!

But it's probably not going to fill all your families wants for dairy products.
There will be no thick yogurts or butter from this especially low in solids milk.
It's very difficult to make cheese from donkey milk. It must be mixed with another milk or you must have a special enzyme from a camel for it to coagulate. Then it's very very low yielding. Which is why it's the most expensive cheese in the world! Inefficient milk producers and low cheese yields!

It makes wonderful chocolate truffles, ice creams and fudge though for people who can't have regular dairy!
Below a picture of donkey milk fudge sauce I made to go over baked apples.
Donkey milks natural sweetness makes it perfect for desserts. I often add our high quality lard to the desserts to for texture and creaminess if needed. 

At the end of lactation when the donkey milk may not be as helpful to health issues it's a valuable ingredient in cosmetics and makes wonderful soaps and lotions! 
I've managed and milked goats and sheep. Neither dairy animal is what I consider low input or easy to manage.
They are more efficient at producing milk and easier to manage in many ways than a donkey. They are also very multipurpose in their own ways and very useful on a farm.
But for people who can not have casin proteins or have very special health needs I can not express how amazing donkey milk is. 
I certainly didn't go out looking to add dairy donkeys to my farm! 
I was totally lead to this special animal through several events and I have been greatly blessed by this healing milk.
Food can and does heal. 
God gives us healing foods. I believe this because I have lived it.
So no matter the complexities of managing a milking donkey it's been worth it for me. Completely worth it.
And I am so thankful I was lead down this not so easy road! 

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Pilgrim Goose, rare and perfect for a small farm

I mean no disrespect to the other goose breeds! 
I actually love all geese for their beauty , ease of caring for the adults and hardiness of their goslings. 
Not to mention their ability to turn grass into delicious meat, golden fat , rich livers and the best tasting eggs I've ever had!
Can't forget the down either! Best down on any bird is from the goose.
All geese excell slightly different in qualities but All geese are excellent multipurpose livestock! When you have a smaller farm like we do ( only 35 acres)
The Pilgrim goose is hard to beat has a lot to offer!

Ive had several different breeds and crosses.
 I settled on keeping Chinese and raising pilgrims for different reasons. 
Before I get into pilgrims here's my experiences with the other breed I keep for some comparison...
I absolutely adore my Chinese geese... They are so loud!!! So very,very loud! I personally enjoy their constant chatter and arguments. Many people do not! They are truly excellent 'watch dogs' and scream so loud when they see Hawks.
Most geese make good alarm systems.
I love their slender ,gracefull appearance and the odd knobs on their beaks!
Most of all I love ALL the eggs they lay.
It's a shame that people in the USA have bred this bird to primary be a show exhibit and not a utility egg layer as it was developed to be. They are the heaviest laying goose in the states but breeding for standard of perfection with no thought to egg production has meant their productivity isn't what it once was. 
Still they do produce a lot of eggs. They do not go broody and can be aggressive toward other poultry and each other! They are kinda barnyard bullies..
They are never aggressive to me or other people though.
They arent easily sexed unless you can vent sex them or wait until they start developing their knobs. They are worth keeping around and I enjoy them. Since I primarily want them for eggs, I don't plan to breed them every year. 
They are wonderful but I can see how they would not work for everyone.
They also need extra protection in the winter so their knobs won't get frost bite.

Now , The pilgrim goose. It is the calmest , quietest goose I've ever owned. It's a gorgeous breed and one of the very few goose breeds that can be sexed by color as soon as they are hatched. 
Which makes life very easy! 
Also , they do not fly.
Most domestic breeds don't but the other auto-sexing geese tend to fly better than Pilgrims.. Which do not fly at all!
My main line of pilgrims lay almost as many eggs as a Chinese but because they do go broody they don't lay as long.
They do have larger eggs. Not all lines of pilgrim lay well. Many lines have been inbred severely and are loosing productively as well as the sex link coloring and fertility. Sourcing out good stock can be an issue with this rare goose. 
Once you find good breeding stock this bird is a treasure!
They are medium sized , nice tempered geese. They won't share a nest or feed bowl with the other poultry but they don't go out of their way to be mean either.
They only honk alittle when they see me or if they get separated from each other.
They are protective of their nest and goslings but aren't near as aggressive as many breeds. So they are a great goose if you have small children because they do not attack unprovoked. They are excellent mothers and the ganders are good protectors of the goslings also. He will even stand guard in front of the goose nest while the geese are sitting. 
The pilgrim to me is the perfect sized meat bird.. Not to small not to big.
They never over eat if I have to feed pellets and if my pasture is good I do not need to feed extra. 
They don't need special shelters, a three sided shed is fine for nest making out of the wind and weather. 
They are a very low maintenance breed if managed properly. 

Honestly ,, Any goose is better than no goose at all!
If I had to choose just one goose breed it would more than likely be the Pilgrim.  
I've loved the other breeds and really like the Chinese because they are different and excell at egg laying. 
The pilgrim is the perfect package to me though... Very easy and a joy to keep. 

I look forward to goslings every year! 
Possibly the cutest baby poultry ever!
That's just a bonus 😉