Catching Pheasants

When pheasants are going out to customers, we generally do the catching and crating in the morning. The crates are set up in a catch pen and we put straw in them the night before. Birds are herded into a lane between the main pen and catch pen and provided with food and water.

The next morning, they are moved into the catch pen. If we crated them the night before, there’s a big chance we’d get feather damage on the birds.  It’s also not good to keep them confined overnight, especially if it’s warm and humid. It’s cool in the mornings and less stressful for the birds to catch, crate and truck.

If we are catching young birds inside to move them outside, we also do that in the morning. That way, the birds have a day to acclimate themselves to the outside during daylight and find food and water. If we are catching inside, we can reduce the light which keeps them calmer.

Catch pens have shade cloth on the sides that runs about two feet high. Four or five employees herd the birds into the catch pen in the morning and the employees set up in the corners to avoid the danger of birds piling. Crates, as I said, are already in the catch pen and employees working as quickly as possible, catch by hand and crate. It’s pretty amazing to watch, imagine catching and crating 400 or so pheasants at one time.

And its not efficient to grab and crate one – that’s how we do it with the stragglers at the end – but usually we catch and hold five or six at one time. Our catch crew grabs the pheasant by both legs, pins it against their leg so it doesn’t thrash around and get hurt and then move it to one hand and grab another. Still working as quickly as possible, they grab the wire cutters remove the peepers and put the group in a crate.

Sometimes we have to use nets, but catching by hand is the most efficient because we can sort by breed, sex or quality of bird. The catch crews operate like a well-oiled machine, catch, cut and crate. They work fast and the birds are in the crates and on the road before they have time to get stressed.

There’s a video on our website and you can watch the crew in action – http://tinyurl.com/og4zl74.

catching-pheasants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catching Pheasants

Dressed Pheasants

That plump, meaty pheasant breast on your dinner plate at home or at the restaurant actually came from a white pheasant. No, not an albino, but a pheasant with no pigment in its feathers – a genetic variation.

MacFarlane has been raising and selling meat birds for years, and we’ve honed in on that genetic variation that creates a white bird. As you might expect, we started out slowly since a white pheasant is one in a million. Now we raise them on three farms in Southern Wisconsin.  They get their own facilities because they are raised a bit differently and because keeping the meat stock and the game stock apart lessens the chance of disease.

We recognized the benefits of a white pheasant right away. When you pluck the feathers off of a regular ringneck, there can be a dot in the meat and it remains there when the meat is cooked. It has no taste, but restaurateurs thought some diners might be put off by the dots of color.

We sell dressed pheasants and pheasant food products at our store on Highway 51 in Janesville, but the majority of the meat birds is sold through distributors to restaurants and retail locations. There are a lot of restaurants that appreciate the natural way we raise the birds.

On one of our websites, www.pheasantfordinner.com, there’s great information about cooking with pheasant, as well as a list of some restaurants that have it on the menu. Our list of restaurants is truly no indication of all of the restaurants that serve our pheasants.  We are always pleasantly surprised when we arrive at a restaurant only to find MacFarlane pheasant on the menu.  We’d love to be able to list all of the restaurants where you can find our pheasant, but, due to confidentiality, some of our distributors retain their own customer list.

So if you see pheasant on a menu somewhere, do us a favor and take a picture of the menu with the pheasant selection listed and e-mail it to dressedpheasants@pheasant.com and we’ll add it to our restaurant list. If you don’t have your cell phone handy for a picture, just drop us a note and let us know where you found it.  And, if you happen to have a restaurant that serves our pheasant, we’d love to list your information, so please drop us a line.

The meat segment of our business continues to grow and we’re proud of being able to produce a fast-growing meaty bird as well as our great game birds.

Dressed Pheasants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dressed Pheasants

Fleet Vehicle Maintenance

When you are transporting live cargo, like chicks or pheasants, the importance of vehicle maintenance can’t be over-emphasized.

