Filed under: Animal care, Farm, farm animals, Minnesota | Tags: animal care, animals, farm, farm animals, machines, Minnesota, pigs
For the last few months there has been a large building project going on in one of our fields. Yesterday the north half of that barn got a delivery of 1000 pigs.
The pigs have moved in. Everything in this barn seems to have been done to make the pigs comfortable. Heaters for the cold weather and lots of fans for the hot weather, but most of all lots of room to roam. With todays outdoor temperature here in Minnesota well below freezing, these pigs need this barn for protection.
I find this new barn interesting. Although there are fences, each pen has a way for the pigs to move between pens. For now that freedom will be unrestricted.
As time goes on the large openings in the fences will be closed and movement will only be by way of one way gates. These one way gates will mean that as pigs move around the room they will make a trip across a scale where they will be weighed.
A computer in the office will keep track of the weight of the pigs and allow the barns manager to decide when it is time to sell some pigs. Then the scale will really earn its keep. As each pig enters the scale a door will close behind it, if the pig is big enough it will be moved to a pen near the door, smaller pigs will be returned to the general population. The door then opens for the next pig.
The freedom of movement means the pigs are used to moving about and seem to load easier into the truck. This makes it much easier on the pigs and the people.
I also found the feeders interesting. Each feeder has both water and feed available. Pigs like wet food. This allows them to mix their food and water. When the pigs rattle the tray above the feed trough feed will work its way down where it can be mixed with water. They also have some waterers for when they are only thirsty. Everything in this barn seems to be made to work with a pig. It is so interesting to see the changes in technology in the last years.
I never dreamed that when dad and I got out of pigs 12 years ago because it was too much work, we would one day have more pigs on our farm at one time than we used to sell in a year. That day has come. I’m not doing any of the work with the pigs, but we do now have pigs back on the farm. The pigs are owned by a young farmer who really seems to know his business. It has been a pleasure working with him to get this project going. Hopefully he can make a profit on these pigs, because I’ve got to get this barn paid for.
Filed under: Ag education, Animal care, cats, dogs, family, Farm, farm animals, food, food safety, friends, Uncategorized | Tags: Agriculture education, animals, dog, family, farm, farm animals, Food, nature, pig, pigs
I am constantly amazed at the folks that turn up their nose at the slightest smell, and those that cannot stand the least bit of disarray, life is messy, deal with it!
We are conceived and born in a rather messy way. That’s how life starts out. We eat, and the leftovers leaving our bodies are anything but neat. To top it all off, for anything of any size to live, something must die, it’s a fact of life. When we die, despite the nice cleaned up corpse the undertaker provides for our friends and relatives to see, we decay, it’s a fact of life. We must join the circle of life, we are born, eat to live, perhaps pass on a few of our cells to create a bit of life to follow us or two, then we die.
Where is this all going? Back to the farm of course. We who are left on the farm are being told how to do our job by folks that turn up their noses at the least smell. We have a messy job, and know how to deal with it. Some famous person, with a fur person in their house, thinks all farm animals are just like their furry companion. Folks, a cow is not a cat, a pig is not a dog, a chicken is not a baby.
It seems all too easy for those with extravagant life styles to make the world better. Out of guilt for the huge amount of money they have, they promote legislation that is supposedly better for farm animals, all the time putting farm folks out of work and making food more expensive for those who cannot afford it. Because of “feel good” regulations, it is getting harder and harder for young folks who love the farm, to stay there.Those of us who love the farm know what to do with pigs, cows, chickens and other livestock. We want them to be healthy and happy despite the fact that we know we will eat them. Leave the mess to those who understand the mess. If you want to know how things are down on the farm, please ask a farmer, not a news anchor.
Filed under: Animal care, Farm, farm animals, fertilizer, food safety | Tags: animals, farm, food safety, old barn, pigs
When we stopped raising pigs about 10 years ago we did not expect our old barns to be used again. They were not really old, about 20 years old for the newest and 60 years old for the oldest, they were just too small for most people to use. Then Tony came by to talk to us.
Tony was in college and wanted to raise pigs. He wanted to rent our small barns. The grower/finisher barn at my place needed a bit of work, but Tony rebuilt it, added some new equipment and moved some pigs in. Then he talked to my dad about the old gestation barn. That needed little work to become a grower/finisher, so that too became a space for more pigs for Tony to use.
