It’s 9 a.m. it must be time for…

There is no such thing as the same old routine when you make your living raising pigs. While there are days when you ship pigs, days when you wean pigs and days when you get feed – no two days are ever the same. There is always something new around the corner and interesting hurdles to overcome.

For that reason, we asked one member of okPORK to document what happened on a single day on the farm – moment by moment. Those moments are shared here to help you to understand how a day moves behind the biosecure doors of an Oklahoma farm.

What I got in return was an accounting of several days – both on and off the farm. How do your days compare to the those of a farmer?

Meet Tina who farms in southeastern Oklahoma. She and her husband Ben rock through life with five kids – a daughter who is 18, one who is 13, another who is 10, and twin eight-year-old boys. With two pig farms, goats, hay, dance practice, soccer games, church and everything else life throws at them this family intimately understands the phrase “burning the candle at both ends.”

Sound familiar? Tina kept a diary of a few days during hay season. Scroll to experience a Day in the Life of Tina.

At 8 a.m. we are out the door. I snagged the wheel of the tractor and one of my sons joined me. Since we have a buddy seat in the newest tractor we often take one of the kids with us while we work. It’s great to be able to spend one-on-one time while at the same time practicing the family’s work ethic. We head to the hay field and begin raking.

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11:30 a.m. rolls around and we head to the house for lunch and a quick pit stop in the bathroom. I cook lunch for the family and manage to get the kitchen cleaned afterward.

Feeling refreshed after finishing lunch by 12:30, this time I head back to the field with my daughter who is 10. We all make sure we take turns in the buddy seat, so everyone gets a chance to feel the love. Once we start baling hay we don’t stop until the sun retires for the day.

When 5:30 p.m. rolls around, we switch fields. We also stop by the house and I managed to make a meatloaf for dinner. I got to put it in the oven but my 18-year-old daughter took over then. She was in charge of taking it out of the oven when the timer chimed in an hour.

About the time I should have been having dinner (7:30 p.m.) a bale managed to get stuck in the baler. I was able to go back to baling, but only after the fun of digging out the problem bale.

9:45 p.m. saw me sliding into my HOME sweet home. It was at this point I finally was able to sit down at the desk in my home office to do some quick work on the computer.

A few minutes after 10 p.m. I knocked off the dirt with a shower before finally getting to finish dinner at 10:50 p.m. by making mashed potatoes to accompany the meatloaf we made earlier. Finally, the parts of the family who are home sit down to eat.

It wasn’t until 11:05 p.m. that I was able to head into town to drop a deposit for my 13-year-old daughter’s solo dance class (which was due the next day). I knew I would be unable to take it later since the hay fields would be waiting again tomorrow.

It was 11:40 p.m. before my husband and my last two kids (the other 8-year-old and the 13-year-old) got home. This is when they finally finished hauling hay and were able to eat.

At 11:45 p.m. I return from town, we start showers. We finally all fall into bed by about midnight.

It is now Friday at 7 a.m. I am up, making breakfast, getting all five kids organized for the day, I then run through the shower and get dressed. I head to my desk for over-due phone calls, emails and mail.  As soon as I finish, I’m outside to load the tractor and baler onto the goose-neck trailer and hook the rake onto the other truck.

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My husband and I head to our other farm 52 miles away – he pulls the goose-neck and I tow the hay rake with the other truck. Since we are expecting an extremely long day, we don’t bring any of the kids with us. When we arrive we immediately get set up and I rake hay until dark while my husband bales behind me.

It takes us an hour to get back to town and at 10 p.m. we do a drive thru for dinner. While we are in town we pick up our daughter from her grandparents house. Mercifully we then get to go home, shower and crawl into bed.

Are you having fun learning about Tina’s life on the farm? Tune in for the next post where Tina and her family take care of the goats and work around the pig farm. 

 

So fresh and so clean, clean…

What’s the first thing you do when you get to work in the morning? Do you snag a cup of coffee? Talk about last night’s television programs with your coworkers? Quietly check your email and hope no one talks to you before 10 a.m.? Not if you are a pig farmer.

If you are working on a modern pig farm the first thing you do is take a shower. You heard that right – you take a shower AFTER you get to work. Curious about why?

Shower clean side

This is the “clean side” of a shower room at a farm in northwestern Oklahoma. The uniforms stay on the clean side while farmers’ “street clothes” stay on the “dirty side.”

The showers are simply one of several steps of a biosecurity plan. Biosecurity is the term used to describe all of the processes in place to keep the pigs inside the barn as safe and healthy as possible – away from the germs and diseases outside the barn.

When coming to the barn you step into the dirty side – and if you are simply making a delivery you drop it through a window where it will be cleaned and disinfected. If you are coming to visit the animals or work – such as a farmer or a veterinarian – you will then step into a shower room.

