Ice, sword fights, and boys

Typically, I have a love/hate relationship with the weather, but right now it’s mostly hate. It is causing one heck of a mess around here. The grossness isn’t just about inconvenience, it is causing a lot more work too. The ice caused a lot of limbs to fall, and of course loads of mud. While these photos are from the first ice round, I thought it appropriate considering yesterday’s ice and today’s rain.

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During all the cleanup, there was a bit of an accident too.

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How? Well, let’s just say boys will be boys, and let the next picture do the rest of the talking…

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Yes, that is sword fighting. Everything turned out fine, though. Mom cleaned up Isaac’s wound and put some butterfly strips on it. He was good to go, and now has a cool upside down v scar.

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Needless to say, the weather is taking  bit of a toll on us. It’ll be fine, though. We’ll just keep praying for sunshine.

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Life of a Farm Boy

As I was flipping through photos, I was struck by what a great life farming provides. Sure it is hard work and dirty, but there is no better place to grow up in my opinion.

I always knew that I enjoyed the farm life, but wasn’t sure if I was an anomaly. There is a 12 and 13 year age gap between my youngest brothers and myself. This has allowed me to really take in what it is like growing up on a farm. I’m thoroughly convinced  that we are incredibly blessed to live this life.

Recently, a woman visiting the farm mentioned that this was her daughter’s dream. I mulled that over. My reality was her dream. Wow! How lucky am I? How lucky are my brothers?

Living on a farm can be inconvenient, dirty, and hard. Going on vacation means finding someone to feed the stock. After a ball game on Saturday, we return to make fence repairs, medicate animals, or clean barns out. By a young age, we kids know and have experienced the miracle of life and the woes of death. Everyday is a go outside day (sometimes it is just a matter of how fast can we feed).

BUT, living on a farm is… well, just scroll through the photos. It is the life of my brothers. It is the life of farm boys.

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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.

NC State Fair–Part 3

An early morning dawned, as our last day of the NC State Fair came upon us. It was time to show some sheep.
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Days before the show, we had washed and trimmed up the sheep to get them looking spiffy for the show. We brought four ewes–Sybil, Edith, Aspen, and Fifi. The boys were super excited. The wool sheep show is one of their favorites. The night before, they put together costumes for the costume class. You can dress up your sheep and yourself, but it has to be worked around wool. Isaac was a fireman theme because wool is flame retardant.

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Gideon was an artist and explained how wool can take dye.

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Both were cute as could be. Gideon won first and Isaac won second. It was a great way to start the show!

The next part of the show were the ewe classes. These classes are judged mostly on the quality of the wool, but also on the ewe’s conformation. Classes are separated by white and colored wool, and long and medium/fine wool. Isaac and Alec were both in the white, long-wool class. It made sense as Fifi and Aspen are twins.

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This was Alec’s first time showing sheep. He didn’t mind it, but he didn’t like the height difference. At 6’4″ he did quite  a bit of bending. Still, he looked like a stud.

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Both the boys did good, but Isaac took home the blue ribbon with Aspen. Fifi and Alec got third.

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Gideon showed Edith in the white medium/fine wool class, and won fourth.

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If you went by color, you’d never guess that Edith’s twin was Sybil; however, besides the color, they look just the same. I showed Sybil in the colored, medium/fine wool class.

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Sybil can have a little bit of sass.

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And sometimes, we both toss our heads in disgust…

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But ultimately, she still gets kisses.

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She ended up pulling in a third. I was excited that the judge liked all of the girls conformation. He said they were really stout and well made. Because Isaac got first, he went back in for champion drive. Gid and I were also in the champion drive showing other people’s sheep.

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Champion drive is against all of the ewes–white and colored, long and fine, old and young. Would you believe it, Isaac and Aspen were named Reserve Supreme Ewe!! I almost let go of the sheep I was holding I was so excited. This was the second year in a row that one of our sheep has received this honor. It makes it extra special that we raised these girls.

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All in all, the show was so much fun, and super exciting!

