the years I've had pigs fall apart on pasture. By "fall apart" I mean
everything from not gain weight nearly as fast as others in the same
pasture to the whole lot of them were having trouble thriving.
In some cases they have had to be rescued from the pasture and propped up with crutches in order to thrive.
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the cause of this? It would be nice if I could narrow it down to one
particular reason but many times it's a combination of things that are
contributing. Let's look at a few of them.
Overly Optimistic about Your Pasture Quality.
need high quality pasture in order for it to be anything other than a
supplement to grain. Think clover, or other legumes as a good percentage
of the field. Running Young Pigs on Pasture with too Little Feed.
general rule is the younger the pig, the less he is able to utilize
roughage from the pasture. You can not take pigs that are just weaned
and turn them out on grass without plenty of feed supplementation and
expect them to thrive. They'll fall apart.
Relying on Alternative Feeds as a Main Feed Source
seen small farmers attempt to feed hogs everything you can think of
from stale bread to produce items, to distiller grains and everything in
between. Hogs are pretty good at eating what they are given but it will usually show up in health and weight gain.
alternative feeds are fine but learn some nutritional facts about swine
before attempting to launch out into something that could cost you tons
of time and pork in the end.
Not Catching the Clues of Pigs Starting to Fall Apart.
As an old farmer used to tell me "You need to know if an animal isn't doing well before it does."
time observing your pigs on a daily basis. Learn what pigs look like
and how they behave when they're healthy and thriving. When something
seems different it usually means trouble. Get on top of it before it
ship wrecks your pigs health.
Choosing the Wrong Pig for Pasture.
the term "heritage breed pig" being thrown around all over the internet
many folks wrongly assume this is the holy grail of pastured pigs.
should be a head start in the right direction but it's simply not a
guarantee that pigs will do well on grass. Many of the heritage breed
pigs are being moved away from what made them great by breeding for
different goals then the small farmer would have.
see a certain heritage breed showing up at all the fairs and in show pig
magazines you can bet the breeder of those pigs has a different set of
goals in his breeding program than will fit into your small farm with
That doesn't mean there aren't lines within
those breeds that are being developed for pasture and old time hog
raising. Just don't assume that heritage breed automatically means good
I've discussed this issue with the Tamworth breed before but it exists in some other heritage breeds as well.
issue is we have is the many small farmers who are breeding pigs with
little or no experience in putting together a breeding program that will
move them forward in their goals...assuming they have clear goals.
pigs on pasture successfully is both an art and science. Study, plan
carefully, and observe others. But most importantly get some pigs and
learn as you go!
The ASPCA has recently launched a campaign "The Truth about Chicken" which
is exposing the facts about how chickens are raised in the factory farm
model and they are actively promoting slower growing breeds instead of
the industry standard, Cornish Cross.
quote from the ASPCA website "In 1925, it took 16 weeks to raise a
chicken to 2.5 pounds. Today, chickens weigh double that in just six
So for all the genetic improvement
over the last 80 plus years we can definitely see a big part of the
focus was get the birds to slaughter weight as fast as possible.
Which begs the question: How fast is too fast?
In this case if you were to compare the growth rate of a human to that of a modern day broiler chicken you would find According
to the University of Arkansas, if humans grew at a similar rate, a
6.6-pound newborn baby would weigh 660 pounds after two months.
You have to admit, that's pretty fast by anyone's standards!
At Spring Hill Farms we
have been raising Label Rouge broilers since they have been available
in the United States. Although these birds grow slower than Cornish
Cross, they are faster than a chicken in 1925.
Of course this type of "exposure" about what's going on in the poultry industry causes some very fervent emotions. The last time I checked there were about 300 comments on the ASPCA's blog where they announced the launch of The Truth about Chicken.
Before this campaign was launched I was contacted by the ASPCA to inquire if I would allow them to use a quote from my blog about what I felt was wrong with Cornish Cross chickens. You can read that blog post here.
be honest with you...I was hesitant at first because I really had no
idea what the ASPCA stood for when it came to livestock welfare. After a
conversation with them and reading through their website I felt that
they have a fairly balanced approach to livestock issues.
Many of the humane and cruelty type organizations have a "do not eat meat" mindset. I obviously wouldn't agree with that type of philosophy.
