AWI Quarterly

Marc Bekoff

Marc Bekoff, Professor
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Colorado
Boulder, Colorado 80309-0334 USA


January 26, 2004

Gregory Symmes
Associate Executive Director
Division on Earth and Life Studies
National Research Council

Dear Dr. Symmes:

Below is my review of the report titled Review of the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoological Park. I will try to follow your guidelines and I hope that you find my comments useful. If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me. Can you please acknowledge receipt of this document? Thank you.


Marc Bekoff

P. S. For your information, I am a Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society and a recipient of their Exemplar Award for major lifetime contributions to the study of animal behavior. If you need it, more detailed information can be found on my homepage at and at

Review of the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoological Park

I received the Review of the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoological Park on January 23, 2004. As I understand it, I am to judge whether the arguments, findings, and conclusions of this report are supported by the text and determine whether the report is accurate, complete, and even-handed. I will also identify issues that are of major concern. The title is appropriate, and I have no editorial comments.

General and major comments and concerns

The Review of the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoological Park is a comprehensive, well-written, and well-organized report. The specific case studies are very helpful for assessing how poorly the zoo is run and for highlighting the pitiful and shameful lack of documentation of pertinent information and the utter failure across administrative levels to implement procedures that could have helped to improve the well-being of animals who were ill as well as the well-being of other individuals. I congratulate the stellar group of scholars who obviously worked very hard on the project at hand and who then wrote this report. Even objective or dispassionate readers will be able to see that there is a long history of many major problems at the National Zoo, and that the numerous infractions of various federal and other guidelines, statutes, and laws (and common sense) constitute serious and egregious violations. The review is balanced and fair. Sensitive issues are given proper care and in many ways the authors of this review "bent over backwards" to be nice and accommodating to the zoo. I agree with the committee's summary that "Many issues remain unresolved at the National Zoo." (p. 59) Indeed, this is gross understatement.

The charge to the committee is clearly described in this report and in my view, the conclusions that are reached are supported by evidence, analysis, and argument. The authors do not go beyond their charge or expertise. The recommendations that are offered are realistic and strict (as they should be) and unwavering compliance should be enforced at all levels. That the existence of zoos is "inevitable" at least in the foreseeable future does not mean that we should lower our standards or accept the deplorable situation at this institution. Blatant disregard for the lives of the animals should never trump our responsibility to provide the best possible lives for those non-consenting beings who are held captive. I fully realize that it is very difficult to run a zoo and to maintain the highest of ethical standards, but difficult does mean impossible and the National Zoo (and all zoos) should be expected to put the animals first and not run a shoddy operation. Surely, administrators must oversee the entire operation and "run a tight ship." And there must be coordination and communication among all levels. Everyone has to talk to one another because it is clear that the proper operation of a zoo (like all businesses) requires ongoing dialogue and frank but cordial exchanges in which everyone is given a chance to express their views and each individual's views are listened to.

There are many major concerns about the operation of the National Zoo, and the clear organization and structure of this review makes it easy to highlight them. Frankly, I do not see many "strengths" to the way in which the National Zoo is run -- the numerous and blatant "weaknesses" overshadow any positive aspects. There is a shameful and regrettable lack of concern for the animal's well-being by some but not all of the people who are responsible for overseeing the zoo's operation from day to day. It is difficult to see how the goals of providing support for conservation, education, and science are met when there is such rampant disregard for the health and nutrition of the zoo's inhabitants, the beings whose lives and well-being underpin the goals of the zoo and are the very reason that this and other zoos exist in the first place.

I agree with the committee's recognition (p. 3) that "the decline of the state of the National Zoo had accrued over many years." I also find it extremely disconcerting that there are so many violations despite a sharp decrease in the zoo's animal populations (p. 22). I would have expected much better care for fewer residents. And, it is also disquieting that these infractions/abuses are occurring given that the veterinarians who work at the National Zoo are board-certified by the AVMA.

