MAY ON THE FARM
I guess by now you realize that April got completely past us without getting the time to write the newsletter. That’s not surprising since April is normally a busy time with us trying to get the spring chores completed before the hot days of summer. This April was a little different; in fact, May is different than what we normally expect. In April we had a late frost which put the pastures back over a week and had us put off the fertilizing we had planned. In May we have had some cooler than normal nights which, though has allowed the pastures to green up, hasn’t provided the needed warmth to get them growing well. Today is May 16 and I’m finally putting the fertilizing of the fields back on the task list for this week. The forecast for the week shows night temps to be in the 50’s and daytime to be in the 80’s. This should get our Bahia pastures growing and we should see good Coastal Bermuda growth beginning in about a week or 2 if we can get a couple of decent rains.
We ended April by having an open house here at the farm. We discounted all of our meats 15% and our Rio Bertolini and Tomato Shed products 10%. We had a good turnout for the 2 day event and got to see several old friends in the process. During the open house we cooked some samples of our sausages, had the farm open for self guided tours, and spent a lot of time talking to our customers and answering questions. I think all of us enjoyed this format; it was easier to prepare for and provided us an opportunity to kick back and enjoy the visitors. We’re thinking of holding 2 open houses a year, one in the spring and 1 in the fall. We’ll be discussing this during our farm meetings this summer.
We’ve had a rash of breakdowns this month. It all started when a rat chewed a wire on the old gator and caused a week’s worth of tracing everything before locating the problem. A new connection got the gator fixed and cleaning out the carb got it running great. During the same time the Mule quit running; it was doing the same thing the gator did when it broke down. This time it was a stuck relay. Jesse fixed the problem, clean and adjusted the carb, and got the Mule running like a scalded dog. The John Deere 2355 that we use to grind feed went down on us; Jesse located and fixed the problem without putting us behind on grinding feed. And both our refrigerated trucks developed cooling problems; our refrigeration repair guy quickly got the van back up and going but we’re still waiting for the part to come in to fix the NPR. Last Thursday the 2 fan motors burned up on the walk-in freezer, we’re using a drum fan to keep the compressor cool until the new motors come in next week, and the cooler in the market went down on Friday before the market opened. Our refrigeration guy will look at the cooler when he comes out to replace the fan motors on the walk-in. Hopefully this will take care of the break downs for awhile.
We still haven’t been able to stain the outside of the barn; it seems we’ve had winds everyday which stops us from using the sprayer to apply the stain. Hopefully we will get a day in the next week or two to get this taken care of. All of the other work we have planned for the barn has been taken care of. We have more work we want to do on the barn but plan on waiting till next fall to tackle it.
A week ago we moved 4 sows into the farrowing house and are currently waiting for them to decide to have their litters. Three of the sows are pure bred Yorkshires and one is a Hampshire. Yorkshires are known for having large litters of pigs with commercial herds often reporting litters of 16 to 18. That’s a little more than we look for or even want. Our goal for the Yorkshires is to have 12 to 13 live and wean 11. We like our Hampshire’s to give us 10 to 11 pigs, and wean 10 but often have them weaning 9. All of these sows were bred to our new Duroc boar, Red, and our new Hampshire boar, Cookie. These litters will be the 4th through 8th that they have sired so we expect to begin seeing good litter numbers and good newborn pig health. We expect another group of 3 to farrow the end of June or early July followed by another group of 3 in late July to early August. The boars are currently with a group of 5 which would farrow in September. I guess we won’t be able to call them our “new boars” much longer. In fact, we will probably bring in 2 replacement boars in about 13 to 15 months and send them to a new home on a friend’s farm in about 18 months.
We started on the rehab of the sow lots. Jesse got the waterer in place and has put up the brace posts for the electric fence. I took the disk through the lots, leveled them, and planted a combination of brown top millet and rape last week just before the rain. This week we hope to run the new piping to the waterer, install the mist nozzles under the shades, and run the electric fence wire. This work only covers 1-1/2 lots and leaves us another 1-1/2 lots on this side to complete. We have 7 lots total that we plan on reworking.
For the past 2 weeks we have been trying to get Bogo back in with the herd. We’ve moved her into the field every day but the other cows won’t have anything to do with her. She’s gotten too attached to people and has figured out how she can squeeze through the barbed wire fence and roam the farm. What she didn’t count on was the dogs that didn’t bother her in the field see her as an intruder outside of the field and chase her. I don’t see them hurting her, but the barking and chasing could cause her to get hurt at the most, and cause her a lot of stress at the least. Currently we have her locked in a pen behind the house that is next to a pen where the cows come in for water. We plan on locking a few in there and turning her in with them in hopes of them building a bond and her moving out to the fields with them.
Last week we took the bush hog out and mowed 2 of the pastures and will get another one cut this week. Though the pastures aren’t tall and really don’t need mowing, we cut them at this time every year to remove the dead winter grasses and the early spring weeds; the early season mowing acts like a spring cleaning for the fields. Once all the pastures are mowed we will control the weeds, spray the biological we want to try, and begin rotating the cows through the fields. If the grass in any field gets to tall and tough, we’ll mow the field to provide the best possible grazing for the cows.
In the next week or so we will disk the back field and prepare it for Sorghum Sudan grass. We had discussed not planting the field this summer but have been told of a new hybrid Sorghum Sudan that we would like to try. Typically, it takes 5 to 6 weeks for the Sorghum Sudan to grow to chest to shoulder tall. The grass is very sweet and the cows love it. It does a great job of packing the pounds on the cows and provides some additional grazing during the hot months. Once finished in September, we can disk the field and plant our combination of winter rye grass and forage oats for grazing come late December through April or May depending on the temperature.
The winter grazing we had this year allowed us to use around 25 large round hay bales less than we had planned. We are seriously considering overseeding another field or two this fall to provide additional winter grazing and cut our hay usage even more next year or allow us to carry more cows on the same number of acres. The hay left over from this past winter will be used as bedding in the farrowing house.
This coming weekend is Memorial Day. We will have the market open the normal hours this Monday and Friday but will close the market Memorial Day. We are planning to attend the Port Royal Farmers Market as usual Memorial Day weekend. Please make plans and stock up on all of our products for your Holiday weekend cook outs.
We have been getting some great reviews on the Rio Bertollini and Tomato Shed products that we are now carrying. Several people are going nuts on the gelato especially the Sea Salt and Caramel and Cookies and Cream. We have begun moving a good amount of our Palmetto products as well. Our Palmetto is a limited line of grass fed, grain finished beef, chicken thighs, and boneless skinless chicken breasts. If you haven’t tried these products, please do. They are an economical option and better quality than found in the grocery stores.
Enjoy the rest of the month. Beach season is here and a lot of you will be traveling; please be safe.
Thanks for your continued support of our farm. We look forward to seeing you soon.
Annie, Marc, Amy, & Jesse