Common Sense On Call: Sow groups – Be careful!
I recently visited two clients with farrow-to-finish operations in eastern Nebraska. Both clients are using older, circa 1970 units with pen gestation. These two, like many others, have undergone extensive and repeated remodeling over the years. I now refer to these older units as “state of the art,” as the industry tries to reconcile the impending gestation crate demise. One client was still farrowing weekly and the reason for my involvement was to facilitate a process to switch to group farrowing. Large grouping of like-age pigs has become a pig health necessity as larger and modern nursery and finishing has been... View Blog Post »
Nursery feed allocation
I am reaching back several years to share an important lesson/strategy I learned and lived regarding nursery gain and feed allocation (there is a STOCKMANSHIP lesson in here as well!). To fully understand the lesson here is a list of specifics: - The nursery has 20,000-plus capacity, four barns with connecting hallways, eight rooms per barn and capacity for 700 head per room - Site was stocked in 14 days contiguous. (two-plus rooms filled per day). Pigs weighed ±12 lbs. at 20 days of age. The site was emptied and washed prior to... View Blog Post »
Blog: Is Secretary Vilsack playing Russian roulette with pork profits?
The latest in the mandatory country-of-origin labeling (MCOOL) saga has Secretary Vilsack making yet another negative change to the labeling rule, particularly in regard to the pork industry, and expects the WTO to deem it in compliance! MCOOL, if ruled out of compliance again by WTO, will open up the almost assured retaliation of free trade by our partners Canada and Mexico. Retaliation will come via tariffs to a large number of products exported by the United States. U.S. pork products will have to be devalued to remain competitive in Canada and Mexico, thus putting negative price pressure back through the... View Blog Post »
Common Sense “On Call:” Cold-weather memories
I returned to the farm in 1976 with the help of my father, 60 commercial gilts, and two good Duroc Viking Yak daughters. We converted an old dairy parlor loafing shed into a crated farrowing barn and poured concrete for outdoor finishing. I have a vivid memory of the devastating low pressure system that swept across the Midwest in the winter of 1978 (this might be off a year, but for those who had livestock outside they remember the event well). My father was at his regular Wednesday evening pool tournament when the storm hit. He and a neighbor got as far... View Blog Post »
The loss of “stockmanship”
The National Pork Producers Council is in the middle of several webinars discussing Group Sow Housing. I have been participating and would like to comment on Dr. Levis’ presentation. During his presentation he often referred to “people” being involved in physical contact, physical intervention, additional tasks, and most importantly, animal recognition. For upwards of 40 years, our industry has moved sows from outdoor operations into some sort of confined, concrete, barn and more recently (last 30 years), to environmentally controlled and crated sow facilities. Along this same time frame, the number of farm units has drastically declined. In the 1950’s, when... View Blog Post »
Meers: NIAA helps to "bridge the gap"
I was in attendance at the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) symposium this past week. It was also attended by medical, veterinary, government, academia and industry professionals from some 30 states and Canada. From this farm boy’s seat, the assembly of highly educated and numerously titled individuals was more than intimidating. Sorting through all the big words and terms so as to digest all this info was daunting to say the least. I truly came away from this three-day event with one key take-home: The Meat Animal Industry Must Change Its Message and Stop Just Defending Itself!! Here is why I... View Blog Post »
Meers: Nursery feed allocation, part 2
My last blog outlined procedures in a large-scale nursery where extensive sorting of newly weaned pigs produced improved gains and overall feed savings. I received several comments from industry professionals with views affirmative to that blog. Another advantage to sorting pigs by weight and by room is the opportunity to adjust room temperature lower for the bigger pigs. A three to four-degree variance from a “mixed” room with weight variation can be a money saver. No longer do you need to set the temperature to the smallest pigs in the room. I am presently working with a very large sow system that... View Blog Post »
Stockmanship at the Expo
I spent some extra time in and around the swine barn this past month during the World Pork Expo. With name tag tucked securely under my shirt, I wandered through the pens taking specific note of our young people and their interactions with the pigs. A handful of young exhibitors were napping in the pen while using their resting pig for a pillow. Obviously these few spent a lot of time with their projects. In the afternoon on Wednesday I noted a lot of parents napping as well. The long travel time, several from California, take its toll on all,... View Blog Post »
Sittin' on the bucket
Stockmanship is vital in our industry and achieving or acquiring such has been the focus of this blog. Training and evolving the next generation of stockmen has become my calling. I want to dedicate this post to my longtime friend and mentor Dr. Paul Armbrecht: This one is for you PA!! In our present high tech, computerized world of production, time spent simply watching pigs is in steady decline. When challenges occur in a facility, the first order of business might be to check the ventilation controller and any history that computer may contain. Post mortem exams, blood serum samples, and tissue... View Blog Post »
Building a Stockman
Thank You to the many people, from at least 5 states, for commenting on the April 2013 issue of “On Call”. Positive reinforcement is appreciated and in one case a reader took exception to my opinion. Stirring controversy is healthy for our industry as it gets people engaged. All opinions are welcome!! We need to get young people trained to take our industry forward. Animal care, Stockmanship, will be critical if we are in fact moving to pen gestation (again). When we brought pigs inside back in the 70’s pen gestation was the norm. A controlled environment, out of the... View Blog Post »
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