Spring Hill Farms

  (Newark, Ohio)
Heritage Breed Pastured Pork, Chickens, Grass Fed Beef
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Holiday Hams - Spring Hill Farms

As the Holiday season draws near I start thinking about ham. Well actually I start getting calls and emails asking about ham so it starts me to thinking about ham!

  I began selling holiday hams in 2004 and it has grown into a big part of what we do at Spring Hill Farms.

  I knew our ham was good, but I think sometimes farmers get used to eating their own products and end up taking it for granted that everyone eats this way.

  A beautiful hickory smoked ham has been part of our dinner table for a long time not only at the holidays, but several other times through out the year when the mood strikes me.

  So...when we started offering them to the public I was surprised at how many people raved about them. I guess maybe I shouldn't have been but hey I try to be modest!

 
So what makes our hickory smoked ham so special? I wish I could take all the credit and say it's all about the pork. And a huge part of it is the product you start with and Spring Hill Farms pork is not to be taken lightly.

 

HOWEVER.....

 
You can have the best product in the world and if it isn't handled properly as in the case of curing and smoking hams, you can end up with a product that is horrible at the worst, and average to good on the other end of ham-o-meter.

You realize we have a ham-o-meter right? Yea it's a very sophisticated feed back system that some people would refer to as a customer.

  Easy....I'm not calling you a ham-o-meter!

The first time we officially took a reading from a ham-o-meter was in 2004 and it was off the chart!

It wasn't just "good" it was "the best ever."

 
"Our Ham was the most delicious ham we have ever eaten. A very fresh taste, full of flavor! Our family loves pork but do not really eat ham very often..." - Randolph and Teresa K Granville, Ohio

Rittberger Meats does all of our processing of pork and beef. The reason we use them....

They are the best of the best when it comes to processing and especially curing and smoking pork. There is something about knowing they have been doing this since 1910 in the same smokehouse that makes me realize we have something special, elite.

Do you know of any other butcher shop that has been in business, and family owned, for 100 years in central Ohio?

 

Here's an excerpt from the Rittberger Story.


"Carl Rittberger Sr., Grandpa was born in Lorch Germany in 1881. He went to meat trade school in Germany, before coming to the United States in the late 1800's.

From a small retail trade acquired at the Zanesville City Market, he expanded into the wholesale business at his farm on Lutz Lane, where he started September 22,1910.

In the early days, Grandpa rode on horseback throughout the county. He purchased livestock along the way and drove the livestock back to the plant on horseback.

As his business grew, he purchased some 800 acres and raised some of his own livestock to stay up with the demand. Today we still raise cattle on over 450 acres.

Quality was always Grandpa's number one goal even through tough times, and is still ours today! We are still family owned and ran by the 2nd, 3rd and 4th generations. We are even starting to get some input from the 5th generation."

 
The Rittberger family are experts when it comes to producing a ham that stands alone in taste, texture, and quality.

The Christmas ham was really wonderful- very tender, lean and full of flavor. I'm not much of a "ham person" generally, but I loved this. The left over bone helped make an outstanding bean and farro soup as well - Tim & Emily H. Columbus Ohio

 
I invite you to try a holiday ham from Spring Hill Farms complete with the Rittberger touch. You'll be glad you did when all the ham-o-meters start going off around your holiday dinner table... I guarantee it.

 
 David T. Fogle



 
Click Here to see our Holiday Hams.



 


 

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What 2011 Holds and Five Steps You Should Take

Buckeye Rooster 

 

What does 2011 hold for you? What does it hold for the United States? It would be really nice if we could answer those questions definitively. However, we all know that's impossible. No one can tell the future with certain accuracy. We can tell the season though [more]

 


 
 

Full Spectrum Lighting for Goats, Pigs, and Chickens

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Full Spectrum Bulb
I first heard of full spectrum lighting several years ago. Full spectrum lights are the closest light to natural sunlight available. It got me to thinking about how it would effect livestock during the long days of winter here in Ohio.

The main thing I was pondering was would it make a difference in piglets that are born in the early winter? I kept researching and came to the conclusion it would. Here is what one study indicated.




Scientists have discovered a new receptor in the eye that, among other things, monitors your biological clocks.

Apart from the other photoreceptors in your eye that allow you to see, this "third eye" responds differently to light by sending signals to your brain's hypothalamus, thus regulating your production of melatonin, which in turn controls your body's circadian rhythms.

