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Veteran Advisor

Gestation crates gotta go

McDonald's is now asking hog producers to get rid of farrowing crates. See full story. PETA is driving this issue. Have you or do you plan to convert your operation away from farrowing crates?

 

 

Mike

 

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26 Replies

Re: Farrowing crates gotta go

Gestation crates, not farrowing crates.

 

I recall in a previous life as a hog farmer I spent some time around the Pork Producer types who were for the most part bigger and more successful in the business than I.

 

They were all kinda stirred up about animal rights folks criticizing gestation crates. This was in the early 90s and interestingly, a big midwest hog farmer those days was 500 sows and most of these guys didn't even have gestation crates or maybe just used them for late gestation with the rest of the time in group pens of some form of the other.

 

I used to say, are you sure that is a bad thing? They were pretty much just anti-anti and said that if gestation crates are banned, then they'll be after farrowing crates and they're really just closet vegans anyway, etc.

 

Anyhow, I don't think any of the people of whom I speak are in the hog business today. They thought they could compete with big pork and they were wrong.

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Veteran Advisor

Re: Farrowing crates gotta go

Nox you bring up very interesting points on the pork issues and I think the pork organizations might address the issues with their consumers instead of gnashing teeth with them---why does this industry make such a fuss over some one with a video camera if they are trying to get their own  message out---transparency ? ?   

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Senior Contributor

Re: Farrowing crates gotta go

Mike, I know that money will be a big lever here in forcing pork producers to discontinue the use of farrowing crates. I wonder how McDon has the guts to force this on one end and then continue to produce unhealthy food on the other end. A salad doesn't necessarily mean a healthy menu....MikeM

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Veteran Advisor

Re: Farrowing crates gotta go

We got rid of farrowing crates here in the early 1980s, I don't even remember dad using them.  While in extreme weather, we may have had a few less pigs per litter (which we found after a couple generations, you could breed into sows the traits needed for farrowing out of crates, and still have decent weanings.  I once weaned a batch of sows with an average of 13.2 pigs per litter in the early 2000s.  Weather was perfect, though).  However, the pigs that we weaned were definately hardier, which was a good thing, as we didn't have an indoor nursery.  We went away from the crates, to sell the hogs as 'low stress raised' which was the buzzword at the time for people who took voluntary measures to raise their animals in a kinder,gentler way.  Turns out that in the 80s farm crisis, that quickly went by the wayside, and 'most profit per unit' became the buzzword, and we probably never came out ahead financially because of our setup.  However, other people who raised hogs, couldn't believe that I could shut a batch of sows to farrow, all by myeslf, using only a sorting gate and bucket of corn.  I could cut my batch of 5 of 6 sows from a pen of 30 without any help.  The low stress setup made for a lot easier handling of the hogs.

Never had gestation crates, at least not that know of, so no idea on how that works.  Our sows were weaned back into one of two pens, the 'big' sow pen, and the 'smaller' sow pen (big got to be 600#+ for me) and as others got close to farrowing, they were sorted out, and shut in the farrowing huts.

Who knows, if this had come by enough sooner, I might still be in the hog business.

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Re: Farrowing crates gotta go

I agree with you that if there had been a clear option like Niman or I'd have been able to envision creating my own market for alternative pork I might still be raising hogs.

 

Building a million dollar complex isn't in my nature and borrowing a million bucks to feed hogs for somebody else sure isn't.

 

In the time that I'd referenced above when I'd been hanging around some of the pork producer types to try to learn something I recall hearing a serious discussion about whether 2400 sows was big enough. That was the end for me.

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Veteran Advisor

Re: Farrowing crates gotta go

I ran about 50-60 sows, and FWIW, a guy who raises hogs as a 'hobby, bought 6 of my more docile sows (we hand-sorted them out onto his trailer - well actually I walked into his trailer with a bucket of corn, and shut the first 6 that followed me in) and he sells the pigs one at a time, delivered to one of the local butcher shops.  At one time, he had them just to keep himself busy (he is semi-retired) and now he says he is making more money off them than he ever has.  I think he only runs 6 sows, farrows 3 at a time, twice a year for a total of 4 farrowings.   He just 'rents' a boar from a relative of his that raises hogs (he gets a boar they are done with, takes it to his place, and sells it on the relatives name).  He is about the last guy I know of that will sell one or two hogs at a time, to butcher, and he can more or less name his price on them.  His relative raises thousands of hogs a year, at a profit of a couple $$ per head, with employees, big buildings, and EPA regs to watch, and he just lets the sows run in the old cattle pens around his yard, farrows in an old barn, and sells his 50 hogs or so for $100 profit each.  The butcher hogs he sells are raised on dirt pens, with a hotwire around them, and are some of the tastiest things I have ever eaten, well worth the extra price he charges. 

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Veteran Advisor

Re: Gestation crates gotta go

Looks like big pork may have found a beast bigger than them.....

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Veteran Advisor

Re: Gestation crates gotta go

Waiting for  KayNC  to  comment on this  --- 

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Advisor

Re: Gestation crates gotta go

The purpose of gestation stalls is for humans , not the sows. while it makes vaccinating, AI, and feeding easier, they are cruel in my opinion.  I've watched sows unloaded (several times) that come out of a life in stalls. They are in terrible condition with very few that have 4 good legs and feet. They are junk!  If one  considers them a "baby pig machine" , then I guess you would be ok with it. My sows can walk off a trailer on their own...

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