It is now six years later and Tony needed to make some changes in his operation. He was looking for somewhere to put a 2000 head grower/finisher barn and needed more nursery space. We thought it over, crunched some figures and became partners with Tony on a whole new scope, and we are back in the pig business again.
Currently there is a new barn being built-in my dads field that will house 2000 pigs. We supplied the money to build it, Tony is supplying the pigs and the management and rents the barn from us, and, we get 120 acres of organic fertilizer a year out of the barn.
The old gestation/farrowing/nursery barn is being remodeled to become a nursery barn for Tony’s operation. So here are some of the changes.
A transition area has been added to the old gestation barn to make moving pigs into and out of the barn easier.
The main walk-in door has been moved from the left side of the farrowing barn to the center. The office will stay on the right side of the entry area, but the rest of the entry has been redesigned.
When entering the area where the pigs are, you now must go through a shower. This is to remove any chance of disease movement between barns. Out side clothing will remain outside. All clothing used in the barn will stay in the barn until it is removed to be washed.
Walls between the three old nursery rooms have been removed. We used the rooms separately because we did not raise as many pigs. Tony gets his pigs in groups of 1000 and needs more space.
The old farrowing crates have been removed and new floors, fence and ventilation added in the old farrowing rooms.
Equipment appropriate for little pigs has been added to the old gestation barn.
Piglets will come into the barn after weaning at about 16 to 20 pounds. They will move to the grower/finisher at about 45 pounds. By the time they reach 250 to 280 pounds, in about 5 to 6 months, they are ready to go to slaughter and become bacon, pork chops, sausage and ham. Lots of good eating!
It’s good to see a young farmer making a go of it. We need some more young folks on the farm to replace us older ones as we retire.
Gestation barn. Where female pigs are held after breeding.
Farrowing barn. Where baby pigs are born and spend their time with the sow before weaning.
Sow. Female pig after farrowing.
Gilt. Female pig that has never given birth to piglets.
Grower/finisher barn. Where pigs are raised until sold for slaughter.
Filed under: Animal care, Farm, farm animals | Tags: Agriculture education, animals, cattle, chickens, Food, nature, pigs
You may have thought I was a bit harsh about pigs in my last post, “Pigs are, Well Pigs,” but that is not the worst things I have seen. I could tell you much worse, and in detail, of how they mistreat each other. Oh, I admit, pigs are at times endearing. When raised like a pet, they are intelligent and can even be sweet. The pigs found on a farm are not pets. Let them get their way, and they will take over. Farmers have done everything possible to breed the mean out of pigs, and they have to some extent, but not completely. The same can be said for many other farm animals.
Chickens will peck on each other at the first sign of weakness. Let a little blood show and they are all over it. They will fight over a choice bit of food, chasing each other until it is either lost or eaten. It does not take much to get male chickens to fight. Chickens are stupid. They have just enough brains to fly up into a tree to get out of danger, but are totally defenseless if that danger has wings. That’s why farmers usually keep them fenced in. To keep animals that like chicken out.
Cattle are perhaps a bit more docile, but even they can and will fight. They at least will give up the fight if their opponent is down, unless they think they are protecting a calf. Cattle on the range today are protected as much as possible, but old time cowboys have some real scary stories of cattle that go wild. If a ton of animal knocks you down, consider yourself lucky to get up and away.
So here’s the thing, protecting these animals is a full time job for a farmer. Animals are not people, and though at times they may show some signs that could be interpreted as “nice,” they are not always. If you ask any farmer who has raised livestock for as many years as I have, they will have some really interesting stories of animal behavior. Cruelty within species is more often the norm rather than the exception, this is not a Walt Disney World. Livestock compete for food or mates for their survival. It is only when humans protect them that they can afford to act nicer to each other. We protect them from each other as well a predation. To pay for that protection, they pay a price.
Fairy tales and cartoon pictures are fine for entertainment. We all would like to live in a better world. It is a world of make believe. The real world is cruel. Sorry folks, Bambi was a myth.
Filed under: Ag education, Animal care, Farm, farm animals, food, food safety | Tags: Agriculture education, bacon, boars, farm, Food, food safety, gestation crates, ham, piglets, pigs, sows
I’m rather frustrated when I hear people telling what they think really happens on farms, especially in the pork industry. They claim all kinds of things they know nothing about. As a former pork producer who raised pigs in many different types of housing over the years, here are a few things about pigs that you should know.
