Yesterday our family hosted seven remarkable guests from St. Louis, Missouri on our hog farm. It was an amazing opportunity for my family and for our guests and we all had a great time. We are very proud of the work we do on our farm so we were excited to share our story with others. Our guests were connected with agriculture through their jobs but it was the first time a few of our guests had been inside hog barns.
We started our day by discussing bio-security, which means how clean we keep our farm. We want to ensure our hogs are not exposed to any germs from other livestock or wildlife which is one reason we keep them safe in our barns. After confirming none of our guests had been around hogs for the last two weeks and that no one was sick, we entered our barns. We gave our guests plastic boots to slip over their shoes so we didn’t risk bringing any germs inside the hog barns. Our hogs are more likely to catch a cold from us than we are from them so we always protect their health by making sure no one tracks in any illness.
We started our tour in the farrowing house, which is where our hogs go to give birth. We talked about how each sow gets a bath prior to giving birth to prevent infection and to help keep the sow comfortable. We discussed the heat lamps that provide added warmth to the newborn pigs (newborn pigs are not able to regulate their body temperatures for the first few days so the heat lamps help with this). We showed our guests pigs being born, pigs that were born two days ago, a week ago, two weeks ago, and 21 days ago. There is a big difference in the size of a pig in just three weeks time. It was fun to watch our guests absorb all the information we provided them.
We explored all of our barns and explained each stage of production. During our tour photographs were being taken. One of our guests turned to me during our tour and said he was amazed at how clean and fresh our air was in our barns. He was impressed by our computer controlled climate system that controls our fans and curtains on our barns. He couldn’t believe how nice the air was in our barn and how cool and comfortable the barns were. It was about 86 degrees outside yesterday with high humidity but our barns were a cool 70 degrees. I explained to our guests that we wash our pig barns in between each group of pigs and that we wash daily on our farm in the sow barns. There is always a barn being washed because sanitation is important. We want to ensure our hogs have a clean place to live and we want to work in a clean place as well.
After we finished our hog barn tour, we went outside and explored the rest of the farm. We had a picnic lunch by our lagoon and I took one of our guests on an ATV ride around the farm to see our lake and our farm fields. Then it was on to the feed mill where we make all the feed for our hogs. We discussed the diets and how important nutrition was to the health of our hogs. Our hogs eat a well balanced diet made of corn, soybean meal, vitamins and minerals. The nutrients needed to keep a hog healthy are a lot like the nutrients needed to keep my kids healthy.
We talked about all of the records we keep on our farm. We keep track of every pig on our farm and what they eat, when they get feed and when the veterinarian visits for healthy herd check ups. We can track our pigs from the day they arrive on our farm until the day they go to market. We also keep very strict records of the ingredients we use to make our feed.
We also use the manure from our hogs as natural fertilizer for our growing crops in our fields. We test our manure before we apply it as fertilizer so we know the nutrient value. We also test our soil as well so we don’t under fertilize or over fertilize. We want our land to produce an abundant crop of corn or soybeans so we can feed it to our hogs as feed. If we don’t care for our land properly we won’t be able to do this.
After all of our talking and some very intent listening by our guests our tour was over. Our guests asked great questions and we enjoyed learning about their jobs as well. It was neat to hear them discuss what their normal work day is like. Not only did our guests learn about our job on the farm but we learned a lot about their lives as well. I think they enjoyed visiting the farm and having a change of scenery for a day. And we enjoyed talking about what we love to do – caring for our hogs, farm and our kids.