Winter on your Farm


Winter is just around the corner. The air is getting chillier and with that comes a few obstacles when tending to your outdoor livestock. In this post, I’d like to mention a few ways that you can make winter a little easier on you and your animals.

Freezing temperatures are the main problem when winter rolls around. Water freezes and we worry if our animals will be able to handle the drop in temperature. Most animals are fine with the cold winter weather. As long as they have been living outside year-round in a non-climate controlled environment, they will adapt. Animals like goats, horses and sheep, will develop a woolier coat that they will then shed come spring time. Some animals well get woolier than others, like my katahdins who look practically shorn in the summer but grow a thick coat of wool during the fall. Even my little nigerian dwarf goats beef up their coats for the winter. So their natural coverings are completely adequate for most locations. As long as they have a place to get out of the weather, they will be fine without additional heat. It is not advised to add heat to your animal shelter in the dead of winter. If it must be done, maybe because your animals are birthing and you do not want the babies to freeze or some of your animals have become sick and the cold is making it worse, then heat should be added gradually. Adding too much heat to animals that have been acclimated to cold weather, can end up making them sick.

A passive way of keeping your animal shelter warmer is by using the deep-litter method. This is a layering technique where you put a thick layer of something like pine wood shavings under your usual bedding like straw or just use all pine wood shavings. This bedding would only be turned during the winter, not removed. The bedding will slowly compost over the course of the winter, releasing a small amount of heat. This will keep your animal shelter slightly warmer than the outdoor environment and the air. Once temperatures warm up, you do a big spring clean and add all that partially composted litter to the compost pile.

Shelters should be secure enough to keep your animals dry in the winter and out of the weather but do not seal them up so tight that fresh air can’t circulate inside their shelter because this will lead to respiratory illnesses. Some people think it is better to lock all air out but some air exchange is still needed to keep your animals healthy.

Water freezing is the main obstacle in winter for myself. For some people who have electrical connections near their animals, a heated water bucket will suffice to keep the water from freezing but this doesn’t work for everyone. There are a few ways to deal with this if you do not have access to electricity:

Keep two sets of water containers. All the water containers you have for your goats or quail or rabbits, make sure to have double that. In the winter, water generally freezes overnight but it can also freeze throughout the day depending on temperatures. In the morning you will have frozen water containers with your animals outside, inside you can keep an entire set of containers, either filled with warm water or ready to be filled. Switch those out in the morning or also in the afternoon if needed, and you won’t have to worry about whether your animals have access to their water. This method works well for me because the water spigot outside of my house tends to freeze in winter. So water is only available indoors.

Keep water in black rubber containers. Those black rubber containers that you see at tractor supply and other feed stores are great for keeping water in the winter because they tend to warm up if left in the sun. This will keep water from freezing during the day but might not prevent it from freezing overnight. The rubber ones are great because the ice can be removed from them quite easily just by flipping them over or bending them as the water does not stick to the rubber when it turns to ice. They are also easy to fill if you keep a 3 gallon bucket indoors, fill with water and just walk around and refill your outdoor containers in the morning.

Try some ping pong balls. If it’s only cold enough that only the surface of the water is freezing, then a few ping pong balls thrown on top of the water might help. They will help to keep the surface in motion especially after animals have come to drink and they’ve been moved around. Water can’t freeze if it is moving.

Make sure to give your animals a little extra to eat. Keeping our bodies at the right temperature requires a little more energy in cold weather. The same holds true for our animals. I like to supplement my animals with sugary or fattier foods in the winter to help them out. For example, I generally don’t feed my poultry corn during the warmer months unless I am fattening them up. Since it is great for fattening animals up, I will give it to them in the winter. So they can use those extra calories to build or keep a nice layer of fat and just keep warm. I also tend to give my sheep and goats more sweet feed in the winter to keep them “well-rounded” but not too much if they are pregnant. Sometimes also I give them a little molasses in some warm water to get them through the winter, especially on the coldest days of the year.

I’m sure there are a lot of things I am missing here but these are just a few ways we can keep our animals more comfortable during rigid weather. If you have any other tips, I would looks to hear about it in an email or in the comments below.

Investing in Silver: Silver Saver Review

This is Part 3 of my Investing in Silver Series. I’ve already mentioned why one would invest in silver and some of the ways how one could invest in silver. This last part is a review about my most current method of silver investment: Silver Saver.

Silver Saver is essentially a method of investing in silver, using a traditional bank account model. You open an account with them, then you can buy silver through the account by adding money to it. The best method of using Silver Saver is to schedule a set amount to come out of your checking account on a regular basis, say every week or every month. The money drawn from your checking account then goes to purchase real silver which is physically located in Wilmington, Delaware and stored under your name.

Now before I get to the benefits of using this method, let me just relay some of the negatives some people have mentioned about Silver Saver:

1. One of the biggest cons that many survivalists will mention is that you are purchasing silver which you do not have physical possession of. Some people would consider that worthless because in a catastrophic situation, you would have a hard time getting to that silver and it might be as good as gone.

2. Silver Saver has an odd method of counting your silver. You can schedule any amount of money to come out of your account to buy silver and usually that amount of money will not purchase an equal amount of silver at spot. So the amount you buy ends up being fractioned. If you buy $200 worth of silver at a spot of $35 you might end up with 5.7124xxx troy ounces of silver. Kind of a weird number and just to clarify they do also charge a premium so you do still pay a little over spot as with other silver dealers. Some people don’t trust those odd numbers because in reality, you can’t even buy that quantity of silver in the physical world but I feel that it’s just a side-effect of this method and allowing you to buy any amount of sliver you want instead of restricting you to whole troy ounces.

