Common Sense “On Call:” Cold-weather memories

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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

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Rick Kline    
LeRoy, IL  |  February, 18, 2014 at 09:41 AM

I too have some not-so-fond memories of winters past. I can't tell you the number of gallons of hot water I hauled out of our basement to thaw automatic waterers. I thought I had arrived that first winter with all of the pigs in a state of the art nursery. My life and the pigs were much better off. While I have changed professions there are still days that I miss being in the livestock business. Having said that, one morning recently as I was sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee the weather girl on TV said it was -15. My wife asked me "Do you miss having livestock in this weather?" I didn't bother to answer. I just poured another cup of coffee!

Pieter Bloem    
New Zealand  |  February, 20, 2014 at 12:33 PM

It is not just the cold either that causes problems.About three years ago about 200 outdoors sows died of heat stress here in Canterbury, NZ and others sows had major problems with abortions and stills.Very little problems with indoor sows.


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