Spring Hill Farms

  (Newark, Ohio)
Heritage Breed Pastured Pork, Chickens, Grass Fed Beef
[ Member listing ]

Pastured Freedom Rangers and Carcass Weight

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Freedom Ranger 5 1/2 lbs 68 days
We just processed a batch of Freedom Ranger Broilers we ran on pasture. Actually in movable cages on pasture.

This was the last batch of the year and we were pushing it to have birds on grass the last day of November.

These birds have impressed me ever since we decided to go with them instead of the industry standard Cornish Cross birds.

Compared to Cornish they are aggressive foragers. More like old time chickens than the souped up meat birds of today. We tried for several years to get something besides the latest and greatest meat bird genetics that produce a bird ready to slaughter in 45-50 days.

Finally the Freedom Ranger came onto the scene in the last couple of years.

Although our customers had always been happy with the standard meat bird, I wanted something more suited to sustainable farming and outdoor operations.

Exceptional taste was also something I always strive for and I knew that old heritage breed birds have a flavor that blows away the Cornish type meat birds.

The catch to using old meat bird type chickens is they grow extremely slow. The carcass is so far from what most people are used to in a chicken that it's very easy to turn customers off regardless of how great they taste. Mainly since the breast on these birds are not "double breasted."

The Freedom Ranger broiler answers all these problems!

They are a double breasted bird that grows out in about 70 days. The taste? Out of this world when raised on pasture.

PictureThe bird pictured here weighed 5 pounds 12 ounces in 68 days. We had some break the 6 lb mark! This was in late September through the end of November. We had quite a bit of temps down in the 30's at night and 50's through the day. Several times we had storms with strong winds and gusty winds for a day or two after.

Not the perfect weather I always hope for, but these birds still did quite well.

The carcass is longer than the usual grocery store chicken or Cornish type bird but every bit as meaty. Since they forage so aggressively they've got to be loaded with Omega 3's.

If you are looking for good chicken that forages for grass, bugs and worms like the old time chickens of yesteryear, look no further than Freedom Rangers at Spring Hill Farms.

 

 
 

Freedom Ranger Chickens as Laying Hens

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Freedom Ranger Laying Hens
In August we were pulling broilers from one of our movable pens on pasture in the pouring down rain. Two pullets ended up escaping into the nearby brush.

Since I wasn't really in the mood to chase two fugitives in the middle of a downpour, we let them go thinking "they will be lucky to make through the night."

The next day dawned bright and sunny. By mid afternoon I hadn't seen hide nor hair of them errr, hide nor feather of them so I assumed a fox or some other varmint had scored a midnight meal at my expense.

The Mrs. wasn't happy about it but what can you do? I asked. Besides they were going to be dead anyway.

The second day to my surprise one of them showed up at the edge of the trees! So one of them did make it. I watched to see if the other would show and after an our or so and only one chicken I thought well one of them didn't make it and tonight will be the end of this one.

The next day they both were out in the grass pecking around in the grass. Wow wrong again, better give'em some feed and water and see if I can get close enough in the next couple of days to catch them...if they make it that long.

I wasn't taking into account that these birds are from heritage breed genetics. These aren't the Cornish cross birds we used to raise. These suckers roosted that night in an old stump about six feet off the ground at the edge of the field.

Hmm they just might be around awhile as I start to catch on. (it takes me awhile sometimes) I mentioned to the Mrs. the birds were still here and showed her out the kitchen window where they had perched at dusk. She looked out and saw them and promptly announced "then they're staying here since they made it this far."

Any of you who know my wife outside of gracious host when you come to visit the farm, know when she lays down a decree it will be that way or else!

After a couple of weeks they got more comfortable and began to venture up to the barn and the front porch and anywhere else they felt like going. And as if by some built in knowing they always made it a point to come see the Mrs. anytime she was outside and even began running up to her car when she pulled in the driveway like she was their long lost mother!

Trying to justify keeping them verses admitting I had to keep them per the Mrs. I began to wonder if they would make layers. Sure enough at about 17 weeks (I kept track of the time) they began to go into the goats pen in the corner and lay their eggs.

They are almost 100% on an egg a day... not bad for birds that are designed to be meat chickens. I've even started making sure the "girls", as the Mrs. calls them, have a bit of feed since the weather is turning cold.

If you're wondering if Freedom Rangers will make decent layers I say yes they will!

I eat two medium brown eggs for breakfast every morning and remember how two pullets escaped on a rainy day in August. 

till next time!
 
 

Tamworth Pigs and Soil Fertility

 Tamworth Sow on Pasture

 

In the building up of fertility, especially on the poor light-land farm, there is no animal more effective than the pig. Though I would not suggest that the pig is an essential part of fertility building, there is no quicker or more economical contributor to soil fertility - Newman Turner.

