Filed under: Ag education, Ag promotion, Animal care, family, Farm, farm animals, fertilizer, food, food safety, genetic modification, GMO, organic, P & E, planting, Politicians, rain, tillage, Tractors, weather | Tags: Agriculture education, children, family, farm, Food, machines, plants, repairs, science, weather
Farming, like any other profession has its own lingo, and much of America does not understand it.
I just got off the phone with a gal doing a survey on farming practices who was having a great deal of trouble with her farm english. It was very hard to understand what she wanted to ask because she was murdering words left and right. You had to listen carefully and try to interpret what she wanted to say. I hated to ask her to repeat any of her questions because her pronunciation of words did not get any better. To be fair she did not sound like she grew up speaking another language, she just could not pronounce these words because they were strange to her. Kind of like trying to pronounce those strange names you find in the Bible.
Really, it is no wonder that folks with no connection to the farm do not understand us. We deal daily with names like FSA, SCS, CAFU, EPA, USDA and PCA. We go to places like the Commodity Classic and Farm Equipment shows. Farmers deal in dollar amounts that would make the head of the average person spin. We fertilize, apply pesticides, insecticides and fungicides, we deal with too much rain and not enough rain, and all so we can pay off our loan at the bank and feed our family.
Farmers talk of tractors and combines, rippers, chisels and disks, they discuss spraying and cultivating. We speak of organic, minimum till, no till, plows and erosion. Farmers know horse power, breeding schedules, days on feed, days to maturity, bushels per acre, chemical rates and livestock nutrition. Livestock producers know about sires and dams, sows and boars, rams and ewes, gilts, colts, geldings, barrows, chicks, hens and toms. Farmers deal with politicians, activists, genetically modified crops, inbreds, pure breeds and hybrid vigor. Farmers can fix many of our machines with duct tape or a welding torch, can rewire delicate electronics, and some even understand computers. No machine on the farm is complete without a well supplied tool box, and no pocket without a pliers, knife or a few odd screws. We on the farm live a complex life that our city cousins would like to understand, but have not lived, and so they can only marvel at our differences.
We hide ourselves behind jargon and numbers. What you really need to know is that farmers care about what happens on the farm. We raise our families here. We drink the water and breathe the air. We depend on the soil to feed us and our family for many generations to come. Farmers and their farms come in many sizes, but we all care deeply about what we are doing. We are here on the land because we cannot think of anything more important to do with our lives.
Despite all of the strange words we use, we are just like you, trying to build a good life for our families. So if you do not understand us, ask. We want you to know. We are not trying to hide things from you. You, our customer, are important to us also.
Filed under: Animal care, Farm, farm animals | Tags: Agriculture education, animals, cattle, chickens, Food, nature, pigs
You may have thought I was a bit harsh about pigs in my last post, “Pigs are, Well Pigs,” but that is not the worst things I have seen. I could tell you much worse, and in detail, of how they mistreat each other. Oh, I admit, pigs are at times endearing. When raised like a pet, they are intelligent and can even be sweet. The pigs found on a farm are not pets. Let them get their way, and they will take over. Farmers have done everything possible to breed the mean out of pigs, and they have to some extent, but not completely. The same can be said for many other farm animals.
Chickens will peck on each other at the first sign of weakness. Let a little blood show and they are all over it. They will fight over a choice bit of food, chasing each other until it is either lost or eaten. It does not take much to get male chickens to fight. Chickens are stupid. They have just enough brains to fly up into a tree to get out of danger, but are totally defenseless if that danger has wings. That’s why farmers usually keep them fenced in. To keep animals that like chicken out.
Cattle are perhaps a bit more docile, but even they can and will fight. They at least will give up the fight if their opponent is down, unless they think they are protecting a calf. Cattle on the range today are protected as much as possible, but old time cowboys have some real scary stories of cattle that go wild. If a ton of animal knocks you down, consider yourself lucky to get up and away.
So here’s the thing, protecting these animals is a full time job for a farmer. Animals are not people, and though at times they may show some signs that could be interpreted as “nice,” they are not always. If you ask any farmer who has raised livestock for as many years as I have, they will have some really interesting stories of animal behavior. Cruelty within species is more often the norm rather than the exception, this is not a Walt Disney World. Livestock compete for food or mates for their survival. It is only when humans protect them that they can afford to act nicer to each other. We protect them from each other as well a predation. To pay for that protection, they pay a price.
Fairy tales and cartoon pictures are fine for entertainment. We all would like to live in a better world. It is a world of make believe. The real world is cruel. Sorry folks, Bambi was a myth.
