Tag: Exotic Livestock

Buffalo Jones
The Sunflower State

Buffalo Jones

Buffalo Jones

From left to right: Pawnee Bill, Buffalo Bill, Buffalo Jones

There are many reasons why Charles Jesse Jones could be an interesting person to read about. He grew up on the Illinois frontier when Abraham Lincoln was still a backwoods lawyer. He became a pioneer, a cowboy, and a rancher, but still lived a remarkably clean life, never touching caffeine, let alone spirits. He was a founding member of Garden City, Kansas. He rubbed elbows with Teddy Roosevelt, who eventually appointed him Park Warden at Yellowstone. He even spent a while capturing big game in Africa—with a lasso!

But none of these things gave Charles Jones his claim to fame. His nickname, “Buffalo” Jones, says it all. He has the distinction as being one of the first and most dedicated to save the bison from extinction.


The Inspiration

Incidentally, Buffalo Jones, the rescuer of the bison, started out as a buffalo hunter himself.

Jones had been studying at Illinois Wesleyan University for two years when a bout with typhoid fever changed the course of his life. His poor health convinced him to give up his studies and move west to Kansas. In 1866, he moved to the town of Troy in the northeastern corner of the state, where he married, started a tree nursery, and taught a Sunday school class. Jones was evidently cut out for adventure, however, so while in Troy he decided to try his hand at hunting buffalo.

Selling buffalo hides was a profitable pursuit at the time, so Jones moved his family and his nursery business to Osborne County, arriving on New Year’s Day, 1872. Here he could be close to the great herds of bison. Besides hunting buffalo, Jones earned extra cash by capturing mustangs and taming bison calves to sell at county fairs.

In 1878, Jones moved still further west to help lay out Garden City, and was subsequently elected as the new town’s first mayor. In addition to his duties as mayor, Jones became involved in architecture, real estate, irrigation, and railroads. One would think that these diverse projects would leave little time for thinking about bison, but even then Jones enjoyed training buffalo calves to pull his wagon through the streets of Garden City.

Terrible blizzards hit Jones’s part of Kansas in 1886, killing cattle by the thousands. The catastrophe proved to be an epiphany for Jones. He suddenly realized that bison would never have perished in the cold. At that moment, he also recognized what the West was losing. He appreciated the historical significance and iconic symbolism of the bison. By 1886, Jones was sorry that he had ever become a buffalo hunter.


The Market

Buffalo Jones

Buffalo Jones donning his buffalo fur coat

Jones’s friends regarded him as a visionary, and indeed he was. But he was also a man of action. Buffalo Jones did not waste time lamenting the fate of the bison—he set about to reverse that fate.

Jones recognized early on that if ranchers were going to be interested in saving the bison, the bison was going to have to make himself useful in return. So Buffalo Jones worked diligently to identify potential markets for buffalo.

One potential produce that bison could provide was fur. Fur could be collected without killing the buffalo, and it had many uses, ranging from socks to blankets.

Another possibility was breeding buffalo to cattle. Jones hoped that a buffalo/cattle hybrid would provide a profitable beef animal with superior hardiness to range conditions. He also hoped that the “cattalo,” as he called them, would retain the docile temperament of their domesticated parent.


The Rescue

After scouring the area around Garden City for buffalo, Jones was alarmed to realize just how few bison were left. Clearly, there was no time to be lost.

Starting in 1886, Jones began making trips to the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles to capture bison calves. After four trips, he had collected 57 buffalo. These calves were released on his ranch in Garden City. In 1889, Jones added to this herd by purchasing 83 head from Manitoba—nearly all of the bison that were left in Canada at that time!

Jones subsequently collected another large herd at a ranch in McCook, Nebraska. This ranch lasted from 1890 to 1892 and was home to as many as 100 buffalo.

Jones used both herds to supply all who shared his vision of preserving the bison. Some buffalo went to zoos, while others formed herds on private ranches. Ten of Jones’s bison were even shipped to England.

Meanwhile, Jones also worked on breeding cattalo at his Garden City ranch. Here he met with limited success. For one thing, the cattalo were usually sterile. For another thing, they seemed to partake strongly of the wild nature of the bison.

