Letter: Consider weather extremes in hog debateWhat I have not heard in the ongoing welfare discussion is that livestock producers are responsible for the care of their animals 24/7/365.
By: Linden Olson, Worthington, Worthington Daily Globe
As a lifelong resident of a livestock farm and a pork producer for more than 60 years, I have been following with interest the letters about current welfare practices in pig raising. Through the years, more than 1,000 visitors came from all across the United States and several foreign countries to view our facilities and visit about our production practices. We never had a visitor come when it was 20 below and a blizzard was raging or when it was 95 degrees, the wind was calm and the heat index was over 100.
What I have not heard in the ongoing welfare discussion is that livestock producers are responsible for the care of their animals 24/7/365. The housing systems we built and the production practices we use were highly influenced by the experiences we had during the extremes in weather. The night it rained 6 inches and drowned two-thirds of the baby pigs in an “ideal” outside pasture setting; the winter it did not get above 32 degrees for 63 days straight and the snow and wind made it impossible to keep pigs warm and dry because they tracked snow into their sleeping quarters faster than we could haul straw bedding for them; the two days when a raging blizzard with a wind chill in excess of 60 below made it dangerous for both man and beast; and the days when the heat index soared to over 100 are but a few of the days etched in my memory that influenced our decision to put our hogs under roof and sows in individual maternity stalls 24/7/365.
Not only did inside housing make it easier on the pigs because the environment could be regulated during the extremes in weather; it was also easier on us and the other caretakers not to have to fight the cold, heat, wind, rain or snow. And there were other benefits to the sows in particular. No more broken legs from fighting or slipping on the ice, no more bitten and swollen vulvas from sows fighting to get their spot at a feed trough, no more sows that got too thin to be productive because as a slow or timid eater they weren’t getting their share of feed. The sows responded to this new environment by raising more pigs, fewer were injured or died and fewer were too thin to reproduce. No this type of housing does not fit the “ideal” image of raising pigs but then we have very few “ideal” days of weather in a year either. It is because we care for the welfare of our animals that we house them the way we do. The result of that care is they are more productive and therefore more profitable, not the other way around.