It’s autumn. Time for comfy sweaters, pumpkin-flavored everything, and… vacation? For backyard chickens across the country, shorter days often signal time for a break. Birds may stop laying eggs, lose old feathers, and grow new ones. This annual vacation from egg laying is called molt.
Molt is driven by season and usually occurs in the fall when the hours of sunlight decrease. For our birds, fall means it’s time to prepare for winter, which requires quality feathers. That’s why hens take a vacation from laying eggs and redirect their energy to regrowing feathers.
When do chickens molt?
This feather loss phenomenon first happens when birds are approximately 18 months old and then occurs annually. Backyard flock owners should expect about 8 weeks of feather loss and regrowth but could take up to 16 weeks for some birds.
Though the general process is similar, not all molting seasons are created equal.
The onset and length of the molt look different for each bird. How long chickens molt for depends on factors such as age, consumed nutrients, and the environment. You’ll often first notice that feathers are losing their sheen. Hens may then gradually lose a few feathers or it could happen overnight. We’ve noticed that more productive egg-layers and younger hens recover from molt more quickly than older or less productive hens. In any case, proper nutrients and management can help birds through molt.
Three tips for molting chickens
Pack the protein Just like humans, birds need a different diet depending on their current activity or life stage. Protein is the key nutrient to pack in a flock’s diet during molt. The number one nutrient switches from calcium to protein during molt. This is because feathers are made of 80-85 percent protein, whereas eggshells are primarily calcium. When you notice your chickens losing feathers, switch to a complete feed that’s 20 percent protein and includes probiotics, prebiotics, and key vitamins and minerals. Purina® Flock Raiser® chicken feed is a key option. A high-protein complete feed can help hens channel nutrients into feather regrowth and get back to laying eggs.For organic flocks, try switching hens to Purina® Organic Starter-Grower when molting begins in order to maintain organic status and provide a higher level of nutrition they need for feather regrowth.
Keep stress low
While on vacation, people generally want plenty of comfort and room to relax. It isn’t so different inside the coop during molt. Keep molting chickens comfortable by preventing stress. During molt, the area where the feather shaft meets the skin can be very sensitive, so reduce handling and provide plenty of clean bedding. Offer enough space for your birds to rest and relax in private. For each bird, four square feet inside the coop and 10 square feet outside of the coop can keep them comfortable. In addition, provide access to plenty of fresh, clean water and proper air ventilation. Hydration and ventilation can help keep the backyard coop spa-like for feather regrowth. Avoid introducing new flock members during this time, as adding in new friends and potentially re-shuffling the pecking order could add stress.
Transition back to layer feed
Once birds are ready to return from vacation and begin producing eggs, it’s time to adjust the nutrient profile to match their energy needs once again. When hens begin laying eggs, transition back to a complete layer feed that matches your goals. Gradually mix the complete layer feed with the high-protein feed over the course of 7 to 10 days. This can help avoid digestive upsets and allows birds to get used to the taste and texture of their new feed. Once they’re back on a complete layer feed and have vibrant new feathers, get ready again for farm fresh eggs for your family.
Take a look at Purina’s Show Pig Feed Programs to be successful in the show ring. Training a pig to eat can seem silly. They should come by this habit naturally, shouldn’t they? They do; however, it is the pig’s natural behavior that must be changed in order to reach its full genetic potential. Determining the proper feeding program will allow your pig to look its best on show day.
Show pig self-feeding behavior
The average show pig will consume 11 to 13 meals per day when offered feed from a self-feeder. Typically, self-feeding pigs will consume these meals during daylight hours as pigs are diurnal (most active during daylight hours), and researchers have found that continuous lighting does not affect total feed intake per day.
Factors that influence intake patterns of self-feeding pigs include the number of pigs per feeder, total space per pig, and the availability/form of water. However, these factors will not influence the quantity of feed consumed per day unless feeder access is impacted. That is if there are too many pigs per feeder space, or too many pigs in a given pen space. If that is the circumstance, pigs will demonstrate nocturnal feeding patterns and rise during the night to consume a sufficient amount of feed to meet their energy requirements.
Of course, other factors come into play during self-feeding, such as social order, speed of consumption, and timid and/or aggressive eaters.
