The 2012 Lamb and Chicken Harvest is Complete

The 2012 Lamb and Chicken Harvest is Complete

The animals we raised for food this year have all reached their full potential, if you will.  The 6 ram lambs and some 150 chickens have found their way into local freezers and onto local dinner tables.  The farthest that any of it will travel will be to Montreal in a carry-on bag by my side so that I can eat my own lamb with dear friends later next month.  It was a year full of many lessons and you can read more about the trials and tribulations in the January-February edition of Edible Louisville.

IMG_3287The winter season progresses with a supply of eggs and frozen whole and half chicken for sale.  The egg shares are sold out for now; winter solstice is December 21st so as the days start to lengthen so will the prospects of more egg-laying! We are also pleased to know have Animal Welfare Approved status for our laying hens and eggs.  This is a nod to our responsible animal husbandry practices.Animal Welfare Approved

Let me know if you would like any pastured poultry for winter roasting.  Andy and roast a chicken each week and eat on it for several days, we have determined that the texture and flavor stands out as the most significant difference between the taste and texture of factory farmed poultry (plus we are not contributing to antibiotic resistant bacteria, contamination and pollution!)

We will be doing this again and hope that our customers will continue to support the farm by purchasing Ky grazed poultry, eggs and lamb.  Happy New Year!

December 15, 2012Permalink

The lambs are at Bluegrass Lamb and Goat

On thursday Andy and I loaded the lambs into the back of the truck at 5 am to head off to Paint Lick, Kentucky where our processor, Bluegrass Lamb and Goat, is located.  Optimism is overrated when it comes to loading livestock without the right handling equipment.  It took twice as long as we thought.Our plan partially worked to use a hay bale to have them step up on and then heaved into the cage we have built for the truck.  Once we crowded them into a smaller area and once we had two loaded, the rest were eager to follow. I felt desperate at times; Andy kept us on track.

We drove about an hour and half quietly contemplating the morning and the the surrender of our 2012 ram lambs.  They were indeed happy animals, friendly and curious and well cared for; I now trust Bluegrass Lamb and Goat to complete the circle.

After we left Paint Lick we traveled another hour to Cardwell where my lamb mentor Eileen O’Donahue and her husband Randy Banks live.  Eileen operation, Two Shakes Ranch and Kentucky Lamb, is a place Andy I always leave feeling a renewed commitment to growing our own operation and what better way to recognize that than to get my “rental” ram from Two Shakes Ranch.  Maurice is a fine Dorper hair sheep that went straight to work once he arrived at Swallow Rail.  Instinct is a powerful thing.  In less than 24 hours I had 3 ewes marked by the yellow marking harness that Maurice is wearing so we can monitoring when ewes are bred.  It helps to know when we are expecting come April.

November 2, 2012Permalink

Baxter our Maremma livestock guardian dog at 10 months


Baxter just celebrated his 10 month birthday; can you guess his weight?  He has turned out to be great at protecting the Freedom Rangers down in the nut grove but he is still not trustworthy with the sheep.  No doubt he is protecting them, too, with his presence and imposing bark but he cannot be in the same field just yet.  We tried that for a few weeks in the summer and he ended up chewing on “Brownie’s” legs.  She is fine but he did leave abrasions that took some time to heal.  His training continues and it is reasonable to let him reach adulthood before we expect his full instincts to kick in.

The freedom Rangers at 9 weeks and growing…..

Operation Drumstick Part III (ODS III) is underway with a breed of chicken called the Freedom Ranger.  This active chicken forages well and plumps to broiler weight in about 11 weeks.  We have about 70 in the nut grove ranging freely and supplemented with a 20% grow ration that is antibiotic and animal by-product free.

We feel strongly about not feeding any of our livestock medicated feed which makes it more challenging to source. The good news is that I think I finally found a locally sourced product that meets our specifications.  As feed prices rise due to low 2012 corn yields (due to heat and drought throughout the west and mid-west) I am concerned where my feed dollar goes.  If I have to pay a premium I want it to go to someone close to home…not Cargill.