When I first read this a light bulb came on! I could use pigs to increase the fertility of my soil. I was already pasturing pigs when I came across the writings of Newman Turner.

I regard him as one of the pioneers of organic farming and low input farming methods.

Our land is all part of a dairy farm that was abandoned nearly forty years ago. This left our part of the farm basically multi-flora rose and  30+ year old trees.

As we began clearing off trees and brush, it was amazing the pasture grasses that begin to appear. Dormant for probably thirty years and the sun brings them to the surface.

We took electric fencing and kept the pigs in small enough lots that they would first eat down anything they wanted and then they began to root up the soil while fertilizing it as well.

As someone said (maybe Joel Salatin) pigs have a plow on one end and a manure spreader on the other.

In the last several years we have succeeded in restoring a lot of pasture using only pigs as fertility.

We have used the tractor and brush hog to take out some of the larger multi-flora rose and brush that the pigs didn't root out. We are now getting ready to selectively remove some of our wild cherry and sassafras trees.

Since we are going to plant some open pollinated corn this Spring for the pigs to "hog down", I am going to have the soil tested. It will be interesting to see what the pigs and chickens have been able to accomplish as far as soil fertilizer.

 
 

Watch Milk Labels - Unless you Like Cancer

Major victory in Ohio on the milk labeling battle!

Since 1994, this substance has been banned in Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Australia and all 27 nations of the European Union.

Still holding on: the United States...[More]

 
 

A Story of Holiday Hams and Nice People

Holiday Hams 

 

A couple of days ago I was out delivering holiday hams to customers. Little did I know that someone was watching me [more]

 
 

How to cook our Holiday Hams - Spring Hill Farms

 Spiral Sliced Ham

I have received many calls and emails asking how to cook our hickory smoked holiday hams. Actually how to bake them since they are 'cooked' in the oven! 

 You can view, print, or download the instructions here.

 

 

 


 
 

Fattening Hogs using Alfalfa Pasture - Historical Document

I have long been a collector of old agriculture books, pamphlets and documents. You can find so many good ideas that were used in days gone by.

Many of the experiments that were done at agricultural test stations across the United States are still around with tons of valuable information for the sustainable farmer.

This particular document was published in 1922 and is a study on fattening hogs for market using Alfalfa as a forage.

Something to realize about these old documents...[more]

3 Lies Big Food Wants You to Believe

Is it really cheaper to eat discount food from the grocery? I've always said "no". If you evaluate it strictly form a dollars spent at the 'regular' store, verses with your local farmer, you may erroneously come to that conclusion. 

 However there is many more pieces to the puzzle...[more]

 
 

Alternative Feeding Methods - Hogging Down Corn

Tamworth Sows circa 1920 

The practice of letting pigs eat the corn from the stalks is a good alternative way of finishing pigs. It is a great labor saving practice because instead of having to pick the corn the pigs do the picking! It was a popular method in the early 1900's as corn harvesting was much more labor intensive than it is now.

It works well today if you don't have all the equipment to harvest the corn and store it. (which I don't)  You basically turn the hogs into the corn when it's ready to pick. The corn can be higher moisture than it would be if storing so there is also the savings of drying the corn.

 Another advantage is the hogs are distributing the manure through out the field so there is no cleaning the barn. This is something we do year around as I hate cleaning barns. All our pigs are on pasture Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.

It is best if the fertilizer is spread by the animals verses having to do it with equipment. With fuel costs on the rise constantly, I figure why go that route when the pigs can do it themselves.

 Some disadvantages to this type of feeding is you will have some waste. The best way seems to be allow the pigs access to small sections of the field at a time so they don't wander around knocking corn down and not eating it.  This is easily accomplished by using electric fencing.

 Chickens help clean up so a few laying hens running around are a good way to keep waste to a minimum. They will also add to the manure and they have a higher nitrogen content to their manure so it helps in that way as well.

Another disadvantage is the pigs should have some size to them when you turn them in as corn alone is good as a finisher. The last eight weeks or so of the pigs life before slaughter is best so timing is an issue.

I plan to plant open pollinated corn this Spring and seed dwarf essex rape or maybe field peas or perhaps both in the corn. Both of these are high in protein whereas the corn isn't so this should help balance the ration. I hope that this will enable me to run the pigs at a slightly younger age for a longer time period. Maybe run some smaller pigs to help clean up after the bigger ones? I found a open pollinated seed corn that does well in Ohio. You can visit their website here.

 Plus we will be feeding fresh goats milk so the pigs should do quite well.

