Full Spectrum Bulb
I first heard of full spectrum lighting several years ago. Full spectrum lights are the closest light to natural sunlight available. It got me to thinking about how it would effect livestock during the long days of winter here in Ohio.
The main thing I was pondering was would it make a difference in piglets that are born in the early winter? I kept researching and came to the conclusion it would. Here is what one study indicated.
Scientists have discovered a new receptor in the eye that, among other things, monitors your biological clocks.
Apart from the other photoreceptors in your eye that allow you to see, this "third eye" responds differently to light by sending signals to your brain's hypothalamus, thus regulating your production of melatonin, which in turn controls your body's circadian rhythms.
Researchers experimented with lamps emitting different wavelengths of light on workers toiling in the high-stress environment on one floor of a health insurance call center. In comparison to co-workers on other floors, they felt more alert, and the quality of their work improved too. The independent September 26, 2006
Tamworth Pigs in the Sun
Since I'm always striving to mimic nature, this new technology of full spectrum lighting seemed like a good fit for our farm. I first bought some bulbs from BlueMax Lighting(tm)
and used them in my home.
I immediately noticed that after getting up in the morning and sitting under the full spectrum lighting I felt in a better mood. That was enough to convince my wife! Seriously, the only way I can describe it is I felt much like I do when I get up and go out on the deck and have a cup of coffee on a bright sunny morning. You start remarking how nice of a day it's going to be and get motivated to "get something done". Another reason my wife was convinced I should keep them!
They are a much whiter light than the yellow light bulbs we were using. Even though the evidence I experienced was anecdotal, I didn't need anymore convincing that there was something to this full spectrum lighting.
Some other benefits that are cited by proponents of full spectrum lighting is:
- Improved mood
- Enhanced mental awareness, concentration and productivity ...
- Superior visual clarity and color perception ...
- Better sleep ...
- Super-charged immune system ...
- More energy ...
- Reduced eye strain and fatigue with a glare-free and comfortable reading environment ...
- Greater learning ability and intelligence ...
Whether or not it actually has all these benefits, I'll leave up to you to decide.
My pigs haven't told me they're in a good mood or feel like they have less eye strain, but I can tell you this, it's another weapon in my arsenal to keep our new piglets healthy and growing when they are born in the dead of winter or when the days are getting short.
Full spectrum lighting is also a good way to keep milk production up with our goats. This is an area where you need to be careful. If you introduce full spectrum lighting too early in the Fall as days get shorter, you're goats may not breed. The shorter day for seasonal breeding goats is what triggers reproduction.
I wait until I'm sure they are bred and then use the lights.
Something else I've learned is full spectrum lighting in the hen house will definitely keep our laying hens going strong when they would typically stop laying eggs.
Years ago the farmer's wife would mix up hot mash to help keep the hens laying through the cold winter. We now know that it's more the deprivation of light that slows or even stops egg production. Chickens need between 14 and 16 hours of light. I set mine on a timer so they get light earlier in the morning and then later at night. Light also effects the molting period of chickens. It's a natural function of chickens to molt so we allow our chickens to molt and egg production ceases at that time to allow the hens to recuperate.
So if your hens are getting sluggish put some full spectrum bulbs in the hen house and watch what happens.
If you or your spouse are in the winter doldrums put some in the house too! (that won't help the egg layers by the way)
So to sum this one up, try some full spectrum lighting where you think you need it most and see what happens for yourself!
Until next time....
Ever wonder how you keep grass-fed pigs and chickens eating grass in the winter? The main way of course is to feed hay. We feed all our stock hay in the winter including the chickens. Old breed chickens will scratch through good hay and eat a bit of green material but I love finding ways to trick them into eating more!
When you're dealing with animals that aren't herbivores this can be tricky. Our older pigs will eat good hay very well. Notice I said good hay. There is a lot of stuff sold these days with the term "good hay" used and if you were to check the protein content you would find it's not that great.
Without digressing into a blog post on how to determine if hay is good enough for your particular livestock, let me just say find a good farmer you can trust if you don't make your own hay and buy from them.
