AWI Quarterly

Fitting The Farm To The Hog

Hog health, pork profits improve when Swedish farmers let pigs be pigs
By Greg Bowman

Highly "efficient" conventional hog operations depend on routine medications and mechanization to keep going. But some Swedish farmers, who have refocused their operations in the past five years around their hogs' quality of life, say that by doing better by their animals, they're also doing better for themselves.

These farmers are pioneers in adapting structures, handling practices and management to let pigs really be pigs. They are reducing their hogs' physical and psychological stress to make them more productive. New farrowing and piglet-handling techniques incorporating group nursing and deep-straw bedding have been especially successful in weaning high numbers of piglets per sow. These producers see humane treatment as an opportunity for profitable innovation, not as a call to arms to defend conventional practices.

"They're not just tinkering to make a conventional system of crates a little better ," says Marlene Halverson, a Ph.D. candidate in agricultural and applied economics at the University of Minnesota. Halverson knows many innovative Swedish hog farmers and specialists from her visits there. "The idea is to figure out what hogs would do if they were able to behave normally for their species, then approximate the stimuli of a natural setting wherever possible," she says.

Grower rooms in Swedish sow group systems commonly feature sophisticated ventilation, deep-straw bedding, a raised piglet creep area, and insulated but unheated barns. Tomas and Magnus Carlevad designed this nursery for their farm in southeastern Sweden.

Letting your hogs be your guide may seem like naive advice, but Halverson says that this perspective can explain some current dilemmas in conventional production. "There were reasons producers went to routinely using antibiotics, docking tails and crating sows as systems became more space- and capital-intensive," she says.

In recent decades, increasing the intensity of production has led to more confined housing, crowding, temperature and ventilation problems; more barren environments; and less attention to how individuals were grouped and fed. Hogs have responded to this stress with atypical behaviors such as tail- and vulva biting and fighting. The high investment and operation costs of restrictive housing has pushed farmers to seek greater economy of scale by raising more pigs. Each step in this direction has decreased their opportunity to use true husbandry and increased dependence on technologies developed off the farm, she observes.

To reach a high level of welfare for animals, we first need to know how they would be living if we weren't interfering with them, Halverson explains. "This means understanding how pigs as a species respond in general to their environment and each other, and also how each sow responds to a particular situation," she says.

The next steps are just as crucial. "To make this welfare for livestock a practical reality, farmers need a working knowledge of natural hog behaviors; profitable and aesthetically pleasing systems that they will want to work in and invest in; and solid markets that value the way hogs are raised."

Swedish farmers use about 2 tons of small-grain straw per sow per year. The long-stemmed, loose straw satisfies foraging instincts, keeps the herd warm and maintains good health by keeping the animals dry.

Laws Spur Innovations

Two Swedish laws in the late '80s forced a change in how all livestock are viewed there — not as just an agricultural product, but as species with different needs and behaviors. The first was put into force in 1986 at the request of farmers who wanted to make their products more attractive to Swedish consumers. The law banned subtherapeutic or prophylactic use of antibiotics in animal feeds. Unexpectedly, however, the law's effects caused profound changes in the nation's piglet production systems.

As was well-publicized in the U.S. farm media, one of the immediate effects of the feed antibiotics ban for many Swedish farmers was more scours at weaning, requiring more therapeutic antibiotic use for the young pigs.

By contrast, some Swedish farms had no scours at weaning, notes Bo Algers, a veterinary ethologist (specialist in animal behavior) and a research manager at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. These farms had healthful production environments that put less stress on pigs by keeping them clean, using lower stock densities, and bedding with straw to keep pigs warm and dry. This observation encouraged farmers whose herds had problems with scours at weaning to change the production environment for piglets rather than continue to administer antibiotic treatments. That move paved the way for designing freer systems of farrowing and lactation as well, Halverson reports.

At the same time, Swedish hog farmers were looking for simpler, lower-cost ways to produce high-quality pork. They wanted a competitive edge in anticipation of the nation's entry into the European Common Market. They started putting up multi-use hog buildings designed with more unobstructed space that cut costs by reducing labor, veterinary expenses and equipment needs.

These producers see humane treatment as an opportunity for profitable innovation, not as a call to arms to defend conventional practices.

These farmers had a head start when a second law affecting livestock production, Sweden's Farm Animal Protection Act, broke new ground in '88. The law mandated housing systems that provide a good environment for animals "so as to promote their health and allow natural behavior." It phased out farrowing crates and other restrictive facilities, helping the producers identify the most important natural hog characteristics were a number of researchers, including Algers and another ethologist, Per Jensen.