Some major concerns include (but are not limited to): (1) the lack of documentation for the preventative medicine program and the lack of compliance in numerous instances in providing annual exams, vaccinations, tuberculosis tests, and infectious disease testing; (2) shortcomings in the animal nutrition program despite a "history of world-class nutrition research" (p. 51) that have "undoubtedly lead to animal deaths at the National Zoo" (p. 6); (3) the disregard for adherence to guidelines in research supported by the PHS (and also other research supported in other ways) stipulated by the PHS itself, the Federal Animal Welfare Act, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA), IACUCs, and the zoo's own policies and procedures for animal health and welfare (p. 8); (4) failure to comply with guidelines for euthanasia; (5) violation of quarantine procedures and protocols; (6) failure to keep adequate animal husbandry and management records; (7) poor pest control; (8) poor compliance with the zoo's own policies (p. 63); (9) poor record keeping; and (10) the lack of accessibility to records.

One of the most egregious violations is the alteration of veterinary records weeks and years after the event (p. 9). Another is the failure to keep "official records" of complaints (p. 60). Yet another is the inexcusable death of two red pandas after they were exposed to rodenticide. Where was the safety manager? I select this example from among many others merely to make the point that individual's lives are at stake and that because of a failure to comply with even the most elementary guidelines and common sense, numerous individuals needlessly suffer interminable psychological and physical pain and death.

AZA Accreditation

A major concern is that the zoo's AZA accreditation will be approved once again in March 2004. I recommend against this. I favor withholding accreditation until the many wrongs are righted. There is a lack of a strategic plan, as highlighted in this review (pp. 89, 91). There has been enough time for the people running the zoo to get things in order and I fear that giving them accreditation will mean that things will change far too slowly if at all. It is time to play "hard ball" because the situation as described in the Review of the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoological Park is deplorable, inexcusable, and an embarrassment to humankind. It is an insult to the people who support the zoo and trust that those who work at the zoo (perhaps especially administrators) will work hard to maintain the highest of standards. Most importantly, it is an affront to the animals who depend on the goodwill of those who are responsible for their well-being and lives. The fact that there still is no strategic plan for the National Zoo "despite the recommendations of previous AZA accreditation reports" (p. 11, my emphasis) in and of itself justifies withholding further accreditation until the zoo gets things in order. Obviously, good intentions and promises to do so have not been sufficient to make suitable changes.

Other substantial issues or concerns

I found myself wondering how and why the high profile situation at the zoo got to be as bad as it is. How and why did conditions deteriorate despite (1) close scrutiny by organizations and individuals who are supposed to be responsible for overseeing zoos and (2) repeated and deep expressions of concern by the public that were carried in high profile media? Why wasn't there better communication and interaction among all levels of the zoo's administration and the people who are responsible for people who interact with the animals first hand,, each and every day, those who do the hand-on work? What has morale been like at the zoo? Has morale declined as the zoo declined? Did anyone at the zoo speak out about the conditions before they snowballed into such a horrific and inexcusable state? What happened to those who did speak out? Were they listened to or dismissed? Was there open communication even about difficult or contentious issues?

To sum up, it is worth emphasizing that the review committee recognized (p. 63, my emphasis) "a lack of evidence that the administration has embraced its role in providing for animal care and management, compounded by a lack of responsibility and accountability at all levels." This summary says it all. There are far too many unresolved questions and issues and a lack of accountability throughout all administrative levels. Pondering the questions that I and the review committee have raised, along with the review committee's summary, is extremely troubling. The future at the National Zoo must not mirror their decline, even in the slightest.


Once again, I congratulate the review committee for writing a fair and balanced report. While I knew that conditions at the National Zoo were bad and continuing to decline, I had no idea that things were as bad as they are. I was alarmed by the extent of the problems that have compromised the well-being of individual animals and have needlessly caused much pain, suffering, and death. There is culpability across all levels. Shame on the individuals responsible for knowingly compromising the lives of animals at this zoo. Shame on them also for mindfully forfeiting public trust.

The National Zoo defines its mission (p. 88) as "exhibiting and protecting biodiversity by joining public education and recreation with research in conservation biology and reproductive sciences." They surely are a long way from realizing that goal and strict and uncompromising measures must be taken to ensure that they "clean up their act" immediately. Stern enforcement of recommendations must commence at once regardless of the zoo's status with the AZA. The entire National Zoo must be kept under the closest scrutiny by organizations and individuals who will enforce recommendations without compromise (and without fear of retribution if necessary). There should be serious consequences for failure to comply with recommendations by oversight committees, and one way to begin is to withhold AZA accreditation. The well-being of all animals must come first.

