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The Checklist You Need for Visual Appraisal of Cows

How to tell if cows are in heat or not can seem tricky at first, but it’s quite simple and easy to tell. If you’re wondering how to tell if cows are in heat and ready to be bred, this visual appraisal checklist will help you quickly evaluate whether your cow needs the bull or not. This visual appraisal checklist covers all of the common signs of estrous (heat) in cattle, from vulva positioning and discharge color to ear position and overall body condition.



How to Do a Visual Inspection



Once you’ve got yourself a visual appraisal checklist, it’s time to start doing some cow inspections. If you’re buying your first few cows and you want to go at it alone, a good method is to head out with another person (who has a lot more experience than you do) and let them take notes while they watch you as well. By dividing and conquering, they can focus on important points while you get used to using your judgment; all in all, that’s how we learned best when starting. The key thing to remember here is that no two cows are alike, so don’t be too hard on yourself if things don’t look like what you expected or if you make mistakes.





Have you brushed up on your cow’s cleanliness? Proper hygiene is crucial to a healthy pregnancy. Regular bathing is necessary (two times per week in warmer months and once per week in colder months) but so are regular hoof trimmings and tooth brushing. And while you’re there, be sure to check how much cow spit-up you have to deal with; any discharge that contains red streaks warrants a closer inspection. Speaking of close inspections: It’s also vital that both eyes are free of mucus or discharge as well as ears are cleaned weekly. While it’s not a major turnoff if your bovine has some freckles, they should be kept to a minimum on its belly and hind quarters.





The perfect cow is calm, complacent, and in an overall good mood. If a cow’s attitude is wrong, then other aspects of its anatomy and genetic makeup are likely to be substandard as well. Attitude is very important in cattle, just like it is with people. There’s no point in buying a physically flawless animal if it isn’t going to produce quality offspring because it doesn’t get along with others. Pay attention to how your potential buy acts around people and other animals when you’re at auction or out on farms looking at livestock. If a cow seems nervous or timid around humans but seems comfortable among its peers and cattle handlers, that should raise some red flags about why that might be so.



Body Condition



Our first and most important assessment is body condition score, or how fat or thin your cow is. A fat cow will produce a lot more milk than a thin one and can even develop health problems because her body isn’t designed to carry so much extra weight. We like to check our cows every six weeks by looking at their ribcage, back, and hip bones through their skin. If we see red-colored areas on their bodies, that’s called a heat rash – it means she’s too hot in her pen and she should be moved to an area where there are more flies around to eat the sweat that drips off her – which will help keep her cool.





Shape and size. Is there a large, pendulous udder with few teats? Are there two teats on one side and three on the other side? Are all four quarters equally developed? Teats: Length, diameter, and placement. How long are they about body length? Are they evenly spaced or bunched up toward one end? Do they have any abnormalities such as tags or extra folds of skin? Do they point straight forward or are some pointing outward? What about their diameter—are some thicker than others? How far do they project from the body when extended (how far would you expect them to reach when milking)? Are any tilted inward so that milk is squirted onto her hind legs rather than into a bucket or pail?



Legs, Feet, and Tailhead



Look at each cow’s legs, feet, and tailhead to make sure that there are no signs of pain or discomfort. A cow’s tailhead should be neat and free from injury with a good covering of hair and free from lice and blood spots. Look out for cracked hooves which can be a sign that something is not right. Pay particular attention to hoof cleanliness if you are selecting replacement stock as poor foot care is easy to pick up but hard to rectify. Have a close look at the heels where they meet with bare flesh; any signs of sores, thin areas, or bony protrusions indicate potential lameness issues.

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Farm Ranch

Chicken Math: Which Breeds Lay the Most Eggs?

You’ve got your chickens and your coop, but now you have to determine which chicken breeds lay the most eggs, right? The answer isn’t always as cut-and-dried as you might think! When looking at egg production, there are three major factors to consider: the weight of the chicken, its feed conversion rate (how many pounds of feed it takes to produce one pound of weight gain), and how long it takes them to reach maturity. Here’s an overview of some chicken breeds that fit each category, along with some specifics on their egg-laying prowess.



How many eggs do chickens lay a year?