Of course I believe high welfare standards are a very central part of raising livestock.
See I don't believe that the fastest growth rate obtainable for poultry or any other livestock is the number one one factor.
I believe that high welfare standards should come first followed by nutritional quality of the meat, flavor profiles, sustainability, etc.
A small farm that is ran right should reflect a place:
that cares about animals
provides food that helps keep you healthy
is responsible to the environment
I signed the petition for The Truth about Chicken and I urge you to do so also.
you are a small farmer let people know you believe the industrial
poultry farm model is not the way to raise chickens. If you're using
Cornish Cross birds on your small farm stop using them and get something better suited to the small farm model.
If we take a stand on these issues through organizations like the ASPCA and stop supporting the commercial poultry industry with our dollars things will begin to change.
the very least we'll be able to sleep a little better at night knowing
we are doing something to help facilitate change where it is needed
has been very interested and very aggressive trying to get into the
United States,....“And they have the resources to do it.” - Iowa Sen.
With the recent announcement of the Smithfield-Shuanghui merger much speculation has been circulating around the internet of late.
I've been busy farming and not paying more than a sideways glance at world events compared to my normal research. However, I thought it was time to give my thoughts on the merger as well.
look around the 'net seems to indicate that the official word from both
companies is the merger is more about China needing more pork products rather than China having an interest in selling pork into the U.S.
makes sense as China has a population that is growing at a staggering
rate. Couple that with the fact that the Chinese have always been heavy
pork eaters and you can see how that would be the case.
I wonder if that means a whole bunch of piggies will be headed that way instead of to U.S. grocery stores?
One argument could be that means big-ag farmers are gonna have to ramp up production to meet the demand...and that means more profitable U.S. pig farmers.
Since the majority of those type farm operations are under the thumb of huge companies such as Smithfield I suspect they will get a whole bunch more work and little bit more money. While Mr. Big company gets richer.
been the trend since we started down the road of vertical integration
of our farm operations. Don't get me wrong...It's a free market. They
have the right to operate that way, but it seems like it will continue
to make a problem into a bigger problem.
I definitely can see retail pork prices going up over the long haul as more pork gets shipped to China.
And another snippet I found interesting...
Chinese also stand to benefit from the merger because of the country’s
problems with food safety and sanitation. The U.S. pork industry has a
longstanding reputation for food safety, sanitation and environmental
integrity." - Hoosier Ag Today
Did that say environmental integrity? From what I can tell the environmental integrity of the huge factory hog farms in the United States is in shambles.
find it hard to believe that someone would utter the words
environmental integrity and industrial hog farming in the same sentence.
Maybe compared to the Chinese it looks like integrity, but they're not
the latest award winners of environmental stewardship last time I
However, I believe that, as Joseph Goebbels was
reputedly said to state, repeat a lie often enough and it is believed
to be the truth.
hog farms emit hydrogen sulfide, a gas that most often causes flu-like
symptoms in humans, but at high concentrations can lead to brain
damage. In 1998, the National Institute of Health reported that 19
people died as a result of hydrogen sulfide emissions from manure pits. [more]
hog farming industry in North Carolina continues to use our waterways
and lands as a garbage dump, and the Taylor facility is yet another
example of this reckless behavior,” said Gary Grant, director of the
North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, an organization dedicated
to protecting and preserving North Carolina waterways. “The clear
violation of the law and disregard for the local community needs to be
addressed, and the lack of any agency action has convinced us that a
citizen suit is the only way we can stop this behavior.” Read more here:
Bacon and ham have been demonized most recently because of the nitrites used to cure them.This has brought about the 'nitrite free'
products you can find at your local health food store. Are they really
healthier? The short answer is no. Nathan S. Bryan, PhD, University of
Texas Houston Biomedical Research Center, pulls no punches when he
states, "This notion of 'nitrite-free' or 'organically cured' meats is a
The truth is these meats
are cured with celery salt and a bacteria starter culture which turns
the nitrates in the celery salt to nitrites.
There is a wide range of how much of the nitrates from the celery salt are converted to nitrites.
But the end result is much more than would be added from a traditional
method of nitrite salt. So even though it's labeled nitrite free it's
loaded with nitrites.