You get a flat tire or encounter a fuel problem on the road, and it’s an hour or two wait for repair help, that’s an inconvenience. If you have that problem with a cargo of 10,000 MacFarlane pheasants – that’s a catastrophe.

Our logistics and maintenance supervisor keeps on top of vehicle repairs, preventative maintenance and mileage tracking. We’ve got 27 licensed vehicles, spread over five farms, as well as other implements including tractors, gators, ATVs, and manure spreaders.

We keep our fleet current. Last year we purchased a Kenworth, and a new Mercedes Sprinter. We use the Sprinters for chick deliveries – we use half-ton pick-ups as our duty trucks on the farms. The Kenworths have a sleeper berth so one driver can sleep while the other drives, which makes for very efficient delivery and turn-around times.

When we get a different vehicle, new or used, our maintenance supervisor does pre-trip work on the vehicle. As we’ve found out, even the ‘new’ vehicles could have some glitches that need to be attended to before we trust them on the road with our drivers and a load of pheasants. Pre-trip checks have uncovered leaking seals, broken leaf springs, flat tires, and coolant leaks.

We use a tracking board to record miles on a vehicle and preventative maintenance like oil change dates. We also keep a spreadsheet of all repairs, no matter how small.

Seven of our 10 fleet trucks have GPS systems. Customers getting live birds need precise locations when trucks are coming and GPS is great for that – and also to monitor fuel mileage. We can use the fuel mileage data combined with vehicle speed to get some great information to use for future vehicle buys. The GPS is also a great tool for keeping an eye on electrical or mechanical issues.

Keeping our fleet in top shape keeps our drivers and our cargo safe.

truck-maintenance (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vehicle Maintenance

Biosecurity Precautions

Although birds by nature have a hardy constitution, and we breed them and raise them that way, it still makes sense to take as many precautions as we can to insure their health.

At MacFarlane Pheasants we taken pride in our high level of biosecurity. Barns, pens, hatcheries and brooding facilities are cleaned and disinfected. Employees take precautions moving in and out of facilities.

The farm is a busy place, employees are driving in and out, farmers who work the fields around the pens come and go, vendors and delivery people drop in and move on. It makes sense we’d add a level of security to stop organic matter from moving into the farm, and the biggest way particles and material from outside moves in – is on the tires of the vehicles that roll through the farm.

At the main gate we now have a system to rinse and disinfect the tires of all vehicles entering the premises. A split spigot and a Dosatron proportioner mix water and disinfectant – we use Virocid – through one hose that goes out to the main gate. We have a self-retracting water hose reel, and a low pressure wand and every tire gets a wash down. Seventy feet of hose means it will reach around even a semi truck.

It takes less than five minutes to rinse down the tires of any vehicle coming through the gates. Employees going through one time or five times, stop and wash their tires on the blacktop and then drive into the farm. Truck drivers, delivery people – they all wash their tires and no one seems to mind it.

The set-up cost about $300, but the peace of mind that it provides to MacFarlane Pheasants is priceless.biosecurity precautions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biosecurity Precautions

Shipping Chicks to Canada

Trucking pheasant chicks across the country is complicated–there’s routing, crating, dropping off schedules, creating drivers’ schedules, arranging deliveries to reduce costs for us and our customers, road construction, and the weather. This spring, we had more hoops to jump through because of Avian Influenza embargoes.

Until a couple of weeks ago, the state hadn’t been given an “all clear’ to send chicks to Canada and we had two standing orders to fill. We needed to get 8,000 chicks to Quebec and 10,000 to Alberta. The embargo in Wisconsin, which has since been lifted, meant we had to go to a friendly competitor for help, so the chicks shipped out of Kansas.

One of our team members handled the paperwork. She got on-line and got the necessary forms filled out, made sure the vet certificates were in order, and got the paperwork together to send drivers to pick up the chicks. We had to go to two hatcheries to get enough to fill the orders.

We still had logistic issues. In some states our drivers had to avoid certain counties that were embargoed.  In other situations our drivers had to avoid entire embargoed states. One slip up and we’d be turned back at the border leaving unhappy customers.

