Happy New Year! I hope you had a Merry Christmas. I got lots of stuff for Christmas, including, a wood lathe and chisels, a 4 inch jointer and sander, a John Deere cap, a pliers set, DVD's, a John Deere collectors' tin, clothes, and money. I can't wait until I use my wood lathe! I had a great time with my family this Christmas. Jess and Jolene (my sisters) came home to spend the holidays with us. We played games, watched movies together, and mom made great food, like always.
This past year, we made many changes on our farm and in our feed business. We had a lot of purchases and worked very hard to make this happen.
We handle our manure differently now. We purchased another slinger manure spreader. This is a New Idea brand manure spreader. This has two augers inside and two beaters. It is about 300 bushel in size. The John Deere 4020 pulls it. Slinger spreaders are great for hauling liquid manure. We still have the New Idea apron spreader for cleaning out the compost pile in the spring. The machine spreads the material more evenly on the ground.
Heavy rains prevented us from cultivating our corn crop last spring. We saved our corn crop from the weeds with a borrowed flame cultivator. The flamer is an implement with a liquid propane tank on top. Flames from the torches damage the cells in weeds and grasses. When the cells die, the weeds stop growing. The corn plant recovers from this and does not die. Next year, we will build ourselves a flamer.
Dad and I built a gestation facility for our sows this past summer. The building helps control the sow breeding. It holds 25 sows at a time. I really enjoy doing chores in the building. Each sow has 40 square feet of bedding when not locked inside of the pen to eat. The sows are fed once a day and spend only an hour and a half in the gestation pens. I look forward to using this facility for many more years.
This November, we put in a dozen farrowing pens in the barn for winter farrowing. The sows are locked in the pens during the day. Twice each day they are let out of the pens to socialize with the other sows while they eat and drink. The piglets are in the pens all the time. They have an electric hover that they cuddle under. The sows enjoy using these pens. I like doing chores in the barn. They run back to get into the pens after eating.
This past summer, I built a woodworking shop in the barn for my hobby. This also sorted our shop tools out, giving Dad more room to work in the mechanical part of the shop. I enjoy having my little woodworking corner. I can't wait until I put my wood lathe and more tools in it. I purchased a woodworking bench at a sale this past summer for the shop.
The farm purchased a different feed mill this past summer. It is a New Holland 358, the largest size feed processor that the company manufactured. The tank holds 3 ton and the discharge auger is 20 feet. It is also more efficient than the previous one. The farm sold the Farmhand feed mill to the feed business for grinding byproducts. That grinding is done at the site of the operation that contracted to do this business for us.
The feed business also made many changes. We purchased two feed wagons. These are the feed tanks with augers that hold processed feed and deliver that feed to feeders or other containers. The feed business lends one of these wagons out to customers so they can haul their feed. The second one that we bought has hydraulic controls to run the augers. This one is a 3 compartment with 9 tons of capacity. The other feed wagon is a 6-ton with 2 compartments. We enjoy using this to deliver our own feed to the hoop buildings and hog floors.
The feed business grew in all areas. Last year, we were getting byproducts from only 2 plants in Iowa. This year, we are purchasing 11 byproducts from 5 different plants in Iowa and Minnesota. We hire our trucking. We also contracted our byproduct grinding business out (this is where the Farmhand 858 feed mill is). This saves our labor, so we have more time to manage the farm and business.
The feed business sold the straight truck (the International DT466—my favorite truck) and in place of it, purchased two semi hopper grain trailers. These trailers are both used for the byproducts. We do not pull the trailers with our truck. They are hauled by custom operators. We are still busy with the maintenance, though!
As the year ends, we are completing our bookkeeping for the farm and business on paper and on the computer. As I look back at our past year and the improvements made on the farm and for the feed business, I look forward to the upcoming year and what's in store for us. Our family wishes all of you the best in 2005. May it be a prosperous, healthy, and special year for all.
Farm Fact: With changes in our facilities, labor, and management, we improve our animal health on our farm in our feed. Last year, we had about 130 sows on our farm. This year, we reduced our number down to 96 sows, but produce more pigs.