Heritage pigs at Bittersweet Farm

CE-MR-3-BITTERSWEET-Brianby Sanne Kure-Jensen

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…]

Creature comforts

CM-MR-2-Improving cow759by Steve Wagner

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…]

More animal protein needed by mid century

by George Looby

The National Research Council has come forth with the recommendation that there is a need for a greater investment to support additional research in the area of animal science. This investment is needed to meet the anticipated increase in the global demand for animal protein by mid century. Not only will there be an increase in demand but also that it be produced in an economical and sustainable way. It might be said that sustainability is an effort to minimize the adverse effects of human activity by implementing practices that more friendly to the environment in all areas where humans are the major disruptive force. Something as simple as replacing incandescent bulbs and turning off lights when not in use would be a relatively painless way to start such program.

Addressing the need for more animal protein world-wide in the traditional, time honored way is probably not the answer, thus the need to seek alternative methods from those now in place in many of more advanced countries of the world. [Read more…]

VA No-Till meeting once again brings good crowds

CM-MR-3-VA-NO-TILL-4by Karl H. Kazaks

Harrisonburg, VA – The Virginia No-Till Alliance held its 6th annual conference in early February. Like last year, the meeting was held first at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds and then repeated, with a few variations, the following day at the Olde Dominion Ag Complex in Chatham. About 300 people attended the event’s first day, and a good crowd was on hand in Chatham, too. On both days, farmers and ag professionals from around Virginia gathered to listen to featured speakers, enjoy fellowship with each other, and take in information at trade shows.

Jason Geesaman, of Cullen, was at the Harrisonburg event. “I learned a lot about cover crops,” he said. Jason and his father Sam, who was also present at the meeting, raise, cattle, hay, row crops, and broilers for Tyson. “What I’m learning about cover crops is to plant shorter season corn,” Sam said. “Last year we did cut back on maturity,” and the approach was successful – they were able to get cover crops established behind the early season corn. [Read more…]

Cattle feeders learn more about finishing cattle

CEWM-MR-4-Cattle feeders8by Jon M. Casey

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…]