The Freedom Rangers from ODS III will be harvested on Election Day in November so we should have whole chicken to last us through the winter until the cycle begins again in early spring.  Consider a whole chicken for Thanksgiving! ~ Jeneen

September 28, 2012Permalink Leave a comment

Sorting Lambs

Sorting Lambs

From Swallow Rail Farm

Our routine is changing a bit because I am back to teaching part-time at University of Louisville.  Sadly, this means I am no longer at Courtney Farms in the morning to help put the fruit CSA shares together; I do miss the conviviality of the barn.  It did feel good to be back on campus, however, as the students greeted me eagerly.  I have a unique opportunity to share the realities of the farm in the course that I teach called Food and Body Politic, so we can continue our work.The Deluxe brooder

Speaking of which, the work continues at home: irrigation has begun as the drought settles in (hoping for rain out of Hurricane Isaac) still picking figs, drying apples, making jam and pickles In fact we reached another milestone in our shepherd management:  we sorted our ram lambs away from their sisters.  At about 5 months the lambs reach sexual maturity and we don’t need any premature accidents!  We were able to entice them out of their temporary pasture with a trough of food, we only allowed the rams through the opening, and then they followed our buckets back to the nut grove pasture. All are secure in three separate pastures for now.and tending to the flock, both 4-legged and 2-legged.

Separating lambs

75 Red Rangers in brooderWe also were able to weigh and dose copper sulfate for parasite control last weekend.  My mentor and friend Eileen O’Donahue brought her livestock scale so we could properly does each lamb.  Copper sulfate is a natural and very effective wormer BUT it can kill your sheep because they are susceptible to copper toxicity.  Everyone is still standing and has pink noses so we did good; anything less than pink indicates anemia and high parasite loads so we monitor for good color in eye membrane, noses, etc.through a practice called FAMACHA.

And, the new deluxe brooder is complete in the barn.  75 Red Ranger chicks arrived in the mail late last week and they are running around enjoying their large accommodations.  These meat chickens should be less labor intensive then the Cornish x broilers and they will range freely in the nut grove once the brooder stage is over.  In the pasture with electro-netting around them, Baxter the Maremma guardian dog around that and woven wire fencing around that should keep them secure! We will have more whole chickens available in November from this batch of Red Rangers.

The Chicken is in the freezer!

The chickens have been harvested and are now in our new freezer!   They were processed and frozen at Marksbury Farm Market, a USDA inspected processing facility in Lancaster. I have an average weight of 5.15 pounds for each bird so they will feed an army.  See the Pricing menu for details on how to order.

Support Your Local Farm

Support Your Local Farm

Welcome to Swallow Rail Farm, home of Jeneen Wiche and Andy Smart.  We offer a variety of farm products including blueberries, pasture raised poultry, Katahdin lamb and eggs. We are a Kentucky Proud farm and will work to strengthen our ability to raise food along with our friends at Courtney Farms and Farmers Feeding Families; and we will work to strengthen Community Supported Agriculture for Kentucky’s farm families so we can collectively feed local eaters.

Our AmbitionMy family moved to western Shelby County in 1979 when I was ten years old.  My father’s desire was to develop a horticultural experience that emphasized ornamental and edible plantings; today my husband Andy and I continue to care for his legacy while we reshape the focus of Swallow Rail Farm. Daddy named the farm after the barn swallows and the two rail roads that flank Conner Station; and all remain true to the name. Today, Andy and I want a small working farm that can enrich our lives, the animals we raise and the customers we hope to serve.  Along with Courtney Farms and the other growing partners in Kentucky agriculture we can experience a farm to table relationship that means fresher food for you and a new model for Community Supported Agriculture that allows for unilateral support.  Connecting the farm directly to the consumer is the goal here.  My farm experience allows me to participate in the very thing I enjoy advocating and communicating through teaching, lectures, workshops and writing: our local farm economy from Lexington to Louisville and beyond does exists so please support it. We have Kentucky raised lamb, poultry, eggs and fruit just outside of Metro Louisville. Thank you. 

April 20, 2012Permalink 1 Comment