EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT PIGS ON NATIONAL PIG DAY

It seems that there are special days for all kinds of things to honor and celebrate. March 1st is National Pig Day. While this has not yet become a recognized Hallmark greeting card holiday, the pig is an amazing animal and does warrant celebrating. We do have a whole month reserved for celebrating pigs & pork during October Pork Month, but an extra day of attention on the pig won’t hurt.

The pig truly is an amazing animal; it’s where bacon comes from so how much more amazing can it be! There are many pork products and by-products that we use in our daily lives that come from pigs. So we wanted to share some information on pigs and how they are raised.

We need to state up front that pigs are not pets. They are raised for food and the many by-products that we get from the pig.

People that raise pigs for their job are called pork producers. Pork producers work 7 days a week, 365 days a year, on the farm providing the best care possible for their pigs.

Most pigs are raised in clean, indoor climate controlled hog barns, so that we can better care for the pigs and they are healthier. Have you ever heard anyone say they sweat like a pig? That’s not true. Pigs can’t sweat – that’s why pork producers use misters in hog barns – like sprinklers in the summer – so they stay cool. In the winter, pigs are kept warm because the buildings have piggies, baby pigs, swineheaters, just like your house.

Baby pigs are raised in special barns with their mothers, called sows. To keep the baby pigs from getting hurt or stepped on they are kept in birthing pens called farrowing stalls. When the piglets reach 10-15 pounds, they are weaned – taken off their mother’s milk and given solid food.   

Pigs eat a balanced diet of corn, soybean meal, and vitamins. Pigs eat a lot.  It takes 5 billion pounds of corn and soybeans to feed all the pigs in Illinois each year. If you filled a big truck to the top, it would take 100,000 trucks to move all that grain! Put them end to end, they would stretch from Illinois all the way to Disneyworld!

Baby pigs weigh about 2 pounds when they are born. In only 6 months they grow to 270 pounds and are ready for market. The pigs are then transported to a processing plant, where they are harvested and then processed into the delicious pork that we eat such as – pork chops, bacon, ham, sausage, ribs, pork burgers, and more.

Pork is the most consumed meat in the world and American pork producers take pride in producing a food they feed their own family, as well as many families worldwide. From farm to fork, U.S. pork producers provide good food at a great value for families nationwide.

Pork is good for you and an important part of your diet. It provides your body with protein that builds muscle and helps your bodies grow. On average, the six most common cuts of pork are 16 percent leaner than 20 years ago, and saturated fat has dropped 27 percent. Including lean pork in the diet can help you lose weight while maintaining more lean tissue (including muscle).

There are also more than 500 pork by-products that come from pigs including life saving items such as replacement heart valves, skin grafts for burn victims and insulin. Other pig by-products are used in making industrial products such as gelatin, plywood adhesive, glue, cosmetics and plastics.

For more than 1,700 delicious pork recipes, tips on cooking pork and many other pork resources visit www.TheOtherWhiteMeat.com and for more information on the Illinois pork industry visit www.ilpork.com.  

Tim Maiers, Communications
Illinois Pork Producers Association

RESPONSIBLE ANIMAL CARE – WHAT’S REALLY HAPPENING

February is Responsible Pet Owner’s Month!  While a lot of folks probably don’t think that livestock farmers think of their cows, chickens, and pigs as pets … well, a lot of them do.  Here’s how we participate in Responsible Pet Owner’s Month – agriculture style. 

Thanks to Rosie for helping us understand reponsible livestock care from a farmer’s perspective!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We have all seen and read numerous articles from humane societies and other organizations about American farmers and our “mistreatment” of animals. Whenever I see one of these articles, I often wonder what the answer would be if I asked the authors of those articles exactly how many farms they have visited lately to see first hand how farmers handle their animals. If I had to guess, it is a very small number, if any.

When people read articles like these, they forget to take one very important thing into consideration: credibility of the author. Even if the authors hold a position of authority for a company or site other sources for their information, I find that the topic of livestock production and treatment of the animals can only be truly understood from a first hand experience. Sure, you could research the topic and find information about it, but how do you really know what is happening on our farms unless you have experienced it first-hand?

As someone with 20 years of experience on a livestock production farm, I would like to take this opportunity to THANK our farmers for their hard work and responsible animal care- this should be a nice change of pace!

Like any typical farm kid, I spent ten years participating in the County 4-H fairs showing cattle and pigs. In those ten years, I got to see not only how my family handles our animals, but how numerous other families handle their livestock as well. I can honestly say that farm families have a great respect for the animals that they raise, in fact, the only minor mistreatment of animals I can remember were caused by pedestrians at the fairs who were unfamiliar with how to properly handle animals. 

Many practices that farmers commonly use are misconstrued by the general public and seen as mistreatment when, in fact, it is helpful to the animal. One example of this is our use of a “show stick” when showing cattle. From a spectator’s point of view, it looks like the people showing the animals are just poking the cattle with a sharp stick. The show sticks are used to communicate to the animal how we would like their feet placed on the ground. As is the case with most large animals, cattle have much deeper nerve endings than humans, so what we would see as a painful poke, they feel as a nudge and they move their feet accordingly. Another main use of these show sticks is to rub the under bellies of the cattle in the show ring to keep them calm and comfort them because they are in a new setting. This is just one of many examples of misinterpreted actions that farmers use when handling animals.

Growing up in a farm community, I also got to see how other farm operations handled their livestock at home on the farm. Once again, I have always seen animals treated with respect and often cared for like members of the family. On our farm, each of our cows is still named and that is how we keep track of them in our record books!

