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New, seeking advice starting up a pastured pork business  RSS feed

 
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I've been reading this site for a while. Interested in starting up a pastured pork business and looking for all the advice and help I can get.

Wife recently inherited her grandparents 286 acre farm 35 miles northwest of Lubbock, Texas. The farm has been used for growing crops, mainly cotton, milo and corn. Of the 286 acres, about 100 acres is crop land, about 100 acres is in the CRP program, the rest is native pasture. The native pasture has been overgrazed and poorly managed for 70 years and is grown up in catclaw mimosa and yucca. Grasses present are prairie grasses like blue grama, buffalo grass, bluestem and western wheatgrass.

The one big limiting factor in this area of Texas is rainfall. We average only about 19 inches per year. Most of the time it is not evenly spread out. This year, we went from January until end of June with practically no rain, then got nearly 6 inches over ten days. Growing crops in this area is a huge challenge which is why farmers rely heavily on irrigation pivots.

Because of all the demand on underground water for irrigation, the water table has steadily dropped over the years. Many farms in this area no longer have enough water available for pivot irrigation and have had to switch to dry land farming practices.

This brings me back to our 286 acres. We have two pivots over the crop land. It takes six wells to run the two pivots. This spring 3 of the 6 wells went down. We repaired two of the better producing wells and decided not to repair the third one when we found out it was only pumping 30 gal per minute.

I can see a time in the not to distant future when we may not have enough ground water supply to run the irrigation pivots. Therefore I am looking into other uses for the farm, thus the interest in pastured pigs. I am certain we will always have enough water for livestock. My big concern is over whether or not an average rainfall of Just 19 inches per year will be enough to support the pasture for the livestock. In periods of no rain, the native prairie grasses go dormant. Everything else dies, well except weeds. They seem to make it through the dry spells. In 2011 we only received 2 inches of rain from January to October and the drought extended to the end of 2012.

I would appreciate any input, thoughts or ideas on whether or not a pastured pig program would work under these conditions. I also need to add some facts about our weather. In winter we can get stretches of freezing weather with windchills below zero. We get at least one snow event each year. This area is rolling prairie with no trees to speak of. Summers are typically low humidity with temps getting up in the mid to high 90's and sometimes 100-110 and the wind blows pretty much year around 15-20mph And occasionally 50-60mph.

Thanks for any help you can throw my way.
 
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Location: SW Tennessee Zone 7a average rainfall 52"
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Check out Sugar Mountain Farm

Walter lives in Vermont, so his climate is different, but he is more than willing to answer questions. He has a LOT of blog posts on the basics of what he does, and he's very successful at it. He's a member here, but I don't know how often he gets on here anymore. He and his family are good people. Best dog I've ever had came from Sugar Mountain Farm.
 
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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You are going to need to do some restoration work so that your farm can sequester as much of the rainfall as possible.
Doing this work will also help restore your groundwater since the land will soak up what rain that falls instead of it evaporating.

What is the lay of your farm land? how much variation in elevation is there overall and are there areas where there is more than others?
Are you willing and able to do some earth works such as swales and berms in order to get more water into your soil during rain events?
Are you ready to plant more diversity in prairie grasses to get better soil coverage and thus more roots into the soil?

There are other things that can also be done but these are going to need to be addressed first.
Once you have some good foundational work completed then you will be in a good position to raise pastured hogs.

I'm willing to give you some direction so you can make good decisions towards you goals.

Redhawk
 
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