When it Rains: Weather Causes Challenges for Hog Farmers

For many in the world, rain is simply an inconvenience. Umbrellas go up, feet get wet, traffic gets worse, plans get ruined. It is just plain gross.

For some though, rain devastates. We all know that a lack of rain can ruin crops. We have all heard of farmers praying for rain, but there are also the days where farmers are praying for it to stop.

Recently, it rained, and rained…and rained some more. I had two flooded pastures, and the sheep had to wade puddles that were more like rivers to get to a dry pen. I was beyond ankle deep in mud. It frustrated me, but there wasn’t a thing to be done… well except transfer the sheep. I realized that for us, though, the rain and muck was an inconvenience. It was a bigger inconvenience than someone who doesn’t live on a farm, but compared to what my dad was dealing with, it was just an inconvenience.

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An example of the standing water we had on the farm

Dad is an environmental manager for several hog farms. His job is to oversee the management of the land on the farms, the lagoons (containing area for hog waste), and all waste treatment from the pigs. In short he manages dirt, poop, and crops…with people.

Examples of some of his duties include managing innovative growing and harvesting bio-mass (e.g. miscanthis, sorghum, etc.) for bio-fuels. He oversees how land renters are managing that piece of land. He also monitors lagoon levels at multiple hog farms. Lagoons cannot rise to a certain level. This is why the waste (aka manure) is pumped out and used as fertilizer on crops. It is a great way farms use resources. They can’t pump this waste on the land flippantly, though. They follow strict guidelines and regulations set forth by the state. Dad makes sure they follow these regulations.

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Pumping on hay fields for fertilizer

One of his biggest enemies, is rain. I remember as a little girl seeing how stressed he was because of a heavy rain. Why is it a stresser? Well, rain can fill up lagoons and make them rise over acceptable levels if not managed. Managing the levels take place with proactive measures by pumping when it is sunny and the crops can soak it all up. They also occur in the midst of the rain. Sometimes, no matter how proactive farmers are, Mother Nature will not cooperate. She just keeps on pounding the rain.

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A low level lagoon

Can they just pump in the rain on the wet ground? Absolutely not! Can they throw up their hands and say oh well? Nope! They work overtime. They haul in tankers to haul the waste away to keep the lagoon level down. This is expensive, costing thousands of dollars. Add this stress onto the fact that if they ever hit a high level, they have to report it to the state. If they have a spill, they get fined. There is major stress trying to protect the environment, abide by regulations, and fighting Mother Nature.

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During Christmas, it rained. My dad was on the phone a lot, making calls, making decisions, and making the drive to the farm that was 45 minutes away to monitor it. There was the potential that he was going to have to call his guys and say you have to work on Christmas. Is pig poop so important that he would have to take men away from their families on Christmas? It is when it rains. It is when they are looking at rising levels, fines, and damages. It is important because if they ignore it, they fail, and they hurt their community. So, like the majority of individuals who farm, they go out in the rain, and on Christmas if needed.

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Pumping on sunny days is a proactive way to manage for rainy days.

Takeaway: Lagoons are in the news a lot as a pollutant and farmers are portrayed as the polluters who willfully ruin the environment. The truth, though is they work very hard to protect it. My dad has been an environmental manager for more than 15 years. He is the kind of guy who when given too much change, he returns it. If he returns a couple of dollars, don’t you think he would follow regulations, and safeguard the environment even at the expense of blowing his budget and working on holidays? I do. I’ve seen it for almost two decades.

This post is Dad approved.

6 thoughts on “When it Rains: Weather Causes Challenges for Hog Farmers

  1. Thanks Marisa,

     

    Most people do not understand what we do with waste and how we do it.  This type of education in photo form for the general public to see is of immeasurable value!

     

    I, as a pork producer, am praying for a little relief from the rain we have had for the past year.  I understand Bladen county has had around 80 inches of rain in the last year and that is almost 20 inches above normal.

     

    Please join us at the NC Pork Conference in Raleigh in Feb. at the Southern Farm show.

     

    Tom

     

    Sent: Sunday, January 17, 2016 at 11:22 PM

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    • Rain in excess is very hard to deal with, and it disturbs me that many people think we just let the waste run into the rivers. Hard-earned money will be spent before farmers let that happen.

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  2. Great article! I am glad I am not the only one who doesn’t like rain, well too much of it at least, well or any while I’m doing chores. I especially like the “dad approved ” part.

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  3. I love this post! It shows all of the hard work that everyone involved in ag puts in to not only manage challenges but to prevent them – which is something the public often forgets. Thanks for being awesome:)! -Lauren

    Like

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