THE SIMPLE LIFE ON OUR OZARKS QUAIL FARM

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MISSOURI OZARKS, United States
After I retired I wanted to stay busy on our farm. My almost 30 year career was in the hunting & fishing industry, so raising the birds I had hunted for years was a natural for me. Being married to my best friend, wife & help mate is all I could ask for. My wife of 34 years and I love living on our farm and doing the chores it takes to maintain it. We are living a wonderful slow life in our retirement. Our grand daughter is such joy. Having a big garden to feed us, raising bees for honey, loving our pets and no debt. I feel blessed to have enjoyed this country living and sustaining our family through growing our food and simple ways my whole life. I am happy to see others across this great country deciding to live instead of just collecting more. A less-stress farm life is making us very happy. *******************************************************

Thursday, December 31, 2009

It's Time For the Birds to Go To Work

The 16 weeks it takes to grow the quail to full maturity is now over, it is late October. I decided to do a little more marketing. I listed the birds on Craigslist and had about 30 inquiries. Again, most didn't have any permits so I helped them get that process underway. I told them I am sure I would be out of birds. I also lost maybe a half dozen birds in the flypens from whatever happened.(they will fight)I decided to see if there was a market for dead birds. There is! I found a large taxidermist that bought every dead bird I had, as long as its feathers were intact. Helps a little with feed costs instead of throwing them out. I decided to contact the states department of agriculture and have them come out to certify my farm as NPIP. This was an interesting testing blood process and the agent was great. I passed so we are a certified NPIP - AI quail farm now. We built a website and had a couple hunting preserves contact us with an offer to buy all the quail. It was at a reduced price from what I was asking so I said if I had any left they could have them. I might look at preselling a couple thousand next year at a cheaper price to preserves just to have a guarantee sell of at least some, we'll see later.
So its time to let the hunters have their birds. We had 200 birds go out at 13 weeks old they really needed them and they flew really hard. I had approx 1,000 birds in the pen to start with and had 800 pre sold without really trying very hard to sell. I called the guys and they all came out and helped me cage them and left very happy.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

FlyPen & Selling


It's mid September and the birds have been in the flypen for a couple weeks. I am well pleased at their progress. I had only had 4 birds die in there. They are eating alot, my feed bill is high, but what I expected. Just a part of doing business. While the birds are maturing I have been marketing them. After 25 years in the hunting & fishing industry I have a huge network of potential quail customers. I have an email list of just over 10,000. Knowing I could overwhelm myself with orders I elected to just send out 1,000 emails asking if anyone was interested in either live birds or meat birds. The return was indeed great. Many of my old customers just wanted to wish me good health and tell me they missed me. (I spent 2 hours reading these with tears in my eyes as I remembered the past and how much I truly loved my career that was cut short). I booked about 500 live bird sales from these guys just for working their dogs and could have sold all the 1,000 birds I had, but most people didn't realize they had to get a special permit to have live bobwhite quail in their possesion. I told the rest of the inquiries how to get the permit knowing that if just a small percentage of them got it I could not supply them with enough birds. I also sold about 100 of the quail as processed meat for those that remembered feasting on them in their youth and missed that table fare. (there is a lot of potential business in processed birds around the Ozarks).
I am selling the birds at a minimum of 16 weeks old when they are fully grown. This would be late October.

Friday, December 18, 2009

1,000 Babies, Now What!!



It is late June and eggs have now spent 20 days turning in the incubator, so I stopped turning them and placed them in the brooder cabinet. Raised the humidity to 70% and left temp at 95 degrees. 3 days later I have a little over 1,000 baby bobwhite quail. Am well pleased because I had almost 80% hatch rate. So now its time to put in the brooders. While I waited for this hatch I had to get more brooder space. I decided to purchase 5 GQF gamebirds brooders. I am really looking forward to using these. I believe they will make it a lot easier than the cages I had built earlier and the 5 cages will hold about 600 bobwhite chicks. (pic above). So I filled these up with chicks and put the other 400+ in the wood & wire cages with the 250 watt red bulb heat lamps. I am getting more factory brooders, it takes a LOT less space to brood the chicks. After 4 weeks went by I was amazed at how much better I did with the GQF brooders. I lost hardly any chicks compared to the homemade brooders where they would 'pile up' some. With the outside of cage feeders and waterers it was so very easy. Since I am handicapped this made the job very doable. I now believe I can do this. I now took the brooders to my pre-flypen barn (My wife and son really did)released them from the door on the brooder, where the birds will stay inside on the ground but still under some heat for 4 more weeks. I have set up the automatic bell type waterers connected to a 50 gallon plastic barrel outside the barn that catches rainwater runoff. really works great. For food I use big 30# feeders that last a few days so I dont disturb the birds. Dont want them getting used to human contact so they will be wilder for hunting. After 4 weeks (8 weeks total) I am opening the release door in back of barn and turning in to my 100' flypen. (which I am having built while they are in the barn)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Next Step


