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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Flat Aggie Visits Triple E Pig Farms in Illinois

A huge thanks to the Knox County Pork Producers Association for showing Flat Aggie a pig farm in Illinois.  If you would like to see more from them, they can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!  I am still jealous of the shirt they gave Flat Aggie! ;) A Kansas Farm Mom

Hi.  I’m Flat Aggie and I’m at Triple E Farms in Altona, Illinois.  They have invited me to see their pig farm this week.  Before I could come into their pig barns I had to stay away from any other pigs for a couple of weeks, shower, put on clean clothes and these plastic boots over my shoes. 

 Doing all of this is called bio-security and is to protect their pigs from anything outside of the barn that could make their pigs sick.   For a pig farmer the health and care of their pigs is top priority.   
The next thing I did was meet everyone who cares for the pigs and who will be showing me around the farm.  Starting from the left is Dan who is one of the owners of the farm, Brenda who takes care of farrowing which is where the piglets are born, and Brian who cares for the mama sows before they have their piglets.  
Before we get started I need to tell you a few new words that I learned today.  I have already used a few of them on this page.
    A piglet is a baby pig.
    A sow is a mama pig that has had piglets.
    Farrowing is the process of having baby pigs.
I’m sure there will be more new words to learn later.  
So let’s get ready to see some pigs!
I was able to be there and watch when this newborn piglet was drinking his first drink of milk from his mama!  

The first milk they drink is called colostrum and is VERY important for the newborns to get.  Colostrum has antibodies that are vital to the piglet’s immune system and also contains protein, energy and vitamin D.  Part of Brenda’s job is to make sure every piglet gets colostrum.  You can see these piglets look a little wet and slimy because they were just born a few minutes ago.
These piglets were also born today.   Piglets that were born at the same time to one sow are called a litter. 

 Now we need to count how many piglets this sow had and write that down on a card that all of her information is kept on.  Keeping accurate information is important on a farm.  Can you help me count?  How many piglets do you see?

 The pigs on this farm are raised inside barns that have heaters and fans that keep the pigs warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  Technology is used to make this happen.   I am standing next to a mini computer that turns on the heat when the temperature gets too cool, turns on fans when the rooms get too warm for the pigs comfort and keeps small fans running all the time to keep fresh air moving through the barns. 

The display is showing the temperature of this farrowing room.  Can you read that temperature?  

I learned that farmers look at each and every pig on the farm everyday to make sure they have everything they need to be healthy, comfortable and content, like we are doing here with this mama-to-be and these two and a half week old piglets.  (I think they liked me.)

At around 2 weeks old the piglets will get something extra to eat while they are still drinking milk from their mama’s.  They will get feed that is small that they can easily chew and tastes good, called pellets. This feed will help them get use to eating a dry food.    I can tell you that they love them.  As soon as I put the pellets in that blue bowl they started to eat them immediately!

It snowed a lot while I was here and the snow had to be moved so we could get to the pig barns.  This is just one of the piles.  Of course I had to play on it.  Wouldn’t you?  

Later we had some more fun making snow angels too!  The snow makes for a lot more work for the farmers, but luckily for the pigs, they are inside the barns and don’t have to fight through the snow for water and feed.

So today on the farm we started early because it is Weaning Day!  What does that mean? Well I wondered that too.  When piglets are around 3 weeks old and they are old enough not to need milk anymore, they can eat a solid food like those pellets I put in that blue bowl I showed you earlier this week.  This is called weaning!  Weaning takes a team of people who pick up each pig in each litter, like Dan is doing here, and put them into that green cart with the scale on the front.  

Then each litter is weighed and that number is written down on a sow card that each sow on the farm will have when they have their piglets. 
There can be a lot of information on this card, but at weaning we write down how many piglets were in the litter she weaned and the total amount that the litter weighed (the two yellow arrows).    
Can you figure out how much each pig weighed at weaning?
 How about how much they each weighed at birth?
When all the pigs are weighed they are loaded onto a trailer.
I got to meet Matt today.  He is a nice guy and I got to take a picture with him.  He is a local farmer and a truck driver.  He hauls the weaned pigs on a trailer and takes them to another farm where they will grow.  He knows just how much bedding to put on the floor depending on the weather.  When it is nice out he will use wood shavings but when it is extra cold, like it is now, he will also add some straw to keep them nice and warm for the ride.  It was fun to see the pigs walk and run onto the trailer and play in the bedding.  

Once weaning was done we took a break.  Picking up all those pigs was more work than I am use to.  I had some delicious milk and a granola bar to energize myself for the next job to be done.  We all had a good laugh at my milk mustache!    

Getting the weaning done was not the end of the day.  The farrowing room where the wean pigs came out of is dirty and it has to be cleaned before the next group of baby pigs will be born in the room.  So I had to learn how to power wash!  Brenda said I should wear a rain suit because I would get wet and she was right.  

It’s kind of a wet and dirty job, but it is also an important job because having a clean room when piglets are being born is so important to keeping them healthy.  That thing that Brenda is holding is the pressure washer wand where hot water comes out and blasts the dirt off everything.  Once the room is cleaned, then it will be disinfected and left to dry.

The next day the room is nice and dry, so I’m helping move the next group of mama’s-to-be into it.   The sows just walk right in the room!
They follow the walkways that lead them each to their own farrowing stall where they will have their piglets.  Then, everything I saw this week will start over again.  There will be Brand new piglets born in here in a couple of days.  So exciting!
I met Dr. Fairbrother today.  He is a veterinarian, that means an animal doctor.  You know when someone has a pet, like a dog or cat, that pet is taken into the veterinarian’s office for a health checkup.  Well did you know that on a farm the veterinarian actually comes out to the farm to see the animals?   How cool is that!  

He comes once a month for a regular farm visit.   I went with Dr. Fairbrother as he walked through all the barns and checked on the pig’s health and well-being.  He talked about how the pigs were doing with the farmers.   It was very interesting and I found out that farmers and veterinarians work closely together to ensure the farm has healthy and well cared for pigs.

Before I left the farm I wanted to look one more time in farrowing at the newborn piglets.  It was getting late and all of the sows had been fed and chores were done for the night.  The lights were off with only the heat lamps on to keep the piglets warm and everyone was asleep. I snuck in to get one last picture!  It was a great week and I learned a lot about how farmers raise and care for their pigs.
I hope you enjoyed my adventure at Triple E Farms as much as I did!

If you want to continue your education today, be sure to check out

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