MacFarlane Pheasants Around The World

In an effort to see how wide-spread our pheasants have become we are hosting an Around the World Tour. We are happy to publish our first two photo entries here. Both photo submissions have come from different islands in Hawaii.

Each person that submits a photo of themselves with our Chick Catalog in front of a US State sign or another landmark will receive a free can koozie and t-shirt. Find out more details here: https://www.pheasant.com/resources/aroundtheworldsubmissions.aspx

 

Photo Contest Entrant

Robert Neilson submitted a photo of himself with our chick catalog in front of The Island of Lanai sign.

Photo Contest Entry

Douglas Peterson submitted a photo of our catalog in the Welcome to Maui sign.

Reconciling Our Pheasants’ Feed

Keeping track of how much feed we’ve got coming in during a week, month, or year adds up with a farm the size of MacFarlane Pheasants. We’ve learned early on to monitor how much feed has come in and especially how much we paid for it. It takes good book keeping, but here’s how we reconcile our pheasants’ feed.

When feed is ordered, we’ll receive an invoice. We’ll take it and compare it to the form the driver has when the feed is delivered. We check for a few things. First, we make sure the weights match up—every pound we buy should be in the truck when it arrives. The next thing we’ll look at is the price. We contract our feed out at a certain price by a certain amount, and so if we’ve agreed on a lower price, we make sure we’ve been charged by it. If either of these is off, it’s back to the manufacturer to make sure the discrepancies are righted. The final thing we’re checking for is how far into that contract with the feed manufacturer we are, for example, we may lock in 500 tons at a certain price, we need to know where we are in that contract. Reconciling pheasant feed gives us that information.

We keep track of all these details and more in a spreadsheet. If there’s one thing we recommend, it’s keeping a good spreadsheet. Consistent bookkeeping in this area can make sure you get your dollar’s worth in feed. If it were only dollars, maybe it wouldn’t matter as much. But last year we purchased almost 7,000 tons of feed, and when you’re dealing in such big numbers, a small mistake can cost thousands—and that’s hoping you catch it. Some mistakes are never caught, meaning that money is just gone. Get a good spreadsheet going now and you’ll save yourself money down the road. We’d recommend starting with the following information: what type of feed, when it was delivered, and at what price. You can tweak it over time. We do it every year.

By keeping good records now, you’ll be able to avoid some common mistakes in the future. Sometimes a feed company will lose a contract or go off an old contract when pricing feed. Good records make it easy to go back to them to correct these issues.

It always comes down to record keeping. That’s why at MacFarlane Pheasants, reconciling pheasant feed is really a matter of diligence over a long time. Get a good spreadsheet and it will save you money and let you spend every dollar on raising quality pheasants.

 
Reconciling Our Pheasants’ Feed
 

 

Reconciling Our Pheasants’ Feed

Hold On to Those Pheasant Receipts

At MacFarlane Pheasants, we know where our money is going. We know this because we’re watching how we spend, and the best way to do this is keep an eye on the monthly credit card bill. Just like you might do with your own finances, by reconciling the bill at the end of each and every month, we’re able to monitor spending habits and make better decisions going forward.

The first thing we did to make sure we were spending both our time and our money in the best way was to put together some ground rules. For farm purchases of $50 or less, all the employee needs to do is submit a receipt. But for purchases greater than $50—with the exception of fuel—a purchase order must be submitted. A purchase order lets me examine those high dollar purchases to make sure we’ve checked out every angle.

For some of those purchase orders, I’ll actually set up a meeting with the employee to discuss the order. This can be great to make sure we’ve done our research for the best possible price and conditions through a few different vendors. It’s also a great time to ask why we need this.

Finally, I’d recommend deputizing a staff member to go after missing receipts. Our employee Pam Wallisch handles going after missing receipts. It’s an important job, but something that I don’t have time to do personally. Knowing she’s able to get the job done takes the stress off me.

Once all the receipts and purchase orders are in for the month, we’ll review and look for spending patterns. Finally, I’ll sign off and we’ll pay the bill. This part of my job isn’t the most fun, but at a pheasant farm the size of MacFarlane Pheasants’, it’s essential. More dollars saved in-house means more savings passed on to our customers.

