Category: Swine

Choosing a Replacement Gilt – Feet Evaluation

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swine-feet

This guide is to help anyone raising hogs for meat to effectively screen replacement gilt candidates before adding them into their breeding herds.  The visual appraisal can help you identify replacement gilts with various issues that can negatively impact sow longevity.  In this article I will discuss the conformation and structural soundness, feet and leg abnormalities, and reproductive soundness (underlines, external genitalia).

Identifying replacement gilts with one or more of these deficiencies and culling them, before they enter the breeding program, may be one of the keys to lowering breeding herd replacement rates and/or mortality rates. 

It doesn’t matter if you are purchasing replacement gilts or producing your own in an internal program, this guide provides examples of the types of problems that should be avoided when selecting replacement gilts.

Gilt Selection Guidelines

This guide covers the following criteria that are critical to the selection of functional females that will remain in the herd for a long and productive life:

Feet and Leg Soundness

  • Feet and leg problems represent the second largest reason for sows leaving the breeding herd.  This is particularly true for parity 1, 2, and 3 females.

Underline Soundness

  • Underlines should be visually evaluated and scored on ALL replacement females.

External Genitalia

  • Involves visually evaluating the vulva for size, shape, and injuries.

Feet and Leg Soundness

  • Feet and leg problems are one of the major reasons for culling sows and this is particularly true in parity 1, 2, and 3 females.
  • Feet and leg soundness should be evaluated on ALL replacement females.
  • Evaluation can involve a scoring process that is outlined in these documents.
    • Pork Industry Handbook fact sheet PIH-101: “Feet and Leg Soundness in Swine”
  • Gilts that score “poor” or “unacceptable” should be culled.

Other traits on which selection should occur for replacement gilts.

Growth

  • Gilts should be in the fastest growing 50-60% of the contemporary group.
  • Adequate growth increases the probability of proper reproductive development.
  • Slow growing females (within a group) can have delayed first estrus and may be lifelong problem breeders.

Backfat

  • Backfat is important if replacement females are produced within the herd.
  • Consult NSIF Guidelines for Uniform Swine Improvement to obtain proper measurement and adjustment criteria.
  • Recommended levels of backfat are farm specific and may change due to genetics, environment, and end market.

Traits to Examine

There are a large number of criteria that can be used to evaluate a replacement gilt candidate.  The list below shows the traits that are desirable in a replacement gilt.

  1. Long bodied
  2. Smooth shouldered
  3. Deep bodied
  4. Deep, wide chest floor
  5. Trim jowl
  6. Correct set of knee
  7. Prominent, well-spaced underline
  8. Bold spring of rib
  9. Uniform level top
  10. Long level rump
  11. High tail setting
  12. Deep, long muscled ham
  13. Correct set of hock
  14. Heavy rugged bone
  15. Cushion to pasterns

What is desirable?

The ideal animal provides good cushion and flexion to the joints.  These animals will have an easier time getting up and down and will walk more fluidly.  They will also be less susceptible to stiff joints and arthritis as the result of constant stress on the joints.  Ultimately, these females are likely to remain in the breeding herd for a longer period of time.

Feet Evaluation

Start by evaluating the feet of the replacement gilt.  Large feet are desirable and should be out on all four corners with adequate width between them.  The individual toe size is also important so pay close attention to small inside toes, especially on the rear feet.  Examine all four feet for cracked hooves, foot pad abrasions, and other injuries.  It is critical to also evaluate toe size.  Leg conformation tends to conform to the shape and size of the toes.  The ideal toes are big, evenly sized, and spread apart.  The correct size and placement of the toes result in a better weight distribution.  If there is a difference of ½ inch or more in the toe size, the gilt should be culled.  When the toes are uneven there is a greater risk of cracked hooves and foot pad lesions as the animal becomes older.  Over time the size of the toe will have an effect on the mobility of the animal. 

                Small toes that have little if any spacing between them are considered undesirable.  If the toes are small then the weight is concentrated on a smaller surface area and there is a greater risk of cracked hooves and foot pad lesions as the animal becomes older and matures to heavier weights.  You want to make sure that you examine all potential gilts for the following feet and leg injuries before proceeding to other examinations:

  • Cracked Hooves
  • Foot pad abrasions
  • Other Injuries

Injuries can be very difficult to identify so take your time to examine them thoroughly.  If any animals have an injury be sure to have them treated to see if the injury improves.  If not, use caution if these females are retained in the breeding herd.  Ultimately production is an important aspect of producing pork but we all want the animals to live a comfortable and happy life.  If gilts are not selected for proper feet development it can lead to problems such as excessive toe growth once they enter the breeding herd.  Sows with these types of problems can lead to lameness and poor productivity and must be treated.  Gilts should be culled if the toe size differs greatly; focus on the inside toes.   If an obvious injury occurs that will impair timely mating or thriving in gestational environments, the gilt should be culled.  Also, injuries that will reduce gilt’s productive herd life are another reason for culling. 

That’s all for this post but in the next one we will discuss front leg evaluation and the things you want to look for. 

If you enjoyed this article or found it helpful please feel free to share it on your favorite social media platforms.

