Category Archives: Livestock

Agricultural attractions of Polk County

This past Saturday, I took my nephew Samuel with me for a morning of agriculture related events. Our first stop was to a demonstration of a piece of equipment called a Commercial Brush Mulcher, which was recently added to the line of services offered by a local company.  Before we were even out of the car, Samuel said, “That thing is cool!” Now, you have to understand that this statement is coming from an eight-year-old boy who has both of his wrists in casts.  The question that is probably coming to your mind is, “How did he manage that?” And my response has been, “He’s an eight-year-old boy!” Enough said.  Anything that has a destructive application has his attention, so this piece of equipment was right up his alley.  Plus, if you grow up in Polk County and your family has access to heavy farm equipment, you get initiated at a young age….

The Commercial Brush Mulcher, attached to the front of a Skid Steer, clears overgrown pastures, trails, and along fence lines in short order.  We watched it clear half an acre in less than 30 minutes. Trees up to eight-inches in diameter became an evenly distributed later of mulch on the ground in minutes. Yes, it was super cool! And a great service for our landowners who have acreage they want “reclaimed” and put to use.

Our next stop was to a local Farm and Landscape supplier in Mill Spring where a “Livestock Event” was taking place.  On the way there, my nephew said, “I want to see pigs!” I said, “I’m sure we will see chickens and maybe some goats, but not sure about pigs.”  Arriving at the location, I had to search for a spot to park so as not to block all of the in-and-out traffic and livestock trailers.  A lineup of vehicles – cars, trucks, and trailers – were easily spotted with plenty of livestock available.  Chickens and turkeys in cages beside vehicles were readily seen.  Goats in the back of pickups, bleating for attention, could be seen and heard.  As we started down the line, asking appropriate questions regarding breed, age, sex, and cost, I finally asked, “Any pigs??”

Three people simultaneously pointed down the line.  The last four trucks and trailers had an assortment of swine – black, white, spotted, eight weeks to four months in age.  One was being carried around by a cute little farm girl trying to find it a “good home”.  The others – not in a cuddle phase, were also looking for short-term good homes… if you know what I mean.  Samuel jumped up on a trailer hitch to get a good view of pigs in the back of a pickup.  Thankfully, he did not fall in and break his nose.  I would not have enjoyed explaining that one at the hospital.  We left without any purchases as our farm is currently at management capacity.  We did, however, enjoy coffee and doughnuts and conversation with neighbors.

As I was chatting with a local farmer, there was a commotion at the end of the livestock line where a very lively little hen had escaped her enclosure and was being chased down by six helpers. I could tell that she was of the game bird type which are very agile and good at avoiding predators.  My first thought was, “She will be seen occasionally down Mill Spring for weeks to come.” But I watched as one farmer, cell phone to his ear deep in conversation, walked up to the circle of helpers, quickly scooped up the bird, and handed her back to the owner – never missing a breath in his phone conversation.  My respect for farmers increased again.  They do AMAZING things everyday with the attitude of it being a part of a normal day.

Thank you citizens of Polk County for making Agriculture a main attraction in our community.

– Dawn Jordan, Director, Polk County Office of Agricultural Economic Development

Is your farm prepared for an emergency???

How will I water my livestock if I have no power?  If there is a flood, how will I move my animals to higher ground?  Where should I go in my field should a tornado occur?

Though these questions may seem simple, without a solid thought-out plan behind them, one might find themselves, and their farm, unprepared for emergencies.  Being that 44% of the 2.1 million farms in the United States are found in the south, it is important for these important economic centers to have emergency plans in place.  Being prepared involves knowing your risks and developing emergency plans to use during and after these events.  By being prepared, you minimize the impact on your family, farm, business, pets, and livestock.

There are a variety of emergencies to consider such as:

Natural Disasters



Severe Thunderstorms


Excessive Heat


Severe Winter Storms

Biological Emergencies


Pandemic Influenza

Foreign Animal Diseases

Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases

Emerging Crop Diseases and Pests

Food Safety Recalls

Technological Threats


Bio- and Agro-terrorism

Agrochemical Issues

Power Outages


Here in Polk County we are most likely to be affected by extreme heat, cold weather, power outages, flooding, severe thunderstorms, and possibly a tornado.  Still, having a comprehensive plan developed that addresses any potential risks is the best way to go.

Preparing your farm for an emergency requires the following:

  1. Figure out what disasters and/or hazards are most likely to occur in your area.
  2. Find out how you will be warned of an emergency.  Stay alert for emergency broadcasts; listen for NOAA weather radio alerts; and/or check for news on the radio, tv, or internet.
  3. Put together a  Family Emergency Supply Kit. 
  4. Draw a farm site map.  Include: buildings and structures, access routes, barriers, locations of livestock, locations of all hazardous substances, and electrical shutoff locations.
  5. Make a list of your farm Inventory: livestock, crops, machinery/equipment, and hazardous substances.
  6. Keep a list of emergency phone numbers: local and state veterinarian, county extension service, local emergency management, and your insurance agent.
  7. Make a list of suppliers/businesses providing services for your farm.  For example: your livestock or milk transporter, feed delivery service, fuel delivery, etc.
  8. Contact your insurance agent.  Be sure to review your coverage and get additional coverage for “all hazzard” situations (e.g. flood, hail)
  9. Stockpile supplies needed to protect your farm during an emergency.  Such as sandbags, plywood for windows, extra fuel, fire extinguishers, a gas powered generator, safe supply of food for your livestock, hand tools, wire and rope, etc.
  10. Identify areas to relocate animals if needed.  Be sure to take into account all livestock and horses, equipment, feed, grain, hay, and agrochemicals.
  11. Remove or secure any loose equipment or materials.
  12. Prepare your farm employees.  Be sure all employees are aware or the farm emergency plan as well as the know the location of shelter-in-place and evacuation sites.  Be sure to keep a record with the contact information for all employees.

Plans should also be established specifically for livestock, which would include keeping an up-to-date inventory of all animals, their location, records of ownership, immunization and testing records, as well as planing safe evacuation routes, alternative shelter, and emergency stores of food, water, medicine, and other necessary supplies.

This serves as an introduction to emergency preparedness on a farm.  For more information here is a list of resources to utilize while developing your farm emergency plan:

Ruminant Toolbox – A Huge Collection of Information

ATTRA has a website with mountains of information for small ruminant producers. Powerpoint presentations, white papers, manuals, FAQs, and more. This is a great resource for those with sheep and goats – peruse when you get a chance.

Go to Small Ruminant Toolbox

WNC Ag Options

Congratulations are due for two Polk County farmers for grants received from the WNC Ag Options program.

First is Chauncey Barber, our esteemed ag teacher at the high school:

Secondly, is Steve Modlin of Old Mule Farm

Way to go!

Brewer’s Grain for Fodder & Cattle Alliance

After our Friends of Ag Breakfast last week there were a couple of great ideas put forth about feed for animals. Comparing dry weights versus wet and more. Two great resources came out of breakfast and are listed below!

To help you find access to brewer’s grains, connect with the WNC Brewer’s Grain Alliance

Running cattle? Check out the Mountain Cattle Alliance for help with marketing and selling your stock wholesale.