Spring Hill Farms

  (Newark, Ohio)
Heritage Breed Pastured Pork, Chickens, Grass Fed Beef
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Over Seeding Pasture for Pigs and Poultry

Picture
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. 


Picture

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.


 
 

Hogging Off Corn - One Man's Story

Picture
Tamworth Pigs
I came across this old account of hogging off corn recently. Since I was already thinking this might be a good idea as I blogged about a couple of months ago it seemed a good addition to my previous post.

HOGGING OFF CORN FIELDS - J.M. MILLIKIN, in the National Live Stock Journal 1897

"I am aware that the people who reside in the East, where grain is high, will be greatly shocked to think that any one would presume to say anything in behalf of such a 'lazy, wasteful, and untidy' mode of using a crop of corn. Indeed western men can be found who will denounce the unfarmer-like proceeding in unmeasurable terms. But let us see if something cannot be said in support of what some may regard as a very objectionable practice.

"In managing our farming operations, there are two things that should not be lost sight of:

"First - We should aim to so manage our affairs as to realize a good profit on our labors and investment; and
"Secondly - To so cultivate our land as to maintain, if not to increase, its productiveness.

"If you have a field of corn of a size suited to the number of hogs you intend to fatten, supplied with water, there is no plan you can adopt of feeding said corn to your hogs that will produce better results than by turning your hogs into the filed, where they can eat at their pleasure. As a rule, the weather is generally good in September and October. If so, there will be no loss of grain, while the saccharine juice of the stalks will contribute somewhat to the improvement of the hogs. The expense of gathering the corn, and in giving constant attention in feeding, is quite an important item to any man who has other pressing work to perform. Besides hogs turned into a field for fifty or sixty days are likely to do better than they will do under any other ordinary circumstances.

" There is no plan of using the products of a corn field better calculated to maintain its fertility than the hogging off process. Everything produced off the ground is returned to it; and if the proper mode is adopted of plowing everything under in the fall, the soil will be improved rather than impoverished. This is my theory upon the subject, which is sustained by  my experience and observation, and which I have occasionally urged on the attention of others.

"A very few days since I was in conversation with some farmers upon this subject, when a very reliable, careful, and excellent farmer gave this account of his own experience, which I give, with the remark that his statements are entitled to the fullest confidence. He said: 'I have cultivated one field eleven successive years in corn, and every fall turned in my fattening hogs, and fed it off. My crops of corn rather increased than diminished. In the spring, after feeding off the corn for eleven years, I sowed the field in spring barley. I had a crop of forty bushels per acre. I plowed the stubble under, and sowed the same field in wheat. The next harvest I had a crop of wheat of forty-two and a half bushels per acre'

"Thus you have the theory, the practice, and the result, of the hogging off process." 

MY COMMENTS

A couple of Mr. Milikin's points stand out to me. He brings up the fact that if the pigs are hogging off corn the farmer doesn't have to concern himself with harvesting the crop or the daily chore of feeding the hogs. That almost convinces me right there!

He also points out the value of manure as fertilizer. This is one of the factors almost never taken into account in modern agriculture.   

With both fuel and fertilizer prices on the rise it looks like a "no brainer" to me!

Until next time...
 
 

Raw Goat's Milk Great for the Soil

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Raw Goats Milk
When I first began to consider getting goats I had three reasons.

  1. I believe raw milk to be a great health food for my family.

  2. I wanted to supplement the pigs and chickens diet with raw milk.

  3. I had read some very interesting research on raw milk and soil fertility.
I first read an article in Acres USA about how a farmer from Nebraska had started dumping milk on his fields. It didn't start out as a way to build soil health but he began to notice several results from dumping the raw milk.

The farmer, David Wetzel, watched as his cows would make a beeline for the grass that had been sprayed with raw milk.

He also noticed that the grass appeared greener and seemed to grow faster.

The soil was softer and more porous. He discovered this when he had a company come to do soil testing on his property. The temperature was below zero and the only place they could probe the ground was in the fields he had dumped raw milk.

Through a chain of events he had his local Ag extension agent put together some tests to see if they could determine exactly what the results were from dumping the milk on the fields.

After 45 days the test plots grew 1,100 more pounds of grass than the plots that were not treated with milk which was a 26 percent increase in yield.

The raw milk treated plots were 18 percent softer than the untreated as determined by compaction tests. That means the soil is more porous - it had a greater ability to absorb and hold water. The grass also appeared healthier and had fewer lesions and yellow discoloration. 

So What is happening?

It seems as though the milk is providing food for the bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes that teem inside a healthy soil.

Raw milk is a veritable stew of protein and sugar complexes that microbes need for growth. Additionally, raw milk is one of the best sources of vitamin B found in nature and it brims with enzymes that can break down food for microbes and plants. Many farmers have heedlessly scorched microbe activity in their pastures with years of tillage, chemical use and overgrazing.  

Picture
Oberhasli Dairy Goat

So when we were thinking of purchasing goats for the farm, an added benefit was the raw milk can be a great soil booster!

I have a sprayer tank that I can use on the back of the ATV. I bought a nozzle from Northern Hydraulics that sprays a 16 feet wide pattern which is what I need instead of trying to get a boom type sprayer through the small wooded pastures we have.

According to what I have read the optimum mixture would be 17 gallons of water to 3 gallons of milk for a total of 20 gallons per acre.

The raw milk can be sprayed on tilled soil or directly on the plants with seemingly the same effect.

I plan to start this in the Spring and hope to report the effects. In poking around the net I have read numerous testimonies that people think it is really helping their fields, gardens, and plants.

I'll keep you posted....


 
 

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.

 
 
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