 
Hold On to Those Pheasant Receipts
 

 

 

Hold On to Those Pheasant Receipts

Brooder Maintenance in the Pheasant Barns

Maintaining equipment at a farm the size of MacFarlane Pheasants is a job that requires attention. If you give it attention, then your equipment will work through its expected lifetime. If you forget, things break down and you have to spend even more time getting them back to working order. One of the most important types of equipment we maintain on the farm is our brooder heaters. They create the perfect temperature to raise more pheasants every year.

While we have a few types of brooders, they’re generally all maintained the same. The most important piece of equipment we use to clean them is an air compressor. We use it to blow the brooders and to clear the lines of dust and debris. Air is sent through every part that the propane passes, and then we blow out the burner itself for dust.

After the air compressor, it’s time to clean the gas orifice, and occasionally the pilot, too. We do this more frequently than blowing out the lines—often between groups of birds versus once a season. You can tell when it’s time because the brooders won’t burn as hot. What happens over time is that the orifice becomes clogged or corroded. What fixes this is a pin vice to drill them out. But make sure if you do this, you use the right size bit. If you use one that has too big of a diameter the mechanism won’t perform correctly. After you’ve finished, look through and make sure there are no particles in it.

We change the thermal couples every season. Even then, sometimes they’ll still fail, so it’s good to keep extras on hand. You’ll know if they’re failing because the flame won’t stay lit on its own.

There are a couple of pitfalls we’ve identified. First, anytime you’re undoing threaded orifices, make sure to pay attention you’ve threaded it correctly when you’re putting it back together. Otherwise it can leak and possibly create a fireball. It’s usually only small flame, but if you’re not careful, it can get exciting real fast. Also, after you’ve cleaned your brooders and put them back together, make sure your pressures are hitting the right temperatures. We use a laser heat gun to read the temperature and make sure the brooders are creating the perfect environment for pheasant chicks.

Maintaining brooders is a simple job. If you blow out the lines, keep the orifices clean, make sure the pressure is right, and ensure the gas is turned on, that’s all you need. But if you’re ever not sure, here’s our rule of thumb. Look at the flame. Orange is a bad sign—your lines aren’t clean. A strong, clean flame burns blue, and if you’ve got that, you’ve done your job right.

Brooder Maintenance in the Pheasant Barns
 

Brooder Maintenance in the Pheasant Barns

Speaking Pheasants Across A Farm

When a farm gets as big as MacFarlane Pheasants, communication can’t be ignored. That’s why we use several ways to keep in contact with each other. Between email, phones, and radios, our departments are able to keep in contact with me and each other so that we’re running as efficiently as possible.

Email is key in the business world, and it’s one of the main ways we keep in contact throughout the farm. It’s even more important when it comes to shipping our pheasants. Orders need a lot of paperwork from several departments, and email helps us keep everything ordered. If you’ve gotten your birds from us on time and as ordered, it’s because of the great email communication our staff has behind the scenes.

We also use radios to talk back and forth. They’ve been in use on the farm for more than 20 years now, and they’re great when our farm workers aren’t able to access email while doing rounds. Whether they’re feeding, watering, or catching, radios let us get in touch with farm workers if we need to. They’re also great in case of farm emergencies. There are a few protocols we use, including closing with “10/4.” I’d encourage you to develop a set of your own. They’re important again because they keep communication clear.

Finally, all our managers have cell phones. We started this manager-only policy in July of this year. This is great in case the first two methods of communication aren’t working, or if we need a manager to relay a family emergency to an employee. They offer privacy for a delicate situation.

The majority of our communication is over radio and by email, and with a backup of our managers’ cell phones, we’re able to keep the whole of MacFarlane Pheasants on the same page. It’s what works for us.

Speaking Pheasants Across A Farm

 

Speaking Pheasants Across A Farm

The Holidays at MacFarlane Pheasants

Now that we’ve posted a picture of our Christmas Tree, we never posted the tree skirt one of our staff from the office had made for the tree! Made completely with pheasant feathers, it definitely puts a new spin on decorating for the holidays at MacFarlane Pheasants.

