Spring Hill Farms

  (Newark, Ohio)
Heritage Breed Pastured Pork, Chickens, Grass Fed Beef
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Farmers - 3 Keys to Successful Marketing

I have identified three key elements that are critical to success if you plan to direct market your farm products. In talking to hundreds of farmers it became obvious to me that most of them do not have these three key elements in place to insure that they succeed.  [Read More]
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Save Your Fuel Money Eat More Pork

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Tamworth Pigs Plowing
Here at Spring Hill Farms we don't like buying $4 a gallon gas anymore than you do.

We don't like buying gasoline or diesel at any price as far as that goes. That's one of the main reasons we employed Tamworth pigs to renovate our 25 year old over grown land back in 2004.

I had been trying to figure out how we were going to bring the briar infested land back to producing something more than multi-flora rose, rabbits and deer. 

Being raised on a farm I knew pigs had a bull dozer/industrial roto-tiller on the front and a manure spreader on the back. Of course in between is a whole bunch of good eatin'.

So why spend hundreds of dollars per hour to hire a dozer to clear the land? The only reason I could come up with was it would be faster and admittedly easier. Hire the dozer, go in afterwards and broadcast seed.

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Tamworth Swine Dozer

But I wasn't in a hurry and it looked like there was a good bit of vegetation the pigs could utilize.

Now for the part the dozer and equipment couldn't accomplish.

The pigs would add fertility to the soil as they cleared it. The pigs would also root the soil and loosen it up verses pack it down like the equipment would tend to do.

And finally, I've have never had bacon from a bull dozer!

So after I considered both options, I decided pigs were the way to clear land here at Spring Hill Farms.

If you think about it, it's much like farmers would have done before heavy equipment and cheap fuel. As farmers we are going to have to look at how things were done in the past and leverage them with the knowledge and some of the equipment we have now. (Like electric fence.)

We try to find ways to incorporate our animals natural behaviors into working for us. That philosophy is the exact opposite of the farmer who puts his hogs on concrete so they don't root.

The closer we can mimic natural patterns, the better it is for us, and the animals.

Until next time... 


 





 
 

Over Seeding Pasture for Pigs and Poultry

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Tilling Pasture
Pigs eat a lot of grass. Especially a bunch of
Tamworth pigs
that get fed limited amounts of grain.

In order to keep our pastures full of good grass we sometimes over seed with different types of grasses.

I ascribe to the saying "manage fescue and encourage clover."


What that means is some grasses such as fescue, are pretty aggressive when it comes to taking over a stand of grass. Clover on the other hand will normally die out after several years due to the fescue and other grasses crowding it out. Even if that's not the case clover still dies out after several years and needs replanting.

This particular pasture we are working on is really what most people would call their back yard. I want to utilize all the land I own. So I ask myself "why mow all this every week when I could ease some pigs up in here for a few days of intensive grazing?"

I then posed the same question to my wife! After all, it's gonna take some talking to get pigs within twenty feet of the back of her house.

Which brings up another point...Do you think I'd have a chance if she thought she was gonna smell pig manure?

When you look at pictures of our farm you notice we have neighbors on top of us. Our property is narrow and deep. Minimum amount of road frontage and goes back forever. There have been something like 18 houses built within the last five years around us. 


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Tearing up the sod.
If you look in this picture we are actually going behind my father-in-laws house because he likes to mow about as much as I do!

It is critical that we manage these lots so as to not offend anyone with sites or smells.

Most people who drive by our farm have no idea the number of pigs running around. Many don't know we even have pigs!

 

Compare that the old pre-1950's model of running pigs outside where everyone knew it because they could smell them a mile away. People are amazed when they come to visit at how they can't smell the pigs.

How do you accomplish this?

1) Move your pigs often to new grass.

2) Don't try to raise more pigs than your land can support.

I'll be talking about this more in future blogs. I have a lot of people who want to see how we manage these pigs here at the farm. I plan to video and blog some of this through the summer.

This ground was horrible when we first started running hogs and poultry over it. Slow but sure it just keeps getting better as we allow the pigs and chickens to fertilize it.

Until next time...

 

Watch a video of this while I ramble.


 
 

Are we Losing ground?

My last post was about the push to get government to release farmers from the CRP program so they could put acres set aside in the program back into grain production.

Here's a good video talking about the pros and cons of tilling the soil.