Researchers experimented with lamps emitting different wavelengths of light on workers toiling in the high-stress environment on one floor of a health insurance call center. In comparison to co-workers on other floors, they felt more alert, and the quality of their work improved too. The Independent September 26, 2006

Picture
Tamworth Pigs in the Sun
Since I'm always striving to mimic nature, this new technology of full spectrum lighting seemed like a good fit for our farm. I first bought some bulbs from BlueMax Lighting(tm) and used them in my home.

I immediately noticed that after getting up in the morning and sitting under the full spectrum lighting I felt in a better mood. That was enough to convince my wife! Seriously, the only way I can describe it is I felt much like I do when I get up and go out on the deck and have a cup of coffee on a bright sunny morning. You start remarking how nice of a day it's going to be and get motivated to "get something done". Another reason my wife was convinced I should keep them!

They are a much whiter light than the yellow light bulbs we were using. Even though the evidence I experienced was anecdotal, I didn't need anymore convincing that there was something to this full spectrum lighting.

Some other benefits that are cited by proponents of full spectrum lighting is:

  • Improved mood

  • Enhanced mental awareness, concentration and productivity ...

  • Superior visual clarity and color perception ...

  • Better sleep ...

  • Super-charged immune system ...

  • More energy ...

  • Reduced eye strain and fatigue with a glare-free and comfortable reading environment ...

  • Greater learning ability and intelligence ...
Whether or not it actually has all these benefits, I'll leave up to you to decide.

My pigs haven't told me they're in a good mood or feel like they have less eye strain, but I can tell you this, it's another weapon in my arsenal to keep our new piglets healthy and growing when they are born in the dead of winter or when the days are getting short.

Full spectrum lighting is also a good way to keep milk production up with our goats. This is an area where you need to be careful. If you introduce full spectrum lighting too early in the Fall as days get shorter, you're goats may not breed. The shorter day for seasonal breeding goats is what triggers reproduction.

I wait until I'm sure they are bred and then use the lights.

Something else I've learned is full spectrum lighting in the hen house will definitely keep our laying hens going strong when they would typically stop laying eggs.

Years ago the farmer's wife would mix up hot mash to help keep the hens laying through the cold winter. We now know that it's more the deprivation of light that slows or even stops egg production. Chickens need between 14 and 16 hours of light. I set mine on a timer so they get light earlier in the morning and then later at night. Light also effects the molting period of chickens. It's a natural function of chickens to molt so we allow our chickens to molt and egg production ceases at that time to allow the hens to recuperate.

So if your hens are getting sluggish put some full spectrum bulbs in the hen house and watch what happens.

If you or your spouse are in the winter doldrums put some in the house too! (that won't help the egg layers by the way)

So to sum this one up, try some full spectrum lighting where you think you need it most and see what happens for yourself!

Until next time....
 
 
 

Pastured Polutry & Tamworth Pigs in the Winter

 
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Tamworth Pigs
Ever wonder how you keep grass-fed pigs and chickens eating grass in the winter? The main way of course is to feed hay. We feed all our stock hay in the winter including the chickens. Old breed chickens will scratch through good hay and eat a bit of green material but I love finding ways to trick them into eating more!

When you're dealing with animals that aren't herbivores this can be tricky. Our older pigs will eat good hay very well. Notice I said good hay. There is a lot of stuff sold these days with the term "good hay" used and if you were to check the protein content you would find it's not that great.

Without digressing into a blog post on how to determine if hay is good enough for your particular livestock, let me just say find a good farmer you can trust if you don't make your own hay and buy from them.

We feed a lot of Alfalfa mainly because it's available here in Ohio and if I'm going to spend much money on hay I want something that is going to be nutrient dense.  So when you're spending hard earned money, it almost sickens you to think it's getting wasted.

Feeding hay on the ground is the best way I know to waste it. Unless you have some good grass hay and use it to bed pigs also. I learned this from Walter over at his blog. Walter and his family are the real deal when it comes to sustainable farming and raising pigs on pasture.

Anyway, one thing that's always bothered me is when feeding good, leafy, Alfalfa hay, is the amount of leaves that drop off every time you handle it. Some hay is worse than other, but no matter what you lose some every time you handle it.

For instance I bust a bale open and head for the goats with a couple flakes and as I'm picking it up I see what looks like TONS of dust size green leaves falling onto the ground when I separate it from the bale.

After a few days of feeding the goats the hay rack has about 3 or 4 inches of this green material laying in the bottom and they will not eat it.

