Friday, February 27, 2009


I've written a lot about swine in the last week or so because that's the current crop. Later in the year I'll write about the bees, plowing and tilling, soil tests and so on. So bear with me - this is a seasonal blog, just like the farm. It happens to be pig season.

I've been working on my farrowing skills, trying to cut down the number of pigs that I lose. My current success rate is relatively low. From live births to weaned I'm averaging somewhere around 60%. In the interest of improving, I've been looking at other peoples numbers.

Here's an interesting set of observations from Ron Plain, who is a professor at the University of Missouri.

"In 2007, swine herds that had one to 99 head averaged 7.53 pigs per litter; herds of 100-499 averaged 8.03 pigs per litter; herds of 500 to 999 averaged 8.43 pigs per litter; herds of 1,000 to 1,999 had 8.85 pigs per litter; herds of 2,000-4,999 averaged 9.10 pigs per litter; and herds of 5,000 and up averaged 9.28 pigs per litter. "

So red n blacks likely 6 weaned pigs is below average, but only 30%. If I had managed to save her 2 or 3 of her other live births we would have had a better than average, for this herd size, result.

The bigger the swine herd the more likely that the people doing the care have chosen this as a profession, and that they're using specialized equipment and breeding intensively for higher litter sizes.

Some other hog facts from Professor Plain:

"The smallest 75 percent of U.S. hog farms produce 1 percent of the hogs.
The largest 1 percent of U.S. hog farms produce 75 percent of the hogs.

Most pork is intensively raised, at least 75% of it. Some of the smaller facilities might be intensive as well. You can run a small factory farm, too. Pasturing is a very small part of the overall pork market.

"Since 1930, the U.S. has reduced sow inventory by 42 percent and increased annual pork production by 221 percent. "

So we're producing more piglets from fewer sows than we were in 1930, due to both increases in litter size and better survival of the piglets.

The article that I found these statistics in is here.


Anonymous said...

The big farms optimize everything - genetics and environment, to optimize ovluation, fertilization, implantation, etc.

In the best case, you get a guy who has farrowed pigs professionally for a few decades and have him run a small number of animals. He'll usually beat the big farms' averages.

The typical small farmer doesn't have the ability or will to focus on producing the maximum number of pigs.

Bruce King said...

The problem is that many of the people who work in these intensive farms don't have any experience with what I like to consider best practices. They're used to confinment operations where the pigs are either in their own excremennt or raised over open sewers on grates, etc. If I were to pick a farmer to raise my pigs I'd like her to maintain the pasture ethic that I do; extensive, not intensive. Careful husbandry and best practices with the priorities in the same order as mine. Husbandry, taste, cost.

Anonymous said...

A guy who has farrowed pigs for decades has run them many different ways, including on dirt.

Even if he runs pigs on pasture, he's going to manage what happens before farrowing better than someone who doesn't know as much.

Bruce King said...

I'd hope that never happens. I look at each of my pigs every day; I'm small enough that each animal gets looked at, and if there's some issue or one died I'd be pulling that animal out of the pasture that day.

janice said...

ewan ko sa inyo...

Bruce King said...

Janice, I don't understand what you've said. Is it tagalog?