It is now June. If afraid after 3 decades of being a retail businessman the desire to sell and see a business grow is still very strong. The doctor said I had to keep both physically and mentally active. I wasn't doing it for the money this time, more as a rewarding hobby, so the stress was not there like before. The doctors tell me to be less stressful, right! So I decided on the budget I would use to expand and since I am physically screwed somewhat I had to ask my wife for her help. Of course, she jumped in there with me. It is fun for her dealing with all the babies. Now the poop is another story, but that worked itself out.
So I had a 15 x 30 brooder barn built and some 12 foot rows of open top cages that a handicapped guy could lean over to feed and water. They worked great. I knew I didn't have enough egg layers to supply me with fresh hatching eggs, but I enjoyed taking care of the breeders and gathering eggs so I kept them and sold the eggs. I decided to spend the money and get a cabinet incubator, so I bought the GQF 1500 series Professional cabinet model that incubates over 1200 quail eggs at a time.
I was ready to go so I bought 1200 eggs from a huge gamebird farm in Texas. He shipped them securely, I set them in the cabinet incubator, set the heat and turning controls, filled the humidity bucket and was off and waiting for 20 days to go by.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My First Plan


I decided to buy a few pharoah quail. 2 males and 6 females.(this is early March, 2009) Harvest their eggs , incubate them and learn how to raise them up to adults. So I got a small 100 egg incubator, put a weeks worth of harvested eggs in and wait the 17 days. It ended up being about 30 eggs and about 20 hatched. I placed them in a plastic brooder tub with a heat lamp and 100 watt bulb over them. Amazingly I only had 2 die in the 2 weeks they stayed in the tub. By this time they were getting a lot bigger, so I had a friend build me an 8 foot 2 section cage with 1/2 inch wire on the sides and bottom. I placed it in my barn, put in the young birds and a heat lamp. After 7 weeks total they all were alive and full grown. Eating and crapping constantly. So now what do I do? I spoke with another friend about doing this and he knew a guy that raised the Bobwhite quail, which is what I wanted to raise. I visited his place and got hooked. He had a great story about why he was doing this. He was a business executive that lost his wife to cancer shortly after they had retired. He was lonely out on his farm all by himself after 40+ years of marriage. He had bird hunted for years but that had really slowed down. So he decided to raise about 1,000 quail a season, process and package them. He would put 4 or 5 in a bag and tell his old or new friends from church or werever and ask them if they liked quail meat. If they did or wanted to try it he would tell them to drop by his place and pick some up. They loved coming out to his farm and he loved having the visitors. He is a good man. I thought since I had a stroke and was trying to heal I to was lonely since I couldn't get out much. I would give this a try. I built up my pharoah stock since they were a lot easier to raise and are full grown in 7 weeks. I had my son butcher a bunch of them and freeze them for me. I too enjoyed giving them away. But I found most people wanted the white meat bobwhite instead of the dark meat pharoah, so I made the change. I bought 7 breeding cages (each cage had 3 sections with each section holding 2 females and 1 male). So I had 21 sections full of birds.(Picture of a 5 cage rack shown above) I bought 40 female and 20 male bobwhites as my egg producing stock. In a weeks time I had about 150 eggs.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Why I Started

Raised in a tiny Missouri Ozarks town in the 50's and 60's I grew up everything country. My dad and I hunted and fished a lot. After finding myself I decided I wanted to make a career in the Fishing and Hunting business. Myself and my business partnered open a very successful retail and wholesale business in that field. After 25 years of enjoying this I had some serious health issues and had to retire. After 2 years of healing I new it was time to get back to a more active life. Always loving to quail hunt and knowing how the bobwhite quail was almost gone from the Ozarks, yet the demand to hunt them was still very strong. Doing my research showed me there is a great demand for these birds among dog trainers, hunting preserves, field trial organizations and just simply for food. So in March 2009 I began my quest to get back to life through this wonderful bird. I am enjoying it so very much.