Thursday, September 30, 2010

Expanding What's Working

As I think about expanding on the farm and adding more livestock the most obvious enterprise for me to grow is the one that is working the best. Right now there is no doubt in my mind that my most successful venture has been the hogs. When the first thoughts of farming started flying through my mind I always envisioned grass-fed beef being the centerpiece of the farm. The realities of growing a herd of grass-fed beef and getting everything up and running have made me realize that maybe that my Dexters will have to take the back burner for the time being. The pigs (and the pork the provide) have been filling their traditional role as the "mortgage lifter" on the farm, and to tell you the truth I really enjoy raising them!

As I work through the process of adding more pigs to the farm I have decided that I want to attack it from two different angles. I would like to add more breeding stock (sows), but also add some feeder pigs so that I can have more finished product when the next farmer's market season roles around. Doing both of these things helps me build not only for the near future, but also for seasons down the road. Of course there is always the option to just buy feeder pigs and finish them, but I like the idea of having control of my livestock from farrow to finish and I think my customers appreciate that as well.

This past year I sort of committed myself to the Hereford breed. Right now I only have one Hereford sow, but my boar is a Hereford and he will share the benefits of the Hereford breed (good mothers, great taste, easy going, etc.) with the entire swine herd. I would like to add a couple of more Hereford sows, but I'm also interested in exploring other breeds and trying different crosses. That is where the above picture comes in to the equation ...

Those three are Tamworth gilts and I will be bringing at least one to the farm in the near future. The Tamworth is a lean bacon-type of hog that I have been wanting on the farm since I started, so to say that I'm excited about bringing a gilt to the farm is a bit of an understatement. I plan on experimenting with some Tamworth x Hereford crosses and also using AI to add a few more purebred Tamworths to the farm.

Plus ... don't they just look extra cool with those "stand-up" ears!?!

1 comment:

Rich said...

Have you given any thought to growing a portion of your pigs' feed?

Last fall I had about 50 bushels of wheat left that I had saved in case I needed some extra seed wheat. I thought about getting some pigs and turning that wheat into pork, but after some figuring, I found that I could buy more feed with the cash if I sold it (and wheat was selling a lot cheaper last fall).

But, after I sold the wheat, I got to thinking about how it was possible to sell "pig feed" for less than the grain was worth. Now, I think that I can get more bang for my buck (i.e. a more nutritious feed) by growing and feeding some "home grown" grains.

Of course, it is easier for me to grow grain (I grow wheat and sorghum for those that don't know), but it shouldn't be an impossible task to grow a small plot of OP corn as an experiment before expanding to a few acres.

With a little fertility from the composted winter bedding from your cattle, it should be possible to produce about 50 bu. of corn from a half acre of corn. If you expanded to a few acres, you might be able to pay for some equipment (small planter, etc.) with your feed savings.

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