Sunday, February 7, 2016

Feeling a little like spring

It feels a little like spring right now, with a little sun and some rain mixed it.  But what's really making it seem like spring are the air temperatures - looking at low to mid 60s for the next 10 days, and that means growth.

forecast courtesy of
Things start growing when it's above 40 degrees; I'm already seeing some growth in the pastures, and I may be able to get a little early-season grazing in for the cows, which is good.  My hay supply is probably adequate to get me to march, but stretching it another week by doing a little bit of free grazing adds a little insurance.

the long-term forecast is "warmer and drier" for this spring, and I'm looking at the next 3 or 4 days as a chance to get out and chop up the crop residue, disk some ground that has weeds just starting to pop up, and possibly do a little bit of field leveling.

The flatter the field the easier every other crop operation gets - easier to plant, easier to weed, easier to harvest, and you can do everything faster if the ground is flat and smooth.

I've got 100 concord grape vines coming pretty soon here, and I'll need to build another section of vineyard to accomodate them, too.  So a little bit of sun and warmth gives me a choice on outside tasks to get done, and the more I get done now the better.  Spreading the work out for the planting season is always a good thing.


Luke Seymour said...

Hey Bruce, Do you give your piglets iron shots or do you make sure they have access to soil they can eat like Walter at Sugar Mountain does? We are expecting a litter pretty soon and I'm uncertain which way to go.


Bruce King said...

Iron shots are a sure-fire way to make sure that your pigs have plenty of iron. I've never used them; our pigs have access to dirt and forage during the growing season (roughly 8 months of the year). You won't harm your piglets by following on-label instructions. If they don't need the iron they'll just excrete it. Most of the iron supplements are for pigs that are on concrete for 100% of their lives - don't get a chance to get any iron from any source, as concrete is not iron-rich.

Our water tests high for soluable iron; I don't know if it's the right type for bioavailability, but it's present in high enough quantities that we remove some of it for the house drinking water. So we may be covered for iron in that way, too.

With respect to Walter and his practices, when you drill down on specifics he claims, it's my opinion that a lot of the stuff doesn't pan out. My opinion is to take what he says with a grain of salt; or iron. I'm speaking to things like his claims he's raised pigs without any supplmental feed, and while he's claimed all sorts of numbers of sows, his piglet production is pretty low, also in my opinion. If he's running 100 sows he should be weaning between 800 and 1000 piglets a year; near as I can tell he finishes 4-5 pigs a week (that's what he claims to be taking to the butcher weekly), which puts his production at 250 a year. With 100 sows he's weaning 2.5 pigs per sow per year, which is very, very low - about 1 pig weaned per litter. For me that would mean a 90% mortality rate - and I'd be out of business!

Bruce said...

Hi Bruce,

I'm curious about what kind of tillage you do to get rid of weeds. I think I remember you saying you were avoiding herbicide/going organic. Given that it's so wet where you are do you ever have problems getting into the fields to cultivate? If so, I was wondering what your backup plan would be (so the weeds don't get away from you).

I really appreciate you putting your stuff online. It's been very helpful to me as I make my way.

(another) Bruce

Bruce King said...

Hi Bruce - sorry about the delayed response. I do two things for weeds; in pasture or field-forage like alfalfa, you let the crop grow with the weeds. The crop, if it's the right crop in the right area, will recover faster, and more completely, than the weeds. that's the way that the alfalfa worked for me for the last few years - it looks terrible until that first cutting, and then it looks great from there on.

for row crops - and everything else is a row crop. Pumpkins, corn, squash of various sorts, even between the grape vines in the vinyard, I do mechanical tillage. I use a spring-tooth harrow that fits between the rows and cultivates the ground, and I'm looking for a cultivator for use with the corn mainly.

does that answer your question?