We feed a lot of Alfalfa
mainly because it's available here in Ohio and if I'm going to spend much money on hay I want something that is going to be nutrient dense. So when you're spending hard earned money, it almost sickens you to think it's getting wasted.
Feeding hay on the ground is the best way I know to waste it. Unless you have some good grass hay and use it to bed pigs also. I learned this from Walter over at his blog
. Walter and his family are the real deal when it comes to sustainable farming and raising pigs on pasture.
Anyway, one thing that's always bothered me is when feeding good, leafy, Alfalfa hay, is the amount of leaves that drop off every time you handle it. Some hay is worse than other, but no matter what you lose some every time you handle it.
For instance I bust a bale open and head for the goats
with a couple flakes and as I'm picking it up I see what looks like TONS of dust size green leaves falling onto the ground when I separate it from the bale.
After a few days of feeding the goats the hay rack has about 3 or 4 inches of this green material laying in the bottom and they will not eat it.
Alfalfa Rack for Pigs
Same way with the hogs.
I feed them in hay racks I made based on the old ones used back years ago which have a trough built in the bottom to feed grain. This also helps keep hay off the ground where it is quickly trampled in by the pigs feet. (See picture). I could have tromped out and taken a picture of one of my own, but it seemed easier to keep drinking coffee and use one I already had on the computer!
These hay racks also end up with green hay dust in them about 4 or so inches deep. If you're feeding something besides Alfalfa, it's called hay seed. I suppose you could call this stuff hay seed too but I never had a problem cleaning out hay seed and throwing it on the ground. But I can not bring myself to do that with this nice green rich looking product! It's actually home made alfalfa leaf meal.
So I found another use for it...I now take it out and put it in a five-gallon bucket and feed it back to the chickens and young pigs.
I say young pigs because the younger the pig, the less green material they are willing/able to consume. As pigs get older they are much better at utilizing roughage.
get hay on the ground in the coop but they really don't eat as much as I wish they would. So...I mix this dust or hay seed or alfalfa leaf meal or whatever you care to call it with the chicken feed.
Home Made Alfalfa Leaf Meal
Same way with the young pigs. I mix it in the self-feeder and it gets eaten instead of wasted. I have checked the feeders after mixing it in and it is gone, no picking around it, they eat it. So I'm thrilled to take something it used to kill me to waste and feed it, since that's what I bought it for to begin with.
We don't grind our own feed, but if we did, it would be perfect to toss in the grinder when batching feed. Alfalfa meal has been used as both pig and chicken feed in years gone by but not so much now. The old trio mixture for pigs contained alfalfa or other legume hay.
We do the same thing with the hay the goats pull out and drop on the ground around the rack. Gather it up and throw it to the hogs. Just one more reason why farms should practice multi-species grazing.
What one won't eat another will. Especially with a bit of trickery!
Until next time...
Tamworth Boar circa 1914
The Tamworth is probably the purest of the modern breeds of swine, it having been improved more largely by selection and care than by the introduction of the blood of other breeds.
One historian claims that the foundation stock was introduced into England from Ireland by Sir Robert Peel about 1815, but others speak of it being plentiful in the Midland counties of England previous to that date. Sir Robert Peel is said to have maintained a herd of this sort near the town of Tamworth (from whence the breed takes its name), in South Staffordshire, until the time of his death, in 1850. During a long period the breed was little seen outside of the counties of Leicestershire, Staffordshire and Northhamptonshire. It was at that time a dark red and grisly animal that was able to thrive on pasture during the summer and beachnuts and acorns found in the forests, during the fall and early winter. The original stock was long in limb, long and thin in the snout and head, and flat in the rib. The pigs were active, hardy, good grazers and very prolific, but were slow in maturing. Being rather spare in body they carried very little fat, and when fatted and slaughtered they are said to have produced a large proportion of flesh.
Tamworth Sow circa 1914
In later times, after the country had become enclosed and the land began to be brought under cultivation, a quieter pig, with a greater disposition to fatten was desired. In the effort to produce such an animal, crosses of pigs having a strong infusion of Neapolitan blood were introduced. It is also said that a few breeders used a white pig that had been improved by Bakewell. The result of the mixture was a black, white and sandy pig. In the hands of of breeders in certain districts of Staffordshire all but the the red or sandy colors were bred out, and pains were taken by selection to increase the feeding qualities of their pigs, and by the middle of the last century a very desirable class of pig had been evolved. It is claimed on good authority that a sow of the Tamworth breed won first prize at the northampton show in 1847 in a class which included Berkshire, Essex, and other improved breeds.
