Archive for the ‘Farming Practices’ Category
Never before have I been to an event like that of Cochon 555, held this past weekend in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The seemingly dull college town of which Oklahoma State University claims as its home, is located an hour’s drive north of Oklahoma City and seemed quite the unlikely destination to hold such an affair—that is until one understands the magnitude of what OSU is attempting to accomplish. As has been noted here and here, Cochon 555 is competition held in ten destinations around the country. It invites five chefs from various regions that focus not only on quality ingredients, but chefs that also source those ingredients locally—pigs in this instance—and pride themselves by utilizing every part. Ideally, the chefs choose farms to work with that supply heritage pork to their respective restaurants. Then, they compete first for the regional prize, Prince of Porc, and eventually the grand prize at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colorado, King of Porc.
When I was trying to determine the best methods for implementing the ideas that were rolling around in my crazy head as to how we were going to best manage our pig operation (from the perspectives of quality of life, parasite control, manure control, as well as overall pasture management and rehabilitation), portable electric fencing seemed to be one of the best solutions available. Over the last ten or twenty years, farmers in New Zealand and the U.S. made many logical advances in the technologies associated with what has been termed, Management Intensive Grazing (MIG). The idea is that livestock of varying forms (cattle, sheep, pigs, and even poultry and/or rabbits) are sectioned off into small paddocks which are then frequently rotated as soon as they sufficiently finish their respective jobs of “mowing the grass” to an appropriate level or in a pigs’ case, “aerating” or tilling the soil to encourage new growth. Once they’re moved to a new paddock, the old paddock isn’t re-visited until it has sufficient time to rest and rejuvenate. Not only do the animals mow and till, but they also leave consistently spread, nitrogen-rich fertilizer [manure(!)] behind to aid in soil enrichment.