Animals in Agriculture

Smithfield in Poland

Reprinted with permission from Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Company and The Washington Post

U.S. Pork Producer Hogtied in Polish Venture

By David B. Ottaway
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 3, 2000; Page A01

WARSAW This pork-loving country seemed the perfect place for Joseph W. Luter III to transplant the industrial pig-farming system that had made his Virginia-based Smithfield Foods Inc. "the largest hog producer and processor in the world."

Poland had cheap labor, good land and diligent farmers. It also had scores of poorly run packing plants that Luter could take over on the cusp of Poland's possible entry into the lucrative European Union market. Best of all, Luter could escape the environmentalists and regulators who have criticized his operations back home. Luter saw Poland as "the Iowa of Europe."

But shortly after Smithfield purchased a majority stake last April in the Polish meat-packing conglomerate Animex, Luter found Poland to be a hot new front in an old war. The Washington-based Animal Welfare Institute, a grass-roots group dedicated to saving whales, sea turtles and elephants, added Polish pigs to its agenda.

The AWI has been surprisingly successful in thwarting the $5 billion Smithfield empire's plans in Poland, thanks largely to its alliance with Andrzej Lepper, an ultra-nationalist farm union leader who also happens to be a pig farmer. Luter already has scrapped plans to replicate Smithfield's "factory farming" here.

Poland's pork battle demonstrates the globalization of the struggle between American agribusinesses and increasingly assertive U.S. advocacy groups, whose influence far exceeds their size. The AWI has a full-time staff of nine and an annual budget of less than $800,000.

The AWI and Lepper have portrayed Smithfield as the embodiment of dark global forces, a threat to both the 25 percent of the Polish working population still employed on farms and the country's new post-Cold War sovereignty. A key weapon in the struggle is an AWI-produced film titled "A Trojan Pig," which excoriates Smithfield's U.S. operations; thousands of videocassettes have been distributed to Polish politicians.

Smithfield and the AWI have waged an all-out fight for the soul of Polish pig farmers, lobbying hard to shape Poland's farm policies and win governmental and political allies. Lepper has charged that Smithfield tried to bribe him to break off the fight, offering money to help build up his farmers' union, Samoobrona. Smithfield executives deny this, but many Polish farmers, suspicious of big foreign companies, believe Lepper's account.

One of them is Stanislaw Kilianczyk, who operates a commercial hog farm on Warsaw's outskirts. Smithfield's purchase of Animex reminded him of another foreign company that bought out a Polish oil seed firm only to close it and import its own products. Would the American company do the same?

"They will stop buying our pigs," he said. "Farmers will have to sell their land. How are we to survive?"

In fact, Animex officials in Warsaw plan to close three of the company's nine plants to boost productivity. Some fresh pork is already being imported because Polish pigs cannot meet European Union standards, officials say.

David and Goliath

Luter and Lepper, two headstrong adversaries who have never met, seem an odd couple, an American Goliath mismatched against a Polish David. But the two men are more similar than they seem.

Luter, 60, the scion of a Virginia pig dynasty, has proved himself a masterful, boardroom wheeler-dealer who has skillfully exploited wild swings in pig prices to expand his empire.

Lepper, 46, the son of a Baltic Coast pig farmer, has proved himself on the barricades of Poland's stormy political landscape. Some believe that Lepper has skillfully seized the moment to exploit the emotions of Polish farmers caught in a painful transition from communism to capitalism.

The men share something else: Each in his own way has stirred heated passions. Luter, the son of Smithfield Foods's founder, gained fame by creating a vertically integrated production system from "breeding to bacon." He also helped establish uniform swine standards and pioneered a genetically engineered super-lean pig. Run with military precision, his farms produce 12 million nearly identical hogs annually. One $190 million plant in Tarheel, N.C., slaughters 32,000 hogs a day.

But in the process, Luter's Smithfield has become a target for America's struggling small farmers, environmentalists and animal defenders.

Liquefied waste from several of Smithfield's huge hog farms in Virginia and North Carolina allegedly polluted nearby waters. In 1997, Smithfield paid $12.6 million in Clean Water Act penalties. Animal activists say Smithfield inhumanely breeds pigs in narrow cages, while farm activists say its strict contracts with independent farmers amount to a form of modern-day "serfdom."

In Congress, the conglomerate has been blamed for accelerating the demise of the small farmer. Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) recently cited a Smithfield action in his home state: The company bought and closed a pork-processing plant in Huron, S.D., laying off 650 people--10 percent of the town's work force.

Such stories make Polish politicians and farmers nervous.

Another Walesa?

Lepper is every bit as controversial in Poland as Luter is in the United States. The dapperly dressed populist has a bitter-sharp tongue and uses unorthodox tactics. He has organized illegal road blockades and a takeover of the Agriculture Ministry building to protest cheap meat and farm produce from European Union countries. He also has defied repeated orders to appear in court, has sought arrest to gain publicity and currently is awaiting trial for allegedly insulting a government minister.

