I’m often asked questions about farm size. People want to know are large farms or small farms better?
We have a second grader in the house. While I certainly understand that some education standards require comparing and contrasting to learn to recognize differences, comparisons also make me uncomfortable. So, we’ve had many discussions in our house that bigger, newer and shinier isn’t necessarily better. In my job I want to have the same conversations and share that bigger, new, shinier isn’t necessarily worse.
There are pros and cons to every size and type of farm. I’m blessed to live near my parent’s farm. They have about 20 mother pigs (sows) in a birth to market (farrow-to-finish) pig farm. I’m also very blessed to be married to the Turkey Farmer who also grew up raising pigs, 3,000 at a time. While we were dating he also worked in the purchasing department and tested ingredients at the feed mill that made food for his family’s turkeys and pigs.
I’ll begin by sharing how my family makes feed for our pigs. My husband helps my parents now, so he is pictured here with the feed mill. I went to the local feed mill and picked up bags of supplement. The Little Farmer and I helped untie the bags and move them to the back of the truck.
The Turkey Farmer and a helper dumped the supplement (primarily soybean meal with two paper bags of vitamins and minerals) into the feed grinder.
Next the tall, blonde and handsome man backed up to the grain bin (filled with corn grown in the surrounding field) and filled the grinder with corn.
A batch of feed is two tons. The hammer mill in the grinder worked hard to crush and grind the corn while the mixer stirred the corn, soybean meal, vitamins and minerals together for 15 to 20 minutes as the corn trickled in. Including the trip to pick up the ingredients it took about an hour to make this batch of feed for nursery pigs (age four weeks to 50 pounds).
This is the feed mill where the Turkey Farmer worked in Fort Recovery. The large silver bin stores the corn. There are other silos, bins and containers to hold bulk versions of the soybean meal, vitamins, minerals and other ingredients at this mill.
Here is a picture inside his office where (he had Margarita Mondays) or tested batches of feed to be sure that they had the protein, fat, fiber, and moisture levels that the nutritionists expected each batch to have.
Here, feed is made in 6 ton batches. The mixer was loaded in a few minutes and there was a 6 minute mix time (1 minute per ton). The capacity of this facility is several thousand tons of feed per day. There are many more recipes that change frequently as animal size and nutritional needs change.
There are several employees at this location including feed truck drivers, maintenance people, administrative roles, technology support, clerical jobs and general labor needs. This farm doesn’t grow any of its own feedstuffs; they purchase all of their inputs from local farmers and companies when possible.
The bulkiest input is corn which is grown by local farmers in these fields surrounding the mill and beyond. Several of these farmers are contract growers (like my in-laws) with hogs, turkeys or egg laying chickens for Cooper Farms.
Making pig food on different scales is like shopping for our own food at a warehouse store versus a smaller grocery store. When you buy in bulk you typically save money.
In his previous job my husband focused on details. He repeated and perfected a handful of tasks. In his current role his schedule is far more varied and he has to know a lot more about a lot more stuff. He’s really smart, so he’s good at whatever he does (as are most farmers I know).
I’ve shared the highlights of making nutritious feed for pigs on a small farm and large farm. Both farms focus on feeding a quality feed product to their pigs so that they can make a quality food product, pork, for you!