Monday, February 29, 2016


The bald eagles are back, the ones that stop by regularly in the spring to see if they can find something for lunch.  I saw one of them, the male I think, clawing around the left over hay and cattle manure north of where I was pulling the bale wrap off of yesterday's feedings.  Slim pickings, but he knows that better will come up if he keeps looking.  Today as I checked the cattle, there were geese overhead, searching for open water I suppose.  Hard to find, this spring.  Nature's clock keeps running.


Thursday, February 25, 2016


To manage stress in our relationship with our livestock we must first learn to see it.  We know that pigs grow best if they are not moved any more than necessary, even from building to building, much less from farm to farm, or country to country.  This seems to be especially a problem for very young pigs.  The take home here would be that if we can engineer our facilities so that it is possible to move the sow from the pigs at weaning rather than moving the pigs from the sows, we will lower the level of stress, increase our level of satisfaction and improve income.  Our modern systems move the sow and the pigs both, and at far too young an age for the piglet.

This understanding comes pretty naturally from the insight that pigs are not, like cattle, herd animals.  Herd animals are drifters of a sort.  Pigs prefer a loose social group more or less corresponding to a family.  They have a home and they would like to be in it.  It stresses them when they are not.  We Americans could learn from the pigs.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


It seems likely that those new to hog production, or those few remaining small producers should shy away from conventional confinement methods.  The conventional approach is very expensive, for one thing, but also, it gets the farmer into some unnecessary problems.  The best small farm is always NOT a smaller version of a big one.  Take for instance the matter of disease.  Many of the illnesses that hog production is plagued with are a result of production methods.  PED, or porcine epidemic diarrhea which has been a scourge on the level of PRRS for some time now, absolutely depends on industrial scheduling of the sow herd, as it is a virus with an incubation period of less than four weeks.  This fits it admirably to the modern production schedule, which will supply a crop of newborns for the virus to feast on every three to four weeks like clockwork.  Even the somewhat more relaxed old "farmer" schedule of three groups farrowing in turn producing new litters every seven to eight weeks defeats this disease.

Seasonal is best, of course.  But markets sometimes dictate against that.  Until we can get the attitudes changed, we are probably stuck with a system running at a higher level of stress than is best.  But for those who mean to serve the "fill up the freezer market", a single spring farrowing is best.  This minimizes the work of cleaning between batches, gets sunshine and fresh air to do some of the work and provides a bit of time off for the operator.  Sales must drive this, as they drive everything else that makes sense in agriculture.