Pork Production, On Fire and With a Twist

I am the 4th generation to be farming with my family. My great-grandfather started our farm many, many years ago. At that time, the farm raised and grew a little bit of everything.  As my Grandpa, uncle and Dad took over, we became diversified. We concentrated on growing a few things and doing it well.  We now raise corn, soybeans, wheat and a lot of hogs!
I’m not one to share acreage or numbers.  My dad always told me that sounded prideful. But I will say we are proud of our farm and what it has become. My uncle, Dad, cousin and My Farmer work hard to make sure our animals are properly taken care of. Barns are monitored to make sure they are at the correct temperature at all times. If a baby pig is born small, we take extra time to provide extra nutrition and care to ensure that pig will survive.  Yes, in the end we are raising animals that become part of the food supply. But that does not mean we don’t care for the animals.  I have a great time watching the baby pigs, or moving pigs that are a bit bigger. And when disaster happens, as it has to us, it can break your heart in two.
In June 2010, my Farmer and I were in a nearby big city for an event for my work.  We had just gone to sleep when his phone rang. My cousin, who we farm with, had texted to tell us a tornado was close to our house.  My husband was panicked. He was dressed and out of that hotel in 15 minutes, after only having 2 hours of sleep.

It only took about 20 minutes for him to call and tell me the tornado had destroyed one of our hog barns. I immediately started crying. I was so upset for him and for the loss we had suffered. The darkness of the night covered some of the mess, but once daylight broke the mess was everywhere. Metal and debris littered the farm and fields for miles. The roof of the barn, which once was planted firmly on top of the barn, was now floating in our lagoon, leading my husband to say it looked like Noah’s Ark.

But the amazing thing through all of this, we only lost a handful of animals. In a barn that houses hundreds of sows and baby pigs, we lost 12. That’s it.  They were safe in gestation crates that kept them from blowing away in the 165mph winds that blew back sheet metal like it was paper.
The same could not be said for the disaster we had this summer. On the morning of my Farmer’s birthday, we had a terrible storm. A small pocket of red on the weather radar had planted itself over the top of our farm. And there was lightening. Alot of it. It wasn’t too long into the storm that the phone rang. If your phone rings at 4:30am, it can never be good news. This time it was the alarm company telling us the temperatures in one of the barns was hot. Remember we have alarms on our barns. It the temperatures in the hog barns get too cold or hot, we get called and we head out to check them. No matter what time of day. So my Farmer headed outside, just in time to see flames shooting from the barn behind our house.
Within minutes we had fire departments from every small town within a 20 mile radius trying to save some part of our barn.  It didn’t take long to realize the part of the barn that was on fire was a complete loss.
The silver lining was that the fantastic volunteer firemen saved the other parts of the barn.  So only one section of the barn burnt.
However, this part of the barn housed our sows, female pigs who were either pregnant or were going to be pregnant soon. It also had our boars.  The boars are the guy pigs who are responsible for the sows being pregnant! Essentially we lost the genetics for this barn. 
I can’t even begin to explain the helpless feeling of watching a barn on fire and not being able to rescue those animals.  I cried.  My Farmer cried. It is gut-wrenching. 
So why did I just give you the “awful” side of livestock farming?  So you would understand how much our animals mean to us.    Farming sucks. If it’s not raining, it’s hot and dry. Or a tornado comes and blows away in seconds what it took decades to build. Or lightening hits and burns your barn down.  It’s always something. Honestly, you can not make any money farming. And people gripe so much about how we raise livestock. But they don’t see this side, the side where we would run into a burning building to try and save animals if we could.  Or when we move pigs in the middle of darkness after a tornado to try and save them from debris.
It is still a lifestyle we fight to save. Because I can’t imagine living any other way. And my husband wouldn’t trade the hours, headaches and heartache for any other career. Natural disasters can take away hog barns, but it cannot take away the determination to survive and the desire to help feed the world.

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