Johan Jacobs Interview

Recently we have been interviewing our newest workers at MacFarlane Pheasants. They came to our farm all the way from South Africa! Johan Jacobs applied, through an agency in South Africa for an opportunity to work in the United States. MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc. was the first job that popped up and Johan jumped at the chance to work in America.

Johan comes from a small seaside town called Lamberts Bay in the Western Cape. He says the weather is beautiful, but they don’t get much rain. It is a seaside village about 2.5 hours from Cape Town. This small town (around 6000 people) is a popular tourist destination with its wide expanses of white sand and delicious seafood. Johan, with his parents, owns a 100-seat restaurant, next to the ocean, called Weskus Kombuis.

Johan was off to work at 6:00 a.m. in his hometown. He would open the restaurant, check to see if all the cleaning was done, and stock the bar. He would check on the kitchen throughout the day, visit with customers, and in the evenings, would play his guitar, in the music corner, for the customers who came in to eat. He would close up shop at 10:00 p.m. and go home to prepare for another day. Like most of the gentlemen from South Africa who are working here, Johan said long days of work are typical in South Africa.

Though Johan works very hard at MacFarlane Pheasants, his work hours are typical 8-hour days with overtime on an as needed basis. Johan works in the hatchery on our farm, and gets to do many different jobs. His responsibilities change on a daily basis.  He told me that the variety is one of his favorite parts of his job!

Typical Week 

  • Hatch chicks
  • Sex chicks
  • Fill orders
  • Clean and disinfect the hatchery
  • Make sets for the week
  • Tray fresh eggs
  • Test egg fertility
  • Candle eggs
  • Organize for the week

Johan will be here till the middle of January and he hopes to visit some small towns while he is here. “The real beauty is not in the tourist attractions but in seeing how the country lays,” he said. Johan told me there are significant differences in Janesville, WI and Lamberts Bay, South Africa. The biggest difference here is the constantly changing weather.

Like most of our South African employees, Johan misses food from his hometown, but he has grown to love Mexican food like tacos, burritos, and enchiladas. When preparing food here, though, he has noticed that it is more expensive to shop for food than in his home country.

Another difference Johan has found quite positive in America is the ability to order online and get your order the next day. I think he has figured out one of American’s favorite pastimes!

Johan loves biking around “beautiful” Janesville, particularly off the beaten path. He also enjoys the people he works with and from what I have heard, they have enjoyed getting to know him! Thanks for sharing, Johan.




















Johan Jacobs Interview


Wicus Jacobs Employed by MacFarlane Pheasants

Wicus Jacobs is currently an employee at MacFarlane Pheasants Inc. He has only lived in America for a short time and will only live here 10 months. He came to our farm from Christiana North West, South Africa. 

Christiana is an agricultural town on the banks of the Vaal River in the North-West Province of South Africa. The town was established in 1870 when diamonds were found on the banks of the Vaal River. Beef, maize, sorghum, ground nuts, and cotton are important economic products for Christiana. 

Wicus lived with his parents and worked as a cattle farm manager in his homeland. It is quite a different story in America. Wicus lives in a big house with a bunch of other guys and is learning all about pheasant farming. When he returns to his homeland, Wicus will return to cattle farming. He is happy to say though, that he will return with a great deal of knowledge about pheasants and life in America. He also told us that his experience working as part of a team has been very important to his work at MacFarlane Pheasants, because it is definitely a job for team players! 

Wicus’ favorite part of his job is the people he works with at MacFarlane Pheasants, which makes us quite happy. We all know that a pleasant workplace with people you enjoy makes learning new information much easier. Wicus is focusing on learning new skills every day! 

He also told us that daily life is not much different from his homeland except for living with so many people. Our meat tastes differently from South African meat and Wicus does miss the familiarity of South African food. Though he did add that he enjoys some American food very much. 

It is so good to get to know Wicus and we appreciate his dedication to learning new skills and being such a good team member.
















Wicus Jacobs Employed by MacFarlane Pheasants

Gerhardus Venter Leaves his Home in South Africa to Work at MacFarlane Pheasants in Janesville, WI, USA

A complicated application process in South Africa, at a company that helps South African people find work in the United States, brought Gerhardus Venter to MacFarlane Pheasants. He lives here with nine other men from various parts of South Africa, and will be here for 10 months. All of the men will return to their homeland on January 15, 2018.

