Piggies!

  
Justin and I own one half of a modern hog farm.  It consists of two buildings that hold 1200 pigs per building.  The pigs come to us from North Carolina, Colorado ,Oklahoma, or Wyoming when they are three weeks old and weigh 10 lbs each.  The little piggies ride in a trailer that is heated in the winter and cooled in the summer and bedded with wood shavings to ensure their utmost comfort.  When they arrive they are divided evenly among the 40 pens per barn.   A few pens are left empty for the smaller  or slower pigs.   

A view of both hog buildings. The tall metal bins contain hog feed, which is augered into the barn automaticallyto ensure the pigs always have feed. You can also see the fans along the side of the building that provide ventilation.

The barns are well-ventilated with drop-down curtains on three sides, and huge fans on one end to create a breeze through the barn.For the first two weeks, the pigs get heat lamps to lay under to stay warm, as well as heaters to keep the temperature in the barn at 82 degrees.  A comptuter controls the temperature, feed distribution, and ventilation to be  just right for the pigs according to their age.  The pigs get rubber mats to lay on until they are 8 weeks old.   

Hazel is sitting the in the office by the coveralls we change into before entering the buildings. We also must change our footwear, to keep disease out of the buildings.

We walk through the barns three times per day to feed and check on the pigs when they are young.  When they get older, they still get checked twice per day. We must be very careful not to carry any illness in to the barns.  To prevent this from happening, we have to change our shoes and put on coveralls before we can enter the barn.   We montitor them for illness, and give them vaccinations.  We don’t own the pigs, we just do the work and get paid to take care of them, in addition to rental income for the barns.   

Lucy is checking out the medicator.... a system used to deliver medicine to the pigs through the water they drink.

After only six months, the pigs will have grown to approximately 250 lbs per pig, and will be  ready for market.  After all the pigs are loaded on semis and sent to Hormel in Albert Lea, MN, it is time to clean the barns out.  The barns must be power-washed from top to bottom, and throughy sanitized before new little pigs come in.   

This is the "brain" of the barn. It monitors and controls the temperature and air flow in the barn, it can even call us if something goes wrong!!

We attend PQA (pork quality assurance) classes to learn about  proper and humane pig handling techniques.  They are a series of classes that one must attend to maintain PQA certification.  There is also a TQA (trucker quality assurance) program for livestock haulers.  We also have field men that visit weekly to check that we are keeping proper records and supervise the hogs’ well-being.  

The view inside the barn. Rubber mats under nice warm heat lamps for the little piggies to lounge on.

The main reason we built the barns is for the manure that the pigs produce.  The barn has slatted cement floors, which allow the manure to drop into a cement pit below.  The manure accumulates for a year, and we then apply the manure to our fields for fertilizer.  Hog manure is an organic way to feed our crops, not to mention it saves us a lot of money and reduces our need for petroleum-based artificial fertilizers.   

Lucy demonstrating how the pigs get water.

To us, raising hogs is not “just” a business, it is also an excellent way to add value to our farm.  The pigs get to grow in a comfortable, controlled environment.  In the dead of winter, we get to work in a nice warm barn, or a breezy shaded barn in the summer.  An excellent quality of life for both the pig and the farmer!!  

 

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Wayne Nieman on May 9, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Liz,

    This is another very informative and descriptive blog. Great job!

    Wayne

  2. Posted by susan on May 9, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    that hog house is cleaner than my house!!! and love the kid pictures of them helping!!

  3. Posted by Amy on May 9, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    I remember holding baby pigs with your dad. :O)

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