My pigs have a nutritionist

I had an appointment with my chiropractor today, I’ll call her Kate. Kate has been treating me for whiplash I received in a car accident a few months ago right before we left for vacation in Arizona.

After car accident

the car didn’t fair so well

During our visits I have gotten to know my chiropractor a little bit and when we first met we did some general chit chatting about what I do for a living and what my husband does.  Visit after visit we always end up on the subject of  farming and food; I would say Kate is very health conscious and does a lot of research to determine what foods are best for the body. During my visits and conversations I found out she actually doesn’t eat pork, except bacon, and would like to limit her dairy intake. Even through we both have different ideas on what healthy is we both have agreed that what is healthy for one person may not be healthy for the next and its great that we have so many different options in our food choices.

Today Kate asked me how my day was going and I stated today I was going out to meet with a client and that this visit was a little unique in that we were also meeting with the producers veterinarian and nutritionist. This brought on a great conversation about raising livestock that I would like to share with you.

Every day thousands of livestock farmers get up early to feed their animals, trust me on the early part my father-in-law was up before 4:00 AM today so he could get ingredients so he could make feed. There is a lot that goes into making food for the hogs (or feed as we call it), we don’t just guess what the pigs need or feed them any old thing but actually work with a nutritionist.

Yup, a nutritionist very similar to that which a person would work with but instead these individuals have a Masters degree or PhD in Swine Nutrition and each species has a different nutritionist: beef, swine, dairy, etc. A Swine Nutritionist has studied in-depth about the growth and development of pigs and what specifically their body needs to grow and develops/formulates rations for the animal. For example, lysine is a very important part of a diet for pigs and is not as important in other livestock diets, so lysine is added in the correct levels to their diets. As pigs grow they require different diets/rations to help meet their nutritional needs, most pigs will eat anywhere between 6-12 different rations!

Ground swine feed

sow (mama pig) feed is high in protein and energy so they can make milk to feed their babies

As I’ve mentioned before, my husband works on the farm for his family where they raise pigs. Our farm works with a nutritionist to formulate rations and we are also unique in that we have a research farm where we test different types of diets and have developed rations that are specific to the genetics of our pigs. Why? Well, because different types, or breeds, grow and develop differently then others.

I can’t tell you exactly what percentage of producers work with a nutritionist but I would be inclined to say 95% of producers in the U.S. work with one. I won’t say 100% because there are still a few people raising a handful of pigs in their backyard and feeding them table scraps.

What questions do you have about feeding pigs, leave me a comment and I will do my best to answer them.


Planting and Pigs

The farm has been busy for the last week. Why? Because its planting season! I wrote about planting my garden last week and about tillage work. My husband has been helping with tillage work at the farm and here is his view from the cab.


This piece of equipment we refer to as a ripper.

In addition to tillage work happening at the farm, we are busy planting!

Filling up with seed

Filling up with seed

Behind the pickup is a seed tender, its pretty much a trailer that they can put big plastic bins of seed on and an auger puts seed  into the boxes. The other option is to get your seed in 50lb bags and load each box bag-by-bag.

Just like different varieties of plants in a garden, there are different varieties of corn all with different traits and maturity dates (days until harvest).  The farm plants a handful of varieties and will use the corn raised to help feed the pigs.

Today it was 100°F at the farm and that means extra work. Kyle got up this morning at 5:00AM so he could get to the farm early for a few different reasons. One reason was so the sows would be done eating and digesting food long before it got too warm. The second reason was to make sure all of the cool cells were working, since this is the first hot day since last fall you never know if things are still going to work the way they should and its vital to keep the pigs cool.

A cool cell is like air conditioning for the barns, they utilize evaporative cooling to reduce the temperature in the barns by 8+ degrees. Unlike the expression “sweat like a pig”, pigs can’t actually sweat so they rely on their environment to help regulate their body temperature. Pigs, just like people, can have heat related problems like heat stress. Pork producers really don’t like really hot days, they worry about the pigs but certainly are glad they have the pigs in barns and not out in the sun (pigs get sunburns like people) where they have more problems with overheating.

Stay cool, I know the pigs are!