For three years starting in 1984, Jensen had studied the daily activities of Swedish Landrace sows released into a semi-natural setting. He doesn't suggest pigs need to be in the wild to be raised humanely. But the outdoor setting provides insight on the motivations behind sows' behaviors that scientists or farmers could never have understood by watching sows in confinement.

"It's like a computer that has been given information it can't use. Indoors, we see tightly confined animals behaving in ways that are basically just error messages in response to negative parts of their environment," says Jensen. "Outside, I watched both pre-programmed and spontaneous behaviors without disruptions from physical obstructions and husbandry routines. These sows behaved just as wild ones do, varying only in degree or intensity of a given action."

Jensen' s most important findings were in the areas of:

Feeding. In the natural setting, sows spent up to 8 hours a day foraging, regardless of how much food they were fed. The discovery showed the difference between being nutritionally satisfied and behaviorally hungry, Jensen says. Farmers can use ad lib feeders to accommodate this strong food-search instinct. Some units require sows to manipulate controls to get small amounts of feed, greatly prolonging feeding time and sow satisfaction, says Jensen.

Grouping. In the semi-natural setting of Jensen's experiment, the pigs formed social groups. This finding influenced the production setting of new Swedish systems. Now, even conventional hog producers there use straw bedding and group rooms for pregnant sows, compared with the nearly universal bare-floor management and gestation crates of 20 years ago.

Keeping a set of sows moving through the production system together eliminates the stress of mixing groups. Swedish farmers have found various ways of successfully introducing new sows and gilts to established groups. In one group-nursing system, for example, groups are disrupted temporarily when sows are put into individual pens for two weeks around farrowing. Farmers say they can add a new sow with her litter smoothly during the nursery phase, when the group re-forms as sows leave their farrowing pens and are preoccupied with mothering.

Nesting. "The single, strongest instinct for a sow is to nest the day before farrowing," says Jensen. To do this she needs bedding materials and space. Roomy rectangular pens that allow sows to freely turn around to see their piglets have greatly decreased sow stress during and just after farrowing, and have contributed to increased piglet survival. Outdoor systems in the Midwest and South show similar results.

Weaning. In the semi-wild environment of Jensen' s experiment, sows finished weaning their piglets in about 17 weeks, a period far longer than is feasible for production. Jensen says a quicker, but still gradual, weaning at five to six weeks seems to work for sows, piglets and producers watching their bottom line. Sows given more time to lactate in the new Swedish group systems often come back into heat within a month of farrowing.

New Thoughts, Altered Barns

Since the late '80s, Swedish farmers have experimented with behavior- appropriate designs by simplifying over-equipped barns, using older wooden buildings and erecting new structures, some complete with electronic ventilation sensors and observation windows. Putting the natural-setting research findings into practice has meant lots of trial and error, with results shared freely between producers and their advisers. Discoveries at the farm level include:

Breeding cycles and piglets require careful attention when sows are kept in groups. Sows need to farrow within a week of each other to keep their piglets within a compatible age range. Penning sows ready to cycle next to boars helps to synchronize estrus naturally. Providing "retreat areas" in the sow gestation pens gives newly introduced sows or gilts protection while they find their social niche in the group. This decreases stress and increases breeding success.

All-in/all-out handling simplifies labor and management: It gives farmers a good window to remove manure and sanitize rooms between groups.

A quiet environment is critical for a sow to communicate with her litter. Researchers found that sow milk let-down lasts only 20 seconds, on average. Sows grunt to signal a nursing opportunity is imminent. Piglets that miss the call because there is too much mechanical noise or they don't recognize their mother don't get their share of milk and colostrum, and get off to a slow start.

Closed, insulated barns with deep straw packs maximize piglet survival but require high-volume air movement. The straw-manure mixture gives off heat and gases as it composts. Simply installing bigger fans caused too much noise for piglet-sow nursing communication. Farmers isolated fans and built quieter ventilation systems.

Peaceable interactions take planning and room. When a sow's "personal space" is free of perceived challenges from other sows, she has less reason to fight to defend her status. If housing allows sows to meet with at least 6.5 feet between them, a lower-ranking sow can show her submissiveness by turning her head to the side, avoiding the "provocation" of a direct meeting that might lead to a fight.