Fortunately the class of men who had undertaken the improvement of some of the other breeds, by sacrificing almost everything to an aptitude to fatten, did not undertake the Tamworth, hence the preservation of the length and prolificacy of the breed. Improvement was accomplished by reducing the length of limb, increasing the depth of body, and improving the feeding qualities of the animals.
Tamworth Barrow circa 1914
For a number of years previous to 1870 the breed received comparatively little attention outside its own home. About that time the bacon curers opened a campaign against the then fashionable, short, fat and heavy shouldered pigs, which they found quite unsuitable for the production of streaked side meat for which the demand was constantly increasing. The Tamworth then came into prominence as an improver of some of the other breeds, in which capacity it was a decided success owing to its long established habit of converting its food into lean meat. This breed at once assumed an important place among the best sorts in Britain. The Tamworths were given a separate classification at the Royal and other British shows about 1885. In general outline they are long, smooth and fairly deep, having a moderatly light fore end and deep ham; their carriage is easy and active on strong, straight legs. In color the Tamworth is golden red, on flesh-colored skin, free from black spots.
The Tamworth belongs to the large breeds, reaching weights almost equal to the Yorkshire. Mature boars in show condition should weigh from 650 to upwards of 700 pounds, and the sows about 600 to 650 pounds. Sows and barrows that are wisely and well reared are ready for the packers at about 7 months of age, weighing from 180 to 200 pounds.
The points of excellence for the Tamworth, as in the case of the improved Yorkshire, should conform as nearly as possible to the requirements of the bacon trade, without overlooking constitutional vigor and easy feeding qualities. - J. B Spencer B.S.A., July 1914
Water. A crucial element of life. We spend hundreds even thousands of dollars to ensure we have clean pure water for ourselves and our families. It makes up 75% of our bodies.
What about our livestock? How clean is the water you provide for your animals?
In the past I've been guilty of looking into a water trough and thinking "wow that might need a good cleaning!"
Hogs are constantly washing their noses off in the water and dropping feed into the trough. If left unattended it's not long before you'll have some sort of anaerobic bacteria growing in the water.
This spells trouble for livestock. A good question to ask yourself is "would I drink out of that?"
One of the major battles in keeping any type of farm animal healthy and growing is managing the "bad bacteria" levels in the animals system. This is one of the reasons that sub-therapeutic antibiotics are used so heavily in modern agriculture. They help keep the animal healthy and promote growth through the reduced bacterial load in the animal's gut.
Of course antibiotic over-use is fraught with side effects. Two that come to mind are residues in the meat and manure and they wipe out most of the good bacteria with the bad.
I posted about how we introduce good bacteria into our animal's system here.
In this post I only gave a part of our system to manage bacteria...how to introduce new good
bacteria.Let me pause here and say I'm not a veterinarian nor am I a chemist. Please study out these concepts for yourself and make your own conclusions based on your study of the facts.
If all we ever do is kill bad bacteria, as in the case of antibiotics, we end up with a very compromised immune system. So much so that if the antibiotics are stopped there is a huge risk of illness until the good bacteria is re-established. If you are taking antibiotics personally you might want read the previous post
.Aerobic versus Anaerobic
Good bacteria is aerobic. In other words, they flourish in high oxygen environments.
Bad bacteria is anaerobic and cannot survive in the presence of oxygen
So, when we study the natural order of things we find laws at work to to help us keep our animals healthy. The closer we can mimic nature the better. That's the essence of natural farming.
Food Grade Peroxide
I was first introduced to the idea of using hydrogen peroxide (H202) for something other than dumping it on a superficial wound more than 20 years ago.
Peroxide is water with an extra oxygen molecule attached to it. H202 - notice the extra 2? Now think back to our aerobic vs anaerobic bacterias.