Credits:

Kenneth J. Stalder, Associate Professor of Animal Science, Iowa State University

Colin Johnson, Extension Program Specialist, Iowa State University

Dale P. Miller, Editor, National Hog Farmer

Tom J. Baas, Associate Professor of Animal Science, Iowa State University

Nick Berry, Graduate Research Assistant, Iowa State Uninversity

Allen E. Christian, Swine Teaching Farm Manager, Iowa State University

Timo V. Serenius, Post-Doctoral Associate, Iowa State University

Why Do Pigs Like Mud?

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We’ve all seen a little pig rolling around in the mud and loving every second of it. But the question comes up “why do they do it?” Many people think that it’s because pigs are dirty animals. This is not the case, pigs are actually very clean animals. In this article we dig in to why do pigs love mud.

They loved to be covered in something

Pigs love to covered in something at all times. This typically is mud however if mud is not available they will try and cover themselves in whatever they can find. The reason behind this is simply because it helps them avoid sunburns. Many pigs (especially your pink varieties) can easily sunburn. And if you’ve ever had a sunburn and couldn’t get out of the sun you know how bad it hurts. So they will cover themselves in whatever they can find to help protect their skin. As I said before, many people think that pigs are dirty animals. This is not true at all. If you have ever spent any significant time around a pig farm then you probably will notice that they keep their “bathroom” as far away from their eating and drinking area as possible. You can watch them root around in mud for hours and it’s quite entertaining to watch.

Thermal Regulation

Pigs and hogs have very few sweat glands in their bodies. So, unlike humans they are unable to sweat when they get too hot. So to help keep their bodies at a cooler temperature they will roll in mud since the moisture helps keep it cooler for a longer period of time. Nowadays many pig farmers use misters or sprinklers to keep the animals cool. The problem with this is that pure water evaporates much faster than the water in mud does. Our hogs typically will lay in a mud hole the majority of the day if they can. We don’t discourage the practice, in fact, we encourage it. We want our animals to be as natural as they can be which is why we keep them in dirt and not concrete pens.

Bugs

When a pig is covered in a nice thick layer of mud it helps discourage bugs from biting them. Since typically there is a fair amount of food around them it tends to attract flies and other pests that irritate the pigs skin. By covering themselves in mud they give themselves a barrier against those kinds of pests.

So now you can tell somebody the answer when they ask “Why do pigs love mud?” I also did a video on this exact topic on YouTube which you can watch below. Feel free to share this article if you found it informational or helpful.

Categories: General Info & Tips

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Is Organic Meat Really Better for you?

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This question has come up quite a bit around my house and probably yours at some point, is organic meat really that much better than regular? The answer is kind of. The USDA allows for certain chemicals to be used in the production of “organic” livestock. I put organic in quotes because honestly in my mind, organic should have NO chemicals. We dig into what chemicals are allowed in this article.

The National List of Allowed And Prohibited Substances

The USDA maintains a list called the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances that details what chemicals can be used in organic livestock production and in what way that are allowed to be used. Some of these chemicals are used to maintain the animal’s health which I do understand, but that still doesn’t make it organic in my mind. So what exactly is this list? In short it’s a list that is maintained by the United States Department of Agriculture that outlines the chemicals that are allowed and not allowed in organic livestock production and how those chemicals can be used.

What Chemicals Are Allowed to be Used?

This is probably the part you really wanted to get into so let’s dive right in.  According to Section 205.603 of the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, the following are synthetic substances allowed for use in organic livestock production.

