The Blomme'n Coop

Our Farm = Your Food

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What’s Hoppin’ on the Farm

In the spirit of Easter, here is an update on what’s hoppin’ on the Blomme farm these days.

Planting

Spring planting is knocking on our door so there is a lot of excitement as well as nervousness in the air.  Depending on where you live, some farmers have started planting already.  Others are waiting for their fields to be “fit” or dry and warm enough to plant.  We have some rain in the forecast for the rest of this week so depending on what Mother Nature does, we will likely start within the next week.

It’s critical for good stand establishment and ultimately a successful crop to plant the seed when the soil is above 50 degrees and the forecast looks warm and dry.  Seedlings don’t like cold, wet conditions which can bring on disease, deformities and even death.  We only get one shot to get it right so planting is the most critical task of the year as far as crop production is concerned.  And the window of optimal planting conditions is only five to seven days on average so it’s very important to be ready to go when conditions are right.  It’s easy to see why this is a high-stress time of year for farmers!

Prior to planting, a lot of farmers are busy right now tilling the soil, applying anhydrous ammonia, shaping and seeding waterways and spraying weeds or cover crops.  We planted some cover crops (rye specifically) last fall on some acres where we chopped corn silage.  We did this because chopping corn silage uses every last bit of the plant and therefore leaves the ground very bare.  Since there was no residue on the ground, the rye helped to prevent soil erosion and also served as a great source of feed for our cows (they loved it!).  The rye is now about six to eight inches tall and lush green.  It’s time to spray and kill the rye so that we can plant a soybean crop into that field.

Seeding Alfalfa

A few weeks ago, we seeded some ground to alfalfa (a perennial flowering plant in the pea family) that was previously planted to corn.  We did this for a couple of reasons.  Most importantly, we need the alfalfa crop to feed our cattle.  But we also rotate crops on our fields that are very hilly in order to prevent soil erosion and maintain the integrity of that ground.  This particular field had been soybeans and then corn the last two years.  This alfalfa crop will grow for about four years and then we will put this field back into a corn/soybean rotation.

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Filling the drill to seed alfalfa.

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This is one of the many conservation practices that farmers utilize to minimize soil erosion and therefore minimize the amount of nutrient run off.  In addition to preventing soil erosion, alfalfa has many other benefits including absorbing nitrates in the ground water, providing a rich habitat for many species and serving as a valuable host to a wide variety of insects, some of which actually naturally help with pest control.  Alfalfa is a pretty amazing natural fertilizer as it fixes its own nitrogen from Rhizobia bacteria and helps provide nitrogen for future crops while also improving soil tilth.

Calving Progress

We are now about half way through our calving season.  We have been blessed with a few sets of healthy twins the last couple of weeks.  The conditions the last couple of weeks have been muddy, making things difficult for the baby calves and their moms.  Because of this, we did some rearranging of our cattle and moved some cow/calf pairs into one of our hoop barns to provide better conditions for them.  The hoop barns offer a warm environment where we can better maintain dry bedding to keep them comfortable.  Fortunately, the weather has improved and we are getting ready to turn the pairs out to pasture.

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Ruthie bottle feeding a calf.  *Photo credit – Connie Blomme

Easter Feast – Where Does It Come From?

Before grandma presents her amazing spread, where do some of the Easter dinner favorites come from?

  • Did you know Iowa is the #1 egg producing state?  As you devour those delicious deviled eggs, thank an Iowa egg producer.
  • Plan to pig out on that Easter ham?  Iowa is the #1 pork producing state as well.  Enjoy that Easter ham guilt free knowing that you’re consuming safe, nutritious protein that was likely raised by an Iowa farmer who truly cares for the well-being of their animals.
  • Love you some green bean casserole?  You can thank the fine farmers in Wisconsin for being the top producing green bean state in the country.
  • And this one is no surprise . . . Idaho produces the most potatoes of any state in the country.  Thank goodness for those potato farmers making mashed potatoes a staple at our Easter feasts.

Hungry yet?  I wish you all a blessed Easter!

