Pork producers are committed to providing proper care, handling and transportation for their pigs. They follow ethical principles and guidelines set by programs, such as Pork Quality Assurance Plus and Transport Quality Assurance, which ensure the care of pigs, people and the planet.
Pigs are raised in controlled-environment facilites or outdoors in a pasture. Controlled-environment buildings make handling hogs easier, provide for more direct observation of animals, allow greater control of the production process, protect both animals and workers from the heat, cold, rain and snow, and usually result in faster growth to market weight, along with better feed efficiency. Regardless of the type of facilities used, the ultimate goal of the producer is to provide the proper environment to maximize the well-being and productivity of both animal and the workers.
Feed is the major production input to the pork production process. A variety of feed ingredients is used in proper proportions to produce “balanced” diets for pigs at each stage of their development. Corn, barley, milo (grain sorghum), oats and sometimes wheat are included in a pig’s diet. Complex diets consisting of grain, plant proteins, milk products and animal proteins are fed to newly weaned pigs. Feed rations are closely tailored to optimize health and growth at each stage.
After a female pig gives birth, she is called a sow. Just before giving birth, called farrowing, sows are normally moved to a farrowing facility. Farrowing facilities range from pasture systems with small, individual sow huts to enclosed farrowing houses that are part of controlled-environment operations. Farrowing houses contain individual farrowing pens or stalls designed to provide a place for the sow to farrow and to protect both newborn pigs and workers. These facilities protect newborn pigs from being crushed by sows that sometimes accidentally lay on them and also prevent injury to pigs or workers if the sow’s protective instincts cause aggressive behavior. Sows typically farrow from 8 to 12 piglets, which as a group are called a litter, twice a year. Piglets drink milk from the mother sow until they are 2 to 4 weeks old or they weigh 10 to 15 pounds. Then, the piglets are weaned, or separated, from their mother. At this time, they are moved to a nursery, a grower or a wean-to-finish building designed to meet the needs of pigs from weaning to market weight.
The five basic production systems that pork farmers utilize are farrow-to-finish farms, farrow-to-nursery farms, farrow-to-wean farms, wean-to-finish farms, and finishing farms. Farrow-to-finish farms involve all stages of production, from breeding through finishing to market weights of about 265 pounds. Farrow-to-nursery farms include breeding through marketing 40 to 60 pound feeder pigs to grow-finish farms. Farrow-to-wean farms involve breeding through marketing 10 to 15 pound weaned pigs to nursery-grow-finish farms. Wean-to-finish farms purchase weaned pigs and finishing them to market weights. Finishing farms buy 40 to 60 pound feeder pigs and finish them to market weight. When pigs reach market weight, they are processed into safe and healthy pork food products.
For additional information on pork farming in Nebraska, check out these organizations: