BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE
Housing is one of the ways we cater to these special needs as our animals grow:
- Our baby calves live in a calf barn, each with their own individual hut and curtain sides that can be opened and closed depending on the temperature outside.
- At two months old, our calves are weaned off milk and placed in groups that live in pens where they have access to a barn and the outdoors while they grow.
- At 10 months, the heifers (young females) spend their days on pasture in the spring, summer and fall. We bring them into the barn during the cold winter weather.
- Our milk cows, dry cows (cows that are resting before giving birth) and pregnant heifers (first-time moms) are all housed in free-stall barns with curtain sides that can open and close and have access to pastures or dirt lots in dry weather.
PROVIDING SAFE FOOD FOR YOUR FAMILY AND MINE
If you pick up a package of Farmland bacon at the grocery store, there’s a chance it could be pork from the pigs raised on my farm. And behind that national brand are individual farmers like me who are committed to animal care.
Here are a few things I do on my farm to make sure you get a great slice of bacon:
- Specialized diet. A piglet weighing 8-10 pounds needs a completely different diet than a pig weighing 250 pounds.
- Adding beneficial ingredients to their feed. Chili powder helps keep pigs cool, and essential oils and oregano can improve immunity and overall health. Finding alternative ways to keep pigs healthy allows us to preserve and sustain the effectiveness of antibiotics.
- Keeping them cozy. Pigs prefer a temperature of about 70 degrees. When pigs are comfortable, they don’t spend their energy trying to regulate their body temperature, but instead are growing healthy and strong.
- Keeping them safe. Enclosed buildings help keep disease, parasites and predators from getting into barns and exposing our pigs to illness or danger.
RAISING KIDS AND CATTLE – IT’S ALL ABOUT CHOICES
What do raising kids and cows have in common? Choices – and lots of them. My husband and I have two young children, so the choices around raising them seem never ending. When making these choices, we rely on a variety of resources, including our trusted pediatrician, the experience of family and friends, information from credible sources and good old fashioned parents’ intuition. And when I think about it, the way we raise our kids is a lot like the way we raise our cattle.
- Which breeds will work best for our farm?
- How do we keep calves healthy?
- What kind of housing is best?
- Do we use hormones to help our animals gain muscle more efficiently?
VETS ENSURE EXTRA LAYER OF RESPONSIBLE CARE
I’m a member of a six-vet team that helps farmers care for sows (momma pigs) on farms across Illinois. We fill a lot of roles, including monitoring overall health, helping farms hire and train employees and working with farms on welfare questions.
I think the term “factory farm” has created this perception that animals are just being raised – hold the “responsibly.” People might think barns are overcrowded and dirty, leading to illness and disease.
- I sign in on a visitor log that tracks who comes in and out of the barn each day.
- After spraying sanitizer on my hands, I sit at a bench in an area similar to a locker room and take my shoes off.
- Then, I swing my legs over to the other side of the bench.
- Some farms have a “shower-in, shower-out” policy, so I’ll take a quick shower and then change into clothes and shoes provided by the farm.