The Afghan-Whitewing Pheasant

The Afghan-Whitewing is a breed of pheasant that we first discovered in Washington State. A farmer had a flock of these pheasants, and we were able to purchase a small number of eggs from him. We then hatched them here on the farm in the early 90’s. With this being our first flock, we raised the birds, paid close attention, and compared the habits and characteristics of the Afghan-Whitewing to our resources, and they were exactly the same.

These birds differ from other pheasants in a number of ways. Most pheasants’ eyes are very dark, while the Afghans have a very distinct yellow iris, and black pupil. Another trait is the coloring of the coverlids. As I am sure you are well aware, the coverlids refer to the feathers that cover the shoulders. These feathers are responsible for protecting their delicate joints. On the Afghans, the coverlids are, you guessed it, white.

Their body color resembles a rust red color and is naturally very dark. They do not have a ring around their neck. Their breast is very similar to the Melanistic Pheasant in the fact that it can almost be called black, it is so dark. This breed is a small one, with the adult male only getting up to about 2 ¼ lbs.

The posture and temperament also sets them apart from other breeds. Unlike other pheasants, this breed stands very erect, almost as though it is on full alert. They appear to be more aware of their surroundings, and give off the impression that they have an idea of what is going on. They are very fast birds as well. Between their distinct look and unique temperament, they have quickly become a farm favorite!

In the late 1990’s, we were producing around 1,000 Afghans a week! Due to the reduced demand, we now produce only a few thousand a year. When the farm first began, we were breeding many different types of exotic pheasants, including Buff and Mongolian Pheasants. We eventually got out of raising exotic birds in order to focus on running our commercial game farm.
The Afghan-Whitewing Pheasant
 

 

 

 

The Afghan-Whitewing Pheasant

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What Makes MacFarlane Pheasants Grow? Rain, Rain, Rain.

As the U.S.’s largest pheasant farm, MacFarlane Pheasants produces an astonishing number of day-old chicks and hunt-ready adult birds every year. And where to they come from? We grow them ourselves on one of the most high-tech and efficient pheasant farms in the world. But it all starts as twinkles in pheasants’ eyes across the road from the main farm in our breeder pens. This year over 39,000 have been out and about living the charmed life, eating, crowing, and making more pheasants. Here’s what happens as we close down the egg-laying season.

The first thing Breeder Manager Troy Cisewski and his team will do is remove the pheasants. Most of the birds, all between one to two years old, will be sent across the country for fall hunts. But a few, selected by merit of certain desirable traits, will be retained for next year’s stock. They’ll be the foundation for perfecting the MacFarlane pheasant. Once those select birds are set aside, Troy’s team will empty all the pens out of huts and other equipment to clean and sterilize them, then enter the pens with tractors to till over the earth and replant for the fall. All the pens will be sterilized, tilled, and replanted in less than two weeks.

While the rearing pens on the main farm have access to water, across the street in the breeder pens we split irrigation water access with a local farmer. Because of the demand on resources, we’re much more dependent on natural rainfall. This year, with consistent rain, Troy describes it as “fantastic.” Even with the summer’s cooler nights, he says, the vegetation in the pens has grown exceptionally well. We’re hoping for more of the same as we plant our winter cover.

In the breeder pens, we till milo, also called sorghum, exclusively. It will have the next few months to grow high and thick, and by October, when we’re putting the next generation of breeder birds into the pens, seldom is it shorter than shoulder-height. It becomes the basis for the birds’ cover and protection. True, live cover is more difficult than just putting huts out, but it’s something we consider vital to our birds’ health and wild nature. Natural cover is always a bit of a gamble, being so weather dependent—if the milo isn’t fully mature by the first frost, it withers fast. But with the season that we’ve had, we’re confident that we’re laying the seeds of another banner year.

It’s been an amazing year for MacFarlane Pheasants, and not just in the pens. We’re bigger than ever, and it’s because of our staff that we’re able to continue as the U.S.’s number one producer of pheasants and pheasant chicks. This year we expanded to our largest number of breeders ever to meet our customers’ demand, and Troy says he wouldn’t be surprised to see another 6,000 breeders in the pens next year to provide the stock for an even larger number of orders. Well, he hopes to see them. The cover he and his team have planted will be awfully high.