As you can imagine, there are tons of chicken breeds out there. Each one has unique characteristics that make it more suited to certain people and situations than others. For example, if you’re looking for a bird that is relatively quiet and easy to keep indoors, an ornamental breed might be better for you than an industrious dual-purpose breed—and vice versa. Just like humans, chickens can be roughly broken into two categories: those that lay lots of eggs and those that don’t. Here are six tips for choosing a chicken breed (or breeds) on which to focus your efforts!

  1. Consider Size and Temperament: When considering how many eggs your flock will produce, consider both size and temperament. You want birds that are large enough to produce a lot of eggs without being so large they won’t fit in your coop or space. On average, bantam hens tend to lay fewer eggs per year than standard-sized hens because they have smaller bodies; however, bantams also tend to have less meat on their bones so they may not be worth keeping if you plan to eat them later in life.
  2. Choose Dual-Purpose Breeds: If you’re interested in raising your food, choose a breed known as dual purpose. These birds aren’t great egg layers but they do provide plenty of meat at maturity. The best dual-purpose breeds are generally hardy and active with strong constitutions; some common examples include Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, and Wyandottes.
  3. Choose Ornamental Birds: If all you care about is looks, pick an ornamental chicken breed such as Silkies or Polish fowls. They aren’t great egg layers but these fancy fowls certainly look good sitting around your yard or garden!
  4. Know Your Flock’s True Potential: One thing to keep in mind when trying to figure out how many eggs your flock will lay is that every chicken is different. Some breeds, such as Leghorns, are known for producing large numbers of eggs but even within a single breed, there can be considerable variation from hen to hen. A good rule of thumb is to expect somewhere between 200 and 300 eggs per year from a healthy hen under optimal conditions; some hens might produce much more while others might only produce 100 or less.
  5. Keep Track Over Time: Once you have chosen your ideal chicken breed(s), start tracking how well each individual performs over time by recording daily egg production. This way, you’ll know exactly what to expect from your flock and you’ll be able to identify any problems early.
  6. Add More Hens: If you’d like to increase the number of eggs your current flock lays, add more hens!



Factors affecting egg-laying – Feed, Light, Age



The age of your flock is important in determining how many eggs they will lay. For hens, egg laying starts to taper off once they hit about 3 years old, and for roosters, it’s usually around 6 or 7 years old. The quality of food you feed your chickens also affects how much they produce. A study done at North Carolina State University found that feeding a diet rich in protein and low in fat can increase egg output by up to 25%. Additionally, if you’re raising hens outside, under direct sunlight; on cloudy days versus full sun; or nights when there are fewer hours of light—all affect their ability to lay eggs.



Feed conversion ratio – how much feed it takes to make an egg


Every chicken breed is different. Some of them have to eat a lot more than others before they can produce an egg. This is what’s called their Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR). It’s how much feed they need to eat to produce one unit of product (e.g., one egg). The lower your FCR, and hence better at converting food into eggs or meat, you are! But that’s not all! Hens with a low FCR also tend to be productive and hens with high FCR aren’t as good for their production levels given their diet.



How long does it take until chickens start laying eggs?


It’s not uncommon for beginners to be surprised at how long it takes their chickens to start laying eggs. Some chickens will take a few months before they begin laying, while others may take up to a year. What determines when your chickens start laying eggs is a combination of factors, including genetics and environment. Understanding how these factors contribute to egg-laying helps you develop realistic expectations about what you’re getting into and why some flocks might take longer than others.



Backyard chicken breeds chart



The first thing you have to do is decide how many eggs you want from your hens. Do you want a dozen eggs a week? A dozen every other day? A half-dozen per week, or maybe just one egg at a time as part of your morning routine. It’s also important to consider whether you’ll be saving money by raising chickens yourself instead of buying them from a grocery store. You can check out our chart for an overview of egg-laying potential, but keep in mind that individual results will vary based on climate, weather, and care provided. For example, if you live in a warm climate with little seasonal variation, your birds might not lay as much during winter months when they’re less likely to be outside. Conversely, if you live somewhere like Alaska where there are more than 200 days of sunlight each year, your flock may produce significantly more eggs than those raised in areas with fewer hours of daylight. And finally, remember that most breeds are seasonal layers; some produce more eggs during spring and summer while others give their all in autumn and winter. These factors combined mean that even within a given breed, individual results can vary widely. So it’s important to think about what kind of eggs you want and when you want them before deciding which breed is best for your situation.