The social order of pigs dictates which pig(s) will be dominant at the feeder, and you will see that dominant pigs are the more aggressive eaters. For example, if you were to hand-feed six pigs in the same pen, you would find that a number of them will eat aggressively while subordinates will eat timidly, directly affecting the growth rate. Competition at the feeder not only speeds up the time it takes to eat a meal, it can influence the quantity consumed as well.
Water and eating habits
Water intake is incredibly important to the health of your pig and is directly related to feed consumption. If you find that your show pig is not meeting its daily feed requirements, your first instinct should be to assess its water source. Pigs should always have access to water that is clean, fresh, and abundant. Feeding pigs without providing an adequate amount of water or providing low-quality water will always result in an unsatisfactory outcome.
Water is also useful in getting pigs to eat faster and larger meals. Adding enough water to a pig’s meal to produce a paste-like consistency will increase the speed at which a meal is consumed. By providing enough water from a clean source, you can help ensure that your pig will consume enough feed.
Show pig feeding methods
In order to train your show pigs to consume the desired amount of feed in only two meals per day, your effort must be to overcome their natural instincts and eating habits/behaviors.
Three feeding methods are most commonly used in preparing a pig for show:
Self-feeding: the pig decides when and how much to eat per day
Hand-fed: the owner decides when and how much the pig will eat per day.
Two meals per day; morning and evening
Combination self-feeding/hand feeding: the pig is generally fed through a self-feeder until it reaches 100 to 150 pounds and is then hand-fed until show time
It is crucial that when you would like to limit growth rate, your pig is already trained to consume two, 10-minute meals per day. If not, it can be frustrating to get pigs to consume the amount and type of feed products that you want them to consume.
Hand-feeding versus limit feeding show pigs
It is important to note that hand feeding is very different from limit feeding. When a show pig is hand fed, the exhibitor or pig’s owner determining how much feed to place in a feeder (of any type) per day. Limit feeding is giving the pig less than it wants to eat per day (usually somewhat less than 90% of what normal feed intake).
If you give a 100 lb. show pig 4 lbs. of feed in the morning, there is feed remaining in the feeder that evening, and you give it an additional 2 to 4 lbs.; you are not limit feeding. The pig is determining how much it will eat per day, which is considered self-feeding.
If you are feeding in this manner and attempt to include Powerfill show feed supplement as a topdress, your show pig will more than likely reject it. The pig should clean up each meal in 10 minutes or less, and if so, it becomes much easier to introduce topdress, Powerfill, beet pulp and other supplements.
HIGH OCTANE® Powerfill™ is very different in taste and texture when compared to pelleted showpig feeds. Powerfill contains ground beet pulp which causes it to be a bit gritty. Pig owners sometimes feel that their pigs do not like Powerfill. However, a distaste for this product usually occurs when a pig has been taken off of full feed and introduced to HIGH OCTANE® Powerfill™ on a “cold turkey” basis. Naturally, a pig will refuse to eat when HIGH OCTANE® Powerfill™ is introduced in this manner.
Training your show pig
It is much easier if you train the pig to eat what you desire at an early age (or lighter weight). If you wait until the pig is heavier (over 200 lbs.) and older, training will be a challenge.
The end goal is to feed that pig what you want, not what it wants. Of course, it is a challenge to introduce a new feeding program to your show pig at times. Instead of giving your pig the choice to eat how much and what kind of feed (or topdress) it likes, give it one choice and allow it to eat or be hungry.
For example, if you decide to transition a pig from self-feeding to limit feeding with HIGH OCTANE® Powerfill™ in the diet (along with pellets), you will want to follow these steps:
Remove the self-feeders and replace with hanging feeders
Remove the feeder 10 – 12 hours prior to the first hand-fed meal
Reduce the initial meal to a half serving
Ex: if you want to feed 2 pounds per feeding, offer 1 pound at this meal
Give the show pig 10 minutes to eat, and then remove any remaining feed
Repeat step four for the second feeding
Note: meals should be 10 – 12 hours apart at the same time(s) each day
When the pig consumes all of the feed offered, increase the next feeding to a full meal
If the pig is eating slowly, hand or limit feed another pig in close proximity to get the first pig to increase the speed of intake
Note: you want the second pig to make the first pig eat faster, but not have access to it’s feed. Make sure there is a barrier between the pigs, but one that they can see through
This technique is critical because in order to help fulfill the genetic potential of your show pig, you may need to tweak the diet several times in a short period. If you see that a pig is in need of muscle, cover, rib shape or fill, you must be able to control what the pig takes in. At times, these dietary changes must be done daily until you have the pig headed in the direction you desire. If the pig constantly balks at what you are attempting to feed, it cannot look the best on show day.