 

Watch Video

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More Land - More Grain

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More Acres
Source: Congressman Devin Nunes


Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA) and 25 of his House colleagues called on President Barack Obama to release willing farmers from their Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts in order to produce additional grain. With Americans facing rising food prices and government officials predicting the possibility of grain shortages, immediate action is necessary to enhance U.S. production. (see letter here)   “Americans deserve a government that plans for the future. That means responding to threats of grain shortages, not just predicting them. Releasing some land from CRP contract will provide an infusion of additional production that is desperately needed. It’s a decision the President can make and one he should act upon as quickly as possible,” said Rep. Devin Nunes.  

Record Production / Falling Stocks In 2011, grain production in the United States is expected to cover 92 million acres – one of the largest plantings in more than 50 years. Yet despite this enormous production, domestic supplies of grains are falling at the fastest rate ever recorded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).   Meanwhile, U.S. consumer food prices (for proteins) have risen by 6.8% in the past year, more than triple inflation. The costs of staple commodities are rising at an alarming rate, threatening the weakened U.S. economy but also pushing struggling families beyond their limits.  

Real Shortages Global demand for grains has soared and various national and international agencies are predicting that shortages are likely. As a result, many nations are stockpiling reserves. Throughout Asia and the developing world, governments are working to establish significant reserves. It is time for the U.S. government to recognize the crisis and take action.   Action Congressman Nunes and his colleagues believe it is essential for the President to act. The USDA can promote increased grain production by releasing willing farmers of arable land from the Conservation Reserve Program. There are 32 million acres currently out of production under CRP contracts. A significant amount of this land could be used to produce crops.


Thanks to Agweb for this article.


 

 
 

A Side of Beef - The True Cost Per Pound

Picture What's the true cost per pound when buying a side of beef or whole beef? For instance you see advertised grass fed beef for say $3.99 pound hanging weight.

So you read a bit further and see that a side of beef (hanging weight) is typically around 350 lbs. For an explanation of hanging weight click here.

 

SO…

 

$3.99 x 350 lbs = $1,396.50 You know what the side costs but the question that arises is something like:

 

So what cuts do I get?

 

How much meat do I get?

 

That is the real question you need answered to decide if your getting a deal you're satisfied with.

Many consumers have never bought beef this way. They get their beef and find they ended up with 55% of the hanging weight.

So the true cost per pound looks like this:

350 lbs hanging weight which yields approximately 55% for a take home weight of  192.50 lbs.

$1,396.50 /192.50 lbs  = $7.25 per lb packed weight (take home weight).

Before you buy beef in bulk by the hanging weight:

Ask the farmer for these numbers! They should be keeping track of the yields from their beef. If they are not, and can't answer your questions, you have no way of knowing what your final cost per pound will be.

These numbers are averages and not all beef yields the same. If you don't know what the typical yield is from the farmer's beef it is a shot in the dark. Many farmers are not well versed in selling freezer beef so they aren't familiar with what the yield is from their beef.

I have seen many farmers who actually sell small amounts of beef at a lower price per pound than what it would cost to buy a side!  This tells me they probably have no idea what their beef yields.

Why would you buy a half a beef at $7.25 per pound packaged weight when you could buy smaller amounts say a 50 lb box for $6.00 per pound?

Using the example above you could buy the same beef in 50 lb boxes for $1,155.00 That’s a savings of $241.50 I'm sure you can find better use for that money!

If you purchase a side of beef from Spring Hill Farms we will show you the numbers on our beef. You will have a very good idea what your final cost per pound will be.

So before you purchase a side of beef, get the true cost per pound.

Until next time….


 

 
 

Can GM Crops Feed the World?

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One of the justifications for the use of genetically engineered crops is that it can eradicate world hunger. Clearly, the production of adequate food supply is a noble goal, but the supposition that we can achieve this goal through the use of GM crops is seriously flawed.

"The largest study in the world that dealt with this, which included about 400 scientists, was assembled by the United Nations and the World Bank into something called the IAASTD (International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development). After a long set of studies that were peer-reviewed, portions were sent around and I received elements of the final report," Dr. Bereano says.

"The IAASTD found little evidence to support a conclusion that genetic engineering or modern biotech are well suited to meet the needs of small scale and subsistence farmers who were of course feeding huge numbers of people, especially in the Third World where hunger is so evident."

He also accurately points out that we have hunger right here in the US, despite our grain surpluses and despite the fact that we use genetic engineering more than any other country. Food production and hunger is not necessarily a simple one-to-one equation. There's also the issue of not having enough money to buy the food that is readily available!

Additionally, GM crops sure aren't less expensive than conventional!

