Special thanks to guest bloggers and farmers Jim and LeeAnn VanDerPole from Pastures A Plenty for contributing! We carry a variety of their locally and humanely-raised pork products.
Pastures A Plenty in Kerkhoven, Minnesota is a grazing-based farm that uses holistic management for all of our farm decisions. We are committed to environmental, community and long term farm sustainability. We raise Berkshire, Duroc and Chester White breeds of hogs for our pork products because they love to be outside! The hogs are fed primarily on pasture and never receive hormones or antibiotics to promote growth.
Most of the hog industry feeds gestating sows by computer, either in the context of groups, or tight individual confinement. Here at Pastures A Plenty, our approach to the sows follows our mission statement – “….careful and humane”. Oh, we use computers. We just don’t allow them to come between us and our animals. When that human-animal connection is broken, and its elements handed over to electronics, the conditions ripen for abuse of both animals and humans. Animal husbandry is critical to us.
We feed the grain or high energy part of the ration, which must be restricted for the sow’s good health, in individual feeding stalls by means of a wheelbarrow and feed scoop. This puts us humans in close contact with the herd, where we can see, smell and hear the good health of the animals, as well as detect any oncoming problems early. Sows are confined in stalls for about a half hour in the morning, sufficient time for the slow eaters to finish. In this way, they do not fight over the feed. They are then turned back to live in a group and lounge around in the straw with their mates the rest of the day. We pasture the sow herd with our cattle herd whenever possible.
All pigs have an inbuilt need to “seek and find” their feed. In the forest, they spend most of their lives doing this. We try to provide this opportunity for them by maintaining a good supply of fresh forage feed for them to freely choose. We had a neighbor make hay feeders especially for use with our sows – they serve as an occupation for the sows and also push the sow herd more toward thriving on perennial plants, the production of which is a good way for farms to fight climate change.