Comparison of Winter Farrowing Techniques on 4 Farms for High Value Pork Production for Niman Ranch
Dave Serfling, Dwight Ault, Glen Bernard, and Arvid Jovaag collaborated with the SARE Grant Program and created a project that compared the winter farrowing techniques on their four farms to provide analysis of high value pork production for Niman Ranch Pork Company of Thornton, IA. This two year project consisted of research of farrowing techniques from the four farmers that sold to Niman Ranch Pork Company.
Niman Ranch is a rapidly expanding alternative to the pork market and has paid over 1.2 million in premiums to Midwest hog farmers since 1997. Niman Ranch is endorsed by The Animal Welfare Institute, and has several requirements for their operation, such as not using farrowing crates, antibiotics, or animal by-products while raising the pigs. The project was completed to determine if the farrowing techniques under these requirements could compete with other conventional farrowing procedures. The project consisted of data and observations from the four different farms and examined each of the farms facilities and management techniques.
Elements that were evaluated throughout the project included ventilation practices, the sizes of the pens, waterers, feed troughs and starter hog houses. The project also assessed the temperature and humidity at each of the different locations and focused on the temperatures during the farrowing week at each farm. “As evidenced by our data our four farmers are utilizing much lower critical temperatures than a conventional farrowing barn even with supplemental heat available for the little pigs with the use of the farrowing crates”.
This project demonstrated that farmers could successfully meet the procedures that were set by Niman Ranch and still have similar efficiency compared to others in the industry. “The main objective to this project was to give farmers another choice in hog production. If they choose to use the Niman Ranch approach they will have a solid floor price of 36 cents/cwt with an additional 6 cent/cwt premium.”