  1. Alcohols
    1. Ethanol – Disinfectant and Sanitizer only, prohibited as a feed additive.
    1. Isopropanol – Disinfectant only
  2. Aspirin – approved for health care use to reduce inflammation.
  3. Atropine (CAS #-51-55-8) – Federal Law restricts this drug to use by or on the lawful written or oral order of a licensed veterinarian, in full compliance with AMDUCA and 21 CFR part 530 of the Food and Drug Administration regulations.  Also, for use under 7 CFR part 205, the NOP requires:
    1. Use by or on the lawful written order of a licensed veterinarian; and
    1. A meat withdrawal period of at least 56 days after administering to livestock intended for slaughter; and a milk discard period of at least 12 days after administering to dairy animals.
  4. Biologics – Vaccines.
  5. Butorphanol (CAS #-42408-82-2) – Only allowed by oral or written vet order. 
    1. An opioid pain medication used to treat severe pain.  Is also used as a part of anesthesia for surgery or during early labor.
    1. A meat withdrawal period of at least 42 days after administering to livestock intended for slaughter or a milk discard period of at least 8 days after administering to dairy animals.
  6. Activated Charcoal (CAS # 7440-4409) – Must be from vegetative sources.
  7. Calcium Borogluconate (CAS # 5743-34-0) – for treatment of milk fever only.
  8. Calcium Propionate (CAS # 4075-81-4) – For treatment of milk fever only.
  9. Chlorhexidine (CAS # 55-56-1) – for medical procedures conducted under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian.  Allowed for use as a teat dip when alternative germicidal agents and/or physical barriers have lost their effectiveness.
  10. Chlorine Materials – disinfecting and sanitizing facilities and equipment.  Residual chlorine levels in the water shall not exceed the maximum residual disinfectant limit under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
    1. Calcium Hypochlorite
    1. Chlorine Dioxide
    1. Hypochlorous Acid – generated from electrolyzed water.
    1. Sodium hypochlorite
  11. Electrolytes – without antibiotics
  12. Flunixin (CAS #-38677-85-9) – in accordance with approved labeling; except that for use under 7 CFR part 205, the NOP requires a withdrawal period of at least two-times that required by the FDA.
  13. Glucose
  14. Glycerin – Allowed as a livestock teat dip, must me produced through the hydrolysis of fats or oils.
  15. Hydrogen Peroxide
  16. Iodine
  17. Kaolin Pectin – for use as an absorbent, antidiarrheal, and gut protectant.
  18. Magnesium Hydroxide (CAS #-1309-42-8) – Only allowed under the oral or written order of a licensed veterinarian. 
  19. Magnesium Sulfate
  20. Mineral Oil – for treatment of intestinal compaction, prohibited for use as a dust suppressant.
  21. Nutritive Supplements – injectable supplements of trace minerals per paragraph (d)(2) of section 206.603 of the National List of Allowed And Prohibited Substances, vitamins per paragraph (d)(3), and electrolytes per paragraph (a)(11), with excipients per paragraph (f), in accordance with FDA and restricted to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian.
  22. Oxytocin – use in post parturition therapeutic applications.
  23. Parasiticides – Prohibited in slaughter stock, allowed in emergency treatment for dairy and breeder stock when organic system plan-approved preventative management does not prevent infestation.  In breeder stock, treatment cannot occur during the last third of gestation of the progency will be sold as organic and must not be used during the lactation period for breeding stock.  Allowed for fiber bearing animals when used a minimum of 36 days prior to harvesting of fleece or wool that is to be sold, labeled, or represented as organic.
    1. Fenbendazole (CAS #43210-67-9) – milk or milk products from a treated animal cannot be labled as provided for in subpart D: 2 days following treatment of cattle; 36 days following treatment of goats, sheep, and other dairy species.
    1. Moxidectin (CAS #113507 – 06-5)
  24. Perooxyacetic/Peracetic acid (CAS #-79-21-0) – for sanitizing facility and processing equipment.
  25. Phosphoric Acid – allowed as equipment cleaner, provided that no direct contact with organically managed livestock or land occurs.
  26. Poloxalene (CAS #-003-11-6) – for use under 7 CFR part 205; the NOP requires that poloxalene only be used for the emergency treatment of bloat.
  27. Propylene Glycol (CAS #57-55-6) – only for treatment of ketosis in ruminants.
  28. Sodium Chlorite, acidified – allowed for use on organic livestock as a teat dip treatment only.
  29. Tolazoline (CAS #59-98-3) – only allowed on oral or written order of a licensed veterinarian, in full compliance with the AMDUCA and 21 CFR part 530 of the FDA regulations.  Also, for use under 7 CFR part 205, the NOP requires:
    1. Use by or on the lawful written order of a licensed veterinarian;
    1. Use only to reverse the effects of sedation and analgesia caused by Xylazine; and
    1. A meat withdrawal period of at least 8 days after administering to livestock intended for slaughter; and a milk discard period of at least 4 days after administering to dairy animals.
  30. Xylazine (CAS #7361-61-7) – Federal law restricts this drug to use by or on the lawful written or oral order of a licensed veterinarian, in full compliance with the AMDUCA  and 21 CFR part 530 of the FDA regulations. Also, for use under 7 CFR part 205, the NOP requires:
    1. Use by or on the lawful written order of a licensed veterinarian; and,
    1. A meat withdrawal period of at least 8 days after administering to livestock intended for slaughter; and a milk discard period of at least 4 days after administering to dairy animals.
    1. As a topical treatment, external parasiticide or local anesthetic as applicable.
      1. Copper Sulfate
      1. Formic Acid (CAS # 64-18-6) for use as a pesticide solely within honeybee hives.
      1. Iodine
      1. Lidocaine – as a local anesthetic. Use requires a withdrawal period of 8 days after administering to livestock intended for slaughter and 6 days after administering to dairy animals.
      1. Lime, hydrated – as an external pest control, not permitted to cauterize physical alterations or deodorize animal wastes.
      1. Mineral oil – for topical use and as a lubricant
      1. Procaine – as a local anesthetic.  Use requires a withdrawal period of 8 days after administering to livestock intended for slaughter and 6 days after administering to dairy animals.
      1. Sodium Chlorite, acidified – allowed for use on organic livestock as teat dip treatment only.
      1. Sucrose octanoate esters (CAS#s – 42922-74-7; 58064-47-4) – in accordance with approved labeling
      1. Zinc sulfate – for use in hoof and foot treatments only
    1. As feed supplements – none
    1. As feed additives.
      1. DL-Methionine, DL-Methionine – hydroxyl analog, and DL-Methionine – hydroxyl analog calcium (CAS #’s  59-51-8, 583-91-5,4857-55-7, and 922-50-9) – for use in organic poultry production at the following pounds of synthetic 100 percent methionine per ton of feed in the diet.  Maximum rates as averaged per ton of feed over the life of the flock: laying chickens – 2 pounds; broiler chickens – 2.5 pounds; turkeys and all other poultry – 3 pounds.
      1. Trace minerals used for enrichment or fortification when FDA approved.
      1. Vitamins, used for enrichment or fortification when FDA approved.
    1. As synthetic inert ingredients as classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for use with nonsynthetic substances or synthetic substances listed and used as an active pesticide ingredient in accordance with any limitations on the use of such substances

What’s Next?