Happy Holidays to everyone from all of us here at MacFarlane Pheasants!

 

The Holidays at MacFarlane Pheasants Christmas at MacFarlane Pheasants

 

 

 

 

 

The Holidays at MacFarlane Pheasants

What you need to know about Avian Influenza

I attended the annual National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) conference this past June in Charlotte, NC as a Wisconsin delegate.  I learned more about Avian Influenza than I’d wanted to know.  At that Charlotte meeting, Dr. Dale Lauer from Minnesota asked me to speak about our Gamebird Industry at a breakout session at the USAHA (United States Animal Health Association) meeting being held in Kansas City in October.  At that breakout session I heard even more about Avian Influenza, and the consequences of an outbreak (or anti-bodies indicating an outbreak may have occurred).

Here are some general things I have learned:

If there is an outbreak of Avian Influenza on your farm, and the Federal and State authorities determine that your birds need to be destroyed, indemnification (payment) will be made.  If you had been monitoring for Avian Influenza prior to the incident, full indemnification will be made.  If you had not been A.I. monitoring, indemnification will be paid $.25 on the $1.00.

If you choose to test for A.I. (which you must if you wish to transport your birds across some state lines, or into other countries) there are several accepted methods to test.  Using a blood test will indicate if there are antibodies to Avian Influenza present.  If A.I. antibodies show up in the bird’s blood, most likely quarantine will be placed on your farm and further testing will be required to determine if A.I. virus is present.   Alternatively you can test directly for the A.I. virus by using PCR (polymerase chain reaction), by swabbing the tracheas of the tested birds.  Again PCR will test for the presence of A.I. virus.   Blood testing is cheaper, but also introduces an increased chance of a possible situation where you may get quarantined when in fact no virus is present.  In short, test using PCR.

Be aware that if there is suspicion of Avian Influenza on your farm, State and Federal authorities will be in control of your farm and your facilities.  Most likely you will not be able to ship or sell your birds until the quarantine is lifted.

If you have a local Veterinarian who signs your health certificates or works with you and your birds, make that Veterinarian the Vet of Record if authorities ever show up at your farm. Having a Vet represent you gives you more rights.

Avian Influenza is “endemic” in the wild duck population across the United States.  Federal and State authorities aren’t even testing ducks for A.I., because they know they will find the virus.  A.I. (low path) doesn’t usually affect or kill ducks.  Since ducks are carriers, don’t have ducks anywhere near your pheasants, partridges or quail.  Nearly all of the A.I. outbreaks over the past few years that have occurred on Gamebird farms have in some way involved ducks.

What you need to know about Avian Influenza

 

 

What you need to know about Avian Influenza

How Much Do Pheasants Cost?

It seems like a simple question, but the answer is that at MacFarlane Pheasants, there isn’t a fixed price for adult pheasants. There are a few factors that go into calculating how much a bird will cost. Your location’s distance from our farm, the number of birds you order, and if we can find another customer to coordinate your delivery, all contribute to the final price. Here’s how we determine the cost of a MacFarlane pheasant.

Each time we give a quote to a customer, several factors go into how much we price a bird. The first is distance from our farm. With pheasant chicks, we can quote a fixed price on shipping since chicks are sent through the mail. But with adult pheasants, they must be trucked from our farm to yours, which is based on mileage.

The next factor is the number of birds you order. Like most other things bought in bulk, the more you buy, the cheaper the individual bird is. We have customers that order 100 birds a season, and we also have those who order them by the thousands. Your specific needs will be taken into account when we give you a quote for your adult pheasants, with cheaper prices for more birds ordered.

The final determining factor is other MacFarlane Pheasants customers near you. Why does this affect price? Because if we can split shipping between you and another customer, since we’re going that way anyway, we can make it cheaper for you both. For instance, we have several clients in Wyoming and several routes. Normally a client in Casper must order a minimum of 500 birds with a scheduled run through the city. But if we can combine that customer’s delivery with another customer at the same time in that same area, we can cut the minimum number of birds. In this case, if we can combine deliveries, we can drop the minimum to 200.