On the contrary, GM seeds are getting increasingly expensive, as are the prerequisite pesticides—not to mention the fact that farmers are forced to buy new GM seeds every year, opposed to saving the best seeds for the next planting, which has been done since the beginning of agriculture. The increased expense of farming with GM seeds has likely already caused more than 180,000 Indian farmers to commit suicide when faced with insurmountable debt, failed crops, and no money to buy new seed.

Not surprisingly, Monsanto and the United States, along with a couple of other countries refused to sign off on the final report that was ultimately issued by the UN…

On the other hand, studies have repeatedly confirmed that farming methods that promote healthy soils and biodiversity can dramatically increase production and yield. For example, as recently as March 8, the United Nations issued a press release with the headline: Eco-Farming Can Double Food Production in 10 Years.

It states:

"Small-scale farmers can double food production within 10 years in critical regions by using ecological methods,a new U.N. report shows. Based on an extensive review of the recent scientific literature, the study calls for a fundamental shift towards agroecology as a way to boost food production and improve the situation of the poorest.

"To feed 9 billion people in 2050, we urgently need to adopt the most efficient farming techniques available," says Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and author of the report. "Today's scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production where the hungry live -- especially in unfavorable environments."

Agroecology applies ecological science to the design of agricultural systems that can help put an end to food crises and address climate-change and poverty challenges. It enhances soils productivity and protects the crops against pests by relying on the natural environment such as beneficial trees, plants, animals and insects.

"To date, agroecological projects have shown an average crop yield increase of 80% in 57 developing countries, with an average increase of 116% for all African projects," De Schutter says…

"We won't solve hunger and stop climate change with industrial farming on large plantations. The solution lies in supporting small-scale farmers' knowledge and experimentation, and in raising incomes of smallholders so as to contribute to rural development."

Best of all, these agro-ecological approaches do not pose any danger to the environment or to human health whatsoever—quite the contrary!

So, wouldn't it make sense to focus on the safest, most beneficial, and most effective methods of food production instead of dabbling around with unproven high-risk technology that may or may not provide any benefit whatsoever to anyone besides the patent holders?

Unfortunately, the fact this isn't happening is a testament to the immense power of the biotech industry, led by Monsanto, whose corporate officials rotate in and out of the White House administration, the FDA and other regulatory agencies. Read the full article here.


Comments: Here at Spring Hill Farms we have never bought into the theory that genetically modified foods can be the answer to feeding the world. 400 scientists came to the same conclusion. A huge thanks to Dr Mercola for sharing this information.


 

 
 

Farmers - Retailer or Direct Marketer?

The mind set with which you approach your small farm sales is critical to your success. If you approach selling direct from the farm as a traditional retail operation it will require a completely different set of parameters to operate by than if you approach your business as a direct marketing endeavor.

I’ll confess right up front I am biased towards direct marketing. I posted a while back as to why I don’t sell at farmer’s markets.

To me they encapsulate the retail mindset of selling farm products. You set up and essentially wait for customers to show up to buy.

I realize that farmers can do very well at these type of venues, but I see a huge amount of risk and loss of control. Take for example the farmer’s market closes up shop. Where do all the customers go? How many of them do you have a way to contact? Do you have a relationship outside the market with them? If you answered “no” to any of those questions you will take a big hit if that ever happens. Risky and not much control over what happens I say!

Contrast that with direct marketing of your farm products. You have a large diverse group of people that you actively initiated a relationship with.

Wouldn’t you rather have a large group of  customers that isn’t dependent on them getting out of bed and coming down to see you at the market?

I contend that in some ways we are training the customers who want to buy off the farm to remain in the retail mindset by how we market to them.

One of the most common questions I get is customers trying to figure out the system by which I sell products! They ask about my attendance at local farmer’s markets then about coming to the farm to purchase.

They are in the common retail mindset. I understand why. It’s the most common way to buy food. Once they experience how we market, they love it!

We encourage folks to come to the farm and visit, but discourage them from thinking it how we sell products. Farm gate sales are fine, but just as with the farmer’s market you are waiting on someone to come by and spend money.

I would have never grown my sales to level that they are so quickly by waiting on someone to stop by the farm or a farmer’s market!

That’s the retail mindset.

In speaking with farmers I think the main reason they gravitate to this type of marketing is because it’s what they know to do.

Let’s face it…the question on every bodies mind is:

Where can I find customers in significant numbers without using these venues?

Good question!

Since I have never sold at traditional farm venues I can only tell you how I’ve built my business. These steps are simple, but not always easy.

