Thursday, March 5, 2015

It's Different as an Agriculture Student

I was recently having a conversation with my friends Laura and Mallarie about how myself, and many of our college of ag friends have a common problem.  We simply don't feel enthralled about being in college. 

Laura said it best.  "We aren't coming to college to 'find ourselves'.  Most of us already know what we want and what it's going to take.  Most courses don't address what we need them to anyway."

While college is great, and for a many good jobs, it is necessary, there are drawbacks.  I feel like a lot of agriculture students know this pain well. 

Every season, we can find something we would rather be doing than school, and that tends to fill our weekends.  We also tend to disappear from campus every weekend possible. 

Lets go through the semesters as they tie to what we would "rather be doing."

Fall semester.


Almost Winter Break (Finals).

For some, this is when they do some of their grain hauling.

Spring Semester.
This is when there is typically a lot of grain being moved.  Property of Siemer Milling.

Depending on your farm, the spring activities tend to vary.  They vary greatly.  We have to haul manure, but some of my friends use the time to work ground.

These little guys tend to happen throughout the year, but my roommate is currently helping with calving at the Purdue Research Farm.

Almost Summer Break (Finals).
And we finally get to finals... Let's be honest, we are all FAR more interested in planting.  I won't even pretend to deny it.  
Disclaimer - I know some of you don't do things quite as I listed.  We haul manure in multiple seasons, for example.  I just listed for general, ideal purposes.

We struggle with the day-to-day monotony of sitting in a class that often won't ever be used in our real life.  It's easy to understand.  Our mind and heart are at home.  When you sink your heart into something, you never actually leave.  This is why there is the old mantra that, "Farming is a career where you clock in at age five and never clock out."  I didn't clock in until I was 16, but my heart, never actually leaves.  
It's a lifetime love that's inescapable.   Do you connect to this seasonal distraction? I want to hear about it!

You can follow along on my social media sites, and send any of your questions to

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Our Not-So-Little Side Project

I've decided to do a set of posts that are quite different from my typical agricultural posts.  My fiancee and I have begun an interesting adventure.  We are doing some renovations to a house!  Yes, I said "doing some renovations."  Let me clarify!  We aren't taking down walls, redoing the foundation, or putting a basement under the house.  It is a lot more updating, and making it better fit our... wants?

Some background, since we are getting married shortly after we have both finished college, building right away is less than ideal, and renting an apartment or townhome in town... Well, that wasn't going to happen.  There is nothing wrong with what is available, but there was no way I was spending that much a month to be living on top of another family, and still be attempting to save to build.  Not to mention, we had a family member with a really good house that was currently empty, so we moved forward on it!  What got me here writing this is, one of my good friends was persistent that we blog about this, because who doesn't love DIY home improvement, right? Am I right?...

When an fall evening looks this nice out the back window, why live in town? (taken in 2013)

So our process has begun, and there are quite a few things on the list.  I never realized how much goes into a house.  Don't worry, we will do before and after pictures! (She promises!)

Our to-do list includes the following activities:
- Window treatments all around
- Flooring in...... four rooms, I think
- Paint on the whole main floor
- Replacing the current kitchen backsplash (maybe)
- Finish furnishing the place
- Washer and Dryer
- A new brain on the TV antenna (because paying for satellite is too mainstream)
- Other miscellaneous things I'm currently forgetting...

Here's a little background on the house itself.
- Built in the mid-1970's
- Four bedrooms
- Three baths
- Two car garage
- Ask my fiancee about her walk-in closet
- Ask me about the screened-in porch (we'll see how well a puppy will get along with screen doors)
- Large kitchen
- Plenty of storage
- Modern appliances

We are pretty excited.  Here are two of my favorite features!

  My truck fits in the garage!  Three cheers for no more scraping frost??

Look at that screened porch!  It sits on the west, so the sunset is visible over the fields and treeline if you're into that - I just want a place for a hammock...

I didn't get a picture of the Master Closet, but one of the other aspects that my fiancee and I both liked was the large kitchen with a good deal of counter space (there's never enough of that!).  All photos are pre- anything right now.

Yes, the doily came with the table (we always get asked that).

(My printscreen attempt caused errors, so I took a picture of the screen)
Pinterest has become a common topic of discussion for us.  Yeah, go ahead and laugh.  Ask your significant other if they have a Pinterest (especially if they're under at least 25).  Take a look at it, and see what you can learn.  They've probably got wedding, home, and food ideas you'll be interested in (especially the food).  Anyway, this is where some of the looking for paint and other ideas came from.  This is the same with our plan to build a house down the road.  We're already somewhat looking at floorplans, cabinets, etc.  However, that's WAYYY less intensive than this current project though...
I hope you enjoy following along for this project, as we will be doing occasional blog posts, and some guest posts from my lovely fiancee!
You can follow along on my social media sites, and send any of your questions to!