To take advantage of reduced shipping costs and minimums, it’s important to be flexible with your delivery date. As a rule of thumb, customers within an hour of our farm in Janesville have a 100-bird minimum. Customers within two hours have a 200-bird minimum. Louisiana, where we don’t currently have any accounts, would have a 2000-bird requirement. But if you’re flexible in your delivery timeframe and we can combine it with another delivery, we can often reduce delivery costs as well as minimums. Call us to find delivery options.

The cost of adult pheasants can vary depending on several factors. The best way to determine how much your birds will cost is to call our office and let us give you a quote. Talking to a pheasant specialist at MacFarlane Pheasants is just one more personal touch we offer from a family-owned pheasant farm and small business.

 

 

How Much Do Pheasants Cost?

Town Hall Meetings

I can honestly say one of the biggest reasons we have grown to what we are now is because of our staff. Pheasant life is not for everyone. It can require odd hours and working in extreme temperatures. During busy times, we all must be very meticulous and yet efficient at the same time.

On the farm, all of our departments work very closely. Everyone from the brooder crew, to the hatchery, to the shipping department is in constant communication. Therefore, when anything is out of sync, the trickle-down effect can take place very quickly.

One thing that I have been doing lately to help keep the farm running smoothly is hosting what I call “Town hall Meetings.” I try to hold these at least once a month. This time is used to get together with one of the departments and really gain insight into what has been going on, how they are feeling about their job, etc.  I like to go through a list of questions that I have compiled and ask for feedback and/or comments. The typical questions are:

Do you have all of the equipment and tools that you need in order to do a good job?

What do you feel is quality?

Is there anything you would like to change if you could?

Do you feel empowered to speak up?

When an employee gives me any type of feedback, I try to just sit back and listen. It is great to see how passionate they get about their jobs when asked, and I take their input seriously. If an employee addresses an area in need of improvement, I take it back to their manager and we look for solutions.  This is what I as an owner can do to make things better if need be.

 

 

Town Hall Meetings

The USDA Is Inspecting Our Pheasants

For the last two months, MacFarlane Pheasants has been moving through the USDA certification process. To this point our meat processing plant has been state inspected, and every year it undergoes a third-party audit. USDA certification will allow us to sell our pheasant meat across the world, and it will open up certain clients that demand USDA certification before carrying our meat products.

Because we’ve been state and third-party inspected for years, the most difficult part of the USDA certification process has been waiting. Once we applied for the credentials, we were given a number, and when our number came up, a USDA inspector came to the plant to identify problem areas and areas that had to be brought up to code. Those areas would then need to be fixed before we could continue the process. I’m happy to report that the only thing we needed to fix was to designate an office space for USDA inspectors to complete paperwork when they visit.

After the visit and the office space designation, we then had to modify our existing labels to include the USDA seal. These new labels had to be submitted to USDA for approval. We’ve since heard back that they’ve been approved. What we’re waiting on now is for our packaging plant, Twin City Pack, to have its labels approved. They were also inspected by USDA and had minimal dings. (Their process is taking longer because we’re not their only clients and all their labels have to be updated.) Once USDA approves the labels, another inspector will come to the plant and take a final walk-through.

The biggest pitfall we’ve found in the process is that because the USDA is a government agency, it’s a waiting game. We’d recommend giving it extra time because of the turnaround for inspections and paperwork. Also, we found that submitting hard copies of our labels through the mail was actually faster than submitting them electronically. Finally, it can take some time to ensure that trained USDA personnel are available. In our area, most inspectors are trained for red meat. Proper poultry-trained staff is essential, and that also requires time.

Right now we’re hoping that we’ll have our USDA certification by the beginning of the year. As it is right now, our whole pheasants and pheasant meat products can’t cross the border. Our new certification will make it possible, opening up markets in Canada and Japan. We’re also hoping to open up new relationships with several cruise lines, who demand USDA certification before bringing our pheasants aboard. With our new credentials, MacFarlane Pheasants is broadening its horizons.

 
The USDA Is Inspecting Our Pheasants
 

The USDA Is Inspecting Our Pheasants