Smithfield's Ludendorff Offensive

In 1918, Imperial Germany was running out of time. It was being slowly strangled by the allied blockade. Its Austrian ally, bled white by the terrible battles in the east, was crumbling internally. Every week thousands more American troops arrived in France to reinforce the battered French and British armies, meaning that allied strength was increasing even as German strength declined.

The German high command decided on one last, massive offensive to either defeat the allies outright or force them to conclude a peace favorable to Germany. This last great offensive of the First World War-- which ultimately failed and led to the disintegration of the German army from within its enlisted ranks-- is remembered as the "Ludendorff Offensive" after the man who conceived and commanded it.

Early in 2002, Smithfield Foods, running out of time to establish "vertical integration" in Poland before Poland accedes to the European Union, opened an offensive long in preparation and backed massively by the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development and other international banks. The breadth of the attack, involving simultaneous moves in the Polish Sejm, the government ministries and in gminas (counties) across Poland revealed startling corporate penetration of the Socialist-Peasant Party coalition that took power in October, 2001.

For all the alacrity with which captive officials and parliamentarians have rushed to the company's bidding, the Smithfield offensive contains an element of desperation. With his Animex subsidiary continually losing money, E.U. accession approaching, populist politicians Andrzej Lepper and Law and Justice head Lech Kasczynski (both Smithfield enemies) outstripping Prime Minister Miller in the polls, this is CEO Joe Luter's last chance to install Smithfield-as he has promised to do-as "Europe's number one pork producer".  What is underway is Smithfield's Ludendorff Offensive in Poland.

Defeat In The Sejm

Late in 2000, Smithfield achieved a cryptic coup in the Polish Sejm by passing the "Fertilizer Act", redefining liquid animal manure--previously subject to regulation as "sewage" under water pollution statutes-- as "natural fertilizer" exempt from regulation. The Act sanctions surface spraying of waste as "appropriate means of application" and sets up legal barriers against challenging, or prohibiting, liquid manure because of odor. Provisions that might have halted hog factories and mega-dairies on environmental grounds were thus erased. There was no opposition to the bill; it was "slipped through" so stealthily that Polish NGOs were not even aware of it until 2002!

The attempt to eliminate a second potential barrier to populating Poland with American style hog factories, however, did not go unnoticed. An effort by the Solidarity government to gut the Polish Animal Welfare Act was vetoed by President Kwasniewski early in 2001. However, a new drive to strip the Act-this time by the Socialist (SLD) government of Prime Minister Leszek Miller-- began in February, 2002. It reached an ignominious conclusion with Kwasniewski's last minute decision on August 14, 2002 to sign a weakened bill into law.

The most remarkable thing about the struggle over the Animal Welfare Act, however, was not that it was ultimately weakened-how fatally remains to be seen-but how close the government, with the massed power of banks and corporations behind it, came to losing. The bill consumed a dozen hearings over six months and triggered acrimonious and protracted debates in the chambers of the 460 member Sejm and 100 member Senat. Miller's government was savaged in the press on the issue and humiliated by the Senat's rejection of its bill. In the end, Miller was forced to impose harsh party discipline on his restive deputies to override the Senat. It was a victory whose costs have yet to be fully paid.

The industry draft eructed from Ministry of Agriculture in February, was couched as an "urgent measure" to integrate Polish law with EU regulations. It was accepted without debate by the Cabinet and sent on an "expedited" basis to the powerful Sejm Commission on European Integration chaired by former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy.

Marek Kryda, working under an AWI grant, and I analyzed the draft-which proved far less consistent with E.U. regulations than the original Act--- and set to work drafting and translating amendments. Among these were two that-had they passed-- could have stopped Smithfield in its tracks. One required that animals raised in buildings must have adequate natural bedding (eg; straw), enough-in the case of mammals-to permit composting. This would have made it flatly impossible to use liquid manure systems. A second amendment mandated natural lighting in buildings housing animals-with exceptions for infants and chicks requiring heat lamps-- be consistent with diurnal rhythms: no rearing in the dark or under constant artificial light.