Gerhardus worked in a farming town in Malalane, Mpumalanga, South Africa, farming tropical fruits and sugar cane for 12-15 hours a day, before he came to MacFarlane Pheasants. “I lived a plain life, working my days away to create a better future,” he said.

Gerhardus proudly described his home town. He told us that the Kruger National Park is less than 2 miles from his home in South Africa. This park is one of the largest game  reserves in Africa. It covers an area of 7,523 miles, in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in North Eastern South Africa. Another interesting piece of information Gerhardus shared is that the park was first protected by the South African Republic  government in 1898. It became South Africa’s first national park in 1926.

On our pheasant farm in Janesville, WI, Gerhardus works from 5:30-2:30 each day. He has learned to peep birds and also how to set up pens and care for birds in the pens. Obviously, the shorter hours and completely different kind of work are the most significant changes in his work life. Gerhardus also mentioned that there is a major difference in currency between the two countries, which affects the pay. The dollar currency in South Africa is the rand. One South African rand equals 0.078 of a US dollar.

Another difference in daily life between Gerhardus’ home country and Janesville, WI is that because he works less hours here, he has more spare time. “All the people and environment are different so it feels like a new world,” he said. He has lived in the same town (population 3500) his whole life and says it feels good to get away from his normal life where everything is the same day after day. He misses his mother’s cooking but has found a new favorite food in Janesville-cheese curds! He is also looking forward to seeing snow for the first time.

It is such a pleasure to learn about one of our newest employees, Gerhardus Venter and the home he left, to spend time learning the pheasant business at MacFarlane Pheasants Inc.















Gerhardus Venter Leaves his Home in South Africa to Work at MacFarlane Pheasants in Janesville, WI,  USA

Ronnie Viljoen Shares His Experiences from South Africa to America

Ronnie Viljoen was interested in working in America and he accomplished his goal when he was hired by MacFarlane Pheasants for a 10 month job on our farm. After lots of paperwork and working with the American Embassy to obtain a visa, he arrived in America all the way from the Great Karoo in Eastern Cape Province in South Africa.

The Great Karoo is well known for its agriculture and sheep farming. The land is very fertile. The climate is very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. There are many large mountains and lots of grassy plains. It is interesting to note that, though South Africa has much more wide-open spaces, Ronnie says that the landscape in America is not much different from his homeland.

Ronnie also told me that on the family farm where he grew up, and in the area, in general, they are well known for tasty and healthy food. A typical lunch is usually organic and you can expect to have three vegetables, rice, potatoes, and lamb or beef.

Ronnie’s life in South Africa is quite different from his life in America. He lives on a farm that has been in his family for five generations. His family farms ostriches, mainly, in a feed lotting system and they export meat and skins. On his farm, they have someone hired to do the day to day chores in the house as well as other staff members to do farm chores. At MacFarlane’s, Ronnie enjoys being a part of the staff and learning how things are done in other countries and industries. “It makes a person think,” he told me. At MacFarlane’s, Ronnie works in the hatchery where he does everything from traying eggs and setting up the incubators to shipping chicks.

Ronnie owned his own business in Great Karoo. He sold security cameras for farms and shops and also sold cell phones and laptops. Ronnie understands how to work hard at a variety of tasks!

Last but not least, Ronnie’s mother, dad and same age brother and sister still live in South Africa. You heard me right; Ronnie is part of a triplet! He will return to his family and work in his homeland in January 2018. Until that time, we are lucky enough to have a great employee and to learn about another part of the world.



















Ronnie Viljoen Shares His Experiences from South Africa to America

Important Chores For the Summer Months

We are very busy this time of year at MacFarlane Pheasants. Two of the big jobs we do in spring and summer are mowing and keeping the farm picked up. We do both of these jobs for aesthetics and some very important health and safety reasons. Keeping the farm picked up is, in fact, a year round chore, but much easier in the spring and summer when we don’t have to fight the weather. Pride in our farm is always a focus, but the health and safety of our game birds is a priority.