Figure out what your U.S.P. is. That’s your unique selling proposition. Why should people buy from you? Do this first. It helps you focus your efforts where they make the most impact.

Connect with I call “people of influence” to try your products. This was the second step I took when I started selling direct.

Create a system to glean referrals from your current customers. A high percentage of my new customers are from word of mouth advertisers – the best, least expensive, kind of advertising.

Have a system in place to get testimonies from your current customers and incorporate them in your materials.

Consistently use a system to identify and obtain new customers. I adapted a method from another business I owned that works like magic.

Find ways to make it easy for your customers to pay you. I collect payments automatically which makes it much easier for me and the customer to do business with my farm.

Develop a website and learn to drive traffic to it. This took tons of time and learning, but I now have a significant amount of internet customers. (a whole subject in itself -more on that another day.)

These are some of things I have done to build my farm business. I’ve never used a farmer’s market or had a wholesale account because I haven’t needed to! I believe farmer’s markets are a viable way to market your products and some of these techniques would work for them. For me, I like spending time with my family on Saturday morning.

 

Until next time…

PS- I explain exactly how to do this and more (minus the website information) in my latest ebook “The Secrets of Selling Your Farm Products Revealed.” If you’re looking for increased sales and more customers click here to get your copy today.



 
 

How to Choose an Electric Fencer


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Electric Fence Energizer

One of the most important pieces of equipment for the hog farmer who wants to raise pigs on pasture is an electric fence charger. Sometimes called a fencer or energizer.

I have had several energizers over the years some good and some not so good.

Growing up on the farm was in the day before low impedance energizers. These chargers would shock you very good but they also "ground out" very easy. Some of the very earliest chargers were also continuous output. That means they didn't pulse on and off like most of the new ones do. Pulse is good as this gives the animal (or you) a chance to escape.

Fi-Shock still carries a continuous output charger. The only reason I can think of to have one is to re-train a particularly stubborn animal. However, I think the best way to train livestock to electric fence is covered here.

For most applications you want a "low impedance" fencer. The term may seem to be a little misleading, but in actuality, low-impedance means that there is less resistance (or impedance) in the charger so more power can be pushed through the wire.

This type of charger is able to power through weed pressure and worse if needed. It's a must if you're fencing through areas where you have a high probability of deer tearing down your wire or tree limbs falling etc.

I recently went around checking fence on an area that hadn't anything in it since last summer. I hooked the section of fence and tested the voltage. It was reading 4 kv on my tester. It usually runs around 9 kv so I knew it had some areas that were partially grounded out.

I walked around the perimeter and found tons of sticks laying on it and two places where the wire was completely buried under the wet leaves for probably 25 feet!

That's the power of low impedance! 4 kv on my charger will keep a trained pig in where he belongs forever.

My current charger which is pictured above is from Fi Shock. It is rated at 15 joules. There is a technical definition for joules, but to keep it simple it's the amount zap the fencer will push out.

The higher the joules the more power to keep your stock in over long runs of wire.

The biggest mistake you can make when buying an electric fence energizer is to not go big enough. Pigs can take a shock. I've had 3 joule chargers before and they will hold pigs in just fine provided you're not running too many feet/miles of wire on it.

But I noticed with those chargers the pigs have a habit of getting their nose in the fence more at feeding time. All it takes for a pig to get out is to figure out the wire is off and they are out and running.

With this 15 joule charger they don't have any interest in getting their nose on it! They do from time to time, but instead of a short squeal and a jerk, they scream and then woof two or three times after that! It get their attention.

Finally, although I'm not going into installation here, the one area that needs the closet attention is grounding your energizer. The biggest, most powerful charger is worthless without being grounded properly. Follow the manufactures directions and don't skimp!

Pigs and other livestock are wonderful if they stay where you put them. With a good electric fencer energizer and some training, they will stay in the pasture where they belong.

Until next time...


 

 
 

How To Opt Out of a Food Shortage

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I posted back in January What does 2011 Hold and Five Steps You Should Take.

Since then fuel prices have continued to go up. Grain prices are up, and food prices continue to rise.




Fuel (diesel) has just now reached $4 a gal here in my part of Ohio. $4.05 to be exact.

The world's best real estate investor, Sam Zell, told CNBC last week: "My single biggest financial concern is the loss of the dollar as the reserve currency... I think you could see a 25% reduction in the standard of living in this country if the U.S. dollar was no longer the world's reserve currency."

Folks don't bury your head in the sand.