The pheasant chicks going to Alberta had to avoid Iowa, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and Nebraska. They traveled through Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana and crossed into Canada. The pheasant chicks going to Quebec had to avoid Missouri, Iowa, and parts of Kansas. They went down to Oklahoma, through Arkansas and then up to cross over into Canada in Champlain, NY.

The trips took about an extra 10 hours each. We usually send two drivers to make sure one has down time while the other drives–but the sleeper berths certainly got a work out, as did the office staff that checked and double checked the routes for last minute embargoes, and our logistics supervisor who planned the routes.

This was an unusual situation, but we got the job done and the orders got filled. Customer service is important at MacFarlane Pheasants, real people answer our phones when customers call, and when we promise a delivery we do our best to get you your birds.

Shipping Chicks To Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shipping Chicks to Canada

Disinfecting Barns

We are constantly rotating birds out of barns, and chicks into those barns to then be transitioned to the outdoors. Everything has to be cleaned, washed, dried, disinfected and then sprayed down to prevent bacteria problems.

Food pans, as well as food and water delivery systems, are cleaned; heating systems are cleaned, and fans and light traps have to be dusted and cleaned.

The barn area, after the old bedding is removed, is swept, and then pressure washed from ceiling to floor. We foam a layer of acidic soap into the barn and feeding areas to make sure all of the debris and bird feces is removed. The water is pushed to the center drains and the area air dries without rinsing.

Then the room is foamed with a disinfectant called Virocid and the solution is allowed to air dry. The room is then set up. Bedding is brought in, and the heaters are set up and started. We then fog the area with a pulse fogger, and the final disinfect settles in a thin film on the area, killing any bacteria that may have been missed.

The boot room, or entry room for the barn, is also cleaned and disinfected and we do this each time birds are moved from one room to another.

We have found that following this protocol eliminates problems associated with bacteria and the growth of organisms that can harm the birds.

Disinfecting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disinfecting Barns

Pheasant Pen Transitioning

It isn’t easy transitioning birds from the barns indoors, to the pens outside.  Although we like to have a little bit of cover started in the pheasant pens when we move the birds out, sometimes the weather doesn’t completely cooperate. We do a couple of things to lessen the shock for the birds when they move from the inside to the outside.

Cover is grown in the pens, leaving a five-foot lane down the center, and a perimeter around the sides of the pen so the birds have some open area. The birds use the open spaces to dust themselves, and a little bit of cover in those areas also prevents muddy tails.

You can’t put too many birds in a pen without cover because that will actually prevent the cover from growing. A general rule of thumb when we are starting out in a pen without cover or with just a bit of cover, is 50 square feet of space per bird – that’s about half the density that we will end up with in the pen. We also find birds acclimate quicker if we start out with fewer birds.

When the birds are first transitioned, we put lots of straw in the corners and under the huts. The straw in the corners prevents them from bunching up and hurting themselves, and the straw under the huts provides insulation. When it gets warmer, the huts provide shade and the birds hunker down into the dirt to cool off.

We put plenty of food and water out in the beginning, and it’s put out in the huts so it’s readily available for all the birds. We put cracked corn around the perimeter because it provides a quick energy boost for the birds and that helps with the stress of the transition, too.

We try to transition out when we know we have at least three days without rain, but sometimes that’s not possible. The huts, the straw, plenty of food and water all around the pens, and the cracked corn combine to help with the transition, since the weather doesn’t always cooperate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pheasant Pen Transitioning

GroGel

We’ve been trying out GroGel on some of our hatchlings to see if that extra little boost can cut down on mortality rates, and we’ve been seeing some good success.

Right now we use it with the Hungarian Partridges because the chicks start out on tables, and the white pheasants. If you don’t know about GroGel, it’s a sort of wheaties for chicks. It’s a soft, bright green gel that helps keep them hydrated, adds vitamins and supplements to their diet, and promotes a healthy digestive tract.

