Monthly Archives: October 2011

Dennis Farms Update October 2011

Greetings from Dennis Farms!

Our first Fall weather arrived this week. We had cold and a little rain earlier in the week and clear and cold this morning. 45 degrees on the porch. Janie was bundled up like she was going into hibernation. After the extreme heat and drought of this summer, a little cold and rain can be put up with. Speaking of drought, this made the 6th consecutive year we have had to deal with drought at some level. We spent most of the summer in what the U.S. Drought Monitor folks call moderate drought and now are in severe drought. Please send any rain you can spare.

Pasture News: In mid-spring I started cleaning up 7 acres of new ground we had cleared last summer in the hopes of getting a crop of hay off it. I got it seeded in “Quick-n-Big” crabgrass the first week in May. Then we went 6 weeks before we had a rain with enough moisture to germinate the seed. With little follow up rain the grass grew slow, thin and spindly. By mid-August it was thigh high and I was afraid a rain and wind combination would knock it over so I asked a friend to bale it for me. Even though I had picked up too many loader buckets of rocks to count, his disc mower took a beating. We only got 10 bales which was very disappointing. In early September we had it limed and fertilized with broiler litter. And then a really amazing thing happened. We got a little rain, 1/2″ or so, and all that seed dropped by the first crabgrass germinated. There is a thicker stand now than when I seeded it. I don’t think it is going to get tall enough this late in the year to make a hay crop but it should drop a tremendous amount of seed for next year. Pretty neat!

Thank God for pearl millet. If it wasn’t for our pearl millet we wouldn’t have had anything to graze the back half of summer. This was the 3rd or 4th year I’ve planted TifLeaf 3 and I love it. It started slow because of no rain, grew when there was a little rain and then hung on when everything else was dying. By stripping it off into 2 or 3 day grazes, I got 6 weeks of grazing in August and early September when the crabgrass and Bermuda were dried up. I’ve attached a photo of our ewe Rose standing in what looks like wheat straw but is really a pasture.

Cow News: We started a new cow line for us with the arrival of our first progeny out of our new bull, Champ 7094, from Andras Stock Farm in Manchester, IL. The dam is Kimberly 0922 from OOF Farm in Athens, AL. This little heifer is a real cutie and we are really excited about this new blood line. I’ve attached a photo of her and mama (that’s pearl millet they are grazing).

Our last calf of the fall was a good size guy. (76 lbs.) It was all I could do to get him weighed. Between the length of the scale, the sling, his long legs, and my short legs, I had to raise the scale head high to get his feet off the ground so Janie could get an accurate reading on the scale. A few days later talking to my friend Danny (about my size and age) who had been weighing calves that morning, I asked him if he was having trouble weighing his bigger calves. “Not since I started using a weight tape instead of a scale”, said Danny. Duh!! I guess Janie is right, I need to get off the farm more. The good news is Janie is getting me a weight tape.

More good news is, while it has taken us several years, many dollars, and a lot of hard culling, we are starting to see a little light at the end of the tunnel toward developing a core group of genetics that will thrive in our harsh environment, on our farm and on grass alone.

Pig News: Our objective for the year was to continue building our herd to the point where we could supply our customers requests – be it for live animals or meat – without lengthy delays. I think we have come pretty close. We had a large order for feeders early in the year we couldn’t fill and I’ve got a couple of Georgia customers patiently waiting for us to put the final pieces together for unrelated breeders, but for the most part we were able to get our customers their pigs in a timely manner. The next goal will be to figure out what is the correct inventory to carry balancing meeting customer needs against the obscenely high cost of feed these days.

While there are multiple genetic characteristics we select for when deciding which pigs will be kept for breeding purposes, inclination to grazing and grazing ability is an important one to us. This includes the inclination to eat hay as well. I’ve attached a photo of a litter of pigs just past 2 weeks of age and they are all ready out grazing. It is our pigs forage consumption that gives the meat it’s full flavor and a much healthier fat profile than pure grain fed pork.

Sheep News: I have been trying for a couple of years now to get Janie to have a fall lambing as well as a spring lambing to more evenly have a supply of lambs for meat. Janie has been reluctant to do this because she is well aware that with our drought issues, grass may or may not be around in the fall. However, I had a guy to guy talk with our flock ram Maximiser, and he agreed with me. So now we are going to have a fall lambing. Seriously, I think it was more a case of the mature ewes being in such good body condition that they bred back much sooner than expected. It now looks like the mature ewes will be lambing in November and the yearling ewes this Spring.

New Product: In addition to our whole cow “Primeburger” and our whole hog sausage, we can now offer sides of pork and the whole pork. You can have the pork cut up as you would like. If you are new to this, I will be happy to assist you in deciding how you want it cut. I will deliver the animal to our processor in Bowdon Junction, GA and you can pick the meat up when it is ready. A side of pork is $3.40/lb on the hanging weight. A whole pork is $3.25/lb on the hanging weight. Both pork prices include delivery of the animal to the processor, processing the meat, and sealing in vacuum packs. If you have any questions, please call or e-mail Greg.

All of our meat is free of hormones, growth promoting antibiotics and steroids. None of our animals ever receive non-natural feeds. The cows and sheep are grass/hay only.

New Venue: We now have a booth at the West Georgia Flea & Farmers Market in Bowdon Junction, GA. The market is located on US Hwy 27, 3 or 4 miles south of Interstate 20. We are in booth F87. We will be there on the 1st and 3rd weekends of every month and on the 5th weekend of months with five weekends. We will have both “Primeburger” and whole hog sausage with us. For large orders, please let us know in advance so we have an adequate supply with us.

Also, Janie is now delivering to central locations in Newnan, GA and Carrollton, GA. Please call her to set up a delivery.

Best Regards,

Greg & Janie Dennis

Dennis Farms

Ranburne, AL