"A prudent person sees trouble coming and ducks; a simpleton walks in blindly and is clobbered." - Proverbs 27:12 The Message


Of the five steps I outlined previously, I want to focus on one that I feel is so important that I'm going to say this:

There is absolutely no reason why anyone should not do this.

If you only take action on one tip, do this:

PLANT A GARDEN.

The most basic, fundamental, insurance policy for your family is to provide food for them. Start planning now.

If you think about it there is no downside to planting a garden. If I'm crazy (along with some the most informed, wealthy people in this country) then the worst thing that happens is you have some good, fresh, food to feed your family.

But if things continue to decline - not just in our economy, but worldwide unrest seems to be getting more prevalent.

Then throw in some natural disasters.

Can you imagine a disruption in our oil imports? If we think $4 -$5 a gallon is expensive for fuel....

And the real question is how much of your monthly budget can you spend for fuel and food while still meeting your current obligations?

My friend it is time to wake up! Get out your pen and paper and figure out where, when, and how you're going to plant a garden!

I recently went on the hunt for some good solid information on small garden "how to." I wanted to see if I could point you in the right direction while you were reading this and take all the excuses away!


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High Density Gardening
I'm a big believer in intense gardening. I grew up with the typical huge garden that you see on most farms of that time.

We spent hours weeding, hoeing, having a roto-tiller beat us to death, hilling up potatoes, and generally working the garden.


With my schedule I don't have much time to spend in a garden. I bet your schedule is like mine. Ric, the author of High Density Gardening has got it figured out.

He covers everything from A to Z in this ebook.

  • How to plan your High Density Garden in order that you can maximize the quantity of crops you can grow
  • How to build a High Density Gardening bed
  • How to propagate seeds
  • Home made compost. How to make it quickly.
  • Much more

And the best part- You can download it and be reading it within the next 5 minutes.

I'm no stranger to gardening and I was impressed with this book. His writing style is refreshing and he knows his stuff. I'm already planning some changes to my gardening and I'm excited!

No more excuses! Get your mind made up to plant a garden this year. Don't wait until you discover the economy or food prices have killed your budget. Do something now! When a friend is talking about how much produce has gone up at the store wouldn't you rather be telling them you haven't bought much produce since you started your High Density garden?

Or how about this - you offer them some of your garden produce at a better price than the local grocery store because you have so much!

Until next time!


 

 
 

How I'm helping Save Heritage Breed Pigs

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Heritage Breed Tamworth
When I first started raising Tamworth pigs they were listed with The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy as "critical." Since then they have been moved to the "threatened" list.

While there are many ways to promote a breed, one of the best ways and especially in the case of heritage breed pigs is to eat them! That is where I have focused ever since I bought my first Tamworth breeding stock. I was just foolish enough to believe that if enough people found out how fabulous the pork was I could create a demand for a pig that was on the verge of extinction.

If enough people eat the pork and want more, I've got a reason to enlarge my herd and help increase the population.

How has that worked? Pretty good! I have increased my business every year and my pig population. As more and more people have experienced the pork they want more.

I now have other farmer's (who couldn't figure out why I went 500 miles "to get pigs" when I first started) that are helping me raise them to feed all the hungry customers.

As the word has spread about these old bacon hogs I have been forced to increase my herd size to cover the demand for breeding stock.

Tamworth swine are the perfect fit for small farms. They are active foragers and very prolific. I have focused my breeding program on breeding pigs that can forage as much as possible and still put on weight. This is an added bonus with corn tripling in price since I started.

So the bottom line....

If you're looking for some of the best pork you can find try an old heritage breed pig. If you're in the central Ohio area, look us up!

If you're a small farmer looking for a good pig to fit your farm. Find a farmer raising an old heritage breed pig. I love Tamworth, but they're not the only one for sure.

If you're a farmer who would like to know how to help these heritage breeds or increase your sales no matter what you sell, here's the best fast-start resource you'll find.

Until next time...



 
 

Most Tamworth Sows are Great Mothers

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Tamworth Sow and Piglets
Tamworth pigs are the breed I decided to raise for several reasons. One, they have big litters.

They also are typically good mothers.

We farrow our sows outside in the warm months and many times the sow just goes into the brush and builds a nest.


In the winter we use huts or bring them into the barn and put them into a 12 x 12 stall. Contrary to what you may have heard or read, not all Tamworth swine are great mothers. Most of them are, but we breed for sows that will farrow outside with out assistance.

I've had a few since we started breeding Tamworth's that weren't very good mothers. I like a sow that takes her time laying down and "talks" to her pigs as she does to let them know "get out of the way."

If they hear a pig squeal they move or jump up whichever the situation calls for.