 

Picture
Alfalfa Rack for Pigs
Same way with the hogs. I feed them in hay racks I made based on the old ones used back years ago which have a trough built in the bottom to feed grain. This also helps keep hay off the ground where it is quickly trampled in by the pigs feet. (See picture). I could have tromped out and taken a picture of one of my own, but it seemed easier to keep drinking coffee and use one I already had on the computer!

These hay racks also end up with green hay dust in them about 4 or so inches deep. If you're feeding something besides Alfalfa, it's called hay seed. I suppose you could call this stuff hay seed too but I never had a problem cleaning out hay seed and throwing it on the ground. But I can not bring myself to do that with this nice green rich looking product! It's actually home made alfalfa leaf meal.

So I found another use for it...I now take it out and put it in a five-gallon bucket and feed it back to the chickens and young pigs.

I say young pigs because the younger the pig, the less green material they are willing/able to consume. As pigs get older they are much better at utilizing roughage.

The chickens get hay on the ground in the coop but they really don't eat as much as I wish they would. So...I mix this dust or hay seed or alfalfa leaf meal or whatever you care to call it with the chicken feed.

Picture
Home Made Alfalfa Leaf Meal
Same way with the young pigs. I mix it in the self-feeder and it gets eaten instead of wasted. I have checked the feeders after mixing it in and it is gone, no picking around it, they eat it. So I'm thrilled to take something it used to kill me to waste and feed it, since that's what I bought it for to begin with.

We don't grind our own feed, but if we did, it would be perfect to toss in the grinder when batching feed. Alfalfa meal has been used as both pig and chicken feed in years gone by but not so much now. The old trio mixture for pigs contained alfalfa or other legume hay.

We do the same thing with the hay the goats pull out and drop on the ground around the rack. Gather it up and throw it to the hogs. Just one more reason why farms should practice multi-species grazing.

What one won't eat another will. Especially with a bit of trickery!

Until next time...
 
 

Natural ways to keep your pigs, goats and other stock parasite free

PictureIn my last post I discussed why we don't use chemical wormers. In case you missed it, you can read it here.

So naturally the question arises so what do you use to combat parasite loads in your livestock?

For us at Spring Hill Farms it is a three pronged approach.

1. We use several natural wormers.
2. We practice rotational grazing.
3. We breed for parasite resistance.

Let's talk about breeding for parasite resistance. In my opinion much of the livestock in America has been genetically developed for many traits but few of them have anything to do with sustainable farming.

For instance a major trait in pork production has been to reduce the fat content and a campaign was started to market pork as "the other white meat."

The show circuit for pigs focuses on fitting them to please the latest whims of the judges. The same for goats, dairy cows, beef cows etc.

The sustainable farmer has an entirely different set of goals. We look for several traits in our stock that are necessary for a profitable operation. One of them being all around low maintenance. Or as I like to say 'we breed tough animals.'

That doesn't mean we abuse them, it means we look for stock that has a lot of good old fashion instincts that animals should have.

Breeding for resistance to parasites means keeping a close eye on your stock and employing every method you know to use to keep them healthy without resorting to chemical wormers.

When you find animals that can't cut it you cull them. Or alternatively, you assist them as little as possible with chemical inputs with the goal of weaning them off.

Pigs are much easier than other types of livestock because of the amount of animals you can work with. Ten or so pigs in a litter and two litters per year can give you a lot animals to work with.

As one fellow says breed the best and eat the rest. The goal is to produce offspring that need less help and doing this each generation will eventually get you some tough parasite resistant animals.

It's took us about five years before we really saw good positive results with pigs. I think with goats unless you have a large herd it will take much longer.

My experience with dairy goats are they can be fragile animals. Which I think is in some part their nature, and in some part breeders who have never really bred for traits that the low input, sustainable, natural farmer finds important.

We went with Purebred Oberhasli because I felt they fit our farm model. Now can we breed the traits we want? Time will tell.

One of the positives we have found Hoeggers goat supply has an all natural wormer that is working well.

From Hoegger website: The original, all natural, herbal wormer is compounded especially for goats. This wormer contains no artificial chemicals and is non-toxic and non-sickening. Safe for kids & pregnant does. No milk dumping or withdrawal time for slaughter. 200 doses in every pound of wormer.

Dosage for mature goats is 1-1/2 tsp. weekly.

Ingredients: Worm Wood, Gentian, Fennel, Psyllium, & Quassia

Another area we focus heavily on is rotating pasture. We try to keep pigs on a pasture no longer than three weeks and two and a half is better. Once we move them off we run pastured poultry across the field and then let it rest for five to six weeks.