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Truth about #RealPigFarming - That's a Pig Barn?

 Why yes, that IS a pig barn.
(photo courtesy of

Raising livestock today is nothing like it was in the ages past. I'm going to somewhat explore how hog confinement has developed.

In the days where most farmers across the country were very small, and had a little of every type of animal, there was not enough income to justify spending a lot on developing some sort of housing for specific types of animals.  Some farmers would use the classic barn as a semi-universal building, but different animals still needed separated.  In these days, swine were mostly raised outside on pastures, or "hog lots."  Sows were typically raised in small hoop-like buildings, or wooden "hog huts", on these lots.  As late as 2012, Western Kentucky University, in Bowling Green, KY, still had some of these sorts of facilities for people to use as a learning and evaluation tool.  The issue we face is the harsh weather conditions, especially here in the Midwest.  Extreme cold could lead to freezing, death, loss of piglets, frostbite, and more.  Likewise, extreme hot leads to pigs not breeding, heat stress (pigs cannot sweat), overheating, and sometimes death.  There is also the higher risk of diseases that can be carried by birds, etc., due to the open environment, as well as predator complications.  Some examples of these sorts of housing are shown below.

Property of The Foodie Farmer 

An example from the UK - Property of The Guardian

As the swine housing world began to develop in the 60s-70s, there were different sorts of buildings.  Nursery buildings mostly went to being enclosed with slatted floors, and LP gas heaters to control the climate.  These have only gotten more complex.  For example, we once just had a thermostat that we set, and walked away from.  Now, we have a telephone and an intricate system that is tied to every heater control box in all six rooms of one of our nurseries.  Any time the rooms get below our "set point," they have a certain range where the temperature can fluctuate before we get a phone call telling us we have a problem.  There is a numeric passcode we enter to acknowledge the issue, and we have 30 minutes to fix it, or it starts calling down the pre-programmed list of numbers in the system.  It is pretty amazing to be honest.  Below are pictures from nursery buildings.

I took these photos two weeks ago.  Ironically it was actaully 86.7* in the room where the piglets are sleeping in the pile.  They like to do that, and I cannot figure out why.

Farrowing was also largely taken inside at this point.  We still farrow on concrete floors that we bed with straw and clean out each morning.  Many other operations have slatted floors in farrowing barns.

Hopefully some of you recognize that sow, Miss Peggy, from my post, Miss Peggy Sue and You.
When sows farrow (have piglets), we put on the heat lamps (pictured above), to assure that pigs can move away from the mother and under that when first born.  It helps with the drying process, as well as it is a place where they can go (we call that, the creep) where they can get away from the sow if they desire.  Piglets often sleep under the lamps.

Early finishing barns were open, and were largely heated by the energy provided by the hog naturally.  Some of these were called "Nebraska Buildings."  I recently learned this.  I do not recall the story why, but they could wander outside if they wished, or go inside.  The lack of ability to heat the buildings was an issue, as was the likelihood of water lines freezing during cold winter months.  Three of the buildings we use are actually based on the basic "Nebraska Building" style.  Only one has not had the roof extended to cover the whole pen, and had heaters added.  The one that is still open has a special system set up with return water lines and a coil heater system to prevent water line freezes.  The top two photos are actually what were called "Cargill Buildings."  I do not know the whole history behind the name.  It had a small roofed part, and most of the pen was open to the elements.  The main difference is the amount of covered space, compared to the amount of open space outside.  Below are pictures of these open-style finishing buildings.  

The first photo was from Purdue University in an old file, and the bottom photo is from when we loaded market hogs in December of 2013.  As you can see, the bottom picture we have extended the roof to cover the whole pen and protect the pigs from the elements(I shouldn't say "we" - this was done back in the late 70s, or early 80s).  There is a roll down curtain that helps to retain heat in the winter.  In the summer months, we open the curtain, and the windows that line the back wall to let the south-north wind blow through.

Where are we today? Well, today, we have buildings that are carefully climate controlled, and most new buildings also have a forced air system that uses fans to bring air through, and works in conjunction with the curtains that I explained earlier.  Most curtain systems are actually electronic.  Again, based on a thermostat, we set a point for the curtain and heater to maintain a temperature, and the curtain automatically can open and close to complete this task.
The goal is to limit stress on the animals.  Pigs are like us, they're no good if you stress them out.  Also like humans, they get much less agreeable when you put them in a bad mood.
Below is a picture of the inside of one of these wean-finish barns.  It is a common practice in many new facilities to design the building to be usable from the time piglets are weaned, all the way to when they are sold, so you will notice smaller pigs in the photo.