Some Poles think Lepper aspires to become another Lech Walesa, the Solidarity labor leader who defied the communist regime and emerged to become Poland's first post-communist president. Lepper, in fact, is making a long-shot bid for the presidency this fall.

While polls last year showed that more than 75 percent of respondents sympathized with Lepper's tactics, they have yet to show that he enjoys much support outside the rebellious farming community.

Lepper has seized on Smithfield as a hot-button campaign issue. He tells Poles that Smithfield is a "cancer" that will decimate family farms and create the equivalent of the old communist-run state farms. During an AWI-sponsored strategy conference for Polish farm activists here this spring, Lepper blasted Smithfield in an interview with The Washington Post. He said Smithfield executives had tried various ways to neutralize him. First, they offered "the possibility of working together" and then tried to bribe him, he asserted.

"Your problems can be over; you can have a wonderful life, but just stop your activity against Smithfield," he said they told him. "It is obvious from that offer that it was only money. What else could they offer me?"

Luter's chief American operative here, Richard J.M. Poulson, denies any bribe attempt was made. "He [Lepper] said he'd been offered $1 million," said Poulson. "But when a Polish reporter asked him who, where and when, he couldn't remember." In the Post interview, Lepper again declined to provide details.

Poulson counter-charged that Lepper threatened him during a prickly 40-minute encounter in Poland. "He told me I was going to feel his hot breath on my neck and his fist in my face," Poulson said, deriding Lepper's claims to be a serious pig farmer.

"He doesn't even know how many times his sows give birth in a year, and he feeds garbage to his swine," Poulson said. "Even Haiti doesn't allow feeding garbage to swine."

'10 Cents on the Dollar'

Luter initially regarded Smithfield's hostile takeover of Animex as a real coup--$55 million for assets he valued at $500 million. "Only 10 cents on the dollar," he remarked. With 1998 sales of $400 million, Animex is Poland's largest meat packer and exporter, with offices in seven countries, including Japan and the United States. Luter predicted Animex would be a $1 billion business within a few years.

For Luter, the April 1999 Animex acquisition was a messy affair; it had taken him 18 months of maneuvering to gain a controlling stake. And Animex was a mess. Its plants were functioning at 20 to 25 percent capacity, and some were located far from hog country. Its important Russian market had collapsed, and it was competing within Poland with 4,500 "non-inspected, illegal, small backyard" slaughterhouses that accounted for half the Polish pig market.

At the time of the takeover, Luter said that Polish pig farming reminded him of the U.S. pork industry 30 years ago. "There is very little vertical integration, and hog quality and supply is inconsistent," he said. "Most plants and farms are very small and inefficient, even though the Polish farmers are highly skilled and hard-working."

But Luter said Smithfield would invest $50 million in Animex, and he hinted that another $100 million would be spent to retool the Polish pig industry.

Launching a Campaign

The Animex purchase was only round one for Luter. Smithfield's entry into Poland did not go unnoticed back in the United States. Tom Garrett, 63, the AWI's rural affairs adviser, was tracking the company's every move. Like Luter, he believed Poland was fertile ground--but for a different cause.

Garrett had followed Poland's economic turmoil. Furious over cheap EU meat flooding the market, farmers here had paralyzed truck traffic with roadblocks. They had forced the agriculture minister out of office and persuaded the government to buy their pork at subsidized prices. Lepper had been their standard-bearer.

Polish peasants have a history of stubborn rebellion; even the communists had not dared nationalize their farms. And since 1990, peasant parties had helped to make and break three governments. Garrett reasoned that Polish pig farmers might become a formidable barrier to Smithfield's Polish "invasion."

Early last summer, Garrett devised a plan and took it to AWI President Christine Stevens: Invite Lepper for meetings with distraught American pig farmers and a tour of the ecological consequences of Smithfield-style "factory farming." Stevens loved the idea.

"If we don't stop factory farming in Poland, it's just going to spread all over the world," she said.

So early last September, Lepper headed a 10-member delegation of Polish farm union leaders, humane activists, ecologists and reporters. Garrett and two colleagues, Agnes Van Volkenburgh and Diane Halverson, took them to North Carolina, Virginia, Missouri and Iowa to listen to the woes of swine farmers. The group saw how Smithfield was using cages so narrow the pigs could not turn around.

By boat, the group surveyed North Carolina's polluted Neuse River and learned of huge fish kills. Then, they were flown over sprawling farms to view the ecological damage. Halverson videotaped the tour, punctuated by Lepper's fiery rhetoric. "We are not going to allow Smithfield factories to exist in Poland, even if we have to blockade the entire country," he told North Carolina farmers.

The AWI shipped 5,000 copies of the video to Poland. Lepper, in turn, sent the video to every town, city and county government in Poland. An attached letter asked them not to give Smithfield building permits. Lepper credits the video with stopping Smithfield "from putting up these factory farms" in Poland.