Farming With Fertilizers

IMG_1841Farmers use a variety of tools each year to help grow an abundant crop.  Have you ever wondered just what exactly farmers are putting in the ground and why they are using these substances?  I’ll try to shed some light on what actually goes on out in our fields.  After reading this, I hope you feel confident and reassured that we do everything we can to take the best care of our most precious resource – our land.

On our farm, we apply nutrients such as manure from our livestock, nitrogen, potassium, lime and phosphorous.  We also use chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides and insecticides to control weeds, pests and insects that negatively impact our crop yields.  I will talk more about spraying chemicals a little later this spring when I can show you what we do in action.  For now, I’ll focus on fertilizers.

Why do we use nitrogen?  Nitrogen is essential for a healthy and successful corn crop.  Each year’s crop removes a certain amount of key nutrients from the soil and it must be replaced in order to continue raising crops and maintain the overall health of the soil.  It is critical to keep the soil in good condition, otherwise, it will be “mined” of its key nutrients and will not be productive.  On our farm, we do a variety of things to ensure that we are using the most efficient amount of nutrients.  By this I mean the right amount to have a successful crop while at the same time minimizing negative impacts on the environment.  One thing we do regularly is take soil samples.  Soil sampling helps us to know how much of each key nutrient is currently in the soil.  It provides direction to know if we have too little, too much or an optimal amount of any particular nutrient.

In addition to soil samples, we also use soil and yield maps to understand how much was removed by last year’s crop and to determine how much we need to apply to reach our yield goals for the coming year.  From these and other factors, we are able to decide how much nitrogen each field should receive.  We can even use variable rate prescriptions which means that we load a prescription into our monitors and our equipment will apply varying amounts of the nutrients throughout the field, depending on how much each area of the field actually needs.  This way, we’re not overapplying in an area of the field that is already abundant or underapplying in an area that is deficient.

Since we have livestock on our farm, we are able to utilize their manure as a fantastic source of fertilizer for our soils.  We use a lab analysis from our hog manure samples to help us understand how much of each key nutrient is in the manure that we apply to our fields.  Manure has been identified as a waste product for years.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Manure is full of valuable, key nutrients and is a real asset for our soil health and crops.

In the next month or so, when driving across corn country, you are likely to see farmers pulling white tanks across the field, like the one pictured below.  These tanks are filled with anhydrous ammonia, a form of nitrogen.  There are many different forms of nitrogen and methods of applying nitrogen.  With this particular method, we pull a toolbar with the anhydrous tanks hooked up behind it.  The anhydrous is knifed into the ground about four to six inches deep depending on the field conditions and amount of residue left over from previous years’ crops.  The trench that the anhydrous is placed in is then covered and sealed with closing discs.  The goal is for the nitrogen to be placed where it will be readily available for the corn plants’ roots to take up.

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How do we determine how much anhydrous ammonia to put into the ground?  There are several variables that play into this decision.  On our farm, we utilize a crop model to help manage our nitrogen decisions on several of our fields.  This will help us monitor the amount of nitrogen in our soils throughout the growing season to make sure we have enough to reach our yield targets without wastefully overapplying.

For years, there has been extensive research done on nitrogen management as it pertains to crop farming.  As an industry, we have learned many things that help us do the best job possible to be good stewards of nutrients and our land.  For example, we know that adequate levels of potassium helps the crop to utilize the nitrogen in the soil so we make sure that our soils have adequate levels of potassium as well.

We also know that multiple applications of lower rates of nitrogen is typically better than one larger shot of nitrogen.  Whenever possible, we try to “spoon feed” the crop.  For example, we may apply a baseline amount of anhydrous ammonia before planting.  And then come back and sidedress liquid nitrogen around early June.  Later in the season, when the corn plants are very tall, we could use an application such as Y-Drops if (and only if) the crop is needing more nitrogen at that point.  The benefit to doing multiple, lower dose applications is that you’re applying the nutrient as the crop needs it and eliminating waste of the nutrient.  This benefits us from an economic perspective and it benefits the environment as well.  In a perfect world, we could do this with every field.  But, we don’t farm in a perfect world.  On our farm, we have hills, contours and odd-shaped fields that don’t allow us to make applications once the crop is up out of the ground (because we would run over and damage too much of the crop).  Nevertheless, we still try to manage each field as efficiently as possible.

