Monday, February 28, 2011


The first two of Gandhi's seven deadly social sins are on full display in Wisconsin now. These are "politics without principle" and "wealth without work" As far as the first of these is concerned, bear in mind that though the troubles the states are in comes mostly from the criminal behavior on Wall Street, their response, almost exlusively has been to continue to let the wealthy within their own borders get away without paying the taxes they should pay, while reducing spending on things like fuel assistance. This is particularly deadly in a northern state.

And the effrontery of the Koch brothers getting on the media to announce that they are bankrolling this disenfranchising of public employees because (to paraphrase)"everyone knows that everyone does better when the government does less" is unbelieveable. This is directed at public employees who do necessary work by the poster boys for "wealth without work", who have spent their lives polluting the atmosphere and carelessly putting employees' lives at risk in their refineries while stiff arming the EPA and rolling in the government cash that results from being involved in oil, the most heavily subsidized of all economic activities. Why do we put up with it?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Our hearts and minds are with the people of Egypt these days. They did an amazing thing by throwing off a murderous dictator. They are in a dangerous time now, with all that power lying around loose, so to speak. We wish them well.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011


We have needed to raise our prices because of the zooming corn market and we notice that is causing some confusion with some customers. We need to clear some things up.

Our farm is named Pastures A Plenty because we live and do our work in the middle of 100 plus acres of grass which is grazed in a planned, rotational manner with dairy heifers, beef animals and sows. Just as important, we think that every species of livestock should be fed as much as possible with forages, and as much as possible of this forage should be grazed fresh by the animal itself. This because forages are usually perennials, and our agriculture needs to move toward perennial production and away from annual cropping to cut down on fuel use. And pastures make a healthy environment for all animals, with some limitations having to do with predators and severe weather.

The only class of animals that we know of that can live and thrive on a strict forage or pasture diet are ruminants. For our purposes, that class includes cattle, sheep, bison and goats. Pigs, chickens and turkeys are not ruminants. Pigs have a simple digestive system similar to the human stomach. They need protein in a different form and much more energy than their systems are able to get from grass or even legumes like alfalfa. So when we use the word "pasture" connected with pigs, we are saying that pigs live there, not that they subsist entirely on a diet of grazed forages. It is rather that they are getting the advantage of fresh air, sunshine, freedom of movement and a good forage supplement to their main diet.

The pig's digestive system matures considerably as they get beyond the age at which they are usually slaughtered. The herd of sows here, for instance, average age perhaps three years, is much more able to get value out of forage than are the finishing pigs, which average perhaps four months of age. So we focus very much effort upon increasing the proportion of the sow's ration that comes from pasture and from hays in the winter months. Currently, we are trying to improve our sow facilites so that we can carefully reduce the grain portion of their ration, encouraging them to eat more pasture and hay. We are very encouraged by this, as we have indications we may be able to reduce the sow herd's grain ration from five lb/head/day down to two or even less. Our gestating or dry sows spend the summer grazing our pastures with the cattle herd. Until last summer, when it was so terribly wet for so much of the summer, we also had pigs born on pasture. We are talking currently about the role of pasture farrowing for us in the future. One thing we must think of is that our markets ask for a year around supply of pork, which means we must often farrow the newborns inside of the barns to protect them from the weather.

We think that the pictures we have on our literature and on the website may be leading people into thinking we are able to do all our production in pastures. We are not, for reasons named above, and are considering changes to the image we project. Most of the pictures we show are of sows or sows and baby pigs on grass, or occasionally on straw in the barns. It is clear to us that it is mainly the sows with access to pastures, but probably not to anyone who does not operate a hog farm. For this we apologize. Steps will be taken to make our image more accurate.

Since we cannot do all our production in pastures, we take it as very important that we live up to certain standards for pig production. All pigs, for instance, have straw to bed in and manipulate and play with. We never confine a pig into a space in which it has no freedom of movement. Space provided per pig is always double the amount allowed in conventional system or more. Efforts are made to maximize sun and natural air movement in all our buildings. We take very seriously the truth that when we humans domesticated livestock animals, we took on certain responsibilities for them and that for the good of our own spirit, we must carry them out.

A word about the grains. Our American system of agriculture is very much skewed to the production of corn and soybeans. On the grain side, the price and availability of corn controls everything else about the market. We, for instance, feed oats, sometimes barley, field peas, and dairy whey, as well as hay to all of the older animals in our rations. However, the price of all these, even when they are available, is set by the corn market. Therefore when we must buy corn or any of the other grains, and we do need to buy, as we don't have enough land to grow sufficient quantities, we are impacted by the corn price.

Pigs can eat other things. We feed dried whey, as mentioned above. A hog farm located next to a cheese plant could feed mostly wet whey, I think. A farm located in orchard country or in the middle of vegetable production could benefit in a large way from cull vegetables and apples. Pigs could be run under nut trees. Cannery byproducts, or the byproducts of any kind of food processing, are useable by pigs. However, ours is a prairie farm, with no very good access to any of this. So that is why we stick mainly to a corn and soymeal diet for the pigs, with as much inclusion of hay and the other grains as we can. The only other choice we have been able to come up with is fast food garbage, and our thinking is that our customers wouldn't like that. We don't either, even more than we don't like high corn prices.

We never use drugs in the feed or otherwise to promote rapid pig growth. Hormones are illegal in hog production. We do use antibiotics on an occasional basis to treat sick animals. Our goal is always to use vaccinations and good environment to short circuit disease rather than having to treat sick animals. Hope this helps.