Dr. Bryan says. Yet his biggest concern is
not nitrite content but the possibility of bacterial contamination. "I
think it is probably less healthy than regular cured meats because of
the bacteria load and the unknown efficacy of conversion by the
bacteria," he says.
If you have followed my blog for very
long you know I'm a proponent of bacteria being one of the keys to
enhancing or wrecking your immune system.
In this case you risk wrecking it.
is a prime example of big business taking some highly publicized and
flimsy science at best and then using it to capitalize on a trend.
The following excerpt is from Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN, the Naughty Nutritionist™
Bring Home the Bacon
Then why do so many health experts condemn bacon and other cured meats
because of their nitrite content? Well, why do fats and cholesterol
still get a bum rap?
The reason is bad studies and worse publicity, with the latest shoddy
work out of Harvard a prime example. According to Dr. Bryan, the body
of studies show only a "weak association" with evidence that is
"inconclusive." As he and his colleagues wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, "This paradigm needs revisiting in the face of undisputed health benefits of nitrite- and nitrate-enriched diets."
So what's the last word on America's favorite meat? Indulge bacon lust
freely, know that the science is catching up, the media lags behind,
and, our ancestors most likely got it right.
recently received Premiers newsletter and loved the article so much I
shot Stan a note and asked if I could re-publish it for you. His
thoughts on "labels" echo my own. So without further ado Here's
Premier's previous newsletter my comments about the future merits of
the organic, sustainable and natural labels surprised and offended some
readers. Therefore, a little personal background and an expanded
explanation of my views about the future may be in order. My father
switched from "chemical" to "organic" farming on our 160-acre Iowa farm
in 1955, when I was 9 years old. This change was encouraged in part by
reading J.I. Rodale's monthly magazine, Organic Gardening and Farming, which we studied at length.
My folks had a true family (8 children) farm for decades:
• Milked up to 5 cows by hand and sold the cream.
• Raised chickens (hundreds) and sold the eggs.
• Had a large vegetable and fruit garden for our personal needs, weeded, mulched and harvested by hand labor.
• Raised a limited number of sheep, pigs and beef cattle. We
butchered and processed meat from them for the family and sold the
• Grew corn, wheat, hay, oats and soybeans, but not many acres of each.
• Heated our home with wood from trees on the farm.
short, it was the complete opposite of modern specialized farms. The
most important product wasn't the food. Instead it was the education
and development of the 8 children and our city cousins who visited us
each summer. We learned how to think, accomplish, suffer and sweat.
1964, I went to Iowa State University and used its excellent library
to read every organic/natural farming author on hand, including Howard,
Faulkner and Bromfield. In 1965 I switched to Ambassador College, a
small, conservative religious college that actively supported and
practiced organic farming and gardening.
Two years later I
transferred to Ambassador's British campus north of London. Its farm
and gardens produced organic milk, meat (chickens and beef), eggs,
vegetables and fruit for the student and faculty kitchens. In my senior
year I was paid (even now I marvel at this!) to read extensively about
organic food and food production for the college's Agricultural
Department and prepare summary reports therefrom.
I stayed on
after graduation to manage the college's farm and vegetable gardens. By
the time the college closed (1974), the farm operation had grown to
300 acres, 1000 chickens, 5 acres of fruit/vegetable gardens and 150
dairy and beef cattle.
During my 6 years as the head of
Ambassador's Agricultural Department, I visited research farms and
agricultural shows all across Britain, Europe and the USA. We listened
and talked with folks like E.F. Schumacher, whose book Small Is
Beautiful — Economics As If People Mattered, is probably even more
applicable now than it was in the early 1970s. In 1973 I had the
privilege to share a lunch in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, with Robert Rodale
(now deceased) and Wendell Berry (alive, and a thought-leader I respect
So I have roots developed over 6 decades in organic farming and ecologically sound land utilization.
Why therefore did I suggest that producers might consider supplemental
labels to organic, natural and sustainable in my previous newsletter?
1. Because the astute marketing minds of the big "industrial" food
producers have already spotted the $$ potential of these labels.
Therefore, "organic" labels will soon be commonplace (and may be often
attached to food whose production systems may be questionable).
turn, the smaller producers who began it all will feel pushed out.
