America’s pork producers take pride in their operations. Farming is a way of life, and many pork producers are managing farms that have been passed from generation to generation. A producer's job is to make sure the pigs are cared for and healthy so that they can produce a wholesome product for consumers around the world, regardless of how many pigs are in their care.
Today, pigs are raised in a variety of different ways, both indoors and outdoors. There are 3 basic production systems that producers manage when raising pigs:
The word "farrow" means to give birth to piglets. The farrowing barn is where baby pigs are born. Heat lamps in the farrowing barn keep the piglets warm. Piglets drink milk from the mother sow until they are 3-4 weeks old or they weigh 10-15 pounds. Most sows give birth to 2 litters a year of about 8-12 piglets each time. At a farrow-to-wean farm, the producer will sell the pigs to nursery farms once the pigs are weaned.
In a nursery building, pigs get a carefully planned diet of corn, wheat, soybeans and other grains. Pigs spend close to 6 weeks in the nursery. At a farrow-to-nursery farm, the producer will sell the pigs to a finish farm when they weigh 40 – 60 pounds.
In a farrow-to-finish farm, the producer is involved in all stages of production, from farrowing through finishing. When the pigs reach approximately 250 pounds, the producer will bring them to market.
Most pigs are raised in barns to protect them from the weather. Some farms have the technology to have the pigs’ feeders connected to the grain bins, which store most of the pigs’ food. Pigs also drink lots of water from the waterers in the pens. During the summer, when it gets hot, the pigs are kept cool by large fans and water sprinklers. In the wintertime, most barns have heaters to keep the pigs warm and comfortable.