Making Hay
Week of February 15th, 2004 | The weather was cold all week.

Six week old pigs.

Six week old pigs.

Hope you had a Happy Valentine's Day! The temperatures have stayed cold this past week.

Farming can be a challenging career. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and certainly a lot of knowledge. My dad, over the years, became quite knowledgeable through farmer-to-farmer network groups. They have helped him in decision making, practical farming methods, and thinking with a clearer picture of what is environmentally friendly. Some of the groups that Dad has been involved with include PFI (Practical Farmers of Iowa), Land Stewardship, CHARM (Coalition for Holistic Agricultural Resource Management) and many other organizations. While attending meetings, farm tours, and workshops through the years, Dad learned many different practices of sustainable farming and this has helped us on our own farm in reaching some of the goals that we have set for ourselves and aided us in our decision to become organic.

Dad continues to share information and experiences through these groups, and in recent years has worked hard with the pork pool group for Organic Valley. This group gets together to learn from one another on how to raise organic pork. Along with the successes, there are difficulties, and this is why he believes, like others do, that it is important to have farmer groups out there to assist one another. Dad went to a meeting in Dyersville this week. That meeting had about 20 people present and the topic was animal health and breeding herd management.

Another way of working with others is through farmer partnerships. Our neighbor, 6 miles down the road, houses and cares for about 40 of our sows. He farrows them and takes care of the small pigs. Then, we take care of the pigs from 6 weeks old to market time. We do this because farrowing takes a lot of labor, which we do not have, and takes up room, which we have a limited amount of. It also decreases our disease problems with baby pigs. On Saturday, we moved some of these 6-week-old pigs to one of our hoop buildings (above picture). This partner is paid for each pig that he produces from our sows. We provide the sows and the feed and all animal health items. We are looking for another neighboring partner to take care of about 20 of our sows and then we will reduce the sow number where we live to 50 head. These sows will have their pigs in the months of December, March, June and September. No little pigs will be born where we live in the other months of the year. To make this happen, we are planning on building a new hoop house for the sows, as soon as possible. This will be a special building and we are now getting details on the construction plans.

Farm Fact: We have learned that each group of pigs needs to be kept as a group and not mixed with other pigs. Disease problems are often caused by mingling groups of pigs. This sounds simple, but to make it happen, the ages of the pigs need to be kept as even as possible. This happens when the sows farrow over a short time period, hopefully measured in a few days.

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