Filed under: Ag education, Animal care, Farm, farm animals, food, food safety | Tags: Agriculture education, bacon, boars, farm, Food, food safety, gestation crates, ham, piglets, pigs, sows
I’m rather frustrated when I hear people telling what they think really happens on farms, especially in the pork industry. They claim all kinds of things they know nothing about. As a former pork producer who raised pigs in many different types of housing over the years, here are a few things about pigs that you should know.
There is no meaner animal on the planet that I know of. Pigs will be mean to each other whenever they can get away with it. The only way to keep pigs from fighting each other is to keep them separate. Sick or injured animals can be killed and eaten if not removed from the pen. Even piglets just a few days old will bite and push. They are born with sharp teeth that can rip up a sibling. As they get older the tusks on a boar (male) will stick out of the side of the boars mouth and can really rip up anything they can get at. Boars and sows (females) can weigh over 500 pounds and they know how to use that weight to their advantage. Their huge neck muscles are made to gouge and thrust. Even as a juvenile, at about 250 pounds, pigs know how to push their weight around. I have the damaged knees to prove it.
Pigs can and will eat anything. They will slurp down snakes and love any kind of meat. If it doesn’t move fast enough or fight back, it’s lunch. What we would consider garbage, a pig declares is dinner, if it is rotten or moldy, so much the better. They can get by on grass, leaves or bark, but prefer more condensed foods like grain (corn, oats, wheat, barley). A pig raised in a barn has exactly what they need to grow in front of them as determined by a veterinarian and a nutritionist.
Pigs are pigs. If allowed to, boss animals will steal food from smaller animals. You end up with a few overweight animals and the rest fighting over the scraps. Smaller animals will be kept away from the food until the larger animal has had its fill. That is why some farmers use gestation crates. In most cases a gestation crate will have more room in it per animal than would be allowed in group housing. In a gestation crate, each sow will get exactly the amount of food it needs for producing babies without having to fight the boss for it. There is also much less chance of injury and death.
I have raised pigs in open lots and I’ll take a clean enclosed barn every time. Pigs are very likely to pick up diseases and parasites when raised on dirt. Most of those diseases and parasites are easily transmitted to humans, some by eating the animal. That is the reason that jews and arabs consider them an unclean animal. Moving the animal off of the dirt removes this problem.
People who do not belong in a barn should please stay out. This is to protect both you and the pigs. You could be carrying something on your shoes or clothing that will make the pigs sick. It is routine in most modern pig barns for people to shower in and shower out. No outside clothing is brought in. No outside animals are allowed in. Barns are washed and disinfected between groups.
There is nothing a pig likes more than manure (shit, excrement). They are naturally drawn to manure to eat the undigested or partly digested feed that another animal excretes. Manure that has lain around for a while will have fly larva in it, pigs love fly larva. It is part of the nature of the animal to dig around in manure. When raised on concrete slats the manure of a pig is removed from the reach of a pig.
Pigs love the mud. That is because a pig has no sweat glands in their skin. They will dig around in and roll in anything that will cover their body. Modern farmers will mist the air in a pig barn when it’s hot outside. Pigs have sensitive skin and are prone to sunburn. A layer of mud keeps the sun off.
You may think it would be better for a baby pig to be born in a nest, but you would be wrong. A sow weighing in at between 300 and 500 pounds is deadly to a 2 pound newborn. A farrowing crate protects the babies from being stepped on or laid on. It also allows the farmer to assist in birth when needed. It is not unusual for the last few pigs to get covered in the afterbirth. A farmer can save these pigs where he does not have to enter the pen a protective mother is in. After farrowing (giving birth) the sow will turn around and eat her afterbirth. In an open setting, other pigs will be trying to get at the after birth. Sometimes baby pigs get eaten or injured in the melee. A mother pig likes temperatures a lot cooler than a newborn. A farrowing crate allows the farmer to add heat just for the babies and the mother can stay cooler.
Pigs love to be close together. Even in the hottest weather, pigs will sleep close together. You can have just a few pigs in a large barn and they will still sleep piled on top of each other.
Pork is delicious. Bacon, ham, chops, roasts, sausage, it all is good to eat and good for you. Pork, in moderation is part of a well-balanced diet. If there is one thing that will tempt a vegan off of the wagon it is bacon!
Please, before you try to tell a farmer how to raise his animals, talk to them. Old livestock farmers have years of observation to share. They care about their animals and want them to be healthy. They do their best to give every animal a chance to live, and not die a senseless death of disease or injury. Yes, farmers know that their pigs will be killed and eaten. They also realize that in life everything must die. Isn’t it better for that life to mean something. The pigs sacrifice helps us to grow and live better lives.
Filed under: Ag education, Ag promotion, Farm, food, P & E, science | Tags: agriculture, Agriculture education, Engineering, farm, Food, Math, science, technology
Want to have a job when you graduate from school, think STEAM. That stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture and Math. Agriculture? Yes, Agriculture!
