I was first introduced to the Swine Industry the summer going into my freshman year. I knew little then about how market hogs and the process but now I can say I know more than I did when I started. All in all, pigs are very complex and I have fallen in love with raising them. There are many different aspects to this industry and I am here to give a brief overview of the swine industry, swine production, and market hogs.
First, let’s begin with some terms. Farrowing is the act of a sow giving birth, a gilt is a female pig that has not given birth, a barrow is a castrated male pig, a boar is a male used for breeding, a sow is a mature female hog that has given birth, and a market hog is a gilt or barrow between 240-270 pounds that is ready to be processed. There are two types of breeding systems, straight breeding and crossbreeding.
Straightbreeding involves mating two pigs of the same breed while crossbreeding is mating animals of different breeds. Inbreeding is one form of straight breeding. Inbreeding is attempting to get a desired trait by breeding two related animals. There are two types of inbreeding. One form of this is close breeding, this involves breeding closely related animals, for example, a brother and a sister. Line breeding involves mating animals that are slightly or distantly related. Outcrossing is a form of straight breeding where unrelated animals of the same breed mate.
Crossbreeding is mating animals of two different breeds, this results in hybrid offsprings. This allows breeders to attempt to maximize heterosis. Heterosis improves performance, growth, and carcass traits (University of Missouri, Columbia, 1997).
When pigs are born, they are born in farrowing crates. Farrowing crates are pens that have an area for the sow and the piglets. These crates are designed to reduce the number of piglets getting stepped or laid on by the sow. Farrowing crates also provide a cool area for the sow and a warm area for the piglets. The floor of the crates is dry to protect from the animals getting a disease spread to them. These crates also allow the producer to assist in the birth process. Farrowing crates are very controversial because people that are not entirely educated in the swine industry do not understand why they are needed. They believe that pigs need more room to walk and the crate is too small. But these crates save many little piglets’ lives because the sow may not be careful and conscious of the little pigs under it. These crates were made for a reason, and they have helped in reducing the amounts of death piglets experience due to the sow stepping or laying on them(The Humane Society,2013).
After pigs are born, they are moved to either be used for breeding or become market hogs. Market hogs are the bacon you eat, in case you were wondering. I raise market hogs and yes I still eat bacon and pork chops, and no I have never eaten a pig I raised. The last two pigs I have gotten have been crossbred pigs, one gilt and one barrow. My gilt was named chicha after chicharrones and she was not the best pig. She was a lightweight pig and refused to eat unless there was powdered fat on top. She made weight at fair and she sold for eight dollars a pound. At the fair, she was in two shows. She was in showmanship where you show the judge how good your pig is trained, and market where the judge looks for good food aspects of your pig. Since she was light she placed tenth place in her class. My second pig was named Harley. He was a good pig but he did not like to walk. He weighed 149 pounds and was sold for 8 dollars a pound. He was not the smartest pig though. He ran into a pole and hurt his back leg, I then had to put a cream on him every day until he could walk normally again. Raising pigs has taught me so much about the animals and myself. I now know that I hate waking up at 4 am to get to the bus barn to go to the fair. But in all seriousness, I learned many life lessons raising these smart animals. I learned responsibility because I had to feed two to three times a day to make sure that my pigs made weight. I learned time management too because I had to work on feeding and walking time between tennis practice and summer school. I also learned financial responsibility because I had to learn to manage my money so that I had enough money to buy feed and other supplies.
In conclusion, the swine industry is very important because, without it, there would be no bacon. Pigs are amazing, smart animals that are very useful. I love raising these animals because they all have different behaviors.