Keep in mind that the pig’s appearance as it steps into the show ring is of vital importance. Getting the pig to peak physical appearance depends upon what it eats and how it eats.
You have a great deal of influence over what the pig looks like as it is being judged. Just as you train the pig to respond to your direction in the show ring, you should also train your pig to eat.
Stop by J&N Feed and Seed and talk to us about your show pig feeding program. As your certified Purina Dealer, we carry the full line of Honor Show Chow feeds. Let us help you raise a winner.
Source: Dr. Kevin Burgoon, Ph.D.
Senior Nutritionist, HONOR® Show Technical Solutions
Now is the time to get your fall seed. We have over 40 types of seed including wheat, oats, barley, assorted ryegrass seed including Elbon and Marshall Rye, and additives such as chicory and buck plot mixes. Whether your seeding for livestock grazing, wildlife feed plots or something else, we’ve got the fall seed for you! Not sure what you need? Stop by and talk with our experts, we’re here to help!
We also carry a variety of bagged and bulk fertilizer. Need help getting your bulk fertilizer home? No problem! Use one of our fertilizer buggies free of charge! Stop by J & N Feed and Seed or call us for delivery at (940) 549-4631.
Double Down Deer Feed and Double Down Custom Mineral are now available at J&N Feed and Seed.
Double Down Deer Feed is a custom blend originally created for the Holden Pasture Deer Lease.
Formulated with the highest quality ingredients.
Contains ZERO least-cost rations and ZERO grain by-products.
Includes a quality yeast culture to aid in digestion and support a healthy rumen.
Contains one of the highest pelletized TDN (Total Digestible Nutrient) levels on the deer feed market.
Developed with proven attractants to draw in and attract overall consumption.
Double Down Custom Minerals – Contains a vitamin package with increased concentrations of Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E.
Mineral package contains key proteinates such as Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, and Cobalt Proteinate.
A quality yeast culture included aiding in the digestion and distribution of Double Down® Custom Minerals.
Contains proprietary attractants to aid in consumption.
Mix custom minerals with deer corn at a rate of 8lbs DDCM to 300lbs corn.
Shop J&N Feed and Seed in Graham, Texas, for wildlife feeds, feeders, attractants, and of course firearms. We offer feed and feeder delivery and set up as well as filling services and feeder repair services.
Water, shade, and the right nutrition can help mitigate heat stress in cattle.
The weather report says it’s going to be a scorcher, and sure enough – the temperatures start steadily climbing. Cattle start grouping in shady spots. A few cows start panting to stay cool. The flies settle in. And, suddenly, you’ve got a herd struggling with heat stress.
The heat may be unavoidable, but you can take proactive steps to mitigate its impact on your herd. First, let’s look at the dangers of heat stress in cattle.
When temperatures rise
Cattle have sweat glands, but it’s not a very efficient way for them to cool off. Instead, they rely on respiration, or opening their mouths and panting, to help them dissipate heat. When it’s 80 degrees or hotter out, their ability to regulate their own temperature becomes a big challenge. You start to see behavior changes – more time in the shade, less time grazing, and increased water consumption.
To make the heat even more challenging:
A cow’s rumen activity naturally increases body heat. Fermentation occurs in the rumen, producing heat as bacteria break down and digest forages.
Cattle seek shade to help keep cool. Grouping up in the shade sometimes has the reverse effect and creates a lot of radiant heat between cows. The thermometer might read 90 degrees, but the temperature in the middle of the group could be much hotter.
Crowded cattle attract more flies, causing animals to move even closer together to protect themselves.
Animals with dark hides have a higher risk of suffering heat stress than those with lighter-colored hides.
