Brian Bennett of Bittersweet Farm has been living with pigs for over 30 years. Each year, he raises 10-12 litters of certified organic pigs with 6-8 piglets per litter. The pigs live as families outdoors not in big barns. Bennett’s farm is in the small town of Heuvelton in northern New York close to the Canadian border. All the farm’s pigs have names. “I like to know who is coming to dinner,” said Bennett with a smile. To people offended by smelly pig barns, Bennett reminds them that he does not run a confinement operation. Farrowing huts may smell of manure and afterbirth, but it’s all connected: “Energy, passion, life process and life force.” Bennett’s favorite heritage breeds are Tamworth and Gloucester Old Spots (also known as Gloucester, Gloucestershire Old Spot or Old Spots). These breeds are known as great mothers. Bennett used to raise Yorkshire pigs but their large liters lost too many piglets, especially in extended subzero periods. Heritage pigs thrive on pasture, in woodlands and with diverse diets. Growing much of the pigs’ food on the farm, Bennett spends just over $2 on purchased feeds per pound of meat. Processing at a USDA certified facility costs about $250 per pig or another $2.00 – $2.50 per pound. Bennett and his family process culls on the farm for family consumption. Bennett shared his extensive experience at a workshop called “The Practical Pig” at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) Winter Conference in Saratoga Springs, NY. [Read more…]
Concerns about cow comfort haven’t changed much in 130 years other than to diversify those concerns. “When we look at a cow’s day, 75 percent is spent eating and resting,” said Penn State’s Dan McFarland, a Capitol Region Extension Educator from York County PA. “So time away from the pen becomes pretty important.” McFarland was one of the presenters at the 2015 Lebanon Dairy & Crops Compliance Days at the Lebanon Valley Expo Center. When we think of the creature comforts, cow comfort specifically, it is often a passing thought, another one of those incidentals. Dan McFarland is different. He and a handful of ag engineering confreres who are similarly inclined not only think about it; they think about it from this angle and that. They hypothesize and theorize over creature comfort dimensions and measurements to the nth degree, putting it all under the theoretical microscope of time and motion study. Accordingly, he and his wide range of associates have produced charts and graphs to explain how to make life better for cows during every waking, and sleeping, moment. [Read more…]
For the 160 attendees that attended this year’s Lancaster Cattle Feeders Day, there was a lot to learn about how grading and labeling of beef takes place. With PSU Retired Extension Economist, Lou Moore leading the way, Dr. Ty Lawrence, director of the Beef Carcass Research Center at West Texas A&M University and Dr. Jonathan Campbell, Penn State Meat Extension Specialist, together put on what this writer considers one of the most interesting cattle feeder days in recent memory. They touched on everything from the state of the current U.S. and World Ag economies to meat product labeling. Dr. Lawrence focused on how to finish beef cattle to receive the best sale price for the effort. Together, these three experts gave an informative overview, covering everything from what goes into Nathan’s Hot Dogs to the political wranglings of foreign nations as they deal with U.S. farmers. At the end of the day, there was much to contemplate. [Read more…]
Dairy farmer Walt Moore says prior to 2007, his farm had several workers compensation claims. “We had one really big one,” he said. “The herd manager was injured while moving a heifer. He came back in limited capacity, but was never able to fully return to work.”
After several more claims, Moore’s rates went up. Eventually, his insurance company decided that the farm was a high risk and dropped them. “We had to go with the state workers program,” said Moore, adding that he had to stay with that program for three years. “The rates are substantially higher than commercial insurance.” [Read more…]
CLINTON, NY — Many American farmers have readily adopted GPS technology and can appreciate the uses of computers throughout the farm and around the home, but are they ready for the next wave of technology?
Enter drones. Even if you are ready, hold onto your hat. Drones are not merely toys, but neither are they the fearsome military vehicles you’ve seen on the TV news.
Jeff Miller of Oneida County Cornell Cooperative Extension enlightened farmers about the use of these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or systems (UAS) during the 2015 Oneida County Crop Congress, sponsored by Clinton Tractor. [Read more…]