Caring for animals isn’t something that farmers only focus on during the more comfortable months of the year. It is a year-round, 24-hour, seven days a week job. By raising animals in environmentally controlled buildings, farmers are able to provide better care, including consistent climate and great nutrition.
“Not only are the animals protected from parasites (bugs, lice and mange) and predators, but more importantly during extreme temperatures farmers are able to maintain a more comfortable and protective living environment,” pig farmer Thomas Titus says.
Farmers take the necessary steps on a daily basis to care for animals that they are entrusted to raise.
“It has been our goal for over 20 years to provide a healthy growing environment for our turkeys and to raise the best and healthiest turkeys possible on our farm,” turkey farmer Darrell Glaser says.
Farming is all encompassing as it involves not only managing business details and making sure all equipment is properly working, but also ensuring animals are comfortable, healthy and raised in a responsible way.
Thomas shares how nutrition plays a huge part in how animals are cared for:
“One of the really interesting things that we do on our farm is with the nutrition of our pigs. We utilize a feed ingredient that contains essential oils, chili powders, oregano and many other organically derived ingredients in many of our pig diets. This generally increases the immunity of the animal and improves their overall health and wellbeing, which results in many added benefits. We feel the chili powder, in combination with the other naturally derived ingredients in this feed additive, help maintain a more consistent body temperature and, during the extreme heat, helps our pigs remain more comfortable.”
Responsible care for animals not only includes nutritional health but physical health as well. Sometimes it is necessary to install fans or ventilation systems in the buildings to maintain comfortable living environments in the summer seasons. “In each of these types of barns [natural or tunnel ventilated] we use multiple fans in different locations within the building to ensure that our pigs are as comfortable as possible during the summer months,” Thomas says.
Thomas’ pig birthing rooms requires even more attention:
“In our farrowing (birthing) rooms, where our momma sows will have their babies, we still keep those at a relatively high temperature. Baby pigs like it hot - really hot - so when we experience extreme outside heat it can sometimes be challenging to keep the mommas cool while their babies are basking in this extra warmth. Our solution: each individual momma sow has her own dripper. Once the room reaches a certain air temperature, there is a thermostat that will trigger the low pressure flow of water for a specified amount of time onto the momma sow to help keep it comfortable.”
In addition, extreme storms can call for more attention to the animals, requiring reconstruction of buildings or better insulation. “I can’t count the number of times during my farming career that I have had to get up in the middle of the night to check my turkeys during a Texas thunderstorm. It is not fun doing this but it is what it takes to ensure my turkeys are safe and sound,” Darrell says.
He recalls one serious thunderstorm where winds reached up to 110mph. He rode out the storm while not only looking after his immediate family, but protecting the turkeys and their housing.
“We experienced severe damage to all of our turkey houses. I personally watched curtains being ripped off, doors being blown off and roofs being lifted from the rafters. As soon as the storm cleared in the middle of the night, and I checked to make sure my family was alright, I called in all of my workforce and we began making necessary repairs to the turkey houses. We did this to ensure that our turkeys would be okay until morning. Even though our buildings suffered severe damage, we did not lose a single turkey through this storm.”
Caring for our animals isn’t a normal day job with work hours from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.; it is something that is constantly done on a daily basis.
“We miss school functions, vacations, parties and many other events if things are not going right on the farm,” Darrell shares.
Farmers put in long and odd hours just to make sure animals are healthy and safe. This is the life they love and have chosen; their animals often come before themselves.