Lets Talk About Ground Cover on the Milton Farm

Brian Klein oversees the Milton Farm for MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc. I recently asked him how ground cover did this year. He gave me some detailed information about how he plans ground cover to best benefit the pheasants kept in Milton. The crew decides which of the 6 covered pens on the Milton farm get planted and which ones grow naturally, each year. The decisions are based on when birds will go into the pens. Pens that receive birds before June 1st almost always go into pens that grow naturally. We would have to plant by April 15th to have a pen ready by June 1st. That is impossible in Wisconsin because it is just too cold at that time of year. Yet weeds like lamb’s quarter or ragweed germinate at the time and provide great early season cover.

Cover is important when raising pheasants, for several reasons:

  • Shelter for birds to get out of harsh weather
  • Provides shade
  • Gives birds something to pick at
  • Reduces eye contact between birds
  • Gives birds a place to escape from one another

But open space is just as important!  Open space gives the birds a chance to come out of wet cover and dry off, a place to dust, and it allows us the ability to visually check on the birds as we drive by them on a daily basis. In order to make sure there is open space available, the crew uses a spray gator with a mild herbicide to spray a 5-foot path around the perimeter and down the center of each pen. In some situations, a 5-foot brush hog can be used to accomplish the same task.

The evaluation of cover is based on low cover, high cover, open space, and amount of ragweed in the pens. If we could get lamb’s quarter to grow in all of our pens, we would have A+ cover. When ragweed is present, we let it grow to about waist high, then it has to be managed. A mixture of 2-4-D herbicide will get rid of ragweed but still allow lamb’s quarter to survive.

This year’s pens were planted with corn. The weather in southern Wisconsin has been almost perfect for growing and the dry spring allowed us to get into the pens early and work the ground. Timely rains and heat this summer allowed cover to flourish. In Milton, we have approximately 40 acres under net, so it was beautiful to see!

If you would like to visit our farm and see first-hand how we provide a habitat for our pheasants that keeps them stress free and healthy, please contact us. We have lots of pens in both Milton and Janesville!

Lets Talk About Ground Cover on the Milton Farm


















Lets Talk About Ground Cover on the Milton Farm

The Life of the Brooder Crew Changes in August!

The brooder crew in August have only a distant memory of grasses, trees, and shrubs turning green with the longer days and feeling the excitement of the first hatches. The final Ringneck hatches occur the week of August 15th. It is still hot and humid in August but we realize that it is time to shift gears and think about preparations for fall and winter.

We develop a new mindset when preparing for a new season. We go into maintenance mode and make barn conditions the best possible while waiting for the last hatch to move outside.  We concentrate on bird densities during this time which means we thin flocks by moving some birds to open rooms and pens to keep them stress free. Stress free birds are less susceptible to diseases! The pace of our day may slow without preparations for new hatches driving our work day, but daily chores become critical to protecting our birds. Cleaning, looking for problems with equipment, and repairing are major priorities!

Shipping season is ramping up, so our crew may be asked to help in other areas of the farm, like peeping and preparing birds for shipments. We are also focusing on other fall and winter preparations during August and early fall. Imagine turning the pages of a book from spring to summer to fall and finally winter. Our brooder crew has that vision in their heads as the seasons change. The beauty of nature’s changes is connected to the changing chores!  It is a beautiful time of year to visit MacFarlane Farms!

The Life of the brooder crew changes in august












The Life of the Brooder Crew Changes in August!

Kaicie Chasteen-Proud University of Florida Student and MacFarlane Pheasant Farm Intern

Kaicie Chasteen is completing a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science with an emphasis on beef cattle, a focus on poultry and a minor in fisheries and aquatic sciences. This impressive program demonstrates her focus and determination. She is a proud senior at the University of Florida, which by the way, is Florida’s land-grant university, established by the Morrill Act signed into law by Abraham Lincoln in 1862. Kaicie provided us with that bit of history and it was interesting to follow up on the Morrill Act.

Kaicie also spent two months this summer, as an intern at MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc.

It was an exciting 17 hour drive from Kaicie’s hometown in North Florida on the day she came to Janesville to begin her internship!  After a bit of rest, she started a whirlwind of training, ending up working in almost every department. This is an important feature of the internship program on our farm. We try to make sure our interns get a wide range of experiences. Kaicie started in the hatchery and went on to the hen barn, the catch crew, bird care, food processing and finally the office!

We all  enjoyed her sense of humor. When asked what valuable lessons she had learned on the farm, she responded with, “Never take a chile pepper from someone unless you are fully prepared to eat it with everyone watching.” I didn’t ask for follow up details as my sinuses were burning, just thinking about it!

More seriously though, Kaicie feels that the skills she learned in each department will help her achieve success in her chosen career. She is very appreciative of all the managers and employees, who she described as “great,” because of their willingness to show her how to do things and to answer questions. It is an awesome feeling to know Kaicie saw that we were serious about providing a learning experience that will make a difference in her future and the future of the game bird industry.

