Each season on the farm is different,year to year, region to region, based on anything from weather to corn prices and which of the kids is going to college. Here is some insight as to what some of our independent family hog farmers do when the fields fall dormant. You can be sure they keep very busy.
Many in the Midwest were hit with an early November snowfall that postponed harvest. Luckily, it warmed up enough to finish the harvest. December has been mild and fairly dry thus far, but farmers will not easily forget last winter’s record-breaking low temperatures. They’ll have to keep an eye out for frozen water sources to keep the hogs hydrated as the season progresses.
Most pasture-raised hogs are moved into barns with deeply bedded pens during the winter months to receive extra TLC and protection from extreme elements. “This deeply bedded system provides warmth during these frigid temperatures,” explains Sustainable Farming Advocate Sarah Willis. “When the bedding gets soiled by the pigs the farmer applies clean bedding on top. This starts a composting process which generates heat, like an electric blanket. They can go outside to eat and get a drink whenever they want, or stay inside the deeply bedded barn or hoop building to keep warm.”
Farmers must work hard to get plenty of bales made, or hire someone to bale for them, in preparation for the cold temps ahead. Corn stalks – what is left from the corn plant in the field once the crop has been harvested – make excellent bedding for hogs. Some of our hog farmers farrow in the winter, which takes extra bedding, time, management and fuel to heat buildings. This is why farmers who farrow in the winter receive a higher premium price for their pigs.
Some farmers do custom harvesting and baling for other farmers on the side where there’s a late harvest. It takes extra planning to balance off-farm work with their own duties.
Pigs still love to root around and play in the snow, but farmers always have to keep an eye on the weather and be prepared to protect them against the frigid temps and occasional blizzard.
Organizing paperwork in preparation for tax season is also high on the list. Buckling down with a computer or pen and paper to weed out finances needs to get done when the temps begin to drop.
Next up, spring cleaning!