This year has been a challenging one for us. We had, in a way, lost our "oomph" if you will! Life often felt like it just wasn't on our side. However, looking back we learned so much from it, and next year, we will adjust.
FORAGE! Forage has been our friend and our foe this season. It has been our challenge and our opportunity. It is amazing that we raise our animals on the same ground, year-after-year, and results change.
FOE. This year we had three litters of pigs due in August. We had two girls in with one boar and our best sow Wren in with another. Wren and Nigel were in a pasture with Rape and Alfalfa. This is the first year we have planted rape, and up to this point were very happy with it. Our feeders and nursing mothers were doing great on it, results were phenomenal. However, we noticed our very pregnant sow come back into heat. We couldn't believe it. She has always caught on the first heat, raised big litters, her loss ratio is almost non-existent. We took a look at everything, her condition, weather conditions, and pasture conditions. The only change was the rape seed. We quickly got them out of that paddock and into another without rape. Results? Wren is expecting a litter this week. We researched, and we found nothing concerning abortion caused from rape seed. However, we will never put a pregnant sow where there is rape again.
We also had a group of feeder barrows all come down with swollen joints when they went into a new pasture. All six of them, all on the back hocks. We went through that pasture, but weren't able to find anything different that they would have been eating. In a few days, swelling went down and they were fine.
FRIEND. We had a group of gilts in a pen where there was an abundance of burning nettles. The nettles had a wonderful growing season much to our dismay! Maybe not...Jason noticed that group of girls had eaten the nettles. He couldn't believe it. We had goats that wouldn't eat them! A few days later, he noticed worms in their feces. What an easy and natural way to worm our pigs! We will make sure all of our pigs are in spring pastures with nettles next year. Another challenge we have faced is Nigel's coat and feet. We have always kept him in the same area. He is a HUGE baby and doesn't adapt well to change, or being moved for that matter. With Wren aborting her pigs, we had to move them. We moved the pair to the other side of the farm, in a grove of trees and different grasses. Within a month, Nigel was black with hair for the first time! His hooves were in better shape and he was a happier pig. All it took was changing their location.
Sometimes the challenges that knock you down in life are the ones that make you take a step back and take a better look at the situation. I mean, I can't even get my boys to change the empty toilet paper roll, so how can we expect to know and change everything right away? Jason and I are by no means experts at grazing, but we are willing to learn, admit we are wrong, and share our findings. Will next year's grazing season yield us different results? Absolutely, but they will be new challenges that we will learn from and share! Do we hope a lot less than this year? Absolutely!
I hope many of you read this, and share your experiences. Have you had some of the same issues? If so, how did you adjust? We want to know!
On a lighter note, we have a new employee on our farm! His name is Trip! He is a Border Collie and is slowly learning how to herd pigs! At six months he is learning all about a pig's stubborn nature and their ability to spot a bluff! We expect big things from this fellow!
Have a wonderful week!!!