What Makes MacFarlane Pheasants Grow? Rain, Rain, Rain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Huns a-Flying: Switching Hungarian Partridges Speedily

MacFarlane Pheasants’ Kristin Merriman is a woman besieged. As the manager of the Hungarian partridge barn, she and a team of two others are single-handedly managing 60,000 birds this season from new-hatched chick to mature bird. With this many mouths to feed and clean up after, she’s grown efficient in her preparation and offered a peek at her methods of moving partridges faster.

1. First, Be Knowledgeable

Merriman, who joined the MacFarlane team in the winter of 2013, has quickly learned how much more care partridges require versus pheasants. As a smaller bird, they have smaller moving parts, requiring an increase in care. For instance, where a pheasant has two phases in its first seven weeks, starting in an “A” room and moving to the “B” room, partridges require a precursor, what we call the table room, for their first week. An additional room means additional work. Hun chicks are also watered manually, instead of with automatic lines, meaning that special drinking stations made of mason jars must be set up by hand. By knowing the requirements and the current best practices, and by the education of doing the same steps again and again, Merriman was able to begin modifying. For instance, utilizing our dosatron, she and her staff are able to mix up the prepared water with medication in large batches, cutting down on individual time requirements. They’ve also integrated an automated feed system, which allows them access to feed in every room, cutting down on back-and-forth. These are just a few of the many ways her mastery of the method has led to its improvement.

2. Next, Don’t Skimp On What Matters

When up to 8,000 chicks are coming in every two weeks, and it’s just you and a few friends, time is of the essence. Merriman and her team have been constantly streamlining the process of switching chicks, which is important because there is only one partridge barn and the birds are coming, ready or not. But the most important step is making sure each room is thoroughly cleaned, sterilized, and pressure-washed before the next generation arrives. In the table room, for example, plastic is used under the wire tabletops so that soiled wire gratings can be separated quickly and the underlying layer thrown out. While the washing itself can’t be sped up, minimizing the steps around it allows her team to do a thorough job on the things that matter. This prioritization is important when one only has three or four days to clean an entire barn with three people.

Two weeks ago was the final partridge hatch of the season, and though there are still jobs to be done, Merriman and her team are enjoying the brief respite from the pressure of moving tiny, delicate birds every few days since April. From here, she’ll turn her attention to the white pheasant research and late-season chukars. But huns are never far from her mind in a constant effort to innovate and improve. “I always look for the most efficient way of doing something,” she says. “The more you do it, the faster you get.”
Hungarian Partridge - Male
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Huns a-Flying: Switching Hungarian Partridges Speedily

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Candling, And The Fastest Fingers In The U.S.

Meet Juan Zamora. Juan has worked at MacFarlane Pheasants for 19 years now. But Juan isn’t just loyal; he’s gifted, and Juan’s gift is that he can stand in an 85-degree incubation room for hours on end separating fertilized pheasant eggs faster than any man or woman we’ve ever seen. Simply put, Juan is a master at candling.

“Candling” refers to the process that we separate out fertilized pheasant eggs from the unfertilized. Eggs are hand-collected from the outdoor pens, washed, and then incubated for a week. After that week, in trays of 276 eggs, employees grab a Maglite LED flashlight, loaded with two rechargeable AA batteries, and shine the beam on each egg to check for fertilization or disposal.
Candling, And The Fastest Fingers In The U.S.After a week of consistent heat, fertilized eggs have developed a system of blood vessels latticing the inside of the egg. With a flashlight you can even see a heartbeat and the tiny embryo moving. Unfertilized eggs have none of this and are then pulled out for disposal or fertilizer, while the fertilized eggs return to the incubator to grow into the finest pheasants in the U.S..

While the best MacFarlane employees can go through a tray of eggs in about 4 or 5 minutes, Juan is in a class of his own. He can flash through a tray in half that time, averaging two minutes, or more than two eggs per second. He explains it’s “because I’ve been working so long at it,” but adds that he was that good after his first two years of working at the farm.