Actual farmers make up just about two to four percent of the American work force. But people who work in related industries that depend on what farmers do account for at least a quarter of the entire work force. That includes everyone from people in food services jobs to Kraft executives to commodities traders.
Many folks in Agriculture are experts in one of the other areas also. It is nearly impossible to work on a farm today without knowing something about all of the others. To be a part of Agriculture today you may not even have a degree in Agriculture, but you still will be involved in feeding the world. That’s Agriculture!
Filed under: Minnesota, pond, rain, spring, water garden, weather, Wildlife | Tags: frogs, marsh marigold, marsh marigolds, Minnesota, pond, rain, spring, weather
It’s the first day of spring here in southwestern Minnesota and my springtime pond is mostly brown. I’ve cleaned up the dead plant material from around the pond and even cleaned most of the stuff that blew in over the winter off of the bottom. At this time last year we had snow on the ground and frozen water, not so this year.
We’ve broken records for both daytime highs, and high minimum temperatures this week so all of our plants seem to be getting an early start. This year the frogs came off of the bottom to warm in the sunshine of our record warm days. They’ve even found some insects to eat.
Most of the time the frogs dive in when I come into view, but sometimes one that thinks itself hidden better will sit around to be photographed. If one frog dives in there are sure to be many others taking the plunge. They are very dark so far this spring. I’m hoping we’ll see our usual green leopard frogs when the area greens up.
The surprise of the pond today was to see the first blooms on the Marsh Marigolds. This is my first year with these plants so I had not realized that they were such early bloomers. I remember them being in bloom until freeze-up, so I’m expecting a long season of sunny yellow flowers. I do hope they are not so early that they will freeze off before we get into our normal spring-time season.
The rain of the last few days has helped a lot, although we have not gotten much rain, just a few tenths. Right now we are about six inches behind in rainfall and it will take a major shift in the weather patterns to get us back to normal. One thing is for sure, it is hard to be gloomy when the weather is this nice.
Filed under: fish, Minnesota, pond, spring, water garden | Tags: garden, Koi, Minnesota, plants, pond, sedum, spring, warm temperatures, water garden, water plants
It’s March, we should not be having weather this nice, but my pond is greening up so it’s time to get cleaning.
After this mornings fog burned off the weather turned really warm. Temperatures approaching 80 degrees were found in our area. This is unusual for March here in southwestern Minnesota. I was hauling beans in to town, but an oil leak in the engine compartment of the truck meant I needed to add 1 gallon of oil to the truck motor. The truck is now in the shop getting fixed. What to do?
My visits to the pond revealed not only awakening frogs, but new leaves on many of the plants in or near the pond. It’s time for a pond Spring cleaning.
These pond side plants are sending out green shoots. These plants have been here at the waters edge all winter. I started seeing some green here before the ice was completely out of the pond. This is much earlier than would have been possible the last two years.
If you look in the water near the center of the picture you can see one orange baby koi and a few little circles in the water indicating more just under the surface. Last years hatch of koi are checking out the water’s surface for food. I counted three larger koi and at least 19 first years. Too bad that most of them are dark colors.
The plants that normally would grow just under the waters surface had their pots moved to deeper water for the winter. Now they are sending leaves up to the surface. You can see the two pots as green leaves near the center of the picture. Today I moved them to their platforms so they could grow in the place they should. It meant putting on the chest waders so I could go into that COLD water.
Part of the spring pond cleaning is to remove some of the dead plant material from the bottom of the pond. Leaves that blew in last fall started to rot on the bottom of the pond and they make some really good compost. They do tend to take some of the oxygen from the water when they rot so air needs to get mixed into the water either with a bubbler or by pumping water down a “creek” when there is ice on the pond. Not all of the material should be removed from the pond bottom since frogs and turtles need that as a place to hide. You can see the water plant on its shelf in the middle of the pond.
Shore line plant material needs to be removed to keep it from entering the water as they break up. Removing the plant material revealed these sedum starting to come up. There were several other perennial plants starting to green up. There will be more to do if the weather stays warm. As with any garden, this one takes work to keep it nice. Spring is coming!
Filed under: fish, Ice, Minnesota, pond, snow, spring | Tags: frogs, Koi, Minnesota, pond, snow, spring, water plants, wildlife
Our pond has awakened from it’s winters sleep. The real clincher was seeing frogs sunning on the shore.
Our weather has turned warm with highs in the 70′s and lows staying much above freezing. The pond has responded with new leaves on underwater and shore line plants, and increased activity from the koi. To see frogs out of the water was a real delight. I’m hoping that we will see one of our baby turtles emerge from their winters nap soon also.