In addition to the technology used to determine how much nitrogen to apply, we also utilize a variety of conservation practices on our farm to help prevent the soil and its nutrients from eroding and leaching into the water.  We use things like grass buffer strips, grass waterways, planting on contours, terraces and more to help keep our soil in place and prevent as much run off as possible.

Farmers are investing a tremendous amount of time, energy and money to manage fertilizers better than ever before.  And the ag industry as a whole has made incredible advances in understanding how the soil holds these nutrients so that we can all benefit from more efficient application of them.  It maximizes the profitability of our operation and helps us take care of our resources like soil and water.  This ultimately benefits everyone by growing safe, sustainable food while protecting our environment.

 

 

Rainy Day

The baby calves were dry and cozy today as their moms ate some hay and silage in the rain.


Hormones in Beef

img_1564Does my beef have hormones in it?  Yes, it sure does.  And do you know what else has hormones in it?  Everything that grows.  Meat from animals and plant foods all have hormones in them.  Salt is the only food we consume that does not have hormones in it.  So, yes, the beef that we raise on our farm and that you eat has hormones in it.  So how did we get to the point where consumers have been led to believe that the use of hormones is not safe for us?  Why are there products in the grocery store that say hormone free, making the assumption that hormones are bad?  That is a great question and one that we should challenge.  Are these “hormone free” products safe and healthy for us to consume?  Absolutely, I have no doubt of this.  But to say that they are hormone free is quite frankly not true.

As a mom, I constantly think about what is going into the three little bodies that I cherish most.  There is a whole new level of responsibility that goes along with feeding your family and you want to make sure that you’re providing them with safe, wholesome, sustainable food.

It is incredibly challenging and even overwhelming to go to the grocery store these days.  Since such a small percent of the population is producing the world’s food, that means that most consumers don’t have a first hand understanding of how their food was raised.  To make matters even harder, there are lots of clever yet elusive marketing tactics that are used today which make it almost impossible to decide what is truly good for you and what is just marketing garbage.  Hormone free, antibiotic free, cage free, natural, organic, whole grain, grass fed, etc.  The numerous tag lines on packaging make it very difficult to know what to believe and what to buy.  What does natural actually mean?  What’s the difference between grass fed and grain fed?  What am I supporting by buying this product?

I feel your pain and I’m right there with you reading the labels of products and trying to figure out if I’m being misled or not.  Since we raise livestock, we butcher and eat the meat that we raise on our own farm.  We know exactly what was done to that animal at every step of the way.  But most consumers aren’t so fortunate to have that understanding.  That’s where I want to help.  The beef you buy in the grocery store or eat at your favorite restaurant either came from our farm or a farm like ours.

There are lots of different ways to raise beef cattle – natural, certified organic, grass-fed, grain-fed.  I’ll dive into the real differences between these methods later.  The good news is that all of these different methods of raising beef cattle produce a safe, nutritious product for you and your family.  All of these different ways to raise beef are responsible, sustainable and are methods that keep the animal’s health and well-being at the forefront.  Luckily, for all of us, we have great choices available to us no matter what our preferences are.

For now, I want to focus in on this really important topic – the use of growth hormones in beef.  Why are growth hormones used in the first place?  What is the end result for you as a consumer?  These are a couple of questions I am guessing you have had at one time or another.

Growth hormones, mostly estrogen, are used to replace natural hormones that are removed from calves through castration.  When male calves are born, we castrate them within the first couple of days.  The reason for this is intact bulls can get very aggressive if they are not castrated.  They can become dangerous to other members of the herd and to the people working with those animals.  By castrating them, their testosterone levels are reduced and subsequently their aggressive behaviors are also prevented.

We use small levels of FDA approved growth hormones to replace the testosterone lost through castration and to promote more efficient growth.  What I mean by more efficient growth is that the animal is able to grow and develop faster than they would without the hormone which allows us to use less resources like feed and water.

We implant the hormone, which is the size of three tiny pills, under the skin behind the ear on the animals.  This helps to stimulate the calf’s own natural hormone production.  But what does this mean for the juicy steak that you eat and love?  That’s the most important question you’re probably wondering.

