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 as our house before giving up trying to get home through the blizzard. Later in the evening, two more locals went in the ditch near our house and we suddenly had quite a group! This huge storm would last more than 24 hours before the wind let up and snowplows could start opening roads.

I checked on all the hogs about midnight that first night and knew right away we were in for trouble. I got all the “house guests” to help carry bedding out to the hog houses and did the best I could to give them comfort. When the storm subsided late the next day, I had about 60 dead pigs due to piling. That was a tough couple of days getting things cleaned up, rebedded, and feeders cleared of blown-in snow. Did I mention it was 0 degrees or worse?

That next summer we financed and built a slatted, environmentally controlled building. With the exception of a couple water line freezes over following years, we never lost a pig due to cold weather.

The industry has continually improved the well-being of its animals. Excessive temperatures stress animals past the point of humane treatment and our technology has alleviated these situations.

Next time you hear groups of people promoting free-range systems, ask them how they think animals felt this past January.

The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Paul Meers Swine Consulting LLC