Tag Archives: hogs

The Wild Hog Situation

3 Jun

Have you ever Googled the news using key words “wild hog”?  There is an overabundance of news about damage done by hog varieties.  I’ve included some, but you know how I’m lazy, so I just cut & pasted the info directly from the articles without appropriately citing them.  Everything  in bold (not much) is mine.  Everything else is swiped off the internet.  Here is some example stories from many possibilities.

Here’s the news:

1.  “They’re nothing like Babe or Wilbur in ‘Charlotte’s Web’” notes a Bloomingdale-Riverview Patch report written by editor D’Ann White. “These pigs are the bane of property owners throughout FishHawk Ranch.  Seen throughout Florida and Texas, feral hogs are also called feral pigs, wild boar, wild hogs or razorbacks.  According to the Department of Natural Resources, these hogs are quickly wearing out their welcome, having tremendous negative impacts on native plants, native wildlife, livestock, agriculture and humans.

2.  “It is a problem, and it is a serious problem,” Supervisor Dan Sturm said Tuesday. “I understand they are big, and they are nasty.”  Sturm said residents have called the town with reports of seeing groups of 20 to 25 hogs of all sizes on their properties. . .  Spotted nine hogs walking in single file by a stone wall along Burr Road on Friday. The hogs, which included a 230-pounder at the lead and a piglet coming up the rear of the line, cut across the road

3.  http://www.nwfdailynews.com/articles/pigs-49982–.html  OK, admittedly, I NEVER click on links on blogs, Facebook, e-mail, or anywhere else because I’m too lazy.  But you should click this one because the story provides a lot of good information, but is too long for me to cut & paste on to this post.

Why it’s real bad:

1.  . . .  “Chewing up habitat, displacing native plants and animals, besting other game for food sources, breeding prolifically. Given the right conditions, a sow can produce three litters a year of up to a dozen piglets per litter.

Just this week, the National Wildlife Federation highlighted the importance of the issue, “calling for state and federal measures to remove feral swine, a highly destructive invasive species that is a growing menace to wildlife and wildlife habitat.

Pigs out-compete any animal that likes to eat an acorn. We’re going to tell our hunters, ‘You know, what if I told you they directly out-compete bear, deer, turkey for acorn mast? A group of pigs can come in overnight and ruin your food plots that you spent weeks and hundreds of dollars to establish.’ ”

How it relates to hog farming and farrowing crates:

These articles and the many like them prove how the Old McDonald model of farming is nothing but a fairy-tale.  It would not work this day in age.

According to the Wiki, “It is the wild ancestor of the domestic pig, an animal with which it freely hybridises.”  Domestic pigs can escape and quite readily become feral, and feral populations are problematic in several ways. They cause damage to trees and other vegetation, consume agricultural crops and can carry disease.  They are omnivorous scavengers, eating almost anything they come across, including grassnutsberriescarrion, nests of ground nesting birdsrootstubersrefuse,[12] insects and small reptiles.  Feral pigs often interbreed with wild boar, producing descendants similar in appearance to wild boar; these can then be difficult to distinguish from natural or introduced true wild boar.

Feral hogs can rapidly increase their population. Sows can have up to 10 offspring per litter, and are able to have two litters per year. Each piglet reaches sexual maturity at 6 months of age. They have virtually no natural predators.

As of 2008, the estimated population of 4 million feral pigs caused an estimated US$800 million of property damage a year in the U.S.[54] The problematic nature of feral hogs has caused several states in the U.S. to declare feral hogs to be an invasive species.

Still think it’s a good idea to let hogs roam freely?  Indoor housing and farrowing crates are for the protection of the hogs, the environment, and people!  Click my other two posts on this issue for more info/opinions.

Farrowing Crates

28 Feb

I have yet to see the Chipotle commercial (I don’t have TV), but they bring up a controversial point.  One that I think warrants discussion.  But the discussion needs to be educated and practical.  Knee-jerk emotional reactions (especially from those who have never seen hog production or worked with pigs) are not the way to fix problems.

What are farrowing/gestation crates?  A confined area where hogs are kept during gestation and lactation.  The hogs cannot turn around.  They can only stand, sit, or lie down.

Why do hog producers use farrowing crates?

1. They are used to keep the hog from eating the food of her piglets. Obviously, a lactating hog has different needs from several growing piglets.