It’s easier to use on tables because we mix it up and put it on paper plates with some additional feed sprinkled around it. We have 28 tables for the Hungarian Partridges so we know just how much to mix up so there’s not a lot of waste, and we can also tell how much is being eaten and how much it is helping the birds.

We use it for 24 hours and we actually start it the second or third day the chicks are moved from the hatchery and set up with peepers. Two of our managers have been monitoring the use of GroGel and we’ve found starting it after the initial stress of moving and peeping is actually more beneficial. We see a better outcome with the GroGel use if we wait instead of trying it right away.

grogel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

grogel

MacFarlane’s New Weed Wicker

We’re always looking for ways to do our jobs more efficiently on the pheasant farm and maintain the quality of the environment for our birds. It’s not that we shy away from work, but working smarter is always better.

That brings us to our new weed wicker – yes, wicker, not wacker. Ragweed, as anyone with allergies knows, grows quickly in the spring so it’s great in the flight pens because it provides excellent cover early on. But as it grows, it shades out and kills the lower cover, like lambsquarter and, if left alone, it will soon grow large enough to tear the nets over the pens.

You can drive ATVs through the pens and spray herbicide, but the mist goes everywhere and affects a lot more than the ragweed. The team did a little research and discovered Vogel’s – a company in Canada that produces custom weed wickers.

Our new 15-foot weed wicker, three lengths of five-foot PVC pipe, is pretty slick. The herbicide saturates a rope threaded through the pipes which have holes drilled at set intervals. The pipes are set to the height of the ragweed, which always grows taller then the rest of the cover.

The herbicide wicks through the rope, through the holes, and it rubs on the top of the ragweed. It dries almost instantly affecting just the ragweed, not the birds and not the lambsquarter. After a couple of days the ragweed dries and crumbles to the bottom of the pen.

The PVC lengths can be popped off so it’s easy to get in and out of the pens. There is less use of herbicide, less waste of the herbicide used, no excessive herbicide floating around in the pens and the PVC pipe is a lot lighter then lengths of metal pipe. It also saves time because we can cover 15 feet of pen in one pass.

 

MacFarlane Pheasants New Weed Wicker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MacFarlane’s New Weed Wicker

Bulk Boneless Pheasant Breast

If you say, “there’s pheasant on the menu,” people automatically think of a perfect pheasant breast,  or half a bird plated with sauce or nicely crisped.

But distributors, if you’re just concentrating on that or whole birds, there’s a big meat segment you are missing. You can offer restaurant owners who want to offer the “other-other white meat” – boneless pheasant breast in bulk packaging.

You still get the farm-to-table experience because all of our birds are fed a natural grain diet with no antibiotics or hormones. We control the entire process. Boneless breast meat is bulk breast meat that may have some skin attached. The meat is inconsistently and randomly sized, and there may be a tear or hole in the skin. If you want to use the skin for added flavor in stock or other preparations – you’ve got it. It is easy to store and ready to use with case weight varying between 17 to 25 lbs.  It’s a great value.

Pheasant meat is lean, higher in protein, lower in fat, cholesterol and calories. It has a richer flavor than chicken and it retains its texture. It stands on its own when combined with rich sauces and it’s not something you need to be afraid to use with spices. Restaurant owners can use less and still keep the flavor in savory pies, soups, over rice, combined with noodles – think of the possibilities!

There’s nothing more elegant on a menu than seeing “pheasant.” If you’ve got a food truck client trying to set themselves apart from the rest – how about pheasant tacos, pheasant tempura or pheasant wraps? How about pheasant sausage – tasty, chic and trendy!

It’s a great alternative lean protein for bodybuilders and for athletes, too.

Distributors call us today to discuss price – we’ve got stock now. 1-800-345-8348. Retail customers, if this has got you thinking about pheasant for dinner – drop by our store at 2821 S. Hwy 51, Janesville or check out the possibilities online at www.pheasantfordinner.com.

 

Pheasant Phajita

Pheasant Phajita

Bulk Boneless Pheasant Breast