At the initial hearing before Oleksy's commission in April there were only four NGO witnesses: Marek Kryda, Liza Kodym who heads the Polish Animal Welfare League, Poznan activist Jurek Dusczynski (who participated in AWI's October 2000 tour of the Midwest) and 80 year old Jenna Polyturzycka, the woman chiefly responsible for the original (1997) Act. However the appearance of a front page article on the Animal Welfare Act in Gazeta Wyborska, Poland's largest daily, that quoted Kryda extensively, and the ferocious opposition of deputies from Samoobrona and Law and Justice transformed what was expected to be a routine exercise into a political brawl. Oleksy,( who looks remarkably like Nikita Kruschev ) was forced to appoint a subcommittee.

The issue reached the Sejm Chamber on July 6. After a fierce five hour debate, mostly over the bedding and natural lighting amendments, the bill was returned to Oleksy's committee for additional hearings. From all reports, supporters swept the debate and a vote on the 6th would have gone our way. But by the time the bill made its way to the Chamber for final voting on July 19 our position had deteriorated. The bedding amendment was defeated by a vote of 203-167 ;The amendment on natural lighting failed 201-169 .

Ironically, the erosion of support occured- in part-because of Marek and Liza's early lobbying success. The intense press and media coverage attracted unwelcome attention.! Hunting interests entered the arena with a bizarre amendment allowing hunters to shoot "dangerous" dogs and cats more than 200 yards from an occupied dwelling. The Polish humane movement erupted in highly public controversy over a scheme-apparently involving conflict of interest-- to implant identifying computer chips in dogs and cats. These issues brought noisy debates that pushed humane treatment of farm animals out of the spotlight. Worse was the involvement of the international banks that now own 80% of Poland's banking sector. Halina Nowina- Konopka, a League of Polish Families deputy from a banking family who adopted natural lighting as her special cause, was under no illusions. "Dear" she told Liza before the vote, "we can't win. The banks realize that there are hundreds of millions of euros at stake. They won't let us."

Our defeat was not, however, a rout. We were able to hold on to Article 13 of the Act requiring that any "new technology" impacting Animal Welfare must be investigated and approved and a provision banning importation of animals or animal products "raised in a manner inconsistent with the Animal Welfare Act". Surprisingly, an amendment I first drafted on a napkin that authorizes the Ministry of Transportation to halt, inspect and-if necessary-impound trucks transporting livestock and mandates construction of unloading and holding facilities, passed. If implemented, this measure could practically shut down international traffic in Polish horses.

The vote in the Senat, where 70 of the 100 senators are listed as SLD, was considered pro-forma. However, Marek and Jurek Dusczynski, lobbying hard, found unexpectedly strong support. The Senat voted to reject the bill en toto and returned it to the Sejm with a letter saying that it was "too flawed to consider". Stung, Miller and Co. exercised themselves as never before to discipline SLD members and gain opposition support to override the Senate. In the end only one opposition party, Law and Justice (45 MPs) voted solidly against the government and only a single courageous SLD deputy, Izabella Sierakowska, defied the Miller machine to vote "No".

The bill that went to the President, saddled with the "hunters right to shoot pets" amendment and provisions that fly in the face of EU regulations it supposedly "approximates", was ripe for veto. In the end, a veto and an early test of strength between Miller and Kwasniewski, rivals for future leadership of SLD, did not occur. The sorry state of the new Act, however, suggests that Smithfield's victory is on shaky ground. E.U. is likely -indeed almost certain--to find it inadequate; there may be legal and even constitutional challenges. The battle over the Animal Welfare Act may be just beginning.

Struggle In The Countryside

Unlike the U.S. Constitution, the Polish Constitution of 1997 specifies and guarantees the rights of local government. The sixteen voivodships (states) are considered part of the federal government; state legislatures (with limited powers) are elected but the governors are appointed by the Prime Minister. However, the powers of the gminas (counties) and the cities and towns are separate and inviolate; there is no constitutional way for federal government or the voivodships to force gminas to accept hog factories; local government has the constitutional right to say "No!". This means that by sweeping away federal barriers to hog factories (if it really has) Smithfield has only broken the first line of resistance.

