Everybody who has watched Charlotte's Web or Milo and Otis loves pigs, and who can blame them? These cute and highly intelligent creatures have a way of making people fall in love. But there is also a lot of things that the movies don't include in their picture of pig care. You might only understand these 10 things if you work in a swine barn.
1. Pigs Do Indeed Have Personality
Just like people, pigs have their own personalities. Some are good-natured and even-tempered; others tend to be a little more aggressive and timid around people. It takes some time to figure out each pig!
2. You Need a Lot of Pigs to Make a Profit
At New Standard, we love helping hog farmers design their swine barns. However, if you plan on creating a barn to just keep a couple pigs, you probably won't make much of a profit. Pigs eat a lot, and feed is not always cheap. For this reason, small farms are fewer and far between. After the expenses of raising a pig to market weight, it may be cheaper, and definitely easier, to simply go buy your meat at the store. That's not to say that raising them isn't worth it, but we wouldn't suggest quitting your day job quite yet!
3. Keep 'Em Clean
The movies always show pigs covered in mud, but keeping your pig barn clean is important to prevent diseases. Using polypropylene panels that are easy to clean is one way hog farmers keep their pens clean. While it is impossible to keep any animal completely clean, hog farmers do a great job at keeping clean pens and preventing disease.
4. The Industry is Still Evolving
The swine industry has changed quite a bit since the 1970s. At that time, most full-time hog farmers—which was unusual, as most farmers used pigs as a second or third income—had around 200 sows and raised them from birth to market weight. Now, group sow housing is common, and full-time farmers often have thousands of sows. Multiple-site production, where sows are at one farm, nursery-size pigs are at another farm, and older pigs are at yet another, is also more common. Hog barn design is changing, too! Eventually, because of consumer demand, all gestation stalls will likely be replaced by group sow housing.
5. Sows are Extremely Protective of Their Piglets
Sows will protect their piglets at all costs. The nursery staff is highly trained to earn the trust of a sow towards the end of gestation. This will allow the pigs to be more comfortable, less stressed, and less protective after giving birth.
6. Castration is Necessary to Eat Boars
Testosterone not only can make boars aggressive, but also makes them taste bad. In the United States, uncastrated male pigs cannot be brought to market on large scales. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the castration should occur before the boar is 14 days old. In Europe, they are currently working on castration alternatives for removing boar taint. Learn more.
7. Pigs Are Picky
It is important to keep your pigs comfortable; they don't grow very well if they are too hot or too cold. Adult hogs are often most comfortable between the temperatures of 55° F and 70° F, while baby pigs often require higher temperatures—closer to 85° F or 90° F. If your pigs are too cold, they might huddle up and sleep on their stomachs. If they're too hot, they might keep their mouth open or try to find water to lay or play in.
8.Charlotte's Web Gave us False Hope for Friendship
While we all love the idea of cute pigs becoming best friends with cats, goats, spiders, or chickens, if you were to keep them in the same area, it wouldn't actually work out too well. They are large animals that don't always play nicely with others. Also, if you keep them in the same pen with other animals, pigs would often try to mate with other animals...probably not something you want to deal with.
9. They're Scary Strong
Pigs can easily grow to be hundreds of pounds, which makes them extremely strong. When building a swine barn, producers have to install penning, feeders, and other pieces of equipment that are heavy duty enough to withstand their strength.
10. You Can Love Your Swine and Still Love Bacon
Just because you work with pigs doesn't me you can't enjoy a BLT or hog roast. In fact, all of the care and commitment it takes to raise a pig might even make enjoying it worth the hard work!
Designing barns that keep hogs happy and healthy is what we do. Click below to learn more about how to design barns around the needs of the sow!