RicelandMeadows


Winter Hay Feeder

hayfeed

December 5, 2017

We have been trialing the newly built hay feeder. The cows like it well. We had to turn one gate around on the feedlot for animal movement, but the feeder is working out very well. The cattle stick their heads through to eat. They eat at different times, but even when most of the herd east together, even the most timid animal can get a spot at the table.

They do eat some from the ends where the green gates are located, but mostly just clean up what ever has spilled out. There has been very little waste feeding the cattle this way. I can click the “success” button on this project! The feeder is easy to fill using the skid steer. The animals use it very well. The percentage of wasted hay is minimal. Lastly, I only have to move hay once a week or less, so it is a great time saver too!

This feeder is permanent, but building one on skids would be a great option for many small farmers. You provide some protection for the hay, as well as, the animals. This could even provide shade from the hot summer sun, while feeding hay when pastures are declining. I recommend trying one on your small holdings in some form or another. The benefits far out weigh the costs.



Settled In
January 11, 2017, 11:21 pm
Filed under: January 2017 | Tags: , , , , ,

nitenitepig

January 11, 2017

Tonight, after chores, I walked through the barns just to look at the animals. Stalls are cleaned during evening chores. I add fresh straw when needed. Usually I am on the run, feeding, cleaning, bedding and headed off to the next job…sometimes the one that pays most of the bills. Tonight, however, I took time to pause just to reflect on my simple farm life. I do love it so very much.

These pigs are almost ready to leave for freezer camp. They, of course, don’t know. They are just fixing their bed like every night. They had a good day eating, playing on the tire swing and rooting around. Now, it’s time for bed. They will continue to enjoy a stress free life. They are warm, fed and comfortable. I make sure of that, it’s my job, no…it’s my passion.

The results of my labors can be seen in my fields, my livestock and my smile. I appreciate this farm life. I thank God that he has let me find my place in the universe. I get to enjoy every single day surrounded by my animal charges and embraced with the love only a family can provide. So, talk about being settled in … I sure am!



New arrivals

calicopigs

December 22, 2016

A hush fell on the night. The pig barn was quiet. Only the sound of munching pigs and fluffing straw filled the air. All except, that is, the soft grunts of a mother pig giving birth. I swept the feed aisle and offered a bit more straw to the pigs in their pens. I went about my usual business of doing chores, not disturbing the busy momma.

I found out long ago, keeping to the regular duties of chore time and keeping the status quo, keeps everybody calm. It is times like these that pay big dividends to regularity. Even the dog watching the sow, had no effect on her. The squealing pigs waiting impatiently for their dinner, is just part of the routine. The mother pig stays focused on her delivery job. I finished chores, made sure the barn was closed up from the cold winds then went to the house.

I checked on the mother pig later by looking through the window. I leave a light on making it easy to see into the barn. The mother and babies were snug in a warm straw nest. The piglets latched on and nursing were fast asleep. The mother sow also sleeping sound, tired from her big job. Satisfied, I went to bed myself.

This mother was selected from a long line of females. I have been breeding this lineage since 1986. I need mothers that will farrow on pasture or in warm winter nests … all by themselves. This is the way it was done long ago when pigs were bred for good mothering along with rate of gain. Today’s modern pig is raised with lean muscle in mind, most other qualities are secondary at best. So piglets are born in crates, where nervous mothers can barely move to keep them from laying on their piglets or even eating them!

Yes, having a pig herd such as mine requires more of my time than the standard commercial way of confined feedlot growing. My pigs are raised on pasture or in roomy pens in a barn when the winter weather forces us inside. Their pens are cleaned and their bellies are full. They are not left to walk in a swill of manure or lay on cold, wet, manure covered concrete.

The big shots say that farmers like me can not feed the world because of inefficiency. I say “Hogwash!”. There are plenty of want to be farmers who would take good care of their stock as I do. It’s just that when the mainstream way of raising pigs sucks every ounce of profit out of this noble profession. It can and will turn around, but it will take consumers demanding a better way. Once we force the big shots to produce food as good animal husbandrymen, there will be room for other farmers and a return to common sense where the animals are concerned.

The drawback will be that our food will cost a little more. It will have more flavor and perhaps even be much better for us, but it will increase prices. Our food in America is very cheap when compared to other places in the world, but that cheapness comes at a price. Small farmers get pushed out of farming and animals become regarded as “things” not living, breathing creatures which we have been given dominion over. For me, dominion means care… and I do.



Waiting Out The Storm
December 14, 2016, 8:22 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

snocow

December 14, 2016

A storm is about to force us all inside. Old man winter is about to really blow. The weatherman says we may get up to two feet of snow, high winds and low temperatures. All of us are snug, both man and beast.

The horses and hogs are all bedded in warm straw. The cows and sheep get to chose where they want to be. They all have the option of going into a building if they want, but many times they choose to be outside. The cows can even go in to the shelter of the pines. When cold rain comes, all of them prefer to be under the cover of a tin roof, but the rest of the time, they seem to just like Mother Nature.

I will spend the day in the barns just staying out of the weather and enjoying my four-legged friends. The horses will all get haircuts and a good brushing. The pens will all be cleaned and the barns straightened up, sweep the corners etc. It is nice to spend a day just reflecting on life and counting my blessings. The work will all wait until the storm has passed.