Creating and managing these environments demands a depth of knowledge of hog tendencies and behaviors. The emphasis in conventional systems on technology, volume and isolation of individual sows provide younger farmers few chances to learn about natural hog instincts, says Halverson. "Intensive confinement systems that stifle an animal's natural behaviors don't give the opportunity to know our animals well," she says. "We need to expand the human capital investment in hog management to foster true husbandry as the main value the farmer 'sells.'"

Sows given freedom of movement and time to bond with their litters show strong maternal instincts through weaning, which is best done gradually to diminish stress for sows and piglets. Farmer Gunnar Ljungstrom of west-central Sweden incorporated these features in the system he developed to allow natural hog behaviors.

Quality Time

In these Swedish barns, farmers have to get in and walk among their pigs at least once a day to develop mutual trust with the animals. "Bo Algers recommends the farmer spend at least 30 seconds each day with each sow housed with a group," says Halverson. "They expect the sows to run up and play, to nip at their legs and run away." Piglets that are lethargic or stay buried in the straw show they may be ailing and need some attention.

Modern domestic sows are the product of 200 years of selective breeding for external and physical characteristics. Yet even after repeated farrowings in confinement, sows still show the nest-building tendency just before giving birth. Pawing the floor and bar-biting don't look like visible nesting actions, but Per Jensen says the movements reflect what confined sows do when they can't fulfill their instincts to isolate themselves, locate a site and construct a nest.

"When we prevent a sow from nesting, we set up a stressful situation,"says Halverson. "When we put her in a crate with feed and water, we feel we've met all her needs — from our point of view. We don't see why she needs to move around to find food or to watch her piglets or to respond to their distress calls."

But in a natural environment, as farmers with outdoor herds know, adult pigs spend a great part of the day foraging and exploring their environment. Nest building in the wild has survival value. For such inbuilt motivations, the process can be as important as the product. "By providing just the ends, we do not satisfy a sow's need to go through the means. A few minutes to gobble up concentrate doesn't satisfy the urge to forage," says Halverson. "The more we do for the sow in the crate, the less she can do for herself and the more her insecurity, fear and stress levels rise."

About 40 percent of Swedish hog farmers now use behaviorally sound systems of piglet production. These are based on barrier-free farrowing pens,either conventional metal built-ins close to a group grower room or sturdy plywood rectangles temporarily set along the perimeter of the farrowing room itself. Pens range in size from the legally required 5.5 square yards up to a more sow-friendly 9 square yards.

The push for new systems comes from farmers determined to find low-cost, productive ways to deliver the high-quality meat Swedish consumers demand.

Piglets stay in the pen for the first week to 10 days, long enough to form strong bonds with their mother. Then the sows rejoin the group with their litters. While group-management systems have failed in some countries, Halverson says they work well in Sweden because of:

Abundant use of clean straw
about 2 tons per sow per year. Whole, unopened bales help satisfy the sows' and piglets' desire to forage and manipulate their environment. Swedish farmers prefer large round bales, because they give pigs the most physical challenge and because long stems stay looser in the straw pack, allowing more aerobic composting. Group-system buildings have doors large enough for skid-steer loaders to remove the manure between groups.

An individual feeding station for each sow in gestation rooms that protects individuals from the negative aspects of group-feeding dynamics. By locking the stations for half an hour at feeding, the farmer prevents dominant, fast-eating sows from rousting lower-ranked sows from their positions and eating their food.

Swedish hog farmers who have mastered behavior-based systems report multiple rewards. The farmers are happier about the day-to-day interaction with their animals. Their figures show lower long-term investment in structures, veterinary expenses and overall labor costs, with better sow reproductive health and productivity. Inger Johansson and her husband Torgil read about Jensen's and Algers' research and started a group-nursing system in 1986. "We wish we had built this system 25 years ago," she says. "If we ever had to choose between changing back to the old conventional production or pack our bags, we would pack our bags first."

Farmers who thrive with these systems are those who appreciate individual behaviors within the herd and who develop an eye for recognizing illness, discontent, fear and agitation. This takes daily, direct contact in the pen — a kind of management that is impossible without a workable sow-to-farmer ratio.

Halverson says a number of forces are changing Sweden's livestock system, not only animal-welfare advocates. The primary push comes from hog farmers determined to find low-cost, productive systems that deliver the high-quality meat Swedish consumers demand. She's not surprised that these systems work for the pigs, too. "I think that if we as a society make provisions for animals to be animals well, we will find, as they have in Sweden, that we have a better chance that farmers will be able to be farmers well."


Editor's Note: Halverson is working with farmers and university researchers
to develop demonstrations modeled after Swedish systems. Contact: Marlene Halverson. 231 Classroom Office Building, 1994 Buford Ave.. University of Minnesota, St. Paul MN 55108-6040, (6/2) 625-1222, fax (612) 625-6245.

