Confinement Hog Production: Growing Our Food

Confinement production has long been a part of Americas pork producing sector but it has always been a surprise to me just how many people do not know how a confinement is ran or what goes on inside the buildings. People have generalized ideas and assumptions of what may or may not be happening but most of the American population does not have a very good understanding. Within this blog post I look to inform and put all generalizations and assumptions to rest, it is time people know exactly how their food is grown!

To start I have arranged an interview with my longtime friend, and Murphy Brown Producer, Troy Diericks. We talked about the deranged view some people have on confinement production of any kind and he had a few key words to say:

“People who try to ruin the name of family farms like mine obviously have not seen the time and effort it takes to raise healthy animals. I don’t live in a million dollar house but my pigs do, this is no half way operation. Swine buildings are on the leading edge of biosecurity, technology and animal husbandry.”

After hearing that I believe that is only right to explain just how swine operations are on the leading edge. Looking at a 200ft, steel roofed building from the outside may not be to appealing but when you step inside it is filled with technology and innovation. Everything from feed to water is controlled by the press of a button. You can literally control anything you please by a master control board located in the center of each building, also called Ventium Boards!

Taking a look at climate control is another part of our virtual tour. Every swine setup is equipped with some sort of curtain system, electric heaters and brooders or a combination of all three. All of them help maintain climate in their own way and they all work together as well. A curtain will automatically raise and lower according to wind direction and temperature within the barns, too hot and they lower, too cool and they raise. What a heater does should be pretty self-explanatory. During winter months a combination of all three heating systems are in play to maintain a constant 65-68 degree climate.

Each and every pig has constant water available in their pens with multiple nozzles for drinking. Water can be medicated by a central control station located in the office of the hog site. More goes into these buildings than people think. Biosecurity is a massive deal within confinement settings. Most site managers require their growers to shower in/shower out when coming and going. Disinfectant for boots and outerwear is never out of reach and the supply of rubber gloves, plastic shoe booties and clean clothes never dwindles.

Manure management is another issue that seems to have people at a loss. I have witnessed first-hand that people believe confinement hogs are wallowing in their own feces 24/7. This is not true at all! A swine unit has one of the most advanced manure management systems on the market today. A series of electric motors, pulleys, hundreds of feet of cable wire and two scrapers make up one the most efficient and effective method we have today. When barn slats start to fill up with manure a flip of a switch starts a process that sends the feces out of the building and into a giant holding drum, called a Slurry Store! The manure is not even in the same buildings as the pigs are, not that there was much in there to start.

Below is a picture of a part of the automated scraper system:

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Coming to an end with this blog I hope that is has helped inform, educate and led people to better understand just what goes on within these confinement setting. Raising the best possible animals is the number one goal, they are treated for and cared for just as well as anything else.

By Joe Huffman, Geneseo High School graduate and now attending Western Illinois University. An active member of the Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity and Agronomy Club. Anticipated graduation date May 2016 with a degree in Agriculture Science and a minor in Agriculture Technology Management.

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