Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Gestation Crates

To crate or not to crate? The question should be answered by the hog producer and his own management decisions, not by some "humane" organization or some corporation.

Today there is another article in the local paper about their use. I know many local people will read it. I hope that when you do, you will read it with a laser-like precision and lock in the statements made and consider the sources of those statements. Then ask yourself, "what are the qualifications of these sources?" "Do they have any knowledge to make valid statements about the hog industry and about how animals in general behave?"

The article gives some good information about research done at Waseca. This research pretty much answers the question, "are crates good for gestating gilts or sows?" The answer is yes because the stress levels are lower in the animals who were housed in the crates. This is verified in a small way by a veterinarian who was visiting our farm. She had experience dealing with facilities where crates were being used and shared with my husband that the sows do better in the crates. Why not? All a pig wants is to be left alone, have plenty of feed, fresh air, clean water, and be warm in the winter, and cool in the summer.

We have not used crates because we have not farrowed (birthed) pigs on this farm for close to twenty years. We do have experience with farrowing crates and can testify that they have saved many a baby pig from death. (Baby pigs birthed in pens die in countless ways - most of which most readers would not want to read about.) We also have experience with gestation gilts and sows in pens. And we can verify the words in the article THEY FIGHT! When two or more female hogs start fighting, it is not a pretty sight and it takes a manly man or a darn good woman to break them up. And that is the point. Farmer stewards are not available 24 hours a day to pig sit our gestating sows to keep them from fighting and harming themselves and others.

The pecking order in a group of sows leaves some at the top that do very well and some at the bottom that get beat up, that have to fight for food and water, that get picked on, that end up cut, bleeding, scarred, injured and perhaps lame. Keeping them in smaller pens of maybe two or three might work, but there would still be two against one. And the idea of breeding hogs that a less aggressive? How much does this person want to pay for his pork?  Oh, that's right - we all know - the Humane Society of the United States people really don't want pork or any other meat. They want to do away with eating meat - don't they. end


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