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FEBRUARY ON THE FARM

We’re half way through winter and have begun to seriously think about the upcoming spring.  We know that by the end of the month we will probably be past any freezing nighttime temps and will start seeing some days in the upper 60’s and lower 70’s.  Yes, we’ll see several early morning frosts until late March but we shouldn’t see any real cold weather after the 3rd week of February.  Historically, our last frost isn’t until March 20th but we have seen a few in early April.

In February we hope to be able to spread lime on the remaining 3 fields.  Back in October we took soil samples from all of our fields and sent them to Clemson for analysis.  We spread lime on 2 of our fields in late November or early December and need to do the same on these last fields.  In late March or early April, after the grass greens up, we will spread the recommended amount of fertilizer on these fields as well.

If all goes well we should begin seeing the end of some of our repair projects and begin working on the rebuilding of our sow lots.  Our plans are to repair the damage to the legs on the shades; the damage is caused by the sows rubbing and scratching themselves against the legs.  We will also add permanent misters under the shades which will help cool the sows when it’s hot.  We have a couple of tank style waterers that we will use to provide water to each pen.  The water tank will require us to build a platform to hold the tank, a roof to keep the sun off the tank, and will be filled by hard piping the tank to our water system; the tanks have automatic shutoff valves that will stop the water when the tank is full.  The tank holds 85 gallons of water which will allow the sows to get water for several days even with the water turned off.  The tanks have openings on 2 sides for the sows to get water which will allow us to put the tank in the middle of the dividing fence and provide 2 fields with water from 1 tank.  We tested this system with a group of 60 or so pigs that we were growing and finishing and felt the system worked well and was better than the system we currently use.  Hopefully it will work in the sow lots just as well.

Along with repairing the shades, adding misters, and installing a new water system, we’ll build new fences to separate the sow lots, level and seed the pens, and add new gates that lead in from the outside field or the farms lane.  The new entrances will allow us easy access with our equipment making it easier to level and reseed the lot when the sows are moved to the farrowing house.  Our plans have always been to provide 2 to 3 months rest for each lot before the sows are moved back in; best laid plans don’t always work when it’s difficult to get equipment in to do the job. 

The rain this month has been relentless.  Annie checked the rain gage on Tuesday and we had 5”.  We checked it again 2 days later and there was another 3” in it. The lane coming to the farm is a muddy mess.  All of the dirt we brought in to fill the holes has turned to mud and a lot has washed away.  At this rate it will take a couple of weeks for the lane to dry down enough for us to bring in more dirt and level it again.  Once the holes are filled we can bring in a few loads of sand clay and make a better surface.

The rain hasn’t only affected our road, its creating a good bit of damage in our fields.  With the road out, we have to come in and out through the fields which is creating some ruts and making the fields rough and compacted.  Once this is over we will have to find a way of smoothing them out and removing the compaction.  Compaction will not allow the ground to breath properly and will stop the oxygen that is needed to enter the soil and feed the microbes.  The best thing we could do is to aerated all of the fields; we will look into ways of doing this once the fields dry out a little and before they start to green up.

Those of you that follow us on Facebook might have seen a post someone shared about the SC Swine Transport Bill.  Basically the SC State Legislature is trying to pass a bill making it more difficult for farmers to transport hogs.  The bill is to try and help DNR get a handle on the Feral Hog population though I don’t see how having hog farmers like us meet special requirements to transport our hogs is going to do anything to help control the feral hog population.  We load and run hogs weekly for processing which provide no opportunity for our hogs to get into the wild and become feral.  The bill originally wanted farmers to get permits and vet approval before transporting which would have been a huge burden and added additional cost that was unneeded.  The bill is now out of committee and only has the requirement that the load of hogs be accompanied by a bill of laden or bill of sale stating who owns the hogs, and where they’re going.   This can be a farm generated document which we have been doing for years.  Each load we take to the processing plant shows how many hogs we are taking and how we want them cut up.

This bill has been talked about for a few years and provided me several opportunities to talk to other farmers and hear what they had to say.  Some farmers, like us, had no problem with the bill as long as the legislature used common sense and didn’t overburden us with paperwork and additional regulations.  Remember, we felt that this bill would do little to nothing to curb the feral hog population.  Other farmers felt this was an opportunity for large corporations to push small producers out of the market and for the corporations to get 100% of the market.  I don’t subscribe to that theory since I don’t feel the small farmers have that much of the market and the large corporations are more concerned with providing pork in large quantities to companies like Sysco and US Food as well as meeting a growing export market which small producers don’t have an opportunity to participate in anyway.  Small pastured pork producers aren’t even a gnat on the back of an elephant to companies like Smithfield, Tyson, Cargil, and others.

I do think that small farms that keep a few hogs around, whether for their family’s consumption or to sell, do have a stake in the feral hog problem.  Just a quick look around some of these farms and you could see hog pens built out of used pallets, fences that are half worn out, and other issues that will have you wondering how the farmer has ever been able to keep his hogs in.  I’ve seen some farms run hogs back in the woods or swamp using one of two strands of electric fence to keep them in.  All it takes is a branch to fall on the fence and short it out and the hogs are gone.  Once out a domestic hog will revert back to being feral in just a few months.  Their hair will get bristly, their backs will take on the “razor back” look, and they will begin growing tusks.  They’ll get their food from eating tree roots and destroying farmer’s crops.  Once they find a good food source, they’ll come back time and time again, rooting and tearing up the field every time.  The feral hog will not only eat roots, corn, soybeans, and other crops, they’ll even eat dead deer carcasses or other dead animals they come across.  This poses a big threat to farmers that raise domestic hogs like us because a feral hog carries disease like Brucellosis which will greatly affect a hog herd’s reproductive capability.  We have to get a handle on the feral hog problem but I really don’t think a transport law is the answer.  I also hate to suggest that DNR starts inspecting our farms to insure we have decent facilities but I’m not sure we can expect the farmer to do it.  I am glad that attention is being put back on this problem and hopefully a workable solution can be found.

By now a lot of you know that Annie and I were diagnosed with Covid earlier in the month.  We both had mild cases but have to admit that even a mild case is nothing to play with.  Unlike a flu or bad cold, Covid symptoms seem to come and go daily.  We started out with low grade fevers and an overall crappy feeling.  I had a dry cough but absolutely no congestion.  Next thing we know the fever broke, and we lost our taste and smell.  Then we developed congestion and a runny nose that lasted 1 day and disappeared, and on day 5 I started with shortness of breath and fatigue.  By this point I was asking if there was any way that I could get all the symptoms at once and be done with it.  It’s been almost 3 weeks since we were diagnosed, we feel a world better but still have some fatigue and I’ll get winded at times.  I can’t stress enough the importance of wearing your mask and following CDC guidelines.  We have no idea where we contracted the virus but would hate to see anyone else get sick from it.  Covid is a nasty virus that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

With spring just around the corner and Covid behind us, we are looking forward to getting on with the projects we have planned and the tasks that will have us ready for spring green up of our pastures.  The change of seasons is always something we look forward to and this year is no different.

We hope you enjoy the changing season and are able to get outside for some of the best weather of the year.  If you’re in Walterboro on Monday or Friday afternoon, stop by and check out the farm, get to know your farmers, and ask any questions that help learn how your food is produced. 

Thanks for your continued support of our farm.

Annie, Marc, Amy & Jesse

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