The later into the season you get, the lower the percentage of eggs that are fertilized. There are a number of reasons for this, the main being temperature and weather. Too hot, too cold, or too wet, and the birds will lay, but the cocks won’t fertilize. While in a typical week during our main season, we see around 10 percent of the eggs unfertilized, but late summer it rockets to around 30 percent. It’s because of this that we stop collecting eggs around the end of July.

Accuracy is something that develops quickly, but speed is God-given, and Juan has it. He’s one of the many MacFarlane employees have contributed their talents to build the America’s largest pheasant farm. If Juan is any indication, there’s no question: the egg always comes first.

 

 

 

 

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How Pheasant Meat Beats the Heat

When the temperature spikes in the summer, it doesn’t mean your pheasant meat products from MacFarlane Pheasants will arrive any less delightful. How do we pull off this alchemy? With ice and experience, we’ve discovered the fountain of youth for all our food products so that they reach you ready to go.

During the summer, pheasant starts with the packaging. Two years ago, when MacFarlane was really getting rolling with our pheasant products, we conducted an experiment. Shipping pheasant meat in the heat of the summer, we combined different packaging and cooling methods to journey to the other side of the country. When they arrived, we opened them up and tested the meat for spoilage, including salmonella and E. coli, the two most common types of bacteria that can grow in poultry. What we discovered is that pheasant travels best with a combination of a five-pound block of dry ice and two cold gel packs for the standard 10×10 box, and for no longer than two days at a time. So that’s exactly what we did, and continue to do today.

When we receive orders for pheasant, time is of the essence. That’s why when our customers order from us on a Monday or Tuesday, we ship out their pheasant the next day, with a guarantee of two days from UPS. UPS, in turn, refrigerates the package while it’s being stored. (We even have special tape that goes on the package, which displays the necessity of refrigeration.) For orders later in the week, such as Thursday or Friday, we require an overnight delivery. Why? It’s our two-day rule: If it’s not in a fridge in two days, we don’t trust it on our table, and neither should you.

We’ve become very, very good at our job, and over the last two years, we’ve not had a single spoilage complaint. It’s become a hallmark of our nationwide business of pheasant meat. We guarantee they’ll arrive to you ready for your planned meal.

When the holiday season looms, consider giving a pheasant gift pack this year. We have a variety of popular options for all palates, a helpful staff, and a guaranteed method of delivery. But any occasion is a good occasion for pheasant. In summer or winter, MacFarlane Pheasants has mastered the method of pheasant for dinner.
How Pheasant Meat Beats the Heat
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Getting Tough With Pheasant Security

Of all the things that bird farms fear when they go to sleep at night, one of the biggest has to be avian influenza. A.I. spreads quickly and can decimate a flock. But it’s not the only disease game birds are susceptible to, and with a farm the size of MacFarlane Pheasants, we’re especially vigilant in protecting our flocks so that nothing interrupts our supply of healthy, vigorous adult pheasants and day-old chicks.
Getting Tough With Pheasant Security
It starts in the barns, where our pheasants spend the first seven weeks of their lives. All barn workers must wear booties, which are scrubbed first with a disinfectant. Every barn also has its own footbath and boots, so employees moving between barns don’t cross-contaminate should an outbreak occur. Once inside, staff also switches footgear when moving between rooms. For varieties of birds that have a weaker constitution, such as our Hungarian partridges, we bump up our protection another notch: in the hun barns, our staff wears uniforms, which protect their clothing from picking up anything.

Another best practice we’ve developed is working from youngest to oldest. When our staff tackles their daily chores, they begin with the youngest birds, which are most susceptible to disease. They work their way up from youngest to oldest because it’s less likely that a mature bird will catch a disease from a younger bird—their immune systems are more developed. Our staff also starts with the young birds first thing in the morning so that there’s not a day’s worth of possible bacteria they’ve come in contact with. Finally, if we do have a sick flock, we’ll work with that barn or room last, again to minimize the chance of exposure to healthy birds.

We take pest control very seriously because of the range that rats and mice travel. Baiting and checking traps, spread throughout the farm, is a daily chore. If we see rat activity, including their telltale piles of loose dirt around fresh-dug burrows, we address it immediately with burrow baiting. It’s important to act early, because whatever diseases vermin bring with them stay on the farm until the vermin are gone. Our goal is always to be a hundred-percent free of them for that reason, and it requires consistent attention.