As you can see there are a ton of allowed substances that can be used on your “organic” meats.  I’m not a doctor so I could say whether or not any of these are hard on your body, however, I do know that there are some things people we never meant to eat and I’m pretty sure a large number of them are on this list.  This is why we don’t even say our pork is organic.  We are better than organic for the simple fact we use ZERO chemicals. 

Conclusion

For many people wanting to live a healthy lifestyle, organic meats is one thing they really enjoy.  But at the end of the day is it really better for you?  In actuality it is.  Organic products can have about 50% more omega-3 fatty acids, a type of unsaturated healthy fat, than traditionally produced products.  As far as beef goes, grass fed is better and in many cases is considered organic.  However, after reading this list what are your thoughts?  If it’s me I’ll stick to our method of raising our pork.  No chemicals, no antibiotics, just pure healthy truly natural pork. 

If you’re in Arizona and would like to eat healthier you can click the shop link on the main menu and browse our products.  Unfortunately we are unable to ship food products and are only licensed for sale in Arizona.  All of our pork is ADA Certified.

If you liked this article and found it informative please share it on your favorite social media sites.  Also leave me a comment and let me know what you thought of this article.  Thank you for reading.

Categories: General Info & Tips

Why Do Pigs Root?

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Pig-Rooting

Why Do Pigs Root?

Simply put pigs root to look for food and to get iron. Pigs are naturally iron deficient so rooting gets them the iron they need.

What Is Rooting

Rooting is a natural behavior of pigs where they use their snout to push or nudge into something repeatedly. It gets its name from one of the reasons they do it. The are looking for roots and other food items that are underground. Rooting is a behavior that many people who are just starting with their pigs may not expect. You do not want to discourage this practice as it can lead to a dangerous situation. Pigs will root and there isn’t really anything short of using hog rings to stop it. If pigs aren’t allowed to root they will begin to root at your ankles which can cause serious injury and in some cases death.

Why Do Pigs Do it

Pigs typically root to search for things they can eat such as roots or insects. Feral hogs will actually do it in search of acorns that were left over from the previous year.

Why Are Pigs Iron Deficient

When pigs are born they have no access to iron other than the sows’ milk (which is deficient in itself) until it starts to eat creep feed. A shortage of iron results in lowered levels of haemoglobin in the red cells, (anaemia), a lowered capacity for the carriage of oxygen around the body and increases their chances for disease. This brings up another question:

Do I have to give my baby pigs shots?

In short, yes, Because pigs are born iron deficient and the sows’ milk is also iron deficient, you want to ensure that your new baby pigs are given iron injections when they are 3 or 4 days old. This will help boost their immune system and make it slightly harder for them to end up with various diseases. It will also help their blood to carry oxygen around their bodies more efficiently. Injections are the preferred method of ensuring piglets get the exact dose of iron that they need. Oral supplementation depends on the amount of food or water the piglet consumes, so there is a risk of the piglet receiving too much or too little iron.

How do I give my piglet an iron injection?

How do I know how much to give my piglet you ask? Well it is recommended best practice to give your pig a full 200 mg dose in a 1 ml iron supplement injection. This means that you only have to give your piglet a single dose which saves you time and minimizes the risk of leakage which have been seen in 2 ml injections. By minimizing leakage we can insure that no iron is wasted, and that each piglet gets the full dose of iron it needs to grow and be healthy. So now you know how much to give but where do you actually give the injection? Well there are 3 places that are normally recommended and those are:

  1. Behind the Ear
  2. In the hind limb/ham muscle*
  3. In the inguinal fold

*This is not recommended by some vets due to the risk of damaging the ham

There are two ways to actually give the injection: intramuscularly (im) or subcutaneously (sc or sq).

  • Intramuscular injections are given deep into the muscle with a relatively long needle – up to 20 mm.
  • Subcutaneous injections are given just under the skin with a shorter needle, normally 10mm.

**Disclaimer:Please note that the recommended injection site can vary by countryare national variations of recommended injection site. Before administering any injection to your piglet consult your veterinarian for advice.**

To keep your piglets safe you want to check and ensure that the injection site is clean and dry before actually administering the injection. If the piglet’s skin is dirty or wet, then you should wipe the site clean and dry before injection.

What is the inguinal fold?

You probably had the same reaction I did when I first saw the term inguinal fold. I had never heard the term and it drove me crazy until I finally asked someone (this was before Google was so big). The inguinal region is nothing more than the groin. Basically you hold the piglet by its hind legs so its head is towards the floor. Then insert the needle right in front of the hind leg where the skin from the ham attaches to the body.