Garrett and Von Volkenburgh, with Lepper's help, quickly won the support of two key players--Agriculture Minister Artur Balazs, a pig farmer himself, and Adam Tanski, head of the state Agricultural Property Agency.

In a meeting last year with Poulson, Balazs said he strongly opposed factory-style farming "because it is not only a threat to the ecology, but also to thousands of nearby small farmers."

"I looked at their faces and don't think they were happy with what I said," Balazs remarked in an interview.

Compromise Contracts

Both Luter and Poulson are reluctant to acknowledge that Lepper, or the AWI, had any impact on Smithfield's fortunes here. But Luter did concede that the company was "still meeting resistance" strong enough to persuade him that Smithfield's industrial-style farming probably has no immediate future here.

"We are sensitive to the Polish environment," said Poulson. "We don't have the right to impose a system they don't want imposed on them."

Instead, Luter said in a telephone interview, Animex will adopt Smithfield's practice of contracting with independent farmers to breed pigs according to company specifications.

Luter now describes Animex as "our biggest challenge abroad" and assesses company operations in Poland to be "a long pull." Whether Smithfield stays, he suggests, will depend on whether the Polish government makes some difficult political decisions, such as closing the backyard slaughterhouses Animex now competes with.

"The big problem is changing people's mentality," said Luter, who estimated that it might take "a generation to turn it around."

Homegrown Problems

With or without Smithfield, Polish pig farmers are stuck in doldrums of their own.

Hog producer Kilianczyk, who proudly sports a Texas hat and handlebar mustache, was unhappy even before he heard about "the American company." The government has cut all subsidies; feed and energy costs have doubled; EU exports are undercutting Polish hog prices; and the bank is demanding repayment of a big loan.

He leases 240 acres of an old state-run farm, but the government won't let him buy it. He can't afford the feed costs, so he gives his 3,000 pigs carrots, cabbage, onions and mash.

"There's no profit in this," he said. "Just problems, problems, problems."

Copyright 2000, Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive and The Washington Post.

All rights Reserved.

AWI on Irradiation

Public Interest Groups Denounce Giant Food's Decision to Sell Irradiated Meat

Groups Urge Chain to Remove Product from Shelves

The Animal Welfare Institute has as one of its primary goals the eradication of animal factories because of their inherent cruelty.  At the same time we are reviving a culture of humane farming.  AWI promotes humane husbandry and works with over 200 family farmers that adhere to AWI's humane pig husbandry standards which allow pigs to behave naturally. AWI, like the humane farmers we work with, strongly opposes food irradiation!

Irradiation is being promoted by corporate interests as a solution to a contaminated industrial food supply.  However, irradiation is not an inherent part of farming, it is only the most recent technological component of large-scale industrial agriculture which is continuously problematic. 

Irradiating meat at the end of production, does not address the real and most importantly preventable causes of industrial food contaminants such as inhumane factory farming practices, dramatic cutbacks in federal food safety inspectors and dangerously accelerated line-speeds at slaughtering and processing facilities.

Knowing that meat will be irradiated, industrial producers will have even less incentive to reform the inherently filthy and inhumane conditions of massive factory farms where animals are viewed as protein production units and death loss is accepted as a cost of production.   Irradiation will do nothing to abolish the cruelty animals suffer in factories such as the confinement of pigs in crates so narrow they cannot turn around and beef cattle forced to stand ankle deep in their own waste.  Irradiation, in fact, will perpetuate and most certainly increase the abuse of farm animals.  Rather than accepting irradiated meat, we ask that consumers demand humanely raised and slaughtered animals.

Irradiation also masks cruel conditions in slaughterhouses.  Federal inspectors are not stationed in, and have little to no access to, those areas of slaughterhouses where most humane handling and slaughter violations occur.  Rather than irradiate meat at the end of production, we call on USDA to station inspectors, on a fulltime basis, for the purpose of enforcing the Humane Slaughter Act regulations at those critical points in the handling and slaughtering process where Humane Slaughter Act violations are most common such as the unloading and handling areas and the stunning and bleeding areas.

Instead of irradiating meat and allowing atrocities in slaughterhouses to continue, line speeds in slaughterhouses must be reduced to 1970 levels or around 40% of current velocities.  Current line speeds prevent animals from being killed in accordance with the Humane Slaughter Act and as a result meat becomes contaminated with feces, urine, pus and vomit.  Irradiation does nothing to remove these contaminants.

Irradiated food perpetuates a system of meat production that relies on the inhumane treatment of animals.  By masking the food safety problems caused by cruel practices and inhumane conditions at massive factory farms and slaughterhouses, irradiation allows industrial agriculture, and its appalling treatment of animals, to continue.  Irradiating meat at the end of a cruel line of production is tantamount to placing a Band-Aid on a surgical wound.  We ask Giant Food and consumers everywhere to reject irradiated products in favor of a humane and safe food supply.