Finally, the best defense starts at the castle walls, and all visitors wear foot gear. We additionally screen for those that have been in contact with other livestock farms, including poultry, pig, and cattle. All the trucks that deliver our birds’ food have their tires sprayed before they enter the farm.

“We’ve got to do everything we can to keep ourselves safe and keep the company going,” says Brooder Manager Brian Davis. He and the rest of the MacFarlane Pheasant staff are working daily to ensure our flocks are safe so that you receive your birds on time, healthy and ready to grow.

 

 

 

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There’s More Than One Way To Cook Pheasant

Pheasants have long been known for their superior nutritional benefits. With half the fat of a portion of beef, pheasant also contains high amounts of B vitamins, potassium, iron, and a host of other vital minerals your body needs every day. But just because it’s good for you doesn’t mean that it has to be bland or boring. We at MacFarlane Pheasants are the leader in not only adult birds and chicks, but we’re also leading the culinary revolution of pheasant for every palate.

Each week our food products team meets to discuss industry trends across the country. We’re supplying pheasant meat to some of the finest restaurants and grocery stores in the U.S., including such culinary hot spots like Chicago. In our meetings we’re receiving feedback from our sales representatives, who have their ears to the ground to discover areas we can expand into, and that feedback helps us develop products to fill that niche.

This fall, we’re excited to launch two new additions to our food offerings: ground pheasant breast and pheasant bratwurst, both of which have come about through our weekly meetings. Ground pheasant is lean and delicious, and can be substituted in your favorite recipes that call for ground beef. Our staff has already been experimenting with it and has been thrilled with the results. “We made burgers with it,” says Food Projects Manager Sarah Baker. “It held up very well.” To create this versatile product, we’re working with a company in nearby Clinton, Wisc. It will be available in one-pound packages both locally in our retail shop and online.
There’s More Than One Way To Cook Pheasant
But what is more Wisconsin than bratwurst? This is a product we’ve offered in the past, and both our customers and our staff have been clamoring for them ever since. Working with a small sausage company in Missouri, we’ve been tweaking our recipes to create five delicious flavors. These will also be available in the fall, just in time for inclusion in holiday gift baskets.

At MacFarlane Pheasants, we’re always thinking ahead to the next big thing, and we’ve already got a few more ideas kicking around. Our innovation is born right here on the farm in Wisconsin, and we work with independent businesses both locally and regionally in their development, like Zuber’s Sausage Kitchen in Monroe and Croissant Etc. in Milwaukee. But our focus is always on you, our nationwide consumer. Pheasant for dinner is healthy and delicious, true, but it’s also versatile, and we want to provide you with as many options as possible.

 

 

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Pheasant Chicks, By The Numbers

Welcome to madhouse, MacFarlane Pheasants’ central office in the thick of the day-old pheasant chick season. Each week 100,000 chicks are born, packaged, and shipped across the country, all with our guarantee that birds will arrive fresh from hatching and ready to grow. But this well-oiled machine doesn’t just happen, so step inside to discover an insider’s view of our chick order process.

When our customers place an order, our first stop is in our spreadsheet, the massive inter-office document that shows all our office staff how many birds we’ll have, how many we’ve sold, and how many we have left unclaimed. Unlike an airline or a hotel, we never double-book. True, there’s wiggle room for you to adjust orders as needed, but your birds are your birds, and our pledge to you is that we won’t be jerking you around with their arrival date.

From there, we send your order to a staff member, who draws up the invoice. (Though we’re as personable as can be over the phone in customer support, we’re a tight-run ship to make sure your experience is professional and prompt. No one benefits from a tardy bill.) Your order is reviewed, and then it’s forwarded to another office worker for review. When everything is good to go, we process the payment.

From there, life goes on as usual—until the week before your chicks are set to ship. On Wednesday or Thursday morning, before our hatchery meeting, we’ve printed out shipping labels and health documents to accompany your order. Our hatchery has them in hand as they prepare to ship your chicks.

The next Monday and Tuesday are filled with baby birds hatching, split between the two days. We’ll confirm with you what day you should expect your birds to ship, but we don’t mince words: “day-old chicks” mean pheasant chicks that are exactly one day old, and on either Tuesday or Wednesday your order is out the door with two-day priority shipping. Birds born on Monday are guaranteed to be at your doorstep by Thursday afternoon, blinking in the summer light and so new you can still smell the shell.

