Category Archives: Small Farm How-To

Animal Husbandry- Doing What it Takes

As a farmer with livestock I feel it is my responsibility to do whatever it takes to try to keep my animals in the best of health.  Part of raising livestock is dealing with reproduction and the difficulties that may arise. Nature is not perfect, even with the best preparation, things we do not like, happen. Injuries, abnormalities, and even death can occur during the reproduction process. Having good animal husbandry means we need to deal with it the best we can and error in favor of the animal.

At Burnin R Farms we raise Pigs, Cows, Chickens, and Horses. Having babies is how we increase our herd and have stock to sell. Sometimes Mothers do not accept their babies and we need to bottle feed them until they take to solid food. There are times that we need to take in a baby that was injured and bottle feed it until it is healthy. The babies are our livelihood, their survival is very important to our business, but it is more than that. Our love for the animals makes us do whatever it takes to help an animal in need that is under our care.  When a farm gets too big to feel that need, then I believe that business stops being a farm.

New Babies Just Born
New Babies Just Born

We had 2 litters of pigs born within minutes of each other.  Due to weather coming in we decided to pen and shelter them together.  Unfortunately,  due to the mothers size and the number of babies, a couple were injured. Several babies were stepped on, one had skin torn away from its hip, another received a swollen and sore leg. It was our duty as the animal’s caretaker to do what we could to heal both babies. We are bottle feeding both, we stitched the one up and continue to rest the other. Both seem to be doing well and will eventually return to their litter at weaning.

This attitude towards the treatment of animals is the glue that has held many small farms together. Saving one animal can mean earning a profit on that litter or breeding. Even though almost all of our livestock will eventually enter the food market, while they are in our care they will be taken care of to the best of our ability. These  values  are lost within most big ag corporate farms, so I am proud to be on a small farm. If you support these values, it gives you one more reason to support your local farm.








Hay and The Window of Opportunity


Spring Pasture
Loving green grass again







One farm task in the spring has more to do with winter than spring. Every small farm handles hay in some form or another. The current  popular method is baling large round bales to feed to livestock, but the method has changed considerably with the advances in technology. In order to have enough feed for the winter, hay must be put up starting in the spring.

We use hay to feed our horses, cows, and  on occasion our pigs. With the horses, the old standard small square bale is the easiest and best version of hay bale for us to use. This old standard is also the most time consuming and labor intensive bale to produce. Each 60 lb. plus bale is handled at least 7 times by hand. From the baler, to the trailer, to the hay loft, to the animal, this bale is mostly handled by hand.

Hay Handling
Hay Handling

When baling hay you have to find a window of opportunity, a span of several dry warm days to complete the process. There is no formula to follow or exact times to go by, the hay dries according to the weather. We have to plan according to past experience and hope the weather that is forecasted stays true.





Mowing with Old Tractor
Mowing with Old Tractor

Last night we started cutting our hay. We saw that we had 5 days with sun, not super hot but a span of dry days. The longer we wait the more the grass matures, if the grass forms a seed head then the protein content drops. Our goal is to be able to put up hay with the most protein as possible. That is not always easy to do when you have to find a window of opportunity with no rain, when the ground is not saturated from recent rain, and when there is sun to dry and cure the grass into hay.

Tonight we will continue to cut our pastures. We will also rake and turn the hay that has started to dry today. Since we only have evenings during the week to work, we will be both cutting and raking in stages over several days. We started cutting on Tuesday and plan to actually bale the hay on Saturday.

Raking Hay
Raking Hay


It is a lot of work, but completely satisfying to know you have food going into winter. Plus there is no better olfactory stimulation on the farm than the smell of fresh cut grass curing into hay.

Check back for updates on how our first hay cutting progresses.


New Income Stream For Burnin R Farms

I am always looking for another good way to add another stream of income. When something catches my eye I do a lot of research to see if it would be a good fit for our operation. One day I stumbled onto a story that I just couldn’t get out of my head. The more I researched it, the more it made sense to me to give it a try.

Mushrooms!!  Not the kind made famous in the 70’s, but the kind that are showing up in farmers markets across the country. There are many different kind of edible mushrooms but the most popular are different varieties of Oyster mushrooms, Shiitake mushrooms, and Lion’s Mane mushrooms. These are often referred to as gourmet mushrooms and are not usually available in local grocery stores because these varieties are delicate and do not ship well.

