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We have taken some time off from the computer and have been spending much more time outside working, all apologies for being lax with the blog.  Things we’ve done or are working on are selling the vast majority of our stock.  We have kept back a few GOS and some of the Tamworths and we have sold most of the goats.  Its been tough because its hard to decide to size down and emotions sometime come into play. We decided earlier this summer to downsize to free up more time to improve infrastructure.  We have dug lines and assisted the electrician in putting in electric to the land. Even the pigs and dog’s joined in.

The pigs helped to backfill some of the trench...

the trench... around 500' of it

Currently, as I type, I’m waiting on the electrical inspector to co

me out and approve the work.Then we will have electric to run some permanent lines and for general comfort issues.

We are still getting quotes on wells so we don’t have to haul water daily allowing us to set up automatic waterers.  The sawmilling has been slow becuase we have not had the tractor freed up from the backhoe attachment and its harder to manuver small paths with the extra stuff on a tractor, plus you can’t really skid logs well with it on.  So as soon as the electrical inspection clears we will be cutting more wood.

I’ve spent the past few evenings reading Michal Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma which is an interesting read.  I highly recommend it to anyone interested in food and agriculture.

We haven’t had the opportunity to see Food Inc. due to the limited distribution however it seems to be along the same vein as the Omnivore’s diemma and something which we hope will be at a theater near us rather soon.

The pigs that we have kept are growing nicely.  We’ve been moving the adult pigs weekly as that had been sufficient given the lower numbers and dry ground.  Now that the rain is back I anticipate our weekend we be spent setting up new paddocks and moving everyone again as the wet ground makes for easy rooting and isn’t able to stand up to pigs as well as the dry.  Whenever I ead back out I’ll try to get a picture of this same view today to show how much it has been trampled since the rains started.

Port-a-huts on pasture..

Port-a-huts on pasture..

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Things have been busy here at the farm as is typical at any farm most any time of the year.  We’ve had our goats kid, we have been working on the ground getting ready for planting, the pigs have started to farrow.  On top of this we have had a few mishaps and some around the home appliance malfunctions and this is on top of the never ending cold that I seem to have.  (since end of Feb beginning of March and its not giving up)

With pigs on the mind lately I thought I’d show a few pictures I was able to get of the Tamworth’s and Old Spots to help those who may be farrowing pigs for the first time get a visual of of signs of farrowing.  Emily, the more yellow of the Tamworth’s farrowed the morning that these pictures were taken.  You can see that her teats have dropped and that her vulva is quite swollen.  Compare this to Fran (more red of the Tamworths) Fran is also swollen.  Fran farrowed two days after these picture was taken.  Petunia the Gloucestershire Old Spot, also posed for this indelicate photograph.  Her vulva is not puffy at all.  She has some time to go before she farrows as there is no milk letdown in her teats and she is not poofy yet.

Emily's vulva the day she farrowed

Emily's vulva the day she farrowed

Fran's Vulva two day's prior to farrowing.

Fran's Vulva two day's prior to farrowing.

Another view of Fran's vulva

Another view of Fran's vulva

Petunia is not due to farrow for a few weeks.  Notice the marked lack of swelling.

Petunia is not due to farrow for a few weeks. Notice the marked lack of swelling.

So far we have had two litters both Tamworth X GOS.  The one was a terrible litter of 5, yet all  were born and are still alive.  This mother will get to wean them and have one more go before she is off to slaughter because its not economical to keep her if she is only going to farrow a few at a time.  Plus she is just awkward with the piglets laying the wrong way for them to get to the teats.  She does however have a good length and structure.

The other litter was 1 stillborn, 1 crush, and 9 alive.  This is not bad and she is good mother wise, very attentive and yet friendly with us.  She is a bit shorter in body length but the numbers for her make the difference for us.  She has thrown good sized piglets and tends to be able to raise them well.  I’m excited to see how these TamX GOS grow out as these will be our first litters of crosses.

This is the tiny but healthy litter, only two gilts out of the 5.

This is the tiny but healthy litter, only two gilts out of the 5

After two days off work being ill today was a long day back in work. The day was made even longer by one of our wethers getting out and eating our trees. Then Riley, the goat that just kidded last weekend developed a temperature. I called the vet out and she thought it looked like she did not expel all of her placenta when kidding. So she gave some shots and then chatted a bit. $100 for the checkup and meds and call out after hours which I don’t think was too bad at all. Then however we go to finish feeding the pigs up on the land. Luckily they hadn’t farrowed because I was not in the mood to notch ears and process them tonight. The ladies did however escape by pushing their hay bale onto the fence line. They were rooting away when we came. Luckily they have learned to come running for feed when they see us so they weren’t too much trouble to get back into their field. It wasn’t however, what I wanted to do tonight. I was hoping to quietly feed everyone and then go to bed. Tomorrow is a day school on swine at Cornell so we have to be up at 3:30 to get there in time. I need to be in bed about an hour ago.

