Farm tour

This weekend I’m getting to go to a farming conference. I am very excited to go and meet folks who farm for a living and learn from them. Today the association who is putting on the conference offered some farm tours as part of the pre-conference workshops, and I got to visit Cobb Creek Farms in Hillsboro to learn more about their pastured poultry operation.

If seeing carcasses or reading about killing chickens is going to disturb you, here is a picture of some bluebonnets you can look at instead. 😉

First we toured the slaughterhouse. There were plenty of jokes about dead chickens. Grady, our tour guide, called the above machine the wheel of misfortune. Chickens go in upside down and they’re beheaded.

Once they’ve bled out, the carcasses are scalded (left) and sent through the plucker. Then they’re eviscerated, washed, and cooled in huge tubs of ice water.

Once they reach the proper temperature, they’re sent into the super cold dis-assembly room where they’re butchered (if the supplier has requested that), labeled, vacuum-sealed, and boxed up. After that, they’re frozen and ready for the supplier to pick up or be sent to distributors. It was a super clean, honest operation and I was intrigued to see how chickens can be processed on this medium scale level. It’s much less intense than the giant slaughterhouses, but much more efficient and professional than having to do the whole thing yourself.

Since it was a gorgeous 75* February day, we then went to the pasture where the chickens spend half their lives to see the mobile coops and learn about how they improve the land while getting to be fat, happy chickens.

There are about 600 Cornish Cross chickens per coop, and the coop is moved every day. They get all the feed and water they want while they’re on pasture. The chickens only live for about 7-8 weeks before they’re butchered, and they spend about 4 weeks of that time outside in these coops.

There’s a single line of electric wire around the bottom of the coop to discourage predators. I thought that was pretty genius.

Above you can see how the chickens improve the pasture. On the left of the wire the pasture has had one pass of chicken grazing. On the right, the pasture has had two passes. Even in February the forage is much greener and thicker where the chickens have fertilized and lightly tilled the soil. That’s pretty cool.

Here’s a picture of how the feeders and waterers work. There are also misters in the top to keep the chickens cooler in the summer.

One of the best things I heard today was that a good farming operation needs to be focused on improving the soil – no matter how it looks for your land, you will never go wrong if you’re working to make the land better. And a close second is profiting from those efforts. They’ve managed to make that happen here. I don’t think a broiler operation is the right one for our farm, but I did get some great ideas about mobile coops for laying hens and I really enjoyed getting to see a successful operation like Cobb Creek!

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