21661 Staley Rd. Paris, IL 61944 Google Map (217)-275-3491
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Welcome to the blog.
Posted 10/11/2016 3:31pm by Brian Lau.

During October and November we will be trimming our store hours. The new hours will be as follows:

Sunday and Monday: Closed

Tuesday - Friday:10am-12pm and 1pm-3pm

Saturday: 10am-4pm

If these hours do not work in your schedule, please contact us and we can set up a time to meet you at the store. Thank you for your support.

Posted 3/20/2014 6:12pm by Brian Lau.

      A few weeks ago we moved the cow/calf herd from my neighbor’s farm back to the main farm. The snow had FINALLY started to melt and the pastures we let grow out last fall were starting to be exposed. Stock piling pastures in the fall allows the cows to graze for themselves and not be dependent on us feeding them winter hay. This is easier on us and they seem to enjoy the different menu. The first step in the process actually happened the day before. We didn’t feed them as much hay as normal, so they would be a little hungrier when we moved them. Next, Dad and Cory constructed temporary electric fence lanes to move the cows. This was somewhat of a challenge since the ground was still frozen, but by using metal electric fence posts they were able to drive them in with a small sledge hammer. Then they checked the permanent pasture fences for downed trees or limbs and made sure the electric fence was properly working.

     Now the infrastructure was in place and working properly, so we had to get the cows from point A to point B. Since the cows are used to following the tractor when I feed them hay, the plan was to get a bale and drive up the lane and the cows would follow. All of the older animals had made this jaunt the prior summer, so there should have been some familiarity. I knew there could be a potential problem, since we had several young calves and calves do not always follow their mom when she goes off to feed. As I started up the lane, the lead group of cows was right on my tail, and as I looked back, the rest were spread out, but were starting to head in the right direction to follow me up the lane. As I was about to lose sight of the pasture where they had been, I saw a couple cows and 4 calves that were hanging back and not following. I had to keep moving on, since the cows behind me were getting impatient. When I got to the location where I was going to feed the bale, I could see a long string of cattle still following me. By the time I got done unrolling the bale I could see off in the distance the two cows and calves starting down the lane. I had Cory take the 4 wheeler and get behind them so they wouldn’t double back. As I was watching from a distance, I saw one of the cows that had just been feeding on the hay heading quickly back towards the calves. My first thought was one of the four calves was hers and she was going to reunite with her calf. When she got with this group she turned around and headed back to the hay. We were feeling good that the move was successful, so we headed back home.

     When we got back to the original pasture, we saw what I was afraid would happen, but thought hadn’t. There were three calves left behind. Although the move was not that far since my neighbor’s farm and ours border each other, it is far enough that you can’t see one pasture from the other. We tried working the calves in the right direction but gave up after a short pursuit, since they were starting to panic and they were much quicker than we are. Plus, it was deemed useless since they were unaware of their new surroundings and they couldn’t see the others. It was now lunch time, so I came up with a plan to shut the gate between the farms, and while we were at lunch momma would come to the gate, bawl for her calf, the calf would come to her, and after lunch we would just open the gate and momma would lead the calves to the new location. In my perfect world this was going to work fine, so we headed for lunch. Hindsight is always better; we should have left the gate open, but we didn’t want the whole herd to come back while we were at lunch. No sooner had we gotten back to the house and looked up, we saw a cow standing at the closed gate. She bawled and her calf answered. As we were about to go open the gate, the cow went out of sight. We assumed she went back to the new pasture, so we decided to go to lunch. You might be wandering why lunch time is so important. My wife and kids are all at school, so during the winter I have the privilege to eat lunch with my parents, grandmother, and my little nephew, so I try to be on time. They only live about a half a mile from me, and as I was driving to lunch I noticed the mother cow was with her calf. The problem was momma was on the wrong side of the fence. When she had gone out of sight she must have jumped over our temporary fence to get to her calf. She has great maternal instincts and those are attributes we like see in our cows (the escape instinct not so much.) I called mom and told her I was going to be late for lunch. My first thought was this was not going to take too long since luckily the cow and calf were not too far from a gate my neighbor uses to get into his woods. All I have to do is open the gate and have mom walk into the pasture to be with her calf. Unfortunately what I think and reality don’t always meet. When I opened the gate, the cow paused and didn’t quickly go through the gate, but the calf did, so now they were both on the wrong side of the fence. Bummer. My next thought was that they might go into the woods instead of following the fence back from where she had come, but luckily as I was pursuing them on foot, the calf ran back through the fence, so now mom was content to follow the fence line, momma on one side and two calves following on the other. I was able to get in front of them and take down the temporary fence to let momma back into the lane and then open the gate so they could get together. This time it worked right. The cow and the two calves headed up the lane to rejoin the herd.

