Saturday 24 January 2015

Rare breed Ixworths 88% fertile

Infertile "clear" egg
The Ixworth hatching eggs are 88% fertile. This is based on a small sample, only six eggs, but it seems to indicate that crossing the two distinct lines of Ixworths has resulted in greater fertility and may have overcome the inbreeding problems that results from having a very small population and a narrow genetic base.

The eggs that were set last week were weighed and candled today, the Bresse Gauloise eggs in the same incubator were only 67% fertile, not bad but they should have been at least 75% so I cannot sell any yet. Fertility should improve as the days lengthen and we have warmer Spring days.

Incubation takes 21 days but, by day 19 the embryo is more or less fully developed and as it emerges from the egg it needs the air held in the air sac in the blunt end of the egg. In order to have enough air the egg must lose about 13% per cent of its moisture in days 1 - 19, this is replaced by air.

Target and actual egg weights

Relative humidity in the incubator is as important as
Fertile egg
temperature so that moisture is lost at a steady rate, approximately 13% of the egg's initial weight over 19 days. To achieve this target weight loss the Rh should e from 40 - 45 %. You can see from the graph that humidity as been too high and weight loss has been less than required during days 1 - 8 so humidity will have to be decreased to bring it back to target on day 19.

In 2013 we visited the Cotswold Farm Park to have a look at their rare breeds. They had a few Ixworths, they were a bit on the small side and not really up to standard for the breed. I offered to send some fertile eggs so perhaps they will want some this year when their incubator is set . 

Sunday 18 January 2015

Ixworth and Bresse Gauloise hatching eggs for sale

Ready for hatching
About a week after the winter solstice the hens start laying again; they have a new set of feathers, they've fattened up a bit, their combs are bright red. Its the run up to the breeding season.

I have set some Bresse Gauloise and Ixworth eggs in a small incubator it takes 24. I don 't really want a lot of chicks too early in the year this is to test their fertility for buyers of hatching eggs.

After six days its possible to see if the eggs have developing embryos by examining them with a bright light. This is "candling" the "clear" infertile  eggs are bright and transparent , the fertile ones show a network of blood vessels, the developing embryo.

Ignore the humidity reading (57) the eggs have just been set,
it will be normal (45) after a few hours
I expect that somewhere between 80 and 90 per cent of the eggs will be fertile, its important to know this because buyers have high expectations and always count their chickens before they hatch. If fertility is less than 80 per cent I'll wait and try again later in the season.

The Ixworths are one of our rarest breeds and because the population is small inbreeding and resulting infertility are common; so much so that I have started afresh with Ixworths by crossing two distinct strains  bred by Fergus Morrison. the result of crossing the two different but slightly   inbred strains should be a good degree of "hybrid vigour" and high fertility in the next generation.

I only have one male and one female Ixworth, a pine marten killed the other hen. If you want try rearing one of the UK's rarest breeds You can have six eggs. They'll take a week to collect and are two pounds each plus postage.

There's more information on Ixworth and Bresse poultry on the blog page, March 2013.

Saturday 10 January 2015

Sheep and goats indoors for the winter

Last week the sheep came inside; just in time! This week we seem to have had continuous rain, hail and sleet, hurricane force winds and this morning while I was milking spectacular lightning from side to side of the Sound of Mull.

As I've said before, the sheep housing is for the benefit of the shepherds as much as the sheep. I can feed them in five minutes and look them over more easily. Some sheep don't seem to appreciate the level of comfort they have been given. There's one that continually escapes through the feed barrier. BBC Farming Today heard a piece on animal behaviour that suggests some sheep don't like to be confined in houses. Makes sense really. They have up to a hectare each on the hill and then get about 1.5 m square indoors.

The goats don't mind indoors. They
Plotting an escape
don't have wool, only hair with a bit of cashmere underneath in some cases and can't stand rain especially when its driven by the wind. This doesn't mean that they don't plot escapes just for the hell of it.

New truck

I have long ad the view that grassland farmers don't really need tractors, especially when silage and muck spreading is now largely done by contractors. Most people could manage with a FWD truck of some sort.

 We need to move livestock about in trailers, no one takes droves of sheep far along the road these days. My Grandfather took cattle on a whole day drive along the roads into Perth and Jimmy Ogg who taught me about sheep drove his hoggs from Aberdeen links to Glenbuchat in the
spring and back to the links in Winter. He slept the night in "Mrs Green's hotel"; he opened a gate into any convenient roadside field, slept there with his sheep and was away again before dawn.

We need to move feed, fencing materials and perhaps run a set of grassland harrows over the hay park in spring it can all be done with a truck, anyway a truck is much more comfortable than small white van for an old man. This is all to rationalise my purchase of a FWD pick up truck for 2015. Never mind if it uses more fuel and is more expensive to insure and maintain......I like it!