Thursday, January 11, 2018

Staying safe, while staying warm

With winter's cold and damp days, it's no wonder folks are bringing out their heat lamps and putting them to use in lambing barns, brooders and else where. Which makes it a good time to remind folks about proper use with heat lamps and other heat producing items.

A few rules that we follow on the Premier farms:


Hang lamps and heaters secures by clips and chains.  
  1. Unplug the lamp when not in use, or use thermocubes (which automatically turn the lamp off when the ambient temperature is warm enough). 
  2. Use 175 watt bulbs, they produce sufficient heat for most of our needs. 250 watt bulbs cost more to use per hour. The 175w pressed glassed bulbs a very durable. 
  3. Clip lamps securely by the top clip holder, not the cord and do not place chords where animals are likely to reach them—particularly if adult sheep, goats or pigs are exposed to them. A lamp that falls onto animals and or bedding has consequences, including fire. 
  4. Hang carbon fiber heaters higher than heat lamps. They produce significantly more heat and hanging higher allows that heat to dissipate (rather than overheating animals beneath it).
  5. Allow space for animals to get away from heat producing items. 

A heat lamp that is clipped to a PowerBilt panel and whose cord is woven through the panel for added stability. 


  1. Don't hang lamps closer than 20" from bedding or baby animals that can't move away from them. 
  2. Don't enclose heat lamps in barrels or similar small spaces. The heat must be allowed to move away from the lamps.
  3. Don't use heat lamps any longer than necessary. Lambs and kids only need extra heat when they are wet newborns or weak, or suffering from hypothermia. (We've heard reports of folks using them continuously for 2-3 months.) However, chicks and young poultry need an additional heat source until they are fully feathered.  

Once lambs and kids are dried and past the initial chill, heat lamps can be removed or turned off.  

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Catalog Ready Fence

Even though someone works for a fence supply company (for instance, Premier!), this does not mean that their fences at home are perfect. My fences are one example. Their ages range from 30 to 5 years. Most are a mix of woven, barbed, and electric. They work! After all, it's been a few months since the cattle have escaped, I think I've got all the kinks worked out.

Well I thought so, until I volunteered my pasture/hayfield as a photo opportunity. This meant I needed to get my fences up to snuff.

In this set up, I have a feeder wire carrying the pulse down the fence line to power my temporary subdivision fence. It involves a few components from before my Premier days, they would be the porcelain insulator and the rusty old-style electric fence wire. 

My Premier components are a wood post activator, Tuff-Ring insulator, FiberRod with ScrewOn insulators, harp clips, and IntelliRope 4.5. They're all set-up poorly (by Premier standards), but the voltage on the fence measure 5kv (kilo-volts or 5,000 volts) all summer and the cattle stayed in (they only got out where I didn't have electric fence). 

So what's wrong?
  1. I should be using two conductors, not one continuous length. The vertical section of my conductor puts unnecessary stress on the fine metal filaments. This shortens the usable life of that conductor. 
  2. My wood post activator is meant as an attachment point for gate handles. The TuffRing is not meant to hold conductors that way (90° angle), it works, but once again, it's the wrong way to do things. 
  3. Porcelain insulator, there are a lot of these in use around farms. I've decided I don't care for them, my conductors always fall off until I get the right amount of tension on them. I don't enjoy wrestling a tensioned insulator back into place. 
  4. Rusty fence wire. Rust is corrosion. Corrosion = resistance. Resistance is an obstruction to electrical flow. 
In short, I'm using the wrong insulators in correctly, my conductor is being worn out too quickly and I'm not getting as much energy onto my fenceline as I should. 

What needs to be done to get the fence photo ready?
  1. Replace rusty wire with a proper feeder wire
  2. Run two conductors instead on one-continuous conductor. 
  3. Terminate those conductors with an insulated conductor hook. That will connect to the barbed wire, which is not, nor will be, energized.
  4. Connect feeder wire to conductors via PowerLink. This will provide better metal-to-metal contact on the fence. 