There is no meaner animal on the planet that I know of. Pigs will be mean to each other whenever they can get away with it. The only way to keep pigs from fighting each other is to keep them separate. Sick or injured animals can be killed and eaten if not removed from the pen. Even piglets just a few days old will bite and push. They are born with sharp teeth that can rip up a sibling. As they get older the tusks on a boar (male) will stick out of the side of the boars mouth and can really rip up anything they can get at. Boars and sows (females) can weigh over 500 pounds and they know how to use that weight to their advantage. Their huge neck muscles are made to gouge and thrust. Even as a juvenile, at about 250 pounds, pigs know how to push their weight around. I have the damaged knees to prove it.
Pigs can and will eat anything. They will slurp down snakes and love any kind of meat. If it doesn’t move fast enough or fight back, it’s lunch. What we would consider garbage, a pig declares is dinner, if it is rotten or moldy, so much the better. They can get by on grass, leaves or bark, but prefer more condensed foods like grain (corn, oats, wheat, barley). A pig raised in a barn has exactly what they need to grow in front of them as determined by a veterinarian and a nutritionist.
Pigs are pigs. If allowed to, boss animals will steal food from smaller animals. You end up with a few overweight animals and the rest fighting over the scraps. Smaller animals will be kept away from the food until the larger animal has had its fill. That is why some farmers use gestation crates. In most cases a gestation crate will have more room in it per animal than would be allowed in group housing. In a gestation crate, each sow will get exactly the amount of food it needs for producing babies without having to fight the boss for it. There is also much less chance of injury and death.
I have raised pigs in open lots and I’ll take a clean enclosed barn every time. Pigs are very likely to pick up diseases and parasites when raised on dirt. Most of those diseases and parasites are easily transmitted to humans, some by eating the animal. That is the reason that jews and arabs consider them an unclean animal. Moving the animal off of the dirt removes this problem.
People who do not belong in a barn should please stay out. This is to protect both you and the pigs. You could be carrying something on your shoes or clothing that will make the pigs sick. It is routine in most modern pig barns for people to shower in and shower out. No outside clothing is brought in. No outside animals are allowed in. Barns are washed and disinfected between groups.
There is nothing a pig likes more than manure (shit, excrement). They are naturally drawn to manure to eat the undigested or partly digested feed that another animal excretes. Manure that has lain around for a while will have fly larva in it, pigs love fly larva. It is part of the nature of the animal to dig around in manure. When raised on concrete slats the manure of a pig is removed from the reach of a pig.
Pigs love the mud. That is because a pig has no sweat glands in their skin. They will dig around in and roll in anything that will cover their body. Modern farmers will mist the air in a pig barn when it’s hot outside. Pigs have sensitive skin and are prone to sunburn. A layer of mud keeps the sun off.
You may think it would be better for a baby pig to be born in a nest, but you would be wrong. A sow weighing in at between 300 and 500 pounds is deadly to a 2 pound newborn. A farrowing crate protects the babies from being stepped on or laid on. It also allows the farmer to assist in birth when needed. It is not unusual for the last few pigs to get covered in the afterbirth. A farmer can save these pigs where he does not have to enter the pen a protective mother is in. After farrowing (giving birth) the sow will turn around and eat her afterbirth. In an open setting, other pigs will be trying to get at the after birth. Sometimes baby pigs get eaten or injured in the melee. A mother pig likes temperatures a lot cooler than a newborn. A farrowing crate allows the farmer to add heat just for the babies and the mother can stay cooler.
Pigs love to be close together. Even in the hottest weather, pigs will sleep close together. You can have just a few pigs in a large barn and they will still sleep piled on top of each other.
Pork is delicious. Bacon, ham, chops, roasts, sausage, it all is good to eat and good for you. Pork, in moderation is part of a well-balanced diet. If there is one thing that will tempt a vegan off of the wagon it is bacon!
Please, before you try to tell a farmer how to raise his animals, talk to them. Old livestock farmers have years of observation to share. They care about their animals and want them to be healthy. They do their best to give every animal a chance to live, and not die a senseless death of disease or injury. Yes, farmers know that their pigs will be killed and eaten. They also realize that in life everything must die. Isn’t it better for that life to mean something. The pigs sacrifice helps us to grow and live better lives.