On a high note the peepers were out for the first time this year. I’m marking my calendar March 27th the day the peepers sang.

This post is a followup to a comment:

A fair price is a tough thing to peg down. For us a fair price would be covering our expenses, paying us for our labor, and not gouging the customer. Unfortunately, consumers have grown comfortable with artificially low priced goods. We all want cheap. The problem is we don’t fully recognize the actual costs of cheap. Across the US the prices will vary. Right near us there are no large CFAO’s putting downward pressure on local pork. Nor is there a lot of competition in the pastured pork arena (yet.) However we have the difficulty of living in an economically depressed area. We’re in the “rust belt” We have high unemployment, and even now working hours at factories and in manufacturing and even some service sectors are being cut.  Layoffs are happening in many industries. Because of this we’ve had to re-think our prices. Right now we are re-budgeting to try to come up with new prices that can accommodate all the costs, infrastructure, taxes, electric, fencing, housing, we have feed, seed, breeding stock, vet costs, straw, hay, gas to and from the processors and to get supplies. When everything adds up it is VERY difficult to make any profit in pork.

This is part of the problem. Profits are hard to come by and many farmers are happy to break even and not give themselves pay. We were guilty of this at times and we’ve had to step back and smack ourselves. Our biggest competitor is the grocery store.  There is no way we can compete with those prices.  I wouldn’t say they undersell farmers because I honestly don’t believe the quality is there.  WHen you take like for like they are probably charging too much for the quality of some of the meat they are selling.  However, getting consumers to recognize this is part of the battle.  I’m hoping that the HBO special on pigs will drive more business our way once people can get a face to the food and see where it comes from.

Part of our key is marketing.  Marketing to consumers is all about sharing our excitement and our true affection and belief in the product. We are willing to let people come and see the animals for themselves. They are able to recognize the humane treatment. They see the animals express natural behaviors. They can see the vigor in the pigs and see the food they eat. This helps. We constantly explain away the stereotypes of pigs: they are dirty, pig farms stink. None of this is true if treated and raised properly. This ability to talk one-on-one with the end consumer is key.  Ian and I truly live, eat and breath pig here.  We are converting people one pork chop at a time.

The land prior to pigs

The land prior to pigs

Less than 24 hours of pigs on the ground

Less than 24 hours of pigs on the ground

Pigs on the land two full days

Pigs on the land two full days

Ian hating the mud...

Ian hating the mud...

Saturday the pigs arrived at the pasture land from our woods down the road.  Since then it has rained and rained and rained.  Today we had a break in the rain because it turned to snow.  It is supposed to rain Tuesday and Wednesday as well.  The animals and I are sooo not looking forward to it.  I guess its easy to forget how much mud hinders daily life on a farm.  I know I was sick of the snow and cold but overall having it cold and dry and frozen is easier on all of us than having wet and cold and mud.

Because of the mud I added more straw to the huts tonight as I wanted to make sure that the girls were able to keep cozy and dry.  Prior to getting the port-a-huts we always had huts with floors.  These proved to be terribly difficult to move and sanitize hence the port-a-huts.  However, when it comes to mud nothing beats a floor.  I figure we’ll need to add a bale every other day if the rain keeps up.  That way the ground builds up a straw pack keeping everything upabove the mud level.  I’ve recently bought  straw at 4.95 a bale because we needed it (hay just isn’t as good for bedding when its muddy plus the pigs eat a lot of it, leaving them with less bedding)  With the straw they are much less likely to eat it and it holds up better in the wet than does hay.  Luckily I found a man selling hay for $2 a bale.  I told him I’d take all he has.  This weekend we are getting the 50 bales he has figuring the money will be well spent.

We still don’t have a clue when the pigs will definately farrow.  Tomorrow is the full moon.  The girls are due anytime after the 12th.  I know I saw a boar mount each of the tamworths the day that they were put together.  I also saw one of the old spots breeding as late as January 18th.  This means that the piglets could start coming as early as the 12th by the math and then as late as April 13th.  Its always a waiting game this time of year.

