Spring Hill Farms

  (Newark, Ohio)
Heritage Breed Pastured Pork, Chickens, Grass Fed Beef
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High Grain Prices Mean Alternative Feeds

Picture As feed prices rose as much as 25 percent in the last sixty days around our part of the country I began to contemplate how creative livestock farmers would become to stay profitable.


Typically three things happen:


1) You thin the herd.
2) You hunt for alternative feed sources.
3) You raise prices.

I wasn't surprised when a couple of days ago I saw an article in the LA Times titled "With High Corn Prices, One farmer Copes by Feeding Cows Candy." You can access the article here: Candy Cows.

Now that's pretty creative! He has basically located expired candy and is using it as added calories in the cows diet.

I personally don't have any interest in eating candy fed cows but hey the guy is being transparent and it is a free country.

Which leads me to the next thought:

How else might farmers cope with record high grain prices?

Stale pastries - Not a good choice in my book. Many small hog and cattle farmers use everything from a very small amount to huge portions of this in the animals diet. Ever see a healthy person live on stale donuts? I rest my case.

Restaurant Waste - This requires a license in many states and must be cooked to reduce the chance of disease spread, trichinosis etc. It can be everything from plate scrapings to unused or dated product. Like stale donuts, I personally would not use this type of feed or purchase meats from those who do.

Grocery Store Dumpsters and/or Bad Produce - This is the typical "dated product" that if handled properly is still fine for consumption. Think milk or yogurt that is one day past due. The trouble with this (in my opinion of course) is that most of what is available is conventional foods that I try to avoid myself. So why feed it to my livestock?

You might be saying "yeah but what about vegetable produce David? Surely that's okay..."

Consider this: Much of the produce in conventional stores is laden with pesticide residue. Who is going to haul a load of have rotten produce home and wash it before giving it to the pigs? Some produce, with more to come on line, is now genetically modified.

Distiller Grains - This is the spent grains from breweries. Possibly one of the better choices as far as finding waste products for alternatives feed sources. I have casually kept my eye open for these but they are wet when you get them so it can become more of a labor and storage issue than it is worth to me. For me this one would be dependent on where they came from and what they consisted of.

Dairy Waste - This can come from the actual dairy its self or maybe a cheese factory etc. I classify these as I do distiller grains. They could be a good source or maybe not depends on who, where, when, and how.

I'm sure there are some others I'm forgetting but I think these are the main sources of alternative feeds in the waste category. 

In closing I'll say I think the best alternative feeding strategies are what we incorporate here at Spring Hill Farms. We grow forages that the livestock can thrive on to help take the place of grain in their diet. In some cases we grow the grain vs buy it.

Don't get me wrong the high cost of grain and other production inputs are being felt here also. But I'm not heading to the grocery store dumpster for hog feed anytime soon.....or ever.

Until next time...
 
 

Grain Prices - Will They Effect You?

Picture Unless you’ve been living under a rock or just don’t pay attention to the media, you  know much of the United States is suffering from a drought. The experts say this dry weather rivals any we have had in at least fifty years.

There will be far reaching effects for the next few years. I Googled up some headlines to see what I could find in the news and it seems agriculture is front and center.

Probably fitting because for many folks the extremely dry weather has only meant a welcome break from cutting the grass and no rain dates for sporting events or that trip to the lake.

For farmers it could mean the end of their operation.

I consider myself a small farmer so I speak from experience in that realm. To be more specific I raise livestock. 

When I went back to farming in about 1998, corn was $1.98 a bushel. This morning I saw the USDA is talking $8.20 a bushel as a high this winter.

Let’s look at some headlines I pulled up:

The dramatic effects of a small corn crop.

Corn futures could be headed for an explosive run up.

Terrifying Corn Supply/Demand Situation Unfolding.

High Corn, Soybean Prices to Slash Demand.

Say What? $55-Plus Soybeans and $17-Plus Corn!

U.S. drought drives up food prices worldwide – CNNMoney

Drought  Impacting Livestock, Effects on Food Prices Still to Come —Accuweather


When I looked for pigs to start out with in the early days I decided on Tamworth pigs as they were an old breed and they were known to “do well on pasture.”

I had two foundational goals for all my livestock:

1) Cut out as much off farm inputs as possible (grain etc).

2) Develop our livestock to align with that goal. (minimal grain consumption)

Things have come a long way since those early years but I still find myself wishing we were farther down the road toward these goals when I see the grain prices.