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Our day wasn’t over yet, though. The boys had ride tickets left. We all got to ride 🙂

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DSC_0053And with that, 2015 NC State Fair was over for the Lintons. It was quite the ride (literally and figuratively), filled with so many memories. Despite it being a lot of work, early mornings, and stress, it is always one of our favorite parts of the year.

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NC State Fair: Part 2–Goats

For 13 years, we have packed the trailer full of goats to take to the State Fair. In 2015, we maintained our habits, and packed the trailer with goats.Back in our hay day (no pun intended), Alec and I would have 12 goats between us at the fair. We have since downsized our goat herd, but always have something to bring. This year we brought 7 does. Unfortunately, we only showed 6 because Nala decided to lose too many teeth prematurely, making her ineligible to show. Does have to have a certain amount of baby teeth, indicating they are under 2 years of age to show. Nala was indeed under 2, but her teeth told another story. Oh well! She didn’t have to get a bath.

Because Alec had classes, only Isaac, Gideon, and I showed. Of course, Mom and Dad were there too. Our first order of business was to clean-up the girls. Everyone got baths, blow dryed, clipped, brushed, and polished. It takes several hours to do 6 goats. Can you imagine the time it used to take to do 12!

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DSC_0867Fitting involves a lot of detail from head to toe, and yes, even the butts. We get up close and personal!

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DSC_0853As you can see from these pictures, fitting is a team effort. Over the years, the boys have taken on more and more responsibility.  At first they couldn’t exactly wield the clippers. The goats would be a hack job. They have always brushed, washed, and blow-dryed though. Now, they are trimming hooves, clipping, and more. I love watching this progression! Before too long I can just supervise and sit back–not really. I like to be hands-on.

Show time rolled around and started with novice showmanship.My boys did so good in their classes, and were clearly the most handsome 🙂

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It was my last year in the ring with goats. I still don’t think that has registered. It will next year when I’m on the outside looking in. I got to show the smallest goats (poor planning) which were Miracle and Tres. Miracle was a terd outside of the ring, jumping and rearing up. I think she was mad that she had to be on a collar like all the other goats. Yes, Miracle, you are a goat. In the ring, she did great except for gnawing on my thumb the ENTIRE time. Hey, whatever makes her happy and stand still. Tres surprised us all and got 4th! I get super excited when anything we raise on our farm gets in top 5 of a class. I can also say, that she was a dream. Sure she was a little goat for me to show, but daggum if she did not stand there without moving and walked perfectly despite being worked with once.

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DSC_0998Clearly, I have the serial killer look down when showing. I promise I’m having loads of fun. I just like to concentrate.

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And, look who decided to show up.

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DSC_0976For those of you who know Garrett, you know he’s a pig guy. He is not fond of goats, but he came to cheer and help anyways. 🙂

All in all, it was a great day finished off with some spectacular fair food…again. If you ever want to see french fries disappear like a Houdini act, then you should watch us at 8 o’clock, still showing goats, wolf them down to tide us over. No worries, we later got fried pickles and jalapeno, pimento cheese, hush-puppies with sriracha sauce. Holy lanta!

Don’t forget, there is still one more part to the fair–sheep!

NC State Fair: Part 1–Pigs

The NC State Fair has already come and gone.  It was quite the whirlwind, but held a lot of special moments. For me, it marked a lot of bittersweet moments. This was the last year I was able to show in the junior show (21 years old and under). While this doesn’t mean I have to give up showing period, it does mean I can no longer do showmanship. I suppose I have to retire at some point. 🙂

I decided to do a series of posts for each day of the fair. Part 1 covers the pig show. We weighed them in on a Thursday, and showed them early on Friday. Alec, Isaac, Gideon, and I all stayed at a nearby hotel to make sure we could be at the fair in time to show. Traffic gets really bad from our house to the fair, adding 30-45 minutes to travel time. Mom, Dad, Grandma, and Papa came up that morning, but enough of those details. It is time to give the results of the pig show.

