Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What a confinement pig farm looks like

When I talk about pastured operations I think it's useful to look at what the industry looks like.  This is the other side of the market -- and in fact, this is how most of the pork consumed in this country is raised.   Having the pigs kept near where the food is produced also keeps the costs at a minimum. 

This particular video was produced by industry -- in this case pfizer -- and is great because it shows the interior of a particular hog unit.  As far as hog units go, this is a good one. 

You'll find the referenced video here

Overview:  Most pigs are raised in buildings, and each building is usually for a particular stage in a pigs life.  As they grow they're moved from building to building in batches. 

00:39  You can see an outside shot of a hog barn.  The four silos on the side are for the feed, which is a mix of corn and soybeans and various other supplements, carefully formulated to produce the greatest amount of lean growth possible. 

00:44  You're looking at the interior of a farrowing barn.  Each sow is in a crate that prevents the crushing of the piglets and by doing so decreases mortality.  There's an automatic feed and water system.  this is where pigs are born and kept with their mothers for the first 2-3 weeks of their life.

00:56 this is an outside shot of two other hog buildings.   These are all over Iowa and Minnesota.  there are thousands of these. 

1:56  This is an early wean room.  After the pigs are separated from their mothers they're put on a high-protein food for a few weeks and given additional heat  (notice the lamps hanging from the ceiling).  This high-protein feed is relatively expensive. 

02:40 is a hog finishing unit.  these hogs are raised on a slatted floor with some sort of manure pickup system underneath -- usually concrete troughs that are sluiced with water.  What this video doesn't show you is the smell of this house.  It's usually very intense. 

There is no bedding in this sort of environment.  The pigs stand on a slatted floor their entire lives.   If the ventilators go off in this sort of system the hogs can die from the ammonia emitted by the waste underneath the slatted floors. 


Joanne said...

Everything about this hog farm looks good, vet on staff, all family run, feed ingredients either grown on the farm, or sourced from other farms in the area, they're doing their own breeding and farrowing so they can manage the pigs from birth to death, pigs look very good, facility is nice and clean, etc.

Untill we get to that amonia issue. If your animals have to rely on a venitlator system to keep them alive, I'm thinking that it's not such a good management system regardless of any of the above mentioned positive elements of the farm.

Rich said...

What about a Swedish-type deep bedded hoop house system? From what I have read, it seems like a reasonable compromise between all the different methods.

Feeding is almost as efficient as a confinement system, the manure is relatively easy to manage (the bedding is composted, then can be spread where it is needed), and the pigs can interact with each other and root around in the bedding.

After all, Salatin's pigerator concept is really just a version of a Swedish deep bedded system with cattle added to the process.