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Size of the dosage of hormone implanted into each calf.

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Implanting the hormone under the skin behind the ear.

To help bring some perspective to the amount of hormones found in beef, let’s take a look at some other commonly eaten foods.  I have already mentioned that everything that grows contains hormones.  Plant foods like cabbage and soybeans contain significantly more estrogen than beef.  Soybean oil, for example, can contain as much as 900,000 nanograms of estrogen.  That’s 450,000 times more than a pound of beef regardless of whether or not the animal received an implant of a growth hormone.

The level of hormones that naturally occurs in animals is constantly fluctuating, just like in our own bodies.  You may be surprised to learn that the level of hormones found in the steak you enjoy from an animal given a growth hormone is only .2 nanograms per pound more than that of a non-implanted animal.  According to the Beef Checkoff, the average level of hormones in an animal that was implanted with a growth hormone is 1.9 nanograms per pound compared to that of a non-implanted animal which is about 1.7 nanograms per pound.  This difference of .2 nanograms is actually less than the natural fluctuation of hormones that occurs in animals.  Depending on the day or even the hour that the animal is processed, you could find higher levels of estrogen in an animal that has never been given growth hormones versus one that had.

It’s also important that you understand the strict regulations and rigorous research and testing that take place with the use of growth hormones and antibiotics. Since 1967, the Federal Meat Inspection Act has mandated that the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) test for residues of growth promoting products at the time the animal is harvested.  The FSIS conducts strict and regular testing and inspection during the slaughtering and processing phases to ensure a safe product is provided.

If there is one thing I hope you take away from this article, it is this:  We as farmers take our responsibility of providing you with safe, healthy protein very seriously.  Our livelihoods depend on the fact that we provide you with a product that is nutritious, not to mention delicious.  We feed this exact same product to our own babies.  Our first priority is to take care of our families but we also want to take the best possible care of our animals in the process.

Whether you are eating beef, pork, fish or lettuce for dinner tonight, eat with confidence, knowing that a farmer worked very hard to bring you a safe, healthy product.

Source credit:  The Beef Checkoff

Spreading Like Wildfire

IMG_1967Recent wildfires have completely devastated farms and ranches in areas of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.  Farmers have watched their entire life’s work go up in flames.  Some farmers even lost their lives trying to save their livestock.  In the midst of this horrific event, something else has been spreading like wildfire . . . support, generosity and selflessness among complete strangers.

For a couple of weeks now I have been reading about and seeing videos across social media of people all over the country giving their time and money to try to bring some sense of relief to those affected.  The last few days, I have witnessed members of my own community coming together to donate and haul fencing supplies, milk replacer for orphaned calves, loads of hay and much more to those in need in Ashland, Kansas.  Hometown businesses have gone above and beyond to give of their own time and funds and make every dollar stretch even further.  Community members, farmers and non farmers, have selflessly given their time, money and prayers.

What has happened in Ashland, Kansas and the surrounding areas is absolutely horrible.  No farmer or rancher should ever have to watch their horses, cattle, dogs, home and farm go up in flames.  But there is good that comes from bad.  This event has shed light on the incredible devotion that farmers and ranchers have for their animals.  It has shown the true compassion among the agricultural community.  Whether you’re a cattle rancher in Kansas or a hog farmer in Iowa, we all share the same passion for our way of life.  Taking care of our animals is not a job; it’s a lifestyle.  Our animals are the highest priority.  The animals get taken care of and fed before anything else gets done each day.

So it’s not surprising that the farming and small town community across the entire country has come together in faith, strength and ability.  The ag community is the most tightly knit one that I know of.  When one is hurting, we all hurt.  There is no question that if this disaster had happened in Iowa, these ranchers in Kansas would be loading up their trucks and hauling needed items up to us.

We like to think that we have control.  We like to think that we can avoid disasters or be prepared for certain events.  But mother nature has a way of bringing us to our knees and humbling us to realize that we really don’t have any control.  Sometimes God brings circumstances that we can’t understand.  But then you see how people react in such a wonderful way to such an awful event.  You see people coming together, offering anything they can to help those in need.  You see the absolute best in people rise to the surface.  And that is an absolutely beautiful thing.

