Pig farmers preparing for the busiest season of the year

Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 8:12 PM EDT
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WAYNESBORO, Va. (WHSV) - Animal handlers across the Valley have struggled because of the drought this year.

Autumn Olive Farms works with pigs and other livestock year round. Like other farmers in the Valley, it has struggled to meet expectations because of the summer drought the Shenandoah Valley has seen.

Clay Trainum, co-owner of the farm, said they are behind schedule for their busiest time of the year.

“The busiest time of the year really starts in September and carries through until January,” Trainum said. “Anything that we thought was going to be ready in September October, if it’s still four to five weeks out from those expected dates then we have a shortage of product.”

Trainum said the farm has thresholds per week it usually meets, but stunted growth of pigs have lowered the actual pigs ready to sell.

“We’ll have certain number of animals available every week,” Trainum said. “Then we realize our weights aren’t there and that can affect our sales and availability. We can’t send what’s not finished properly. It has all that affect on the sales and distribution side for restaurants and butchers.”

One of the many methods of care for the pigs on the farm are natural and artificial mudholes for the pigs to cool off in the hot summer days.

“Most places we have mud holes that we create and maintain, literally we add water to them sometimes,” Trainum said. “We’ll take water to them sometimes, this one has a spring that comes up under it. That’s important, it’s important for pigs in hot weather.”

Trainum said he often works with butchers and restaurants from the Northern Virginia area, selling his pork for higher prices to offset the costs of his land. He said the heat has limited sales, often because people are leaving the DC metropolitan area more than they have because of the heat.

On the farm, Trainum has multiple “houses” that are portable for the pigs. These provide shade and visual cover from predators for the pigs and their litters. Trainum said it is one method to help the pigs cool off.

“So I’ll move a house to a mother and create a safer environment,” Trainum said. “She was focused on a cool location, she may be a little more exposed to predators but again that’s a side effect as well.”

Trainum said pigs are often smart enough to find adequate cover for themselves. He said this summer, he often found pigs laying underneath trees and sleeping during the day while they forage and did their normal activities at night. He said the pigs aren’t usually nocturnal throughout the year.

Trainum said motivation has been a struggle this year, but there is always a job to do for the livestock.

“In the summertime, the days start to get really long,” Trainum said. “We find on Friday’s that we don’t often want to work anymore, but someone has to take care of the animals on the weekend.”