2020 March Litters and Market Cancelled!

March 13, 2020

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Last weekend was a gorgeous weekend and all of our sows farrowed from Saturday to Tuesday, with 8 to 11 piglets each, and they are all doing fantastic.  Tuesday afternoon was only 46 F, but the sunshine felt so good, some of the piglets were sunning themselves in the entrance of a hut.

Humanity’s health is not doing so well.  The Dane County Farmer’s market is cancelled for this Saturday and I think its a wise move.  When I heard that some people can carry and spread Covid-19 without showing symptoms, I knew we were in trouble.  I’m reminded of some of the hog diseases that seem to sweep across the nation despite all our best efforts to prevent them.

So its all about flattening the curve now so that our health care professionals can treat everyone who needs attention.  So no more large gatherings for the foreseeable future.

I am however, making deliveries to Madison this Saturday.  If you would like something, email, and we will work out details.  Thank you and stay safe!


February 2020: 2019 and 2018 Fall Calves

February 17, 2020

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September 2019 steer in front of a 2018 steer.  We harvest our 100% Grass-fed, Grass-finished cattle around 24 to 30 months in age, considerably older than the typical corn-fattened cattle, harvested around 15 to 20 months in age.

I really like fall calving.  The cows are calving in great shape, as they’ve been grazing pasture all summer.  The calves winter well, drinking their mother’s milk and eating hay.  The cows eat all the hay they want out of feeders and my cows stay in good shape, despite the added stress of nursing a calf.  The calves are weaned in May or June directly onto lush pastures and never seem to miss a beat.

My cattle never see the inside of a barn.  When the weather turns extreme, I use straw or hay to make a bedding pack near a wind break.  You can see the bedding pack in the bottom photo.  Sometimes the edge of a calf’s ears will frostbite, but otherwise they handle the elements very well.

Check out the heavy winter hair coat the fall calves in the bottom photo exhibit.  For some reason, they develop what looks like a heavier coat than the older cattle.  They almost resemble Scottish Highland cattle in their shagginess.

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2020 Herd Boar: Part 2

February 12, 2020

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Check out those tusks!  Another post on End Zone, showing off doing his two jobs.  We were moving some other hogs and he patrolled the perimeter, making sure everyone knew he was in charge!

Boars are very aggressive with each other.  That’s one of the reasons I sold his Father because I was worried about them ever getting together.  The ensuing fight would, at the least, sideline one or both of them with injuries and possible death.

And since End Zone is doing the important job so well, photo below, I have a son of Zone for sale, if any of you hog farmers need a good young boar.

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2020 Herd Boar: End Zone

January 29, 2020

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Last year’s post, “2019 Herd Boars”, talked about two of my all-time favorite herd boars, Zone and End Zone.  Father and Son, sadly, I decided to sell the Father as he got very big, over 800 lbs, and his son, End Zone, was breeding well.

And then, wouldn’t you know it, when I was down to one boar, End Zone got hurt.  I think he hurt himself in his mud wallow, as the mud had gotten very sticky.  This isn’t a problem confinement pork producers worry about.

I wasn’t sure if he would get better, but I separated him so he could rest and thankfully he did and is back better than ever.  I was able to use artificial insemination to breed one group of sows who will farrow in March.

I kept a white son of Zone and we will see how he develops.  I really like the confirmation of End Zone.  He has a lot of length and is close to perfect on his feet.  He is also easier to work with than his Father.  So I’m hoping I can keep him from getting too big too soon.

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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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Canadian Bacon and Tomato/Onion

August 30, 2019

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Our version of the BLT uses Canadian Bacon.  Look how nicely it fits on the toast.

And we also use onions instead of lettuce.  I don’t like all that bulky lettuce crowding my sandwich.

And lots of tomatoes.  Yum.

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Oyster Mushrooms

July 31, 2019

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My friend Jeremy helped me identify delicious, Oyster mushrooms, (genus Pleurotus).  While I don’t consider them to be as good as Morel mushrooms, they are still very good and have many advantages.

One is they are saprotrophic, meaning they grow on dead material, which makes them much easier to find, as once you find them, they tend to continue producing throughout the summer.  I like foraging, but I like it even better when its like going to the supermarket!

Another advantage is they are highly productive.  Check out all the beauties on this one tree.

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In my research, I learned something else new.  Wikipedia says Oyster mushrooms and other fungi as well are Nematophagous, which means they catch and eat nematodes.  Nematodes are round worms.  Are you getting hungry?

Gross factor aside, I’m finding fungi more fascinating the more I learn.  Would you like to eat Oyster mushrooms?

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Monarch Caterpillars

June 27, 2019

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The wet spring appears to be favorable for the butterflies, as I’ve been seeing a ton.  Incidentally, which weighs more, a ton of bricks, or a ton of butterflies?

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I’m seeing more Milkweed, which is the host plant for Monarch larvae, the Monarch caterpillar.  Its orange, black, and white stripes signal toxicity to potential predators.  The word for this is Aposematism.

Milkweed contains large amounts of Cardiac glycoside poisons, and the Monarch, from feeding on the Milkweed, does as well.  Some predators have evolved workarounds for the poisons, though.

 

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Check out the massive turds behind the caterpillar in the photo above.  Chewed leaves and feces is your best signifier that a monarch caterpillar may be near.

I read in my local paper that its not just my experience, but scientists and citizen scientists confirm the greatest number of Monarchs in the last decade.

No doubt efforts by many of us to increase the amount of Milkweed and Monarch habitat have helped.  Some have taken to mass rearing Monarchs indoors.  While I appreciate their efforts, the holistic naturalist in me questions the overall effectiveness and it appears some agree, citing concerns over spreading of parasites and disease, and inadvertently selecting for less thrifty individuals.

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One Bad Day

June 21, 2019

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As caretaker of our animals, our goal is a beautiful life, with one bad day.  One bad moment actually, as Andrew and the crew at Avon Locker work to humanely kill the animals on butcher day.

Personally, we had a bad day the other day, as my Dad rolled his ATV.  He’s ok, but recovering, as he’s sore all over and his ear needed several stitches.

We were trying to get a cow in and Dad was driving along side her on a side hill and the cow kicked the ATV and somehow it rolled over on top of him and continued rolling off him.  I got to him shortly after and we took him to the ER to get checked out and his ear stitched.

One of the reasons we’ve needed to get cows in is we’ve had 8 sets of twins this year, blowing away the old record of 5 sets.  Our  cows have a difficult time keeping track of twin calves unless we get them in to a smaller pasture by themselves.  If we are unable to separate the cow and calves, we bring in whichever calf ends up abandoned and bottle feed it until it can live on grass.

Below is a photo of a bottle calf we took to the library for a kids program and short petting zoo.  The kids enjoyed petting the calf.  And at the risk of anthropomorphizing, I think the bottle calf enjoyed the attention as well.

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