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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Working in Nature/Tasty Chicken

May 30, 2019

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“Farming with Family, Working in Nature”, is Curiousfarmer’s new motto.  I borrowed this motto from a ranch, “Ranching with Family, Working with Nature.”  I changed “Ranching” to “Farming” and “With” to “In”, because “Working with Nature” implies a level of cooperation by Nature, which doesn’t exist.  I love Nature, but Nature doesn’t give a flip about Curiousfarmer.

The photo above shows an image I captured via trail cam after 98 chickens were killed in one night, photo below.  You can see a few live near the dead.  30 were left alive, and they would have been quickly killed if I hadn’t moved them to a safer location.

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One mink did all the killing.  He only slit their throats, one after another.  To the mink’s credit, he did return later to eat the dead birds, which is how I captured his image.

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It seems like there is nothing tastier than a chicken on a farm.  But predation is unpredictable.  The only prediction I can make is you will have problems eventually.  Last year the first and last group of chickens had zero predation.  The middle two groups had quite a bit of trouble from raccoons reaching under and grabbing and eating on a chicken.  We never had anything like this mink though.

If you would like to try our chicken, this Saturday will probably be your last chance before we sell out.  I think we’re going to refocus on our beef, pork, and eggs, and leave the broiler chickens to someone else.  We’ll also probably raise turkeys and butcher on the farm like the past two years, as turkeys are fun, and some of you really enjoy our turkeys.

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Saturday Morning, May 4th, Madison WI

May 5, 2019

 

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And they opened as the morning progressed!


The Snowstorm of April 27th, 2019

April 29, 2019

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Six or so inches of the latest snow in southwest Wisconsin I can recall.  April 14th sticks in my mind as some big snows, so this one beat it by a couple of weeks.  It had been warm and dry previously.  Some of our friends’ children were confused and got excited about Christmas coming!

All the trees, bushes, and plants that were already flowering took a beating, but my main concern was our animals.  My parents practice spring calving, as we don’t have barns for our cattle and April and May is usually quite nice for calving.

Sunday morning we were out at 6 am on our ATVs seeing if any calves were too cold.  We looked for any new ones, as any calf that is actively nursing often, is very tough and can take a great deal of cold.  We had 3 new ones, but their mommas were experienced and managed to find some decent shelter in the woods out of the wind and snow and the calves were fine.

We weren’t as lucky a couple of weeks earlier in another rain and snowstorm.  A heifer was lying near the creek.  She didn’t seem too agitated, but she must have had a difficult delivery as she showed little concern for her calf which was lying in the cold water of the creek, just managing to keep its head out of the water.

I grabbed and put it on the back of the ATV and drove it to the barn.  We stuck a feeding tube down its throat, (when calves are this cold they lose the ability to suck), and gave it a warm colostrum replacement.  I rubbed its body with straw, but I realized it wouldn’t be warm enough to survive the night, so we took it to the basement and put it in warm water for a half hour or so until it started to revive.  Then we towel dried and used a hair dryer to dry even more thoroughly and then left it in the basement overnight.

The next morning the calf was standing.  We walked its mother into the corral and helped it nurse for the first time.  After all that, momma and baby were fine and we turned them back out to pasture a couple of days later.

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