Unfortunately, Jones did not have the means to continue his great rescue. The McCook ranch proved to be a financial failure by 1892. The rest of Jones’s money was lost in the Panic of 1893, so he took part in an Oklahoma land rush that same year, hoping to restore his fallen fortunes. However, in 1895, Jones was forced to sell off his Garden City bison to ranchers further west. Jones next spent some time as a legislator, a railroad promoter, a prospector in the Yukon, the author of an autobiography, and a game warden at Yellowstone National Park.


The Result

In 1906, Jones once again owned a ranch, this time on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Here he resumed his experiment of crossing bison with Galloway cattle, with about the same success he had experienced in Garden City. Cattalo never became very popular among ranchers.

But Jones’s broader purpose—saving the bison from extinction—was a resounding success thanks to the breeding stock that he sold around the country. His bison provided the genetic foundation for most of the buffalo alive in the United States today.


Helpful Resource

Charles Jesse Jones
An old photo of Buffalo Jones himself driving a team of buffalo—“Conquered at Last.”

6 Types of Exotic Poultry
The Farm

6 Unique Types of Exotic Poultry

6 Types of Exotic PoultryLooking for something a little different than the typical barnyard chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese?  You may be surprised at the usefulness and marketing potential of some of these unusual birds.



Guineas are the watchdogs of the poultry world.  Their loud shrieks and repetitive calls can serve to warn less alert chickens or even goats of predators.  Not all guineas get along with all chickens, however.  If you decide to add some guineas to your backyard chicken flock, make sure that the chickens are not being chased.

Guineas are also excellent predators of two of the worst enemies of the small farm—insects and rodents.  A sufficiently large flock of guineas can help control tick populations, and they are often used to control pests in the garden.  However, they must never be fed table scraps, or they may acquire a taste for produce.

Guinea meat, a delicacy in some countries, is lean, dark, and full of vitamins.  Guinea eggs taste just like regular chicken eggs, although they are smaller.

Finally, spotted guinea feathers make intriguing decorations.



Much like guineas, peafowl are excellent farm watchdogs.  Perhaps they are even better than guineas—peafowl are louder and far more persistent.  Although they are not usually aggressive, they will let out a scream that sounds much like “Help!  Help!  Help!” when anything unusual enters their territory.  But think twice if you have nearby neighbors.  More than one person has been fooled into rushing to the rescue or picking up the phone to call the police in response to the alarm call.

Also like guineas, peafowl are effective at controlling insect pests.

A less common use of peafowl in our country is producing meat.  Peafowl is highly nutritious, but it has a rather distinctive flavor, which can be perceived as either delicious or disgusting.  Peafowl eggs taste much like chicken eggs.

Peacocks are excellent pasture ornaments, but that’s not the only way to enjoy their good looks.  Their feathers can figure prominently in a multitude of crafts.


6 Types of Exotic PoultrySwans

Swans are another species of feathered watchdog, since they can be extremely aggressive toward invaders.

One interesting use of the swan is as a living lawnmower.

Although few people eat them, swan meat is quite edible.  In fact, it was a royal delicacy in medieval times.  Swan is lean, but quite moist.  Its flavor is only lightly gamey.

Swan eggs are also edible.  However, swans lay very few eggs per year.  The eggs are not typically eaten, but hatched to produce new swans.

Swan feathers can be collected for stuffing pillows and quilts.

Most swans, however, have little purpose in life other than to decorate the farm pond.



Probably the most common use of the pheasant is as a game bird.  After being raised to maturity, they are released into the wild to reproduce and to provide sport.  The idea is to ensure that the pheasant population is at a high enough level to allow for sustainable hunting.

Whether hunted or kept on the farm, pheasants can be enjoyed for their meat.  Pheasant is rich and tender.

Pheasant feathers are a fly-tying delight.  Their colorful plumage can provide lures of all descriptions.  Pheasant feathers are also useful for creating decorations.

Some types of pheasant are bred specifically for ornament.  They are typically not released for sport, but are kept around the farmyard for their good looks.



The partridge is primarily a game bird.  It can be released into the wild for sport hunting, or simply to establish a wild population.

Partridge is considered a gourmet food.  It is rich in protein, B vitamins, and many minerals.



Quail have become popular for their egg-laying abilities, partly because they are prolific and low-maintenance layers.  The eggs themselves, however, boast excellent nutritional value, with more protein, vitamins, and minerals than can be found in chicken eggs.

