I’m writing this weeks blog from the McDonald’s in Worthington. I was a speaker at the Nebraska Pork Producer annual meeting yesterday and the latest snow storm is preventing me from completing my journey home. Highways in southern Minnesota are closed once again and deliveries of market pigs and movements of weaned pigs are disrupted. The winter weather in the upper Midwest has made it tough for the market watchers among us to get a really good handle on the supply of pigs coming to market. Was the USDA correct or did they over/under count on the December 1 inventory?
The latest HSUS video of feedback being used at a Kentucky farm to aid in the control of PED virus appears to have had little market impact. In the release of the video HSUS claimed that pigs in outdoor facilities are ‘healthier’ and less likely to require such procedures as feedback. With the winter weather this year, I don’t look fondly at the outdoor methods of pig production that I grew up with. A winter such as this year would have been brutal for pigs, in spite of producers every efforts to provide for their needs.
Many of us remember the days of lame sows as a result of ice cuts on the soles of their feet, frozen underlines from lying on wet/frozen bedding, boars with frozen testicles etc. We all have too much experience in repairing rectal prolapses that resulted from pig piling in corners of shelters as they tried to retain body heat. We can all relate to carrying hot water to drinkers to thaw water lines and spending hours removing snow so pigs could access feeders. I would argue that pigs in today’s facilities don’t even know that the weather outside has been brutal. In fact I’ve seen some pig performance numbers from this winter that are among the best ever for both gain and conversion, something that was impossible rearing pigs in outside facilities.
If HSUS wants us to return to rearing pigs outdoors with the pigs having the opportunity to ‘experience’ nature and express their natural behavior, why don’t they also want us as humans to give up central heating and air conditioning? We now modify our environments extensively and I would argue many don’t experience summer heat or winter cold in a manner their parents or grandparents did. If a pig is equal to a human in PETA thinking and they want the pig to return to nature – why do they not also argue for a giving up of creature comforts that they are using daily to make their life better?