Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Piggy Predicament

While some may refer to our swine operation as a factory farm we do not have factory hours. While most people either enjoy a half day of work or no work at all on Saturdays, it's just another day to a farmer. What began as a day of laying irrigation pipe and doing pig chores became a frantic relay race with the clock ticking.

First, three pieces of irrigation pipe had been damaged. Of course, the guys don't find this out until they do a test run and discover some leaks. So, they have to take practically the whole thing apart, fetch new pipes, and put the whole thing back together again. This isn't a garden hose either, folks. We are talking about six-inch aluminum piping that literally runs over the hill and through the buck-brush all the way across the field. It's some serious chizz to take this thing apart and put it back together. So, what started as a be-done-by-two job ended up lasting until after four o'clock.

Here's where I come in:

There I was, minding my own business, preparing supper. Frozen burger paddies in one hand and a bag of charcoal in the other when my husband, Aaron, bursts through the door. He was in such a hurry that I don't even thing he put the truck in park before he leaped out. It was a tuck and roll situation.

What're you doing? What do you have going on?
It's after five, Aaron. I'm getting ready to fix supper.
What? Supper? No, we don't have time for that. Throw some snacks at the kids and lets go.
I gotta pig emergency and I need help. Let's go. Have they ate?
The patties are still frozen in my hand. So, no. No one has ate.
Right. Throw some snacks at the kids and lets go.
I got that part. Calm down.

You can imagine how well the conversation went after that. So, instead of munching down some tasty grill burgars with asperagus and potatoes, the children had cold-cut sandwiches and I went without. The charcoal returned to the basement, feeling abandoned, and the frozen patties in my hand returned to their home in the freezer, feeling cold. Away we flew to the land beyond with shining white tin and lush flowing fields green (and brown, we really need some rain). Into the pigs we go.

At this point I still have no idea what the emergency is or even what I am supposed to be doing. I just slip into my fancy rubber boots and slide on my fashionable blue coveralls and hope for the best. Turns out that a feed auger in the barn needed to be repaired. So our job was to first manuver pigs around to get as many as we could out of the pin that the feed motor was in. Armed with pretty plastic sort boards we begin the hearding process. I have a huge bruise on my knee as a result of a 200 pound pig that decided he did not want to go the same direction as everyone else. Oh, well. No worse for wear. The second job requires Aaron to teader on a plastic bucket while he fights with some bolts and a heavy motor. My job during this is to make sure the remaining pigs in the pin do not chew on Aaron or his tools. Have I mentioned we are on slatted floors? That means anything you happen to drop is forever Aaron's pliers and his previous pliers and several bolts. I think there might be a cell phone down there too. Well, after everthing is replaced (luckily his brother showed up just in time to help hold the motor and what-nots) the pigs had feed again and Aaron could finally calm down.

All-in-all it was a good time...well, sort of but not really. The point is the pigs come first and we gave up our supper time to ensure the pigs got their supper time.

Farmers care about their livestock and that's the truth!

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Cent of Swine

This is a post that I feel needs revisiting because it is an important factor in the farming industry. Manure management is also an environmental issue and John Q Public needs to know more about the renewable resource (and money saving resource) that we are producing. Enjoy...

A lot of folks whine, cry, and complain about the smell of a hog house but let me tell you...that, my friends, is money you are smelling. Don't get me wrong, we aren't a bunch of suits snapping our greedy claws at every dollar we see; we are family farmers. That means family owned and operated but farming is first and foremost a matter what kind of farming you do. Furthermore, which is better, natural or chemical? Well, when it comes to fertilizer, I'll take natural over chemical any day of the week.

I ran across an interesting blog post The smell of money from a blog I follow, Brumm Speaks Out. In his post, Mike explains the financial benefits of utilizing swine waste as a natural fertilizer. He also describes the nutrients found in hog waste. Of course, here at Bacon Blogger HQ we have always appreciated our manure but here is a mathematical breakdown excerpted from Mike Brumm's post:

The average composition of the manure in pounds per 1000 gal of manure was 60 pounds of nitrogen, 30 pounds of phosphate (P2O5), 35 pounds of potash (K2O), 7 pounds of sulfur and 1 pound of zinc.

At the same time, I’ve seen prices quoted for commercial fertilizer in the range of $800/ton for anhydrous ammonia (82% N), $600/ton for phosphate and $800/ton for potash. Applying these values to the above manure analysis, the manure is worth $42.80/1000 gallons as it is removed from the pit.

For a wean to finish barn, you get about 340 gallons of manure per pig space per year or a net value at time of land application of $9.25 per pig space. For a 1250 head facility, this is $11,560.

When applied at 180 pounds of nitrogen per acre (3,000 gallons per acre), this becomes 8.2 pig spaces per acre from a grow-finish barn with a total land need of 150 acres.

Now, to put this into perspective, I'll give you the scoop on pig poop. To use a chemical fertilizer it will cost a farmer around $200 to $300 per acre; whereas for manure, we only pay what it cost to run the machinery--which doesn't even come close to $300 per acre. We also apply manure for other farmers and charge a fraction of what it cost to use chemical fertilizers. Furthermore, according to recent Canadian research manure actually helps rebuild topsoil. I think we can safely say that manure isn't waste, it is one of the most valuable byproducts from pigs. And, with proper waste management it can be an invaluable renewable resource for farmers.

Here is another scoop on pig poop:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mexico Ledger Pet Contest

So, I entered my Miss Mina in the Mexico Ledger pet contest. I don't generally enter in such contests but I thought what the heck. Mina seemed excited about it and I think she is pretty special so in she went.

She's come such a long way and grown so much. Just seeing what a lovely young lady she has developed into brings a tear to my eye.
If you think Miss Mina is as special as I do you can vote for her in the Mexico Ledger Pet Contest. I know I'll be voting everyday for my pretty girl.

