Poppy George’s Farm Advice: Egg Incubators, Watering Livestock, and Grain Mix

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Mr. Plitt now raises and trains standard bred horses and keeps a wide variety of other birds and animals on a New York farm.

“Poppy George” Plitt graduated from college with a degree in agriculture in 1932 During the years that followed he made good many friends and a name for himself (as a gentleman, inventor and executive) in the field of bird and animal husbandry and care. At various points in his career, Mr. Plitt served as Director of Nutritional Research and Field Services for two of the East’s larger grain mills. He is also the originator of Pride of the Valley Wild Bird Food and Kleen Kitty cat litter. Mr. Plitt now raises and trains standard bred horses and keeps a wide variety of other birds and animals on a New York farm. “Poppy George” is now sharing his experience by giving MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers down-to-earth farm advice on the care and feeding of homestead livestock.

QUESTION:My neighbor has warned me not to set eggs either in an incubator or under the hen because the embryos will be killed by the sound of our area’s sonic booms and dynamite blasts. Many people around here are concerned about the same possibility. Is this a real hazard, and what can I do about it?

 ANSWER: I’d say go ahead — by either method — with little fear of mishap. Despite old-timers’ advice, I’ve set many, many eggs (both under hens and in incubators) during periods of lightning storms, etc. … and as long as my flock was healthy and vigorous, the results were always very satisfactory.

QUESTION: In MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 28 you stressed the vital importance of water to livestock … but my outdoor water source freezes and I just can’t seem to stand the physical strain of carrying all those buckets from the house to the barn. Please, Poppy George, what can you suggest?

ANSWER: I hate to recommend expensive measures for MOTHER’s folks, but in this case I’d advise an investment that will pay dividends over the years (and ease the wear and tear on you and your helpers): Buy a frost-free hydrant like those made by IXL (available from most farm and garden supply stores). Such devices don’t freeze even in below zero weather, because the valve is self-draining and located on the bottom of the pipe.

Purchase a hydrant with a yard or more of pipe attached, and lay a 3/4 inch plastic waterline from your home or well to the barn or area near your coops, sheds, etc. — or out in a field, if you wish — where it will be most convenient to serve your stock with water. Attach the plastic pipe to the hydrant and you’re all set. The unit has a lever on top which you lift to start the flow and lower when the container or pail is filled.

I’ve had four frost-free hydrants for many years and have never spent a dime on repairs in all that time. Even when I bought them, however, these excellent devices cost $25.00 each (complete but without pipe) … so start saving your pennies. You’ll never regret the investment.

QUESTION: I have a hammermill and a small feed mixer on my farm, and — since the price of livestock rations is so high now — I‘d like to make my own grain mix for horses and cattle. the brand I’ve been buying contains corn, oats, and molasses, and I’ve been told that peanut shells are suitable for feed. Is like to know what other substances I could use for this purpose.

ANSWER: You can feed your grown horses whole shelled corn and whole oats, half and half … provided both grains are “clean” (that is, free from dust and mold). Weanlings don’t like to deal with whole corn, and should be fed straight oats Keep a block of trace mineralized salt where the animals can get it. You might also give each horse (young or old) two tablespoons of dried brewer’s yeast daily as an excellent vitamin supplement.

(Some authorities prefer to grind the grains for better absorption, and to add a protein supplement. See MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 26 for a further discussion of equine nutrition by R.J. Holliday, DVM. — MOTHER.)

As to cattle: It makes a difference whether you’re feeding calves steers, young heifers, or milk cows. Cows and growing stock like their grain ground coarsely. I’d give the latter a mix of 40 pounds of ground oats, 40 pounds of ground corn, and 20 pounds of soybean oil meal (which is dropping steadily in price and now sells around here for $8.00 per 100 pounds). Peanut shells — if they’re available at low cost — can be put through the mill and combined with ground oats and corn. This, with the addition of 10 percent molasses, will make a good maintenance mixture for growing cattle or steers (but not for horses). Again, be sure the animals have access to trace-mineralized salt. Let me know exactly what type of cattle you want to feed, however, and I’ll make up a specific formula for them.

Farm Advice: Around the Homestead

In this and following issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, I’ll try to anticipate some of your needs and interests and pass along some further knowledge and information.

Just for starters, now is the time to do the following:

  • Order chicks, ducklings, goslings, brooder thermometer, fencing, seed corn, milk filters, baling twine.
  • Clean and check over your brooders, chick feeders, and waterers to be ready for the arrival of your new biddies.
  • Seed or reseed pastures.
  • Be sure goats, calves, cows, poultry, etc., are free of lice and mites.
  • See that four-legged animals have trace-mineralized salt and salt blocks before them at all times.
  • Check to be sure your planting and haymaking machinery are in good working condition.

A suggestion: Calves are selling cheap ($12.00 or less for good sized Holsteins). Vealers of about 200 pounds are bringing something like 50 cents per pound live weight. If you have extra milk, a couple of bucket calves might prove to be a profitable investment

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