I was debating what blog topic to write for the Illinois Farm Families website this week. While I was out helping Chad feed the cattle on one of the unusually warm days we’ve had, I thought about how much easier it is to care for all the critters when the weather is warm. But, then I got to thinking about the terrible heat of the past summer and decided that each season has it pros and cons. My preferences are spring and fall! For winter things would go a little smoother when if we didn’t have to worry about frozen waters, cold calves, heaters not working, etc. In the summer things would go smoother if we didn’t have to haul water, worry about overheated animals, or storms that cause power outages.
Our hogs are raised in climate controlled buildings. There are sensors that we set to control the temperature, air flow, fans, and ventilation. We make adjustments as the hogs grow. We are raising a group of wean to finish pigs right now. They require a little bit more TLC at the beginning. They were started with special feed mats and heat lamps to get them growing well. As they have matured, the mats and lamps have been removed and they are eating out of the regular feeder in each pen. This winter we have not had to worry about frozen pigs, bedding them down, slopping through the mud to feed them or trying to keep them cool in the summer. Hogs can’t sweat and can get overheated easily. It has been 15 years since we switched to feeding out all our hogs inside. It was an excellent choice for us and the hogs are all the more comfortable for it.
Our cattle are pretty easy to care for, but there are challenges in the winter and the summer. In the winter we deal with frozen automatic waters and hydrants, the cattle require extra bedding in their shelters and extra feed to keep them warm and full. Newborn calves can have a harder time keeping warm and when the weather yo-yo’s it is harder to keep everyone healthy – cattle and people included. We are still hauling water to the wells in the winter and we have to keep our water trucks unfrozen to do that. The summer months we need to keep the cattle cool. The bulls don’t always breed as well when it is hot – just too hot to do their business. The summer drought kept the grass from growing much. We started feeding hay a lot earlier, feed prices went up, and we hauled water to the wells.
We love what we do, even with all the challenges that are faced. Raising livestock is rewarding. There is nothing like seeing a newborn spring calf running and bucking through the pasture, or sitting in pen with little piglets chewing on your boots. The pros definitely outweigh the cons in raising livestock.