First Litter, 2019

February 22, 2019

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2019 farrowing started well as Susie Q gave birth to 16 piglets yesterday, and after a cold night that dipped into the teens F, she still had 15 alive and nursing this morning.

I could see she was going to farrow yesterday morning so I put 2 straw bales and 1 hay bale loose where she could get to them and she spent a few hours building the giant nest you can see in the photo below.  It works better if you let the sow build her own nest for some reason.  All the women reading this are probably like, duh!

I wish all my sows were as good of mothers as she.  And humbly, I tell you she wasn’t even chosen as a breeder.  She was a runt that got accidentally bred, and after a first litter of only 4 piglets born, she’s had big litters since.  I think this is her 4th litter.

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2019 Herd Boars

February 12, 2019

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The best two herd boars I think I’ve ever had are Father and Son.  Zone, pictured above is out of an AI mating, Waldo Duroc, Red Zone.  I had been having trouble with my boars not having much mating desire, but Zone is excellent.  The only problem is he is also people aggressive, but I think I can continue to work with him if I’m careful.

He is being mated to Chester White sows out of an AI mating, Longevity.  They will farrow this spring and I’ll evaluate them again.  The Chester White gilts definitely had less piglets born and saved than my Landrace gilts in the past.

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End Zone is pictured above.  He is a son of Zone.  He is being mated to Rising Sun Duroc gilts for early summer litters.  The Rising Sun gilts have very friendly personalities, but we’ll see how they do as mothers.

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Another photo of Zone.  He has a lot of length.  He is also getting tall as you can see he has to duck to get out of his shelter, pictured below.

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Late Winter Market

January 21, 2019

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We had been experiencing the warmest, driest, winter any of the old timers could remember.  But winter is back and reminding us who is in charge, with inches of snow and below zero F temperatures.

We have been enjoying the Late Winter Market at the Madison Senior Center.  Its a cozy space with enough room for all the vendors.  Plus room to sit if you partake in the breakfast.

Chef Laurel Burleson of the Ugly Apple Cafe sources from vendors and cooks up some wonderful breakfasts.  Next week Laurel is using our sausage links.  Its been good staying connected to many of our regular customers.  Hope to see more of you next week!


Chester White Litter 2.0

November 8, 2018

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November, the last litter of 2018.  Cold as heck outside.  Warmer next to your momma.

This gilt was featured in one of my farm videos last year.  She is one of the piglets in the video.  I made the video because I was excited for new genetics.  This gilt and her siblings, were sired by Chester White semen I purchased from a boar stud in Iowa.

I wanted to try the Chester White breed because it is know for mothering ability and meat quality, two of the traits most important in my swine herd.  Also, Chester White is an American Heritage breed.

I love eating “General Tso’s Chicken” at the Chinese restaurant in town.  And I’m sure “General Tso’s Chicken” is heritage food to someone, but its not my heritage.  Farmers, let’s make our own heritage!

Back to this Chester White experiment.  I kept all five of the gilts from that litter and bred them to my Duroc boar.  They have done well, good mothers.  Interestingly, they don’t have as many piglets born as my Landrace genetics.  They seem to be very similar to my Duroc genetics, as I always select for mothering ability and meat quality when I purchase Duroc semen as well.

What’s nice is that I was able to conduct this experiment in a relatively short amount of time as the generation interval in swine is about a year.  The generation interval is the amount of time it takes for any species to reproduce itself.  In cattle its about two years.

The generation interval is important to geneticists and animal breeders because it adds a time element to any “progress” that can be made in a species.  I put “progress” in quotes because geneticists and animal breeders are people like you and me.  And like you and me, its way easier to make change for change’s sake, than to stop and figure out where exactly you want to go and why, and if its going to be a good when you get there.

Okay, if you’ve made it this far, comment and let me know what you think about “heritage” and “progress”.  And check out my youtube channel if you want to see more of our farm.  Thanks!


Picking Corn

October 18, 2018

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Had a good time picking corn with my Father the old fashioned way.  Dad said he used this New Idea corn picker 50 years ago to pick seed corn.  My Grandfather and his brothers owned a seed corn business years ago.

When my family moved to Wisconsin in 1975, my Dad was able to take this machine which was considered old even then.  He modified it by putting on a sheller attachment so you will notice the corn is shelled off the cob as it enters the wagon.

Even though its old, it works great.  Its tough to get parts, though.  And its slow.  We only picked about an acre per hour.

 

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We used this machine all through my childhood until we got our first combine.  Recently we have hired our neighbor to combine our corn.  Big machine, very fast.

Probably too big to fit through my woods as this field of corn is mine and is difficult to access with today’s large machinery.  I didn’t want to have to cut trees to get a combine in, so we put our New Idea picker back in use.  They didn’t really think the name through, I guess.

Thankfully the corn was only 18% moisture so I was able to put it in a bin with a fan and will blow air through it to dry it a couple of points more.  That along with weekly use should keep the corn in good condition.  If it was wetter, or I planned to sell it, I would have used gas to dry it down to 15% which is the industry standard.

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Pollinator-Friendly, Carbon Sponge!

September 14, 2018

 

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Curiousfarmer is a Pollinator-Friendly, Carbon Sponge!

What the heck does that mean?

Our farm is covered year around with perennial plants, shrubs, and trees.  Livestock are rotated around the farm, grazing plants near their peak, leaving about half, to speed regrowth.  

Plants pull carbon out of the atomsphere and deposit into the soil.  Plants managed well with rotational grazing are pulling near maximum carbon out of the atmosphere.  And we do this year after year after year.

We care about pollinators, and manage some plants specifically for them.  But even if we didn’t, rotational grazing perennial forages, without using herbicides or pesticides, results in many plants and flowers thriving which our beneficial to all the pollinators.  The Monarch butterfly is an indicator species, and I’m happy to say I have never seen greater numbers.  

This is all well and good, but I’m happy to say, we do this while producing delicious, nutritious, meat!  I am unapologetically, humans first.  I care about people, and people need to eat.  And we can and do produce food in a holistic way that feeds people while capturing carbon.

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An added benefit to capturing carbon and building organic matter is the added water holding capacity of healthy soil.  The earth covered in healthy soil becomes more flood and drought proof.

We were just about ready to take the third cutting of hay in the middle of August when the heavens opened and for about three weeks we had the wettest period I can ever remember.  Every day or every other day we received and inch to three inches of rain.

During this rainy period, other than the gravel driveway, I witnessed very little runoff of water.  The more rain water our soil captures, the more is available for plants to use and then respire back into the atmosphere in the gentlest way possible. 

 

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This is the third cutting of hay we made this week.  Phoebe, pictured above and below, is due to calve here in September.  We should have plenty of hay to feed her and her baby this winter.  The circle of life continues.

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Sweet Corn!

July 31, 2018

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One of life’s four great pleasures, according to Garrison Keillor, our sweet corn is ready.  And it is good!

We tried a new variety this year, an augmented supersweet, and the corn is not only undeniably sweet, but large.  The ears pictured above are 22 and 20 rows around.  Hu-u-u-ge!

Next Saturday will be the last chance you have to try some, as we will be sold out after that.