That's why it's sensible, in my view, to anticipate this — and also
attach supporting labels like "no antibiotics, local and/or
hormone-free." The nature of large-scale food production makes it more
difficult to honestly replicate the extra labels (particularly local
and no antibiotics).
2. Because, and this is an opinion
developed over 6 decades, I think there is a second, and larger, group
of valuable food consumers who are not overly concerned whether their
food comes from an organic source. Nor do they care whether the source
is a large operation or a small one.
Instead, they want the
food source to be one that practices stewardship, that demonstrates
integrity (honest, genuine, reliable) and proactively cares for land,
animals, employees — and their customers. If they find that the source
is too focused on profit as opposed to these things, they will seek an
alternative. And they want to buy from people who — to paraphrase E.F
Schumacher — "view food production as if people/soil/animals/plants
matter, not just for profit and efficiency." Best wishes to you all
through the holiday season and beyond. Stan Potratz, Owner
Health information floating around on the internet and every other form of media can boggle your mind at times.
you can have a conversation with a friend at the water cooler and end
up wondering if we're all going to die of some horrid disease from
eating wrong. It's all around us - This is bad for you, this is good for
you. Eat this, don't eat that.
If you've ever looked at indoor air quality you can be afraid to take a breath inside your own home. How do can you know what 's the truth?
Unfortunately I don't have a definitive answer for that!
What I can tell you is the rule I live by:
Have the sense of an old cow - Eat the hay and spit out the sticks.
Those of you who follow my blog know I'm a big proponent of Dr Mercola. I still am.
However on this particular point, I don't agree with some of his views or conclusions, particularly about pastured pork.
He has softened his stance some over time. At one time he did not recommend eating pork of any kind.
He now states in his most recent post: "Pork
is an arguably "healthy" meat from a biochemical perspective, and if
consumed from a humanely raised pastured hog like those on Joel
Salatins' farm and prepared properly, there is likely minimal risk of
infection. However, virtually all of the pork you're likely to consume
do not fit these criteria."
However in the side bar of this post, he has the following:"If
you choose to eat pork, I recommend seeking a naturally raised,
pastured source, although this is no guarantee of safety. Pastured pigs
are vulnerable to Trichinella spiralis infection—aka “pork worm”—due to
their exposure to wild hosts. Trichinella is one of the most
widespread parasites in the world, and can cause potentially serious
Perhaps Trichinella spiralis is one of the most widespread parasites in the world but according to the CDC:
the past 40 years, few cases of trichinellosis have been reported in
the United States, and the risk of trichinellosis from commercially
raised and properly prepared pork is very low. However, eating
undercooked wild game, particularly bear meat, puts one at risk for
acquiring this disease.[More here]
Cases Reported to the CDC
is one of the favorite arguments big-ag uses to make us think animals
raised outside the way nature intended is actually risky to our health.
We must keep animals inside in an environmentally controlled setting lest they get contaminated and harm us...Rubbish.
we mimic nature, feed a proper diet, and let the animals have
sufficient room, they will be healthier themselves and impart that
health to us when consumed.
A historical research into
trichinellosis in swine shows us that it was linked to feeding pigs
swill or garbage. This practice today is banned in many states. Most
that allow it require a license to feed it to pigs.
I've blogged about alternative feeds before and I personally would not eat pork that has lived on garbage.
Overall I think Dr Mercola did a good job of showing that pastured pork done right is your only option for pork. But
when it comes to trumping up the dangers of trichinellosis in hogs that
roam outside...this old cow is spitting out that stick.
Ever wonder what a 13 year old female farmer has to say about farming, food and finances?
Shelby Grenbec recently spoke out about her experience raising chickens, selling eggs, and gardening in an article in the Denver Post.
I loved the article! It is an honest assessment of where the sustainable farming movement is right now as well as the realities of marketing direct to the consumer.
She says things like:
you want sustainable, wholesome, pasture-raised organic, hormone- and
antibiotic-free food, you have to support it. You can not get these
things by talking about it and not paying for it."
read between the lines you see a girl who is wise beyond her years about
people and money. I applaud her parents for teaching her these
fundamental truths about life.
Shelby is getting a
great head start in life by farming and earning money from the free
market system we have here in the United States.
reminds me of my boys. They have a good understanding that money doesn't
just show up in the bank. It takes work. It means offering something of
value to the market place and working to get the word out so folks will
want to buy what you have.