The ranchers in the Southwest are going to need our continued help and prayers for a long time to come.  There is no question they will rebuild and will be even stronger than they were before.  But they have an incredibly hard road ahead of them.

God bless all those suffering in the Southwest right now and may your strength and courage continue to spread like wildfire.

 

This Week in Pictures

A week ago today, we were doing field work and the very next day we were pushing snow.  I’m not sure who is more confused with this winter’s weather . . . our cattle or our kids.  One day my kids are able to go with jackets only and the very next day their mean mom makes them wear snow pants, hats and gloves.

It certainly creates challenges to go from warm, dry conditions to cold, wet conditions during calving season.  Nonetheless, we captured some beautiful moments on the Blomme Farm this past week.  I hope you enjoy.

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Ground hay, corn and frosted snowflakes for breakfast.

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Here is one of our newly formed foster families.  In an earlier article, Life Lessons on the Farm, I wrote about a couple of orphaned calves and heifers without calves that we were hoping to pair up.  Good news – both of these heifers did foster the calves and are taking good care of them.  In this picture, you see the method we used which is to lock the heifer in a head gate and give them a bucket of feed for a couple of reasons:  1) to keep them still and content while the calf nurses and 2) to keep them from seeing and smelling the calf while it nurses.  After about three days of this, we let them be together and, thankfully, it worked!

In the video below, you’ll see a close up of this same calf nursing its new mom.  You’ll notice that the calf will occasionally hit the heifer’s udder with its head.  The calf does this to stimulate the bag and help bring the milk down.  You’ll also notice that the calf is wagging it’s tail much like a dog does.  This is a good sign as it shows that he is getting milk.

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And here is the other foster family, Laney and her new calf (my oldest daughter’s heifer . . . we get very creative with names).  Does it get much sweeter than this?

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The girls were helping daddy check cows yesterday afternoon.  Ruthie (the middle child) has a hard time staying away from the electric fence . . . it’s just so darn tempting for a three-year-old.  So, they get to check cows from the pickup bed.

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The puppies get to go along to check cows too.  Here is our handsome Tuff, looking on at the herd.  Some farmers have highly trained livestock dogs that are tremendous help with tasks like sorting cattle.  Tuff would not be one of those dogs . . . he is very good at napping though.

Honey . . . I’m going to the field.

Hearing the words, “Honey . . . I’m going to the field,” bring on much different emotions now that I’m a mom of three littles.  Before kids, when it was time to go to the field, I was behind the wheel of the tractor helping with the task at hand.  But now, with three kids under the age of four and a full time job that also revolves around farming, my time in the tractor cab is much more limited.  So, when my husband says he’s going to the field, it makes me feel excited for sure.  Spring planting season signifies a new beginning and the hope that this year’s crop will be the best one yet.

But if I’m being really honest, it also now gives me a sinking feeling in my gut because I know that for the next couple of months our time with our farmer will be few and far between.  We’ll make trips to the field almost every night so the girls can get some quality tractor time with daddy and so mom can steal a quick kiss from her handsome farmer (I’ve always told him I like him best when he’s in his chore clothes and smells like work).  As the season progresses, papa and daddy will start to look more and more weary as their fuel tank will be running on empty and stress will have been at a constant high for too long.

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I feel torn in this phase of life where I don’t want to wish away any time with my precious babies.  But I also long for the days when I’m able to help in the field and on the farm more.  I suppose every phase of life is a give and take and there will never be enough time for everything we want.

For a farmer’s wife, spring and fall days go so fast and yet seem to take forever.  A farmer’s wife has to juggle taking supper to the field, doing bathes and bedtime routines solo, cleaning up the house and then jumping on the computer to get back to their full-time job once the kids are in bed.  They’ll keep looking out the kitchen window, down the gravel road, to see if any headlights are coming that might be their farmer.  They’ll eventually go to bed and check in with their farmer one last time to make sure he’s getting along okay before falling asleep.  But they won’t sleep well because they’re constantly worrying about him, knowing that he’s exhausted and hoping that he stays safe.  And at some point, in the middle of the night, their farmer will finally collapse into bed for a few hours before getting up to start another long day all over again.

