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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Flat Aggie on a Kansas Pig Farm

All 4 Flat Aggie's went to 4 different pig farms this month in 4 different states, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota and this one from Kansas.  This one is from my dear friends the Springer's right here in Kansas.  Christy, who wrote this did not grow up on a farm, but has learned a great deal about bacon production in her 10 years as a farm wife!  She has shared one of her favorite recipes on this blog called Christy's Not So Famous Pork Loin that she mentions in this video about being Proud to Be a Bacon Farmer. -KFM

Howdy Neighbors!

We’re the Springer’s - Michael, Christy, Mason and Cooper.  We live in rural Neodesha just twelve miles from Mrs. Piatt’s classroom.  We are third generation farmers.  We farm with Michael’s grandparents, his parents and his aunt and uncle.  On our farm we raise wheat, corn, soybeans and lots of pigs!  We are a farrow to finish hog farm.  That means the piglets are born here and they live here until they are sent to market. 

We had a great time hosting Flat Aggie.  Flat Aggie’s visit started out a bit chilly.  The top pictures were taken on February 4 and the bottom pictures were taken on February 16.  Wow, a lot can happen in 12 days!  As you can see we live right next to the hog farm.  Yep, we drink the same water and breathe the same air as our piggies.  On our farm, our piggies are raised in modern hog barns, that means we raise them inside.  The piggies were sure happy that they were all nice and warm inside the building when the temperature outside was a negative number.  By raising them inside, we also protect them from the hot summer sun and animal predators.  The barns stay 65 degrees all year around.  Did you know that pigs don’t sweat?  Nope, they do not have sweat glands.  We keep them cool all summer long by having misters in our barns.  Those covers on the outside of the building are called curtains.  The controller in the picture below will automatically raise and lower the curtains according to the temperature on the inside of the barns. 

Aggie’s first responsibility was to help Mason (left) and Cooper (right) feed their calves.  Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep us from making sure our animals are properly taken care of.  Did you know that farmers do not get sick days or holidays?  Normally, the boys feed their calves before and after school, but on this day, they were out of school for a “snow day”!  Cooper’s calf is named “Meatball” and Mason’s calf is named “Patty”.  Aggie was thankful that we had gotten her some bib overalls, boots and a hat to wear because we were in the negative temps that day!

We even sneaked in time for some sledding fun!

This little piggy is kind of shy. 

A momma pig is called a sow.  A sow is pregnant 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days (113 days).  The average litter size for a sow is 11 piglets.  How much did you weigh when you were born?  Well, the average piglet weighs around 3 lbs. when they are born.  Flat Aggie did not want to get too close and wake them up, that’s why you can’t see her.  They are lying under a heat lamp and the other on an orange heating mat to stay warm.  These piglets are only a few days old.

Paperwork!  Aggie could not believe the amount of paperwork that hog farmers have!  The picture on the right is a “sow card”.  It tells us all about the momma sow and her piglets.  The card on the right keeps track of the sow’s feedings.  The momma sow eats breakfast, lunch and dinner just like you!

This pig is around 2 weeks old.  This is when they are given feed pellets for the first time.  When piglets are twenty-one days old, they are weaned from their momma.  They are then moved to what we call the nursery.  The piglets weigh around 15 lbs. when they enter the nursery.  They will stay in the nursery for 6-8 weeks and leave weighing around 60 lbs.  This is when they are moved into the finisher.

This bus is just one of the many ways we move pigs around our farm.  We call it the “Ham Tram”.  It’s just like the bus you take to school, only it has no seats but it does have a slide!  Don’t you wish your bus had a slide? 

Inside the bus we keep the pigs in separate compartments while we move them from farm to farm.  Flat Aggie had so much fun sliding down the slide with the piglets.  There is always someone at the bottom of the slide catching the piggies.  Why do we use a slide to get the piggies out of the bus?  We found that we can move them faster into the nursery building this way making sure they stay warm.

This is another way we move pigs around the farm.  This is called a hog cart and is raises and lowers so the pigs can get on and off.  It also has a scale on it so we can weigh the piggies.  Flat Aggie still prefers the bus with the slide!

This pig is getting a drink of water.  This is called a swing waterer.  Sometimes the pigs can get ornery and spray water everywhere.  Today Flat Aggie visited the finisher.  This is where the pigs live until they are ready to go to market.  Every day we walk through the rooms of every barn to check our pigs.  Keeping our pigs healthy is our top priority.  We also check and make sure that they have plenty of food and water and that everything is working properly in the barn. 

How old and how big is a pig when it is ready to go to market?  It is around 6 months old and weighs 270-280 lbs.  In the middle picture Michael and Aggie are marking the pigs that are big enough to go to market with blue animal marker paint.  This lets everyone on the farm know which pigs to get out of the pen and load on the semi-trailer to go to market in the morning.   

See those slats in the floor in the picture on the right?  That is where the pig’s poop goes.  Did you know that farmers are the original recyclers?  That’s right!  We grow the crops (corn, wheat, soybeans) to make the feed for the pigs.  Then, we use the poop from the pigs to fertilize the fields to grow more crops to feed for our pigs! 

Aggie had fun riding around in the feed truck delivering feed to all the different barns.  Do any of you take vitamins?  Did you know our pigs take vitamins too?  Yep, their diets (feed) are actually designed for them by the swine nutrition department at Kansas State University.  We take the corn that we grow, add vitamins and minerals and put it into a giant blender (feed mill).  It then gets ground up all together, travels up a big auger and goes into the overhead loading bins (above truck) and then put into the feed truck and delivered to the hog barns.  Each hog barn has their own feed bin.   That computer (middle) tells the control box (right) which feed to make.  It helps us keep track of ingredients (inventory) as well.

Power washing.  This is a very messy but very important job on the farm.  Aggie says there is a lot of power washing that goes on around the farm.  After a hog barn or trailer has had pigs in it, it is then washed, disinfected, repaired if needed and then prepared for the next load of pigs.

Thanks for letting Flat Aggie hang out with us on the hog farm!  Make sure you keep eating that sausage, ham, pork chops, ribs and of course… BACON!

Love, the Springer’s

Be sure to check out the Pig Farmer Math problems, too!

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