What if we could foster an environment that encourages the growth of good oxygen loving bacteria and discourage bad oxygen hating bacteria?
Hydrogen peroxide has been touted to cure almost everything known to man. Does it work? I have no idea. I encourage you to study for your self and draw your own conclusions.
Remember the watering trough way back in the beginning of this post? Let's go back there.
When we need to clean and disinfect things around here such as watering and feeding equipment we wash it with a solution of peroxide.
Most folks would stop there. It's clean, now put some fresh water in and go about your business.
We hopefully killed all the bad bacteria in the watering trough but what if we could encourage it to stay dead and encourage the growth of good bacteria if there is any present?
That's where hydrogen peroxide comes in. We use a solution of 35% food grade and add a tiny amount to all our watering troughs on a regular basis. (Roughly 25-30 ppm)A word of caution here:
peroxide in concentrated amounts is caustic and will take the hide off your fingers on anything else you dump/spill it on.
Using peroxide as a water treatment is not new and you can find studies around the net on both poultry and swine.
Here's a link to a site
about well water and hydrogen peroxide.
Other sites have information about health benefits from hydrogen peroxide. Here are some of the claims.
When hydrogen peroxide has been used for cattle, an increase in milk production and an increase in butterfat content have been reported. Farmers have also reported less mastitis in their herds. Hog farmers have reported their hogs using less feed and a shorter growing time (as much as 30 days less). Turkey and chicken growers reported increased weight per bird using less feed. A man in Wisconsin said he has had the best reproduction rate of his buffalo by using hydrogen peroxide in their drinking water.
Some animal research indicates that when hydrogen peroxide is given orally, it combines with iron and small amounts of vitamin C in the stomach and creates hydroxyl radicals. The rule of thumb is adding 8 oz. to 10 oz. of 35% hydrogen peroxide to 1000 gallons water. Chickens and cows have remained healthy by using 8 ounces of 35% Food Grade hydrogen peroxide in 1,000 gallons of drinking water @ 30 ppm. Hydrogen peroxide application into well water, or city water can best be accomplished by a metering device / injector, which keeps the application more constant and thorough, although manual application works just as well. If you do not have an metering device, start out by using 1 teaspoon of 35% hydrogen peroxide in the animal's drinking water. This same ratio is used for all farm animals: cows, pigs, poultry, sheep, goats, rabbits, birds, etc. http://www.drinkh2o2.com
While I believe hydrogen peroxide is working on our farm as another way to keep all our livestock healthy, I can only tell you our experiences here at Spring Hill Farms.
Study it, try it, and make your own judgment.
Until next time....
While catching chickens to be processed this last time my brother and I were having an ongoing discussion about who could make the best chicken catcher.
We laughed about how as kids we would make one and then snag every hen in the barnyard a couple times each. And if you caught the rooster it was a huge deal. (we had educated him after just a few times of catching him)
This was way before the internet, video games, and a million channels on TV.
It brought back the time a few years ago when the boys were getting old enough to help, which means they could walk a few steps without falling down, and I declared we needed to catch all the broilers in the next few days to butcher.
They ask "how we gonna ketch em'?"
I'll make a chicken catcher I exclaimed. Of course they were on point then! Especially my youngest as he wants to know how to make everything or at least "see how it works."
Home Made Chicken Catcher
So we went on the hunt for the materials which consist of a piece of number 9 wire and a pair of pliers. I explained how as kids we would rob a wire coat hanger from the closet (without mom seeing us of course) and use it to make the catcher. This sparked a whole new line of questions about how could you bend a hanger? So I explained how clothes hangers used to be metal wire not the plastic ones you see now.
That was almost as weird to them as making a chicken catcher.
So with both of them following along behind I grabbed a pair of pliers and cut a piece of #9 wire about three feet long or so.
I then bend a U shape in the end. I then send the boys after a stick about the size of a chickens leg or a bit bigger and place it inside the U making sure it is against the bottom of the U shape.
Taking the pliers I squeeze the U almost shut up against the stick which leaves a long tail.
I then make a few fine adjustments based on years of making chicken catchers and then promptly losing them after one day of use. (I should find three with the mower this Spring)
I flip the now finely tuned instrument around and bend a handle on the other end and say there we go!
