All posts by Rick

I am a permaculture designer and consultant. I run Wolf-Beach Farms.com and publish in several online and e-print publications.

Our first livestock auction

If you have never heard of an animal auction and are looking into getting animals for homesteading you may want to check them out. The family and I went out last weekend to check things out. None of us have ever been so it was going to be an experience. If nothing else the kids could check out different types of livestock.

It started later in the evening and we went prepared with snacks and eating dinner along the way. Veedersburg Sale Barn The auction was about an hour and a half from our house in the city. It started at 6pm but we arrived at 5 to check things out first and get registered. If you have never been to an auction you must register to get a bidding number. When you bid on an item, your number is recorded. It takes about 20 min or so to get everything registered and you can pay and leave with your item, or stay and pay at the end. Arriving early gave us the opportunity to check out all the livestock and equipment. Not only were animals being auctions but feeders, watering containers, cages and other homesteading and animal equipment as well as hay.

While checking things out we spotted a few things we liked, and might bid on. We went looking for Kaki ducks, and if it was a good deal, maybe get a few. There were a couple of calves, goats, rabbits, turkeys, ducks, pheasants, fertilized eggs, guinea pigs, quail geese, pigeons, and a whole bunch of chickens in all shapes sizes and breeds. Hundreds and hundreds of chickens. Having only chickens as livestock at the homestead (with exception of fish) our only comparison for pricing was as chicks in catalogs or at some of our local farm stores. $1.50-10.00 depending on breed etc. We saw 1 year old laying hens going for as low as $2.00 each. For us this was a deal. You didn’t have to feed for 6 months, no heat lamp, no brooder boxes, and you get almost instant eggs. Now I have checked out Craigslist for layers and 1 year old layers can go from $20-40 each in our area. $2.00 was a steal in comparison to raising them for 6 months. With 22 chickens on hand at the moment we were maxed out on hens.

We did see some ducks later in the evening, or should I say morning (1am) but they were older and we have read that ducks will imprint on you when they are young. We wanted that kind of relationship with our animals and opted to get chicks later (turns out the next day).

We watched a few rabbit lots go by, what was available, and pricing. Because we had checked things out before hand we knew there were better rabbits coming. We ended up picking up 4 rabbits, 3 does and a buck. We are going to use them for our breeders. So, because rabbits weren’t on the agenda, guess who got to come home and get materials for building rabbit hutches.

More details on rabbits, hutches, ducks and duck house in a later post.

Each auctioneer was different. We had 4 over the span of the night. The first one would tell what sex, and breed the animals were and sometimes age. The second one would only tell you the sex. The third said nothing other than how many and type of animals. He seemed to go much faster and didn’t spend much time allowing others to bit. You either got his attention right off or it was gone.

The auction was a learning experience. Some things we picked up for next time, and advice to others going. Research what you are looking for before getting to the auction. Often they are in the middle of nowhere and there is no wifi or cell service. Show up early and inspect the animals. Know the order of the lots. You would hate to miss the animals you were looking for on a bathroom run. Plan on staying late, we left around 1:30 am and there were still plenty of animals left (5pm-1:30 am). If you don’t know what to look for bring someone with you who does. Ours had hard bleacher seating, so next time we are bringing cushions, sitting on those for 7-8 hours makes the backside sore. If bringing kids, bring entertainment, and explain BEFORE that, yes they are all cute animals, you cannot take them ALL home. Also, isolate your new animals for a period before introducing to your existing animals; this is to protect any potential diseases or parasites. If you wear you work boots, mud boots or footwear you normally wear around your animals clean and disinfect them before going around your animals. There are lots of animals moving through the sale barn and lots of potential to bring something home. The auction is a great way to pick up equipment for a much reduced rate, but be sure to inspect it before you bid on it. Make friends with the people around you. Turns out the couple next to me is looking to slim down their herd of milking goats, and we are looking to get some. Save us a trip to the auction barn, for goats and equipment. The couple on the other side sells piglets, and I know two people looking for piglets. Unless the auction lists what is up for sale, you never know what you may see, and for me it is like a treasure hunt. Each new lot brings new potential. Don’t get stuck on one particular animal or lot. Sometimes a bidding wars can erupt because two people let emotions get the price WAY above what it should be. We saw a baby goat go for $260 when the twin only went for $70. Go figure. Listen to the auctioneer carefully for several lots before ever making a bid, you can distinguish between $20/lot for 20 birds and $20/bird in a lot of 20. A difference of $380.

This was our first but most definitely not our last auction. So more on different auction barns, and what we learn along the way.

New water feature

Over the winter I took down the aquaponics outside due to freezing temps. I let the pump run through a long pipe so that the fish would continue to get oxygenated water. One day while I was out and about I was able to snag a 20×25 foot section of roofing EDPM liner. The family was moving, and he worked at a roofing company and had it left over at his home. He needed it cleaned and I can always have a use for EDPM liner. Brainchild happened. I always loved playing in creeks as a kid, making damns, waterfalls, pools, and just listening to the water. All the kids like this as well, so I put in a new water feature. It served several purposes.

Current water feature 2014
Current water feature 2014
Water Feature 2013
Water Feature 2013

First, adding additional oxygen to the water for the fish in the pond. Having stagnant water hinders the fish growth. Having several waterfalls adds tons of opportunity to get more oxygen into the water. More oxygenated water means a higher stocking density is possible. It is not only good for the fish but also good for the plants and the beneficial bacteria breaking down the fish waste.

Second, the waterfall and associated mini ponds foster more places for bees and other beneficial insects to get water. Having lots of areas where the water is shallow allows bees, butterflies, frogs and toads to hang out. While cleaning out some of the winter litter off the bottom we will have tons of frogs over the next couple of years, due to the number of tadpoles I found.

Third, all the pools, and rocks it mimics more closely what is found in nature. Sediment and particles can settle and be filtered out of the water. I plan on adding more water loving plant species on my next trip to Aquatic Design. I want to plant in the pond itself and along the creek too.

Fourth, the sound is calming and relaxing. We can now sit on our deck (now that it is chicken proof) and listen to the babbling stream in the evenings while we eat on the deck.  Sorry for the “mess” I went out to get a quick video so I can publish. Sounds great. It will look much better once I clean up, finish laying rocks, and put in plants.

Fifth, it acts as a barrier to the creeping plants. Last year we added some mint and catnip to the area. These will get out of control if not in pots or otherwise contained. The creek will act as a barrier to keep them between the creek and the deck (we hope).

Sixth, the creek is an overflow from the water collection rain barrels. Once they are full the water will overflow into the creek.

Lastly, it keeps the kids entertained and is a learning opportunity. How does water flow? Making damns, making pools, boat races, currents, eddies all kinds of lessons can be learned. Once more wildlife sets in we can study what lives in the running water. Where do the frogs hang out and why? The kids and I can spend hours adjusting the waterfalls, where to place the bigger rocks, the smaller rocks, the pebbles, where to have a sand bar. When you move one rock the whole dynamic changes for that section. Who knows, maybe we will make a map like they do for white water rafters. Where are the good rapids, where are the large boulders, where is the waterfall, where are the deep pools. Let the kids name them. Then next year, make a whole new path.

Every year we have found new things to add to the yard, change or redo. What we learned and how to make it better, or change something around. In the five years we have been at this property the landscaping has never been the same from one year to the next.