--Wendy Swann, Animal Welfare Institute, Nov. 14, 2002

Free Ranging Chickens

Virginia Farmer Raises Free RangingChickens

There are still some farmers who believe in treating theiranimals to natural surroundings, notonly in order to raise healthier animals but for ethical valuesas well. On a small farm in the Shenandoah Valley near Swoope,Virginia, Joel Salatin is doing just that with his chickens.

"The long term benefits for society are greater becausewe are treating our animals better. But we don't do it for businessreasons. We do it because it's right." Salatin explained.

Salatin has developed a portable "Eggmobile" contraptionwhich houses 100 laying hens. These hens forage as far as 200yards from their home during the day. They naturally come backto roost so no fences are necessary to keep them contained. Salatinexplained that on the usual "factory farm" laying hensare kept under prolonged lighting to create the illusion of springtime. They are therefore always laying eggs. On the Salatin familyfarm the hens are well aware of what season it is and go throughthe natural winter rest period.

Salatin also raises about 6000 Cornish cross broilers a year.These chickens are kept in 2 foot tall mobile homes thatare moved over fresh grass every morning. About 100 animalsare kept in each house. A pen of the same size on a factory farmwould contain some 1000 to 1500 birds.

Both hens and broilers have a diet that is substantially differentfrom their unlucky relatives on factory farms. Because the hensare free-ranging they are able to choose their own food. Not onlyis this accomplished by natural foraging but Salatin gives themseveral different feeds to chose from as well. He believes, dependingon each individual chicken's health and the time of year, thesebirds will choose the food that is healthiest for them. Sincethe broiler houses are moved to fresh grass every morning, thebroilers also have the same opportunity to choose their own diet.Both hens and broilers obviously get plenty of green material,something that would be unusual on a factory farm and they arenever given steroids or antibiotics which induce unnaturally rapidgrowth. One of the results, and also the reason why it is economicallysensible to raise animals in such a manner, is that the lifespanof a laying hen on Joel Salatin's farm is generally three yearscompared to a normal factory farm lifespan of one year.


AWI Quarterly

From Sweden to Iowa: Seeking Humaneness, Sustainability and Democracy in Agriculture

Northfield, MN -- The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, famous for bringing world-renowned musicians and romance to the rural Midwest, will be the site of an unprecedented gathering on Friday, April 5, 2002. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., President of Waterkeeper Alliance, will be the keynote speaker during an all-day program on the urgent need to revitalize a culture of humane, environmentally-sound, independent family farming in Iowa, Minnesota and throughout the U.S.

The "Summit for Sustainable Hog Farming", sponsored by the non-profit Waterkeeper Alliance, with support from the Animal Welfare Institute and other organizations, brings together family farmers, scientists, attorneys, animal welfare advocates, fishermen, environmentalists, religious and labor leaders and public health activists, as well as citizens who suffer from living near animal factories.

At the special invitation of the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Professor Bo Algers, Head of the Department of Animal Health and Environment at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, will focus on Sweden's experience in his presentation "Animals in Food Production: Sustainability and Democracy". Sweden captured the world's attention in 1986 when, at the request of Swedish farmers, it prohibited the routine use of antibiotics in raising animals for food, and again, in 1988, when Sweden required that all animals, including those used for food, be allowed to behave naturally. These statutes hastened Sweden's phase out of systems that impose extreme confinement and deprivation on animals used for food, and Sweden's progress toward a safe, ethical and sustainable food production system.

To help combat the extreme and unnecessary cruelty inherent in pig factories, the Animal Welfare Institute has established humane husbandry standards for raising pigs. Niman Ranch, a California-based marketing company famous for supplying high quality meat to fine restaurants, requires that the farmers from whom it buys pigs adhere to the Animal Welfare Institute standards. Bill Niman, co-founder of Niman Ranch, will discuss his company's mission and successful marketing to hundreds of restaurants and stores nationwide. Steve Ells, the founder of Chipotle Mexican Grill, uses Niman Ranch pork exclusively in his restaurants. Mr. Ells will discuss Chipotle's philosophy and experience with marketing the products of healthy husbandry in his presentation "How a Simple Burrito Can Make A Difference."

Iowa pig farmers Paul Willis and Colin Wilson will describe their family farms, managed according to principles of humaneness and sustainability. Mr. Willis, who also serves as manager of the Niman Ranch Pork Company of Iowa, and Mr. Wilson, along with 180 other independent family farmers, adhere to AWI's husbandry standards and market pigs for a premium to Niman Ranch. Minnesota farmer Paul Sobocinski, program organizer with Land Stewardship Project, will discuss grassroots efforts to fight concentration in agriculture and promote humane, sustainable pig farming.

Registration for the Summit commences at 8:00 a.m. and the formal program begins at 9:00 a.m. The registration fee of $25.00 includes all programs and meals. Mr. Kennedy's address, at 7:00 p.m., will be free and open to the public. For more information, call Waterkeeper Alliance attorneys Nicolette Hahn or Jeff Odefey at 914-422-4410 or Animal Welfare Institute Farm Animal Advisor Diane Halverson at 507-645-8434, or visit the Waterkeeper Alliance website at www.waterkeeper.org. The Animal Welfare Institute website can be found at www.awionline.org. The full agenda for the Summit is attached.

