Meet the Wildman family, Farm Bureau members from South Charleston in Clark County. They operate Standing Oaks Enterprises where they raise 1,200 acres of corn and soybeans to support more than 16,000 piglets and sows each year.
Clockwise from top, Charles, Kim, Mindy, Simon, Sam and Carol. “I have to earn consumers’ vote every day,” Charles said. The hog farms of today are a response to consumer desires for more lean pork, good air quality and manure management. Consumers can voice their choices – “If they back away from the meat counters, changes will come.”
Charles, son Sam and daughter Mindy ride to the pig nursery for the morning feeding. Charles is a seventh generation farmer. Previous generations raised cattle and sheep; Charles settled on hogs in 1997.
Nursery feeding used to be Sam’s job, but since he’s leaving for Ohio State University’s Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster this fall, the feeding is now Mindy’s job. Pigs remain in the nursery until they are 11 or 12 weeks old before they are moved to another barn. They eat a starter feed and are closely watched for any health changes; pigs that need extra attention are moved to a separate pen in the nursery.
Charles said the H1N1 virus put a strain on the farm; companies were hesitant to make contracts for purchasing the finished (grown) hogs. Even though the virus did not come from hogs, farmers like the Wildmans lost money. Another threat to the family farm may come from animal rights activists. If they get their way and are able to regulate how hogs are raised, Wildman said it would force him to expand his farm, tear down what he currently has and spend millions to put in new buildings.
The Wildmans spread
1 million gallons of manure over their 300 acres of crops, meaning they are recycling and making use of the nutrients in the manure. They also use manure from a neighboring dairy farm to fertilize their crops. Without manure for fertilizer, they would have to purchase synthetic fertilizer.
The sows are kept in temperature and ventilation controlled barns where they are protected from internal parasites and diseases and are provided the exact nutrition they need. Their pens prevent the “boss hog” effect – meaning one hog can’t dominate the others through fighting and then win access to all the food. The pens also prevent mothers from accidentally lying on their newborns.
Pregnant sows are kept in gestation stalls on the Wildman farm. Sows can weigh upwards of 400 pounds and be aggressive to one another and to workers. Gestation stalls provide safety for both the animals and people working with them.
While Charles, Sam and Mindy were at the pig nursery, Carol took son Simon to swimming lessons, where daughter Kim helps instruct.
Sam is active in 4-H and is a member of the Clark County Junior Fair Board. He took care of four beef steers over the summer. Mindy is also involved in sewing 4-H projects. Sister Kim is a college student at Bowling Green State University.
When they can, the family eats lunch together. On this day, pork was on the menu.