A farmer’s wife always prays for whatever kind of weather the crop is needing at the moment.  But deep down she’s also asking God for one little rain shower.  One that will bring just enough rain to keep him out of the field for 24 hours so he’ll get caught up on a little sleep and she’ll get to see him too.

There are a few farmer’s wives in particular that never cease to amaze me with their strength, dedication, loyalty and work ethic.  If I can be half the farmer’s wife that my mom, mother-in-law and Aunt Janice are, I’ll consider that a success.

As my farmer left today, I had a sleepy baby in one arm and two wild and crazy toddlers running around.  He could sense that I was missing him already and he said with a grin “you should have married someone who makes more money and works less hours.”  I wouldn’t change our life for anything in the world.  Every part of it is worth it.  It may not be easy but nothing worth having is.

As spring planting approaches, I want to wish all the farmers and farmer’s wives a safe and successful season.

 

Life Lessons on the Farm

When you raise livestock, the circle of life is always in front of you.  Calving season in particular brings the miracle of birth and the reality of death front and center.  Unfortunately, the past week has been a little heavy on the latter.

If you remember, a few posts back, I wrote about a heifer that wasn’t doing very well after giving birth.  Unfortunately, she didn’t make it so we are now bottle feeding her calf.

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My oldest daughter’s heifer had her calf earlier this week as well.  But it didn’t go as we had hoped.  My father-in-law ended up having to call the veterinarian in the middle of the night because the calf was backwards.  They were able to successfully pull the calf and it lived for a couple of days.  But it was very weak and couldn’t stand on its own.  Laney was so excited to hear that her calf had been born.  She just had to go meet him right after daycare that day.  We explained to her that he was not doing so well and tried to prepare her for the reality that he may not make it.  Unfortunately, he passed away yesterday.

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Now that we have an orphaned calf and a heifer with no calf, we’re hoping that this heifer will foster the calf.  Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t as cows don’t always want to claim a calf that isn’t theirs.  There are many different theories on how to get a cow to foster an orphaned calf.  We tried one particular method last year and had success with it in a couple of different situations so we plan to try it again this year.

In order to encourage this heifer to claim the calf, we will actually keep them separated at first.  When the calf needs to eat, we will lock the cow in our head gate so that she will stand still and let the calf nurse her a few times a day.  The key is to not let them see or smell each other for two to three days.  If the cow sees the calf, she will know right away that the calf is not hers and she may not want to foster it.  After a few days of doing this, then we let them be together and hope that the cow claims the calf as her own.  With any luck, this heifer and orphaned calf will be a family soon.

As a parent, you want to spare your children any hurt, pain or disappointment.  You want to make their world happy and positive.  But my girls are learning invaluable life lessons on our farm.  They’re learning that sometimes life isn’t fair.  Sometimes, we don’t get what we want and there’s nothing we can do about it.  Sometimes, we’re forced to accept a circumstance that we didn’t choose.

We’re doing our best to try to explain life and death to our kids but it can be very difficult.  My girls’ bedtime prayers have been revolving around the cows and calves lately.  We clearly have some more explaining to do as our three-year-old, Ruthie, has been saying every night, “Dear Lord, please help that cow so she doesn’t die again.”

I’ll end with some good news.  We added a new bull to our lineup last weekend.  Meet Rich.  He is from Rich Red Angus @richredangus in Vinton, Iowa.  This is the second bull we have purchased from Rich’s and we’re pretty excited about him.  The first thing Laney said when she saw him was, “Muscle!”  I think that’s a good sign.

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Confined Spaces

 

One of the misconceptions about confinement hog barns is that the animals cannot move around and their environment is inhumane.  Pigs, much like humans, naturally want to be close to other pigs.  Even though the piglets in our barn have plenty of room to move about in their pins, you can see in the picture below that they love to be close to one another under the brooder heaters.  Don’t they look comfy?  They should be . . . no matter how cold it is outside, these pigs know nothing but 74 degrees even in the middle of winter in Iowa.

As the pigs grow larger and the space in their pins becomes tighter, we open up the north half of our barn so they have even more room to roam.