Reproduced with permission of the publisher. The New Farm, Sept/Oct. 1993 p. 35-39


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.

In Monstrous 20,000 Cow-Factory Farms

By Chris Bedford

American's small family dairy farms face extinction. The farm gate price of milk has dropped to below 1978 levels, as a result of market manipulation by large dairy cooperatives which function like giant agribusiness corporations.

As a consequence, many family dairy farmers may be forced into bankruptcy this year. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts farm employment losses will exceed 175,000 in the next five years. And this estimate was released before the current crisis. The impacts from this potential loss for rural communities, the environment and animal welfare are devastating.

The same industrialization of food production that has transformed poultry and hog raising is rapidly transforming dairy production. In dairy factory operations, farmers become factory workers, environmentally destructive amounts of manure are produced, animals are confined for most their lives and output is pushed through processes that can damage human and animal health. Milk production is artificially stimulated through injections of a recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) also known as Bovine Somatotropin (BST). BST use can painfully injure lactating cows by draining calcium from bones and tissues, causing ulcers along their backbone and disfiguring swelling of leg joints (see page 6 of AWI Quarterly, Vol.48 No.2). BST has also been implicated in human health problems by causing increased production of another bovine hormone called IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor 1). IGF-1 has been proven to increase risk for uterine and breast cancer and heart disease in women. Both BST and IGF-1 are not destroyed by the 15-second pasteurization process used on most commercial milk. FDA approval of Monsanto's version of BST, known by the trade name of Posilac, was based on pasteurization tests of 30 minutes or more, not 15 seconds.

Traditionally, milk has been produced by small, family dairy farms milking 30-100 cows at any one time. Although many of these small farmers experimented in the mid-1990s with (BST) they abandoned the product after seeing what it did to their cows.

"It just wore my neighbors' cows out," said dairy farmer, George Donnon of Rising Sun, Maryland who never used Posilac. "It increased production some during the first lactation. But it didn't work after that. And it caused some serious physical problems for the animals." The dairy factory operations are the principal consumers of Posilac/BST. Heifers are given the drug during their first lactation — forcing them to produce milk for two years or more — increasing per cow output by approximately 15%. After this first artificially extended lactation, the cows are so worn out that they have to be sold for meat. Small family dairy farmers typically keep their cows for five or six lactations.

"Use of BST divides the large operations from the small family farmer," said Eddie Boyer, a dairy farmer from New Oxford, Pennsylvania. "A family farmer cares about his cows. He calls them to the milking parlor by name. He wants to extend their productive lives as long as he can." Ironically, BST use and the expansion of dairy factory operations is behind much of the current crisis facing small family dairy farms. The construction of giant BST-dependent dairy factories, milking 20,000 cows or more, in the desert areas of California, Arizona and Idaho has produced large amounts of cheese at artificially low prices. These new dairy factories create environmental problems/disasters wherever they operate — often spilling millions of gallons of manure into scarce and vulnerable arid land water supplies. Since dairy factories externalize so much of the real environmental impacts, production costs are lower than on family farms. Cheese produced by these dairy factory operations is unloading large dairy cooperatives like Dairy Farmers of America and Land O'Lakes on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Cheese traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange sets the price of all milk sold in the United States through a series of Milk Marketing Orders issued by the federal government. By dumping subsidized, dairy factory produced cheese in Chicago, large dairy cooperatives can drive down the farmgate price of milk — reaping huge windfall profits while impoverishing the small farmers who are members of the coops. In 1978, when farmgate milk prices were higher than they are now, consumers paid a $1.20 for a gallon of fresh milk. Today that same gallon of milk costs almost $3.

"Someone is making money producing milk," said Fred LeClair, a dairy farmer from Watertown, New York. "It's just not us. Right now, I lose about $6 for every hundred pounds of milk I produce (11.6 gallons = 100 lbs). I don't know any business that can operate long at these kinds of prices."

Some believe the current low prices are an effort by large cooperatives to "rationalize" milk production, make it more "efficient", by driving small producers out-of-business. Large dairy factory operations are protected through special premiums paid by processors and by low-interest loans unavailable to small dairy farmers. "It is time to draw a line between small farmers like myself and large corporate operations," said George Donnon. "Our interests are different. I want to maintain our way of life without having to get bigger. If I get a higher price for my milk, I will milk fewer cows, not more. And that's good for me and the environment, and the cows."

