Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dirt Hog :: Chapter 1 Book Report

I know that I haven't finished "Grass-Fed Cattle" yet, but as I left for my soccer game yesterday afternoon I couldn't find that book (there was a LONG bus ride) so I grabbed "Dirt Hog" by Kelly Klober. I had heard good and not-as-good reviews of this book, but if the rest of it is anything like the first chapter (which basically serves as an introduction of the idea) I think it will be a good read. There was a lot of stuff to think about in this chapter, but a couple of quotes really made me think about life, farming, and of course pigs. Here are just a few of my thoughts...

The first thing that really had me thinking was this quote:
"He stepped out of his pickup to bring them closer and bid me to follow him. I started to decline and give the stand answer, which is that some harmful organisms might be carried in my clothes and/or shoes. His answer to my protests will surprise many; it was to get out there."
Here is what I thought. That doesn't surprise me at all, and yet it does surprise me. On one hand it doesn't surprise me because that seems just about right for a confinement farm based on quick growth and nothing else. It does surprise me because I would have never thought that would ever be a thing to worry about, I mean we are talking about pigs ... of which unfortunely, I know too much about being around. They should be able to handle people around them I would think. Mr. Klober often writes in this first chapter that the current confinement system is more about looking good and being easier for the farmer not about what is best for the pigs.

Another big thing that I got out of this chapter was encouragement. This book came out in 2007 and even though the hog market is in the dumps right now I see reason to be encouraged by hog raising, if you do it on the range. If you are rotating your pigs and not spending tons of money on buildings and infrastructure there is still a way for pigs to be the age old "mortgage lifter".

I think this was a great chapter and hopefully just a sign of things to come from the book. If I were to make a recommendation on the first chapter alone I would say it is a must read. But, we will wait and see what the rest of the book holds.


Rich said...

"...and not spending tons of money on buildings and infrastructure..."

That’s probably the key to being profitable with most types of livestock or farming.

I was talking to my father about raising pigs on pasture and to my surprise found out that my grandfather and his brother had at one time raised pigs together. My father’s uncle had some Duroc sows and would raise the pigs until they were weaned, and then Grandpa would feed them till they ready to be butchered. They were mostly fed barley (possibly wheat and maybe a little corn) that was grown on the farm.

The entire infrastructure used to finish each group of pigs was an area that was usually used for weaned calves. It was simply a loafing shed and a woven-wire fenced “weaning pen” that was about 1.5 acres. After the calves were gone, the pigs would go into the lot, and then were possibly followed by a planting of something like barley or wheat.

I assume the pigs would “cleanup” any feed, spoiled hay, or bedding left by the calves (sort of a simplified Salatin pigerator composting setup), and a portion of the barley (or wheat or corn) planted after the pigs would have been used to feed the cattle or pigs.

After his brother moved out of state, Grandpa stopped raising pigs, and the area was simply used for the cattle, (but was still occasionally planted to cereal grains). When he decided to quit raising hogs, he wasn’t left with a huge mortgage on a worthless single purpose building like a hog confinement facility, and if he wanted to go back into the hog business it would have a simple matter of getting some pigs, growing some feed, and then feeding them.

What’s interesting is that the weaning pen still looks “different”, the fencing has been gone for almost 15 years, and there haven’t been pigs on it for at least 50 years, but you can still see a difference (due to an increased fertility) in the grass growth in the area where the pigs did their “magic”.

Ethan Book said...

That is pretty cool Rich. I know here in Iowa the pig was a mainstay on every farm until specialization crept into the picture. I know that even when my families farm got big there was still always a place for cattle and pigs on the farm. They farrow to finish operation for a while with just a 10 or 12 sows probably and then would finish them using their own grains.

To my mind that seems smart ... evens out the highs and lows in the markets, but it is not the way it is done anymore (for the most part).

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