13 Questions

I’m pretty new to blogging and just getting into the swing of things but I’ve been following quite a few blogs for a while now and this week as I was catching up on some reading I happened upon 13 Thursday-My Answers from Megan over at The Beef Jar and then I came upon Jenny’s post 13 Questions from a Butcher’s Daughter. Both of these posts stem from Ian’s (An Irish Male in America) call to farmers/ranchers/ag people to answer 13 questions. Well I work off-farm but my hubby works for his family on the farm so I thought he could answer these questions. Mind you, my hubby wasn’t all that excited about me blogging so I had to be sneaky. I got through the first 4 questions before he caught on and then we were too far along to quit!

Answers from my crop and pig raising hubby:

1: What is the worst time of year for you? Fall is the busiest time of year with harvest, field work, manure hauling on top of the  normal day to day work the days are extra long, sometimes working 16-18 hours a day. Winter can also be a bad time of year here in Minnesota because of the weather. Days where it is snowing, blowing, and extremely cold are dangerous not only for the people but also for the animals. So we spend time blowing snow so we can get to the barns and making sure the barns are sealed up tight so the heat stays in and the cold stays out.  Those cold days are when things are most likely not going to work properly, so we make sure the heaters and make sure the generator is working, just in case.
2: What is your favorite farm job? One of my favorite farm jobs is hauling manure. Ya, its smelly but I get to utilize all the up-to-date technology; GPS, AutoSteer, flow meters and its an important job that needs to be done. Bonus: I use my head set and spend a bunch of time catching up with my farming friends who are also out doing some sort of field work. On the livestock side, I really enjoy working in the farrowing barn (with the sows giving birth) because its a challenge and its where everything starts.
3: What is your least favorite farm job? Power washing the barns because its a dirty, wet, and tedious job. Euthanizing animals is another job that I don’t enjoy but if the choice is between euthanasia or to let the animal suffer then it needs to be euthanized.
4: What type of truck do you drive (on the job) and why did you choose it? (this one is a must know, not only do I find American trucks awesome to look at, but with all the truck companies trying to advertise themselves as the “biggest toughest” truck out there, I think it’s about time we round out the truth from the people that put them to use!) I drive all sorts of trucks for my job; Ford/Dodge 4WD running around the farm, Freightliner feed truck, Ford diesel trucks for hauling pigs, International Semi for hauling grain in the fall. I went through the process of getting my CDL this past fall so I can drive just about anything!
5: What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned in your line of work? There are some things you just cannot control, and no matter how much you want to you can’t. Moving pigs (they’ll always want to do it their way), disease challenges, weather; Murphy’s law: what can go wrong, will go wrong.
6: What do you think is the most valuable tool you have, the one you probably couldn’t live without? Environment controlled barns. In Minnesota, the temperature variations are so great that having humidistats and cool cells (think evaporative cooling) and heaters provide a more stable environment that induces less stress on the animals.
7: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your business/what you do? The biggest misconception is that we do not care about the animals and only do what is best for our pocketbook/bottom line. Actually, it’s quite the opposite, we are very concerned about treating our animals well; treating them well helps them performs better which is better for our bottom line.
8: If you could invest in a new piece of farm equipment tomorrow, what would it be?(and I mean it, just one!  let’s not get greedy!) 475 horsepower quad track tractor. (I asked my hubby why he wanted this and his response was “Why not, beings we’re dreaming. Have you seen what I drive?”) 
9: What was the most serious injury you ever suffered in the line of work? Well so far I’ve been pretty lucky but I did have an incident last spring…I tripped out of the skid loader and fell face first into the ground with one leg catching the loader bucket. At any rate, I had the biggest goose egg on my shin for 3 months and it hurt so bad I thought I had broken it at first.
10: Least favorite animal to deal with? Cats and horses…I just don’t like them. (note these are my FAVORITE animals)
11: (excluding all of the above) What’s the dumbest question you’ve ever been asked? No such thing as a dumb question, please ask away!
12: Favorite beer? (come on, out with it!)(I’ve seen people take their beer pretty seriously, and it’s time to know what a real working persons beer of choice is!) Coors Light, especially after a long day at work. 
13: Thing you’d most like the public to know about what you do! (I admit you do this every day on your blogs no doubt, but was looking for something addressing maybe a misconception you hear the most about your business!)
So what do you say folks, who wants to take that challenge? That farmers work really hard to produce a safe, quality product for you to eat and that we care about our animals. Please ask me questions about farming!

And then read the answers from these wonderful Ag folks: