As you know, Circle B Ranch strives to produce the best quality pork available on today’s market—even during Missouri’s winters. We picked SW Missouri to raise our hogs because the weather tends not to be as harsh as in other parts of the country.
The winter does test the farmer’s skill and work capacity, bringing frozen livestock waterers, hard starting trucks and tractors, and, of course, the dreaded breakdowns! The smoothness of Summer fades into the time-consuming tasks of Winter. Everything seems as if it takes twice as long to accomplish, almost as if mother nature is making up for the grace period she has already given us earlier in the year.
But farmers aren’t the only ones affected. Even the hogs feel the change, behaving differently as the weeks (yes it is only weeks) move into the coldest stretch of the year. Some pigs pile into the range huts we provide—completely protected from driving winds, chilling snow, and frigid rain. Others gather up grasses and straw to build comfy little nests they burrow in for a warm place to sleep. Unbelievably, some hogs even prefer the weather, heaping up together with their herd-mates under the cedar trees in our open pastures. It never ceases to amaze me when I trek outside on a cold Winter morning and find a mountain of pigs snuggling like puppies.
One might wonder how these hogs survive, braving the elements like they do. The answer is simple. It is because the farmer defies the elements for them. He or she gives love, time, skill, dedication, and patience.
Dedication and patience are a must. During the winter, pork production takes a dive. Why? A hog’s metabolism is so high that it utilizes feed to keep warm instead of gaining any lean mass. The fat outweighs the meat. During this time feed cost goes up and meat production goes down. The pigs require the extra fodder to build up “fat back”—a thick covering of fat that blankets their backs and vital organs. Due to this thick layer of fat, a hog is able to flop belly-down in straw or grass, regardless of the snow. I’ve often found them laying in their nest with a 2″ layer of snow on their backs!
And here is where skill comes in. The farmer must keep close tabs on the hogs and know how to best promote their well-being during the winter. For example, he or she has to keep an eye on the weaklings and the runts during the weaning process. Since these piglets rely on the rest of the piglet herd to keep warm, they can easily be excluded from the heat they need to survive the cold temperatures. One must recognize when they are struggling and offer extra feed and bedding to ensure survival. This holds true for all of the hogs.
In general, during the winter, all of the hogs and pigs struggle a bit and require more feed and shelter. This fact requires efforts that take up much of a farmer’s time. Here at Circle B Ranch, we provide round bales and straw when needed for warmth and shelter. We step up the amount of feed to help the stock build up fat and body heat. The waterers are constantly checked and kept open, making sure the animals have adequate water to maintain hydration and avoid hypothermia. When it’s freezing outside, this is an all-day process. A farmer’s work is never done.
So where does love come in? The love comes from the desire to create a superior product; it comes from the dedication of stepping outside in bitter temperatures to care for your animals; it comes from acquiring the necessary skill to carry out the maintenance. The love comes from the patience that is vital to the farming life.
Perhaps it is love that is most important for the success of Circle B Ranch: love for the product, love for our animals, and love for you—the customer. Without love, time, skill, dedication, and patience we couldn’t provide you with the quality pork products we produce—regardless of the season.