Convenience of collapsible plastic vials

First of all the plastic vials are quite a bit lighter than the glass vials, something that people love about them after a large number of injections in one day. Second, as the iron supplement is injected the vial slowly collapses which helps prevent air and bacteria from getting sucked into the iron solution. So this gives you a little piece of mind knowing that your piglet will not be exposed to any bacteria-contaminated iron solution. And lastly, the plastic vials are non-breakable, so if you drop them on the floor they won’t break.

Disposable syringes and needles

Disposable automatic syringes and needles tend to be the best option for giving iron injections to your herd. These usually come ready to use in sterile packages and you can discard them after one or multiple uses. If a syringe is used for more than 1 injection then it needs to be rinsed in hot water after each use. Disposable needles should be changed after each litter or after 10 different injections.

The right needles

Needles can sometimes break off in the injection site which can cause distress on the animal and lets face it, that has to hurt. So I recommend using traceable needles to ensure that the pieces of metal will be detected at the slaughterhouse before the meat reaches the consumer. I also recommend that you use a 20 GA x 3.8-1.2” needle for newborn piglets.

Are there other ways pigs can get iron

Rooting is the big one. Baby pigs that are born outside can root in the soil and get their iron that way. The only option pigs born inside have is the sows’ milk which is itself iron deficient. In this case injections are the only way to go. If you keep your pigs in a pen and are worried about about them depleting the soil of iron you can throw some pieces of steel just outside the fence. This will allow the steel to rust and oxidize the soil in a more natural manner. Make sure you place this steel on the outside of the fence to the pigs can’t cut themselves on it since they can have issues with tetanus as well.

If pigs need iron injections, what other shots should they get?

Well ultimately, that depends on where you live. However, the vaccination schedule usually begins at about a week old. This includes shots to fight against rhinitis (bordetella), erysipelas, mycoplasma and pneumonia. Pneumonia and Mycoplasma go hand in hand since both are deadly and infect the respiratory system.

So what vaccination schedule should I follow?

Questions such as this can be hard to answer. Ultimately, you want to consult your vet to determine exactly what injections and when your pigs should get them. ValleyVet.com recommends that pigs should be vaccinated for the following:

3 Weeks of Age

  • Circovirus – A common swine virus found in pigs all over the world that can lead to death.

4 Weeks of Age

  • Boosters for rhinitis
  • Boosters for erysipelas
  • Vaccinations against Mycoplasma, pneumonia and Actinobacillus

8 Weeks of Age

  • Vaccine against the parasite that causes Glasser’s disease
  • Vaccine against polyserositis – This vaccine protects piglets against Actinobacillus and pleuropneumonia as well.

As I previously said, the type and amount of vaccines varies on several factors, including where exactly you live. Because of this it is always best to consult your vet before administering any vaccines to your pigs.

Can a Pig be kept from rooting?

It is possible but it is highly discouraged. You can use hog rings attached to their snout which will create an uncomfortable feeling every time they root. Eventually they will stop rooting. However, this practice is frowned upon in many places and illegal in some countries. You can also give them toys that simulate rooting and the use of their snouts. Things like bowling balls, Kongs, or puzzle blocks provide a digging and foraging area where they can dig. You can even hide treats in a small sandbox inside their pen. Ultimately, while you can keep them from rooting you really don’t want too. You want to focus more on giving them non-destructive ways to root.

What is a Rooting Box?

A rooting box is nothing more than an area that is surrounded with wood or some other medium to keep it enclosed. This box is used to keep their natural behavior of rooting to a specific area. This box should be filled with something such as newspaper and some type of treat. You can even use a sandbox or other similar play item to let them root in.

How Do I Make A Rooting Box?

Making a rooting box is a very simple process. You can take pieces of wood (2×4, 4×8, etc) and make a box. This box should be at least two inches high and should be filled with treats, toys, newspapers, or other “safe” items for your pig to find. You should cover these items with dirt or bark to help them find the treats easier.

How Can I stop Rooting if it becomes Violent?

Some pigs do become quite forceful when it comes to rooting. Naturally, pigs root on their mothers for food so they may end up doing the same thing to you. In many cases, individual bring about this issue by hand feeding their pigs.

To end this behavior it’s important that you stop hand feeding and correct your pig if they root against you buy pushing them away and sternly telling them “NO!”. Doing so is the most effective way to end the behavior.

Are there different types of rooting?

Absolutely there are. Pigs will root for a number of different reasons. They can root in search of food which I’ve already mentioned. But, they can also root for comfort, to communicate, or to cool off. This probably raises the big question that I had when I first started with pigs. That question is “how the heck does rooting help a pig cool off?” There is actually a very simple answer to this. By rooting a pig will turn up the soil. The soil under the surface is cooler since the sun isn’t beating down on it nearly as much. Then they will lay in the hole they just dug up and keep the cooler soil against them.

Wow, we really dug in deep to this topic so I hope that I was able to answer any questions that you may have had. Please remember I am not a vet. These are things that I have researched over the years. Before I decide on any injection for my hogs I always discuss them with my vet since different things can come up at random times as far as diseases go. Please do not just go out and start vaccinating your pigs based on the contents of this article. Use this information to consult with your vet and find out what the best vaccinations and vaccination schedule would be for your specific situation.

I hope I was able to give you a little more insight into this topic without confusing you. If you have any questions please leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer your question.