Europe and Asia have had a large industry farming gourmet mushrooms for many years. In some 3rd world communities mushrooms are a great source of food and revenue.  But in the United States, we have been slow to grasp the value of mushrooms. In recent years the U.S.  has slowly been increasing its consumption of mushrooms, making now a perfect time to get into this industry.

I could write a book from what I have learned about the health benefits of mushrooms. They have been studied for heart health, diabetic health, nerve health, and for their anti- tumor properties. Eastern Medicine is full of references to different mushrooms. Mushrooms have even been found in archeological studies of ancient cultures.  I have also learned that the gourmet types that are raised are included on the list of mushroom that are known to improve health.

I have chose several varieties that I will be growing, but I have started with Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus). Lion’s Mane is a very aggressive grower and it loves to produce the fruit that we eat. I have been told that the flavor is reminiscent of lobster, but it reminded me of eating morels as a kid.

Lion’s mane in nature grows on hardwood trees.  This year I saw one while deer hunting in Southern Missouri, so they are also a local mushroom for most people and can be wild harvested. I will be growing mine on hardwood pellets with supplements in a bag.

The mushroom forms a mat of mycelium  in and around the hardwood sawdust in the bag.  After it has fully colonized the bag, it ready to fruit.

Lions Mane Mushroom Fruiting
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Fruiting



By cutting a small slit in the bag the concentration of oxygen spurs the mushroom to fruit. It starts to grow outside of the bag. In the picture, there is a small ball on the front of the bag. That initial start will grow to beautiful mushroom.



It takes several days to grow to full maturity. While it is growing it is important give it a small misting to keep it moist and hydrated.

Lions Mane Mushroom starting to grow
Lion’s Mane Mushroom starting to grow


Lion’s mane, when young looks like a cauliflower.







It is really hard to patiently wait for this mushroom to grow

Lions Mane Mushroom Still Growing
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Still Growing



Wow, it just keeps growing.







Lions Mane Mushroom Still Growing
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Still Growing



Boy, this mushroom is looking great!!







Lions Mane Mushroom Almost Mature
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Almost Mature


Almost a week of growth. You can see the hair like projections starting to grow. When fully mature these hairs will flow down giving it a mane like look, Hence the name Lion’s Mane.

This project is just begun and I am so excited to expand the operation. I am also excited to finally be able use my degree in Biotechnology to to benefit the farm.





Building a Backyard Chicken Coop

It has been almost a year that our coop build was started. With a lot of help from family, the coop finally took shape and is now working very well. I will recap the process that we used to decide what coop to build and how we built it.

We wanted a multi use chicken coop. I personally wanted a coop that we could have separate breeding pens for different breeds, plus a main section to house our layers. Our end goal was to be able to be somewhat self sufficient and have the ability to breed, hatch, and raise our own chickens.  After weeks of looking at coops on the internet and purchasing a book on coop plans we made our decision on a plan.

We chose a coop that had a 10′ x 15′ center section with two 10’x5′ lean-to areas, one on each long side. The center section would be for our laying hens and the two side pens could be used for breeding, isolation, brooding, or acclimating new birds. We chose to use as many wood pallets as possible in the framing to cut down on cost, and to use a steel sheeting exterior to make it maintenance free.

We started our build with 5’x5′ wood pallets to make up the floor.  Our coop dimensions were limited by, and directly planned according to the pallets we had on hand. Our site was on a slight slope so we used cement blocks under every corner of every pallet as support and to level the floor. We nailed, and screwed the pallets together the best we could to tie the floor together. the struggle was in tweaking the used pallets into square so they would fit together. Not all of our pallets fit perfectly together but for the price they worked great.

Starting our Chicken Coop Floor
Starting our Chicken Coop Floor







We then covered the floor with a layer of 1/2″ particle board sheeting.  This served to tie the pallets together and to give the coop a solid floor. We painted the flooring to help against moisture and because we know it would be in the elements until we got the roof on.