     One problem down but one to go. Remember I said there were three calves left behind. Regrettably the three calves didn’t stay together. This time I decided to leave the gate open and went to lunch, hoping its mother would come get it while I was at lunch. During lunch I decided if momma hadn’t come to get her calf we would just catch it and haul it to the new field on the 4 wheeler. This calf had only been born a few days earlier, and when we were pushing the calves earlier, we had worn him down enough we could have caught him.

     After lunch and after we had processed that day’s eggs, we went to check on the calf. The calf was still by itself. Cory and I hopped on the 4 wheeler and thought we would drive up catch it and take it to momma. Once again in a perfect world this would have worked. The calf must have slept the entire time we were gone. Needless to say, he had more energy and was quicker than we were, and guess what happened next? Surprise, surprise-- he ran through the fence and into the woods. The pursuit was on. We eventually got him out of the woods and he ran through the fence again back into the pasture. We wondered how many times this was going to happen before we wore him down enough to catch him. We were starting to wish we were real cowboys and had a lasso to rope him. We finally caught him and placed him on the 4 wheeler and took him to rejoin the herd. When we got there we found his mom grazing contently. We released the calf; she called for him and he started nursing immediately. It appeared there was no harm done, and finally all of the cattle were where they were supposed to be. Needless to say all didn’t go as planned, but it was a successful day.

Posted 3/5/2014 4:30pm by Brian Lau.

    

I would like to catch you up on where we are currently with the egg side of the business. The egg business was filled with many struggles in 2013 and I want to first apologize for not being able to supply the normal amount of eggs to our customers and vendors. Poor management on my part is to blame, but before I take 100% responsibility, let me remind you that a lot of the managing decisions I make have financial constraints. As you recall, in 2012 we had a major drought in our area. This affected us in many ways, but most importantly we had to pull up our bootstraps and make personal sacrifices. We had limited money to work with and we had to decide how to divide it up. Which enterprise needed it the worst to keep the business moving forward? The egg enterprise was continuing to grow, as more and more people were experiencing the benefits of our eggs. We were outgrowing our infrastructure and we knew we needed a new building to raise replacement pullets. Also one of our brooder houses needed major repairs, but there was not enough money in the budget. Pullets were not started in the fall of 2012 like I had planned. What I didn’t realize at the time was how bad it was going to get before I could start a new batch and stop the bleeding.    In March 2013 we were getting over 8000 eggs; by August we were down to 6000 eggs and by November, we were down to 3000. That is a pretty significant drop in production. The main culprit was that the hens went through a molt. A molt is when a chicken loses its old feathers, which are replaced with new ones. During a molt, egg laying declines or stops completely. All of the hen’s nutrition is used to grow new feathers, not produce eggs. Also as the hens aged, we had an increase in death loss, especially when combined with the summer heat, plus declining day lengths in the fall; these all led to lower production. To further complicate the situation, we didn’t get the brooder house repaired by March so we couldn’t get pullets started in the spring like we normally do. These factors all helped with the perfect storm of bad management and financial decline. If there was a positive note, it was the great lessons learned from my mistakes.   By July we had the brooder house repaired and new pullet chicks started. They started laying eggs in December, so we are finally starting to get an increase in our daily egg numbers again. This will not get us back to full production yet, but it will help. In October we started another batch of 400 pullet chicks.      Even with this last batch of pullets we had to go to plan B. Remember I said we needed a new building. In September, a new 30X72 ft hoop house was purchased and the goal was to start construction ASAP. Do you recall the two weather events we had during the 2013 growing season? One was an excessively wet spring which caused late planting, which in turn led to a late wet harvest; the other was a dry late summer and fall. Both of these events delayed the construction of our building. The harvest extended into November and the dry hard ground did not allow us to drive the ground posts for the building until we received some rains. Those chicks we started in October were forced to stay in the brooder houses longer than normal. Conditions were far from perfect, but they survived remarkably well. By the end of November we started construction and with a few weather delays (snow, temps, and wind) we finished by the end of December. On December 31 we moved the pullets into their new winter home and they have now started laying. Our egg numbers will improve significantly each and every day.