If you found this article helpful please share it on your favorite social media channels. The more we can get this information out the better prepared people can be for their next litter. You can also watch our YouTube Video about why pigs root below if you want to see more.

Categories: General Info & Tips

Why Do Pigs Have Nose Rings?

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Pig-Nose-Ring

Many people have no idea why pigs have nose rings. You may be surprised to find out that it’s not for looks. There is actually a real purpose for them.

It keeps them from rooting

Now this is a practice that I personally do not believe is right. Yes, while it may be true that it keeps them from rooting and helps keep them in their pen, it just seems unusually cruel to me. It can be a real pain trying to keep them contained sometimes but there is a simple solution to that, build a better fence. Here on the ranch we typically just pour a concrete footer around the perimeter of the pig pen then set the legs of the panels in the concrete. That way when it sets the panels are held firmly in place and there is a concrete wall underneath that the pigs cannot dig out of. They are still allowed to do their natural thing, which is to root, but it’s much harder for them to escape their pens. Some people also use them when their pigs are kept on a hard surface such as concrete. Even on concrete pigs will try and root and they can seriously injure themselves because of it.

Why are they called hog rings?

This question tends to come up fairly often when I’m explaining to people what hog rings are used for. Hog rings are U-shaped metal rings that are bent in a circle that are applied to the snout of a hog. This ring is applied to a hogs snout in order to keep them from rooting. The ring is pressed through the skin of the snout with a tool known as “hog ring pliers”. This holds it in place so it is unable to move. Think of it like an ear piercing except in a hogs nose. No sedatives are used when rings are applied to a hog so I can only imagine that it hurts.

How Are Hog Rings Measured?

Typically there are 3 sizes of hog rings ranging from #1 to #3. Each size has a specific use:

  • #1 Pig Rings are used for animals up to 25 lbs.
  • #2 Shoat Rings are used for animals up to 100 lbs.
  • #3 Hog rings are for animals over 100 lbs.

Are There Different Types of Hog Rings?

Yes there are actually, Typically there are two types: Hog Rings and Shoat Rings. Hog rings are used for adult hogs so they are larger and thicker than shoat rings. Shoat rings are used for young pigs so they are made smaller and thinner. Within the last couple years a new style has been released that is supposed to be more humane to the animal. Those type of rings are called humane hog rings. Most hog rings stainless steel with a large number being copper-plated.

Humane Hog Rings

Humane Hog rings are a fairly recent development. They are developed so that when they are applied to the animal is causes less stress and pain. The shape is different as well. Instead of just being round they have a dip in the metal to fit around the hogs nose better without pulling on the ends. In my mind you are still shoving a piece of metal through a pigs nose so I’m not sure just how much more humane they are.

How to Remove Hog Rings

There is a tool called a “hog ring cutter” that is used to cut through the hog ring so it can be removed in two separate pieces. This causes much less pain for the animal since removing the ring won’t cause it to twist and turn inside the snout.

What are Hog Rings Used For?

Hog rings are used in the Pig industry to keep the pigs from doing what they naturally do and that’s rooting. Pigs love to root and will dig up a pasture or a pen pretty quickly. They will also dig under a fence and escape their pen at times as well. The use of pig rings prevents this activity by applying pressure to their snout when they root. This is uncomfortable for them and discourages them from continuing. Some farms keep their pigs on concrete slabs to make cleaning much easier. Pigs will still try and root through the concrete and can seriously injure themselves when doing so. A hog ring will discourage this practice and ultimately keep the pigs safer.

Hog Ring Uses

There are a ton of uses for hog rings ranging from fixing chain linked fence to reinforcing wire mesh on chicken coops to even fixing upholstery. Pig rings are definitely something that are useful to have around in a pinch and can work wonders for fixing your truck seats. They are very popular for upholstery because they have a much less chance to tear free like staples or nails. Some designs are more suitable for meat packing use such as closing the ends of sausage casings. The ends of the rings are placed through the material being fastened together and then bent into a round shape. This creates a very secure hold on the two fabrics.

Benefits

Because hog rings are bent into a round object they provide a very secure hold that isn’t likely to work its way loose. Unlike other popular items such as nails or staples, hog rings are bent into shape so that they maintain and iron-like grip on the objects. You can view hog rings as large staples.

So at the end of the day hog rings by themselves aren’t a bad thing. They have plenty of great uses for everyday life and you don’t have to live on a farm or ranch to make good use of them. So now if your trying to decide if you want to raise hogs or if you just brought home your first one we hope this answered you question.

What are your thoughts about hog rings? Do you use them for hogs or other uses? Let me know in the comments below.

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What are the Benefits of Raising Pigs?

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Happy-Pig

I always have people ask me the same question, “Why do you raise pigs?” This can be a hard question to answer. I can’t use the response “because they’re awesome” because that won’t answer their question. So I’ve sat down and taken the time to write out a number of the reasons I love raising pigs to give you an idea if it’s something you should consider doing.