3. There is a storage fee for the silver you hold in your account. This is something I overlooked when I initially signed up. Silver Saver charges a storage fee of 0.05% of your assessed silver value.

4. The premium can be a little high if you are buying small amounts of silver but they become more competitive as your investment amount increases. A table of their current premiums (december 2012) is pasted below.

Range Premium
$25 – $149 7.49%
$150 – $299 6.49%
$300 – $999 5.99%
$1,000 – $9,999 4.69%
$10,000 – $24,999 3.99%
$25,000 – $99,999 3.49%
$100,000 + 2.99%

Now the benefits of Silver Saver and why it is my current preferred method to build up my silver investment.

1. For as little as $25 per week or $50 per month, one can slowly start building their investment. This works for me because I just don’t have hundreds of dollars to be able to spend on silver at once in order to take immediate physical position and there aren’t any other places that I know of that allow you to by silver in this cumulative fashion.

2. Every time my account reaches 21 troy ounces of silver, I can then take delivery of the silver so that it is in my possession. So while your silver is not in your possession when you first start, you can begin taking regular delivery of your silver once you read the 21 ounce threshold. To clarify, you need a minimum of 20 troy ounces to take delivery but there is a delivery fee of 1 troy ounce if your are taking Buffalo Rounds for delivery. The delivery fee is higher for other types of silver bullion. Delivery fees or shipping fees are common with all types of silver dealers. This is just one of the few that has you pay your delivery fee in silver.

3. Silver Saver has referral program that anyone can take part in and, full disclosure, I am taking part in it. Any time someone you refer to Silver Saver, opens an account there, you also get a portion of the premium of their investment. So an investment of <1000 yields the referrer 50% of the purchaser’s premium. An investment of over $1000 yields the referrer 25% of the purchaser’s premium. This is the only silver program I know of that benefits its investors in this way.

So as you can see Silver Saver has it’s pros and it’s cons. The best place to get your silver is probably your local coin shop but if you only have a little but of money to put towards your silver each month and it’s just not feasible to visit the coin shop every week or month, then Silver Saver may be the right choice for you. Check out their website for more info.

Investing in Silver: How to Invest in Silver

This is part 2 of my Investing in Silver Series. Before you begin investing there are a few terms your should be familiar with.

Spot: Spot is the current price of silver, this also applies to gold, palladium and platinum. When you buy silver from anyone or anywhere, you are generally expected to pay a premium over Spot. When you are looking for places to purchase silver bullion, you obviously want to look for the places that charge the lowest premiums over Spot.

Troy Ounce: This is the weight measurement used to weigh silver. One Troy Ounce is 31.1 grams.

Silver Bullion: generally bullion are government issued and demand higher premium

Silver Rounds: rounds are privately issued and demand a lower premium.

Junk Silver: These are silver coins that are not pure silver but contain about 40 -90% of silver in them. They are a cheaper way to get into silver investment. I don’t collect them but they are said to be better for a survival situation as they come in lower denominations and are easier to trade.

.999 Silver: This is the purity of the silver. All silver bullion is .999 Silver. If you are searching to buy silver online on elsewhere make sure it says .999, if it just says “Silver” it may actually end up being junk silver and you should not be paying spot for one troy ounce of junk silver.

Kitco: a website that many use for checking spot on silver and other precious metals. there are also forums for discussing investment in precious metals.

Stacking: collecting silver

LCS: Local Coin Shop

Silverbug: This is what you may become if the silver bug bites. It’s an endearing term for those have become obsessed with the collecting of silver whether for investment or for enjoyment or both.

There are a few ways you can choose to invest in silver:

eBay: This is how I took possession of my first silver rounds. There are many auctions on eBay offering silver in many different forms. You finds, rounds, bars, bullion, junk silver, just anything you can think of. I would try to purchase one ounce of silver a week using eBay but this quickly because difficult as I was trying to pay less premium over spot but it seemed as though the premiums kept going up. I think eBay ends up having the higher premiums over spot. Great if you’re a seller, not so great if you are a buyer.

Stocks: After my initial eBay investment, I moved to buy a large amount in stocks so as not to have to pay shipping. I invested in SLV stocks. There is also SILV that one can invest in. I found that stocks are a very restrictive system of investment, in my opinion anyway and for my purposes. Even though silver is generally considered a long term investment, it is difficult to get your money out of the stock market. There are fees for buying and selling and there are taxes for capital gains. There are taxes for all capital gains but when you have all your silver in stock and you are selling all it once, you’re going to end up paying quite a bit in taxes. As opposed to selling or trading silver bullion here and there. Survivalists would rather die than put there money in the stock market, especially when it comes to silver because for some, it is important to have physical possession.  That is another con of the stock market if you need to have silver in hand. However, it is very simple to get into by starting up an online brokerage account and start buying what you need. So it is appealing for many especially if you already trade in the stock market.

Precious Metal Sites: APMEX, Gainsville Coins, Provident Metals have some of the lowest premium over spot prices for silver. These sites are great if you are looking to buy 5 or more ounces at a time. You will of course have to pay shipping which should be added to your premium over spot to see if it is worthy investment but they are great for taking immediate possession of your silver. Some will give discounts if you pay in cash or bank wire. This require some set-up with the seller but they can save you money on your investment.

Local Coin Shop: Often abbreviated as LCS to all the silver bugs out there. This is, in my opinion, the best source for Silver of any type. If you have one of these in your town and you don’t have much money, it would be feasible to stop in once a week a buy an ounce or two. The premiums are generally pretty low compared to the other sources but it varies from shop to shop. As long as they are honest you should be getting value for your money. Unfortunately, I do not have a shop less than an hour from me. So I chose another option: Silver Saver. Go on to my Silver Saver Review.