The boys both look at the wire and then look at me and say, "how do you catch a chicken with that."
So off we go to demonstrate. I open the movable pen, reach in with the wire, and before they know what has happened I'm pulling a bird to me by the leg...and my youngest is screaming "let me try!"
And so it goes on the farm. I am always amazed at what I learned as a kid on the farm. Some things I have completely forgotten until one day I'm doing something and think, "I know what I need! I need to make a.........."
Until next time!
In my opinion one of the worst meats you can buy in the grocery these days is chicken. It is one of the most adulterated meats in the store!
Laced with residues and other products deliberately added to enhance flavor, you would greatly enhance your over-all health by switching to local, small farm, pastured poultry
Pastured poultry is actually going to help you enhance your health vs tax your immune system with toxins you need to rid your body of.
Check out this great video by Dr Oz on what's really going into your store bought, industrially raised chicken. Watch the video here.
If you've read many of my posts you know I love old books on farming and especially pigs. I have a pretty good collection dating back as far as 1883.
I've bid on books on some auction sites older than that but they end up being too rich for my blood!
This document is dated 1925 but is revised so it probably was from an earlier work. It is titled Swine Feeding.
It covers quite a bit of topics such as:
Skim milk and buttermilk
Linseed oil meal
Soy bean oil meal
It even contains a table that shows several different types of pasture crops for pigs.
In my last post I discussed why we don't use chemical wormers. In case you missed it, you can read it here
So naturally the question arises so what do you use to combat parasite loads in your livestock?
For us at Spring Hill Farms it is a three pronged approach.
1. We use several natural wormers.
2. We practice rotational grazing.
3. We breed for parasite resistance.
Let's talk about breeding for parasite resistance. In my opinion much of the livestock in America has been genetically developed for many traits but few of them have anything to do with sustainable farming.
For instance a major trait in pork production has been to reduce the fat content and a campaign was started to market pork as "the other white meat."
The show circuit for pigs focuses on fitting them to please the latest whims of the judges. The same for goats, dairy cows, beef cows etc.
The sustainable farmer has an entirely different set of goals. We look for several traits in our stock that are necessary for a profitable operation. One of them being all around low maintenance. Or as I like to say 'we breed tough animals.'
That doesn't mean we abuse them, it means we look for stock
that has a lot of good old fashion instincts that animals should have.
Breeding for resistance to parasites means keeping a close eye on your stock and employing every method you know to use to keep them healthy without resorting to chemical wormers.
When you find animals that can't cut it you cull them. Or alternatively, you assist them as little as possible with chemical inputs with the goal of weaning them off.
Pigs are much easier than other types of livestock because of the amount of animals you can work with. Ten or so pigs in a litter and two litters per year can give you a lot animals to work with.
As one fellow says breed the best and eat the rest. The goal is to produce offspring that need less help and doing this each generation will eventually get you some tough parasite resistant animals.
It's took us about five years before we really saw good positive results with pigs. I think with goats unless you have a large herd it will take much longer.
My experience with dairy goats are they can be fragile animals. Which I think is in some part their nature, and in some part breeders who have never really bred for traits that the low input, sustainable, natural farmer finds important.
We went with Purebred Oberhasli
because I felt they fit our farm model. Now can we breed the traits we want? Time will tell.
One of the positives we have found Hoeggers goat supply
has an all natural wormer that is working well. From Hoegger website
: The original, all natural, herbal wormer is compounded especially for goats. This wormer contains no artificial chemicals and is non-toxic and non-sickening. Safe for kids & pregnant does. No milk dumping or withdrawal time for slaughter. 200 doses in every pound of wormer.
Dosage for mature goats is 1-1/2 tsp. weekly. Ingredients: Worm Wood, Gentian, Fennel, Psyllium, & Quassia
Another area we focus heavily on is rotating pasture. We try to keep pigs on a pasture no longer than three weeks and two and a half is better. Once we move them off we run pastured poultry across the field and then let it rest for five to six weeks.
Sunshine and time is the best way to break parasite cycles on your farm. If you are constantly exposing your stock to parasites it will be tough to keep them from becoming over loaded and in need of treatment.
