Good morning everyone! We were so happy to welcome Flat Aggie to our farm today. We are reporting to you from near Muscatine, Iowa.
My name is Jennifer and my husband Robb manages the finishing barns on our family farm. In addition to these hog buildings, we also raise beef cattle, corn, soybeans, and hay. We also have two little boys that love to farm.
We have two finisher barns; each holds about 1250 pigs in pens of about 25 pigs. We do not have any sows on our farm at all. Instead we are what people call a “contract grower”. This means that we have a contract with a big sow farm to take their baby pigs and raise them until they are ready to go to market.
Aggie was surprised to find out that we don’t actually own any of these pigs. Instead, we are like babysitters for the pigs. We feed them and take care of them, and give them medication when they are sick. In return, the sow farm pays us to take care of the pigs.
Our two barns sit side by side with the feed bins in the middle. The finisher barns are long and narrow, with a center aisle and pens on both sides. The sides of the buildings are actually curtains, which will automatically go up or down, depending on the temperature in the buildings. In the summer, they are all the way down for cooling. In the winter, they are all the way up to keep the pigs warm.
Aggie was hoping to see little piglets, like she had justseen in Illinois, but the pigs we have in the barns right now are a lot bigger than that. On today’s visit, they are 4 months old and weigh about 150 pounds. They arrive in our barns when they are about 18 days old and weigh about 10 -12 pounds. They stay until they are about 6 months old and weigh 285 pounds, at which time they are shipped off. That’s a lot of growth in a short period of time! This means that we fill and empty our barns twice a year – 5000 pigs a year!
Have you ever heard the phrase “eats like a pig”? Well, in our barns, that means the pigs have food and water in front of them all the time. They never run out of feed. Aggie thought that would be nice, as long as the feeders were filled with chocolate instead of pig feed. We showed her the big bins where our feed is stored. We do not mix our own feed. Instead it is delivered from the feed mill in big trucks. We get different feed for the pigs at different ages, because they need different nutrients at different ages. We told Aggie about the mushy baby pig food that we put on mats for the piglets to eat in the beginning, and then they move on to the dry feed in the feeders when they are a little older.
The feed in our buildings is automatically delivered to the pigs by a big white plastic tube that contains an auger. It runs from the bins outside into the building, where it then runs the entire length of the building, dropping feed into each feeder as it goes along.
We never have to feed the pigs ourselves – we just have to make sure the bins never run empty and the auger always works.
Aggie was a bit nervous to climb to the top of the bins to check feed, so we showed her how to tap on the outside of the bin to hear if it’s empty.
Our pig feed is a mixture of corn, soybeans, and many other things like minerals and vitamins. It contains everything that the pigs need to grow fast and lean. Aggie got right down into the feeder to check things out, but we had to rescue her before the pigs got too close!
We showed Aggie our medication barn, where we store any medicine and vaccines that we may need to give to the pigs in our barns. We explained to her that we have to be very careful with medications and only use them when absolutely necessary
We will try to get Flat Aggie cleaned up so she can head off to her next big adventure. We hope the next farm will forgive her for smelling a bit like a pig! Thanks for visiting, Aggie! Come back in the summer when we can ride horses to go check cows.