Many of the 7,000 copies of "The Trojan Pig" (note Spring 2000 Quarterly) that AWI delivered to Samoobrona were passed on to local officials across Poland in the hope that this would prevent Smithfield hog factories from being approved. Luter's initial drive to "replicate Smithfield's American success" received a chilly reception at both federal and local level. However, early in 2001 it became evident that Smithfield, lurking behind Polish proxies, had seeped around our defenses. A company calling itself "Prima Farms" managed to secure permits for a hog farm near the town of Czplinek, between Poznan and the Baltic coast and by late summer hog factories-patterned to the American mode-were in operation. With the advent of a new, more "compliant" government in October and the installation of company operatives in key posts within the Agriculture Ministry, Smithfield caste aside the pretence that "Prima" is an independent company. Plans for immense hog factory complexes came, one after another, into focus: 300,000 hogs to be housed at the former Soviet Army base at Borne-Solinowo west of Czplinek; 300,000 hogs to be housed at Rekoniewice near Poznan; from 300,000 to half a million hogs to be raised near Goldap in northeastern Poland. The reason why Adam Tanski, head of the State Farm Property Agency under the previous government, had been retained in office became clear. Tanski, whom we once considered a friend, has "gone over" to Smithfield; an estimated thirty former state farms-up to 50,000 hectares according to an article in have been handed over to Smithfield's Animex and Prima subsidiaries.

Two battles are now at boiling point. Near the town of Rekoniewice in western Poland about 50 kilometers southwest of the city of Poznan, Animex obtained permits to build a large sheep farm. Instead of sheep, however, the new buildings were designed to imprison hogs- vast numbers of hogs-in the standard Smithfield way. If there was a "fix", however, it did not stay fixed. Last spring when Smithfield began stocking its "sheep barns" with "lean generation" hogs imported from the U.S., Andrzej Lepper, Samoobrona Party Secretary Renia Beger (who was our guest in October, 2000) and Jurek Dusczynski organized a protest rally. On May 27, the local authorities reacted by ordering Animex to remove the hogs forthwith from Rekoniewice. The company then hauled the animals to a farm Animex had acquired eight years earlier near Wieckowice at the outskirts of Poznan.

The permits issued for the 900 hectare Wieckowice farm authorize 500 pigs and 600 cows. In August, 2001, Animex inquired about (but apparently did not file) documents needed to raise the number of animals to 9600 and began retrofitting the farm's massive buildings to accommodate hogs.  Estimates of how many thousand hogs were already illegally housed at Wieckowice by May 27, 2002 vary. In any case, addition of those from Rekoniewice brought the total number to 17,000. The poor animals, jammed into hastily prepared storage buildings, barely tended by the farm's skeleton crew, died by the hundreds. Their carcasses, in a scene all too familiar in the United States, were heaped in dumpsters awaiting transport to a rendering plant and the nauseating stench of rotting hogs permeated the town of Wieckowice. Even with the windows closed at the school children vomited; vast swarms of flies settled over the town.

Goaded beyond endurance, the townspeople gathered at the company gate on June 9th railing at unresponsive Animex managers and threatening to "free the pigs" if nothing was done. The carcasses were finally hauled off but the reek of hog feces-amply nauseous in its own right-remains. On August 21 a hearing was held in Wieckowice on Animex's hastily filed application for a permit to dispose of ("apply") liquid manure. The company, not having installed a system of pipes that underlie "sprayfields" for liquid hog feces in the U.S. nor acquired tank trucks with Chisel plows to "inject" it, proposed to spread it along the roads. The assurances of Animex spokesmen that liquid manure is odorless were not, one paper reported, "well received"

.The situation at Wieckowice is ripe for activism. However, local authorities have displayed none of the courage animating their counterparts at Rekoniewice. The deep complicity of the Miller government in Smithfield's attempted takeover of Polish pork production was reflected in press coverage of the raucous August 21 hearing. Privately owned newspapers told it as it was. But public media, increasingly controlled and straitened by the government took an insipid "company line". A BBC team Marek conducted to the site on August 16 penned graphic descriptions but even BBC was at pains not to identify the "foreign multi-national" involved.