I was disappointed to
see she says she will not continue farming when she gets older. As Joel
Salatin so eloquently pointed out one time, we have to have new, young
farmers coming into the industry or the old ready to retire farmers
can't leave. And when they do the big Ag model gets to fill in the gap
if there isn't enough young farmers.
Perhaps Shelby will change her mind in the future but even if she doesn't, I wish her all the best and admire her honesty and hard work!
When I was a kid growing up on a hog farm I'd never heard of Dwarf Essex Rape let alone knew hogs absolutely love it!
Dwarf Essex Rape is a cool season forage we use a good bit to run hogs on especially in the late fall, early winter and spring .
If not grazed down too much it will grow back for several rotations. I have used it to reclaim old over-grown pastures by sowing a pasture mix with it.
sows have been on it for several weeks and have pretty much grazed it
down to nothing. Time to move them soon! Besides the Rape they have been
getting ear corn from our open pollinated corn. They have put on weight
since being in this particular patch which is evidence that it is good
also planted winter peas in with it. Since we broadcast them verses
planting in rows they were way too thick and the rape quickly out grew
them. I think next time we'll plant the peas much thinner and see how
I planted at the end of August which was about thirty days later than I wanted. However it was very dry and no rain forecast so I waited until we had rain coming.
Dwarf Essex Rape
It ended up doing very well and has provided some really good forage for the pigs. I only wish I would have planted more!
The deer and turkeys love it too! They have devastated the end of the field near the woods.
I reckon the first Monday after Thanksgiving I better break out the ol'
rifle and see if I can get one of those rascals for the freezer seeing
as how I'm feeding them!
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
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.
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....
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.
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
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.
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.
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
The Rittberger family are experts when it comes to producing a ham that stands alone in taste, texture, and quality.
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.
Practically every industrialized country in the world has demanded that
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's) be labeled if they are in your
food. Many countries don't even allow them in the country. China has
refused our GMO corn more than once.
The United States
government has steadfastly refused to address the issue. The great thing
about America? We can demand our rights be honored at the ballet box.
is exactly what's going on California this November with Prop 37. It is
a measure to require food companies to disclose if they have used
genetically modified ingredients in their products.
Of course the biotech companies know if food companies have to disclose this many people will choose not to buy the product.
claim such things as it will drive the cost of food up and other scare
tactics. They have outspent the supporters of Prop 37 by millions of
To me it's no different than food companies placing the ingredients on the label and won't cost anymore either.
Imagine if food companies didn't have to list High Fructose Corn syrup or MSG on the label.
I have a really nice Tamworth Boar here at Spring Hill Farms. I let him run loose and he does what boars do…..he finds sows and makes babies!
He relies on his sight, hearing, and sense of smell to locate sows
that are ready for his advances. His sense of smell must be really
good because he finds sows down the road on other farms and makes babies
My neighbor hates Tamworth pigs. He has worked for years to develop what he calls a nice line of Hampshire pigs.
For some reason he thinks my boar coming down and making Tamworth x
Hampshire piglets is an intrusion. He doesn't want my genetics
contaminating the genetics he's developing. He has went as far as saying
my boar is trespassing! Hey I try to contain him but I can't control
the wind for crying out loud.
I think he should admit he's using my genetics (which are clearly
superior) and give me the pigs. If he breeds those babies my boar made
he has stolen my genetics. Unless he wants to pay me what I say those
genetic are worth.
Even if we can't come to an agreement he should at least admit that
it's not posing a threat to the local environment or human health.
Hey this is America. Free enterprise allows me to let my boar run loose and spread his genetics.
How do you like my story so far?
I bet you're thinking I've lost my mind!
You see that's exactly what's happening with genetically modified
(GMO) corn. We are in real danger of it contaminating the entire corn
crop in the United States.
Did you know traces of GMO contamination has been found in Mexico's native corn varieties?
If companies want to develop GMO crops that's fine. Keep them in a
hermetically sealed environment that guarantees it won't contaminate
other folk's crops who don't want it, don't believe it is safe, and
certainly don't want to eat it knowingly.
It's time to educate ourselves about genetic engineering. Take some
time and do the research, find out what's really going and make an
educated decision. Practically every other developed country in the
world has done just that, and they said 'no thanks.'