               Breeds                           eggs per year
Hybrid / Golden Comet  lay about 280 medium-sized brown-colored eggs/ year.
Barred Plymouth Rock  lay about 280 eggs/year.
Rhode Island Reds  lay about 250 medium brown eggs/year.
Delaware  lay more than 250 eggs/ year
Leghorn  lay about 250 medium white eggs/ year.
Marans  lay about 200 medium-sized eggs / year.
Light Sussex  lay about 200 eggs/year.
Buff Orpington  lay about 180 regular-sized and white eggs/ year.


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Farm Ranch

Your Checklist for Successfully Selecting the Right Sheep for Breeding

If you’re planning on breeding your sheep, the first and most important step to ensure success is to determine if they are physically well-suited for the task of carrying and birthing lambs. The following checklist will help you evaluate whether or not your candidate sheep have what it takes. For more info please read: The Complete Sheep Breeding Guide



Eye Color


People often talk about sheep breeds with expressive eyes. There are many breeds of sheep with beautiful, shiny eyes. However, not all eye colors are suitable for shepherding or breeding. A good breeder will look at more than just eye color when selecting a sheep to breed. Eye color is important because it helps you determine what type of wool your sheep might produce and how much care your new lamb will need when it’s born. If your goal is to raise lambs that will make high-quality wool or other goods, you’ll want to take a close look at both their father’s and mother’s eye color before deciding on a mate. The color of a ram’s eyes can tell you whether he will pass along certain traits to his offspring, such as susceptibility to certain diseases.



Body Size



When it comes to sheep, bigger isn’t always better. Large and particularly large rams can potentially be too aggressive when it comes to breeding with ewes and smaller rams, on average, have a harder time mounting their female counterparts. As such, you should avoid any sheep that appear overly aggressive or seem unable to breed effectively with other sheep of a similar size. This won’t necessarily apply in all situations but is worth keeping in mind as a potential warning sign if you’re considering adding one of these individuals to your flock. Body size itself can be difficult to determine without actually handling an animal so keep an eye out for changes in behavior among your existing flock that may provide clues as to their sizes.



Coat Color


If you’re going to breed your sheep, you need to know how to properly identify coat color. It is important to select a sheep based on its genetics, not just its appearance. You also want to avoid mating two related sheep, since that will lower their genetic diversity and weaken them genetically as a whole. The following visual checklist can help you properly assess coat color in your potential breeding stock.



Coat Quality


Just like with people, it’s not always easy to tell if a sheep is healthy just by looking at it. A thick coat can mask a variety of problems (or prevent you from seeing those problems in the first place) so make sure to perform a quality check. Grab your hand and run it along an area of hair that has plenty of room between it and another body part; feel any bumps or lumps? If so, there could be something wrong. For example, some lumps may indicate parasites (ticks or mites), which can transmit the infection to other animals as well as humans who handle infected animals directly. To find out whether parasites are present, consult a veterinarian; aside from being potentially dangerous on their own, parasites are usually indicative of poor animal health overall. In addition, look for signs of baldness or patches where fur should be. These can indicate ringworm, mange, fleas, or other skin-related issues.



Early Growth and Development



At birth, ewes should weigh a minimum of 40 pounds. Newborn lambs should be able to stand and nurse within 15 minutes after birth. Both ewes and their newborn lambs should be examined immediately after birthing for any evidence of birthing complications or malpositioning. In some cases, ewes will need assistance in giving birth, especially when delivering large twin lambs; such assistance may come in the form of using your hands to help push out a stuck lamb or using instruments such as forceps to safely remove twins from their mother’s uterus. Make sure that both you and your ewe have latex gloves on before attempting to assist her with birthing. Lambs should nurse within 30 minutes after birth and drink at least two liters of colostrum (the first milk produced by ewes) during their first 24 hours. Afterward, they can begin eating grass hay.

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Farm Ranch

Goats 101: Your Guide to Caring for Goats

Goats are among the most interesting and fun animals to own, but they do require some attention and care, especially if you’re new to goat ownership. This Goat 101 guide will help you understand everything you need to know about caring for goats, from the basics of animal care to common health problems and other special considerations that come along with keeping goats in your home. Whether you’re just considering getting your first goat or you already have one and want to learn more about how to care for them, this guide will be an invaluable resource for your goat-owning experience!



