My Background with Hogs (Prequel to Farrow Crates)

27 Feb

My Animal Science major had me take a semester of Hog Production. We talked about how pork is the bottom rung for funding, how pork is mostly consumed in the morning and how the industry is working to change that, and how hogs get a LOT of diseases.  And of course, throughout the program small farms vs. corporate factory farms were featured.  And animal welfare.  And the normal nutrition, management, and other animal production concerns.

In that class, we visited 2? Maybe 3 different hog farms. One of the farms was larger and completely indoors, state-of-the art equipment, and looked to have a lot of money behind them.  The other was a smaller farm, still indoors, with less frills.  Both of these were all-in, all-out operations, and I remember having to shower, put on their coveralls and boots before entering, and shower again before leaving the farm. This was to minimize contamination and reduce disease.  I don’t love class field trips that require 2 showers, by-the-way.

As a pre-vet student I visited a hog farm of my veterinary-employer’s friends. Got that? My boss’ friend produced pigs in a relatively small Midwest operation. Though small, and family-owned, the operation was still not the idyllic Old MacDonald’s Farm.  Only the boars and a few of the older sows were outside and only part of the time.  And they were confined in small sections, not unlike an outdoor run for a dog.

Then, after graduation, I worked at the university on a hog heat stress research project. The hogs were completely indoors, and completely confined at all times.  This job required me to help feed, clean, collect temperature data, and even process piglets! During this job, I had a lot of exposure to hogs and piglets, and a tiny bit with the “teasing” boar.

That’s 3 farm tours and a university job with pigs.  Each of the facilities taking advantage of farrowing crates and confinement to one degree or another.  Yet, none of the hogs I saw looked miserable or dirty or diseased.  And I didn’t see any outdoor hogs roaming around resembling Old MacDonald’s Farm that people think of when they think of the perfect pig situation.  So that’s where my opinion on farrowing crates, and hog production at large, is coming from.  Next up–the controversy.

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