Human Population 6,000,000,000 and Growing


The world has reached a population of six billion, meaning the number of the globe's inhabitants has doubled in less than 40 years.

It took all of human history for the planetary population to reach one billion in 1804, but then little more than 150 years to reach three billion in 1960. Now there's twice the number.

While the world adds another 3,500 humans every 20 minutes it loses an entire plant or animal species in that same time — or about 27,000 species a year.

Despite a gradual slowing in the overall growth rate, world population is still increasing by 78 million a year-the equivalent of adding a city almost the size of San Francisco every three days.

The number of people on the planet Earth is now...

Whales Threatened by Japan and Norway

By Ben White

Japan has proposed the downlisting of the Antarctic population of minke whales, one North Pacific population of minke whales, and one North Pacific population of gray whales. Norway has proposed the downlisting of the Northeast Atlantic and the North Atlantic Central minke whale populations. Downlisting would remove the whales from Appendix I, which prohibits all commercial trade, and place them on Appendix II, which allows limited trade.

The Secretariat of CITES recommends rejection of all the whale downlisting proposals.

Final authority for all whaling matters is now in the hands of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which has an indefinite moratorium in place forbidding all commercial whaling and the sale of whale products between countries. The downlisting effort at CITES is spurred by Norway and Japan's frustration at their inability to defeat the IWC moratorium. They are hoping for a friendlier reception from CITES in order to execute an "end run" around the IWC prohibition. They will need more than two thirds of the countries present at CITES to vote in favor of the downlisting for it to succeed. The position of the United States is that any decision on international sale of whale meat, whether or not it is cloaked in the temporary guise of a "zero quota", should remain the responsibility of the IWC, not CITES.

The Polish Resistance

By Tom Garrett

John Steinbeck once wrote that family farmers are "the soul and the guts of this nation or of any other nation."

This can be nowhere truer than in Poland. Since Polish peasants armed with scythes overran Russian artillery at Raclawice during the Kosciuszko uprising of 1793, Poland's most stubborn defenders have been found in the countryside. In the 19th Century, under leaders such as Jacob Szulic, the Polish peasantry threw off serfdom. Their obdurate resistance halted Stalinist attempts, between 1949-54, to consolidate Polish agriculture into state farms. Poland emerged from Communism in 1990 with 80% of its farmland still in private hands and well over a quarter of the population engaged in farming.

Today, having survived Communism, Poland's peasants, standing athwart the juggernaut of corporate globalization, face a far more implacable enemy. The worldwide crash in grain and hog prices, compounded by a flood of cheap imports from the European Union's highly subsidized agriculture, has left Poland's farmers in a desperate plight, creating what Andrew Nagorski, writing in Newsweek International, calls "a bumper crop of despair." Far from coming to Polish farmers' defense, the country's deeply unpopular coalition government has capitulated to E.U. demands to "modernize" Polish agriculture as a price for admission. Agricultural Minister Artur Balasz has announced that the number of Polish farms, in accordance with E.U. requirements, must be reduced from two million to 800,000 by 2003. How will 1.2 million farm families be removed from the land in three years? The answer, beyond the screen of persiflage, seems brutally simple: To maintain an economic climate in which "weaker" farmers cannot survive economically.

As Polish farms suffer what farm wife Ewa Blieska, quoted in Newsweek, calls a "slow death," the great transnational agribusiness corporations, like vultures settling beside a wounded animal, are entering the country. Chicken factories similar to those that swept the U.S. in the 1960s are taking root in western Poland, pushing out peasant producers. Early last year (see AWI Fall-Winter Quarterly) the world's largest "pork production"

company began a drive to take over pork production in Poland. Ignoring warnings by the farm unions, Smithfield is moving aggressively to bring the vertically integrated system that has destroyed family agriculture in states such as Virginia (where Smithfield now owns 95% of all hogs raised) and North Carolina, to Poland. Smithfield Chief counsel Richard Poulson, predicts that Animex, Smithfield's Polish subsidiary, will become Europe's largest pork production company with sales in excess of one billion dollars annually.

In Poland, where virtually every farm — no matter how small — raises a few pigs, the corporate drive poises a dagger at the heart of private farming. For pigs, and for the cause of animal welfare, the implications are horrifying. Today, most of Poland's 18 million pigs are raised in the traditional, relatively humane way, in pastures or on straw, able to interact socially and carry out normal motor patterns. If corporate hog factories supplant family farms, the lives of sows, imprisoned wretchedly in steel crates, will become a parabola of misery and the ghastly American syndrome — miasmic "lagoons", dumpsters overflowing with bloated carcasses-will spread across eastern and central Europe. If it cannot be stopped in Poland, there is no chance of stopping it in countries like Belarus (where Smithfield is rumored to be negotiating) and the Ukraine.

