The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

A Fine day for a Slaughter

October 9th, 2015 by Ed Bruske


Every month this time of year we have 50-plus Freedom Ranger broilers ready for harvest. Since some of our customers prefer birds on the smaller side, we process half at 10 weeks of age, the rest at 11 weeks.

We normally split things up again over two days. But yesterday was such a glorious day, and with rain in the forecast for Day 2, we hit our midway point and decided to just keep going. We had 16 birds plucked and dressed by lunch.

I handle the killing part. After nabbing a couple of birds in their cage (chicken tractor), I walk them over to the killing area where they go head-first into these metal “death cones.” After saying a few words and giving them a farewell stroke of the neck, I open a carotid artery and they bleed out. Then it’s into a 140-degree tub of water to be scalded before I remove the feathers ever so tenderly by hand.

My wife takes over the eviscerating part, also removing any feather remnants and generally making our Freedom Rangers look gorgeous before I weigh, bag and price them.

This is about a million miles from the way chickens are handled commercially. But we are just a tiny dot on the meat chicken map, playing an ever-so-small role in feeding our neighbors here in Uostate New York.


Synchronized Cow

October 7th, 2015 by Ed Bruske


Here’s the latest twist in our efforts to impregnate our Jersey cow, Emily: Starting Sunday, we will begin giving her a series of hormone shots what will culminate in artificial insemination on October 21.

How can we be so sure of the date? In fact, if I took a couple of minutes to make some calculations, I could even narrow down the hour when the inseminator would do the dirty deed, as Emily at that point will be “synchronized,” meaning timed to ovulate according to the hormone shots we give her.

That’s just the miracle of today’s modern bovine breeding science. Well, maybe not so miraculous. Our vet says the odds of  a pregnancy resulting from synchronization are just north of 40 percent. It would be much more certain if Emily were to give some definitive sign she is in heat–such as standing in the pasture and bellowing for no apparent reason–but lately she hasn’t, despite the interventions of various artificial breeding techniques.

I’m guessing most consumers are unaware of the role pharmaceuticals and modern technology play in producing that gallon of  milk they pluck from the cold case at the supermarket. Cows can’t give milk, after all, unless they’ve first given birth, and there ain’t no bulls standing around the modern dairy farm.

Besides these hormones, some cows wear electronic necklaces or ankle bracelets that alert the dairy technicians to any unusual movements that might indicate they are coming into heat.

Seems it’s not so easy being a small-time farmer.