2. They are used to keep animal separate. Hogs can be aggressive.

3. The farrowing crates makes maintenance of hogs easier. It is simple to feed, quick to clean, and keeps each hog in her own little area in the facility.  It is also easier to individualize care–if a hog looks thin, the farmer can supplement only her food.  If she looks ill, it will be noticed faster when she is confined to one area.

4. The primary reason for farrowing crates is to protect piglets. Hogs are known to lie on their piglets and squish them to death. If she is confined in a farrowing crate, the piglets can scoot away from their heavy mother, but still nurse when they need to.  The family doesn’t have to be separated as in many other species of production.

Farrowing crates aren’t perfect.  I would argue, no system in animal production is perfect–everything has room for improvement.  We should always search for ways to make animal production more humane for animals, safer for workers, more cost effective for producers, and faster.  Sometimes these goals conflict with each other.

Before you condemn farrowing crates here are factors to consider:

-Hog production is all-in, all-out these days. To go into a pig farm–even a small one, people (visitors, employees, vets) have to shower in and out, change boots and coveralls, etc. . . This is to manage diseases–for the pigs. Even delivery trucks have a certain path to minimize cross-contamination. Some farms even have a truck wash! Letting hogs outside, creates a world of opportunity for sickness. And makes the problem of vaccine/antibiotic withdrawal periods even more pertinent.

-Hogs really damage the environment. They root in the dirt, rub on trees and fences, and have output that could contribute Nitrogen, Ammonia, and Phosphates to nearby (ground) water.

-Hogs and piglets have differing nutritional needs. Keeping the two separate is difficult and also poses ethical and logistical problems. Also, hogs have potential to fight. Even 3 week old piglets will eat each other, give each other scratches and black eyes. How to reduce injury?

-Money and compliance. Will requiring alternatives to gestation crates put the SMALL farmers out of business?  How much would it cost to change an entire operation? Who regulates it? And is this a priority for regulators when there are so many other animal/production issues?

-What will pork cost?  The expense of finding a new system will go to consumers as well.  How high are we willing to pay for meat?  It would be a shame to require hog production to change then, turn to beef or poultry or away from meat all-together because we do not want to may high food prices.

 

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.

Foodie Wannabe: Careers that Deal with Eating

20 Oct

Eating is one of my favorite things ever!  It seems, that is where the majority of my money goes.  So it would make perfect sense to work with food for a living.  Here are the food-related careers.  A lot of them are very similar.  Some focus more on food for enjoyment.  Others are more human nutrition and health based.  A couple go to the root and focus on food production and agriculture.  I think my interests and attributes for all are closely related so they are all on the same page.

Molecular Gastronomy/Culinology:/Chef (baker):

Dietetics:/Human Nutrition:

Agricultural Science:/Food Science:

-I love to eat!

–for fun, I eat at restaurants

–most of my money ends up being spent on food

–my mate and I adore cooking together

-I already know about the production/animal side of food

–my bachelor’s degree is in Animal Science

–I have worked with many food animals in research/veterinary settings

—dairy cattle

—hogs

—sheep

—poultry

–I have volunteered my time to gain exposure to livestock

—Went to 2 different hog farms

–I have already worked undesirable (to most) service hours

—milking shifts at 4 AM and 4 PM

—research data collection every 4 hours around the clock

—weekends and holidays at high volume companion animal boarding

—12 hour shifts at emergency hospital

-I am prepared for a food career

–I got honorable mention in a state-wide science fair in 4th grade for growing different crystals using minerals found in the kitchen

–worked at Campus Dining Services my first year of college

–have a chemistry minor

—got an A in biochem

—took animal nutrition, dairy/beef production, hog production

—had animal labs on different food species

—I did an ergovaline feeding trial with rodents

—I have measured and calculated the daily feed intake of dairy cattle

–I am competitive and strive to improve myself

-My interest in food issues has been long term

–One of my life goals since I was little was to publish a beverage cookbook

–I published my own fundraising cookbook, and sold over 200 of them

–I try to read everything Marion Nestle’ writes

–one of my favorite TV shows is Top Chef

–I have diabetes in my family

–I have had friends with disordered eating

-I have worked with people successfully

–from prior career blogs

 

Pig Latin [posted 2-4-08]

17 Jan

At Noah’s Ark, all the animals I work with have names.  Not the case in the swine chambers at the University.  I decided to rectify that situation.  Here’s a list of pig names I’ve conjured up:

Straw, Stick, and Brick

(from the building materials of the 3 little pigs)