Quail also make fairly good meat birds.  They produce tasty white meat, but it can be difficult to eat because the bird is so small and delicate.  Still, quail is considered a gourmet menu item in some circles.


Helpful Resource

Getting Started With Guineas
Ready to buy your first guineas?  First read up on their basic needs.

Breeds of Livestock
The Farm

Breeds of Livestock

Breeds of LivestockThe varied livestock breeds of the world have fascinating histories and characteristics.  Many country living enthusiasts have spent enjoyable hours researching their favorite breeds.

One good source of information is the Breeds of Livestock site put together by Oklahoma State University.  This is a handy online encyclopedia-type reference packed with facts about both popular and rare livestock breeds:

While little is known about some of the breeds, the compilers have made every effort to provide photographs and information on the history and characteristics of the livestock of the world.

Another interesting feature of the Breeds of Livestock site is the world regions map, where you can view lists of the breeds native to each continent or region.

Handy for research, but fun just to read and explore.  If you love livestock and enjoy reading about breeds, this is the site for you!

Waterers and Watering Systems
The Farm

Waterers and Watering Systems

Waterers and Watering SystemsThinking about raising livestock this year? Do you have a watering system planned? If not, or if you want to improve an existing system, this is one book you must read: Waterers and Watering Systems: A Handbook for Livestock Producers and Landowners from K-State.

This free PDF download is packed with pros, cons, and design considerations for a number of water sources, power sources, and drink delivery options. Just to give you a sample:

  • Ponds.
  • Springs.
  • Wells.
  • Windmills.
  • Animal-activated pumps.
  • Limited access watering points.
  • Galvanized tanks.

The information is concise and to the point, helping you see at a glance the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

Some additional material in the back of the book goes into the nuts and bolts of calculating well capacity, pipe diameter, and livestock water requirements, as well as obtaining permits when necessary.

An essential resource for any livestock owner in Kansas. And it’s free!

7 Unique Fiber Animals
The Farm

7 Unique Fiber Animals

7 Unique Fiber Animals

Alpaca fiber

We all know that sheep are raised for wool. But sheep are not the limit when it comes to producing fiber.

Some of the alternative fibers you have probably heard of, such as cashmere and angora wool. Others may come as a bit of a surprise….

  1. Bison
    Bison hair can be difficult to work with, but those who have taken the time and trouble to spin it have loved the results. A bison has five kinds of hair: four types of guard hair in various thicknesses and lengths, and then the soft undercoat. The outer hairs can be used to make ropes, but only the undercoat is used for spinning. Once the bison is sheared or brushed and the hair is sorted, the undercoat is typically mixed with longer fibers such as wool or alpaca hair to make it easier to handle. The resulting yarn is durable, but incredibly soft.
  2. Cattle
    Of course, you can’t just spin fiber from any old cow that comes your way. The Highland is the only breed in America that really lends itself to making yarn. Unlike sheep, Highland cattle are typically brushed out, not sheared. This separates the fluffy undercoat from the shaggy outer hair and relieves the animal of its heavy blanket in warm weather. The resulting fiber can be difficult to work with, but makes durable yarn.
  3. Llamas
    Different llamas have different types of coats. Some are hairy, some are woolly, and some are silky. In general, however, llama fiber is lighter and warmer than sheep’s wool. The llama can be shorn, clipped, or brushed. Shearing can be difficult, and it takes a llama two years to grow its hair back. Clipping is easier than brushing, but leaves more of the undesirable guard hairs in the fiber. Brushing is time-consuming, but usually results in high-quality yarn.
  4. Alpacas
    Alpaca fiber is a favorite with hand-spinners because it is soft, attractive, and easy to work with. Unlike wool, alpaca fiber is hypoallergenic and free of grease, making the cleaning process much simpler. Alpacas also have an advantage over llamas because they do not have thick guard hairs to sort before spinning.
  5. Goats
    Different breeds of goats produce different types of fiber. The Angora goat produces mohair—a long, curly fiber prized for its luster. The Cashmere produces softer, downier fiber, not quite as durable as mohair. The Pygora is a cross between the curly-haired Angora and the downy Pygmy Goat. The result is a soft, curly, lustrous fiber. Angora goats are typically shorn and Cashmere goats brushed, while Pygora fiber can be collected either way.
  6. Dogs
    The farm guard dog can earn his keep in more ways than one! The key is that he must be a double-coated breed because only the undercoat is collected and spun. The undercoat must also be at least 2 inches long and fairly clean. The result is an incredibly soft and warm yarn, often used to make keepsake sweaters which pet owners cherish. Dog hair can be collected during regular brushing sessions.
  7. Rabbits
    Angora rabbits produce an exceptionally clean, soft wool when properly cared for. Unfortunately, this very softness can make it difficult for beginners to spin the fiber into yarn. Combining Angora wool with sheep wool can make the fiber easier to handle and give it a little more durability. Rabbit fiber is collected either by brushing or hand plucking.