I know this post was rather lengthy, but I appreciate you sticking with me as I continue my series, The Truth about #RealPigFarming.

I am reachable by the following social media channels, and you can also email your questions to
Facebook Page, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram 

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Truth about #RealPigFarming - Real Feed Content

Lately there has been a lot of misinformation available about production agriculture, and particularly in the swine segment, so I want to try and clear up some issues.  Welcome to my new mini-series, "The Truth about #RealPigFarming"! I'm happy to have you along.

One thing we do is keep a lot of pigs happy.  This picture was taken two summers ago on one of our breeding lots.  You heard that correctly - some of our pigs do live outside for periods of time.  Also, before you ask, that pink stripe on their backs is from when we were sorting them from a bigger  group.  It is a washable spray paint.  It is called livestock marking spray.  All it takes is a good dew or a light rain to start washing it off. 

Now to the feed.  There is a misconception that since pigs today look more fit, and gain weight faster than in ages past, that we must use hormones in their feed. 

THIS COULD NOT BE MORE FALSE.  On a side note, pork in the United States is grown without the use of growth promoting hormones.  The same goes for all poultry.

What on earth makes up this fluffy stuff we feed pigs?

Our rations vary a little.  Whether it is feed for piglets learning to eat ground feed, nursery pigs, finishing hogs, or any of the breeding herd, all of our groups of animals have different dietary needs, so we address them accordingly. 

 Morning trip to pick up feed ingredients - it does take a while to use all of that.

On the farm we keep a supply of certain things that go into feed.  The most important of these the are the amino acids, Threonine, Methionine, and Lysine.  After that, we have Vitamin E.  We also have the various things that change, or are only in some of the rations, such as Mecadox, which is a medicated feed that helps against a sickness and is part of our vaccination program, Selenium, BMD, and Pennchlor 50G are all used on and off for specific purposes.  These help to assure that our hogs are in the best health possible.  These all go in a feed mixture at often less than a pound per ton of feed (depending on the feed additive).

The next step in our feed ration is a base mix.  On our farm we use a few different feed base mixtures.  For our pigs, we use Land O'Lakes' Eco Care series base mixes.  We begin with what is called a 250 base, then shortly after we go to a 350 (these are just different levels of a mix for a growing pig).  The next step is the regular EcoCare Base Mix.  I'm not sure what the official name/classification of it is, but we have a mini-bulk bin of it for loading into the feed grinder.  Again, this does not make up much of the feed ration.  On a 4 ton feed mixture, we may be looking at 250 pounds of base mix at the higher end (I do not have the feed cards in front of me to be for sure, but it is not a large amount at all).  We have a separate bin market SWIBB (Southwest Indiana Breeders Base), and is the base mix used on all breeding stock feed.

The final two ingredients are soybean meal, which is where the pigs get most of the protein content in their feed rations, and corn.  The amount of soybean meal is proportionate to the pig's size and how fast it is growing.  For example, nursery pigs have a higher amount of soybean meal compared to hogs that are closer to being sold.  They get grow at a decreasing level - their size increases at a decreasing level (I am an ag economist by education, so I hope that makes sense to you).

The last, and largest part of hog feed is corn.  There isn't much explaining for that.  It helps dilute the vitamins and minerals. 
 Last fall's corn harvest

In the end, a feed ration for a hog is comparable to humans eating a plate of food that was carefully planned to have a well rounded diversity of foods that have a combined total health benefit to them. 

Like I said in the beginning of this post, I'm going to do a mini series called, "The Truth about #RealPigFarming," so stay tuned!

I am reachable by the following social media channels, and you can also email your questions to
Facebook Page, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram 

Monday, December 1, 2014

The End of 30 Days 2014 - Wrapping up #Harvest14

I would say it was a good run, but I never actually finished my series.  That will bug me for a while.  Next year will be better.  I find it funny that I went to Kansas City for a conference and kept up with the blog, but go home and completely fall off the wagon.  Oh well.

On the upside of things, #Harvest14, as we call it on Twitter, is OVER.  Thank goodness.  I saw yesterday where someone said if you finish before Christmas you don't have enough acres... I beg to differ.

This being said, I want to thank everyone for following along for the days that I did complete... I think this is a unique sort of challenge.  In life we challenge ourselves daily.  We set goals to do x, y, and z, every day.  Next year I'll complete all 30... I promise!

