May 2018 Newsletter
Whats Going On At The Farm May 2018
There were days in April that sure didn't feel like spring with a few days in the 50's and some nights in the mid 30's. A fellow farmer told me he saw frost on a few roofs the week of April 16; he lives only 25 miles or so inland from us. The cooler temps didn't seem to affect the weed growth in our pastures but did have us hold off planting our garden until the weather settled down a little.
Spring brings on new tasks and changes our daily routine a little. We still have the normal daily animal care chores like feeding, cleaning chicken houses, pig nursery, and farrowing houses, and working with the sows and baby pigs, but now we also have to work on maintaining pastures and moving cows to pastures that are ready to graze. A good amount of time is spent riding tractors and bush hogging fields with the goal of preventing the weeds from going to seed; several of these weeds are early season and pose no problems during the warmer months.
We are also spreading manure and shavings from our chicken houses in the 10 acre field that will be planted in Sorghum Sudan grass once the weather warms. The Sorghum Sudan grass is a really sweet grass that the cows love. The grass will grow to chest high in a matter of 5 weeks and will provide additional grazing for the herd through August. In late August the field will be mowed or baled, depending on how much is left. Once mowed or baled, we will disk the field and plant in winter rye for the cows to begin grazing late next December or early January.
The work that Annie has done in the chicken lots has begun to pay off. There is now grass growing around the buildings where the chickens had eaten and destroyed the original grass. Annie and Hunter continue cutting the fields in half which is providing 5 weeks or so of rest for the other half of the lot. We expect to see continued imporvement as the weather warms and the Coastal Bermuda and Bahia grasses begin growing for the season.
Jesse has finished the loading shoot and the last of the 4 hog lots in the new growout area. We have realized the shades in the first 3 lots are a little smaller than we would like so he doubled the size of the new shade in the 4th lot and will go back and extend the shades in the existing lots. The construction of these 4 lots and the new load out area has been a winter long project but one that we feel will greatly improve our hog enterprise. Plans are to build an additional 4 lots and loading shoot sometime in 2019.
Sometimes you don't know what to do first; this was the case when we began working on improving our hogs a couple of years ago. We knew we wanted to make changes in the breed we raised, and we knew we wanted to make changes in our production system but didn't know where the best place was to start. We decided to make changes in our breeding program first, then change the grow out phase, next it would be changes to our feeding program, and lastly we would tackle a new farrowing and brooder facility. So far the changes we made to the breeding program and the grow out area have made a huge difference in our pork enterprise. We have no doubt that our next area of concentration, nutrition, will continue to provide big improvements.
Over a month ago we began working on getting a 1970's model grinder mixer running after it had sat idle for almost 20 years. There was a lot to do including patching several holes that had developed in the bottom cone of the mixing hopper. We have the unit about 80% ready to operate and have actually conducted a test run to make sure we have things fixed. There is still a few problems that need attention but we feel confident that we will be able to use the grinder mixer by mid May. If we are successful, the grinder mixer will quickly become one of the most valuable pieces of equipment on the farm. This will allow us to use locally grown grains, custom grind our hog feeds and could eventually lead us to grinding our own chicken feeds as well. By having the ability to grind our own feed we can change the formulations as the dietary needs of the animals change. As much as we are looking forward to grinding our own feeds, we know this will eventually require a large cash outlay to add on-farm storage of corn and soybean meal. In the meantime we will use a gravity wagon to haul corn from the local farm supply or a local corn grower to our farm.
Our first scheduled flock of turkey poults for Thanksgiving will arrive in early May followed by additional flocks in June and July. This year the processing plant will stop processing turkeys October 30. This change greatly affects our operation and has forced us to decrease the number of turkeys we will have available for the Holidays. I mention this every month but feel it is important to restate; if you want a turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas, please order it now. We have recieved a large number of orders already and are now getting inquires and orders from other farmers that don't raise turkeys.
We continue to look for additional help. At the present time we are looking to add a person to cover the Summerville Farmers Market for us; ideally this person would live somewhere near Walterboro. The person must be able to drive the small Izusu truck that Annie drives to the market, be able to set up a tent, lift coolers, be personable, dependable, and trustworthy. One of us would work a few markets with the applicant to insure they are fully trained and comfortable in the job. There is an opportunity for this position to become full time if the person is willing to take on other duties when not attending the farmers market.
The growth we are experiencing in Pastured Pantry is totally unexpected. We have always felt that there was a need for home delivery of locally grown meats but had no idea it would be at this point in just a few short months. Since starting the monthly delivery service in January, we have recieved many positive comments and have had several of our customers reccomending the service to their friends and family; thank you for your trust and support. We have also recieved several comments about our ability to only make deliveries once a month to each of our 2 delivery zones. As much as we would like to increase our deliveries, our lack of available help on the farm makes this impossible at present. Pastured Pantry will send out a notice if we can find a way of adding additional delivery days.
Last month we announced that we were working with G&M Farms to provide lamb and quail to our home delivery customers. We have now added lamb and quail to the items that can be pre-ordered and delivered to the Summerville Farmers Market. We need to point out that orders MUST be recieved a week in advance to allow time for the processing and delivery of the animals to the farm.
Each year we stock pile ribs to allow us to have a rib sale for a special event. This year we will run a Mothers Day special on our Saint Louis Ribs at both the Summerville and Port Royal farmers markets on Saturday May 12. Ribs normally priced at $7.25 per lb will be on special for $4.00 a lb; a savings of $3.25 a lb! Look for the coolers that will be packed with nothing but ribs.
Just in time for Memorial Day cookouts we will have a special on our 100% grass fed ground beef. Check our Facebook page in the next couple of weeks for the start of this special.
A couple of months ago we announced that work was begining on our new website and wanted to hear any comments or recommendations for new things that you would like to see in the website. Please help us make the web page more user friendly, let us know any suggestions you might have. We are still several months away from rolling it out but need to finalize the changes soon to allow time to get everything set up.
Thats all to report for now. Hope everyone is enjoying the great spring weather and is finding some time to get out and relax. College students have started getting out of school for the summer with local schools just about a month away followed by family summer vacations. If your traveling, please be safe.
If you are blessed and still have your mothers, give her a special hug, enjoy time spent, and say thanks. For Annie and I, it will be memories and a time for a special prayer.
Have a great month.
Annie, Marc, Amy, and Jesse