I watch hundreds of ag-related articles, tweets, and blogs fly by every day. The issues often seem contentious—various views, slanted pitches, facts that can be “bent into pretzel form.” The latest dilemma comes with the hog production/PEDV disease issue. I’m sure much more will come of this in the next few days, but these three links sum up the furor at this moment:
#1 This editorial attacks confinement operations and the way pig parts are fed to other hogs to prevent PEDV.
#2 This article looks at both sides of the issue and offers several pertinent links.
#3 This piece defends hog producers and the measures they are taking to prevent PEDV.
Hog Production, Gestation Stalls, and Old-style Free Range Pigs
I have to admit, I didn’t give any of this much thought back when I was growing up on a small, Midwest farm. Our pigs were basically free-range by default—sort of like they were mischievous school kids and we were caring but rather detached playground monitors.
In general I agree with the common consensus that claims pigs are intelligent. Oh sure, they would act dumb—beady eyes, gaping mouths, hours wallowing in mud and rooting in feedlot filth. But they played the game just right. They would get us to feed them corn, bed their hog house with straw, and clean their area with pitchforks and manure spreaders. And for entertainment, they cleverly figured out how to escape, and then they’d enact some type of Babe-the-squealing-pig rodeo game with us.
I can picture angry sows coming at me when I got too near their babies (this necessitated a scoop shovel or a quick hop over the fence); I recall hog droving days when we would move the herd a mile down the gravel road to Uncle Pat’s farm (pigs have a phobia about crossing bridges); and I remember when my brothers and I took care of three “runt pigs” that had been bullied to near death by the others (we raised them in a separate pen and eventually watched them board the truck for the slaughterhouse—no Wilbur-the-terrific-pig ending).
"Never try and teach a pig to read..."
I like pigs, but I’m happy as a hog in fresh clover that I don’t have to take care of them. Dedicated pork producers have to be concerned shepherds, economic wizards, and medical assistants. When I was six or seven, Dad took me to a neighbor’s farm, and I watched in a trance as Doc Walker performed his vet magic by doing a cesarean and saving an ailing sow and several of the babies. A few years later, Doc was in our pasture with Dad and Uncle Pat, huddled over a dead 250 pounder. His field autopsy showed that a deadly nightshade weed had poisoned the animal. And years later, I returned to the farm for a visit and, with my wife and two small children, we watched my brother-in-law assist a sow that was struggling to deliver 18 baby pigs. Twelve lived.
I have a lot of respect for those who put their all into pork production, and I think farmers, food companies, and consumers will work out ways to keep hog farms safe, affordable, and humane. I’ll rely on them to figure out what’s best for the pigs. Like I said, I agree they’re intelligent, but I did my time working with them. As Will Rogers supposedly pointed out, "You should never try and teach a pig to read for two reasons. First, it's impossible; and secondly, it annoys the hell out of the pig!"
by dan gogerty