Here is an aerial picture of our breeder farm. On the upper left are our two 50’ X 300’ breeder barns – where we breed the flocks of ringnecks we use to produce chicks in March and April. Breeders are going into these buildings next week. The longer building on the bottom of the picture is our “hen barn” where we breed most of our white birds. The smaller building on the lower right side is our egg wash building – our eggs are washed throughout the day as collection occurs, and then stored for daily pickup by our hatchery crew. We have three breeder pens – each about 6+ acres in size. These breeder pens are used only for breeding – not for production. On the upper right is our straw shed – we fill it and use all the straw and grass and alfalfa for the breeders.
We need to decide for certain how many pheasant breeders to keep for 2010. When we set up our breeder flocks, we clip the wings on the breeders – so once we decide a bird is a breeder – we can’t look back.
The mature pheasant business has been strong during the last two months – but who knows how it will go through the rest of the winter. The very highest end of the market – the corporate preserves seem to be hit the hardest. On the other hand, South Dakota has gone well for most pheasant suppliers – one of the main reasons for the higher than expected South Dakota demand has been the fact that South Dakota farmers can’t get their crops out of the fields, hence hunters can’t get to the wild pheasants. That isn’t a scenario that we can count on to repeat, i.e. I don’t want to base 2010 production levels on a hope and a prayer that the fall of 2010 will be like the fall of 2009.
So much of the ultimate outcome of the 2009-10 winter pheasant season will depend on the severity of the winter. We won’t know that answer obviously for months. Yet 2010 spring chick demand from our commercial accounts (i.e. those farms that raise pheasants for sale on a commercial scale) will be determined by how winter sales go (will there be excess birds or a shortage).
So I’m all the way back to the second paragraph of this post, it’s difficult to decide how many breeders to keep.