I recently read a blog post by a fellow farm wife and dairy farmer. She talked about how her family raises their dairy cows and how it may not be all green pastures and blue sky’s like sometimes pictures may portray. In fact, her dairy cows are raised all indoors, similarly in that manner, to our pigs.
So, her post got me thinking…
I can’t say that I haven’t thought it before, I love the old pictures of my grandparents out at pasture with their hogs. My dad has stories of overly protective sows chasing him out of the pasture, all to protect their young. I even follow a farm on social media, in Texas, who raises all their animals at pasture, the pictures she posts really do look dreamy.
So, at one point I thought, why can’t we raise our pigs outside? Almost immediately, I glanced away from those dreamy, warm pictures from Texas, and remembered,
we live in Northern Indiana.
First, pigs have minimal to no good way of regulating their body temperature. Northern Indiana winters get downright bitter cold, I have days that I don’t even want to leave the house because of the cold! We also get summers that are absolute scorchers. That’s Indiana weather, somewhat unpredictable and to some degree, temperamental. Therefore, to try and raise pigs outdoors in Northern Indiana, with the volatile weather patterns we can get, I am positive my pigs would chose the modern day comforts of their current barn living situation.
Remember our barns have a sprinkler system when it gets hot that keeps the pigs cool and wet, fans that circulate cool air through the barns, brooder lamps to keep baby pigs warm, heating system for those cold winter months, and curtains that drop when the weather is nice so the pigs can enjoy a breeze and some sunshine.
Farmers who have the right climate and ground to raise pigs outdoors may not raise pigs in the numbers that we do. Now I can’t speak on anyones behalf, because all the hog famers around us raise our pigs in modern indoor facilities. But really, I can’t even imagine 4,000 pigs at pasture. For one, we wouldn’t be able to give them the kind of personal care we can now because we wouldn’t be able to keep track of them all. In our modern barns we have white board walls throughout. So outside each pen, we can make notes to ourselves, and each other, as to whether there is a certain pig we need to be closely monitoring or treating. This keeps us organized and helps us take the best care possible of our pigs.
Can we talk predators for a minutes? We have coyotes around us that would love a late night snack of pork. I’m not kidding guys, actually the thought of that gives me chills. We can hear the coyotes howling some nights and it is a chilling sound! Modern day pigs are very safe from predators and the actual risk for a predator attacking them, is pretty much 0. I am positive that my pigs would much rather be in their barns safe from threat of becoming a coyotes supper.
That’s my thoughts on this in the short version. The luxuries our pigs have available to them to help make their time with us, the most comfortable and healthy as possible, has progressed leaps and bounds from when my grandparents were raising their pigs at pasture.
Perhaps you have heard the studies which prove that brown eggs are actually are no more nutrient dense and offer no greater health benefits than white eggs, which you traditionally see in your supermarkets. The studies that show this have been quite interesting to read, considering the great debate and regulations that many chicken farmers had to adapt to in regards to making their barns “cage free” or “free range” or “organic.” My thinking is, although there has been no study to date, wouldn’t it be interesting to see a side by side comparison of pastured pork versus pork raised in a barn, like ours. I would be curious to see if the health benefits were at all significant or even if they would be different at all?
As I have said in the past, there is more than just one way to farm. You still have producers who are holding true to the way their ancestors farmed, think of the Amish community in many areas of the country. And you have farmers who have welcomed the advances in agriculture so that they can better feed the world. Not one way is perfect or right. We live in a country where choice and freedom are strong. All farmers can and should work together, learn from each other, and know that our end goal is the same. To feed people, eliminate world hunger, be good stewards of the land, and leave our farm better than it was before we started.
What I can’t sit back and watch is a scare tactic being used on consumers in regards to animal practices on farms. From personal experience, many of these tactics are exaggerated or even completely falsified. It is frustrating to hear or see, especially when you are the one working and caring for your animals that you love everyday.
So please, always, when you read or hear something that may concern you in regards to the way farmers may raise their animals or why they may do something a certain way on their farm, confirm and ask your source….your farmer!