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It’s pork congress season: Be a sponge

Don’t get comfortable with your hog production knowledge level; keep challenging yourself for what lies ahead.

You’ve raised hogs your entire life. You’ve seen pseudorabies come and go. You’ve seen porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome come and stick around. You’ve endured porcine epidemic diarrhea. And now, you’re waiting (along with the rest of your pig farming colleagues) to see if African swine fever makes its way into the American pig crop. With all that you’ve been through and survived, that means that you know all there is to know about raising pigs. Right?

Well, living through it and surviving do not necessarily mean that you have become all knowing in the world of pig farming.

From the beginning of time, Adam had domain over the beasts of Eden, so he had had to pick up some knowledge of how to tend to them. I hope Noah had some husbandry skills as he loaded the Ark two-by-two. According to Iowa State University’s “History of Veterinary Medicine” written in 1939, it is said that Moses established a meat inspection system practiced by the Jewish people in packing houses.

ISU’s tome also includes that a few hundred years before Christ, Hippocrates described hydrothorax in oxen, sheep and swine, and mentioned the dislocation of the hip joint of cattle following a lean winter. Aristotle (384-326 B.C.) discovered some of the diseases of swine, dogs, cattle, horses, asses and elephants.

Regardless of the origin of animal husbandry, or who gave birth to veterinary medicine, anyone who tended to animals in the years before Christ, or since, heck even just 30 years ago, would be embarrassed by how little they actually did know. I am not diminishing the efforts and the cranium capacity of the great physicians (for humans and animals) before our time. Great medical breakthroughs and discoveries were made by great minds. And the breakthroughs of the great minds of today, will pale in comparison to what the future great minds will bring to the table and to the hog barns.

Could Noah have envisioned PED on the Ark, or would Aristotle have recognized the PRRS cycle that it would hit the herd again Oct. 15, 320 B.C.?

Brilliant minds are constantly challenged to stay focused and to continue to grow and learn. Practice that same approach in your operation. You may know everything that there is to know about your operation and the pigs in that barn today. But, what will that next load of weaned pigs bring into your barn. Oh, they may look the same as the last batch, but what will be under the skin?

No doubt, you have a team of experts helping you raise your pigs. But, your nutritionist, veterinarian or financial adviser cannot be in your barns every day. They rely on the expertise from you to give them the intel from the inside. That means that in addition to closely monitoring the hogs inside the barn, you need to keep tabs on what’s going on outside your operation. Keep challenging yourself.

Not that hog production takes a day off, winter can be a good time to challenge your brain, and there are many opportunities to learn more about the U.S. swine industry. Most states with pork producer associations have had, or will be having, their annual meetings (many of which can be found in our Pork Industry Calendar). Most of those have an educational component, such as seminars or at least a keynote address. If nothing else, most of these meetings include opportunities for certification or recertification of PQA-Plus or TQA.

Do as I do as I attend various meetings and workshops: be a sponge. Just try to soak up as much information as you can. Our industry will continue to change, and we will be faced with challenges in the future, so we might as well be as prepared as possible.

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