Gideon had an amazing hog circuit season. He won Champion Novice Showmanship and the belt buckle to go with it. He and another showman tied for the award, and Gid won the tie because he had attended more shows. The duo flopped places, and Gideon got Reserve Champion Novice Showman at the State Fair! I was super stoked for him. He and his pig, Nilla, were a dream team and worked so well together. I love watching Gideon show because he is so intense… sometimes too intense. For a 9 year old, though, he could beat some of the older kids!

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DSC_0553Watching Isaac show is completely different than Gideon. Isaac is laid back and oh so chill. Despite the style difference, he also won a belt buckle in the circuit in the junior division. This is a tough category, because he is 10 and is up against 13 and 14 year olds, but he won! At the fair, he made the cut, and was so close to getting placed. Making the cut was major in itself, though. There was double the kids compared to the circuit shows. He and Legalus, his pig, did so good! Legalus got 3rd place in his market class, and won first place born an bred.

DSC_0611Isaac has been dying to show a red pig, so he was super excited to help another showman out and show his red pig.

DSC_0617I loved watching Alec, and his pig, Gus show. Alec really enjoyed showing Gus-Gus, but they’d butt heads at times. Ultimately, Alec won 3rd in the senior division of the circuit. He also made the cut at the fair. All during the pig shows, Alec struggled finding the perfect height to stand while showing. I think he finally found the right bend.

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He and Gideon ended up in the same market class together. They literally went head to head. Alec and Gus won 5th and Gid and Nilla won 6th.

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As for me, I drove Alice into my last showmanship class. There were 4 of us in the senior plus category. I don’t know why, but I was super duper nervous. There are few times I remember being that nervous. I finally got my nerves under control and entered the ring, only to have the judge ask me the ear notch of my barrow before I had taken 3 steps. “Ummm… 4-6 notch, but this is a gilt, not a barrow.” He nodded and I walked on. I couldn’t help but think if it was ok to correct the judge. Too late now. After driving Alice for a bit, the judge asked each of us to get on the microphone and give a little speech. I don’t remember all that I said except for we should thank farmers 3 times a day every time we eat. Thank goodness for my communication major!

10172015 138I went back to showing Alice. At this point she is getting super cranky, and I am convinced I’m done.

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The judge began to announce the winners, and said the “the lady in the red plaid will be our winner.” Is that me? I’m wearing pink. I quickly looked around to see if there was another in red. No one was wearing red. It was just a color label mix-up! After over a decade, I had won the elusive belt buckle (stay tuned for a separate post on this). I was beyond excited. What a way to finish!

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Alice got 9th in her gilt class. Unfortunately, she had twisted something, and was limping, so didn’t get around too good.

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After the show, we went out and got fair food!

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10172015 174Before going any further, I want to thank Mom, Dad, Grandma and Papa for all they do in supporting us. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do any of what we do. They opened the door to the opportunities that have become my passion.

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The next day, we went and fed the pigs. Alec and I went to a banquet where we were recognized for receiving a NC State Fair Youth Livestock Scholarship.

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As I was looking through pictures, I noticed a theme–butts. I couldn’t resist sharing.

Candid pictures are always the best, and I couldn’t help but include many of them here.

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And that, dear friends, is a wrap for the pig show. I’m not responsible for any sudden urges to go and eat a ton of bacon. 😉

100 Years of Family Farming

Our farm was recently recognized with something pretty exciting. After some research into farm and land records, we put an application in for the North Carolina Century Farm certification.

The Century Farm designation is in recognition of 100 or more years of continuous family farming. Started in 1970, the program aimed to identify farms that had been in a family for 100 continuous years. To be eligible, records had to be presented that showed that the farm had passed to a blood relative of the original owner for a century or more. Of the 52,000 farms in North Carolina only about 3% of them have been honored with the designation of a Century Farm, and we are one! Isn’t that absolutely awesome?!

DSC_0094Our farm started in 1895 when Bettie Denning and husband David Jernigan bought approximately 150 acres. In 1909, Dave died. Bettie would later marry his brother, Jim Jernigan.  Jim and Bettie never had children, but Dave and Bettie had seven together–6 boys and 1 girl. The girl was my great-grandmother, Harriett Jernigan.