Posted 2/26/2014 6:33am by Brian Lau.

As I went outside Tuesday morning the actual temperature at my house was a – 23°F. Once again I was lucky the ATV started and the chickens were fed and watered. The cattle were also fed and ice chopped. All of the animals made it through the dangerous cold. The next item on the agenda was to start cleaning out some of our landlords’ and families’ driveways. I used the tractor and the blade to do this job. Everett went with me to do the shoveling, in the places I couldn’t get the tractor. The tractor we use is almost too large to use in most driveways, but we use it so we can leave the blade on all winter, plus it is big and powerful enough to go through most drifts. The driveways we cleaned out were spread out enough that we had a lot of road time. It was 2:30 before we got home. We ate a late lunch and a brief warm-up time, then back out to do the evening chores. I felt extremely exhausted and I blamed it on over exertion in the deep snow and cold temperatures, but little did I know that in a couple days I was going to come down with the flu.

Posted 2/25/2014 6:30am by Brian Lau.

      On Monday morning the DJ’s on the radio and the folks on the TV were telling us to stay inside due to the extremely cold wind chills and the drifted roads. Times like these are when you really wonder why you have livestock. Even if you want to, you can’t stay inside, because the 150 head of cattle and 700 plus chickens are counting on you to feed and water them. At 7 a.m. I bundled up in several layers and outside I went. When I looked at the thermometer it showed negative 18°F at my house. The wind was still blowing, so I am sure the wind-chill temperature was much lower. Fortunately the 4 wheel drive ATV started; I had been wandering if it would at these temps. I use the ATV to transport the buckets of feed to the chickens. The bad news was the snow had a crust on it and the drifts were deep enough that the 4 wheeler kept getting stuck. I called Kevin and he brought our large tractor with the 10 foot blade on it to clear me a path to the chicken houses. We keep the farm equipment and tractors at his house. The chickens were fed and they had all made it through the cold temps except for one of the older hens.

     I then cleaned out my driveway so I could get my truck out and get the tractor we use to feed the cows. The cows and calves are currently being wintered at my house while the steers and heifers are up the road at one of our other farms. Kevin cleared the road between our houses so I could maneuver more easily in my truck since the township snowplow had not made it by yet. We had both of the tractors plugged in and luckily both of them started. Baleage was put out for the cows at my house and I found a dead calf. The nighttime temps must have got the best of him. The rest of them looked fine and were glad to get their breakfast. The ice was chopped on the pond for the cows to drink, since that is the only water source on these pastures. Our next adventure was to go the other farm and feed and check the steers and heifers. We took both tractors because we knew we would have to blade out the lane since it is notorious for drifting shut. On the way we encountered a huge drift in front of our neighbor’s house. Kevin used the blade to open the road enough so we could get through. We encountered several drifts as we made our way to the farm. In one place we had to drive across the ditch and into a field to get around an abandoned car left on the road the night before. Kevin opened up the lane and we fed the steers and heifers and chopped ice. All was fine there so we headed back to Kevin’s house to put the tractors up. I loaded up the chicken feed for the next day and headed home to gather the eggs and carry water to the chickens. By the time I got these chores done it was 12:30. On a normal day, these chores would have been done by 10 a.m. Fighting the cold and the deep snow definitely slowed us down.