7 Unique Fiber Animals

Angora rabbits

You don’t have to raise sheep to spin or sell your own fiber. Many of the fibers listed above are specialty items, making them suitable only for small niches, but they can provide interesting streams of income if you love working with animals and yarn.

Silkville: A Utopian Experiment
The Sunflower State

Silkville: A Utopian Experiment

Silkville: A Utopian ExperimentMore than one utopian dreamer has chosen Kansas as the place to found his grand experiment. A list of state ghost towns would be full of communities founded on some form of idealism—Victoria, the Vegetarian Colony, Silkville….

Silkville? Yes. One of those little towns started out with silk farming as its principal industry.

This experiment began around 1869 along Old Highway 50, about 3 miles southwest of Williamsburg, Kansas. The founder, Ernest Valeton de Boissiere, was a Frenchman disenchanted with the politics of his native country. His outspokenly socialistic views had earned him the disfavor of French President Louis Napoleon, and he had sought refuge in America after receiving a hint from the government that it might be a good idea to “go abroad for his health.”

De Boissiere took the advice. He came to America sometime around 1852. A school and orphanage for black children in New Orleans was his first visionary project in his new country, but he met with more opposition than he cared for and began looking for someplace else to experiment with reforms. In his travels, he happened to visit Kansas and was favorably impressed by the climate. It reminded him enough of the silkworm-raising regions of France to convince him that this should be the site of his next venture—a utopian community founded on silk farming.

Accordingly, de Boissiere bought 3,500 acres in Franklin County in 1868. He planted about 70 acres with mulberry trees to feed the silkworms, and the rest served as pasture for dairy cattle. De Boissiere also began seeking French settlers for his colonies, people who were tired of the political turmoil in their home country. Over 40 settlers answered his summons and, on paying a deposit, were admitted to the community.

The colonists were to share equally in the labor and the profits of the silk farm. They would all be provided with room and board, provided they paid their rent two months in advance. They were to each seek the interests of the others and to treat one another as they expected to be treated themselves.

It sounded wonderfully simple, but after a while things seemed to go wrong. Although de Boissiere made interesting discoveries about silk production in Kansas (for instance, that silkworms can thrive on Osage orange leaves), he simply could not compete with cheaper silk from Asia. He fell back on his more successful cheese business to support the community, but that did not work either. For one thing, the girls of the community were in the habit of marrying local farmers and moving out, depriving him of valuable workers. Similarly, many of the men seemed to have a deeply rooted instinct to either find jobs with better wages or to take advantage of the Homestead Act to start their own farms. Either way it was difficult to maintain a stable population of dedicated colonists at Silkville.

Silkville: A Utopian Experiment

Map of Franklin County; Silkville was just to the southwest of Williamsburg, toward the bottom left corner.

De Boissiere knew his experiment was a failure, and in 1884 he returned to France. Silkville struggled on without him for a time, but it was no use. The colonists abandoned silk culture in 1886. They continued to raise livestock until 1892, when de Boissiere deeded the property to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows to be used as an orphanage. He died two years later.

Today there isn’t much to see of Silkville. Most of the buildings were destroyed in a fire in 1916. A sign reading “Silkville Ranch” and de Boissiere’s one-room schoolhouse for the children of the colony still stand by Old Highway 50. Also still in existence on the nearby ranch are some mulberry trees, two stone barns, and a house made of the remains of the colony living quarters.

The best-laid plans of mice and men….

