Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Power of a Simple Thing

It is interesting to me to see the power of a simple thing.

Consider the proposed rules for the care of swine being considered by the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board. Specifically, 901:12-8-02 C2 which says that in outside housing "wallows are allowed for thermo-regulating". I am on the subcommittee that passed this language on to the full board so I have to take some of the credit/blame for this wording.

Let's think about this for a minute. The Care Board is in effect saying, "O.K. Mr. farmer person, if you house your pigs outside you may allow them to dig a hog wallow to cool themselves in the summer or warm themselves in the winter." Like any farmer person could stop a hog from doing that!

But wait. A farmer person can stop a hog from digging a wallow.

It is called a cement truck and a fence (concrete lot).

Now a whole chain of events has just started. Along with the concrete lot comes a building for shelter and something to provide water. Then some form of bedding will be needed to keep the animal comfortable. With the bedding comes a manure spreader and lice and mange. Bedding and manure spreaders mean only one thing to a farmer, work. So the building gets fancier and and more expensive with the addition of slotted floors, cooling fans, heaters, misters, etc.. Would you be surprised to learn farmers are always looking for an easier way?

Somewhere along the way the farmer realises that the pigs are healthier in these buildings. All the nasty recurring diseases that live in hog wallows have disappeared and the medicine bill has gone way down. So the farmer person says to himself, "You know what? I don't miss those hog wallows and all the work and sickness."

Here is a short video to illustrate what the farmer figured out:

 Because the buildings are expensive they have to be operated to capacity to generate income to pay for the building. Since the building likely required debt to finance it, the banker wants to know that this income is secure. So the farmer contracts with suppliers and end users to create a stable economic flow. Having created a stable economic flow (reduced risk) the farmer pretty soon figures out that if he wants to make some additional income for the family to have nice things he simply needs to build more barns.

See how this one simple thing, a hog wallow, has the power to turn an industry? If the Care Board were to ban the hog wallow, a fairly straight line exists to where the industry is today. Pigs inside, cared for by farmers, on contract to end users, in ever larger organizational structures.

If you allow hog wallows, will the industry start housing pigs outside again?

Something to think about.

1 comment:

  1. The corresponding thought is that the pork industry is driven by consumer wants through market demands. The market demanded by the consumer leaner pork, so through genetic modification we raise leaner pork, which means less body heat from intramuscular (IM) fat in the hogs. Which means as producers or caretakers we were respinsible to keep them healthy and warm. SO we put them inside on feed regulated systems in temperature controlled barns. All of this runs parallel to Chuck's thought of hog wallows. But the consumer want (end product of lean pork) has worked as much as the concern for proper care to ge tthe industry where it is today. If we take hogs back outside with the genetics that many of them carry today, they will have a very hard time sustaining themselves and we will be at square 1 again with disease and extra amounts of work.