We had such a great response to our blog, Questions to Ask at a Farmer’s Market, that we wanted to follow it up with more questions and information. We are extremely passionate about what we do, how we raise our hogs and treating them more then just humane. We do not over breed, we only breed 2 times per year because we do not wean until they are older. We have one sow, Skinny Minny, that we only breed once a year. She is not an assertive eater so it takes her much longer to put weight back on after breast feeding her litter.
1. What is a Feeder?
- When buying pork, beef or lamb at the market, everyone should ask if the producer breeds, farrows and raises their animals or if they use feeder hogs or cows. Because of what we do, I will use hogs as an example. Feeder hogs traditionally come from a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO), which essentially is a large facility that hold about 7,000 3 week old hogs until they are about 75lbs each. When they reach 75lbs, some of the pigs are sold off as “feeder hogs” to other farmers. The other half stay at the CAFO facility until they reach processing weight. Depending on the farmer, the processing weight will vary with how large they would like their cuts.
- In a CAFO, the pigs are on concrete slabs that are covered with wooden slates. This means that hog manure and urine sits under these wooden slates on the concrete until it is flushed out . While researching for this blog, I read that some CAFO facilities do not flush down the concrete for days at a time and when they do spray it down the runoff goes into a “hog lagoon”. The ammonia levels from the fumes can become so concentrated in a CAFO, that if the ventilation system went down, the hogs would die from breathing their own waste.
- Below is a picture of a CAFO. You can see that the hogs have minimal space to move or lay down. They are on concrete or wood with no natural sunlight or even grass.
2. At what age do you wean your hogs?
- We wean our piglets between 6-8 weeks. Until that point they are with the sow, getting breast milk, grubs and nuts and grasses from the land. We do not wean before that because their stomach cannot handle a supplemented vegetarian diet of a soy and corn mix feed.
- In a CAFO, because they wean at 3 weeks, the producer has to feed them “creep feed”. Creep feed is a milk supplement that is given to piglets until they are 8 weeks old because of their immature digestive systems.
3. What is your Source of your Feeder Hog?
- This goes along with weaning and CAFO facilities. Due to do the fact that most feeder hogs tend to come from a CAFO, you should know that most large source facilities inoculate (administer antibiotics) and give synthetic hormones to their pigs. Over all in the hog business, if where you are getting your pork is not certified humane or organic and get their hogs from a CAFO, they most likely have been given antibiotics, hormones or both. I am not saying that all farmers give their hogs hormones or antibiotics, but it is good to know that if they did or not because you and your family will be receiving unwanted and unneeded antibiotics.
4. Some trivia for you
- A pig weighs less then 125lbs
- A hog weighs more then 125lbs
- Gilt is a female hog that has not been bred
- Sow a mommy hog
- Farrow, birthing a litter
- Boar a male hog with testicles
- Barrow male hog after castration
- A “shoat” is a young pig just after weaning