Education gap can be overwhelming

Knowledge is power.

Ignorance is bliss.

In between those two statements is a very large intellectual gap.

Swine industry professionals — producers, veterinarians, nutritionists, etc. — need to be on the top of all facets of a production system, regardless what type of operation they work in. Gone are the days of when someone is asked what they do for a living that they can simply say: “I raise pigs.”

Not to sound like an old-timer, which I don’t believe that I am, but back when we raised pigs while I was growing up I don’t remember consulting a nutritionist or a veterinarian unless there was a definite drop in production or if there were visible signs of illness or even unexplained death.

Today’s producers now have solid relationships with their veterinarians, or at least they better have a good relationship come the first of the year when the new Veterinary Feed Directive goes into effect. Top producers today are that way because they are forever trying to improve their operation by gathering as much knowledge as possible, and filtering that knowledge down to every last person who enters their barns.

Today’s swine professionals have the luxury to have close, and nearly immediate, access to information to help their operation through their smartphone, tablet or home computer.

Perpetual learners will be the best at what they do for a long time. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but the eternal thirst for knowledge can mean the difference between succeeding and looking elsewhere for employment.

Agricultural producers also have to stay on top of their knowledge base because our very livelihood is being threatened by a populace who has gained their so-called knowledge from less-than credible sources.

Just as swine professionals have quick and easy access to information to help their operations, the general public also has access to all sorts of information. If they subscribe to the notion that “if it’s on the internet, it must be true” then it’s easy to see how misinformation about agriculture can spread like wildfire.

With all this misinformation being spread on such topics as antibiotic use, GMOs and livestock care, it’s even more important that producers spend time learning as much as they can, not only about practices to help them on their farm, but also about the issues that concern our consumers.

If confronted with questions about antibiotic-use in your operation or about gestation stalls, you need to have a well-thought-out response, so that the consumer can get some good science-based information. You won’t change everybody’s preconceived ideas of what they think goes on in a hog barn, but starting that conversation can go a long way in expanding their knowledge base.

If they want learn about agriculture, and pork production in particular, they might as well learn from the best teachers in the world — U.S. hog producers.

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