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...
 
 

If You Believe in the Right to Choose Your Food - Heritage Swine

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Tamworth Barrow circa 1920
Heritage breed hogs are under attack by the Michigan Department of Natural resources.

This is a picture of a Tamworth barrow that was a prize winning pig in 1920. Below is a picture of a Tamworth barrow today.

To me this is proof that the breed has been dramatically improved structurally. They haven't went wild in the last 100 years they have actually become more domesticated. The Invasive Species Act being rammed through in Michigan is the wrong solution to a questionable problem.

Picture
Tamworth barrow 2012
The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund has posted a blog asking for our help in stopping this and helping small farmers in Michigan as they lose their livelihood.

From the FTCLDF site:

"The Michigan DNR has defined "invasive species swine" (in a December 2011 declaratory ruling), as any pig that exhibits certain characteristics. Many of the characteristics listed describe just about any heritage breed of swine. Even more troubling, the DNR characteristics are often displayed in swine that are raised outside, not in confinement. The DNR order not only threatens the livelihoods of heritage breed hog farmers across the State of Michigan but it also sets a very dangerous precedent across the United States for those choosing not to raise animals in confinement."

Send an online petition to Gov. Snyder urging him to rescind the Invasive Species Act.Click Here Now!
 
 

Some Truth About Manure

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I recently read an article in the Columbus Dispatch about the manure problem in Ohio.

The article starts out "Under the best conditions, raising livestock is a dirty, smelly business."

The truth is under the right conditions, raising livestock is not dirty or smelly.


Until last year I let my hogs spread their own manure 24 hrs a day throughout the pastures. Then I decided I needed to keep some for specific applications. So I have been bringing hogs into the barn for winter to collect the manure.

As long as the carbon ratio is right there is no smell or mess. In my case, wheat or oat straw. Lots of it.

By keeping a good bed of straw in the barn I tie up the manure right along with the smell and mess.  Anytime you're smelling manure you know right away your carbon is low.

If you don't tie it up with a carbonaceous material you are losing valuable nutrients that you can use on your soil to fertilize it.

The nutrients either evaporate, which you smell, or leach away which wastes the nutrients by fertilizing the lawn around the barn. Or worse yet, running of into a waterway somewhere and polluting the water.

The whole idea of a huge amount of animals in one place (for long periods of time) is so unnatural it's no wonder big Ag had to come up with all these nifty, yet environmentally unfriendly ways, to store it or get rid of it. 

Big Agriculture spreads manure that is usually 100 percent raw manure. Nothing added like straw or sawdust. Heck just put those critters on concrete or slatted floors and let the pure manure pile up and then we can overload the soil with it.

Bad idea all the way around in my opinion.

If you read any old books they tout the benefits of manure as a fertilizer. But that manure was loaded with straw or other material which added to the organic material in the soil.

The combination of the manure with the organic material in my opinion is far superior to just raw manure you get from a factory farm.

As sustainable farmers we have to make sure we are doing things right. No manure running off into waterways or overloading the soil.

The American public is getting tired of factory type farms ruining the environment with all these unsustainable ways. I don't blame them I'm tired of it too.

The best way to send the message is to stop giving the factory farms your money. Give to a farmer who is acting responsibly towards the environment and the animals or crops they raise.

At Spring Hill Farms we think that's the right thing to do...

Until next time! 

 


 

 
 

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....


 

 
 

Everything but the squeal

Everything but the squeal - Margie Wuebker

Copyright October 2010 Country Living Magazine

To read the article on their website click here 

The driveway at Dean and Marilyn Wyler's Coshocton  County farm fills with cars and pickup trucks as friends and relatives arrive for butchering day with visions of pork chops, sausage, ribs, roasts bacon, and ham dancing in their heads.

 The Saturday after Thanksgiving is butchering time in these parts, and ambitious workers are needed to process 11 hogs in assembly line fashion and then share the fruits - or rather the meat of their labor.

 The Wyler's, who live near [more] go to page 44

 
 

Who's Gonna Feed Them Hogs?

Here I am in this dang bed and who's gonna feed them hogs? So goes the old Tom T Hall song...After surgery on Monday I'm glad I'm not wondering that! 

 I would say "minor" surgery but the only time it's minor is when someone else has it!

 Seriously though I am so thankful for friends and family. The farm has perked along just fine even though I've hardly left the couch since Monday.

Thanks to all!

 

till next time!


 
 

Pigs all processed for the year... now for the new babies!

Well once again summer has flown by and fall is turning to winter. As soon as it starts freezing at night I'm glad all the market hogs are gone and only breeding stock is left.

I'd much rather  be frying bacon in the morning than moving pigs and thawing water tanks. Sows are so easy to take care of it doesn't seem much like work except when it rains and the mud won't go away.

Actually I have one Old Spot left that goes to meet the sausage maker on December 18th. The customer wanted his pork with the "rind on" so I have to send him to a shop that will scald v.s. skin him. He is hoping to dry cure the hams and a few other neat, old, techniques that produce old style pork. Since the Gloucester Old Spots are very old line pigs they should be great for the job. Once that gets under way I'll put a link to the blog that will detail it all.

The end of February or first of March new pigs will be born and we start all over!

 


 
 
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