The following is a complete list of the Hog Summit speakers, listed in the order they will appear:

Ms. Nicolette G. Hahn, Senior Attorney, Waterkeeper Alliance

Brother David Andrews, Executive Director, National Catholic Rural Life Conference (Iowa)

Mayor Kirk Kraft, Mayor, Clear Lake (Iowa)

Ms. Janice Weber, Producer/Director, JWCreative Solutions, Ltd.(New York)

Dr. Mike Duffy, Professor of Agricultural Economics, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University (Iowa)

Dr. Kendall Thu, Department of Anthropology, Northern Illinois University (Illinois)

Dr. Melva Fager Okun, Coordinator, North Carolina Keep Antibiotics Working campaign (North Carolina)

Mr. Robert Cook, Citizen activist and former hog confinement worker (Iowa)

Dr. David Wallinga, Director, Antibiotics Resistance Project, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) (Minnesota)

Dr. Michael Appleby, Vice President for Farm Animals and Sustainable Agriculture, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) (Washington, D.C.)

Dr. Michael R. Burkhart, Associate Professor Department of Geologic and Atmospheric Sciences, Iowa State University (Iowa)

Dr. John Downing, Professor of Limnology, Department of Animal Ecology, Iowa State University (Iowa)

Ms. Martha Noble, Senior Policy Analyst, Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (Washington, D.C.)

Mr. Ken Midkiff, Director, Sierra Club, Clean Water / CAFO Campaign (Missouri)

Mr. Paul Sobocinski, Farmer and Program Organizer for Land Stewardship Project (Minnesota)

Mr. Tom Frantzen, Hog Farmer for Organic Valley (Iowa)

Mr. Charlie Speer, Partner, Payne & Jones (Kansas)

Mr. Daniel E. Estrin, Counsel, Kennedy & Madonna (New York)

Ms. Anne Wiowode, Director, Mackinac Sierra Club (Michigan)

Mr. Harlan Hansen, Former hog farmer and County Supervisor, Humboldt County (Iowa)

Mr. Hugh Espey, Rural Project Director, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa)

Dr. Stephanie Seemuth, Family Physician (Iowa)

Dr. Jan Flora, Professor, Iowa State University (Iowa)

Mr. David Osterberg, Associate Clinical Professor of Occupational and Environmental Health, University of Iowa (Iowa)

Ms. Diane Halverson, Farm Animal Advisor, Animal Welfare Institute (Minnesota)

Dr. Bo Algers, Professor, Swedish University of Agricultural Science (Sweden)

Ms. Theresa Marquez, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Organic Valley (Wisconsin)

Mr. Steve Ells, Founder & CEO, Chipotle Mexican Grill (Colorado)

Mr. Bill Niman, Founder, Niman Ranch (California)

Mr. Terry Spence, President, Family Farms for the Future and cattle farmer (Missouri)

Mr. Gary Hoskey, Hog farmer and President, Iowa Farmers Union (Iowa)

Ms. Marlene Halverson, Farm Animal Economic Advisor to Animal Welfare Institute (Minnesota)

Mr. Colin Wilson, Hog farmer and Immediate Past President, Practical Farmers of Iowa (Iowa)

Mr. Paul Willis, Hog farmer and Manager, Niman Ranch Pork Company of Iowa (Iowa)

Mr. Jim Braun, Citizen activist and former hog farmer (Iowa)

Mr. Bryan Burgess, Citizen activist cattle rancher (Alabama)

Mr. Don Webb, Citizen activist and former hog farmer (North Carolina)

Mr. Chris Petersen, Citizen activist and former hog farmer (Iowa)

Ms. Lisa Bechtold, Citizen activist and farmer (Alberta, Canada)

Mr. Kurtis Kelsey, Citizen activist and farmer (Iowa)

Ms. Karen Hudson, Citizen activist and farmer (Illinois)

Mr. Gary Bierschenk, Citizen activist and crop and hog farmer (Iowa)

Mr. Rick Dove, Waterkeeper Alliance Southeast Representative (North Carolina)

Mr. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., President, Waterkeeper Alliance

Merciless MRSA Strain Alive and Kicking

Disturbing evidence of a potential epidemic has been published in a study by University of Iowa College of Public Health researcher Tara Smith et al this January. The study was the first in the country to document animal-to-human transmission of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), an antibiotic-resistant form of a common bacterium that causes deadly infections, though such research has previously been conducted in Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands.

AWI Establishes Abandoned Horse Reward Fund

Just as some people fail to recognize their responsibility to their dogs and cats, so too is the case with horses, many of whom are abandoned by their owners each year.

