Today I’m taking you on a tour of our modern pig barns. Come on into my prep shed and grab a pair of coveralls and clean boots and we’ll be on our way.
We own hog finisher barns in central Iowa. Finisher barns are where pigs get ‘finished’, meaning they grow to reach market weight. Our particular barns are ‘grow-finish’ barns. We receive pigs, via semi-truck transport, from the nursery, at weights of around 50-60 pounds. They come to our cleaned, disinfected barns and we provide them specialized care and diets to ensure their growth and health until they reach market weight of 280 pounds.
Our modern barns allow us to raise pigs indoors. They have ventilation systems in place and skinny slats in the floors so the waste drops through, below to the manure storage pit. We use this manure to apply to our crop ground, giving the ground vital, stable and safe nutrients for the next year’s crop. The barns provide us a safe, climate controlled environment, free from predators and the unpredictable weather of our native state. When the weather gets hot, we have misters and fans that keep our pigs cool. When it is cold out the curtains close so winter’s chill stays outside and the pigs in the barn are comfortable and warm.
Feed is trucked in to each of the barns from local feedmills, and some farms grind their own feed at their own personal family mill. We maintain close relationships to the employees at the mill and our feed nutrition consultant (in our case, my husband) so we know the exact adjustments the pigs need in their diet to optimize their growth and comfort.
We treat pigs that come across illness with antibiotics as you would for your children if they are sick. They are a costly part of the operation, and are used with care. Pigs that receive antibiotics get moved to the ‘watch pen’ or ‘hospital pen’ where we monitor their health closely. If the pig is given antibiotics, strict withdrawal times are monitored. Keeping the pigs in the watch pens allows us to directly observe the pigs in need of extra care. Our treated pigs don’t leave the watch pen until the withdrawal period for the medicine that we gave them has passed. Pigs are not sent off the farm to market until the specific withdrawal period for the medicine that we had administered, has passed.
Once all of the pigs are loaded for market and the barn is empty, we begin power-washing and disinfecting the barns from top to bottom. It is an essential part of what we do, keeping a clean environment is important to the success of our farm and the health of the new pigs we’ll get in soon.
Note: This modern pig farm differs from our small show pig operation, where we house pigs outdoors as well as farrow (when sows have their piglets) indoors in farrowing crates and outdoors if necessary. We face some hardships in raising our hogs outdoors, from relentless Iowa predators to very extreme Iowa weather, and more. On my blog you’ll see some of the many different ways pigs can be raised and I’ll help you find answers to any questions you may have about pig farming.
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