The fame and struggles of Gunthorp Farms

Gunthorp and his Durocs

Serving high-end restaurants isn’t always easy

LaGrange, Indiana — Gunthorp Farms is famous.

Superstar chefs laud the farm’s pork in big-city magazines and food publications. The name Gunthorp is all over the menu at Frontera Grill, one of Chicago’s best-known and most decorated restaurants. Big-time politicians in three states have bestowed honors, and Gunthorp Farms once provided the Thanksgiving turkey for the mayor of Chicago.

In 2013 the farm raised close to 150,000 chickens, 10,000 turkeys, 12,000 ducks and more than 2,000 of its signature hogs on pasture, with the majority of that production going to restaurant and grocery customers in and around Chicago, Detroit and Indianapolis. Gunthorp is one of the best-known and most desired high-end meats brands in the Upper Midwest and perhaps the entire country. Continue reading “The fame and struggles of Gunthorp Farms”

Trees and pasture can grow together

Pigs graze in the woods

Silvopasture important part of diversified Forks Farm grazing

By Tracy Frisch
Orangeville, Pennsylvania—
For many graziers, the woodlot is a place where the livestock end up when they break through the fence. For others, it’s a poorly managed shade lounge for hot summer afternoons. For John Hopkins, trees represent a natural extension of his pasture management.

And woodlot management. At Forks Farm, tree lots are viewed as something more than providers of summer shade and winter shelter. They are valued for providing diversity and complexity to the farm’s grazing program. And the grazing stock are viewed as improving the quality and market value of the trees by controlling competing weeds and brush. Continue reading “Trees and pasture can grow together”

Changing behavior through genetics

Pigs on pasture

By Jim Van Der Pol, Kerkhoven, Minnesota — As was noted in the last issue, changes we have made in our equipment, building layout, and feed production seem to have helped with our hog behavior and health problems. Feed production adds more work, while the equipment (pens) and building layout are small additional capital costs that allow us to work more effectively. Yet we have not entirely solved our problems, and we do not want to spend a lot more money and time adjusting our management and facilities to the hogs.

So we have a question: What could we change about hog behavior through genetics? Continue reading “Changing behavior through genetics”

How much forage can a non-ruminant handle?

Pigs on pasture

With high grain prices the new reality, it’s time to find out

By Jim Van Der Pol Kerkhoven, Minnesota — For years we have fed a little hay in winter to gestating sows by throwing a small bale in their bedding every few days. This is no big deal, especially when compared to the summer pasturing we have been doing for decades. Grain has long remained the major part of the winter gestation ration.

But with major changes afoot with fuel and grain prices, we have decided to look closely and critically at forages with an eye to building a pig production practice that will be more durable going into the future. Sows are the place to start, as their systems seem to handle forage well, and we perceive that they benefit from it. Continue reading “How much forage can a non-ruminant handle?”

Setting up the gestating sow system

Farmers with pigs

By Jim Van Der Pol, Kerkhoven, Minnesota — Hogs fit on grass farms: It is up to the grazier to decide how.

In our combination crop and livestock farm, the hogs are a better market than the elevator for the field crops. Hogs also provide a good balance in the cropping scheme through their ability to use anything from hay to grass to barley or rye, plus a healthy dose of crop residues. The cropping part of our farm, about 160 acres, is aimed at producing hog feed and bedding. The grass part of our farm, also about 160 acres, was until last year dedicated to sheep and hogs. This year the sheep (just a few, for our marketing business) will be bought in for the summer, and replacement dairy heifers have been added to the farm. Continue reading “Setting up the gestating sow system”