Monthly Archives: March 2013

Preparing the Spring Yards

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For the last few days I have been busy clearing snow out of my spring holding yards.  This year my yards are sitting more snow than they have since I started wintering indoors.  Clearing snow is going slow because the snow sits three feet deep in most places!  We don’t have a high capacity snow blower and can only throw the snow 20 feet or so, but enough from each side that I am able to clear a patch large enough to allow hives to be set down. The long range weather forecast shows favorable weather the week after next, so I have set my primarily start date to move hives out on the night of April 7.  All my attention is now directed towards getting ready to move the hives out.

photo (20)This year we added another semi to our fleet of trucks and bought a fertilizer tender box to fit it.  The idea is to semi truck the fertilizer back from our supplier in Morden to our home yard, then truck it out to the air seeder with this tendering truck.  It will cut hours of down time off each seeding day.

Today Adam and I spent the afternoon lifting the fertilizer box into place.  Another day of work plumbing the hydraulics in and securing the tank down to the truck frame and it will be ready for the field!

Post Sale Comments

100_0898We enjoyed a fantastic day of sun and we had a sales barn full of bids. We noticed a sense of excitement and optimism in the crowd yesterday and our buyers were hungry to get their bulls.

Publicly available sales results can be viewed on the Steppler Charolais Blog site.

Our farm has achieved a bench mark during yesterdays sale.  Our show bull, Lot 1, Steppler Diligence 113Z sold to Mutrie Farms, Glenavon, SK. for $17,000 !  This is the most our farm has ever grossed on a bull sale.  We had three committed breeders on this bull to well over $12,000 and two fought it out to the end. Diligence 113Z, a Sparrows Seminole 927W son, was shown by Andre at Agribition in Regina and drew a lot of attention to our stall.  This bull commands attention and that fact was obvious at our sale.  113Z could possibly be one of the most complete individual we have ever produced here at Steppler Farms and we are excited to have made the sale to Mutrie Farms.  

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This year my kids attended the sale and loved every minute about it.  So much so that they wanted to go back to the sale today!   My kids are pumped!  The bulls in the ring, the buzz of the crowd, the pace set by the auctioneer and the bids being taken by the ringmen had my kids undivided attention right to the end.  Frount row seats to a very lively sale.  Yesterday and today we have received countless comments on our successful showing.  A tremendous amount of attention has been drawn to our herd.

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Sorting bulls up to the auction barn for showing ! Fifteen men working support staff to make our sale run smoothly. Run off our feet may I add !

Thanks to everyone for supporting our annual bull sale and don’t hesitate to contact us anytime.

Sale Day !

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Sales ring ready for the show

Our sales management arrived last night and our auctioneer has flown in early this morning.  All of Dad and Andres year round bull work will unfold over a two hour sale.  We are optimistic and excited for the sale ahead!  We invite our neighbours to stop by and take in the sale which starts 1:00 sharp.

Our ringmen

Our future ringmen

This year we built onto our web based strategy to increase our bull sale exposure with an on line bull catalog, an on line bull video, a webpage cattle blog spot and a steppler farms facebook page.   This exercise has been very interesting as we are surprised with all the feed back.  Since we upgraded our webpage log software a couple months ago, our site has gotten over 35,000 hits!  I dont know if it will translate into more sales, but I think this project is working in the right direction.

Ezyloader Cradle

I have been getting a lot of feed back from my Youtube video showing my guys pulling honey with the Ezyloader 300 .  I have been asked to post some pictures of the machines cradle to help explain how the box grabbing mechanism works.

The cradle was designed specifically for beekeeping purposes.  The cradle is light weight, durable and set up with a wireless remote activated with a toggle switch so that the beekeeper can operate the winch without having to let go of the cradles handles.  The main frame is adjustable allowing its extension by pulling two spring pins.

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The cradle I had chosen is set up with specialized arms which grab into the hand holds  of the boxes.  These arms reach on each side of the hive and drop a hinging plate into the handhold of the box.  As the cradle lifts, the plates automatically grab the box.  As the load is let down, the plates automatically release so the cradle can be taken away.  The cradle is set up so that tines or box grabbers can be used interchangeably using a spring pin to secure the chosen attachment in place. 100_0886 100_0884100_0882

Ready for the Bull Sale

Bulls sorted into the sales penning during our mock run through the sale

Bulls sorted into the sales penning during our mock run through the sales facility

The yard is completely set up for the bull sale.  Andre sorted the bulls into their sales penning this afternoon and the animals look fantastic!  Tomorrow morning we will send all the bulls through the sales ring to test out our facilities and fix any glitches.

Our sale bulls basking in all our attention! lol

Bunch of HAMS ! lol

I took a picture of the sale bulls today just after we sorted them into their penning.  They seem to be enjoying every minute as we fuss over them, basking in the afternoon sunlight.  Our princes are just about ready to show!

Typical March Weather

Another foot of snow drop,

Another foot of snow drop,

We got pelted with another late winter snow storm last night and experiencing a full out blizzard this morning.  Our farm has received another foot of snow and with the wind of 60 km/hr, our yards are full once again.  My father in law refers to these Montana weather systems as Montana maulers, it sure feels like we are being mauled by mother nature.  The long range forecast looks promising for our bull sale as the weather is predicted to be warming and sunny.

Today I spent the good part of the day catching up with the farm books and preparing our tax documents for the accountants.  Its that time of year again!  Now that the weather has passed, and the forecast looks sunny, I’m going to turn my attention towards clearing snow.  With the auction sale eight days away, I need to clear snow out of the cattle yard to enable us to host the bull sale.  Then I plan on clearing out our other farm yards and then start clearing my spring bee holding yards.