What is the Difference Between a Llama and an Alpaca?
The Farm

What is the Difference Between a Llama and an Alpaca?

What is the Difference Between a Llama and an Alpaca?


Llamas and alpacas look strikingly similar.  Perhaps that’s why they are classified in the same family: camelids, a group of camel-like mammals.  Furthermore, they can both be raised for fiber and they both come from South America.  They can even breed with each other and produce fertile offspring.  So how do you tell the difference between the two if you aren’t familiar with camelids?

The most obvious difference between a llama and an alpaca is size.  Alpacas generally weigh from 100 to 185 pounds when they reach adulthood, while llamas weigh from 200 to 450 pounds.  Llamas are also taller than alpacas.

But there are other differences as well.



  • Short faces.
  • Short, pointy ears.
  • Soft, fleecy fiber.
  • Strong herd instinct.
  • Shy, even timid, nature.
  • Vulnerability to predators.



What is the Difference Between a Llama and an Alpaca?


  • Long faces.
  • Long, curly ears.
  • Coarse guard hairs covering a soft undercoat.
  • Independent nature.
  • Bold personality.
  • Ability to guard other livestock from predators.



Llamas can be used to carry packs, pull carts, or guard sheep or alpacas, in addition to their use as fiber animals.  Alpacas, on the other hand, are almost exclusively used for fiber—and very high-quality fiber at that.

Overall, the alpaca has a more delicate, “cuddly” appearance which fits well with its shy demeanor.  The llama looks more sturdy and rugged.  Comparing a few pictures should quickly show you the difference between the two.

Getting Started With Guineas
The Farm

Getting Started with Guineas

Getting Started With GuineasGuineas are bizarre birds, no question.  They have blue faces and bony knobs on the tops of their heads, and they make an incredible amount of noise.  It is nearly impossible to talk over as few as three guineas all squeaking and chattering at once.

That said, they can be great helpers in the garden or field as they patrol for insects.  Guineas have a keen instinct for hunting up their own food, and they are willing to walk surprising distances all day to do it.  Grasshoppers beware!


Getting Your First Guineas

Probably the best place to get your first guineas is from a reputable hatchery.  Both chicks (called keets) and hatching eggs can be sent to you by mail.  Sometimes farm supply stores have guinea chicks for sale, but keets from a good hatchery are often healthier.  Reputable hatcheries will also offer replacements in case something goes wrong.

With guineas, as with most things in life, it is generally best to start small.  Guineas are noisy and extremely difficult to tame.  If you’re not used to them, only a half dozen can be quite a handful!  So unless you are planning on eating guineas or guinea eggs, an order of keets may be a little too large to start.  The hatchery will probably have to send at least 30 keets in the box in order that they stay warm on their trip!

If 30 guineas sound like a little too much, you may just want to buy a dozen hatching eggs and incubate them.  It’s more work, but hatching your own eggs is a truly delightful experience.  Just be sure to carefully follow the instructions that came with your incubator.


Caring For Baby Guineas

Before your guineas hatch or arrive in the mail, you will need to have a brooder box set up.  This can be a cardboard box, a wooden box you build, or even a water tank for cattle to drink out of.  Fill the bottom with pine shavings or wood chips, then cover everything over with newspaper or a similar type of paper to keep the chicks from eating their bedding.  Set up a heat lamp at one end of the brooder and place a thermometer underneath it.  Put a chick waterer at the opposite end, and sprinkle some feed over the paper.  Chick feed for chickens will do, but game bird starter is ideal.

When the guineas are ready to be placed in the brooder, do not just drop them in and walk away.  Take each keet individually and dip its beak into its water a couple of times, then into its feed.  Baby guineas aren’t too smart, and they need to be taught how to eat and drink in this manner.

Now comes the everyday maintenance.  Make sure the guineas always have food and cool water, and keep an eye on the thermometer.  It should read 95°F the first few days, but you will want to gradually decrease that temperature to match the temperature of the outside air.  A decrease of a degree a day is about right, but let the keets be your guide.  If they are piled up under the light, they are too cold.  If they are scattered around the edges of the brooder, they are too hot.

The newspaper can be removed from the brooder after the first couple of days, and the keets should then be provided with a regular chick feeder.  Also, you will want to place some type of screen or wire cover over the brooder to keep the guineas from escaping once they start testing their new wing feathers!


