Good morning, piglets! The first of our sows farrowed Sunday morning. 10 healthy piglets were enjoying breakfast when I went to the barn. They'll stay inside for 8 - 10 days until they're big and mobile enough that eagles won't prey on them.
Our goal is to raise healthy hogs. We've been concerned about PEDV virus. The confinement hog operations in the area spread manure on the fields and there's always manure on the roads. We've been careful about washing the truck's tires and not allowing visitors for a few weeks to make sure there isn't any contamination brought to the farm. The experts say that PEDV is deadlier in the cold months, but we're not taking any chances. Also, we don't use a feed mix with blood plasma products, just grain and fresh pasture for our pigs. There's a possible link between feeding blood plasma and PEDV. Wasn't anything learned from Mad Cow Disease? Cows are herbivores, but someone had the bright idea to feed young calves bovine meat and bone meal. The hog industry feeds porcine plasma to young pigs that aren't old enough to start eating a grain based diet. I'm proud to go against the grain of conventional farming.
The Kroger Company has been working with animal welfare experts and has science based standards for animal welfare to ensure that their suppliers treat animals humanely. After reviewing the opinions of these experts Kroger Company believes that a gestation crate-free environment is more humane and that the pork industry should work toward gestation crate free housing for pregnant sows.
Canada has scrapped it's "Enviropig" program, the first genetically modified pigs. Genes from mice and e-coli, among others, were introduced into their DNA. Theses pigs were designed to process food differently, creating more environmentally friendly hog manure. The University of Guelph, which developed the GM pig announced the programs cancellation. A lack of funding and interest is blamed. Peter Phillips, a professor of public policy at University of Saskatchewan said, "Enviropig has not managed to attract funding from a food company that would ultimately seek to commercialize the pigs, possibly because environmental benefit doesn't necessarily translate into more profit". Unless additional funding into this project is secured the pigs will be destroyed, their genetic material will be preserved in cold storage for possible future research.
One of the problems with pigs is that they're extremely adaptable. Not far back in farm history hogs were raised on pasture. Sows spent their gestation outdoors and were brought in for farrowing. Sometimes crates were used, minimally. Occasionally sows will lay on a piglet. This happens with gilts, first time moms, more often than with sows. A solution is to have a creep for the piglets. A creep, built into the corner of your farrowing area, has a lamp for warmth and is open in the front. Sows can interact with piglets but can't fit inside the creep. Piglets come and go as they please, interacting with mom at any time. On cool nights our sows will pack straw in front of the creep, leaving a small opening, to keep her piglets warm.
Again, because pigs are adaptable they were easily turned into factory production animals. In confinement sows move from gestation crates, where their spend 3 months, 3-weeks, and 3 days, into farrowing crates. Unable to interact with her piglets, and incapable of instinctive behavior, she becomes a milking machine. Sows are driven insane. This isn't animal husbandry or farming. It's inhumane and it needs to stop! Here are some images of different methods of animal production found on Google images Below are images of our farms farrowing system.