“Communicating with our customers is very key,” says Pam Wallisch, a MacFarlane Pheasants support specialist. She and the rest of our staff are working through lunch most days, standing by to take your chick orders in preparation for your fall hunting season. But reserve your birds today—our last hatch of the season is the week of August 19.
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Pheasant Consulting

Pheasants are not only our livelihood, but also our passion. We have spent endless hours gaining expertise in all areas pertaining to these birds. Rather than keeping all of this knowledge to ourselves, we want to share it with you!

We have always had an open door policy for all inquiring minds. Whether you write, email, or call, we do our best to answer your questions quickly and to the best of our ability. Expanding on this, we also offer consulting services.

On our website, you may have noticed we added a new page to create awareness regarding this service. We have found that feed is a common topic that customers contact us regarding. Throughout our past 80+ years we have been able to see and track exactly what works and what doesn’t.

One of our biggest discoveries is that over the course of a pheasant’s lifetime, the difference between a cheaper pheasant feed and a high quality feed, comes down to mere nickels. Yet the difference in protein and other vital nutrients is pretty significant when it comes to raising high quality pheasants. Call our office any time, or better yet, send us your feed ticket. We would be more than happy to analyze it and make any necessary recommendations for you.

We also provide project consulting. We will offer you advice regarding the best practices for raising both small and large amounts of birds. We can be your resource for pen construction, barn building, and anything else pertaining to your farm.
Day 47 (2)
One of the most frustrating things is waiting in anticipation for your chicks to arrive and then having something go wrong. Regardless of where your chicks came from, call our office for help. We will gladly work with you to solve whatever problem you seem to be experiencing. If we are unable to take your call, you will return your call within 2 hours, our promise to you.

Every other year we offer an International Pheasant Management Seminar. The seminar is 3 days long and is filled with speakers, labs, seminars, and more. I cannot stress enough what a great opportunity this is for those looking to increase their game bird industry knowledge. Visit our website or call our office for more details!

 

 

 

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Planning a Year Filled with Pheasants

By the end of June MacFarlane Pheasants has locked up most of our adult pheasant sales for the fall. But predicting the number of birds we need each season is required well before all the orders have been tallied. So how do we do it? With a little history, a little bit of a gamble, and yes, even a little luck.

The first thing we base our fall orders on is customer retention. Companies, including pheasant farms, don’t become big if they’re not doing something right, and we are: over 95 percent of our customers return to us each year. But that number is not just a pat on the pack; it’s a tool that helps us estimate how many chicks we need to produce for adult pheasants in the fall. Because retention is so high, it makes our jobs that much easier, since the lion’s share of the birds can be predicted more accurately than the Wisconsin weather.

The next prediction we make is off what we can emergencies we can expect in the fall. Because we don’t have a hard and fast deadline for orders, new customers generally place them at will. This adds some difficulty—we must ensure we have enough birds on hand to supply our standing customers, but also a cushion to provide for future customers.

Just raise more birds, right? Not so fast. Like your college graduate that’s just moved back home, birds eat a lot, and the more we have on hand, the more feed we’re going through. It’s a delicate balance between having a few in reserve and a farm filled with idle birds, and again we rely on history to plan out when the most birds are needed and then have the largest number of birds ready to ship.

The final piece is that we must remain flexible when orders are changed. Our size is our strength in this regard: early, hard winters in some areas can necessitate our customers adjusting down their orders. This happens, but our size allows us to work with our customers to make sure they don’t get stuck with unused birds with no penalties or extra charges. We’re shipping birds across the world—if you can’t use your birds, we’re confident we can find someone else who can.

By November of this past year we’d already shipped half of our annual 460,000 adult birds for the 2013-14 season. We have been blessed with incredible customer loyalty, and we’re able to thank you in turn by working closely with our customers and responding to their needs. When it comes right down to it, MacFarlane Pheasants is in the business of customer satisfaction. More birds or less, a month ahead or behind, planned out or last minute, our customers come back year after year because of the MacFarlane difference.
Planning a Year Filled with Pheasants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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