HOGS JUST MIGHT BE THE IDEAL GRAZERS

HOGS JUST MIGHT BE
THE IDEAL GRAZERS
 
Pastures and pens beat
crates and confinement
Photos by T. L. Getting; Text by Craig Cramer

NEW HAMPTON, Iowa. Tom Frantzen's hogs must consider themselves pretty lucky. Frantzen, president of Practical Farmers of Iowa, has developed an innovative system that makes the most of his hogs' natural abilities, keeping them happy, healthy and productive.

But Frantzen isn't running a nature preserve. With just 320 acres, he needs to squeeze as much profit as possible from his 100-sow farrow-to-finish operation.

 

 That's why he:

  • Runs gestating gilts and sows on intensively managed pasture to cut feed costs by half or more, and double per-acre net compared with growing corn.
  • Parcels out strips of annual crops such as corn, milo and field peas with portable fencing so lactating sows and their litters can hog them down, eliminating harvest costs.
  • Farrows sows and gilts in A-frame pasture huts to reduce capital costs and labor.
  • Tore out his farrowing crates and switched back to pen farrowing while maintaining litter size and boosting weaning weights and making it a pleasure again to work inside during winter.

"All this may sound pretty labor-intensive," says Frantzen. "But it's easier than running comparable confinement facilities. Confinement may reduce labor for some. But it's more than made up for by the increase in maintenance. Plus I'd much rather bed pens or move portable fences than fix scraper systems."

Grazing Gilts

Frantzen first experimented with grazing hogs in '90 on a 3-acre site that was inconvenient to crop. The previous a spring, he had drilled oats with a "shotgun" mix of perennial forages (including red and ladino clovers, alfalfa, brome, timothy and orchard-grass. "I used so many different species because I wanted a lot of biodiversity and durability ," he notes.

In spring' 90, Frantzen built a three-strand perimeter fence using high-tensile wire about 6, 12 and 18 inches high, and floating H corner braces. "I've never had any problems keeping the hogs in. They train to the fence very quickly ," he observes. "The key is to use a good, low-impedance charger."

Frantzen subdivided the grazing cell into three paddocks with fiberglass posts and two strands of Premier Maxishock wire 8 and 16 inches high. (Premier , P.O. Box 89N, Washington IA 52352, (800) 282-6631, (319) 653-6631.) Single-wire subdivisions hold well-trained sows just fine, says Frantzen.

"I made just about every first-year management mistake a beginning grazier can make," recalls Frantzen. First, he didn't move bred gilts onto the pasture until June 1. "That's too late. The forage was already past its prime, and stayed ahead of the hogs all year."

The 20 gilts provided a stocking density (the weight of the grazing animals relative to paddock size) that was too low at just 7,000 pounds per acre. And Frantzen moved them once a week on a rigid calendar schedule. The gilts selectively grazed the legumes and left overmature grasses. They still weaned seven pigs per litter farrowing in the A-frame huts in a separate pasture in September slightly below average for Frantzen's gilts.

In '91, Frantzen further subdivided his three paddocks so he had nine altogether, and moved 38 gilts onto the pasture May 1. "That got the stocking density in the paddocks up to about 40,000 pounds per acre, and I based pasture rotation on forage condition not the calendar." He cut back to 24 gilts when he moved a new group onto the pasture as forage growth slowed in midsummer. Grazing was more uniform and forage regrowth surged compared with the first year. Gilts were on pasture a total of 150 days, and weaned above- average litters of about 8.5 pigs each.

Not satisfied, Frantzen rearranged his interior fencing last spring, increasing the number of paddocks to 16. And instead of radiating from the central shelter, he arranged a system of lanes to each paddock. Before, with the longer paddocks, gilts trampled and overgrazed forage close to the shelter, and undergrazed forage at the far end of the paddocks.

Severe winter weather had hurt the forage stand, so Frantzen reduced his stocking rate to 30 gilts. But with smaller paddocks, the stocking density increased to 62,000 pounds per acre. Gilts now graze each paddock for about two days. "The forage regrows so fast the gilts just can't keep up with it and I've had to hay some paddocks," says Frantzen, who clips paddocks when gilts leave overmature grass.

Frantzen feeds a supplement of l.75 pounds of ground shell corn and a commercial mineral mix while the gilts are on pasture. Legume pastures are usually high in calcium, so it's important to supplement phosphorus. Be sure to use a source other than dicalcium-phosphate, suggests Mark Honeyman, an animal scientist at Iowa State University. Frantzen sampled forage to make sure his mineral mix properly balanced those nutrients with pasture sources.

"I save about 20 cents per head per day on feed, which translates into a gross of about $300 per acre," says Frantzen. "With so little input, the net is easily twice that of corn and that doesn't include the herd-health benefits or what I save by not having to spread manure."