You Don’t Need Lots of Space


If you want to care for your farm animal, but don’t have much space or experience raising livestock, goats are a great animal. They require less space than some other farm animals (though they do require at least a fenced-in yard), and are incredibly easy to take care of. They’re also quieter and easier on land than larger animals like cows or horses. Even if you don’t have lots of pasture, goats will do well in an unfenced area as long as it’s free from poisonous plants that could harm them, too. So even if you live in an apartment, don’t rule out owning goats!



Setting Up the Right Environment


One of the most important things you can do to help your goats stay healthy is to provide them with a clean, dry place to live. A two-story barn that protects its herd from extreme weather conditions is best. If you don’t have room in your barn, set up a lean-to or section off part of your shed so they can get out of bad weather and eat. If possible, create a part of their living space where they can get plenty of suns. Keeping them warm and dry (and safe) will give them an easier time digesting their food and keeping them warm in cooler temperatures. Feeding Goats Properly: You should feed your goats hay during colder months and grasses during warmer months.



What Supplies Will I Need?




The first thing you’ll need is a goat! In all seriousness, you’ll want a good starter book on goats. I recommend A Kid’s Guide To Raising Dairy Goats by Judy Krizmanic and The Everything Kids’ Horses Book by Brandy Vencel. Check your local library or purchase online if they aren’t available at your local bookstore. Also, be sure to check out an organization like 4-H and/or FFA that deals with goats; your county extension agent should be able to provide you with contact information if needed.



How Do I Know If a Goat Is Sick?


Although goats are generally very healthy, they can still get sick. Unfortunately, goats don’t communicate their illness as humans do; if a goat is sick, it can be difficult to tell without some key tips. Some symptoms of the illness include a runny nose, loss of appetite, and drinking a lot more water than usual. If you see your goat showing these signs or any other unusual behavior, contact your local vet immediately; many conditions are easily treatable if caught early.

What Do I Feed My Goat?: A balanced diet is crucial for both adult goats and babies. The first step to providing your goat with an adequate diet is knowing what foods they should have in their diets at each stage of life.



What Can I Feed My Goat?



Do you have a goat, but don’t know what it should be eating? This is a common problem for those who have new goats. No matter where you got your goat, whether it was from a friend or bought from a store or breeder, chances are it can eat much of the same food as other goats. However, make sure you know what’s in its diet and if any special things need to be given as treats or supplements. If not sure what type of goat you own, call your local extension office and they can help determine just what kind of diet your pet needs.



Hoeing, Weeding, and Mowing with Goats



Hoeing, weeding, and mowing is great projects for your goats. Since they like getting up high and roaming around, they’ll make quick work of your wedding, while their even weight distribution allows them to keep a straight line as they do it. Depending on how much land you want to be cleared, you might consider more than one goat! Just make sure to take safety precautions when working with animals. Make sure you have sturdy fencing set up around them at all times and never leave your goats unattended when working in an area where there is a risk of a neighbor or passerby cutting through (this goes double if children are involved). Sturdy fencing will also keep predators from harming your goats.



How Much Does It Cost To Get Started with Goats?


Most goats are fairly low-maintenance animals. That said, you will need to provide them with a place to live and access to food and water. Plan on spending at least a few hours a day caring for your goats. You’ll also need to make sure they have constant access to fresh water (or install a watering system) because they are prone to dehydration. A typical adult goat drinks 10 quarts of water per day, so be prepared for frequent trips outside.



What Else Do I Need To Know About Goats?


If you’re like me, you might be wondering why in the world I need to know anything more than what a goat looks like. But if you’re thinking about getting goats as pets or having them provide milk, cheese, or wool products on your farm, learning how they live and behave is important. For example, did you know that… Don’t worry – these are just some things we’ll get into in our guide. Whether you have a lot of experience with goats or none at all, it’s good to be prepared before bringing these animals into your life! In our book Goats 101, we’ll talk about everything from choosing healthy goats (yes, there’s a way!) to caring for them and even harvesting their milk. Enjoy!

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