A tract of the original estate was given to my great-grandmother when she married (approximately 45 acres). She and my great- grandfather, Owen Weaver, built a house on this land.

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Harriett and Owen Weaver–1952

My great-grandfather cleared a large portion of the land with an ax, by hand. He pulled the stumps up with mules. On this farm land, they grew tobacco, soybeans, corn, and  cotton. They also had chickens and up to 100 pigs. Mules were used to plow until 1956 when the first tractor was bought. It would normally take one week to plow 15 acres by mule.

My grandfather, Bob Weaver, and two older siblings, Elizabeth and Nick, were born and grew up on this plot of land.

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Bob Weaver (Papa) circa 1949.
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Papa on a retired US Army Horse.

Papa helped with the farm work until he was 18. At this time, he joined the US Air Force. He would eventually be stationed in Scotland where he met my grandma, Sylvia McCabe.

001 (9)They married in North Carolina in February of 1966.

001 (11)In 1978, they moved back to the family farm land where they built a house. At this point, my mom was 11 years old and her brother, Bobby, was 8 years old. The house was built on 14 acres of the original tract of land.

Grandma, Mom, and Uncle Bobby doing some foundation work on the house
Grandma, Mom, and Uncle Bobby doing some foundation work on the house
Papa pumping water before pipes had been run to the house
Papa pumping water before pipes had been run to the house

001 (4)My great-grandfather was living at the end of the road, still raising pigs (my great-grandmother died in 1954). The rest of the land was being leased out to a local farmer.

My great-grandfather cooking a pig on an open pit early 70's
My great-grandfather cooking a pig on an open pit in the late 60’s
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July 1967–Mom is the baby being held by my great-grandfather. Papa is to his left and his brother, Nick, is to the far left.

Today, my Papa and Grandma have acquired 40 acres of the original estate, and my family lives on 6 of those acres. Our barn was built by my great-grandfather in the early 1960’s to be used as a pack house for tobacco.

fourth famPapa has buildings that are comprised of a tobacco barn built by my great- grandfather in the early 50’s. My great-grandfather died in 1988, but his handiwork lives on.

The next generation of our family is now farming on the same land that has been passed down for more than 100 years. Papa is growing a pecan orchard that has over 50 trees and rents out the remainder of the land for farming. We graze sheep and goats on 10 acres of the family land.

The honor of having a Century Farm is profound. In regards to why it means so much, I think Papa says it best,

“It is important to me to be able to pass down the land to my children and grandchildren, and for my future generations to know their heritage and where they come from.”

I am extremely proud to live on a Century Farm and to have such a rich history. Our roots run deep, and I love it!

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Garden Villains–Encountering the Hornworm

Our garden has been struggling hard core this year. Our peppers have consistently done well, but everything else has been a flop. We felt there was still hope for the tomato plants, though. They just seemed to be late producing.

That hope died when we got back from our vacation to the lake. Every single tomato plant we had planted, had been stripped of its leaves.

edit12The culprit–hornworms.

edit7Aren’t they gruesome, yet kinda cool too? They have super good camouflage making it really hard to spot them. We typically don’t even know they are there until our tomato plants start to become naked. Normally, we can catch them before they do too much damage; however, because we were away for a week, our tomato plants fell victim. I guess in this case it is “while the gardener is away the hornworms will play.” They are quite the evil little villain, and have thoroughly shot all chances of anymore tomato sandwiches for me.

Villain Profile:

There are 2 varieties of hornworm that can often be seen together on a plant, and they look identical. There is the tomato hornworm, Manduca quinquemaculata, and the tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta. The biggest difference between the two is the tobacco hornworm has a red horn, and the tomato hornworm has a black horn. Tabacco hornworms also have 7 oblique lateral white lines on them, and the tomato hornworm boasts more of a v-shape in their white lines. We identified our hornworms as the tobacco variety because of their red horn. I will note that some of my research did not differentiate between the two hornworms.

edit4Hornworms are actually caterpillars.They will turn into what is known as the sphinx, hawk, or hummingbird moth.