In addition to the farm experience, Kaicie was able to learn about Wisconsin. She got to visit the Dells, Devil’s Lake, The Wisconsin State Fair, The Rock County Fair, Milwaukee, and Lake Michigan, as well as partake in many other activities.

Thanks for joining us Kaicie. We wish you the very best as you graduate from college in December and move into the world of work!

Kaicie Chasteen















Kaicie Chasteen-Proud University of Florida Student and MacFarlane Pheasant Farm Intern

What Does It Take to Sanitize 21 Brooder Rooms?

Yep, you heard it right! We have 21 brooder rooms in our Brooder Department. We spend quite a bit of time keeping our rooms in perfect condition. The cleaning and sanitizing process takes place 3, 4, or even 5 days a week and each area can take several hours to clean, sanitize, and dry out. Depending on the size of the room, the drying process can be anywhere from 4-8 hours. Luckily, the brooder crew has a 2nd shift so we can be washing in both the day and evening hours. Let me detail the process for you:

  1. We hook up the pressure washer to a vehicle and take it to the room that needs washing.
  2. Supplies needed include hoses, pressure washer guns, kerosene for hot water, disinfectant foam, backpack for guns, and a jetter which helps if we get a clogged drain.
  3. Now its time to set up the pressure washer.
  4. We start at the ceiling, then move to the fans, feed and water systems, walls, floors and any equipment on the pad outside the door.
  5. Our next step is to start all over again with a new gun to apply the disinfectant foam and cover the room like a foam party!
  6. The last step is to allow the room to dry before putting down shavings and straw.

When we are starting the chick hatching season in spring, we pressure wash the A Room, use our foaming disinfectant on the room and equipment and make sure it is dry before we add the shavings and straw to the floor. Once the birds are old enough to go into a B Room, we wash, foam, let the area dry and set up the B room. Then we open a door and give birds a chance to move over, by themselves. We are so proud when they choose to move to the clean and ready room on their own! But, some birds are stubborn, so when time is available we give them a day to transition before we have to get involved in catching them individually or encouraging the groups of stragglers to move to their brand spanking clean living quarters. Then the door is closed and we start the cleaning process all over again in Room A.

Please enjoy an informative video from our website, describing our brooder barns. We hope you will “Like” our Facebook page and tell us about other topics that interest you. Your success is our success!

Brooder Barns










What Does It Take to Sanitize 21 Brooder Rooms?

What Does Day Length Have To Do With Pheasant Mating?

Pheasant mating is triggered by the longer spring days. The roosters’ pituitary glands become active at this time and the hormones produced cause the roosters to have the physiological desire to mate. At MacFarlane Pheasant Farms we have a select group of breeders, so of course we don’t want the pheasants we are growing for mature sales, to breed.

This year our first hatch was February 22nd. Typically, the first hatch is around March 7th.  Since we hatched earlier, as the days got longer, our males were triggered to want to mate. Imagine the scene when we noticed that the roosters in a flock of 20,000 pheasants were strutting around trying to claim territories! They strutted and crowed and had little tolerance for each other because their hormones were raging.

We had to move quickly to separate the 20,000 hens and roosters and eliminate the mating dances! We followed two basic procedures:

  • Separated the roosters from the hens to make sure breeding did not take place.
  • Added larger peepers to the roosters in order keep them calm and redirected.

All is well right now and we will have our beautiful mature pheasants ready for late summer/ early fall shipment! Now is the time to plan your orders and let us know your needs. We will help in any way we can to assist you. Please call our office at 608-757-7881 for advice on placing an order. You can also access an order form on our website.

What Does Day Length Have To Do With Pheasant Mating?
















What Does Day Length Have To Do With Pheasant Mating?



Town Hall Meetings Help to Keep Us Centered!

About a year and half ago we started having Town Hall Meetings, every six months, with each crew on the farm. Managers are not present at these meetings. Our owner, Bill MacFarlane, coordinates the discussions. This is an opportunity for employees to share concerns and ideas with Bill.

Sarah Pope, our office manager, sets up the meeting times and takes notes at the meetings. Bill  reviews the notes and follows up by discussing employee concerns and ideas with managers.  It takes about  a month to complete meetings with each crew. Prior to the beginning of Town Hall Meetings,Sarah spends many hours setting up meeting times that work for everyone. Every crew member is required to attend, so it takes a  lot of planning to pull the meetings together. Though Bill leads the discussions, he focuses more on being a good listener and allowing employees to be heard. There are four main questions asked at every meeting:

  • What equipment/tools do you need to do your job?
  • Are the processes of your job clear so that you can do it correctly?
  • What changes would you make to the farm?
  • What makes a quality/professional farm?

Meetings can last from 30 minutes to two hours. It all depends on how much employees have to say. Some groups have pages of ideas, questions, and needs at a particular meeting and others don’t have as many concerns or needs at the time of the meeting. The meetings are a special opportunity to build trusting relationships between Bill and his employees, and for Bill to get new ideas from the people who do the daily work that keeps the farm running successfully. Employees feel good about the opportunity to share their thoughts and Bill appreciates the chance to get caught up on how each crew is feeling, what their needs are, and how their work is going.