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I can understand why people like the idea of animals roaming freely outside with the sunshine hitting their backs and green pastures to feed on.  We all like that.  But it does puzzle me a bit that some people feel so strongly about animals not being in confined spaces and yet we have millions of people across the world living on top of each other in large cities, with nothing but concrete surrounding them.  Having lived in the country my whole life, all I know is wide open spaces, privacy, fresh air and corn fields.  But the majority of people would disagree with me since most of the population chooses to live in the city.

When I was in Hong Kong a few years back, I remember thinking that it seemed like people were literally living on top of each other in the tiniest of spaces.  When I looked up across the mountains there were houses and apartment buildings that looked to be stacked on top of each other.  When I was in New York City I almost felt claustrophobic being constantly surrounded by people and the hustle and bustle.  I love experiencing big cities and have a great appreciation for them.  But after a couple of days, I always start to long for home, being in my space without anyone bumping into me and my freedom to jump in my truck and go where I want without waiting in line.

Although it’s hard for me to imagine the city life, most of the world’s people live this way and feel most comfortable in this environment.  Most people do not prefer my lifestyle.  I have had numerous friends come visit us in what they describe as “the middle of nowhere” and they can’t imagine not having neighbors right next to them or amenities close by.  Having people and infrastructure close by gives them a sense of security and comfort.

It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you’re on; whether you prefer living in a big city or living in the middle of nowhere.  People and animals want the comfort of being with their peers.  This can take many different shapes and forms.  Not good or bad forms; just different forms.

Let me clarify one thing before I go . . . I am comparing pigs to humans in this article, yes, but only to a point.  Let’s not forget that the pigs we are raising are for the purpose of protein.  We want to ensure that each pig on our farm has the best life possible, one where they are kept healthy and safe.  But we can’t compare the value of a pig’s life to the value of a human’s life.

Here are a couple of shots of the girls meeting the new pigs last week.

Isn’t this one cute?!  The pig’s not bad either 😉

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Uneducated & Brilliant

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Generally speaking, farmers are uneducated.  And yet they are the most brilliant people I know.  (Someday, I’ll talk about how stubborn they are too.)

If you were to ask the average farmer what their highest level of education is, they would most likely check the box that says “high school education.”  It is a bit more common now for the younger generation of farmers to have a college degree.  But I am willing to bet that their parents and grandparents don’t have those degrees hanging on the wall.

And yet, these uneducated farmers are the most intelligent people I have ever come across.  I have spent my entire life and career surrounded by farmers.  It never ceases to amaze me how darn smart they are and how they seem to find a way to overcome even the toughest of challenges in an extremely volatile environment.  No piece of paper can represent the importance and the difficulty of the thankless work they do.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not meant to condemn the value of an education.  No one believes in education more than me.  The degrees that I earned are some of my proudest accomplishments.  I am one of the weird people who actually loved school and secretly misses being in school.  Rather, this is meant to celebrate the people who feed, clothe and provide for the world through the most respectable job there is – farming.  It is meant to make you pause and think about your perception of a person who is, by our standards, uneducated.  I am no genius, but I am smart enough to know that being an educated person does not make me any better or any smarter than an uneducated person.  It does make me qualified for certain career paths and, of course, establishes credibility . . . after all, that’s the whole point of earning it.

My husband earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Truman State University (go Bulldogs), knowing the entire time he was in college that he wanted to farm.  Friends would often ask him what he wanted to do after college.  After responding that he wanted to farm, they would almost always ask, “Then why are you going to college?”  It is true that you don’t need a college degree to join your family’s farm.  But the education he received, experience he gained and connections he made in college have served him very well.

If you were to write a curriculum for an aspiring farmer today, I think you would find that the program would include economics, finance, accounting, grain marketing, animal science, biology, engineering, data analytics and diesel mechanics to name a few.  And it would need to include a 10 year residency with your father, the head farmer.

If you get right down to it, farmers hold the knowledge needed to survive.  This isn’t your great-grandpa’s farm anymore.  Without agriculture, no other industry would matter.  The world we live in today is full of disconnect . . . disconnect between farmers and non-farmers.  I challenge everyone to look around their lives and think about not only where their food comes from, but how so many of the products we use in our everyday lives are made possible because of farmers.

You know what they say, don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

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