Sunshine and time is the best way to break parasite cycles on your farm. If you are constantly exposing your stock to parasites it will be tough to keep them from becoming over loaded and in need of treatment.

For goats that means keep them from grazing off the ground. Have plenty of high weeds and browse for them to eat up and away from parasites. Never feed hay on the ground or use feed bowls that sit on the ground.

A product we have used with great success is Perma Guard, which is a brand name for Diatomaceous Earth. While there are those who swear by Diatomaceous Earth  and those who say it's total bunk, we have found it a good piece of the puzzle in our fight against parasites.

The key is to use it constantly. We mix it in our feed for pigs and a couple table spoons a day in the goat's feed when they are on the milk stand.

Another product we use on pigs is garlic. Besides being a natural wormer, garlic is also a good broad base anti-viral. This something we will use on breeding stock rather than growing pigs.

There is a product on the market that is called garlic barrier which is for sheep and possibly goats but I wonder about off tasting milk in dairy animals.

Crystal Creek
also sells a wormer we have used for pigs with good results. Another I have not tried but have heard some good comments is Verm-X.

The bottom line is we have many choices other than conventional chemical wormers.

Folks have said they think that some of these natural products are too expensive. I say looking for the cheapest way to raise livestock is one reason agriculture is in it's current state.. You can't shortcut quality.

As with all forms of natural or organic farming, it takes more management than inputs to keep the farm healthy, happy, and profitable.

Till next time...

 
 

Raw Goat's Milk Great for the Soil

Picture
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....


 
 

Pastured Freedom Rangers and Carcass Weight

Picture
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.

 

 
 

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]

 
 

The Food Revolution

Dr Mercola once again encourages "eat local"

 

See it here

 
 

Freedom Ranger Chicks Arrived - Video

Our Freedom Ranger chicks arrived at the farm today today. This video shows us putting them in the brooder.

These birds are from the Label Rouge program. We believe them to be better than the standard Cornish Cross chickens for the model we use to raise them. 

In my previous post  I outlined why I think they are superior to Cornish Cross for the pastured poultry farmer.


I will be showing you how these birds grow out this season so stay tuned for more videos.

 

Watch the video here.

 

Until next time...

 
 

What's Wrong With Cornish Cross Chickens?

Cornish Cross are the industry standard for meat birds in the United States. I recently mentioned I had switched to Freedom Ranger chickens and had several people ask why.

Cornish Cross birds are a lazy bird by nature with an insatiable appetite.

They basically sit, eat, and get bigger. These are admiral traits if the only goal is to produce a bird that grows very rapidly and produces a lot of breast meat.

However, if you sit back and observe this bird for very long you realize these cleverly select traits come with a price.

Research shows that these birds can gain weight at a rate faster than their skeletal system can bear.

This shows up as lameness and even broken legs. Another trait of these birds is they suffer heart failure.

You go to tend the birds, and find one stone dead for no apparent reason. More than likely it suffered heart failure.

Because they are so selectively bred for certain traits it can lead to a compromised immune system.

They are a fragile bird that was designed for huge agri-business to stuff in a confinement barn and feed sub therapeutic antibiotics to keep them healthy.

The hatchery told me to limit feed them so as to slow the growth rate down and help curb these health issues.

I did limit their intake of feed, and to a large degree it worked. But I came to the conclusion you were basically starving them to slow them down!

They are genetically designed to have an insatiable appetite. I raise Tamworth pigs on pasture and these birds make them look polite when it comes to feeding if they have ran out of feed for any length of time…even on grass.

Which brings up another observation: Freedom Ranger chickens are a far more aggressive forager of green material then Cornish Cross.

One of the health benefits touted by pastured poultry farmers is the opportunity for the birds to graze on green grass and bugs.

It made sense to me to use a bird that gets the most out the environment in which you raise it. Cornish birds were designed as an inside bird with no thought of foraging, that burns calories!

Contrast that with birds from the Label Rouge program in France (such as Freedom Rangers) and you see some distinct differences.

 

  • They are a healthy robust bird
  • Freedom Rangers grow slower without the problems associated with Cornish Cross.
  • They are much more active foragers.
  • Customers in taste test when compared to the Cornish Cross prefer Freedom Ranger.

I chose Freedom Rangers because after examining the facts I felt they were better suited to my model of farming and welfare standards.

Why take a bird that was bred for big business and put it in an environment that it was never designed for?

I realize pastured poultry farmers while minimizing the problems outlined here can raise Cornish Cross birds.

 

But for us at Spring Hill Farms, we think there is a better way.

 

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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