Pigs are social animals

Pigs are very social animals. Every day when I head down to their pen they get excited to see me. Not just because they want to be fed but also because they love the social interaction that they get when I’m there. I like to spend as much time with them as I can because it keeps them happy. Just a simple scratch behind the ear (which they love by the way) can do wonders for your relationship with them. While it is true that they are raised for meat I’m still a firm believer that a happy pig is a flavorful pig.

Pigs Love to Play

Pigs love to run around and play almost as much as they love to eat. It’s not uncommon to see them chasing each other around or playing tug-of-war with their favorite feed barrel. You have to be careful though because they can play pretty rough. If you are in the pen with them they can and will knock you over and trample you. This is one of the reasons I don’t allow children around the pigs. Right now my pigs are around 300 pounds and I bet you can image what that feels like when they run into you.

Farm Raised Pigs taste so much better

The flavor from farm raised pork is so much better than anything you can buy in the store. It doesn’t just look better but the taste is amazing. There are many different things you can feed your pig but my favorite is a mix of various grains. This allows them to put the weight on and ensures that they are getting the Vitamins and Minerals that they need to be healthy.

Should I Raise Pigs?

By now your probably asking yourself if you should raise pigs. The short answer to that question is, it depends. There are a lot of things to consider before taking on this responsibility. One of the first things you should do is make sure you are ready for the level of commitment that goes into it. Because pigs are as social as they are they require a lot of time to truly be happy. This involved playing with them, taking to them, petting and scratching them, etc. For a lot of people this time commitment can be too much. Another thing to take into consideration is the laws where you live. In most large cities you aren’t allowed to raise pigs within city limits. Obviously you want to look into this before you go out and buy a piglet. Next up is Fencing.

Fencing

Pigs are very strong animals and it can take quite a lot to keep them penned up. Regular wood slatted fencing isn’t going to do the job. I personally use horse panels with a “no-climb” fence around the outside. This gives them a simple structure that will not only keep them in, but help protect them from outside threats such as coyotes. The stronger the fence the better off you will be.

Feed Bill

to get 1 pig from weaning to market weight (285 lbs). That’s an expense that can be a problem to some people. Let’s say, for example, that you go to your closest feed store and a 50 lb bag of hog feed is $15.99. That doesn’t seem to bad right? Well let’s do the math real quick:

50 / 900 = 18   

So it takes 18 of those 50lb bags of feed to get them to market weight. Now, let’s figure out how much that costs exactly:

18 x $15.99 = $287.82

Wow! That’s a lot of money to feed one animal for 5 or 6 months. Granted you get a lot of that back in pork come butcher time (which is another big expense).

Costs

So now you know about how much in feed it costs you to raise a pig from the time it’s weaned to market weight. So let’s add up all the costs and see just how much your paying for your pork.

First off lets get the numbers sorted out:

Feed: 287.82

Water: $100 (It can vary depending on where you are but for this example we’ll figure $100)

Processing Costs: $250 (Most processors charge on a per pound basis which usually comes out around $250)

So adding those costs together comes out to:

287.872+ 100 + 250 = $637.82

So we now have a total cost of $637.82 to raise that 1 pig to market weight. Now to figure out how much your paying per pound you need to know how many pounds of meat you actually have. So a pig’s hanging weight will usually be about 65% of its live weight. So for a 285lb hog that is about 185.25 lbs hanging weight. Now you can subtract roughly another 40 lbs for bone, skin, etc. So your left with about 145.25 lbs of usable meat. So Lets see what our per pound price is:

$637.82 / 145.25 = $4.39 per pound

That means that the pork you just put in your freezer cost you about $4.39 per pound. That is honestly why farm raised meats tend to cost more than what you can get in the store. So the question you have to ask yourself is this: Do I want to put all the work and time into raising a pig and still end up paying over $4 per pound? That’s a decision only you can make.

Was this article helpful? If so leave your comments and thoughts in the comments below.

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Why Does Farm Raised Meat Cost More?

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center-cut-loin-chop

There are a number of reasons farm raised meat costs more than store bought. In many cases it boils down to your location. Keep reading and we will dive into some of the reasons why this is.

Feed Costs

Imagine for a minute that you own a small farm and are raising animals for meat. Do you think you could get the same price buying a few hundred pounds of feed as someone who is buying a few thousand pounds? Of course not. This is a large part of the reason farm raised meats are higher.

Quality

This is one of the biggest reasons farm fresh meat is costs more. Large operations don’t care nearly as much about the quality of the meat that they are producing. A small farm relies on that quality to sustain themselves. They spend more time selecting a better quality feed that will outperform the mass produced stuff.

Closer Care

large producers rush the production to get the animals to market weight as quickly as possible. Small producers typically take their time and allow the animals to take the time to reach maturity. Doing this incurs extra costs because the animals are there a lot longer.

There are a ton more reasons why farm raised meats are more expensive but, at the end of the day it boils down to quality. If you compare store bought meat to farm raised meat you can physically see the difference in the coloring, marbling, etc.

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Pigs, Hogs & Boars: Facts About Swine

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Pigs-Front-View

Pigs are mammals with stocky bodies, flat snouts that can move independently of their heads, small eyes and large ears. They are also highly intelligent, social animals, and are found all over the world.

