The Truth about Gestation Stalls
My family as well as my husband's family have been farming for well over a hundred years. We have lived through the Dust Bowl, the Depression, multiple world wars, the drought of 1988 and the pork market crash of 1998 (and now we will survive the most devastating drought of them all - 2012).
We have farmed through the best of times and the worst of times.
When many neighboring farmers changed career paths and moved to town due to difficult economic times, we stayed in, even when we were barely getting by.
Despite the fact, that my husband and I could've taken on careers that would've allowed a more luxurious, carefree lifestyle including nights and weekends off, paid vacation and benefits galore, we instead opted to continue the family tradition of farming and raising livestock.
My hubby works late nights almost daily, he works in blistering hot and freezing cold temperatures, getting away from the farm is always a challenge, he works with animals that injure him regularly ... he does it all because he loves to farm and he loves the animals. And most of all, it's a family tradition and we want to provide that same opportunity for the next generation like Miss RayRay.
But, we have evolved since our ancestors started farming in the late 1800s. And there is a reason.
I'm sure in your profession, whether it be nursing or teaching, there have been numerous improvements over the course of the last 100 years.
So it's only natural that farmers also evolve and incorporate the latest in technology to care for their livestock and grow their crops. And the best folks to determine that evolution are the ones in the field, the ones working in the barns with livestock, daily. Farmers, you know, the ones who provide blood, sweat and tears, daily, to make sure their animals are happy and healthy and that we have enough good, wholesome crops to feed a demanding hungry world.
Lately, I have witnessed a great attack on farmers and their use of gestation stalls. An attack I take pretty personally.
The question is ... do we have gestation stalls on our farm? Yes, we do.
|One our pigs lounging in her individual stall|
I'm sure many of you have seen videos and images of pigs housed in gestation crates. I have too, and it makes my stomach sick. Not only does it make my stomach hurt, but it makes my heart hurt, because I see things so much differently - we take great pride in how healthy our pigs are and how well cared for they are.
We are not some huge corporation, we are a family farm and we work daily to ensure our pigs have the best care, the best environment, and the best nutrition possible. What you don't see in some of those images are pigs housed in a group-pen or even outdoor group pen setting.
When we got started farming, we were still raising some pigs outdoors and some in deep-bedded group pens. So we have the personal experience to compare gestation stalls and group pens. And let me tell you, pigs are not the image of health and happiness in a group pen - they are beat up, scraped up, bloody and toothless.
|Does this look like a healthy, happy pig? Poor baby is all beat up!|
I'll be downright honest, some hogs are quite violent and will actually gang up and kill the weaker ones in a group setting. They bite tails, ears, vulvas (sorry if that's TMI, just being honest!), throw each other against a wall, butt the weak ones away from water and feed, constantly. And you do your best to group them by size, but it's not always even about size - some pigs are just mean!
You will NEVER have that scenario in a gestation stall, never ever. Every pig on our farm gets individual health care, individualized feed rations and their own personal water nipple and no boss sow is ever going to push anyone around (except my husband!) and injure another pig. I'd invite you to visit a pork farm and see for yourself!
We have evolved in the pork industry to house our pigs in gestation stalls and farrowing stalls for a reason and specifically for the health and safety of the pig. We are utilizing the best in technology including climate controlled barns so our pigs don't get cold or overheat (remember pigs can't sweat), state-of-the art flooring to allow for the cleanest bed for our pigs to sleep and rest on, ventilation systems, cooling cells, automated feeders and the gestation stalls give our pigs every opportunity in the world to eat and drink as much as they want in peace without getting beat and abused by their fellow pig neighbors.
|Baby piggies born in a farrowing stall (different from a gestation stall). Aren't they cute?!|
Click here for the full story on how our piggies are raised, housed and cared for, daily.
It's frustrating when people who have no idea what our ancestors went through to give us this opportunity to farm, folks who have never picked up a shovel to clean a cattle pen, or woke up at 3 a.m. to care for hogs when the power goes out, to tell us how to farm and how to care for our animals. If someone sitting in an ivory tower wants to tell me the best way to care for our pigs, then I'd suggest they get a job at a pig farm and see for themselves exactly why we do what we do and exactly what it takes to care for hogs.
My plea to you as a farmwife, mom and fellow consumer is not to be blinded by one-sided images from animal activists groups who do NOT have the best interest of the pig at heart - because let's face it they haven't worked a single day in a livestock barn - they don't know what it takes to farm and care for animals.
Talk to a farmer, they will tell it to you straight, every time. Visit a farm, see for yourself, I dare you!