Speaking of waiting, the goats are bagging up real well.  I still have two weeks until the scheduled kidding date for Riley one of the LaMancha does.  She will be a first freshener and is  due the 21st.  She has an udder that really impreses me.  This is my first time with dairy goats but I think she is looking huge.  Her ligaments are still really strong so I don’t expect her to kid soon.   I just don’t know how much larger an udder can get on a goat.  If it keeps going, in two weeks time it will be weigh as much as her!!!  Rileys udder 2 weeks to scheduled due date

Side view of the LaMancha udder 2 weeks till due date

Side view of the LaMancha udder 2 weeks till due date

Well we got the ladies up to their new land yesterday.  I was silly and forgot to put the memory card in the camera so i didn’t get any pictures at all.  Overall it was pretty easy.  The girls loaded well and we had no problems separating them out.  The main fiasco’s of the day were having the truck slide into the drainage ditch while backing the truck and trailer up to the entrance to their old house and then up to the land getting the truck stuck in the mud and needing to fire up the tractor to pull the truck and trailer up to the pigs new plot.  Once we got everyone moved Ian and I spent and hour or so laying in the port-a-hut watching the girls and giving them scratches as they wandered past.

So far they have been up there 16 hours and counting.  All I can say is that they are mighty happy and rooting away.

Notice the foreground where the fence stops the pigs.  They have rooted a lot in 16 hours.

Notice the foreground where the fence stops the pigs. They have rooted a lot in 16 hours.

This morning when we went to check on the ladies at around 7am it was in the 40’s. When we arrived to check on them after their first night at the land, we found that Fran and Emily were not sleeping in the huts but had chosen to lay beside the large hay bale.  The weather has been considerably nicer than it has been all 2009.  We even hit the mid 60’s yesterday.  They must have wanted to appreciate the view of the night sky and the good weather before more snow and cold nights come again.

As you can see from the picture the pigs were pretty active.  In the short amount of time that they have been there they have made a definite impact on the ground having rooted quite a bit already.  That being said, even our footprint could be seen where we walked.  We figure that given their quick work, we may be moving them on in the next week or two.  We’ll have to play it by ear to determine how much is just enough and not too much.  We want them to turn it, not compact it.

We are also trying to balance out a couple of other things.  A: We don’t want the manure to be too “hot” and kill any plants.  B: We want to make sure that everything has enough time to break down enough to reduce concerns for pathogens.  From what I have found:
PART 205—NATIONAL ORGANIC PROGRAM

Section 205.203

(1) Raw animal manure, which must be composted unless it is:

(i) Applied to land used for a crop not intended for human consumption;

(ii) Incorporated into the soil not less than 120 days prior to the harvest of a product whose edible portion has direct contact with the soil surface or soil particles; or

(iii) Incorporated into the soil not less than 90 days prior to the harvest of a product whose edible portion does not have direct contact with the soil surface or soil particles;

We’ve already discussed not using this area for our root crops but rather for some of the corn and pumpkin production.  This way we can test two plots to see if there is difference between having the pigs tilling and manuring or not and how this affects the productivity of the corn and pumpkin.  Either way we will be well within the harvest timelines for the application of the fresh manure.

Also speaking of manure, we have also discussed that its nearly time to clean out the winter chicken housing.  Now that the weather is warmer they don’t need the deep litter composting down in the coop to provide the extra heat.  This will be a task for one of the upcoming weekends.

This weekend, specifically today, we are finishing up the new automatic water dispensors.   We found a supplier of all kinds of food grade tubs in Falconer NY.  We chose two large metal tubs with re-sealable lids.  These are going on a trailer that can be hauled back and forth so we can fill it up here and then take it to the pigs.  I’ll get some pictures of this as Ian progresses and we’ll post more about it sometime later.

oldspot3809

I have been tremendously ill since the weekend. I think I may have picked up a bug from one of my kiddo’s at work and I’ve been coughing and unable to breath since the weekend. This is why the posts have been non-existant. I’ve spent 99% of time in bed or on the sofa leaving Ian to do all the work. That being said, I’ve gone mentally stir crazy with all of the stuff I could/should be doing.

Tomorrow is the big move. We are moving the sows to pasture from the woods. Even though the ground is really too damp for pasture grazing, we are moving them. This is for a reason. Our hope is that this area the pigs will root and till and muck in and get prepped for some of our garden. This is going to be one test plot to see how the tilling/rooting/fetilizing affects the ground for seeding. I’m planning on using this space for late season crops that way any manure has a chance to get worked in and broken down so it wont burn the roots of the plants.

The other reason for this move is that the sows should be farrowing as early as mid next weed as they were exposed the boar on the 11th.

The huts are setup, the fencing is done and we just have to set up the watering unit that we are still looking for a 55 gal drum for. We had one that we cut in half as a feeder and we are now kicking ourselves because the supplier we used in the past no longer is available.