'Hogging Down' Crops

"After three years, I'm starting to think hogs might be the ideal grazing animal," says Frantzen. Granted, they aren't ruminants and can't make good use of low-quality forage. But with a single stomach, they're also more adaptable to radical ration changes, Frantzen notes. "If the pasture is too wet, I can just pull them off and increase their feed to 4 pounds of corn and not have to worry about getting their system off-track or ruining the pasture.

"I've learned that the key to grazing hogs is to use at least a dozen paddocks and keep stocking density high," he adds. As his sward improves and he hones his management, Frantzen predicts the 3-acre grazing cell will carry 40 gilts at a stocking density of 83,000 pounds per acre.

This year, Frantzen added a second 2.5-acre grazing cell on some of his poorest pasture ground that's mostly dandelions and quackgrass. With no renovation, it's carrying 32 of the third-litter sows that grazed his original cell last year. "It's remarkable how hard they graze. They remember what to do," he observes.

Gilts have selectively grazed the legumes in the original cell, so now brome is the dominant species. To maintain a better balance of grass and legumes, Frantzen plans to alternate grazing cattle and hogs in the two cells each year.

In one drought-damaged paddock in the original cell, Frantzen experimented in '91 with annual forages. In early April, he used a garden seeder to plant four different forages in 6-inch rows in randomized blocks. The forages included berseem and crimson clovers, Tyfon forage turnip, and an annual hog-pasture blend called "Laugh and Grow Fat," which consists of ryegrass, rape, sudan and field peas. (Albert Lea Seed House, P.O. Box 127, Albert Lea MN 56007, (800) 352-5247, (507) 373-3161.)

He turned in gilts to graze this "salad bar" June 1, and they regrazed the annuals at roughly 30-day intervals. "The clovers made an excellent stand, but were killed by the first grazing," he reports. The mix fared best especially the rape, which regrew quickly and provided forage well into fall.

That year, Frantzen also let 18 other lactating sows and pigs hog down crops. In April, he planted about 1.5 acres in alternating four-row strips of 85-day corn and a mix of milo and Canada field peas. The sows farrowed on 3 acres of oats, peas, turnips and rape. In mid-August, when the corn was well-dented and the farrowing pasture grazed down, Frantzen used temporary fence to strip graze the corn, milo and peas. He moved the fence forward eight rows at a time, giving the stock about a quarter-acre of fresh feed.

"When I gave them a new strip, they weren't interested in dry feed for four or five days. When they started eating grain again, I moved the fence and gave them a new strip," Frantzen says. "There was no harvest waste and no harvest expense." This year he's trying the same practice using a drilled mix of oats, triticale, rape and Canada field peas for early-season forage, and planting giant hybrid fodder corn (also available from Albert Lea Seed House) to be hogged down in late summer.

Last fall, after the sows and pigs finished off the corn, milo and peas, Frantzen drilled 20 pounds of rye in the field. In early May, he turned in 16 gilts to graze until late June, when he moved them onto an oats/field-pea pasture. ("The rye did very well. I only wish I'd mixed in some vetch or mammoth clover," he says.

Pasture Farrowing Pays Off

Frantzen's father started pasture farrowing when he bought the farm (during the Depression, and capital was scarce. That's still a good reason to pasture farrow, says Frantzen. The housing investment is far below that of confinement. Each year, Frantzen has a local lumber company build two new A-frame farrowing huts from pressure-treated wood for $200 each. "I could find cheaper huts, but these won't fall apart or blow away in a storm," he says. He expects them to last 15 years, but some of his A- frames are more than 30 years old and still going strong.

Low capital costs aren't the only reason to pasture farrow, he continues. "Like the hogs, I'd rather be outside in the fresh air and sunshine. I don't want to mess with the flies, smell and cleanup chores in a confinement facility all summer."

Frantzen also contends that there's less labor with pasture farrowing. "It works out great with spring fieldwork. I only have to do chores in the morning. The hogs can take care of themselves in the evening." When he needs to move A-frames, he simply picks them up with a front-mounted fork and drives the tractor right over the interior fences (an 8-inch-high strand of Maxishock on fiberglass posts). The outdoor system performs as well as indoor farrowing, too. "My weaned-pig average for sows is about 8 to 8.5 farrowing inside or out."

The farrowing pasture's perimeter fencing is nearly identical to the one in Frantzen's grazing cell, only he runs the lowest wire just a couple inches off the ground to keep in little pigs. An underground water system from Kentucky Graziers Supply adds flexibility when arranging huts and interior fencing, says Frantzen. (KGS, 1929 S. Main St., Paris KY 40361, (800) 729-0592. See "Put Water In Every Paddock," The New Farm, Feb. '92.) The sod is mostly quackgrass and brome, which stands up to the heavy traffic. This spring, Frantzen planted 1,000 hybrid cottonwoods in four shelterbelts 185 feet apart in the pasture, to provide shade and slow winds.

Frantzen usually moves the first group of sows onto the pasture in early May, and continues farrowing on pasture until October. He makes sure there's never more than seven days difference in farrowing dates among sows in a single enclosure.