A much better setup. 
  1. Conductivity is improved. Galvanized and stainless steel connections carry the pulse much better than rusty wire. ,
  2. Connecting feeder wire to top conductor at the RopeLink, this offers the best metal to metal contact for transferring the pulse. 
  3. Two conductors terminated with conductor hooks. This reduces stress on my conductor, as well as letting me easily open up the fence to transfer cattle to the next pasture or to drive haying equipment through. 
  4. Switched out my porcelain insulator for a notched PI21 terminal insulator. I kept my old rusty wire to hold it in place, it works just fine for that use. I went with the notched insulator for its ease of sliding the conductor into place. 
Why didn't I set my fence up this way to start? 
Like most farms, you make what you have on hand work. What I had on hand worked, it wasn't perfect but it got the job done. 

The end result? Other than a more eye-appealing fence (my cell-phone pics don't do it justice), my voltage went up! How much? At least 3,000 volts. The tester in the photo measures up to 8kv. My digital voltmeter (which measured the earlier mentioned 5,000 volts) goes up to 9.9kv. I'll get that one out later to see if the voltage went up further than 3kv. 

I made sure to test at the end of my fenceline—the end of the fence gives you the voltage after going through any weed-contact or poor conductors. 

The fence is now ready for photos. I'll go give the cattle a pep-talk for tomorrow. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Goats! Goats! Goats!

If you've been following our Facebook and Instagram pages, you may have noticed that more an more goat photos are being snuck in. What's the reason? Well, we've expanded our goat herd by a little over 40 does. So there's more opportunities for our photographers to snap candids throughout the day.

Expanding the goat numbers has been on the to-do list for some time, but other things on the farm jump ahead from time to time. That is, until recent trip to market our fat wethers. They did quite well. Enough to put goat acquisition to the top of the farm's to do list.

The does complement our ewe-flock too. The farms have a few patches bramble, which makes for poor grazing but great browsing. We could clear it with a few days of chainsaw and clipper work. But that would result in too many doses of poison ivy for our tastes. Simply putting up electric netting and allowing the goats to work was far preferable. Their nimble lips know exactly which leaf to pick and which thorn to avoid. We'll add those photos just as soon as our photo team gets up the gumption to wade through thorns and other pesky plants.

Last that we heard, the buck has been running with the does—kidding photos will be around in about 145 days!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Miss out on attending Premier’s 2017 Sheep Field Day? Not a problem. You can now view photos and watch the presentations online.
Topics presented included:
  • Lamb quality: What is (and is not) an ideal market lamb, and why.
  • What do lamb buyers (including restaurants, stores and consumers) like and dislike about US and imported lamb as revealed by the American Lamb Board’s extensive nationwide audit.
  • How to succeed (and fail) at growing annual forage crops (rye, turnips, radish) for sheep.
  • Pros and cons of accelerated lambing (lambing more than once per year) illustrated in a 45 minute video of 4 sheep operations in KS, IA, NY and MI.
  • Impact of micro minerals on feeding sheep.
  • Hands-on teaching of critical winter shepherding/lambing skills courtesy of Premier’s 1000 ewes.
  • Lessons learned about Premier’s unique (no drop pen) indoor lambing system.
  • Lessons learned about LAC-TEK’s automatic lamb-rearing machines.
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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Double yolks, pullets and green eggs.

We don't mind that the eggs in the carton aren't all the same. We prefer it that way because it means our flock is that much more diverse in the field. And of course we'll share an in use image of one of our favorite feeders and egg basket
Premier chicken keeper and occasional catalog copy-editor, Vivian, provided us with an update on the poultry flock on Premier's East Farm—

My flock of 24 pullets are beginning to lay, offering an incredible selection of size and color. The chickens hatched in early October and as fluffy chicks, were models in a number of Premier product photos for the Poultry catalog that was in production at that time.

