Published Jan 9, 2015

Grazing Pigs, Facility Designs, and Niche Marketing – Learn From Fellow Livestock Farmers at the Annual Conference!

By Meghan Filbert

We’re gearing up for the annual conference which is only two weeks away! The conference is January 23-24 in Ames. For the livestock farmers out there – we’ve got a great lineup of presenters and topics on grazing, housing and marketing.

The conference kicks off on Friday with Jim VanDerPol, a diversified livestock farmer and writer from Minnesota, who will be teaching an in-depth workshop on the benefits of grazing pigs with cattle. When asked what the advantages of grazing these species together are, Jim said “we get better use of the pasture plants by running our sow herd throughout the pasture as the cattle rotate through. The sows spread the manure pats and nip the tops of the legumes, reducing bloat risk.” When asked about the challenges, he said “pigs love to play with whatever is lying around, such as gate handles and hoses.” Jim will discuss how the key to farm security is diversity.

Francis Thicke, owner of Radiance Dairy, will continue the grazing conversation on Saturday as he speaks on how grazing management impacts ecological and financial resiliency. Be sure to stay for the grazier show-and-tell Saturday afternoon. During this U-Pick session, helpful grazing tools and equipment will be shared. Do you have specific tricks or tools that have made grazing easier for you? Please bring your ideas or pictures to share!

James Frantzen, feed mill owner and swine farmer, and Joe Klein, regional pool manager at Organic Valley, will share their expertise on livestock housing Saturday morning. Innovative facility designs will be shared through layout examples and pictures. The do’s and don’ts of designing and constructing facilities will be discussed, while keeping your budgets in mind.

Jim VanDerPol will present again on Saturday, with his wife LeeAnn, on niche pork marketing. Learn how to profit from niche markets while the VanDerPols discuss customer expectations. “Customers want to know their farmer. They are concerned about taste, how the animals are raised, food allergies and GMOs,” says Jim. They will describe retail and wholesale aspects of their meat business, relay the history of its development, and discuss the staff needs of a marketing business and how those differ from a farm.

If you’re interested in selling meat or dairy to wholesale markets, please join us for an informal chat during breakfast. Niman Ranch and Organic Valley will be there to explain what they are seeking and incentives they offer. Stay tuned for more information on niche pork market demands in the winter newsletter.

Other tracks that may be of interest to livestock farmers are:
• Nose-to-Tail Cooking and Dining
• Recordkeeping Analysis Platforms for Crop and Livestock Farmers
• Real-Life Business Plan Vetting
• What’s the Deal with Cover Crops, Livestock and Herbicides?

If you haven’t registered, now is the time! Early registration ends January 15. Register here. This will be my first PFI annual conference and I’m looking forward to meeting those of you I haven’t yet. See you in a couple weeks!