After the partial die off of koi in early winter I have watched for activity in the pond when ever the ice melted a bigger hole in the pond. Once in a while I would see one of the small orange koi in the depths. Now that the sun is getting higher and reaching into the depths of the pond it is easier to see the koi in all parts of the pond. Having several black or grey koi, I do not often see them unless they come to the top. Now that the sun is reaching the bottom of the pond I can get a bit of shadow on the dark bottom that betrays their presence.
All of this is all the more exciting because for the last two years this part of Minnesota had temperatures below freezing at this time of year and large piles of snow. This year we are expecting record or near record high temperatures. Most of the fields and lawns now are devoid of snow. Only in the deepest shadow, where the snow piled deepest, is there any snow left. The warmer weather has me ready for spring.
Filed under: Farm, Minnesota, spring, Trees | Tags: branches, cleanup, eyebrows and beard, farm, fire, Minnesota, spring, trees
We have a really great day here in Minnesota, temperature is in the upper 50′s with sunshine, and I have been putting it to use. Since our ice storm of a few weeks back we have had a large number of branches down in the yard. This afternoon my sweetie and I went to work on them.
Now no branch of any size comes down with out it being sized up for addition to the wood pile. I had a few that I trimmed up and added the larger parts to the stack, but not all was stackable, hence a fire was needed. Living out here on the farm I have had a lot of fires as tree branches needed to be reduced. I let the pile get nice and big and I lit it.
If your wood pile is dry branches you can start with a small pile, but wet wood needs heat to consume it, and this was wet with sap, spring time wood. I started with a pile of dry stuff on the bottom and got the wet wood heated up so it would burn, then you keep adding branches as the pile burns down. Now wet wood needs lots of encouragement to keep it gong, so you end up with lots of branches around the edges of the fire that need to be pushed into the hottest part to get them burned. It was while I was reaching down to push some sticks into the center that it happened. I got singed!
Yep, the eyebrows and beard got a little hot. Now with the eyebrows tucked under the brim of my cap I thought they would have been protected, but they really got clipped. I’m going to be living with that scorched hair smell for a bit. Oh well, that’s what you get for working on Sunday.
Filed under: Ag education, Ag promotion, Animal care, family, Farm, farm animals, Farm Bureau, food, food safety, P & E | Tags: Agriculture education, farm, Farm Bureau, Food, food safety, friends
For a number of years now I have been helping Farm Bureau spread the message of what really happens on the farm. You would not think this would be something that needs to be done in a rural area such as ours, but it does. Most of our work here is to help reinforce the message the farmers really care about the land, water and people that they are taking care of. We are adding our own small voice, to those of many others, so that there are more chances for the message to get out.
Yesterday, we had a booth up at the Windom Farm and Home show. Although this is not some big city show, it does bring people of all ages to exchange ideas and visit with their neighbors. For one day, area businesses and groups turn the high school into an area to see, shop, learn and talk to friends old and new.
The county Farm Bureau had one area of their booth specifically for some educational media that we have. The new materials caught the eye of many and allowed us to spread the message that telling our story is something all should do.
If we did not see you at the show, please feel free to contact me about our activities. We are ready and willing to spread the message that farm folks care about Animals, Environment, Food and Family.
Filed under: birds, Farm, Ice, Minnesota, rain, snow, weather, Wildlife, wind, winter | Tags: ash tree, colorado spruce, farm, Minnesota, mouse track, rain, snow, trees, wildlife, wind, winter
Scenes such as this where snow is perched on top of ice-covered branches are really rare.
Trees such as this young birch that were flexible enough to bend but not break will weather the ice quite well.
This Colorado Spruce has lost its top and had its other branches are pushed down. It will now be at a disadvantage in its search for sunlight.
Not all branches broke off cleanly. This branch was twisted as it broke and is still hung up in the tree. Since it is well above the reach of any of my equipment, I will have to do some creative thinking to get this branch out.
Many trees are still bent over from the weight of the ice and could break yet, as the top of this ash tree already has.
It is not only trees that have been put under stress. The birds also are looking for food since most need seeds and tree buds to make it through the winter. Ice covered trees and grasses are now locked away from them in most areas and they are congregating in areas the ice did not get to as can be seen by these tracks left by a flock of Juncos.
Also in evidence in the new snow were these mouse track which were only a few feet from the Koi pond. It shows that my cats have not eliminated all mice from the area.
If the wind can stay away for a while, we are expecting some warm weather in a few days and many of these trees and grasses will be relieved of their extra weight. Some damage may not show yet and could result in breaking branches later in the year as new leaves are forming. Looks like I’ll have a bit of cleaning up to do when the weather improves.