I need low maintenance hogs. The Tamworth sows we have are very capable of having their babies and caring for them just like nature intended!


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How to Cook Grass Fed Beef

 

Grass fed meat is leaner, denser, less watery, and far more flavorful than other meat.


This is affected by mainly two things:

  •  The quality of the animal (breed and genetics)
  • The quality of the forage (pasture quality or hay)
For instance some cattle don’t finish as well on grass as others do. That’s the genetics part. The forage could be hay if it’s winter or maybe less than optimal pasture, and cattle typically don’t finish as well on hay or nominal pasture as they would on lush, green, spring grass.

Keep this in mind as you cook grass fed beef. Over cook it and you'll be disappointed.

So you’re ready to cook a steak.

  • Cook it low (heat)
  • Cook it slow

Never cook a steak over medium rare. Rare is better. Anything over medium rare is going to be dry and tough. Think jerky, it’s not very good without some heavy spices. Which leads to another tip; do not salt a steak until after it’s cooked and on your plate. Salt pulls moisture out of the steak….not a good thing. You must have a meat thermometer! You can’t really get it right if you’re trying to go by what color the inside of the steak is. If you cut into it valuable juice escapes and leads to a drier steak.

You should use tongs instead of a fork to turn steaks. Same as above, your losing valuable juices every time you poke it with a fork.

The best temps for grass fed steaks are as follows:

120 to 140 degrees.

Once you get it to this temperature pull it off the heat and throw it on a plate and leave it sit for at least five minutes while the juices redistribute and it finishes cooking.

Follow these guidelines and you’ll be amazed at how delicious grass fed beef really can be!

Here's a printable copy of these tips.

 



 
 

Training Pigs to Electric Fence

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Tamworth Gilt
Pigs are easily to keep in with electric fence. But training them to respect it is critical.

When we start new piglets out here on the farm. We always take them through a training process.

Without training them you will end up with pigs that get out constantly. That's never a good way to keep your neighbors happy about you having pigs.

Electric fence is a mental barrier verses a physical barrier. A physical barrier is something like a hog panel. They physically can't get through it.

Two little wires would never keep a pig in, but once they fear and respect it they will stay right where you want them.

Every once in a great while you get a pig who runs through the fence and then figures out how to slip the wire. If you don't put a stop to it immediately they will get out anytime they want.

The only choice is to re-train them or they will teach the rest and then you're in for a long chase and possibly upset neighbors. Not to mention they could get out and get onto a road or tear the heck out of someone's yard or flower beds.

By slipping the wire I mean putting their head down and slipping under the wire. They usually get right up to the fence and drop down and squeal as they keep right on going!

These are the pigs you hope you never get. But usually they learn this by not having a good fence charger or the fence wire isn't positioned properly e.g. not enough strands or too high off the ground.

I would never keep a pig that slips the wire for breeding stock. Around here if you don't stay where you belong, you become food! That's the main reason my boys always tell me before they go anywhere. (just kiddin)

So how do you train a pig to electric fence?

You fix a pen for them in the barn or outside and have it so there is plenty of chances for them to get into the hot wire.

The critical part is have the pig get into the wire but never be able to  get past or go through the wire.

A good example would be a a pen made out of hog panels with a couple hot wires around the inside at the proper height, which is nose height for pigs.

If a pig get shocked in front of the eyes, 99 times out of 100 he'll back up. But if he gets "hit" behind the eyes, say top of the ears, he will lounge forward.

If all you had was a wire with no physical barrier behind it, he is out the first time he gets shocked and your fence is torn down. If he repeats that a few times forget ever keeping him in with just electric fence wire.

But if you train in the pen with a hot wire and a physical barrier even if he lounges forward all he gets is more shock!

I've had some pigs that weren't too smart and they would get into the wire and run down the fence for 15 or 20 feet determined to get through it. It didn't take them too long to figure out they were in a losing battle!

Tie flags on the fence every three feet or so. Pigs will learn to associate the flags with the shock and avoid them. That way when you put them out on pasture and use the same flags they won't even try the fence because they "know" they can't get past it.

I have found a good flagging material is the tape that surveyors use. It's bright orange or pink and you can get it by the roll at most any home improvement store. It lasts for a long time and the colorful tape keeps you from running into it with equipment or your bare leg!

The only time I have pigs get out of a new pasture is not enough flags and they can't see it.

When visitors come you can quickly point out to the little kids that the flags will bite and do not get near them.

I love using fiberglass post with insulators that you can slide up or down to adjust the height as the pigs grow.