A larger and even more critical battle with Smithfield is underway in northeastern Poland, in former East Prussia near the border with Russia's Kalingrad enclave. Operating as Prima Farms the company has applied for permits to construct facilities to house hundreds of thousands of hogs-by some accounts over half a million-on six former state farms it controls near the border town of Goldap.(population about 16,000). Investigating onsite, Marek Kryda found the properties grouped in a tight semi-circle around the town, averaging only about five kilometers distant. With millions of gallons of hog feces in open cesspools on three sides of their homes only a north wind could provide Goldap residents respite from the malodorous stench; absent this there would be no escape.

The grotesque effrontery of trying to confine hundreds of thousands of hogs here does not end-indeed hardly begins-with an assault on Goldap's air. The area is part of the Green Lungs of Poland, containing Europe's last fully intact aquatic ecosystem. Much of the land is low lying and marshy; fecal effluent from spraying would-as in North Carolina-almost certainly reach water, draining either into the Goldap river (which flows north into Russia thereby introducing an international dimension) or into local lakes. There is no chance, if large scale spraying occurs, to avoid eutrophication of pristine lakes and the contamination of an historic river.

This area's unspoiled natural beauty; the fact that it is home to scores of birds and mammals (including bison and wolves) extinct in western Europe, its proximity to the famous Romincka forest, site of Reichmarshal Herman Goering's baronial hunting lodge, makes it a prime destination for European tourists. Tourism-founded on clean air and unsullied nature-is the areas' most viable economic activity. Liquid manure from hundreds of thousands of imprisoned hogs would bring all of this to an end.. Already 40 miles south, near Elk, Smithfield farms containing only a few thousand hogs have left local tourist homes without clients.

Add to this the fate of the hogs themselves-never, in their terrible prisons, to smell the earth or see the sky-and the impact on peasant agriculture. At Wieckowice, it was learned that the company-aside from guards and white collar types-had only five workers for 17,000 hogs. This many animals, raised traditionally, would support at least fifty families.

On June 17, at the insistence of the Olsztyne Voivodship legislature and amid a swarm of rumors that officials were being bribed, the City of Goldap convened a hearing. It was opened by the Mayor, who lent credence to the rumors by saying that he had no authority to reject properly made out applications and then hastily departed. Company officials took the floor, rhapsodizing over the "eco-friendly" nature of the "Smithfield system"; characterizing effluent spraying as a modern version of organic agriculture. A farm in-of all places-- Yorkshire was cited as the exemplar of this enlightened new agriculture.

At this juncture a white haired man made his way through the packed meeting room to the lectern. It was Wijtold Malevicz who participated in our September, 1999 tour . "Have you people been to the North Carolina to observe the real 'Smithfield system'?" He asked. "I have!" he continued and spared no detail in describing what he had seen, heard and smelled. Malevicz was followed by a succession of angry witnesses, among them the Chief Veterinarian of the Olsztyne Voivodship, Dr. Maslowski. Maslowski, debunking the cheery company accounts, reported appalling conditions and prodigious death loss at Smithfield/Prima's two functioning farms in the voivodship. At Bychowo where the company admits having only 6,000 hogs (although the real number is evidently much higher) Maslowski said that 1,761 hogs had died in the previous seven months. By the end of the day, public witnesses from every walk of life had attacked the project; not one had supported it.

Public opinion notwithstanding, "Prima" is proceeding as though the issuance of permits (no decision is expected until after the October 26, municipal elections) is a sure thing. Huge pits have been dug for sewage ponds, construction and retrofitting continues at the company farms.

Exhibiting its parent's seemingly perdurable contempt for laws and regulations Prima was found to have illegally dumped asbestos roofing stripped from farm buildings into a swamp. In the meantime heavy handed federal interference continues; local officials report intense badgering from Tanski and the Agriculture Ministry to abet the project.

"Returning from Goldap through the North Warmia district in the evening was a marvelous experience" Marek wrote. "Nature is incredible there; in every village are a few storks nests; all around are forests and meadows. They are such nice villages even though they are not wealthy. The people live in close contact with nature."

Why, one asks, can't decent, honest humans living in balance with nature be left alone? What Procrustean mania drives these bandit CEO's, these tyrant bureaucrats, these corrupted politicians to impose their ruinous imprimatur on all of nature and society?

Ask as we will, the corporate offensive against Poland's peasant farmers, with Smithfield-today at least-at its spear point, rages apace.

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.

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