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Monday, February 17, 2014

Flat Aggie on an Iowa Pig Farm

Flat Aggie learned all about pigs this month in Iowa, Kansas, Indiana, and Minnesota.  I was hesitant to ask my friend +Larry Sailer to host Flat Aggie, because I thought he might be too old to play with paper dolls, but he and his wife had so much fun with this project including designing new clothes for Flat Aggie. -KFM

I am located in Franklin County, in North Central Iowa. I grew up by the little town of Geneva.
I now farm eight miles northeast of Iowa Falls.
I have farmed the same farm since 1973. Forty one years in the same place.
Over the years I have had sheep, cattle, horses, a goat, rabbits, different types of poultry, and of course hogs.

I am now raising corn on half of my ground and beans on the other half. In the past I have had hay, oats, and triticale. I have grown seed corn and seed beans.

The corn I grow is for hog feed. Some does get used to make ethanol. My beans make many products, but the main product is the bean meal that is used for livestock feed.

Iowa is well known for all the hogs we raise. We have an abundance of the crops to make their feed and the manure from the pigs is used to fertilize our corn and soybeans. We normally have plenty of rain to grow these crops. Our rich black soil is great at holding this moisture until the crops need the water.

I still have one old ornery horse, and lots of cats, but my livestock operation now is hogs.
I have nice buildings that are made for the pigs to be comfortable. 4,000 pigs fit into four barns where they always have the right temperature. Flat Aggie and I just refilled the barns this past couple of weeks.

Aggie did help me load the last big hogs which weighed 300 pounds. We then power washed and disinfected the barns getting them ready for the new pigs.

The new pigs weigh 50 pounds when they come in. We set the computer controllers for 80 degrees to warm up the small pigs. As they grow, we can lower the temperature to 64 degrees when they are about 150 pounds. We lower the temperature one degree at a time to keep the pigs nice and comfortable. My pigs grow two pounds per day. So they can really get big fast. They stay in my barns for four months.

The barns have heaters to keep them warm and fans and water misters to keep them cool. The sides of the barns are moveable. The "curtains" open and close to keep the temperature just right. The barns are like big sunshades in the summer time with nice cooling breezes to cool the pigs. Pigs can't sweat, so the water misters really help to keep them cool when the temperatures get really hot. Iowa summers can be over 100 degrees on some days.

In the winter, Flat Aggie can tell you that it gets very cold. It was -20 degrees with a wind chill of minus 40 degrees while he was in Iowa!

The most common food from pigs is bacon. Bacon can be added to just about any food. It's goes with eggs for breakfast, it goes on a salad, and it makes any burger better.
One of my favorite past times is smoking different roasts and ribs. Always good eating!

My blog on Flat Aggie can be found at I guest blog there every Tuesday.

 Flat Aggie’s first day on my Iowa farm. He experienced cold weather while he was here. Temperatures in January were not too bad, with temps reaching into the 30, but in February they got a little colder and ranged from 24 degrees to -19 degrees. We decided that we needed to go shopping for winter clothes.

 The pigs in my hog barns were at the right weight, 285 pounds, to go to market and we had the semis lined up to load them. Here Flat Aggie helps me line up the chute and get the rest of the building ready to load out.

When the semi first arrived on the hog site, Flat Aggie couldn’t wait to check out the rig!

Flat Aggie got to meet Houdini. We named him that because he kept jumping out of the pen. When we put him back in he was out again as soon as our backs were turned. He would greet me at the door every day.

Hogs and kisses from Iowa!

The pigs were not afraid of Flat Aggie and he wasn’t scared of them even though this was his first experience with them.

After going shopping for some winter clothes, Flat Aggie checked the semi in the daylight.

He was so much warmer in his new coat that he played outside in the snow while I was getting the chute ready.

The semi driver was nice enough to let Aggie help him load the hogs.

After the pigs were gone, we set up the buildings so they could be power-washed in the morning. The barns get thoroughly washed and disinfected after one set goes to market and before the new ones move in.


Checking out Facebook to see if Flat Aggie got any “likes”.


 Checking out the Brownfield network for the markets.

On Wednesday nights we went to help out with classes that we have at our church for children. We even got Flat Aggie to sing with them.

Aggie went with me to a Farm Bureau Speaker Corps training in West Des Moines. He met some friends of mine and had trouble sitting still during some of the meeting!


Flat Aggie was excited to go with me to West Fork Schools for Ag in the Classroom. The kids learned where milk comes from and used cream to make butter, which they ate on crackers.

The kids also learned about pigs. One of the things they had to do was to count pigs to see how many a sow averages when she gives birth.

He even made friends with a little girl with red hair like him.

New pigs were coming in and we had to get the heaters set at the right temperature.
The pigs were sure friendly. They were trying to figure out just who Flat Aggie was.
One even had red hair just like him!

We had a good time working together!

Flat Aggie learned a lot.

  Sometimes we have to haul corn. 

We use a moisture tester to check the corn and then use an auger to load it on to a wagon or a semi to bring it to an elevator.

 We talked about grain bin and auger safety. 

The grain bin holds the corn and an auger moves it to the wagons.

We moved snow and got a chance to play in it one more time!

Aggie got the chance to meet another assignment that he may have. She is from Hawaii. He’s excited to learn about agriculture there. He knows he’ll be in a lot warmer climate and got some new clothes for the trip.

Here we are on the last day of Flat Aggie’s visit on an Iowa farm. We are discussing the fun we had, and he says he has learned a lot. I told him he could visit any time and I hope it has helped to teach your class about agriculture and its importance to everyone!

Thanks for including me in your project and if you have any questions please feel free to ask!

I am always amazed when the Flat Aggie reports come back each month.  I really think they get better each month!  Be sure to check out the other Flat Aggie reports and Pig Farmer Math. -A Kansas Farm Mom

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