That way you can keep it at nose height no matter what size they are. The bigger they get the easier it is to hold them in. Little pigs can slip through a wire very easily.

There are a million chargers on the market but a good rule of thumb is use one at least twice as big as what you think you'll need. You usually end up running way more fence than you ever planned to in the beginning anyway so get a charger once and be done with it.

Look for a charger that is low impedance and at least 3 joules.

I currently use a 15 joule charger and even my old sows do not fool with the fence. It can stand heavy weed pressure or even have a deer run through it and be on the ground and pigs stay put.

We use two strands for almost everything and with sows many times only a single strand.

It comes down to training them right the first time and and having the right equipment and no worries.

Until next time....


 

 
 

The USDA - Antibiotics and Chicken

Picture

Bacterial Chicken!
Poultry are heavy consumers of antibiotics in mainstream agriculture. The establishment has assured us for years that it is not really a health hazard. The reside left in the chickens is harmless. Yea, right.

So I wonder why The United States Department of Agriculture has a team of scientist working on introducing what they call "competitive exclusion cultures." They introduced these cultures of 29 different bacterial species into farm raised chickens as part of their diet and then exposed them to salmonella. They found that chickens exposed to the bacterial culture had 99 percent less salmonella colonization than unexposed chickens according to Discover Magazine, March 2011.

Interesting! I blogged on this very topic a while back. I'd love to think the USDA scientist read my blog but the truth is, as always, public outcry over several studies that have been done in the last several years have consumers getting worried about antibiotic residue in their food.

That coupled with the deluge of antibiotic resistant bacterias that are surfacing (which is what prompted the studies no doubt) not only in livestock but humans as well have scientist worried.

So many consumers have been opting out of the antibiotic laced factory farmed chicken and buying from a small farm that doesn't dose their chickens with medicated feed.

But don't be fooled. The USDA is trying to figure out a new way to leave chickens in huge confinement barns and not have to dose them with antibiotics. Granted it is better to have confinement poultry that is antibiotic free than what is available now.

I wonder if they can come up with something besides Roxarsone (an organic version of arsenic) as a growth promoter? I seem to do fine without putting it in my chicken feed.

To me this whole thing is just proof that you can't rely on regulations and inspectors to make sure your food is healthy and safe.

Buy from a local farm. Visit the farmer and ask questions. A good local farmer has no secrets about what they feed their stock and how it's raised.

At Spring Hill Farms I have been growing good bacteria for our animals to ingest for a long time. Maybe that's one reason why I never have a need for a veterinarian.

Until next time...


 

 
 

Small Farmers - Times Are Changing

The demand for local, organic, farm fresh meat and vegetables has been on the rise for the last several years.

This means that people are actively seeking out this type product. Many “marketing type” farmers have been enjoying increasing sales every year.

According to Finding Dulcinea, In Indiana, the number of small farms increased by almost 80 percent from 2002–2007. Greg Preston, director of the Indiana Agricultural Statistics Service, told the Indy Star, “We are getting a lot of newer farmers coming in that are smaller—going into direct marketing, specialty products, organics, locally grown, this type of stuff.”

My farm has been struggling to meet the demand since shortly after we started selling direct. That is in part because I come from 25 plus years of sales and marketing experience.

But it’s also because the market for local farm food is growing and I’m enjoying the fact that people are actively looking for farms like mine.

But I’ve been around enough new and emerging markets to know that won’t always be the case.

Take for instance the big mortgage boom up to about 2008. I owned a company that used mortgage lending as a way to grow our business. We used many different mortgage companies and brokers all over the United States.

There was a mortgage broker on every corner. Many of them were so busy that they wouldn’t even talk to us about working with them. They had more business than they could handle!  New mortgage companies were starting up daily.

Why?

Because it’s pretty easy to take a client who has an 8 percent mortgage and put them into a new one at say 5.5 percent. I mean how much sales and marketing does it really require?

The broker simply says “Mr. Jones we can reduce your mortgage payment by $200 a month and give you a rate that’s 2.5 percent lower than what you had.”

So for marketing all they had to do was let people know they were open for business and give some teaser rates on the radio or internet and people flocked in to refinance.

But ever so slowly I started getting phone calls from those brokers who didn’t want to work with me a couple of years before. They were seeing a slow down in the refinance craze. They didn’t necessarily say that to me but I knew what was happening.

The demand was slowing and the competition was getting fierce.

Fast forward another year and many of those shops were out of business and gone forever.

Who was left?