The long range weather forecast looks promising, maybe even suggesting I could have my hives out of the winter shed in two weeks.  The only problem is my spring bee holding yards are sitting feet of snow and its going to take more than two weeks to melt and open up those yards to use.  I have decided to spend some time on the snow blower and clear the yards out to allow for a quicker melt.

I have a number of nice springtime bee holding yards along the Pembina escarpment which act as a heat sink which sometimes hold temperatures up to 5 degrees higher than back home and is an asset to my wintering strategy.  Along with that, the yards are close to a large area of bushy muskeg area which provides my bees with a continuous supply of high quality pollen that comes from the areas trees.  These spring holding yards are cherished, especially as I watch farmers clear land in places where farming was not possible before and removing our natural early bee forage.

Setting up the Bull Sales Barn

Bleachers set up in the sales barn

Bleachers set up in the sales barn

Dad and I finished painting and attaching the planking to the bleachers and today we set them up in the sales barn.  They look great and fit nicely in place.  A good job done.

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We have started preparing the barn for the bull sale and set up is going very well.  Everything was ready from last year making the set up very quick.  Much of the sales barn is ready to go but we have a day or two of work outside setting up the tub chute system and bull holding pens.  All the snow outside is making our pen set up a bit challenging as we have to push it all away and find a spot to put it all.  As soon as we can get the yard leveled, everything will come together as planned.

Semen testing was done on Tuesday and the bulls tested extremely well.  Andre is going to post some test results on the cattle blog shortly for customer viewing.
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Winter Shed

I have been asked by one of my fellow American bee friends to post some pics of my winter shed set up.  I have to mention, this shed is not fancy and put together on a tight budget but it works very well.  I am in the process of building a new wintering facility with updated features but all the features follow the same principles.

Frount entrance to the bee winter shed

Frount entrance to the bee winter shed

The building we had available to use as a wintering shed was an old Quonset style machine shed.  We gave the shed a complete make over fully insulating the walls, tinning the roof and rebuilding damaged walls.  An insulated overhead door was installed for easy access

Air intake vent light trap

Air vent light trap

and a double door entrance was built to help keep light out of the building while entering and exiting.  The two ducts seen beside the overhead door are the air intake vents and are set up with light traps to prevent light from reflecting inside.  These light traps are also installed over the ventilation fans located on the opposite side of the building.

Thermostats wired to regulate air flow

Thermostats wired to regulate air flow

Two shed ventilation fans are regulated by two thermostats which maintains the proper daily air exchange and automatically adjusts air flow through out the day to help maintain a constant 5 degrees C in the shed.  The reason why I have two fans on their own thermostat is to act as back up in case of one systems failure.

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The shed has three industrial ceiling fans installed along the top of the shed which blast air down over the hives mixing the air within the shed. Because of the shape of the Quonset style building, the 100_0991air mixes very efficiently and virtually does not leave any dead air spots.  Some beekeepers add air mixing tube fans along the floor edges of the building to aid in air circulation.  A 1500 Watt heater was installed when I first set up the shed to supplement the building with heat, but it has yet to turn on as the bees in the shed kick off more than enough heat needed to maintain the 5 degree temp.

I use red lights in the shed during my winter work in the shed.  Bees do not recognize red light to the same extent as they see white or ultra violet light so I am able to work freely without too much disturbance to the colonies.  

102_2193As you can see, in the shed we are able to utilize a lot of space as we stack the hives.  I try to leave enough space between the rows to allow for easy sweeping or access to the hives in case of winter feeding.  Adequate space should be kept between hives to allow for proper air mixing which will remove excess water vapour released from the cluster.  If the moisture does not get removed, mold issues may form and cause a lot of damage to bee hive equipment.

Bull Sale Bleachers

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Finished welding the frames for the bleacher today, loaded them up and parked the trailer in my cousin’s heated shop.  Should nt take too long to paint the frames, then the wood goes on and they will be ready to use for the cattle sale.

Feeding Bees

Feeding large single hives

Feeding large single hives

Today I spent some time in the winter shed assessing and feeding single hives.  Like my nucs, I am starting to see my large hives dropping to starvation.  Because I can not tell what is going on inside the hive by looking in through the entrance, I set up my feeding criteria to any large hive counting six to eight frames of bees covering the frame bottoms.  Surprisingly I ran out of feeders because of the number of large hives so I had to shift some of the feeders around in the shed. Soon as I placed the syrup in place, the bees swelled out of the entrance to feed on it, some hives reacting more aggressively than others.  I don’t know if that reaction was linked to hunger or not but those bees were sure excited to get some syrup.

A starved single hive.  Notice the drop dead appearance of the cluster, a tell tale sign of a starved hive.

A starved single hive. Notice the drop dead appearance of the cluster, a tell tale sign of a starved hive.

A starved cluster, notice the mold that has formed over the cluster.

b A starved cluster, notice the mold that has formed over the cluster.

I opened up one of my starved nucs and found a very concerning mold issue forming.  Mold had formed over the entire dead cluster of my nuc hive.  While walking around and peering inside the hive entrances I noticed a lot of mold build up along the hive bottom boards and up onto some of the frame bottoms.  Looks like I had my shed ventilation set too low and not enough humidity was being removed outside.  Now that I am actively feeding, there will be more moisture in the air to remove from the shed so I am going to have to increase ventilation even further.  I am also considering setting up circulating floor fans to help stir the air in the shed.  Right now I have three large industrial ceiling fans blasting air down over the hives and because of the shape of the winter shed Quonset style building there are not too many dead air spots.  Some beekeepers set up air tubes along the bottom edges of the shed to help stir the air and eliminate dead air spots.