- Animals: poultry
- Animal Products: eggs, meat
- Animal Production: animal protection and health, feed/forage, feed rations, grazing - rotational, housing, livestock breeding, meat processing, meat product quality/safety, stocking rate
- Farm Business Management: farm-to-restaurant, farmers' markets/farm stands, marketing management
Guinea fowl are a nutritionally dense and potentially lucrative alternative to traditional poultry, but very little is known about how best to raise guinea fowl on pasture. There is nothing against raising chickens–there are many pastured chicken farmers–but raising guinea fowl offers a different product that sets farmers apart from the rest of the competition. Even if farmers are interested in introducing guinea, they may not know the best breeds to use for eggs and meat, which plants can attract guinea’s favorite insects, or how to design a cost-effective grazing system that works for the farmer and protects animals from predators. Furthermore, markets for guinea fowl are currently underdeveloped. Though many chefs and home cooks are interested in guinea fowl, few producers are available to fill the demand. In my experience, guinea fowl can sell for $8-9/lb direct to restaurants, while locally-raised chicken normally earns between $3.50-5/lb. More farmers in the North Central Region should be able to take advantage of this premium fowl, while diversifying their livestock operations, and reaping the on-farm benefits that guinea fowl provide. Finally, many farmers deal with the perpetual problem of wear and tear on their bodies. As I already deal with lots of pain and health concerns with a herniated disc, a torn meniscus, and torn rotator cuff, I feel that I can modify the designs of housing structures to benefit my own safety and health. Coming up with a method to raise birds that will limit the growing concerns about the destruction of the body to farmers is one of my primary goals.
I propose to compare two different methods of raising guinea, to ultimately design a system that will help poultry farmers diversify their incomes, improve the ecology of farms, and care for their own physical health. One system will be stationary and one will be mobile. The stationary paddock will have fruit trees, fruit bearing vines, bushes planted to provide a consistent source of protein (bugs, pests) for guineas. Housing is a 10’x53’ weather/rodent resistant building, 152’ of roosts to perch on, will also have a 130’x190’ paddock surrounded by 4’ woven wire fencing. Guineas in mobile structures will be on pasture, moved 2x per day, in yurts similar to the Joel Salatin Chicken Tractor. These pens are 8’x12’ and roughly 2 ½’ tall, wood-constructed, with a mostly metal roof and chicken wire along all four sides. Yurts have a 4’x4’ door which allows workers to get inside if needed and retrieve any loss of bird(s), retrieve feeders and clean waters. Beginning when the birds are keets in the brooder, I will make daily observations, documenting bird loss, over-all bird health (based on weekly weight measurements), and the physical stress of daily chores (such as egg collection, feeding, watering and moving structures) for me. Soil samples will be sent to University of Wisconsin soil lab for each housing area to compare the effects of mobile vs. stationary units on soil quality. Summer of 2017 will be the first field day as well as one in 2018 to educate other poultry farmers about guinea fowl production and housing systems. I’ve already begun marketing the final products of this research to African, French, and high-end restaurants, and butcher shops in Wisconsin and Illinois, and will share lessons learned from those efforts at the field days.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Compare two different methods of raising guinea fowl to ultimately design a system that will help poultry farmers diversify their incomes, improve the ecology of farms, and care for their own physical health.
- Provide beneficial nutrients to soil via application of poultry waste, which may increase forage growth.
- Help farmers diversity their incomes by raising guinea fowl and maximize profitability by measuring the amount of feed necessary for different systems.
- Provide social benefits by designing systems that a partially disabled person can use and that may reduce physical discomfort that guinea fowl farmers experience as a result of their work.