Oh the potential! Quiche, souffle, omelets galore and so much more. 

The eggs are even more colorful than they appear in the photo. The greenish egg in the center is aqua, and the far right is an olive green.

The flock is at least five breeds, which I've figured out as the chickens matured. The dark red-brown eggs are from the 5 huge New Hampshire Reds; medium brown from 2 Red Star; greenish eggs from an assortment of Ameraucana pullets (which have "lambchop sideburn" feathers on their faces); white from 3 Leghorns; light brown from Black Australorps. Still haven't figured out all the breeds—a small one looks a bit like a pheasant hen. 

What is suspected to be the "pheasant hen." She appears to be a Golden Campine, anyone else have thoughts?
Also, I'm getting quite a few double-yolk eggs, which I never saw from my previous flocks of Wyandottes. Among the eggs shown,  I strongly suspect at least 3 double yolks, just in the past 2-1/2 days. 

Well it's off to a garden symposium for me, which is another sure sign of Spring!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Lambs, tags and getting out of the office!

It's been a long time coming but I was able to get away from my desk and out to the lambing barn.
The smell of fresh bedding and the low rolling tones of ewes talking to their lambs was a pleasant change to the stale coffee and ringing phones of the office.

What's going on outdoors? Well, it's lambing season, all the lambs need to be tagged with their flock ID tag and/or Scrapie tag. The lambs needing tags provided an excellent opportunity to produce a Premier How-to video with the staff.

While in the barn, the farm-crew noticed a lamb that was not in the best of shape. It appeared dehydrated. The lamb was treated and is now on the mend. Its dam only had enough milk for the lamb's stronger sibling, so the ill-lamb was moved to the orphan pen. 

Dehydrated lambs can easily become dead lambs—which results in less lbs produced and less $$ in your pocket. It's easy to miss so be aware. 

Signs a lamb may be dehydrated:

  • Gaunt or not well filled out.  
  • If a twin, triplet, etc—its sibling(s) appears healthier and stronger. 

To determine if a lamb is dehydrated—

Pinch the skin along the back. After pinching:

If the skin stays momentarily tented or peaked, the lamb is dehydrated. Immediately treat the lamb (consult your veterinarian for proper procedure). 

Causes of dehydration:

  • Scours. 
  • Ewe lacks adequate milk to support the lamb(s).
  • Larger/stronger siblings outcompete their sibling for milk.
  • The lamb has sharp teeth and the ewe won't let it feed.  

If a lamb appears unhealthy but is not dehydrated, consult your veterinarian. 

With the lamb cared for we were able to continue on with the How-to video. The shepherd, Heather, demonstrated proper eartag procedure while longtime consultant, Gordon, provided voiceover narration. 

Topics covered were:

  • Lubricating tags—this provides easier insertion for those with weaker hands. 
  • Proper tag placement—in the center of the ear and away from any veins. 
  • Applying Catron IV fly spray during fly season. 
  • Making sure that there is room for ear growth if using loop tags.

A quick note: the tag applicators below may differ but the process is the same for each style of tag. 

Applying SuperLube.

Finding the veins to determine proper placement. 

Applying Catron IV to ward off flies. 

Providing room for the ear to grow (when using loop tags). 

It's lambing season therefore it's also ear-tagging season at Premier. Premier Shepherd Heather is applying antiseptic SuperLube to an eartag prior to insertion. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Importance of energizer output in tall-grass

If the grass gets this tall, mow it! 

We all know that electric fence and grass contact don't go together all that well. The energizer sends the pulse through the fence, the grass leeches energy from the fence so that there is less energy when an animal touches the fence.

But overcoming grass contact is possible if a higher output (more joules) energizer is used. How does this work? By sending more energy through the fence than the grass can leech, you will have more available energy when animal contact is made to the fence.

If you're expecting significant grass contact (though not as much in the photo above) consider going with a higher output unit. Consult us (800-282-6631) if you have any questions.