Porky, Spider, and Treat-Heart

(last name:  Pig)

Pinky, Napoleon, Snowball, and Fluffy

(for those that read, bonus points if you can name the books)

Razorback, Spanky, and Wiggly

(the lessor-known cartoon pigs)

Suey

(as in sooo-ey, to call the pigs in)

Bank and Miss

(Piggy, of course)

Grumpig

(I had to include at least ONE of the Pokemon pig-things)

Oscar, Meyer, Pork-rind, pork-chop, and bake-o

(cause lets face it, that’s what they’re going to become)

Wilber, Piglet, Babe, and Gordy

(my least favorites, as they are clichéd at this point)

That’s 26.  Can we brainstorm more???

Poo-Phile [posted 1-29-08]

17 Jan

I started a new 2nd job yesterday.  I thought it would be a good way to alleviate some debt,appease the veterinary admissions board, and pacify my lingering depression from the cabin-Mansion.  Right now I’m working with pigs. Soon mice (or was it rats?) will be added to that. My job is very similar to the dairy job I had. I take ear, shoulder, rump, tail, and rectal temps. I also get respiration rates on the control and heat stressed pigs. As part of my responsibilities, I relieve some of the grad students’ burden by helping with data entry, which is super-boring. The only cool thing about typing, or should I say pecking, is I can listen to my I-Pod at the same time!

As an aspiring veterinary student striving to bulk up my application, I’ve worked with small animals forever now.  As well as building my resume’ and getting me experience, it conciliates a need within me to be in the proximity of creatures.  It’s no big deal to see the body fluids of dogs and cats. I also have horse experience.  Horses are probably the cleanest of all animals. The worst thing about them is their urine—it smells awful!

My question to you is, which is worse—hogs or cows?  Many would think pigs are more dirty and smelly than dairy cattle.  Not the case.  There is no palliating the smell of a cow.  My car reeked just from me sitting in it after work.  Laundry detergent won’t touch it.  Pigs get a bad rap.  They’re actually very clean animals.  I milked and helped with heat stress research on 40 cows when I was a college freshmen, and there are many reasons why cows are dirtier.

The sheer volume of cow crap is waaay more than pigs can produce.  They are constantly going!  Cow poo is liquid-y.  When it hits the floor, or your boot, or your arm (you get the picture) it splatters.  Cows think it’s funny to lie in their poo as well.  It dries on their sides and back, or worse, it doesn’t dry and they lovingly rub against you.  Shit everywhere!

Cows are also secretly aggressive.  They allay you into thinking they are calm and slow-moving.  They have long tails and know how to use them.  No matter how much relief a cow feels by being milked, she will fuss about the process.  Many a cow shit on their tail then, swung the dirty tail around.  Once a cow hit me in the FACE with her shitty tail–it really sweetened the deal *sarcasm*.  This was the same cow that urinated down the back of my jeans as I squatted to milk her—on Thanksgiving.  Happy Holidays to me!

The obvious benefit of pigs is you don’t have to milk them every day at 4 am and 4 pm. Cow hours were not cool.  Nothing could alleviate my tiredness after working that schedule.  No amount of sleeping during the day can ease the fatigue of being up, and work at 4 AM.  Another advantage to pigs is the biosecurity. We are required for the health of the pigs to wear coveralls and boots. This means my clothes don’t get as dirty and a little bit of the smell doesn’t permeate through it. Ok, I still smell like pig a lot, but it’s not AS bad. . .  So far.  Cow stayed on me for days—even after laundry and shower. I guess it got in my pores. The dog just loved it, and her desire to continuously sniff me and my dirty clothing could not be mollified.

Pigs have solid stools.  They also produce much less.  It does not splash and if the 24 pigs lie in it they really have to squish around in it in order for it to stick to them—rarely happens.  So far, pigs haven’t tried to cover me in feces and urine.  They can be secretly aggressive when it comes time for rectal temperatures.  They will lie with their butt on the ground, refusing to move.  They also walk forward to escape the probe, or backward squishing the probe and your hand against the back door.  Who can blame them though?

The verdict?  I liked the personalities of the cows better.  They were sweet, sometimes saucy girls.  I had fun working with them.  Of course, I don’t know the pigs very well so far, but they seem less animated.  Maybe they’re just shy working with a new person.  I’ll give it more time.  At any rate, my new part time job is going pretty well.  I’m probably going to have more stories about it later.