One of many reasons why we like pigs here at Spring Hill Farms, they are so versatile.

 

Until next time!


 

 
 

Tamworth Pigs and Clabbered Milk

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Almost gone and gettin' full
80% of our immune system resides in our gastrointestinal tract, which houses 100 trillion bacteria—about two to three pounds worth of bacteria!

Expert natural health folks will tell you optimum levels of bacteria would 85% good bacteria and 15% bad.

What about pigs? Pigs are very similar to humans in there digestive system. It stands to reason if good bacteria is needed for optimum human health than it's needed for optimum pig health.

Good bacterial inputs are typically called probiotics. They are the opposite of antibiotics.

The big guys regularly dose their hogs with sub-therapeutic antibiotics to virtually kill all types of bacteria good and bad.

This keeps the animal healthier (supposedly) and optimizes growth. The major problem of course is the over use of them is resulting in resistance to antibiotics when we need them.

You can read some very solid research here on the resistant pathogens that are direct result of factory farms.    

So....let's just say that we at Spring Hill Farms do not want to use sub-therapeutic antibiotics for our livestock.

We want to use probiotics to build up the good bacteria to the point that it holds in check, or even stamps out bad bacteria in the animals system.

Probiotics are great for:

  • The proper development of your immune system

  • Protection against over-growth of other microorganisms that could cause disease

  • Digestion of food and absorption of nutrients
One of the ways we build up good bacteria in our pigs and chickens is by feeding them clabbered milk.

Traditionally, clabbered milk is made by allowing raw milk to stand until it has thickened, a process which takes 24-48 hours. The milk is also typically kept warm, encouraging the growth of beneficial bacteria. As it thickens, the acidity of the milk increases, preventing the growth of harmful bacteria and creating a very distinctive tang which many people greatly enjoy. Pigs practically kill for it!

That was one of the plans when we bought our Oberhasli goats. Make clabbered milk to feed the pigs and chickens to keep them healthy and vigorous so we don't need antibiotics or other pharmaceuticals to keep them healthy.

It works great and the pigs and chickens both really enjoy it!

This is just another way we are striving to work with the animals immune system, not prop it up with outside inputs.

till next time!
 
 

Tamworth Pig Taste Test

Tamworth sow circa 1920 

Did you know? The Tamworth is one of the great ‘dual purpose’ pigs producing stunningly good pork as well as equally tremendous bacon. In the mid 1990’s the Tamworth came top in a taste test carried out by Bristol University using both commercial and rare breed pigs in a scientifically controlled experiment. It was later suggested that further investigation should take place to establish just what it was that gave the Tamworth meat such a distinctive taste putting it way above all the other breeds.

The Gestapo - Coming to a Farm Near You - Farmageddon

Farmageddon Trailer 1410 from Kristin Canty on Vimeo.

Click the text link above to watch. 

 
 

Tamworth Pigs and Bacon

This is a good video showing the primal cuts of a half hog. Chef Johns comments on the quality of the bacon on the Tamworth side he is cutting.

 


 
 

Pigs and Goat's Milk

 

 

 Pigs and Milk

 

Along with the fact that I'm convinced raw goats milk is an excellent health food for my family, I'm also using the goat's milk to supplement the pigs diet.

Ruminant animals are excellent converters of grass into healthy meat and milk. According to Paris Reidhead in an article titled CLA's and Omega 3's: Pastured Health Benefits Passed Transferred to Humans.


Milk from grass-fed cows has hidden benefits
Until recently, all of the experiments demonstrating the cancer-fighting properties of CLA have used synthetic CLA. To see whether the CLA that occurs naturally in cow’s milk has similar cancer-fighting properties, researchers recently compared the two. They fed one group of rats butter that was high in CLA and fed another group of rats an equivalent amount of synthetic CLA. As one would expect, the natural CLA proved to be just as effective in blocking tumor growth as the man-made variety. (In both cases, cancer yield was reduced by about 50 percent.)

However, the rats eating the butter accumulated even more CLA in their tissues than the rats fed an equivalent amount of synthetic CLA. Researchers believe that the rats were converting another “good” fat found in the butter, trans-vaccenic acid or TVA, into CLA, providing a second helping of this cancer- fighting fat.

So along with raising our pigs on pasture we also are giving them raw, grass fed goats milk which is rich in CLA's and Omega 3's.

Pork raised in this way stands alone from most other pork on the market in terms of nutritional value.

My goal is to build up the goat herd enough that we can practically eliminate all grain from our pigs diet by feeding only pasture and raw goats milk. 

Some of the tastiest, healthy pork you can get comes from Spring Hill Farms

 

Until next time...

 
 
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