In addition to the Town Hall Meetings, we have an employee monthly newsletter that comes out with the paychecks. We have a communication board in the break room and supervisors receive emails that they share with employees. Our crew members communicate constantly throughout each day, in person and via the radios. These modes of communication are just as important as our Town Hall Meetings. As you have heard us say many times before, communication is the key to our success at MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc. Town Hall Meetings were devised in order to add another layer to the communication process.

Please feel free to contact us with your ideas, concerns and questions. We sincerely appreciate your thoughts.

















Town Hall Meetings Help to Keep Us Centered!

MacFarlane Pheasant Farm Features Intern Madison Demel

Madison Demel is a senior in the College of Agriculture at Kansas State University. She is an ambitious student with a double minor in the Animal Science Industry and Business. Her major field of study is Wildlife and Outdoor Enterprise Management.

 MacFarlane Pheasants has worked with Kansas State University for many years. While attending the Pheasant Fest in Kansas City, Madison stopped at the MacFarlane Pheasants’ booth. She swapped contact information during that first meeting and, later that week, emailed MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc. to request a summer internship. Madison was invited to do her internship during the summer of 2016 and moved from Clearwater, Kansas to Janesville, WI in May of this year.

Madison expressed her enjoyment of the adventure and overall experience at the farm. “It has been a pleasure to meet such wonderful people who share the same passion and interest in game birds as I do,” she told us. She has already formed lasting friendships and the new friends have already made plans to visit, after Madison returns to Kansas.

Madison also told us that she has learned to appreciate the impact of each and every job on the farm and how crucial every job is to MacFarlane’s success. She has enjoyed learning what it is like to be part of a large scale production business and the importance of being knowledgeable about the entire life cycle of game birds.

Lastly, Madison told us that she is impressed with the positive impression MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc. has made in the game bird and wildlife industries. She would like to give a shout out to everyone on the farm. She ended by saying, “I’m thankful for everyone having such welcoming arms and making my internship a memorable learning experience.”

We are so appreciative to have the opportunity to work with interns from Kansas State University. Thank you, Madison, for your positive attitude and hard work. We will miss you and expect to hear great things about your future impact on the game bird industry!

Madison Demel

MacFarlane Pheasant Farm Features Intern Madison Demel

Successful Introduction of Pheasants to a New Property

There are two different strategies for introducing pheasants to a new property. Regardless of the strategy used, it is important that you prepare your property in advance as a good habitat for pheasants. Grasslands with low to medium grasses, wetlands, croplands, brush, shrubs and idle fields would be a good start. The goal is to establish a self-sustaining population on a new property.

 Fall Release of Pheasants

  • Many hunt clubs and individuals introduce pheasants to their property in late summer or early fall.
  • They release a mix of half hens and half roosters.
  • This strategy gives birds the fall to get acclimated to the land and establish their territory.
  • Problems faced by the birds during the release to a new property include hunting pressures, predators, and surviving winter weather on their own.

Spring Release of Pheasants

  • When choosing a spring release strategy, pheasants are released in late February to early March.
  • Mostly hens are released with a few roosters.
  • This option avoids the worst of winter conditions.
  • The plan is to have pheasants breed in 30-40 days and bring off a first generation wild population the following fall.

While it is true that most folks choose the fall release option, it is a personal decision. It is a challenge to raise pheasants in the wild, but one that is satisfying and often accomplished successfully when the habitat is available.

To learn more about our chick sales or mature pheasant sales visit our website and feel free to contact us with your questions. We take pride in your success.

Successful Introduction of Pheasants to a New Property











Successful Introduction of Pheasants to a New Property

MacFarlane Refrigerated Truck

We finally got a new refrigerated truck for all of our food deliveries!!! This is very exciting and it’s also larger than our last truck.

Refer Truck














New Refrigerated Truck

Why Are Workrooms a Safety Precaution?

Workrooms are the rooms we enter before the bird rooms. Each crew member has dedicated coveralls and dedicated footwear for each bird room they enter. A water bath outside the room is used to clean mud from shoes and there is a soap mat inside to disinfect footwear before you enter the workroom. A bench is located outside the bird room to separate it from incoming traffic.

Rooms must be swept and organized daily. Right after we finish chores in a bird room we start the process of tidying up. This includes changing the footpath and mat. Once a week, we scrub, clean up any cobwebs, and clean off the control panels. When switching flocks, the rooms are completely cleaned and disinfected.

The workroom procedures are one of the many ways we prevent the possibility of disease. We have talked about biosecurity in many different situations on the farm. The use of the workroom before entering the barns is the safety precaution we take so that our employees don’t bring a virus in on their clothes or shoes.

Kristin Merriman, at k.merriman@pheasant.com would be glad to talk with you about our workrooms. If you have questions about how to keep your birds free from disease by providing a workroom for caretakers, please email her.

Why Are Workrooms a Safety Precaution















Why Are Workrooms a Safety Precaution?