Friday, May 28, 2010

Life and Death

There was an article earlier this month about 1500 pigs dying because of a power outage.
Gosh, I feel for the farmers and the animals. A loss like that is terrible in so many ways. How could a power outage lead to this? It could be said there is a flaw in the model when there so many animals crammed into a box so small that air ceasing to be pumped in for a few moments leads to monumental death. I am not going to kick this guy while he is down. I blame him no more than I blame traffic congestion and smog on the guy on the assembly line putting mirrors on Fords. We drove the car, and we ate the pork chop. God knows my model is far from perfect, and I have a disheartening number of failures for every success. I am convinced however that sustainability is 90% not being ridiculous, and 10% mystery. Pigs want to be outside. Pigs want to gather their own food. Pigs do not bite each other’s tail off because you failed to cut it off first. Pigs don’t want to impersonate pickled sardines. That is what I mean by the 90%. The 10% is going to take some trial and error and a huge amount of humility. Whenever we assume we fully understand something, we often miss out on the needful details. Like boiling life down to NPK and waking up a century later one step away from desert. I have been doing OK so far following these “not being ridiculous” assumptions, and down the road I am sure there will be some hard lessons. There is not a lot of guidance on full pasture systems with swine. Actually I haven’t found any. But in the wild, pigs are quite prolific and we can look to those systems at least. In the mean time I will measure quality by how many wild birds are perched on the backs of my sows. It still falls into the 10% realm however, how I will keep said birds out of the field peas I am broadcasting behind the grazing pigs. Here’s to the mystery.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The sun was so bright today. One of those classic blue sky, puffy white cloud days. Like you remember from summers as a kid. All the kids were out “helping” today. That means while cutting grass on my little Forest Gump lawn tractor, Daniel was sailing on the bow, Jude was in my lap steering, and Bella was on the side fender laughing in my ear. It must have been ridiculous to see, but it was a lot of fun. Days like this are for cutting your silage while you can, slipping in a few conversations with lambs, piglet belly scratches, catching kittens, and yelling “get those scissors away from your sister’s face, put that machete back where you got it”! Most of the piglets have joined the herd and are hanging with the big girls. It makes me a little nervous, but for the most part the giants are gentle with the babies. The grass is getting real thick, between knee and waist high. Cut and compressed the animals eat about a cubic yard of it per day. Monday or Tuesday the pigs go into a new pasture so I won’t need to bring it to them anymore. I think we are getting pretty close to being able to farrow on pasture anyway so mowing will be a thing of the past (I keep telling myself). I hope to catch some time lapse of them switching pastures so you can see them at work.