Hope River Farm
Currently Hope River Farm is home to sheep, pigs, chickens (for both meat and eggs), ducks, and rabbits.
We raise all of our animals outdoors on pasture. Laying hens free range in a large outdoor pen. Meat chickens and ducks are moved daily in pasture pens. Sheep and pigs are also moved around the pasture in large outdoor pens.
This page will be expanded upon to provide detailed information on the types of animals we farm and how we raise them.
The sheep we have here at Hope River Farm are a mix of Suffolk and Charollais which is more a function of what was available than any deliberate choice. However as it turned out we probably would have sought out a Suffolk/Charollais mix anyway. Both breeds are medium to large with fast growing lambs that produce a high quality carcass. In the case of Charllais the ewes are also known to lamb easily and are excellent mothers.
Of course we don't have a lot of room to house our sheep so each spring we buy in some extra lambs to ensure we fill the freezers. For these we try to buy Texel cross lambs. Texel are a true meat sheep with plenty of muscle mass on a smaller frame. They gain very well on pasture and produce a beautiful carcass by late fall.
"You have turkey ducks!" is a common cry from our guests. Actually we have Muscovys which are a South American duck not related to the more common Mallard type species. We chose these big guys for a number of reasons. Firstly the meat is fantastic, and hey that's what we're all about. The flavorful Muscovy meat is leaner and more tender than that of the Mallard relatives and is sometimes compared to veal. The birds are much bigger, up to 15lbs! Also they are very cold tolerant for a tropical bird, easily handling our winter temperatures with a little protection. Oh yeah, and they're quiet, really quiet. As a matter of fact the only thing you'll from them is hissing or cooing depending on their mood.
These friendly chickens are one of only 2 breeds of chickens to be developed in Canada. They are super cold hardy, good egg layers and make good meat birds. In 1979 they were actually thought to be extinct and are still on the critical list as heritage breeds go, so we're very happy to be raising these birds. And I think they're pretty happy to be here too. We let them free range most of the year, as in "Mom the chickens are on the deck!" free range. During the summer when the garden needs protecting they go into a large fenced area which is moved regularly to keep them busy and happy scratching for fresh bugs. Did you know happy chickens produce the best eggs? The more sun and fresh vegetation (and bugs) they get the better the eggs. And we have great eggs.
As you may have guessed, Berkshires come from England and are a very old breed. We became interested in them because of their hardiness and suitability to pasturing. The pork produced by these guys is exceptional with a sort of marbling quality like that found in high grade beef. They're also very docile which is important for us as they can grow to a considerable size. We keep them on pasture all summer so they can root around and bask in the sun and enjoy the summer like only pigs can. This keeps them well exercised and healthy as well as happy.
These dogs are just fantastic. Wikipedia describes the breed's temperament as "Strong Willed, Gentle, Confident, Fearless, Patient and Affectionate". We heartily agree. Our Chloe is worth at least twice her weight in dog food. She's an excellent guard of her flock and very people friendly which is a rare combination in guard dogs. Pyrenees are hard wired to protect, so they are constantly on alert watching over their animal friends. They have incredible eyesight and were thought to be worth 2 shepherds in the Pyrenees Mountains of France and Spain where they were developed. At night when they can't see potential predators, they bark; a deep warning bark that keeps away the coyotes (and the boogey man).
We keep rabbit for a number of reasons. They're highly prolific and easy to keep, the meat is lean and high in omega-3, and they have a very low environmental impact. Our California meat rabbits produce litters of 8 to 12 that grow quickly to a full size of 7-12 pounds. Did you notice the red eyes? That's because California rabbits lack the pigmentation to create an eye colour.