I expect meat prices to go up across the board in the U.S. I also expect to see many small livestock farms fold their tents and quit trying to raise livestock while simultaneously handing the local feed mill all of the small profit they might have made if corn was cheap.

"These prices ought to scare the blazes out of ethanol and livestock producers. It appears that the biggest bulk of this cutback will fall on the backs of the livestock, poultry and hog industry. They have some serious decisions to make. And, once you write it on the wall in blood by USDA, I’d say you have a tendency to believe it." - Jerry Gulke, president of the Gulke Group.



If you’re a consumer of farm products direct from the farm it’s inevitable to see prices rise…possibly dramatically.

If you’re a customer of Spring Hill Farms know that we are doing everything in our power to keep clean, healthy, grass based, food on your table regardless of the grain prices. That’s been our goal from the beginning.

Until next time….
 
 

An Excellent Pig for the Smal Farm

Picture
Tamworth Sows circa 1920
I'm often asked: "What makes a great pig?" It could be many things depending on what your goals are, but for us at Spring Hill Farms it means:

1) It should be a true heritage breed.

2) Posses a strong, healthy immune system.

3) Excellent maternal instinct.

4) Prolific – large litter size.

5) Forage ability – How much grain?

6) Good temperament – Be good or be food

7) Excellent table qualities – Fabulous pork

While this isn’t an exhaustive list of desirable traits for good pork it is some of the traits that enable us to produce our quality pastured pork products.

Let’s look at these traits a bit closer.

Heritage Breed – I’m a huge believer in using heritage genetics whenever possible on the farm. Many of the methods used on the small and/or sustainable farm are pretty much pre-1950’s farming techniques with some modern day tools and technology thrown in.

It only stands to reason genetics that are the least developed towards new, big, modern agriculture would be best suited to these types of farms.

Strong healthy immunity – Because our methods here at Spring Hill focus on not using any modern or chemical crutches to keep our hogs healthy; we must constantly develop and refine our genetics so our hogs will thrive under good management without antibiotics, chemical wormers, or any other type of chemical or pharmaceutical designed to keep them healthy, grow faster, etc.

Maternal instinct and Large Litters – Every sow on the farm costs the same to keep regardless of whether she raises one pig or ten. To operate a viable business model we need sows to raise at least eight pigs for us to consider keeping her.

We take that one step farther by insisting they raise that many pigs without assistance. If sows are unable to build a nest, have her pigs, and raise them without assistance I know right away she doesn’t have the maternal instinct I need on my farm, This doesn’t mean we don’t give them the best environment to succeed in and intervene if necessary, but that sow will be culled from the herd.

Forage Ability - This is the most under utilized and under developed trait I see. First, what am I talking about “forage ability”?  To me it means the ability, the willingness, and the functionality of the pig to forage for a large percent of its diet. The pig must be able to eat a limited grain feed diet, still gain weight, and stay healthy. Many of our heritage breed hogs have been on full feeders for far too many years. This has produced an animal with a voracious appetite for grain and diminished what I call the forage ability trait.

Good temperament – This is fairly self explanatory although fairly subjective. I expect my sows to protect their young. Therefore we don’t mind a sow that will not allow us into the pen with her when she has piglets. Other than that, if you’re a grouch, abusive, bully, or otherwise can’t figure out I’m the boss…well you’re sausage.

Excellent table qualities – It would be kinda silly to go through all the work we do to develop these traits and have a pig that we couldn’t say produced some of the best pork available today. Our Tamworth pigs will stand on their own for exceptional pork. Our Large Black pigs are no different; They stand out from the crowd when it comes to eating experience.

When we started crossing the two it was like taking the two best, mixing them together, and ending up with something better than the best!

That's how we can say:

Our heritage pork is unlike any other a taste so deep and rich it echoes the flavor of pork from a bygone era. The meat is flavorful and, whether grilled, smoked, roasted, sauted, stewed or braised, yields the most exquisite juiciness and tender texture. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.

If you’re a farmer who is looking for some of the best pigs suited to small and sustainable farms that won’t make you a hostage to the feed mill. Look no further I have what you need. You can read more of my breeding philosophy here.

If you’re simply looking for some of the cleanest, best tasting pork you’ve had in your life. I invite to try us out!

Until next time…

David

Spring Hill Farms
 
 
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