Farmers and ranchers constantly work toward a common goal – improving conditions for their animals. It’s something consumers care about – and I want you to know we care passionately about it too. It’s critical to get it right.

My family raises pigs on our South Dakota farm, and seasonal weather extremes significantly impact how we care for them. Nine years ago, we moved our pigs from outdoor shelters to a new, technologically advanced barn. Simply put, this improved the living conditions for our animals by providing better comfort and increasing bio security by preventing contact with wild animals and birds which can carry diseases.  Keeping our pigs comfortable, as well as utilizing vaccines and having a strong relationship with our veterinarian, has helped us reduce the need for antibiotics.

Raising healthy pigs is good for the farmer, the consumer, and, most importantly, good for the animals’ wellbeing. I’m very proud of where we are today, and the precise methods we use are the result of years of on-farm and scientific research.

Whether it’s below zero and snowing in the winter, or pushing 100 degrees in the summer, we’re now able to maintain a comfortable room temperature for our pigs. We use a computerized system of fans to constantly circulate air, lower window curtains when it’s heating up outside, run misters to cool down the space at 15-minute intervals, and control ventilation to bring in fresh air 24/7, 365 days a year. The entire barn has slatted floors which keeps the pigs clean.  There is a septic system under the barn which stores the manure until it is time to apply as fertilizer to our crop land. 

Believe me – if the herd is uncomfortable, we notice.  No matter the weather outside, it is a pleasure to walk through the barn and keep a watchful eye on the comfort of the pigs. If they’re exhibiting behavior to indicate discomfort, we can quickly make a change.  Any time during the day or night, we will be immediately alerted on our cell phones by an alarm system if the drinking water isn’t distributing properly, feed is low, or the barn temperature changes too rapidly.  Technology is so important in today’s world and that is no different in farming.  I’m proud to use technology to help improve the comfort and wellbeing of my pigs.

Another benefit of keeping my pigs comfortable year round is they require less feed and water which reduces environmental impact.  We seek a path of continuous improvement in all aspects of our pig farm to drive toward a truly sustainable process.

Farmers and ranchers need to do a better job of showing what we do – especially since our pigs are raised indoors. But no matter the system, indoor or out, monitoring an animal’s health and safety is paramount to a farmer or rancher. All of us in animal agriculture are excited about the improvements we’re seeing in animal welfare, and I look forward to continuing to make our pigs the healthiest and most comfortable in the neighborhood.

*This article originally appeared in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader on March 27, 2016.