Farrowing Huts

Farrowing Huts

Well since I have to go check on the goats and let the chickens out before i leave I’ll have to finish this discussion and fill you in on the egg progress as well as production has increased tremendously.  Till later- holly

In preparation for kidding to begin we borrowed my brother’s baby monitor.  We set the goats up in a pen in the garage instead of their normal, further away housing.  Now its waiting time.  Two are officially due the 3rd week of march.  Riley, one of the LaMancha goats, is bagging out and also looking pregnant.  The other LaMancha Missy, is still slim and has no signs of an udder.  Missy was supposed to be due around the 15th of March while Riley should kid around the 21st of March.  Soo either Missy hids a pregnancy well or she did not take.  One of the myotonics is also looking closer to kidding.  She was with a buck for nearly a month to make sure she was bred.  So now I have a date range but she is bagged out much further than any of them and her ligaments are looser than the other three.  Since I’m paranoid and with the crazy cold weather they are now closer to the house and in a nicer locale just in case they decide to go early.

Also on the pregnancy front, Fran, one of the Tamworth pigs looks pregnant as well.  Though all should be pregnant (including the Gloucestershire old spots)  From my calculations, if she “took” to the breeding she should be due some time around March 10th.  Thankfully we are going to get our new farrowing huts this Saturday so she will have a posh new place to have her piglets.  Though this hut worked well and we like it, the weight of it being made of wood is a definite drawback.  We are hoping that the new huts will be better in terms of the ability to move the hut as well as ease of cleaning between litters.

A 2008 litter of Tamworth Pigs coming out to enjoy a sunny day.

A 2008 litter of Tamworth Pigs coming out to enjoy a sunny day.

After going to the dump today to dispose of items from the basement flood I did have a bit of good luck.  I ran into a couple that were throwing out old glass cider vinegar and apple cider jugs.  I was able to save them and bring them home.  The couple were happy that someone wanted to use them.   I’m hoping to start cleaning them out to use them for my lacto fermentation experiments.  The starter should be ready any day now.  I just need to figure out what flavor we want to try first when making the soda pop.

Also on one of the yahoo groups I belong to someone was discussing small scale baling.  Luckly someone found a link to a hand baling apparatus that you can download a pdf for.

This baling is an interesting concept.  As it stands we have been using maybe 50 bales per winter at 2.25 – 4.25 a bale depeding on where we get it.  So I figure that we spent about around 160 a year on hay.  Now that may not be much but we really would rather not spend any and do it ourselves.  However, the equipment is costly.  If we could hand bale 100 bales a day one or two days effort would give us what we need for all of our animals this year including any babies we keep.

I’d love to hear any opinions on hand baling of hay or other suggestions for keeping perhaps 5 acres for small scale production.
Also while on my way to the dump, I listened to Greg Judy’s talk on high density grazing and how he does not use any hay at all but has his cows on pasture year round.  He seems to think this is possible in our climate with a good high density grazing program.  I’d love to see examples of this being done in areas with high amounts of lake effect snow fall.  Here in WNY I have concerns that the snow may be just too deep for winter grazing.  However, I’m open to becoming a believer.

I would like to see more on his grazing using a multi species approach.  On his site you can see a picture of a big sleeping by some goats.  Now I know most goat people would NEVER think of letting their goats around a pig.  However, in the one picture they seem very content together.

When I got on to the blog this morning it was doing all kinds of crazy things. For the time being I put up a new header image and used a different theme. Piglets make me think spring even though it looks like we won’t break freezing yet again this week.

I have plans to go get a bit of straw and hay after work today. We put a new floor in the current pig house this weekend and I feel it needs more bedding than what we currently have in it. Also the goats and chickens could use a top off of bedding as well. I tried to pick up some wood shavings at tractor supply but they were out.

We also spent time organizing/ doing an inventory of the meat that we got from the last butcher of hogs. We came up with some different packages to sell and we need to e-mail out flyers for this. I’m currently unsure what I think of the new butcher/processing facility. He was super willing to talk to us and was willing to let us see him in action. I checked out the kill floor and it was clean and tidy. However, he is not keen on pigs. Now not everyone has to like every animal but it was a very strong dislike “the only good pig is dead.” type of dislike. Just makes me wonder how careful he is with pigs going into slaughter when he is less keen on them. Perhaps I’m being picky but it just puts that doubt in my mind. Its a proven fact that the treatment just before and at the time of slaughter affects meat quailty so this is not just me being a softy, it affects our business.

Also on a side note. The Cyro-wrapping is nice and it does a good job in presenting the meat. However, there were at least 5 packs of meat that were not sealed well. One ham, one pack of spare ribs a couple packs of chops and something else that I cannot remember off the top of my head. I cannot sell these since they are already getting ice crystals on them. I kinda feel like I shouldn’t have to pay for wrapping on those items since they are unusable. If we use the facility again I’ll have to address that with the butcher.