     After lunch I warmed up and rested for a while before I went back out. I used the tractor and blade and pushed more snow at our house. The wind was still drifting the paths shut. I went up to check the cattle and chop the ice again. I had to take the tractor because the lane was drifted shut again. On the way home I pulled out an Enerstar power truck that was stuck in a snow drift. He got stuck trying to get out of my way. The road was only one lane and was not passable. When I got home to gather the eggs, I realized I should have done it sooner. It was so cold the eggs were already starting to freeze. When your warm fingers grabbed the eggs, you could hear them pop and crack. We ended up having 29 eggs cracked because they froze. Since the roads were still closed I took the tractor and picked up the kids from the grandparents. By the time the day had ended I had spent over eight hours out in the cold. So much for listening to advice on the radio and TV.

Posted 2/24/2014 7:13am by Brian Lau.

So far this winter can be summed up with four words: COLD, COLDER, WIND, and SNOW.

Remember what the weather was like on January 5th, 6th, and 7th? Sunday started out with heavy snow. It was a wet snow to start with and it was sticking to the trees, fences, and power lines. Needless to say, it was quite beautiful to look at. The cows were fed in the morning since church had been cancelled and we had Christmas with my in-laws in the afternoon. We were not able to put out a day’s worth of hay like normal, because the snow was coming down fast and it would have been covered up before they ate it all. The eggs were gathered and off we went to spend a day with family and enjoy Christmas. The snow kept coming down and the winds started to blow heavily. Luckily Andrea’s parents just live a few miles from us. At 4 o’clock Andrea and I started to head home to do the evening chores and process the eggs. It was a good thing that we own a 4 wheel drive pickup. We were able to get home, but we had to plow through some deep drifts to do so. By the time the chores were done, the tracks we had made in the driveway coming home were already drifted shut. I knew then we were home for the evening and the kids were going to spend the night with their grandparents and cousins. Also shortly thereafter we learned that the county had shut down all county roads. Kevin put out another bale of hay in the afternoon to help keep the cows’ rumens full so they could survive the extremely cold temperatures that were forecasted for the night. As the evening went on into the night, the winds howled and the snow was blowing sideways every time I looked outside. The drifts continued to get deeper and deeper behind our vehicles.

Posted 2/19/2014 7:24am by Brian Lau.

Wow! Hasn’t the winter of 2014 been crazy so far? In the winter months you continually have to focus on the big picture of why you do what you do as a livestock farmer. While there are days filled with tremendous struggles, there are also days filled with great joy, but doesn’t this describe life in general? My goal in 2014 is to take you on a journey and give you a glimpse of what it is like to live on, manage, and try to be a financially successful diversified farm. I will not guarantee how frequently the posts will come, but I hope to paint a picture that will show you what is involved in raising sustainable quality foods.

Posted 4/16/2013 5:22pm by Brian Lau.

Greetings,

I want to personally welcome you to our new website.   I hope this will be the first of many future blog entries.  The reality of running a diversified farm will probably get in the way at times, but our goal is to each take turns and give you some perspective on the daily activities of our farm.  Who knows?  We may even climb on our soap boxes and get political or controversial from time to time.

 Our expectation for this website is to keep you up to date on the happenings at the farm and make sign-ups for our CSA packages and our new Buying Club much easier.  The online store will allow you to easily place an order for on farm pick-ups, home deliveries, or to simply add extras to your CSA.  CSA members from previous years will notice a few changes to the sign-up procedures and packages.  We have had to make some changes to be able to utilize the features of this site.

Please let us know if more explanation or clarity is needed in the sign-up process.  This website and features are new to us also, and we will be making changes as the needs arise.  Please bear with us and help us as we go through this process.  Your questions and feedback are always welcomed.

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