Suddenly your herd feels overheated and cattle are less likely to graze.
When grazing stops
Forage is the number one nutrition source for cows on pasture. If they aren’t grazing as much during a heatwave, they’re probably not meeting their cattle nutrition requirements.
When cows don’t get adequate nutrition, they’re at risk of:
Losing body condition
Taking longer to rebreed
Producing less milk for their growing calf
Generating a weaker immune response to health challenges
Long-term fertility consequences
If cattle are too hot to graze, they may also be too hot to consume mineral at target intake levels. If you’re using a fly control mineral and intakes are below target levels, cows no longer benefit from it because they aren’t getting a full dose of fly control.
Curb heat stress in cattle by planning for proper shade, water and the right nutrition program.
11 hot weather tips for cattle
Ensure access to fresh, clean water. A brood cow drinks 25 to 30 gallons of water on a normal day. She’ll drink even more in hot weather.
Check water tanks often to make sure they are clean and free of contamination (algae, feces, organic material, etc.). You might need additional portable tanks to ensure adequate access.
Place water tanks in shaded areas to keep water cool if possible. Keep waterers several feet away from buildings or fences, so cattle can access water from all sides.
Choose a mineral designed for consistent consumption during hot weather, like Purina® Wind and Rain®Summer Season Mineral.
Control flies to prevent further stress and grazing disturbance. Purina® Wind and Rain® Fly Control Mineral contain Altosid® IGR, an insect growth regulator offering a beneficial mode of action to deliver fly control via cattle nutrition. Consider Purina® Wind and Rain® Fly Control Mineral to stop the horn fly life cycle by preventing pupae from developing into biting, breeding adult flies.
Supply ample shade. Whether it’s provided by trees, a manmade building or portable structures, shade is critical. It might be necessary to move cattle to a pasture with trees or additional shade.
Strategically move rotational grazing herds to fresh pastures in the late afternoon/early evening instead of the morning. Cows will have access to fresh grass when temperatures are beginning to cool and will be more likely to graze.
Work cattle as early in the day as possible when temperatures are lower.
Don’t graze pastures short before moving cows to another. Pastures with taller, thicker grass feel cooler than pastures with short grass where more soil surface is exposed.
Observe cattle frequently and take precautions when hot and humid weather is forecast.
Source: Chris Forcherio, Ph.D.
Beef Research Manager
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ClariFly® larvicide is expelled in manure, where it helps control house and stable fly populations by interrupting their life cycle.
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Amplify® high-fat nugget to support endurance and bloom.
Find out more about this product here Purina EquiTub Supplement with ClariFly.
Shop local, shop J&N Feed and Seed for Purina Horse Feed & Supplements and all your horse supplies.
Onion sets and seed potatoes arrive mid-January at J&N Feed and Seed. Planting seed potatoes and onions are at the top of everyone’s gardening list this time of year. As everyone in North Texas knows, our late January and February weather can be a gamble— temps can be spring-like one day and fall below freezing the next. But, the weather extremes should not deter gardeners from planting during these months. Potatoes are top of the list for planting this time of year.
Other good go-to cold weather vegetables are root produce such as turnips, beets, and carrots as well as hardy leafy greens like spinach, cabbage, kale, and chard. Bulb veggies (onions and garlic), as well as asparagus crowns, can also be planted at this time.
Preparing and Planting Potatoes
When purchasing seed potatoes, look for certified seed potatoes. These are seeding potatoes that have not been treated with growth retardants to prevent sprouting. Conventional potatoes in grocery markets are typically treated with retardants.
After you have planned and prepared a garden spot with well-drained, loose soil, the seed potatoes can be prepped for planting:
Cut each seed potato into quarters (sulfur dust can be applied to the fresh cut ends) and let the potato quarters set out overnight or longer until cut sides callus over. Seed potato quarters are then ready to plant— for a good rule of thumb, potato quarters should be planted 3” to 4” deep and spaced 12” to 15” apart. To provide plants plenty of growing room, make sure rows are spaced 24” to 36” apart.