Caring For Adult Guineas

Once the guineas have their feathers and are no longer relying on the heat lamp for warmth, they are ready to move outside.  You will need to have some type of shelter for them, but it doesn’t have to be elaborate.  A portable chicken-wire house with a roof and maybe one or two covered sides for shelter from sun and rain will work fine.  This mobile home will also have to have a door so that the guineas can be locked in at night.  They may have the wild instinct to forage, but they don’t seem to have much sense when it comes to hiding from predators.  Also keep them locked up for their first few days out of the brooder so that they have a chance to get used to their new home.

In the winter, the guineas will need warmer housing, although this still doesn’t have to be elaborate.  A simple chicken coop will do, or you could just stack hay bales all around their mobile home for insulation.  Guineas don’t need central heating, just shelter from snow, ice, and biting winds.

Adult guineas require very little care.  They must be contained at night, let out in the morning, and watered and fed daily.  A pan of grit, a handful of scratch grains, and a modest amount of feed will do.  Chicken feed is not ideal for guineas; it seems to have more calcium than they need.  Game bird feed is preferable.  The guineas should be started on adult feed at about ten weeks of age.

One warning: Do not feed your guineas fruit or vegetable scraps.  They will acquire a taste for fresh produce that will be the undoing of your garden!


Helpful Resource

Murray McMurray Hatchery
Looking for that reputable hatchery mentioned above?  We’ve always been satisfied with Murray McMurray.  They offer both keets and hatching eggs.

Diatomaceous Earth and Parasite Control
The Farm

Diatomaceous Earth and Parasite Control

Diatomaceous Earth and Parasite ControlBoth internal and external parasites can be the bane of a livestock owner’s existence. They make your animals’ lives miserable, increase the risk of disease, reduce performance, and just look nasty.

Unfortunately, drugs are proving to be increasingly ineffective as parasites adapt to modern chemicals. Isn’t there some natural remedy out there that will consistently work to eliminate parasites?

There is! This natural marvel is called diatomaceous earth. It is simply the fossilized remains of diatoms, algae that encase themselves in protective silica shells. Diatomaceous earth (DE) works on both external and internal parasites, and is not a poison. Instead, it is an abrasive substance that lacerates the vulnerable parts of the parasites and kills by dehydrating. Not something that is easy to adapt to!


A Few Words of Warning

Yes, diatomaceous earth is a very safe pesticide…if it is food-grade. Please be aware that pool-grade DE is chemically treated and therefore poisonous to both animals and humans. Only food-grade DE is safe to use for parasite control.

The other caution is to avoid inhaling diatomaceous earth. The fine particles that kill parasites can also damage your lungs.

With this in mind, how do we use diatomaceous earth?


External Parasites

A dusting of diatomaceous earth over the coats of your livestock and pets can kill any ticks and other nasty bugs that may be plaguing them. There’s no need to measure diatomaceous earth used externally. Just sprinkle it onto the animal in question and rub it into the coat.

Chickens suffering from external parasites can even be allowed to dust-bathe in DE. If the nesting boxes are harboring unwanted insects, sprinkle some diatomaceous earth there, too.


Internal Parasites

To use diatomaceous earth to kill worms and other internal parasites, sprinkle the appropriate amount over the animal’s food. Various sources (and some personal experience) suggest the following dosages:

  • Cattle: 1 ounce daily.
  • Horses: 5 ounces daily.
  • Hogs: 2% of feed ration.
  • Goats and sheep: 1 teaspoon per 150 pounds of body weight.
  • Llamas and alpacas: 1 teaspoon per 150 pounds of body weight.
  • Chickens: 5% of feed ration.
  • Dogs: 1 teaspoon per 20 pounds of body weight.
  • Cats: 1/2 teaspoon daily for kittens, 1 teaspoon daily for adult cats.

However, it is always a good idea to check the bag before using DE. If the manufacturer offers specific recommended doses, use those.

Many animals will also eat diatomaceous earth free-choice if it is protected from wind and rain.

As you can see, diatomaceous earth is extremely easy to use, and it is both safe and effective. Give it a try!


Helpful Resource

Diatomaceous Earth
A microscope image of diatomaceous earth, just in case you were wondering what it looks like up close.