Mowing Around the Pen and in the Lane 

  • Mowing keeps rodents and predators away from our birds.
  • Mowing allows us to easily see holes in the perimeter fence.
  • Mowing the lane makes it easier to drive birds down the lane to catch pens.
  • Mowing gives us a great view from the roadside when doing our daily farm checks. 

Keeping the Farm Picked Up 

  • Keeping old feed, etc., picked up keeps rodents away.
  • Organization means our care of the birds is more efficient.
  • Keeping the farm picked up minimizes equipment breakdown (flat tires, and damaging mowers from mowing over debris). 

We hope you will feel free to contact us with questions about our farm or about raising game birds. We are never too busy to help. Have questions about your game birds? We can help. Whether you have questions about breeding, raising, feed or anything else, our experts are available to help. Just post your questions online at Game Bird Forum and we’ll give you advice. Visit online today at


















Important Chores For the Summer Months

Dog Houses Aren’t Just For Dogs!

The Hen Barn has a manure gutter clean out shoot. I know that doesn’t sound all that exciting but if you have problems with your gutters, it can be an exciting mess that no-one enjoys cleaning up! The manure gutter chain runs through the barn to the outside where the manure is dropped into the manure spreader. When it works well, it is a good system for removing waste from the barn.

We were running into issues every time it rained, though. The water would collect in the gutters, making it hard to get the manure out. The water would mix with the manure and create a very wet manure that would not catch on the chains. That was a problem in need of a solution.

Our winter time problem was snow blowing in and melting when it was inside the barn and freezing when it got really cold. Once it would freeze, we would have to chip the ice out of the gutter, before we could turn the chains on to get the manure out of the barn. We also had issues with too much cold air coming into Room A where we wanted the temperature at 100 degrees for the chicks.

Now, here was the solution. We decided we needed a cover on the outside. I’m not sure who came up with the idea for calling our solution the Dog House but that became its name. This was a cover we put on the manure gutter clean out shoots. It has saved employees some valuable time and  kept some of the cold air out of the barn so our heaters could more effectively warm our chicks. So, that is why dog houses aren’t just for dogs at MacFarlane Pheasants!
















Dog Houses Aren’t Just For Dogs!

How Do You Calibrate Egg Incubators and Keep Eggs at the Proper Temperature?

MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc. hatches over two million birds each year in our hatchery. That means we collect over three million eggs in order to get that many hatches! Obviously, we have our system down to a science. We use the Natureform I-14 machines to incubate our eggs. These machines must be calibrated to 99 degrees. In order to calibrate the machines to the required 99 degrees we use a mercury thermometer.

Calibrating for Temperature

The digital sensor on the machine must be at the same height as the mercury thermometer and when this is done, it ensures that the temperature reading is accurate every time. Calibrating is done while the machine is empty. Once we have the machines calibrated and set for the proper humidity, we put the eggs in place and keep an eye on the egg temperatures.

Calibrating for Humidity

To calibrate 51% relative humidity that is just right for incubating chicks, we use a       hygrometer. The use of the hygrometer is not complicated.  It is similar to measuring temperature. We use a wet bulb hygrometer, which has a mercury thermometer and a wick with a water tank attached to it. We wait for the machine to get up to temperature and then calibrate the digital machine based on the mercury thermometer.

Checking Egg Temperature

The temperature of the embryo inside the egg is critical for hatching high quality chicks. You can use an infrared ear thermometer or a baby forehead thermometer to gauge the egg shell temperature. The measurement is taken right at the equator of the egg. The optimum temperature for the embryo is 100-101 degrees. This checking process requires both speed and accuracy so that the door to the setter is not opened long enough to cool down.

  • Check eggs on the left and right, from, and back, and top, middle, and bottom of the setter.
  • Choose eggs in the middle of the tray to monitor, as eggs on the edges will be cooler.
  • Sample three eggs from the center of each tray.
  • During the second half of incubation, reject any significantly cooler measurements, because it is a sign that the egg does not have an embryo.
  • Monitor at each stage in the incubation period.
  • Plan where you are going to monitor, so that once you open the door you can work quickly. Some setters may have to be turned off in order to work safely. If this is the case, and you cannot finish the job in 10 minutes you may have to turn the machine on and wait 30 minutes before finishing the job.
  • Record your results.

