A Profile in Doing Things Right- National Pork Enviornmental Stewardship Award Winner Trails End Sow Farm Number 2Wed, 19 Dec 2012 03:56:20 CST
One of the national 2012 Environmental Stewardship Award Winners for the National Pork Producers Council is Trail's End Sow Farm Number 2, located just outside of Ames, Oklahoma. The following is a detailed look at their operation and how they are raising hogs and producing pork in a sustainable way that is supportive of maintaining and improving the environment.
From its unique vistas to its abundant wildlife, Trail’s End Sow Farm No. 2 outside of Ames, Okla., is a grand place where farm owners focus on protecting natural resources, including the nearby Cimarron River. The farm offers unique vistas and abundant wildlife amid the sandy, low hills of this hidden farm site.
“We are off the main path for sure,” said Jeff Mencke, production manager for Roberts Ranch of Oklahoma, the business that operates several sow farms as part of Hanor in the Ames area. “I’m the closest neighbor to the farm and that’s a half-mile away, so we’re really isolated.”
The transplanted Nebraskan knows that the farm’s isolation helps protect the farm’s 10,500 sows and their litters from a biosecurity standpoint. Having the barns surrounded by 560 acres of land doesn’t hurt either in terms of pig health and neighbor relations. However, the farm can certainly hold its own in terms of showcasing the sustainable nature of modern agriculture.
Keeping It “Green”
Thanks to the relatively mild winters afforded to Kingfisher County, Okla., the fields of Trail’s End Farm are green year-round, according to Bill Barnes, who oversees environmental operations at the farm.
“We emphasize forage crops here rather than corn,” he said. “Grazing cattle on the forage crops also adds another dimension to this operation.”
Barnes explains that the farm no-tills cereal rye, winter wheat or triticale on 278 acres under center-pivot irrigation. The crops receive nutrients from one of the farm’s two lagoons that are lined with super-protective 30-millimeter, high-density polyethylene liners.
Before manure gets to the fields and even the lagoons, it’s handled via 18-inch-deep pits and charged with 6 inches of fresh water. This helps initiate the breakdown of the manure and provides a protective odor barrier to help protect the pigs and people in the barns.
Mature, fall-seeded crops are harvested for hay in late spring, which makes way for crabgrass that is over-seeded with pearl millet – a combination that offers haying opportunities all summer until time for fall seeding again.
“It’s a very sustainable way for us to make use of the manure,” Barnes said. “We have no need for commercial fertilizer, and the continuous plant growth protects the soil and the water.”
The farm takes great pride in protecting nearby natural resources, such as the Cimarron River. That’s why Trail’s End monitors its manure output very carefully to know its exact nutrient levels before manure is used on cropland. The same is done with the soil itself.
“We use professional agricultural engineers to determine the specific application goals based on the tests,” Mencke said. “At appropriate times of year, effluent is pumped at agronomic rates on the fields to ensure maximum utilization of the nutrients.”
Watching Water While Fostering Wildlife
Just like with the effluent used for fertilizer, Mencke said the farm uses an ag engineer to help determine water needs for the animals and for barn cleaning. “This helps us create a water budget so we can target monthly usage,” Mencke said.
Sows at Trail’s End Farm receive water four times daily in their troughs – once after each feeding time and again two more times during the day. This practice keeps the sows content and helps conserve water.
From an environmental standpoint, water quality is high on the list. Mencke points to three monitoring wells at each of the two lagoons. Two monitor downstream groundwater quality and one monitors upstream groundwater quality.
In addition, tests are conducted for organic, inorganic and biological contamination to ensure lagoons are functioning correctly.
From the inception of Trail’s End Farm No. 2, Mencke said the intent was to protect the surround flora and fauna as much as possible. This has paid off, with farm employees now able to enjoy their work by sharing space with a multitude of wildlife. Everything from whitetail deer to turkeys, to coyotes and pheasants, all call Trail’s End Farm home.
Good Community Relations
Mencke said the native grasses and timber foster the diverse wildlife found on the farm, giving them another reason to be a proud sponsor of the Grand National Quail Hunt, headquartered in nearby Enid, Okla. “Roberts Ranch hosts a team of hunters that seek their limit of birds from our population of coveys,” he said.
Trail’s End Farm and Roberts Ranch live out the We CareSM principles by giving back to the community in other ways. This includes sponsoring the annual Fourth of July fireworks show in Ames, being a headline sponsor in the Smokin’ Red Dirt BBQ Cookoff in Enid and supporting numerous youth at livestock auctions.
“We’re proud to be involved in agriculture and specifically, we’re proud to be involved in the pork industry,” Mencke said. “We’re helping provide a hungry world with an efficient, economical, tasty and sustainable source of high-quality protein.”
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