Finished Chicken Coop Floor
Finished Chicken Coop Floor







We were able to use a few pallets in the walls as well, but we had to finish the framing with 2×4’s. Our pneumatic nail gun came in very handy and speeded up the process. The pallets used in the walls also determined the wall height of the lean-to sections as we attached the short end of the sloped roof to the them. We did use all 2×4 wood in the framing of the main section and the roof frame. We framed a slanted roof with the high end  towards the south to hopefully use the extra wall space for light.  (It was great in theory until raccoons found how to gain entry from climbing onto the lean-to roof and into the window that we didn’t think needed to be screened. They are smart little boogers.)

Chicken Coop Front View
Chicken Coop South Side Being Framed







We found some metal barn sheeting at a discounted price. We located a construction company that sold their left over sheets and cover sheets for small projects. The panels were mixed colors and sizes, but that is how our whole project was anyways. We put the darker colors on the north side and the lighter panels on the south to try to keep the sun from heating up the coop too much in the summer. We even had some silver ones that we used for the roof.

After all of the steel was up, it was time to finish the interior. We separated the 3 sections with chicken wire and put in doors, we added one outlet and Led light with a switch by the door, and hung the nesting boxes and roosts. All we lack are the doors to the outside runs that we have yet to build.

We have successfully hatched out 2 clutches of eggs collected from this coop. One clutch was a barn yard mix and the other came from one of our side breeding pens of pure Barred Rock Stock. I added a brooding box with a heat lamp to one of the walls. The box can be removed for cleaning and the lid secured out of the way when not in use.

Added Brooder Box with light
Added Brooder Box with light







All in All we are very happy with how are coop turned out. I know we will be able to use this for many years. And the 3 section design is perfect for our farm as we grow.


Building a Homemade Hoop Shelter for Pigs


My daughter and I made this hoop shelter for our pigs 5 years ago and it is still in great shape. It is fairly easy to build with just a little elbow grease.

Pig Hoop Shelter without Covering
Pig Hoop Shelter without Covering








This shelter is built from common materials and goes together easily.

2- 16′ cattle panels cut down to 12′

2- 4’x8′ sheets of untreated plywood

4- 6″x4″x8′ treated posts

4- 1″x3″ untreated boards

1- 10’x12′ tarp

Misc: Screws, Lag bolts, metal plumbers strapping, and fence staples

We started by notching the ends of the treated posts. The notches enabled us to overlap the ends of the posts to be glued and nailed together while still giving us a flat surface all the way around. We notched the posts with a circular saw, we used multiple passes to create slices half way through the post. The slices were then chiseled out and smoothed. Update to our original build- We would at this point in the build add a sealed floor of some sort.  Hindsight is always 20/20.

In order to secure the cattle panels in a curved position, we put lag bolts on 2 alternate sides. The lag bolts were put in 2 inches from the outside edge of the posts. We used 6 bolts per side and spaced the bolts evenly along the post. The bolts were left out about 1.5 inches so that the wire panel had a good point of contact.

We wired the to cattle panels together along their length and put one end up against the bolts. The panel was then carefully pulled down so that the opposite end rested inside of the bolts on the other side. We have at that point a base and a hoop. The ends were secured in place with some large fencing staples, and all of the sharp edges of the panel and wires were removed to prevent injury.

The end panels were the next piece of the build to tackle. We held one plywood panel up to the end of the hoop and traced the outline onto the wood. We cut out the curved end piece and secured it to the wire with plumbing strap and screws. The entrance side will have a doorway cut out as well before it is attached. We cut two 1″x3″ boards that ran from top to bottom inside the end pieces. we attached them with screws to give the end pieces more stability. We double checked again for sharp points of screws and made sure to grind them down to prevent future injury.

Attaching the End Panel
Attaching the End Panel
Attaching the Interior Support
Attaching the Interior Support

We covered our hoop buildings with tarps secured with lathe around the bottom edges. This worked great right up to the point when the sows started their nest building phase. They tore huge sections of the tarp off to add to their nest even though they had plenty of straw. We have since corrected this by adding sheet metal strips to the bottom of each side, and we completely covered a few  huts and removed the tarp all together.

There is always improvements to be made, and the first version is just a starting point. These are great huts, but by all means not perfect for everyone. Like I mentioned earlier we would have added a floor to these, and when we build more we will add that option. We have had these huts for 5 years and have only needed to replace the tarps.  As are farm grows I will need to start building more.