Calibrating the egg incubators and checking to make sure the embryos are the right temperature is an important part of hatching chicks. If you would like more information on this process please contact Krystal at She knows the process quite well and is happy to help you learn about hatching eggs. Please enjoy a tour of our hatchery by using our hatching link!










How Do You Calibrate Egg Incubators and Keep Eggs at the Proper Temperature?

Plan Ahead for MacFarlane Pheasant Farm Tours!

We do fun farm tours at MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc. because many people who hear about our pheasant farm are interested in seeing how wild birds are raised. We enjoy helping our guests learn about our pheasants and other game birds that live and grow on our farm. In days past, we allowed our guests to walk about, but increased biosecurity precautions have eliminated that part of a farm visit.

We now give vehicle tours around the farm. The tours are free for groups of five or less people. We encourage at least 24 hour notice, but the more notice we get, the more likely we can accommodate our guests.

Student educational tours are always free. The adult in charge should call our office to schedule the tour. You are never too young to consider working with game birds as a career. We can also remind students that even farmers need higher education to learn about animal science and the technology, math, and reading skills needed to raise animals successfully.

We also provide Coach bus tours with a $75 fee, which includes an experienced tour guide and smoked pheasant samples, provided in our retail store. We have many interesting delicacies besides pheasant meat available for purchase. You won’t be disappointed!

The best time for a tour is late June through the fall. It is the perfect time to see mature pheasants in the outside pens. But of course we look forward to hearing from you throughout the year!

Anyone interested in a farm tour should contact Sarah Baker. You can call the main office at 608-757-7881 or email her at She can answer questions and arrange your tour details.

Plan Ahead for MacFarlane Pheasant Farm Tours!

Download The Complete Guide to Incubation

During the month of April,I wrote an article about practices for incubating and hatching eggs in our hatchery that was an overview of our practices at MacFarlane Pheasants. We hatch over two million chicks per year so our staff is quite knowledgeable about incubating eggs and hatching baby chicks! After that article was written, we published The Complete Guide to Incubation.  Our employees spent many hours preparing this document and I think you will be pleased with the results. The booklet is a free download and gives you detailed information about how to incubate wild bird eggs for a successful hatch.

Table of Contents

  • Is Hatching Eggs Right for You?
  • Gathering Necessary Supplies
  • How to Properly Handle Eggs
  • Preparing Eggs for Pre-Incubation
  • Incubation
  • Hatching the eggs
  • Chick Handling

In addition to these topics, our booklet tells you where you can purchase supplies. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are included. Enjoy this newest download and be sure to check out other resources on our website at
























Download The Complete Guide to Incubation

Helpful Barn Dimmers

We have been using the PLS-2400 MR4 PTC Light Dimmers from Precision Lighting out of Arkansas since 2015. Before we got these dimmers in our barns, we used residential dimmers and dimmed our lights manually, for the most part. Our newer system does the job with greater ease and effectiveness.

The dimmers allow us to have a program in place to run the lights. We can set the lights to a calendar and have the lighting periods change daily, if we choose. The “ramping” feature allows us to ramp up our lights for sunrise and ramp them down to simulate sunset. Once we hook up a laptop to the dimmers and install the dimming program, there isn’t any reason to touch the lights.

Now , it is likely that some of you are wondering why we need to dim or brighten our lights! Dimmers are used for a few good reasons.

  • They control the aggressiveness of game birds.
  • They simulate daylight periods at certain stages in the birds’ lives.
  • They keep our birds and equipment safe.

In our white flocks (raised for our food division), we decrease the simulated daylight as the birds get older. This keeps them calmer.

The “ramping” feature is also very important as the birds don’t flush when the lights come on, as they did in the past. When birds fly in the barns, they can break equipment or cause water leaks. Injury is also more likely if game birds fly in the barns!

That, my friends, is the reason we are so happy to have this high tech, but easy, system in place at MacFarlane Pheasants. We would be happy to answer your questions about this system and the use of dimmers in the game bird world.















Helpful Barn Dimmers