It's important to have the right genetics for pasture farrowing, says Frantzen. He's settled on the old four-way cross of Hampshire, Duroc, Yorkshire and Spotted Poland. "They have to have some color or they just can't take the sun," he says. Frantzen adds a Lactobacillus-based probiotic to his starter-, grower- and farrowing rations. But he feels the real key to keeping hogs healthy is to reduce stress. My outdoor system is hardest on 75- to 100-pound pigs in late fall and early winter when there are wide temperature fluctuations," he notes.

Pens Make Farrowing Fun

Soon after he took over the farm in '74, Frantzen built the Cargill units where he still finishes hogs. "Investment tax credits and good farm prices fueled my modernization fever," he recalls. In '78, he removed farrowing pens from the old dairy barn that still serves as a farrowing house. "I put in raised crates with plastic flooring, elevated walkways, a scraper system, outdoor liquid-manure pit, high-tech ventilation, heating pads and as many modern conveniences as I could get my hands on," he recalls.

"It was trouble right from the start. Pneumonia and other health problems plagued his herd. I went to crates because that's what we were supposed to do. But after the first litter, I said, 'My God, what have I done?"'

While Frantzen weaned roughly the "same number of pigs in crates as on pasture, the pigs were barely large enough to wean in 30 days. I hated just being in the farrowing house. I couldn't look my sows in the eyes, and I didn't talk to them for 15 years. Confinement is psychologically bad for both the animals and the operator." Last winter, Frantzen decided to make things right again. His scraper system broke down in November, and he dreaded the expense and chore of fixing it. Even though his crates were in pretty good shape, the flooring and undersupports were nearly worn-out. "So I went in with a torch, sledge- hammer and skid loader and tore everything out," he recalls.

" In place of the 14 crates and scraper system, Frantzen built 16 pens using wood from a basswood tree (Tilia americana) felled from his father-in-law's grove and milled locally. "Old-timers say basswood makes great pens because it's light but strong."

Frantzen built eight 10-foot gates that run along the central alley, and eight 7-foot divider gates that run from the alley to the sidewalls. "Wings" made from 4-foot sections of three-fourths-inch plywood are fastened with hinges to the dividers to form triangular creep areas at the rear of the pen. A plywood creep roof holds two 100-watt light bulbs mounted in aluminum shades. (See photo above)

Frantzen removes the dividers so sows can farrow together in group pens. "That's a lot less stressful for them, especially compared with using crates where they have to farrow where they dung." After a sow farrows, he sets up the divider to separate the sow and litter in their own pen. "I shut the piglets in the creep area early so they know where to go to get warm." That, plus the long, narrow pens and guardrails mounted on the sides, reduces crushing loss.

When the pigs are about 10 days old, Frantzen removes dividers to re-form group pens. "That helps reduce feeding chores," he observes. "I bed the pens every other day, using straw from the oats I rotate with corn and beans. It's not much work, because the pigs always dung in the same corner.

"The best thing about going back to pens is that my attitude is better. I don't dread working inside like I used to," he adds. The hogs seem to like it too. "My weaning average jumped to nine pigs per litter on the first farrowing, and the pigs are growing faster, too. Now they're bigger at 3 weeks than they used to be after a month. "Crates didn't meet my needs or the animals'. But these pens do."
__________

Editor's Note: We still get requests for the A-frame farrowing shed plans we offered in our Jan. '87 issue. For a copy of the plans and the article " Profitable Pigs On Pasture, " which describes how Colin Wilson manages pasture farrowing on his family's farm in Paullina, Iowa, send a SASE to: Pasture Farrowing, The New Farm, 222 Main St., Emmaus PA 18098. For more on Tom Frantzen's practices, see "Strips Boost Yields, Save Soil, " Feb. '91 an " Liquid Manure Magic, " Jan. '92.


Reproduced with permission of the publisher. The New Farm, Sept/Oct. 1992 p. 19-23.

Astrid Lindgren Establishes Foundation for Farm Animals

A wonderful new foundation with a delightful name – "Foundation for Better Animal Protection: My Cow Wants to Have Fun" – has been established by world-renowned author and animal activist, Astrid Lindgren.

The Inner World of Farm Animals

By Amy Hatkoff

Stewart, Tabori & Chang

ISBN-10: 1584797487

176 pages; $19.95

 

Amy Hatkoff makes clear in her new book, The Inner World of Farm Animals: Their Amazing Social, Emotional, and Intellectual Capabilities, that these animals feel pleasure and sadness, excitement and resentment, depression, fear and pain.

Righteous Porkchop

By Nicolette Hahn

William Morrow

ISBN-10: 0061466492

336 pages; $23.99

 

Righteous Porkchop begins with author Nicolette Hahn describing her first exposure to the realities of industrial pig "production" as senior attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance. Nothing she had read prepared her for the stench, pollution or wretched lives of the imprisoned pigs; the impunity with which laws were violated; or the political and administrative corruption in which the system thrives.

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