2019: The Shortest Green Season

October 31, 2019

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Six months of green!  Our late snowstorm of April 27th joined forces with an early October 29th snowstorm to make this the shortest green season.  These photos were taken after a second, October 31st snowstorm.

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We have one litter outside.  They are doing fine with lots of bedding.

The sows are still finding some grass to eat.  You can see the one in the bottom photo munching on a clump of Orchardgrass.

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September Farrowing and Calving

September 22, 2019

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September is a good month for new births, as it’s usually warm and dry.  This September has been warm and wet, continuing a two year trend.

We farrow most months of the year, except for the coldest weeks in winter.  Calving works great in September and October, calves wintering on the cow, and weaned onto the lush spring pastures.  It also helps that I can borrow a breeding bull from my parents, who practice spring calving.

Photo credits to my sister, Rebecca.  I like the perspective she captured in the top photo.  In the photo below, the two day old calf hiding in the weeds almost looks like we’ve adorned him with some type of holiday flowers.

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Update, First Litter 2019

March 8, 2019

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12 piglets, two weeks old now!  Susie Q is a great mother.  It got really cold, 0 F, but she kept her piglets warm enough with her body heat and plenty of straw and hay.

She had started with 16, and lost 4 within the first 48 hours, which is the most dangerous time, but since then they have really thrived.  In these photos, taken today, its 25 F and the piglets have spent the past hour outside in the sun.

In the photo you can see I closed off the window and I shut the barn doors at night to prevent a cold draft on the piglets, but I open it during the day.  The piglets are old enough, and its finally starting to warm up enough, I plan on leaving the barn doors open at night now.

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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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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!


Spring 2018: Farm Update

May 1, 2018

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Braden finished his movable chicken pens and I helped him move his broiler chickens out to pasture.  We have had the coldest April on record, so there isn’t much pasture, but the chickens seem happy in their new home.

Braden put his own spin on a Salatin style, movable chicken pen.  I hope to post with more detail in the future.  The pens are moved daily to fresh pasture.  The pen is keeping the predators away from the chickens, and the chickens are really thriving.  He is still planning on having freshly frozen chickens for the May 26th market.

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I helped Daniel rototill the garden and she has started moving her indoor started vegetables outdoors, and also started direct seeding some of her crops.

I rototilled the sweet corn plot and plan to plant next week if the soil continues to warm. We should have delicious sweet corn around the first of August.

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Winter/Spring farrowing has gone well, and I have lots of healthy feeder pigs.  My fall-calving herd has wintered well on our home-raised hay, and are chomping at the bit to get on fresh pasture.

Cattle aren’t particularly smart, but they are masters at body language.  They know exactly what it means when they see me repairing electric fence.  I’m sure they are salivating as much as when Pavlov’s dogs hear a bell.