Day On A Hog Farm: Sharing Practices, Dispelling Concerns

Carissa Odland, DVM, Pipestone oversees production care for Pipestone Veterinary Services ( Photo: Pipestone Veterinary Services )

I recently had the opportunity to host a group of food bloggers at a farm that I am the veterinarian for in South Dakota. Prior to this event, I didn’t have a good understanding of what food blogging entailed aside from a couple quick visits to The Pioneer Woman’s blog. But let me tell you, I learned a lot about food blogging.

The nine bloggers who visited our farm were amazing people who had worked with companies such as Kraft Foods, Bush’s Baked Beans, Taste of Home and even Captain Morgan. Some of them have written cookbooks, and all of them demonstrated an amazing passion for food. In return, I shared my passion for pig farming and our desire to give the best care to our animals.

The bloggers brought a unique perspective to our farm visit, which inevitably led to some candid conversations about antibiotics, animal health and care of the animals. I thought our readers might be wondering about these questions, too:

“Do all pigs get antibiotics here at the farm?”

The first stop on our tour was in the area similar to the “medicine cabinet” and supply room. One of the bloggers asked if all the pigs on the farm get antibiotics. I clarified that we do not give all pigs on the farm antibiotics. As a veterinarian, I took an oath to protect animal health and prevent and relieve animal suffering—so using antibiotics to treat sick pigs or to prevent significant diseases from spreading through a group of animals is of the utmost importance to me. We do use antibiotics because they are an important tool for caring for our animals, when necessary. We also talked about ways we prevent disease and measures we take to keep the animals healthy—such as the vaccinations we give, having our animals inside to keep their environment comfortable, and working with nutritionists to provide the best nutrition.

“How are the mom pigs taken care of while they are at the farm?”

Sow comfort is a top priority on the farm. We had the opportunity to walk through the area where the pregnant sows are located. Our visitors noticed there was “mood music” playing in the background—they enjoyed this surprising find. We also talked about special nutritional needs that change throughout pregnancy and how we are able to adjust to meet these needs and keep the sows healthy.

“What happens when mom pigs give birth?”

As we walked through the part of the farm where piglets were being born (aka farrowing rooms), we discussed how a specially trained individual is checking on the moms every 20 minutes to make sure they are progressing with farrowing. The attendants also dry piglets off as they are born and put them under the heat lamps to make sure piglets warm up quickly. This sounds similar to the steps taken when my children were just born. Some of the bloggers tried their hand at helping deliver piglets. Those who did seemed to glow with pride and excitement when the new piglet was delivered into their arms.

Positive Responses

The bloggers enjoyed seeing firsthand all the actions we take to care for the sows and pigs. Farmers and veterinarians work together to keep them healthy and reduce our need to treat animals with antibiotics.

Sharing this message as well as demonstrating our passion for pigs resonated with the bloggers. It was great to share how we are raising animals to provide the safe, wholesome, delicious food they love and blog about.