Pigs are in the Suidae family, which includes eight genera and 16 species. Among those species are wild boars, warthogs, and pygmy hogs, and domestic pigs. Pig, hog and boar essentially describe the same animal, but there are some distinctions. For instance, a boar is an un-castrated male domestic pig, but, it also means a wild pig of any gender. A hog often means a domestic pig that weighs more than 120 lbs.

Pigs were among the first animals to be domesticated about 9,000 years ago in china and in a region in what is now turkey. Asian farmers first brought domesticated pigs to Europe around 7,500 years ago, according to the Smithsonian Magazine.

Domestic pigs are descended mostly from the wild boar (Sus scrofa) and the Sulawesi warty pig (Sus celebensis). They diverged from their closes ancestors about 500,000 years ago according to the Encyclopedia of Life. Today, there are an estimated 2 billion domesticated pigs on the planet, mostly classified as a subspecies of wild boars.

Size

Pigs usually weigh between 300 and 700 lbs, but domestic pigs are often bred to be heavier. In 2012 a hog named Reggie set a weight record of 1,335 lbs in the Iowa state Fair’s ‘biggest Boar” contest, Radio Iowa reported.

But even massive Reggie is outweighed by the largest domestic pig of all time. That title goes to a porker named Big Norm of Hubbardsville, New York. Big Norm topped the scales at a whopping 1,600 lbs. when he died in 2009, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard.

Wild pigs vary greatly in size and weight. The largest boar is the giant forest hog which is native to more than a dozen countries across Africa. It grows up to 6.9 feet long and measures 3.6 feet tall, according to the Encyclopedia of Life. Although, it is rarely seen, video of the elusive beast was captured in June 2018 by ecologists in Uganda, National Geographic reported.

The heaviest boar is the Eurasian wild pig, which grows to 710 lbs. And the smallest boar is the pygmy hog. This delicate swine grows to a length between 1.8 and 2.4 feet and stands 9.8 inches tall from hoof to shoulder. The pygmy hog only weighs 14.5 to 21 lbs., according to the San Diego Zoo.

Habitat

Boars, pigs and hogs live all over the world, except for Antarctica, northern Africa, and far norther Eurasia, according to the Encyclopedia of Life. For example, red river hogs, also called bush pigs, are found in Africa. Babirusas, or pig deer, are found in Indonesia; and Visayan warty pigs come from the Philippines.

Wild pigs typically live in grasslands, wetlands, rain forests, savannas, scrub lands and temperate forests. All Pigs wallow in mud whenever they have the chance because it helps them to regulate their body temperature and discourages parasites.

Habits

Pigs are very intelligent animals. According to a review published in 2015 in the International Journal of Comparative Psychology, pigs are “cognitively complex,” sharing many traits with animals that are typically considered to be highly intelligent. The review analyzed findings from a number of studies, suggesting that pigs were capable of remembering objects, perceiving time, and making use of learned information to navigate their environment. Pigs are also very playful and have a wide range of play behaviors. This is another indication of intelligence in animals, the researchers reported.

They are also very social. Feral pigs often travel in close-knit groups called sounders, which typically consist of two females and their young, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Pigs communicate with a variety of grunts and squeaks. A short grunt, a longer growl, and a loud roar will warn other pigs of approaching danger, according to the San Diego Zoo. The pigs’ primary defense is speed, but when cornered, their tusks can be formidable weapons. Their lower tusks can get to be about 3 inches long and are razor sharp.

Diet

Pigs, boars and hogs are omnivores and will eat just about anything. Wild boars eat roots, fruit, rodents, and small reptiles, National Geographic reported. Domestic pigs and hogs are fed feed that is made from corn, wheat, soy or barley. However, often on small farms, pigs are often fed “slop”, which consists of vegetable peels, fruit rinds and other leftover food items. Most species of pigs process plants in their hind-guts; and because their digestion of cellulose is inefficient, requiring them to feed often, according to the Encyclopedia of Life.

Offspring

Female pigs, called cows or sows, give birth to offspring twice a year to a litter of around 12 young. Baby pigs are called piglets. At birth, piglets weigh around 2.5 lbs, according to National Geographic. Within a week, most piglets will double their weight. Therefore, they are weaned when they are two to four weeks old.

Wild pigs can give birth to six to 14 piglets at a time. These piglets will stay in a nest for their first 10 days and are weaned after three months. Wild pigs live five to 20 years.

Conservation Status

Wild boars are not endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. They are listed as “least concern” due to the wild pig’s “wide range, abundance, tolerance to habitat disturbance and presence in many protected areas.”

Sulawesi warty pigs are listed as “near threatened”; bearded pigs, Palawan bearded pigs and Philippine warty pigs are “vulnerable”; Javan warty pigs are “endangered”; and Visayan warty pigs are “critically endangered”. Hunting and habitat loss are cited as the causes of declining populations in these species.

I hope you enjoyed this article. If you did please share it to your favorite social media platforms. You can also watch one of our YouTube videos with even more facts about pigs below.

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Can safely cooked pork be pink?

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pork-roast

In 2011 the USDA released a new recommendation for cooking pork.  The USDA now recommends that like beef, veal, and lamb, whole cuts of pork should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, then allowed to sit for three minutes.  Under Secretary Elisabeth Hagen was quoted with saying:

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