A reader writes on pig farming

A reader sends this in:

Firstly though, I’d just like to point out the MASSIVE difference between dry sow stalls and farrowing crates.

The latter are used for only a 5-6 week period, generally a few days before giving birth, and around a month afterward. As you will read below, the primary purpose for these is to protect piglets prior to weaning. You can’t imagine the horror of finding a sow who has rolled on, and killed all of her newborns. These are incredibly large and heavy pigs, and quite honestly will squash anything smaller than a 10 week old pig like a pancake. I know because I’ve had to clean it up. Typically a sow will have around 1.5 pregnancies in a year, so on average will have around 9 weeks in a farrowing crate. It isn’t ideal, but better than the alternative.

Dry sow stalls are a totally different kettle of fish. These all sows are kept in all the time (hence the term, dry) I’ll take the opportunity now to tell you that neither of our farms have them – one is free range, the other is more intensive but contains a large, well ventilated dry sow shed, with plenty of straw and plenty of room. If you want to see an example, try googling “ecoshelter”. I won’t defend dry sow stalls, as it is difficult to do so. I don’t support their use. There are other options, even on a relatively intensive farming operation. However, the Board are right to say you cannot just ban overnight. What you need is a period of phasing them out – ten years perhaps. That may seem like a long time, but the costs are incredibly high.

My main concern about groups like etc, is that they are unable to differentiate between farrowing crates, and dry sow stalls. I hope I have managed to explain the difference to you above (and below).

The other thing I would note is the TVNZ piece. Two points about Mike King’s “disgust”. Firstly – yes the pigs were screaming. Why? It was the middle of the night or early morning. The pigs had been left alone and were suddenly woken by human activity. What does this usually mean for them? Quite simply – feeding time. Free range pigs have EXACTLY the same reaction. If King and his companions ahd fed the pigs the screaming would have stopped. Guarantee it. Secondly – the chewing of bars and frothing of the mouth? Again, it is completely standard across all pigs. They chew things. Free range pigs it’ll be tree branches etc, for pigs in stalls or crates it’ll be bars. And yes, they froth. Christ, you should see them when they mate!

I find the last paragraph very interesting.

On a related note this video is referred to in this story at news.com.au about the cull of pigs in Egypt in response to swine flu.  I warn you the video is highly sickening and not for the faint hearted.

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