Everything you have on when you enter the “dirty side” of the shower room comes off and goes onto a shelf or into a cubbie hole. You then jump into a shower and get scrubby with the bubbles all over – hair, glasses, jewelry included.

When you finish getting clean you step out of the shower into the “clean side” of the shower room where there are uniforms – usually scrubs or coveralls – waiting as well as all the undies and socks you might need.

This ensures that no matter what you may have touched – you are as clean and germ-free as one can be when you enter the barn and are around the pigs.

On the reverse – as the farmer leaves the barn they also take another shower. This is another step in the biosecurity plan to keep any germs which could be inside the barn from spreading to any other barns. Are you willing to take two showers a day for your job?

There is more to biosecurity than showers though. Before you even get to the barn you will almost always see a sign hanging on a fence letting you know that no unauthorized vehicles are allowed past this certain point. This isn’t because the farmers inside are hiding something – but so that no disease or germs are brought near the barn where farmers will be walking.

Moving pigs onto truck

Above you see farmers loading weaned pigs, those who are old enough and strong enough to be on their own, onto a truck to be taken to another farm where they will grow to market size.

When vehicles must come to the farm – such as feed deliveries and trucks which deliver pigs – those trucks are cleaned between loads and the drivers stay outside the barn while the farmers stay inside.

Of course the trucks are often scrubbed down with disinfecting soap and water but sometimes they are driven into a garage-like building called a truck baker. The doors close after the trailer is dropped in the building and sealed. The temperature is increased in the “baker” until it is high enough to kill bacteria.

As pigs move in and out of barns everything is soaped up and cleaned between groups of pigs. Just because bacteria may be carried without a problem by one group of pigs – it doesn’t mean the next group will be affected (or not be affected) by the bacteria in the same way.

Rising stalls

The above photo shows a farmer pre-rinsing the farrowing stalls – or stalls where sows give birth and spend the first days with their piglets to keep both sow and piglets safe. Every stall is cleaned between uses to keep all germs from spreading among different groups of pigs.

After sows and the piglets separate into their appropriate groups – all of the pens are power washed. The next group of pigs to come to the farrowing stalls will have the cleanest pens possible.

soapy stalls

The above photo shows some soaped up mats and pens being cleaned.

All of the above steps are taken to keep all of the animals in the best possible health. When the animals are healthy they will get sick less often and the less antibiotics are needed. These are all important factors to Oklahoma’s farmers.

What else do you want to know about biosecurity practices? What other questions do you have? Let’s talk pig farms folks! 

A place to call your own

Individual stalls

This photo is of sows in individual stalls in a farm in western Oklahoma. It is one way farmers choose to keep their pigs healthy and safe.

Farmers in Oklahoma are dedicated to a set of ethical principles and among those principles you will find a dedication to animal care. Modern research into farm design, animal handling practices and veterinary medicine have helped to increase the health and comfort of pigs in in barns.

Animal welfare is of the highest importance to the farmers in Oklahoma who believe it is the best state in the country in which to raise baby pigs.

A number of farmers in Oklahoma see individual gestation stall housing as one way to keep pigs safe and healthy. The American Association of Swine Veterinarians and the American Veterinary Medical Association both agree that all types of sow housing have advantages and disadvantages and what is most important is the level of individual care given to the pigs.

The level of individual care each pig is able to receive is at its highest level with this type of housing. With only one pig in each stall the pigs aren’t able to fight or steal food from each other.

Farmers in an individual stall housing style barn can walk thorough and see each pig, how they are looking, what they have eaten and what kind of mood they are in immediately. The farmer knows from day to day which animals are acting like their normal selves.

checking feeders

In this photo one farmer is checking gestating sows and the feeders to make sure everything is in proper working order.

The Oklahoma Pork Council believes that decisions about how to raise pigs and how to house those pigs are best made by the people who are on the farm taking care of the animals each day, backed by science and overseen by a veterinarian. okPORK also supports all types of pig farming – as long as the ethical principles the pork industry stands behind is adhered to.

What questions do you have? What other parts of the farm are you curious about? What would you like to talk about next? Oklahoma pig farmers are ready to share their story with you and looking forward to you peeking behind the barn doors! 

Scratching in individual penA farmer stops to scratch behind the ears of one of the gestating sows. Individual attention is easy to give when the sow is in a stall and is also safe for the farmer as well.

Archived: Pork’s power to inspire

Lela Davis takes 1st Place at the Pork Recipe Contest

We are all busy these days and cooking a meal for family and friends seems to not be the priority it was a few years ago. I had the opportunity to attend the Tulsa State Fair Pork Recipe contest last week. It was amazing to see the scrumptious creations the entrants had created. The dishes tasted so yummy. It was fun to see the look of anticipation on the ladies faces as the judges tasted each dish and examined the presentation. The winners were so elated when their name was called and I was inspired by their eagerness to share their dishes with everyone there.

