Management practices to improve livestock food production~meat, eggs, milk, etc.

Beekissed

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I try every year to improve egg and meat production, while still trying to maintaining a balance in a dual purpose flock, of both. I don't want to lean too far one way or the other or one loses the meaning and purpose of a dual purpose breed~that of acceptable production of both meat and eggs.

This involves various strategies, though I don't get so deep into it that I'm using trap nesting or penning of birds to determine exact egg counts or breeding.

I keep a relatively small flock nowadays, from a winter time stocking rate of 12-16 and spring/summer/fall numbers of up to and above 40, depending on how many offspring were hatched out in the spring. I don't want nor need anymore birds than that at this present time, as I'm only feeding Mom and I on the meat and sharing excess eggs with various family members with the eggs.

One of the most dependable and useful strategies I use is the judicious cull. Knowing when and which birds to cull is something one learns over time and can fluctuate with your flock dynamics and your current needs. I like keeping feed costs as far down as possible, as going to great expense to raise my own meat and eggs becomes foolhardy and loses all practical purposes.

Other strategies are breed and genetics selection, healthy environment/habitat, natural diet as much as is possible and in season, low stress social situations, low interference/handling, comfortable housing with huge ventilation, and encouraging natural breeding cycles.

Do you have any production strategies for improving your livestock food production you'd like to share?
Canned chicken.....

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Schmaltz, or rendered chicken fat, for seasoning various dishes and general cooking.

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Chicken and stock....

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Eggs....

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Summer time flock of adults and various juveniles growing out for fall butcher or replacement of retired layers....

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Beekissed

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Thank you!

I've done both but have decided to continue only doing boneless canning, as well as cutting the meat into bite size pieces prior to raw packing. It saves me jar space, shelf space and also seems to yield a more usable end product. It's more work on the front end but well worth it in the end.
 

Beekissed

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My current breeder male, a standard bred Plymouth White Rock. A very gentle, intelligent and vigorous breeder that I like very much.

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The WR meat is double muscled, dense and very fine textured, with fat marbled throughout the fibers due to their thick, fine feathering. They are a cold hardy breed with a very slow metabolism, so they grow slowly but they grow on very little feed and they maintain that heavy build on the same feed regimen.

They are a calm, gentle breed with excellent foraging and survival skills and excellent layers, mothers and flock birds. Naturally hardy, they are not prone to reproductive issues but can develop them in their old age as with any retired layer.
 

Lazy Gardener

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Excellent topic. Why have I never seen this topic before?

I don't have much to add regarding animal management: But, IMO, it's imperative to provide good soil conditions to grow good crops, including fodder, and garden crops... which in turn feed the animals and benefit their health. Running animals over stocked on poor soil, especially poorly drained soil has a negative impact on animal health, and soil health. Parasites, excess nutrients, ground water contamination result. There needs to be a balance.

I have 2 usable acres, surrounded by woods: mixed hard and soft wood, lots of dying soft wood, rocks, heavy clay, high water table. Soil management practices include: deep composting litter in coop and run, sheet composting, planting green manure over sheet compost area this year. BTE in orchard and garden, flower/garden beds, HK mound built between elevated usable land and lower untillable area which is too rocky/wet to reclaim without bringing in a lot of fill. The HK was expanded to it's final size this year, and is performing above and beyond my expectations.

Flock goals: My perfect flock bird has a small comb, non feathered feet, and contributes to a colorful egg basket. And, she, or one of her sisters brood a replacement clutch for me every year. I do not cull like I should. But, I remove older birds, cockerels, and any that present with health issues. Back bone of the flock is a Buck Eye roo, with Buck Eye, PBR, Dom, and EE hens. The PBR and Doms produce a wonderful black sex linked bird. And, the Pea x rose combs = walnut. All wonderful choices for my climate. Moving forward: there are few birds in my flock who I can distinguish their eggs from those of a flock mate. So, when setting eggs, I choose the best of the best, and select eggs which conform to my "egg shape for gender selection protocol". This has improved my pullet:cockerel ratio by 20%.

Predator load prevents me from free ranging. But, I consider free ranging to be one of the most beneficial land and flock management strategies.
 
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PatriciaPNW

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Egg shape for gender selection protocol - what shape are you looking for to have more pullets? I agree about free ranging being beneficial but I think it’s often a matter of time until there’s a mass casualties incident or hens are swiped one by one, unfortunately. Mine get leftovers - sometimes from work, produce store, or cooking for homeless (too ripe donations and stale bread). They also forage in pasture, garden, and huge run. But that’s not “free range” as people without chickens have let me know
 
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