Hopefully you'll keep following along for my future posts!  I've got some coming up about things such as gestation crates versus group pens in swine production, and some other interesting topics.

Thanks for following along!

Please reach out to me on other forms of social
Facebook Page, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram 

Linking up with Holly and the other 30 Days Bloggers Here!

 The morning before Thanksgiving, it was about 5:15 am, dark, and cold, but the coal mine trucks across the hill were keeping me company while I fed hogs.

Monday, November 24, 2014

30 Days: Thoughts of a Future Farmer Day 24

Some Thanksgivings won't be Happy.

Last night I got a message with a link that said I needed to read a press release about a car wreck.

Friends, last night a boy who I grew up with was killed in a car accident.  It's not just that we grew up together.  We had the same babysitter, lived on the same street for a number of years, his parents were my 4-H leaders, and if I recall, he was my vice president when I was 4-H club president, and he succeeded me as president for two years.

It's never a good day to know that some parent is going to have to hold a funeral for their 18-year old child.   These things shouldn't happen.  Circumstances should never be what they are.  I was discussing this situation with my little sister last night, and I feel like when I'm exhausted I have a way of putting things better than usual.

I told her that we can't forget that life is like a lease.  It's a short period of time we are borrowing, and while we are here we have to do everything imaginable with this little time that is actually a huge gift.  It's not about how many years of life we have, but how much life we have in those years.  He had a lot of great life in his years, but he was still too young.

In this blog I strive to bring the reality of my life.  This is today's reality.  It's going to be a rough Monday, but not nearly as rough as many others' will.

Hold your kids and loved ones close.  Say I love you.  Hug them again.  Recall what you have to be thankful for on Thursday (and every day).

And please, in whatever way you pray, please keep my friend in mind.

Please reach out to me on other forms of social
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Linking up with Holly and the other 30 Days Bloggers Here!

Friday, November 21, 2014

30 Days: Thoughts of a Future Farmer Day 21

Becoming a Farmer - An Uphill Climb

As many of you may have guessed, becoming a farmer isn't easy.  It's actually not easy at all. 

I, for one, have a special sort of challenge ahead of me.  I don't come from a farm, I don't really have assets to back a loan, and I don't have land.

Yes.  I'm almost certifiably crazy - ask my fiancee or my mother.

What's it take to become a farmer in this world?  I put together a short list..

1. A plan - ex. you want to raise hogs, dairy steers, poultry, crops, vegetables, etc.
2. A mentor - someone who knows the industry in which you intend to enter, and can help guide some of your decisions.
3. A good banker - some bankers understand agriculture and others don't.  You need to make sure that you get one that's got a background in agriculture lending.  Preferably, you will find one that that understands your wing of agriculture.
4. Land - whether you want to put up a turkey building or start a vegetable farm, you need a place to put it.  Careful planning needs to be put into place before buying ground.  Ex. If you buy ground right next to a populated area, and plan to raise turkeys, the zoning commission will likely cause you problems, and you may have to reevaluate the use of that ground.
5. Equipment - When starting, you need to realize that that new John Deere R series sure is beautiful, but you a. don't have a valid justification for the equipment, and b. (likely) don't have the capital.  The trick is learning how to do proper upkeep and reasonable repair work on slightly older equipment.  This CAN (if you know what you're doing) save you gobs of money in the long term.
6. Support staff - I don't mean your own computer programmer, but I mean a nutritionist, agronomist, veterinarian, depending on your plan's needs.
7. A market - Common mistakes in start-up businesses of any sort include people who have good intentions and something they want to do.  They often fail to consider what type of demand there will be for that commodity after it' produced and ready for sale.  If you want to raise non-GMO corn, you better make sure you have a sale location near you that pays the premium for non-GMO corn.  If not, you end up selling it as regular corn, and miss the gain you planned on making.
8. A supportive significant other (if you have one) - "When you're planning on spending your life with a person, you need to ensure that you share similar goals.  It's better for your relationship long term if you support each others' career choices, rather than just tolerating them."  Any independent business owner needs to consider this.
9. Love what you do.  If you don't love what you do, is it really worth your life dedication?

I feel like there is more I need to say, but I also think this is a good start.  What advice do you have for someone who may be entering the world of farming, or starting a business of any sort?

Again, I've now missed even more days, but I'll try to keep up through the end of the month!!

Please reach out to me on other forms of social
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Linking up with Holly and the other 30 Days Bloggers Here!

Picture sourced from Pinterest - I don't have proper citation.