Tag Archives: hog

The Challenges of Winter on the Farm

We had our first snow of the winter this week and with it came the normal scenes of winter.  The snow blanketed the ground and all we could see was white.  There were cars and trucks in the ditches, kids were anxious to get outside and play in the snow, and some people were shoveling snow off sidewalks. 

Kids love the snow, they love playing and rolling in the white fluffy stuff.  Snow represents fun and laughter for kids.  I LOVED snow when I was a kid too, especially because it normally meant we had no school!  As an adult though, I am not in love with snow any more. 

As an adult, snow brings a different meaning to my life.  It means I have to worry about shoveling snow, driving safely to town on slick roads, and not falling on slick sidewalks in public.  I always fall in the winter, it never fails.  When I do fall down, I always hope no one was looking.  We all have to worry about these things and we all do what is necessary to get the task at hand done.  My concerns are just like your concerns when it comes to dealing with snow. 

However, living on a farm means we have additional concerns when it snows.  On our farm, Kevin, I and his parents know it is our responsibility to protect our animals in harsh weather.  For our cattle, this means making sure they have access to fresh, clean water and hay.  It also means we need to make sure the snow isn’t too deep for them to walk through. If it is, we have to open up the field so they can access their food and water.  Our hogs are inside heated barns so they don’t have to endure the harsh temperatures of winter.  Today’s consumer wants a leaner piece of pork which means our hogs have less body fat than they did 25 years ago.  As a result, it is more difficult for the hogs to stay warm outside in the winter. 

A big concern of ours is making sure the roads are in good shape so feed can be delivered to the livestock.  We have to worry about feed trucks being able to make it up slick hills on gravel roads and driveways.  Our livestock eat 7 days a week and we deliver feed 6 days a week, sometimes 7 days.  This means we drive on bad roads a lot to make sure the livestock are fed. 

Not only do we worry about our livestock in the snow, but we are concerned for the people driving the trucks to deliver our livestock feed.  Many, many days these people risk their lives so our livestock have feed.  I have seen many feed truck drivers step out of their trucks and fall on the slick ground below.  They do just what I do; they jump back up quickly and sneak a peak around to see if anyone was watching. 

So while my kids were thrilled to see the snow fall this week, I was not so happy.  I’m sure I wasn’t alone in this feeling.  Each day of snow means we have a new challenge facing us that day.  We always survive the snow and it is always a challenge.  This is just a fact of life.  One thing is for sure, the snow makes me appreciate spring even more!

Free Trade Agreements – Will It Be TOO Late When Congress Acts?

I have read several articles about Free Trade Agreements and their impact to agriculture.  Recent bi-partisan progress on the agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea had raised my hope that the FTA’s would be passed before the August recess.   

Passage of these Free Trade Agreements is what hog farmers, like my family, have been asking Congress for.  When our feed and fuel costs dramatically increased over the last four years, hog farmers didn’t ask Congress for anything more than opening up new markets for our pork products by passing these FTA’s.   If Congress would pass the Colombia, Panama and South Korea FTA’s it would generate more than $770 million in additional pork exports annually, causing live-hog prices to increase by $11.35 and creating more than 10,200 direct pork industry jobs. 

So what is the hold up you might ask?  Your guess is as good as mine but here is a little insight I found on the topic.  In a recent interview with AgriTalk Radio, House Agriculture Committee ranking member Colin Peterson, (D-Minn.), cites Republican objections to the Trade Adjustment Assistance retraining program sought by the Obama administration as a part of the trade pact. Peterson also cites a labor agreement in Colombia as a stumbling block for the trade deals. 

What shouldn’t be overlooked in all of this is who is gaining market access with these countries while Congress is busy stalling.  Competing countries are rushing to sign agreements with South Korea for market access.  These countries include Canada, Australia and Europe.  The USA is falling behind in trade because Congress isn’t acting.  Once we lose the opportunity to have access to these markets, it will be very tough to gain access. 

Passage of these FTA’s will benefit rural and urban communities with new dollars in our economy and new jobs in our communities.   We should be looking ahead to the next generation when we think about FTA’s.  Losing market access today is not a positive sign for future generations.  We need to pass the Colombia, Panama and South Korea FTA’s immediately.  It’s time for Congress to stop stalling and start acting.