My Pigs Stay Safe and Warm Despite Harsh Winter Conditions

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We’re going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called “Opportunity” and the first chapter is New Year’s Day.” – Edith Lovejoy Pierce

It’s hard to believe that another year has already come and gone! Before we totally close the book on 2012, I have one more page to write about my hog enterprise. I recently loaded pigs into a semi during a cold, snowy December day. We began at about 6:30 p.m. and the last semi load left after midnight. With snow on the ground and a north wind blowing in our faces, it was a sharp contrast to the conditions we faced on Aug. 29 when this group of pigs arrived.

It takes about 120 days for little 35-pound pigs to become 290-pound market hogs.  I’m still amazed at how quickly and how large our market pigs grow.  When I was kid on our family farm by Geneva, we wouldn’t have dreamt of keeping pigs past 220 pounds because we’d be paid less for them.   “Back in the day” these pigs were considered too fat for market, yet today’s pigs remain lean at 290 pounds.

Iowa Pork Chops

Changes to genetics and feed allow us to raise extremely lean pork today, which makes some really nice pork chops.  Iowa chops are some of my favorite food to grill, even in the winter.  But, I digress… (It’s funny how quickly food diverts my attention!)

Another huge benefit for the pig and the buyer of pork, or consumers, is the fact that pigs are healthier inside these buildings.  When I raised pigs outside, we had to worm them and treat them for mange.  I haven’t treated a pig for either of these since I began raising pigs inside.  Trichinosis is unheard of now that pork is raised inside, so you can cook most pork to 145 degrees for some really tasty tender pork.

By keeping our barns isolated and by cleaning and disinfecting our barns, I use way less medication than I did while raising pigs outside.  My outdoor pigs were always fighting the flu and colds!  It was a challenge to keep them warm plus supply them with fresh food and water in freezing temperatures.

Winter in Iowa

I remember, during one winter storm about 20 years ago, I was trying to get to a neighbor’s farm in a blizzard because his Dad couldn’t get there to do chores.  I made it on a snowmobile.  Snow had blown into the hog sheds and made all of the bedding wet.  There were already some dead pigs because of the cold.  This is just one example of what our Iowa weather can do to livestock in old-style buildings.

As we changed the pig, we had to change the way we took care of them.  The modern hog barn has been a big help as it’s always warm and dry.  Pigs are safe from predators, and they have the best feed we can make plus fresh water available to them at all times.  As you can see in my pictures and video, these pigs are content and healthy.  I’m not alone.  Click here to see how this Nebraska farm family uses similar methods to keep their pigs safe and warm although the outside weather is frightful.

So much has changed during the last 50 years!  Thanks to modern pork production practices, we’re able to raise pork more efficiently.  I cannot even guess what the price of pork would be in the grocery store if we hadn’t made changes throughout the industry.  We certainly wouldn’t be able to produce enough to export pork to feed a hungry world.

I am very happy going into this New Year knowing that farmers and ranchers are always trying to improve and do a better job, doing what we do.  Happy 2013!

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