For goats that means keep them from grazing off the ground. Have plenty of high weeds and browse for them to eat up and away from parasites. Never feed hay on the ground or use feed bowls that sit on the ground.
A product we have used with great success is Perma Guard
, which is a brand name for Diatomaceous Earth. While there are those who swear by Diatomaceous Earth and those who say it's total bunk, we have found it a good piece of the puzzle in our fight against parasites.
The key is to use it constantly. We mix it in our feed for pigs and a couple table spoons a day in the goat's feed when they are on the milk stand.
Another product we use on pigs is garlic
. Besides being a natural wormer, garlic is also a good broad base anti-viral. This something we will use on breeding stock rather than growing pigs.
There is a product on the market that is called garlic barrier
which is for sheep and possibly goats but I wonder about off tasting milk in dairy animals.
also sells a wormer we have used for pigs with good results. Another I have not tried but have heard some good comments is Verm-X.
The bottom line is we have many choices other than conventional chemical wormers.
Folks have said they think that some of these natural products are too expensive. I say looking for the cheapest way to raise livestock is one reason agriculture is in it's current state.. You can't shortcut quality.
As with all forms of natural or organic farming, it takes more management than inputs to keep the farm healthy, happy, and profitable.
Till next time...
At Spring Hill Farms we try to do things as close to natural as we can. To us that means no chemical wormers.
I realize many farms do use chemical wormers. I also know small farms or organically oriented farms many times use chemical, commercial wormers.
We have used them in cases where stock was not responding to natural methods. By that I mean in the early years when we first started breeding Tamworth pigs
we had some that did not do well in our type of system.
They got a parasite load that caused them to drop weight and if we would have let it go they would have been stunted or even sick enough to die from the worms. Although this only happened twice we pulled them off the pastures and chemically wormed them, got them well, and then sold them.
My experience tells me you can selectively breed for parasite resistance. But that's only one piece of the puzzle. Poor management will trump even the best genetics. You can take some of my Tamworth Hogs and put them in a small lot that eventually turns to dirt and manure and you could very likely expose them to enough of a parasite load to end up with problems.A major drawback to killing these parasites with chemicals is that they tend to mutate very quickly in order to survive the onslaught, so new and more powerful chemicals have to be developed to kill them, and the cycle continues.
If you are over using wormers it is even worse.
I recently spoke with someone about goats and they said that for round worms in goats the product SAFEGUARD is not effective in almost all of the United States because the round worms have become immune to it.
To me parasite resistance is one reason to avoid chemical wormers. I have seen research that indicates the wormers once they pass through the animal ends up in the soil. I don't want parasiticides in my soil.
Another product on the market is Ivermectin. While I certainly am not even close to an expert on any of these products natural or chemical, it just doesn't seem right to me that I can give my pigs a dose of Ivermectin and it not only kills the internal parasites, it also rids them of external parasites. I'm not sure how it does this, but it seems like the stuff actually poisons the critters through the skin. Not something I'm comfortable eating later on.
Which brings me to my next point. I'm not comfortable with the fact that my pork, beef, or chicken may have parasiticide residue in it. Now I know the research that has been done to indicate that it's is minimal and it's harmless. But I say err on the side of caution.
Scientific cleverness is what has caused many of the messes in modern agriculture. I look at it this way, if it is safe to consume or there is no residue even present by the time it gets to the table, great! All the people consuming this type of meat are at no risk.
But if it is harmful as we may find out down the road, I'm not effected nor are my customers because we don't use them.
Next time I'll talk about our approach to parasite control here at Spring Hill Farms
Order now for Christmas!
Impress your family and friends with a holiday ham from Spring Hill Farms. Our hams are smoked and cured to perfection straight to your table from our farm These half hams weigh 7-8 pounds and serve 6-12 people. Your guests will rave about these hams after just one taste. Each ham comes bone-in, which makes it more tender, succulent and elegant on the serving platter. These hams are truly a one of a kind eating experience. You can pick them up at the farm or have it delivered.
WE DELIVER TO ALL OF THE COLUMBUS METRO AREA.