Who's a good girl...Who's a good girl...yes you are...want a treat...some bacon...yes you do...want you bacon treat...

Don't tell me you don't talk like an idiot to your dog, too. Everyone does it and I'm not ashamed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fair Oaks Pig Adventure Center

Have you heard about the Fair Oaks Pig Adventure Center? It is fantastic! It is one of the best ideas and I cannot wait until it is up and running. The Fair Oaks Project is a proposed working sow farm with enclosed walk ways, an education center with exhibits and other educational tools, and is a way for the general public to see first-hand how a sow operation works. How proactive is that!

 The new Pig Adventure Center will be located in Indiana about a mile away from the main Fair Oaks campus. Currently, Fair Oaks has a Dairy Education Center that allows the public to view the daily activities involved with dairy farming.

 The new pig site will allow the public to view a 2,400-head sow farm from a viewing stations and walk ways. This is such a great idea because the average American is at least three generations removed from the farm. Not only does it allow a first-hand encounter with pork production but it also helps the general public to understand modern farming techniques and practices.

I am very excited about this project and hope to be present on opening day.

Check out this months Pork Checkoff Report to learn more about the Fair Oaks Pig Adventure Center.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Double Standards in Animal Care

I have noticed some interesting blog posts, comments, and sentiments about the proper way to care for animals. For example, I recently read a blog post that described the best way to care for a dog is to keep them indoors and insinuated that outdoor dogs can become vicious.
English Shepherd Image by Jo Windmann

Yes, outdoor dogs can become vicious. Just look at this one...she's a real killer. Don't let the lazy attitude fool you, she's primed for the attack.

Image courtesy of Google Images
 This is a kennel I found because according to popular believe dogs should not be allowed to roam free. If they roam free then they could get sick, hurt, attacked, lost, or killed.

English Shepherd Dog by Jo Windmann
Image courtesy Google Images

Yes, let's kennel them or keep them locked in the living room watching TV with us. I'm sure dogs prefer prime time over a romp in the grass anyway. Just look at these two examples above. It is obvious which dog is happier and healthier. Don't you agree?

Image courtesy Google Images
Disturbing image that I feel guilty for actually using
I am sorry Mina
This one I love. It is healthier to have a dog in the house and to train it to poop and pee where it lives. After all, you wouldn't want to find a steamy cookie in the yard because it is better to discover that kind of filth in your own home...really?
Wait! You want my dog to do what in my house!? I don't think so.

To summarize: If your dog does not live indoors (and apparently to his business indoors) then you are a bad pet owner.

Now, on to farm animals:
CAFO hog picture by Jo Windmann
Farm animals should be kept outdoors and free to roam on the wide open acres. They should not do their business indoors because that is disgusting and inhumane to make them live in their own filth. Despite the fact that their poo lives in a pit several feet below them not in the pen with them.

To summarize: As farmers, we should not confine our livestock in any way despite the fact that they could get sick, hurt, attacked, lost, or killed by predators.

To further summarize:

There is a serious double standard in animal care. Dogs are seen as people not animals, pigs are seen as animals not livestock, and one should be confined indoors for their own protection and well-being, while the other is considered abused for being kept indoors for their own protection and well-being.

Is anyone else confused?

I have nothing against indoor animals. I have nothing against outdoor animals. I think animals should be cared for according to their own individual needs and the individual preferences of their owners. Period. As for us, we like our piggies inside and our puppies outside. Do either look abused to you?

Precious picture of father and son petting a pig
My baby and my puppy playing in the tall grass

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Coming Together as Partners in Farming

The work of farmers has grown while the number of farmers has dwindled. Whether you believe that big business ran farmers into the ground, or that poor market values in the 80’s are to blame, or perhaps it was government subsidies that did them in it really doesn’t change the outcome. Furthermore, many people in America just don’t want to farm so pointing fingers does little good. The point is that only 2% of the people in this country provide food for our great nation and other countries around the world. While America imports practically every product you buy from the store there is one product that we still export…food and associated byproducts. That means that there is still something that is MADE IN AMERICA. I don’t know about you but I think that is pretty impressive and it is pretty darned impossible without the use of modern technology, which includes tractors, confinement barns, and modern medicine.

There is a war going on right now and it breaks my heart. It is ignorant, egotistical, selfish, and shows a level of intolerance that is unacceptable and embarrassing. Whether you choose to eat meat, or eat organic, or to go vegan the wonderful thing is that you have the choice to make.
Why must we choose sides?

Since when is there only one way to farm or eat?
Why can’t we all be “right” in our own way?

We raise hogs in confinement barns and we only eat our own hogs. We buy eggs from a local farmer that raises “free range” chickens. We also buy produce from a fellow that drives around selling Amish grown products out of the back of his pickup and we eat out of our own garden too. I also buy food from big chain grocery stores like Wal-Mart and Aldi. This is what is so wonderful about this country—DIVERSITY!
I don’t have to eat organic but I am friends with the fellow that sells the eggs and I like buying eggs from him, so I do. I don’t have to grow my own food but I enjoy the satisfaction and process of gardening. I don’t have to eat meat just like I don’t have to eat all my veggies but I do because I have a choice and so do all of you.

So, here is a choice that must all make:
Are we going to continue to argue amongst ourselves or are we going to work together and become part of the solution instead of the problem?

Some farmers grow organic on a I think that is great and necessary. Some farmers contract with big companies to produce on a larger scale and I think that is great and necessary. Some go big while others remain small and I see absolutely no problem with that. Farming has yet to reach perfection; however, we will never even come close to that goal if we continue choosing sides.
Big or small, farmers are farmers and we need them all!