Caring for Potato Plants
Potatoes need consistent moisture, so water regularly when tubers start to form. Before the potato plants bloom, hilling should be done when the plant is about 6 inches tall. Hoe the dirt up around the base of the plant in order to cover the root as well as to support the plant. Bury the plant base in loose soil. Hilling will keep the potato plants from getting sunburned, in which case they turn green and will taste bitter. You will need to hill potatoes every couple of weeks to protect your crop.
When the potato plants have bloomed, new potatoes are ready for harvest. For larger potatoes, harvest only after plant tops has fallen over. For more information on planting seed potatoes, visit the Texas A&M website.
Other Cool Weather Vegetable Plantings
Lettuce, spinach, and cabbage can be planted at this time either by seeds or plant starts. For reference, these vegetables can be planted in February with seed or starter plants.
Stop by J&N for your seed potatoes, onion sets, and other cool-weather vegetables.
It may be chilly outside at this time of the year, but winter is a perfect time for a number of outdoor chores. Just consider how much better outdoor chores like soil preparation, planting, transplanting, and pruning can be done without toiling in hot summer temperatures.
If you need to move a plant to a different spot in the landscape, this is the month to accomplish this job. Most plants move best when they are fully dormant as a result of prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. Remove some of the top growth to compensate for the inevitable loss of some of the roots. Once the plant is moved, water thoroughly, apply root stimulator, and a few inches of mulch over the root area.
January is a great month to accomplish pruning of fruit trees. Annual pruning keeps the harvest within reach, thins crowded branches, allowing more light to penetrate developing fruit and stimulates new growth for next year’s crop. Shade trees can also be pruned at this time.
Fruit trees and vines can be planted at this time as the ground usually does not freeze here in north Texas. You can also prepare the soil for new flower, rose or shrub beds by mixing plenty of organic material like compost or a flower or shrub mix. This way the soil is ready for immediate planting when temperatures get a little warmer.
Fertilize pansies to keep them actively growing. Houseplants can be fertilized with reduced rates of water-soluble fertilizer this month. Do not over-water your houseplants.
Birds of all kinds appreciate a constant source of seed, suet and water during the winter and you will enjoy the activity they create in your backyard. Just remember once you start feeding, you should keep it up through the winter.
Winter is upon us and egg production tends to slow down in late fall due to the shorter days. Lighting is a huge component to this decrease as well as the temperature drop. A laying hen’s endocrine system is stimulated by light so the shorter days slow egg production or can stop it completely. Some flock owners look at winter as a dormant break for their laying hens. Other owners like to keep the production throughout the winter months. In order to do this, hens need more than 14 hours of light during the day.
A nine-watt compact fluorescent bulb is all that’s needed for a typical backyard coop. Plug the light into a timer and have it come on early enough in the morning to give the birds 15 hours of daylight, and egg production will be improved through the shorter days of winter.The light needs to light up the largest area possible. Clean the lamps once a week to keep them clean to output as much light as possible.
Start this process in late fall since the lighting changes at that time. Make sure to hang the lamp or bulb up in the coop where the chickens can’t snuggle up to the lamp and cinge there feathers. Make sure the light reaches the whole coop and offers heat throughout.
Other Tips on Winterizing:
Keep the coop dry and clean. The best way to do this is to keep make sure the coop will not have standing water if rain comes. Make sure to replace the bedding with dry bedding each week.
Bedding also provides insulation for the chickens. Cover large holes where drafts or critters can enter. Be careful not to cover up all the holes so proper ventilation can occur.
Freezing temperatures can freeze up the water source. Think about getting a heated water source or pour fresh water each day.
It’s important to gather eggs daily because those can freeze as well.
Throw down extra feed or corn before they head to roost at night. This will provide energy and keep them warm at night.
Your flock needs some time and attention during the winter months to keep up with egg production. The extra work is worth it! You’ll have a full carton of eggs all winter!
Winter cattle feed booking is now available at J&N Feed and Seed. Yes, it’s that time of year again. Stop by the store now and lock in your feed price for the winter month contract season. Make sure you get the BEST available nutrition for your animals at the BEST price booking with J&N Feed and Seed. Please call the store at 940-549-4631 or stop by for current pricing.
J&N Feed and Seed
450 Pecan St
Graham, TX 76450-2524
At J&N Feed and Seed we’ve got the quality feeds and the booking proposition you need to stay on top of the cattle business.