Photo Cred: University of Nebraska

The adults will lay eggs on leaves, the caterpillars will eat their fill until they are about 3-4 inches in length. After they have matured as a caterpillar, they drop off the plant and bury themselves in the soil to pupate. Moths will emerge 2 weeks later. They do this twice in the summer–once in early summer and again in late summer or fall. Those that pupate in the later half, will stay in the ground until spring.

Photo Cred: UKY

The hornworm gets its name from the horn that is on the tail of the caterpillar.

edit3They are always green with spots, but can range in size.

Criminal Actions:

Hornworms strip tomato plants of all of their foliage, and will even eat the fruit of the plant too.

edit9While tomato plants are their target victim, they like anything in the nightshade family. Peppers, eggplant, and potato are also in danger.

Fighting Back:

The most effective way to control hornworms is to just pick them off the plant… gross, I know. I wear gloves, because they can pee on you. They can hold on to the tomato plant pretty tight, so you may have to wrestle the dudes off. After hunting for all that you can find (trust me, it isn’t easy spotting them), you can throw them in soapy water to kill them. I just fed ours to the chickens.

These were all of the ones I picked off of our plants
These were all of the ones I picked off of our plants

Because the caterpillars can do so much damage in such a little amount of time, it is important to regularly check your plants. Afterall, there is a villain a foot, and they are ready to chomp down on some foliage.

edit11Despite essentially killing our tomato plants, hornworms are pretty interesting. They also make for some cool pics. For the record, though, the pictures I got do not mean I have gone soft. The tomato hornworms are not welcome in my garden.

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See ya!

 


Source:

University of Minnesota

UKY

University of Nebraska

University of Florida

Got to Be NC Show Pig Sale–We Are No Longer Pig-less!

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen where Alec and I traveled 1,200 miles and photographed/videoed 85 pigs at 12 farms all across the state for the Got to Be NC Show Pig Sale. We did it within 5 days and it was quite the adventure. Honestly, though, I loved it! After hours of editing videos and photos, they were posted on the online portion of the sale through Willoughby Sales. All there was left was to wait for the sale.

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Alec and I both planned on buying a pig at the sale. We had each picked out our favorites and set budgets for ourselves. I was stoked. When we arrived at the sale, I was excited to see so many people there. This was the inaugural sale, and I wanted it to do well. Because there was an online portion, there would be bidders both on the grounds and over the internet. It was a big deal for NC show pigs. As far as I know, this was the first of its kind in the state. There was free food, free t-shirts for buyers, and a lot of great folks.

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The problem with sales is you have to be strategic. I had 3 pigs picked out that I was interested in, but my favorite one was later in the sale line up. I was in the conundrum that I could wait until my favorite with the risk that it would go too high, and my other favorites would then be gone as they were earlier in the line up. I’m telling you, strategy and a bit of gambling is needed.

Alec’s first pick pig went too high for his budget, so he moved to the second, but when it got in the ring, he decided he didn’t like it. So, on we went to the third pig which went too high also. At this point, I’m getting a little squirmy for Alec. Our top 3 pigs for him were gone, and now it was a matter of picking one as they came through. One little guy came through the ring, and I nudged Alec that I liked this one. Alec watched him for a bit then bid. He got in a slight bidding war with another guy, and ended up calling it quits once he hit his budget. Dad and I finally talked Alec into going another $25. That won the pig.

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My bidding was much less eventful. I decided to pass up two pigs I liked to wait for my favorite and got her with no competition. I was stoked!

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Overall, I think the sale went well, especially as it was the first year doing it. Sure, there were some no-sales, but that’s alright. I hope to see it grow, and more people support it in the future.

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sale5It is truly exciting to see a great group of NC pig farmers come together to provide quality stock. Most of the pigs will be at the NC State Fair competing, so be sure to stop by the pig barn at the fair. For now, though, I would like to introduce you to our newest additions. I am no longer “pig-less”! They LOVE marshmallows.

