Delicious pork comes from healthy pigs. It all starts in farrowing barns where sows give birth to piglets in an environment designed for them to thrive.
In this installment of Dr. Dorman Asks, we go inside a farrowing barn at the South Dakota State University Swine Education and Research Center, where recently graduated animal science major Courtney Sellner goes “live” for an inside scoop on how farmers get piglets off to a great start.
Caring for pigs is nothing new to Courtney. She grew up on a dairy farm where her family also raised pigs, sheep and chickens. When her family stepped back from farming, Courtney leaned in – working on a pig farm in the farrowing barns and pursuing a swine certification along with her degree at SDSU.
Courtney’s passion shows as she details piglets’ first days of life and the meticulous care required. Some of her answers might just sowprize you.
DYK? Newborns weigh two pounds. The mom can weigh 550 to 600 pounds. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important for piglets to have their own space.
DYK? In the first day or two piglets are given an iron supplement as they are naturally anemic. Sows can’t transfer iron to their babies.
DYK? Although sows can’t order off the menu, they can receive feed on demand. Feed intake is monitored closely to keep sows and their piglets healthy.
DYK: Sow diets are specially formulated by nutritionists – a registered dietitian of sorts – who tailor feed to her special requirements.
Piglets stay in the farrowing barns for around 24 days before they are weaned and moved on to a nursery. From there, they move to barns where they grow to reach market weight – a lifecycle that spans six to seven months.
From the moment pigs are born, frequent monitoring, specialized diets, veterinary oversight and high-tech tools help animal caretakers like Courtney keep them healthy from Day One. It’s this commitment on pig farms across the U.S. that ensures a consistent supply of nutritious, high-protein pork products for families here and around the globe.