Common sense is the knack of seeing things as they are, and doing things as they ought to be done. - Calvin E. Stowe
I think many times we complicate things up so much it makes it hard to figure out what the right thing is to do.
the case of Whole Foods. If you take a cruise down a few of their aisles
you can't help but notice that slowly over time they have moved away
from their core philosophy a bit.
Garlic from China beside the "local garlic." Grass fed, local beef from Georgia and the list goes on and on.
now we see that around 20 to 30 percent of the products on their
shelves contain genetically modified organisms (GMO). If that's not bad
enough, depending on who you ask in the store, you may be told nothing
in a Whole Foods store contains GMO's.
But the most telling of all is the fact that despite showing $10,107,787 in revenue as of September 2011 they have never given one dime to Proposition 37. The measure in California that would require labeling on any food product made using genetically modified organisms.
foods that contain GMO's is a common sense issue. It's not nearly as
complex as folks want to make it. Simply tell me what's in my food and
let me decide if I want to consume it.
Practically the rest of the world has come to this decision. It's time for the United States of America to follow suite.
use some common sense thinking - Why would a company like Whole Foods
who spends the bulk of their advertising dollars promoting Organic,
local, healthy, natural etc. be silent on proposition 37 and the
labeling of GMO laden foods?
Looks like the classic bait and switch to me, but you decide for yourself.
Until next time...
(Update: Whole Foods has posted a response to this video on their website including their position on Prop 37)
article cited a loss of $57 per pig. While many of these large farms
will ride out the bad market with operating loans etc, the small farmer
is going to have to make some decisions.
most small, sustainable type farms don't necessarily sell at commodity
prices, however the feed cost is normally higher and they are working
with smaller numbers of animals.
Another article sent to me titled bacon, pork shortage 'Unavoidable'
points out that as hog herds shrink across the world prices will have
to go up. They went as far as saying it was possible that shelves would
be bare of certain pork products and prices could double.
What does this mean to you?
If you currently buy your meat products from a small farm, prices will have to increase. I
predict many small farms that have been filling hog feeders with feed
from the local mill with little or no thought to the financial situation
currently in play will be out of business or at the least scaling
I have been watching the sale barns
here in Ohio and it's staggering the amount of "small farm hogs" that
are going through. These aren't pigs from confinement operations, these
are one and two sows, half grown market hogs, feeder pigs, you name it they are leaving the farm.
That tells me pigs are going to be in short supply for the Spring of 2013.
said for years that the time to get better is when things are good.
That's why way back when corn was under $2 a bushel here at Spring Hill Farms we were busy developing a line of pigs that weren't dependent on a feeder full of feed.
the same time we were looking at ways to minimize our dependence on
outside inputs. I'm glad we did it then and not now. For some farms, it
may be too late.
When I first started raising pastured poultry I used the standard Cornish Cross birds that are used in commercial operations. I explain why I stopped raising them here.
Many pastured poultry farmers use these birds because they are convinced that no other bird compares. This blog on Dr Mercola's site is an interview with Joel Salatin. To me, Joel is one of the great pioneers of sustainable farming of our time.
You'll notice that Joel uses these Cornish Cross birds as well. His contention about using anything else the last time I heard him speak about it was that no other bird could be successfully raised at a profit.
For the most part that is true. However Freedom Ranger birds like we raise here at Spring Hill Farms not only can compete with the Cornish Cross, in some ways they are actually better.
Number one - They are a more active bird than Cornish Cross birds. This means the meat is firmer and has more texture than a bird that for the most part lays around and eats.
Number two - Freedom Rangers consume more green material than Cornish Cross birds hands down.
Number three - This makes for a bird that is healthier and has a better flavor profile.
My personal opinion is Joel has it figured out when it comes to the pastured poultry model but we differ on what bird is best to use.
If you want the best chicken you can eat that you know is healthy for you, find a farmer that uses these methods and Freedom Ranger birds . If you're around central Ohio, try Spring Hill Farms pastured poultry, you'll be glad you did!
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
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
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..."
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
– 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.
- 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.
– 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!
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.
Tamworth barrow 2012
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
Send an online petition to Gov. Snyder urging him to rescind the Invasive Species Act.Click Here Now!