I’m sharing the winning recipe below.

First because it was SOOO good.

Second, to inspire you to get in the kitchen. Even if you don’t have lots of time, you can find easy recipes. In fact there’s’ hundreds on porkbeinspired.com.
Third to encourage you to incorporate pork into your meal plans. Not just because I work here at OPC, but from my personal experience of feeding my family. Pork is a versatile, healthy option that fits the needs of this busy working Mom with a husband and two boys. I know it will meet your needs too.
Pork Chop Tomato Pie
Created by Lela Davis of Owasso, Okla
1 c. onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp. shortening
4 pork chops, finely chopped2 tbsp. flour
2 small tomatoes, diced
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
4 slices bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled
1 cup mozzarella cheese1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 ready- made pie crust
Pork Chop Tomato Pie - YUM!

In a large skillet, sauté onions and pork chops in shortening and 2 tbsp. flour. Cook until tender then simmer until thick. Cook pie crust until ½ done. In medium bowl, stir mayonnaise, sour cream, salt, pepper, cheese and cooked bacon. Add onions, pork chops, and tomatoes and mix well. Put mixture in pie crusts. Cook at 325 for 10-15 minutes, until light golden brown. Makes 2 pies.

Archived: Finally, it’s official

I have worked for OPC for almost eight years and I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve had people ask me how to cook pork and keep it tender. Or, they’ll tell me they don’t like pork because it’s too tough or it must be cooked to well-done (just like shoe leather) for food-safety reasons.

My response was to tell them about using a meat thermometer and what it means to ‘let pork rest’ and how that promotes tenderness. But, I always had to use the standard of cooking the pork to 160 internal temperature since we follow USDA guidelines. But I knew that was higher than I cook it and might make the product come out tough.

You can see why I was thrilled when the USDA finally lowered the cooking temperature of pork muscle cuts to 145 degrees with a three minute rest period.

I’m not a gourmet cook by any means. But I do enjoy cooking for my family and pork is a staple at our house. I’ve always left some pink I my pork chops and tenderloin and enjoy the flavor and texture. After visiting
with chefs over the years I found out they’ve used the 145 temperature for some time. That made me comfortable with using a lower cooking temperature and no one in my family or anyone I’ve cooked for has ever gotten sick.

This change in guidelines was not taken lightly at USDA and there were many months of research behind it. Today’s modern production practices promote food safety on all fronts because hogs are not exposed to the soil where many of those illnesses from years past originated.

However, food safety is always something that is important. I know in my home we pay very close attention to keeping cooking surfaces and utensils separate for raw meat and side items and cooked product. I always wash my hands after handling any raw product.

And while the meat thermometer is my key to a tasty, tender outcome, it is also my ally in keeping my family healthy. Being sure the meat has reached the correct temperature, 145 degrees, is important and there’s no way to judge that except to use a thermometer. Thermometers are inexpensive and can be purchased just about anywhere. I encourage you to pick one up and let it be your guide to a perfectly tender, slightly pink pork chop.

Finally, don’t forget that 160 is still the magic number for ground product. If you want to safely enjoy a juicy pork burger this summer, be sure it is cooked to the well-done mark.

Archived: Jiggs.

I just happened to be in Western Oklahoma this weekend. Clinton, to be specific.

And, it just so happened to be the weekend Jigg’s Smokehouse rolled out a new sandwich: smoked chopped Pork Sandwich.


Have you been to Jigg’s? It’s were the cool kids go to eat. And, well, the not-so cool kids, too.


I forgot my business card, or I’d have put mine up there, too.


Right beside this pig. Because well, I work for the Pork Council, and it’s fitting.


There are a lot of options for barbecue sauce. Personally, I enjoy that they’re in ROYGBIV order. [sort of]


It’s uncertain whether or not I was at the cool kid’s table. However, this particular group of locals (and truly, they were locals: teacher, coach…. you can’t get more local than that) put the barbecue on their chips. I’m a fan. A really, really big fan.


This is Lynn. Not only does he keep the uh-mazing family business alive (read about that here) he also makes a mean pork sandwich.

And, he has a few stories on the Boss Man. Sorry, they can’t be posted at this time. I still have to make a paycheck. 🙂


Looks good doesn’t it? To be honest, my white-balance was off on my camera so this pic is courtesy of the Jigg’s Smokehouse Facebook page.

If you want to try one of these mouth-watering sandwiches – it’s currently on the menu every Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Don’t forget to tell them we said hello!