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I am pleased to introduce to you my gilt, Alice:

 

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And, Alec’s barrow Gus:

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We should be getting two more pigs for the boys soon too, so stay tuned.

Fact Filled Friday: Scrapie Tags *Bonus-Funny Story Included*

 

scrapieYesterday we took 4 animals (2 sheep and 2 goats) to the stockyard to be sold. While the story of getting them on the trailer has nothing to do with the purpose of this post, it is too funny not share, so I’m going to to go off track a bit.

Funny, irrelevant tangent:Our old large buck can be hard to handle. Not in the fact that he is aggressive, but in that he isn’t the friendliest fellow. He likes to be left alone, and is therefore, hard to catch. Well, it just so happened that he was snoozing in one of the shelters, so I rushed to block the entryway to trap him inside. Alec brought me a fence panel to lock him in. The shelter he was in is a grain bin cut in half, and we humans have to do a duck walk to get in there. So here we are– Alec, a 200 pound buck, and me blocking them both inside to duke it out. Alec grabbed the buck’s horns, and when he did, the buck bolted. He began to run in circles with Alec spinning on his butt like a spinning top, holding onto the buck’s horns. It was a funny sight to be sure. I tried videoing it, but was not nearly as coordinated as I needed to be (sorry, no video). The next step was to let the two wrestlers out of the shelter. The buck was pushing with all his might, and Alec still did not have his footing. I grabbed one horn and the buck’s beard, but at this point the buck and Alec were all sorts of tangled, Alec had to let go, and the buck and I went running. Alec yelled for me to let go; however, I’m a bit stubborn, so I held on until Alec got there. We both escorted him to the trailer. Phew!

OK, back on track… before leaving for the stockyard, we had to make sure that all the animals we were selling had scrapie tags. It is required that goats and sheep have scrapie tags so that if they were to come down with scrapie disease, they could be tracked down to their place of origin. The tag not only has a number that represents that individual animal, but it also has a longer number that represents the farm from which they came. Ours looks something like this:

tag

Not all tags are scrapie tags and an animal can have more than one tag, but a scrapie tag is a must have. Why is this scrapie tag system so important? Well, scrapie disease is a very serious matter. It is the goat/sheep version of mad cow disease. It is degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system that is fatal. There are only two countries that do not have scrapie–Australia and New Zealand. In 1947, scrapie entered the United States through a Michigan flock of sheep. In 2001, the USDA started an aggressive program to help eradicate scrapie. Since that time, scrapie has been reduced by 85% in the US! This has been accomplished through the identification program as well as other measures. According to the National Scrapie Education Initiative, the program includes:

  • Identification of pre-clinical infected sheep through live-animal testing and active slaughter surveillance.
  • Effective tracing of infected animals to their flock/herd of origin made possible as a result of the new identification requirements.
  • Providing effective cleanup strategies that will allow producers to stay in business, preserve breeding stock, and remain economically viable. USDA/APHIS will do this by providing the following to exposed and infected flocks/herds that participate in cleanup plans:
    1. Indemnity for high risk, suspect, and scrapie positive sheep and goats, which owners agree to destroy,
    2. Scrapie live-animal testing,
    3. Genetic testing, and
    4. Testing of exposed animals that have been sold out of infected and source flocks/herds.

As you can see, this is serious business. At the stockyard that we brought the animals to, there is a sign that says all sheep and goats unloaded must have a scrapie tag by USDA regulations. stock

As a farm, we tag anything that goes off of our property. Interestingly, not all states have the same regulations. North Carolina does not require tags for animals that are wethers (castrated male) and animals less than 12 months of age going directly to slaughter; however, other states make no exceptions to tags. Regardless, it is important to not only be aware of your state regulations, but to follow them. In this way, we can help eradicate scrapie in the United States. There have been huge strides made in the last 14 years, and it is up to us farmers to continue those strides.

And that is your fact for this Friday.