On January 17, Agnes Van Volkenburgh, "Slaughterhouse" author Gail Eisnitz and I arrived in Warsaw for the Congress of Peasant-National Bloc, an alliance of Samoobrona with independent trade unions and small political parties, and for the opening of Andrzej Lepper's counterattack against Smithfield. The following morning, we walked through a gathering crowd into the monumental Kongressa Hall of Warsaw's huge, Stalinist era Palace of Culture and Science and were seated in the front row. While folk troupes from the Carpathian and Bieszczady Mountains performed on the stage, thousands of delegates to the Congress — peasants from across Poland, coal miners in black uniforms, pensioners, military veterans aligned with General Tadeuzs Wilicki's National Front — took their seats. We stood for the Polish National Anthem, which begins "While we live Poland shall not die". Then Lepper rose to speak. After a blistering attack on economic policies that have led to 14% unemployment and a fire sale of state owned assets to foreigners, he turned to the plight of Poland's peasants. He dwelled movingly on animal welfare, contrasting peasant farming where each farm animal is named and newborn young are brought into family homes in cold weather, with the mass, mindless cruelty of industrial agriculture. Our turn came after a recess. Agnes spoke briefly and eloquently, gaining thunderous applause. With Agnes translating, I explained what has happened to family farming in America and what lies in store for Poland if Smithfield is allowed to take over. Gail then recounted the appalling situation in American slaughterhouses.

We spent January 19th in Warsaw, meeting government officials and environmentalists. Before dawn on the 20th we joined Andrzej Lepper for a trip to northwestern Poland, lunching with agricultural bankers and touring a small slaughterhouse en route. In Czluchow, the town's meeting hall was packed with hundreds of farmers waiting for Lepper. The farmers heard Lepper out. Then, for two hours, angry, desperate, sometimes despairing, they poured forth their troubles. There was much talk about hog factories since a Danish firm, Poldanor, has a permit to build a 300,000 feeder pig complex not far away.

January 21 dawned with snow and sleet. We drove westward on roads lined with Lombardy poplar through a part of Poland that was once German territory and had witnessed still another trail of tears when the German population was driven out in 1945. In late morning, we reached the ancient city of Szczecin, on the Odra River which forms today's German border and pulled up in front of the Smithfield owned AGRYF slaughterhouse. Farmers carrying Samoobrona signs were waiting, the press had arrived. Lepper led us to the entrance where a row of faces peered through the glass. At this point, the manager, acting out his own version of Polish bravado, came outside without a coat and stood for an hour in the bitter wind, shivering violently and arguing, before the press, with the infuriated farmers. The problem, it seemed, was that AGRYF, true to the attitude of its corporate masters, was refusing to buy small lots of hogs because they "lacked uniformity". Lepper finally heard enough. "Listen well" he said. "If there is any more of this I am coming back to shut you down."

The next stop was in downtown Szczecin where we met with the local farmers cooperative (which has a minority interest in the Agury plant) to discuss the Smithfield takeover. Then, in a cold, sleeting rain, we went to see a hog factory left over from Communist times at a state farm 20 miles or so outside the city. We passed the workers' quarters, a five story apartment building positioned, incongruously, in a muddy field. But when we reached the hog factory the gates were padlocked and the sole person in attendance was the office manager. Word had come earlier in the day, she said, for the crew to lock everything and leave. The basic operational features, open cesspools and spray fields, seemed similar to U.S. hog factories. "In the summertime the smell hereabout is almost unendurable" one of the farmers said. "As for dead hogs, they dump them in a sump in the woods. The flies practically darken the sun." The last stop in Szczecin was to call on Marian Jurczyk, a towering figure of the anti-communist resistance and bitter rival of Lech Walesa, at the twilight of his political career. Jurczyk, receiving us in his imposing office, announced that he would resign as Mayor of Szczecin the following week.

Six inches of snow fell in the night. We left before dawn, driving south through a hushed and peaceful countryside. Morning revealed the Odra valley and a sweep of marshlands and floodplain forests. The tracts of forest and open space in northwestern Poland, contrasting with the patchwork of small farms often found elsewhere, are a legacy of numerous landed estates which, with the expulsion of their German owners, remained intact as state farms. We stopped for lunch at an ecotourism resort maintained by one of Lepper's supporters. Hours of tortuous night driving on snow-packed roads brought us to Warsaw, and at noon of the 22nd, after a harried morning of press interviews and meetings with environmentalists, we said goodbye to our friends and returned to the United States.