The companies that had focused on running a lean and mean mortgage shop and had focused on developing long term marketing strategies. They did honest business and had a long term mindset.

How does this relate to small farms?

Because sooner or later the demand is going to slow down and the competition is going to get fierce.

Take the previous quote from Dulcinia. There was a eighty percent increase in small farms in Indiana from 2002 – 2007. That means there were a whole lot more farmers supplying the market in Indiana than previous.

Now if several of those farms were near you…you noticed it!

Farmer’s markets are increasing by leaps and bounds. Farmers are seeing prices come down to be able to move their goods as they face the Wal-Mart shopping mentality.

So called “farmers” are bringing in produce from the wholesale house and selling it as local. In my area if you go to the farmer’s market to sell pork or beef, you will be competing with all the butcher shops in the area.

CSA’s are exploding all over the U.S…..

Folks – times are changing.

Don’t get me wrong competition is a good thing,

BUT IT WILL CHANGE THE WAY YOU MARKET IF YOU’RE GOING TO STAY PROFITABLE AND KEEP THE DOORS OPEN.

Then add to that huge corporations are working night and day to fleece the consumer into believing that their food is really pretty much the same as what you can buy off a small farm.

Big agriculture is teaching their farmers how to relate to the public and present themselves as the only solution to the food shortage. They are talking about using Facebook and Twitter to reach out to their communities.

Grocery stores are featuring local farmers that supply them with produce.

Localharvest recently reported many CSA’s experience as high as a 40 percent turnover each year.

Losing that much business per year is unsustainable. If you have to replace that many customers per year you are swimming up stream on your way to broke.

I was talking to a farmer the other day who said he had a lady call him about grass-fed beef. By the time he got back to her (a couple of hours later) she had already found another farmer who had sold her a quarter of beef.

He got a rude awakening that he’s not the only guy in town with grass-fed beef!

In some ways small local farms supplying people with food is still in it’s infancy. But folks things are changing.

What’s your plan to stay on the cutting edge of this growth and rising competition?

  • Do you have system to get new customers?
  • What’s your response time when someone calls or emails you?
  • How easy is it to do business with you?
  • What’s your process for retaining customers and turning them into word of mouth advertisers?

Begin to find answers to these problems now before you end up losing out to the farm that does have it figured out!

Until Next time…


 

Small Farm Direct Marketing

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Learning to See Your Farm as Others See It

Probably one of the most important skills you can develop in your farm business and actually in life, is the ability to see things from other people’s perspective.

This is the key to obtaining new clients, keeping present customers happy, and helping others get what they want out of your farm business. All the interactions you have with customers, or potential customers, can be improved by striving to put yourself in their shoes... [More]

 


 

 

 


Small Farm Direct Marketing

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Love Your Farmer? Make a Call Today

PictureLet's make sure we level the playing field for farmers in America. For too  long the big players have danced around the laws to keep the smaller producers at a disadvantage. Here's our chance to stop it.

I just received this email from the Center for Rural Affairs.


Do you appreciate the hard work that our family farmers and ranchers do?

If so, please take a few moments of your day this Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday to call the White House and tell President Obama that you support the proposed Fair Livestock Competition rule [PDF] that helps independent farmers and ranchers get a fair price for their hard work. (It's also called the "GIPSA rule".)

On February 14, 15 and 16 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST, hundreds will participate in “Love the American Farmer and Rancher” call in day because the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) proposed Fair Livestock Competition rule would greatly benefit livestock producers across the country. However, the meatpackers and processors have pushed back against the rule, spreading false information to protect their own greedy bottom line.

You can help!

  • Call 202-456-1111 to reach the White House Comment Line (you may need to call back if the line is busy)
  • Share the message below (or something similar)
  • "My name is _______ from _________ (city and/or state) calling in support of USDA’s proposed livestock rule. This rule would level the playing field for livestock producers. Livestock producers need this rule finalized to protect them from retaliation and level the playing field. I encourage USDA to finish and implement the GIPSA proposed rule as quickly as possible. Thank you."

For more information on issues related to fair competition in livestock, go to www.cfra.org/competition. Thank you for supporting independent livestock farmers and ranchers!

You can also go to the Food and Water Watch website and use their automated form.

 


 

 

 
 

When Organic Food Isn't Really Organic

Frequently I'm asked about the difference between local, sustainable food and Organic. Although you could find a small farm that is Organic and it be a great place to get your food, for the most part the Organic label is being adulterated at an alarming rate.

 Two of the biggest offenders: USDA and the FDA. [more]

 
 
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