The Color of Autumn
October 13, 2015, 8:02 am
Filed under: October 2015 | Tags: , , , ,
Hoss, grabs a snack

Hoss, grabs a snack

October 13, 2015

As I prepare for winter, sometimes I get so busy that I forget to look around at the trees all dressed in their autumn splendor. Yesterday, we had a beautiful day. The sun was warm and bright. The green grass, revived by recent rains, is beautiful. The trees are almost dripping with color and the sky is a beautiful blue. I had to pause for a few minutes, just to savor the view.

Farmers around me are very busy with their fall harvest. Soy beans are being harvested as is corn and even grass for forage. I stood by the fence and watched as my animals harvest their own fall food. The lambs and steers are growing nice and fat on the lush late season grasses. The sows are enjoying wild apples and hickory nuts along with juicy clover, not to mention plump ears of corn, as they too prepare for winter.

I will have to feed hay and grain soon, but for now the animals are getting their own food. I don’t have to spend the time or fuel chasing around the farm for a few mouthfuls of grass. They animals do it themselves and they eat everything in the nooks and crannies too. They are efficient grazers who also spread their own manure as they go 😮

I will continue to store equipment and restore a sense of order on my farm. The animals will fill their bellies without much help from me. The farm will be harvested, the animals fattened and nourished as I go about my business. I simply need to keep water tanks filled, pastures rotated and momma pigs looked after. The horses and I continue to gather firewood as we all enjoy the cool, colorful days of autumn.

Soon, the cold wet, rainy days of late fall, will bring down the leaves and mud will also be present. The cold will penetrate a jacket and all of us critters will find warm places to huddle. I know those days are coming, but for now we will all enjoy the fleeting warm sunny days that nature is providing. It is important to look around, linger a little as I go about the business of animal husbandry and enjoy the color of autumn.



I’m Tired
All tuckered out from playing with the tire swing!

All tuckered out from playing with the tire swing!

June 30, 2015

Today, as I waited for more rain to fall, I installed tire swings for my pigs playtime. “What?”, you ask. Yes, tire swings. The pigs love to play with them. They bite on them. They push them around with their noses. They even crawl through them and rub their bellies. It is funny as heck to watch them play. In the past I have also used old bowling balls to give them something to do. I will say though, they like the tires best 😮

Often our pigs are outside. The sow herd is currently enjoying a big pasture from which to graze, play and wallow in the mud. These smaller ones would cause a big fight if I was to put them in with the sows. It’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt. It is much better for these fattening pigs to have recess on the feedlot and play on the tire swings for fun. They do get to go out and play in the mud in a little paddock next to the barn. I guess they just like being pigs, eating , playing and resting…and best of all growing, in a stress free environment.

We have been using sawdust for bedding this summer. We tried chips, but they weren’t absorbent enough. The sawdust gets damp and stays cool. We scoop out the poop and strip the stalls when needed. The pigs like the damp cool sawdust on hot days. They stay comfortable and clean. The pen smells like sawdust too, a much better odor than pig poop!

The horses got their feet trimmed today. Knight has soft hooves, so he keeps shoes on all year. Duke and Hoss have hard feet that just need trimmed usually. I do put steel shoes on when working on the road or heavy work where they could slip. Our jobs for the next few months are light. We will mostly work in the hay fields. Well, that is the hope anyway 😮

One of our gilts watches a bird

One of our gilts watches a bird



Work Horses and Biting Flies!
July 14, 2014, 11:03 pm
Filed under: July 2014 | Tags: , , , ,

Knight and Hoss ... "Chillin"

Knight and Hoss … “Chillin”


July 14, 2013

My horses are lucky enough to have me for an owner. They work hard when I ask them to do so, but summer is rough on horses. I try to work early in the morning and then again in the cool of evening. They spend the mid day in the dark, cool barn, away from the biting flies… especially those awful greenheads.

All three of my boys are turned out at night to graze, roll and rest. First thing in the morning they are brought into the barn, given breakfast and allowed to stay in the cool barn for the day. They even have their own fans to cool them off. Yes, I spoil them 😮

When we work, the horses wear fly nets. The nets are made from nylon and have tassels hanging down that pester the pestering flies. It seems like the right thing to do! I also spray the horses with homemade fly spray made from household ingredients (10% Dawn dishwashing soap, 10% Listerene mouthwash, 40% Pinesol cleaning soap and 40% water). It works as well as any poison does, and makes me feel better about using it.

When we have to be out mid-day, I spray them often, rest when needed and offer water from a bucket when we stop. Some days they drink pretty good, other days, they just play in it. The flies bite me as well, but I can at least swat at the offending pests.

I think they forgive me, at least they always like for me to touch them. I am quiet, kind and steady. I expect that they do their job. I don’t tolerate monkey business, but I correct them mostly with my voice or a quick swat on the butt. They want to please me, so they straighten right out and behave. We have a great relationship.

The flies will be gone soon. They fade with summer. In the meantime we make the suffering as tolerable as possible and we take breaks from the hottest part of the day, when we can. I don’t have all the answers for how to cope with life’s curves, but when it bites you in the ass… my solution is to bite back!