What has AWI accomplished thus far? Three thousand copies of a forty-minute video developed by Diane Halverson and narrated in Polish by Agnes Van Volkenburgh were delivered to Samoobrona and other Polish NGOs. The tapes are based around the Polish September tour, but they contain additional footage from hog factories and aerial coverage of the North Carolina floods. Along with written material, translated by Agnes, they have been distributed across Poland providing the sinew for a press and media campaign. Excerpts from the tapes have appeared on two Polish cable channels and numerous television stations. The March 10 issue of Nie (circulation 800,000) contains a scathing attack on Smithfield quoting AWI extensively. A similar article appeared in the daily paper Nasz Dziennik. The breakthroughs on radio, which is more important in Poland than in the U.S., have been dramatic. Agnes and Lepper were featured on TOK FM, Poland's main talk radio station. Appearing on Radio Zet, which is the most listened to-station in the country, Agriculture Minister Artur Balasz was asked whether he supported Lepper or Smithfield in the battle over pig factories. In a startling turnaround, Balasz announced that he supported Lepper and that pig factories cannot be tolerated in Poland.

In the Polish countryside, Samoobrona's campaign against Smithfield and other multinationals is gaining force. On February 8, for example, 2000 farmers gathered to protest Cargill's failure to pay farmers on time for deliveries of grain. Concurrently, a campaign led by Rural Solidarity head, Roman Wierbicki, has succeeded in blocking a giveaway of Poland's sugar processing capacity to foreign companies. On March 6, farmers will "send a message" by blockading roads and highways for three hours all across Poland. Meantime, an alliance is coalescing between the peasants and the Polish environmentalists. It will have its first test when humane and environmental groups from throughout Poland send cadres to Warsaw to participate in Samoobrona-led protests at German, Danish and U.S. Embassies on March 14.

The Polish campaign has opened the door for AWI to carry its message, that mass abuse of animals is the core evil of industrial agriculture, to an ever wider audience. Agnes and I have been invited to address a Congress of Peasant Parties from ten eastern and central European nations in Prague on March 11. On March 26, we will address the World Congress of Trade Unions in New Delhi, India. In attendance will be the leaders of India's 30 million member peasant unions who have given the agribusiness giant, Monsanto, vector of "genetically modified" seeds, an ultimatum to leave India.


Disappeaaring Planet of the Apes

A Taste For Extinction

The flesh of species such as chimpanzees, gorillas, elephants, giant pangolins, and other wildlife ("bushmeat") has historically provided a source of food for people throughout central and western Africa. Today, encroachment of logging companies and destruction of natural forest lands have led to the wholesale decimation of wildlife habitat as well as the escalation of the bushmeat trade. What was once a locally used food source has become an expensive delicacy in commercial trade — a trade that threatens the existence of the species involved. As Richard Leakey, former head of the Kenya Wildlife Service told CNN: "The slaughter of chimpanzees and gorillas, our closest relatives, is absolutely diabolical. I can't imagine that this can go on much longer before these animals are extinct."

The number of great apes involved in this unsustainable trade is enormous. The Ape Alliance, an international coalition of over 30 organizations including the Born Free Foundation and the Jane Goodall Institute, estimates that in northern Congo "up to 600 lowland gorillas are killed each year to feed the trade" and that one-ton of smoked bushmeat is unloaded every day in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon.

Karl Ammann, one of the most vocal opponents of the bushmeat trade succinctly averred in a New York Times Magazine article that "the DNA of chimpanzees is 98.5 percent the same as that of humans... eating them [is] '98.5 percent cannibalism'."

Timber corporations ripping through wooded areas of Africa have not only destroyed the forests on which wild animals depend, but have cleared logging roads which enable poachers to transport animals' carcasses to markets in other regions, and sometimes to expensive restaurants in western Europe. Dr. Anthony Rose of The Biosynergy Institute estimates "that bushmeat trade across equatorial Africa is more than a billion dollar business" and that "as logging expands, the number of monkeys and apes killed for the cooking pot increases."

Currently, killing apes for bushmeat provides a "quick buck" for humans. But when the apes are gone, the buck is too. In countries where the transnational timber corporations are wiping out forests, funds are lacking for enforcement of laws that prohibit killing and selling highly endangered species such as great apes. There is a moral obligation for these exploitative companies to completely cease facilitating the trade in bushmeat on their logging roads using their logging trucks.

