Once we secured the water source we had to determine how much water we had, the flow rate. For large scale commercial trout facilities the flow rate is very large, even thousands of gallons per minute. There are few places in America where that much clean, cold water is available for private use.
Many of us however can have access to smaller volumes of water, perhaps enough to produce fish in sufficient quantities for it to be self-supporting. A simplified analysis may look like this: $150 per month for electric to pump water and air; $100 per month for feed; $400 per month replacement stock. This simplified analysis assumes a up and running project and does not account for any capital investment like the cost of the well and raceway.
So $650 is the monthly cost to produce 400 fish for market. Another assumption is that the project has been running long enough to produce a marketable item, a 1.5 pound fish. If we sell 400 fish each month for $7.50 per pound then we net $3850 per month. More than enough to service any capital investment with some pocket change left over. OK let’s say my figures are suspect even though they are not that bad and we double our input costs to $1300 per month, still not too bad. At any rate, it seems to be self-supporting.
This project has brought together all my favorite sciences and opens up a lot of potential new avenues for any other agricultural engineering fans out there. A few came out to see my prototype; its already had an important modification and is growing trout. You will notice I am using a variation of the common raceway and tank culture systems. Both methods have advantages so why not bring them together. I am also experimenting with different off the shelf tank designs that are readily available for far less than those tanks sold specifically for aquaculture.
A rare opportunity came our way this summer and we jumped on it! We had swans before but lost them largely through inexperience with keeping these majestic birds. The availability and cost of these birds vary so much it is difficult to price them but from what limited experience we have it was a deal that could not be passed up. We are not likely to come across so many swans for sale at a price we could afford and distance we could easily travel.
For me having these magnificent birds on our small pond, watching them explore the wetland is a dream comes true, again. We are very protective of them as we understand we may not get another chance and certainly not without paying much more than we did this time.
They are still young in spite of their size and take several years to mature. We try to keep them close to the house because it is easier to care for them and protect them but they are drawn to the water and high grasses and get by us when we are not looking. Fortunately we already have security in place. We were sure to make introductions to the guard dogs when they got here and the entire farm perimeter is fenced.
Here they are scheming to get past an inner fence. It did not take them long to discover they could slip through an area that the dogs had made in a fence not yet completed to a pasture in the opposite direction, then go around to get over the hill; they had to travel a long way but they made it. So now they are where they want to be. We will have to herd them back up the hill before winter though as it is too difficult to get food to them out there once the snow flies.
Since I have become a shepherd, I have become oh so aware of what it means to be a sheep and it is quite disturbing. There are too many references in literature liking people to sheep and it is not just a metaphor. Among the most disturbing references is the idea that the very small group of men that control the world justify what they do because we are just sheep and therefore they have the right and duty to control, care for (whatever word you can stomach) us. These people have been called various things for hundreds (thousands) of years and it is these very names that help to obscure their existence because these titles have been discredited, relegated to conspiracy theorists so I will not further help their cause by discrediting my own writing by using them.
It is true that we have greater intellect than sheep, and one would think that would be enough to protect us from their fate but I see that it is not true. Intelligence is a relative term and is not synonymous with thought, or the ability to reason or imagine possible future events.
We have been farming for a decade or more now and once again we are making changes to our operation. This time the changes are more difficult and eerily consistent with what I see in the world around me. You see we had a period when our flock grew, multiplied even faster than I had worked toward. We didn’t have enough pasture to support them all but hay prices were such that we were able to supplement what we had. Last winter changed all of that. We lost what we thought we had gained because there were too many sheep and the price of hay increased so much we could no longer buy it. And of course, not being alone in this predicament meant that the price we could get for our sheep dropped very low at the same time.
We are now culling our flock. That is an interesting word, cull. It is not used much in the cities but history teaches us that there will come a time when that word will have greater meaning to the population at large. I remember when the Chinese government implemented its one child rule and other self-righteous countries like ours said what a terrible thing it was. As a shepherd I very well understand the importance of controlling population, now more so than ever.
I know that most of us do not accept the idea of controlling the growth of the population unless we are controlling the growth of a certain group of people that don’t look like us. This is often just dismissed as racism but I believe it is even more than that. So then is it true that if we do not take responsibility for our own population growth we are just sheep and then it is left to others to deal with the situation?
Of course the powers that be have a way of dealing with this type of thought as well, once again relegating these ideas to the realm of conspiracy theorists. They are very cleaver in how they go about it, using the classical argument of reducing these ideas to the absurd. For example, these unnamed powers will harvest human beings for replacement organs maybe even bring aliens from outer space into the story. Once you get people to laugh at the pure ridiculousness of the idea then the small amount of truth in the story is dismissed along with the rest of it. Brilliant!
Maybe some of use will get a reprieve, much like this ewe that was a bottle baby and now enjoys a hands off status as beloved pet
We have had more and more interest in alpaca as a food source for both people and dogs that cannot tolerate many other foods. I haven’t had the time to research just why alpaca doesn’t cause the problems that other foods can but I do know that it is an exceptional meat that has no trouble competing with beef, pork, lamb or poultry for taste and nutrition. It is very lean, more like venison than beef or lamb.
I have to write of our small accomplishment here as it will otherwise go unnoticed, but we were the first farm in the States that openly retailed alpaca. I understand that there are others now of course, out west mostly, but we also with the help of our favorite chef were able to get it onto the menu of the first restaurant to offer it. I am proud to say that after more than five years it is still on the menu at The Refectory in Columbus OH.
Unfortunately for us it seems the demand for this excellent meat is growing far from our market place and other farms will ultimately benefit more than we from this new food. It is new here but has been eaten for a long time in other parts of the world. I won’t go into why or how we first came to using alpaca meat in this article or the prospects of it becoming more widely used but I do what to make one point. Alpaca meat is relatively expensive and so not suitable for a dog food staple. It is not part of the commercial meat industry and will remain high in price. I believe the new and very trendy emergence of restaurants with alpaca on the menu is as a result of the temporary availability of cheap animals that are being dumped. Won’t say any more about that as it would surely not gain me any friends.
We will continue to carry a small amount of this superb meat as well as alpaca dog treats and bones but for larger orders we suggest purchasing a whole animal and have it custom butchered. As a service to our customers we will help to obtain and transport your alpaca.
Cota Farms will be hosting a quail hunt this spring and we are even now planning for it to be a great success. It’s actually a quail run as there are no guns involved. So that all the dogs and not just experienced bird dogs have a chance at retrieving one of the prize quail, here are some training tips for the winter. Get your dog a toy for Christmas that is about the size and shape of a quail. Work with her through the winter by throwing the toy into high grasses, or perhaps hiding it in a large park or wooded area, use your imagination. The trick is to get your dog to retrieve the toy, bring it back to you without eating it. This would be a simple matter if it was just a toy but your dog may not want to bring back a live bird and instead have lunch. Add some meat or treat to the toy and get your dog to bring it back to you first then you can reward her. Send me a note if you have any questions or would like to come out to the farm to train sometime. More details will follow as to date and entry fees, prizes, etc. Good luck!