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! 

Archived: I’m hungry (are you?)

 

We all eat. Food, I hope.

It’s part of life.

So, grocery shopping has become a critical part of our lives just like fueling up the Swagger Wagon {see video here} is the norm.

To me {as a twenty-something}, I look for price, first. Let’s be honest.

My hierarchy of needs looks a little like this: price, ingredients, packaging {just keepin’ it real}. I also want to know my food is safe. Shopping in America, I sometimes take for granted that our food has multiple checks and a system of caring individuals who ensure our food supply is safe and affordable.

So the big question is – where do you shop for groceries? What are you looking for?