Governments in need should receive funds to hire and train competent enforcement agents to fight the bushmeat trade. In some cases, poachers can become protectors and be paid to ensure that the resident wildlife is preserved. Greater availability of alternative food sources and other employment opportunities would be significant additional steps toward positive change.

CITES and The Great Ape Conservation Act

At the upcoming Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES this April in Kenya, a "Discussion Paper" will be offered by the United Kingdom on "Bushmeat as a Trade and Wildlife Management Issue." The paper notes "that the loss of animals through the bushmeat trade is having a greater impact on conservation in some areas than habitat loss." Action by all CITES Parties is essential to stem the decline of bushmeat species.

The U.S. is already well on the way to addressing the issue. United States Senator Jim Jeffords (R - VT) has engaged in a noble effort to elevate America's role in ending this repugnant bushmeat trade. On May 10, 1999 he introduced in the United States Senate the "Great Ape Conservation Act," S. 1007, to "perpetuate viable populations of great apes in the wild" and "assist in the conservation and protection of great apes by supporting conservation programs of countries in which great apes are located."

The legislation would accomplish this by authorizing up to five million dollars to go into a "Great Ape Conservation Fund" each year from 2000 to 2004. Money in this fund could then be disbursed to enhance programs for conservation of great apes, including those to help minimize the conflict between humans and non-human primates over land resources and habitat protection, to monitor great ape populations and threats to those populations, and to enforce CITES restrictions on trade in parts and products of these species.

In Senator Jeffords' words: "If we do not act now chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos and orangutans may be extinct in the next 50 years."


Dog Nursing Pups Mutilated in so called "Padded" Trap


Shortly before Christmas, a mother dog was seen limping around the neighborhood in the White Knoll, South Carolina community. Her right front paw was held in the viselike grip of a steel jaw  leghold trap. Apparently, the dog wasn't able to pull her foot out of the trap, but she had succeeded in pulling the trap's stake out of the ground to get back to her puppies. Although trappers refer to the device as a "padded" leghold trap, the trap had mangled the dog's paw, and she had lost three of her toes.

Dave Johnston, a volunteer with Pets, Inc., a local animal rescue organization, lured the emaciated mother dog in with food. "She was quite cooperative," Johnston said. "She was exhausted. She went sound asleep in the van." Johnston was only able to catch two of her puppies, but he knew there were more so he returned until he was able to round up all of five of her offspring. The puppies were only weeks old.

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending. The sweet mother dog has been adopted by a loving family and named Honey. After only a few weeks in her new home, Honey has thrived, gaining nearly 25 pounds. She doesn't like taking her twice-a-day antibiotic treatment or having the bandage on her paw changed. But this treatment, along with a trip back to the veterinarian every other day to monitor her progress, appears to be paying off. Honey's maimed paw is healing better than expected, and it probably won't have to be amputated. And all of her puppies have been adopted to good homes.

The owner of the inhumane, indiscriminate trap has not stepped forward to assume responsibility for setting it. Residents of White Knoll are concerned that the steel jaw trap, which had been set near a grade school, could have caught a child.

Meantime, Honey appears to be enjoying her new home, although she is apprehensive of people following her ordeal. Her new family is very protective of her. When they realized that she hated loud noises, they spent New Year's Eve with her on the floor of their bathroom. Honey is bonding with the two other dogs in the family, and the woman who adopted Honey acknowledged that she's made great strides, describing a day when "…I caught her playing, jumping around on three legs and her nubby foot. She looked at me like I wasn't supposed to see that."


Jumbo Thieves

A further concession of the 1997 elephant downlisting was facilitation of "export of live animals to appropriate and acceptable destinations." The problem is that there is no clear definition of what an "appropriate and acceptable destination" really is. As a result, insidious animal dealers such as Riccardo Ghiazza can literally steal baby elephants from their mothers and transport them internationally for commercial gain.

According to the London Mail and Guardian, Ghiazza was recently arrested on charges of fraud and falsely obtaining South African citizenship when he allegedly failed to declare that he is wanted for a drug conviction in Italy. He is also the culprit in the Tuli elephant fiasco in which his company removed 30 baby elephants from Botswana and transported them to South Africa where they suffered beatings to "train" them in preparation for international transport to zoos and circuses abroad. The National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals brought cruelty charges against Ghiazza and after lengthy and expensive court procedures was awarded custody of the animals. Most of the Tuli elephants have been freed in national parks and private reserves in South Africa.


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