Responsible animal care is an important issue, and thus should not be overlooked. For any skeptics about my claims of good animal care on farms, look into the regulations that producers have to follow that were put into place by government organizations. Just like anyone else, farmers have rules to follow that ensure the well-being of every animal, and from my first hand experience of 20 years on a farm, farmers are glad to follow those rules and would not raise their animals without the care and respect that they deserve.

Once again, thank you farmers for your hard work and responsible animal care! Even though the countless articles that paint a bad picture of our farms continue to come, farmers continue to believe in what they do and the manner in which they do it, and I am proud to call myself one of them.

Rosie Sanderson
Illinois State University student 
Animal Industry Management

ETHANOL BY-PRODUCT : GREAT FOR LIVESTOCK

Ethanol receives a lot of criticism from consumers who don’t always understand how the renewable fuel is produced and that is it not displacing the corn that we eat (because it is made from field corn, not sweet corn).

Most also don’t understand that a byproduct of ethanol is distillers grains which are a valuable livestock feed.  Even livestock producers don’t always grasp how important this option can be, especially when corn and soybean prices are high.

To help livestock farmers better incorporate distillers grains into their livestock diets, the IL Corn Marketing Board funds Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at WIU to analyze distillers grains from ethanol plants across the state.  This information makes the byproduct easier for livestock farmers to use because they can balance their feed rations to provide their herds the best possible nutrition.

Illinois livestock farmers AND Illinois grain farmers care about the health and well-being of Illinois livestock.  Illinois Corn Farmers also care about options for consumers.   Ethanol production represents both.

Visit www.value-added.org/renewableenergy/ethanol/ddgs/ to learn more about Illinois produced distillers grains.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

HIGH FIVE FOR FARMERS!

This video won second place in the Alpharma Student Video Contest! Tori Frobish is a University of Illinois student from the Champaign-Urbana area.

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ANIMAL WELFARE VS. ANIMAL RIGHTS

I grew up on a dairy farm. The experiences and values I gained from that experience have been invaluable to me. I have learned the value of hard work, perseverance, but just as importantly, I learned how to properly care for a cow.  I realize this isn’t a commonly sought after education, but it is one that I am proud of.

I have a strong connection to dairy cattle, especially Holsteins. I milk cows and I’ve shown cows and there is a definite bond I’ve developed with the animals.  Of course, it’s a different bond than you might have with your pet because these cows are my family’s livelihood.

At home, someone gets up to milk the cows at four in the morning and then milks them again at four in the afternoon. Yes, it is hard work, but sometimes the harder work is caring for the cows.  Of course we treat our cows well simply because they deserve it, but also because if the cattle aren’t healthy, they aren’t producing as much milk.  That milk is putting me through college!  As a farmer, you learn to keep this perspective … yes, you love the cows and you take care of them but also, they are animals and not humans.  You cry over the loss of your favorite cow, but in the end you know that you treated that animal with unparalleled care while they were with you.

This is a fundamental difference – the difference between animal welfare and animal rights.  I believe in animal welfare and I can’t think of a farmer that doesn’t.  Animal welfare means that your animals are cared for when they are sick, provided housing in the winter, soft bedding to sleep, feed and water and a clean barn.  Animal rights are about animals having rights, literally, much like human rights. That, I disagree with.

I am thankful for the animals, especially dairy cows, because they provide us with such wholesome products and I am grateful for the role that they play on earth. It is said well in Genesis 1:26, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

Though I know an animal’s place on this earth, I still believe that like anything else in life, the better you take care of something, the better condition it will be in. I have a strong connection to the cows, as does the rest of my family. We see it as more than a job, but rather a passion for dairy cattle. It takes a lot to want to do the incredible amount of work that it requires to raise healthy high producing cows. Animal welfare is a great priority when dealing with dairy cattle and with any livestock operation.

The difference between animal welfare and animal rights is often one that goes unnoticed to consumers. As a consumer, an American, it is your job to know the difference. I believe in animal welfare, and I am sure that you do too, but supporting groups like PETA and HSUS is supporting animal rights, NOT necessarily animal welfare.

As producers, we know the value in animal welfare. As consumers, we hope that you know the difference.

Amy Schaufelberger
University of Illinois student
Daughter of a dairy farmer

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FARM WOMEN LEAVE A STRONG LEGACY

Earlier in November I had the opportunity to visit my aunt in Arizona and to help her celebrate her 98th birthday. Born on a farm in northeastern, IL, this woman has had quite a life as she has lived in cities including Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago as well as traveled internationally. With little prompting, Aunt Vi loves to talk about growing up on the farm. As I listened, I couldn’t help but think about how life has changed for farm women over the past several generations.

My aunt spoke as if it were yesterday about bridling her horse, Beauty, each morning to herd the cows to the pasture and then doing the same each day after school to bring the cows back to the barn for the night. She told me how one fall and winter she and Grandma were “in charge” of the farm while Grandpa was working on another farm some 20 miles away. Each morning, before school, my aunt and Grandma would milk the cows and then load the milk cans in the buggy. With Beauty providing the horsepower, Aunt Vi would take the cans of milk, one from the night before and one from the morning, to the streetcar station in town. There she would unload the milk cans. At 11 years old, less than five feet tall and about 75 pounds this was quite a task. But she said if she timed it right, the streetcar would arrive just as she was backing the buggy to the ramp and the conductor would help her pull the milk cans from the buggy. Each time I look at the milk can that is now a decoration on my porch, I can’t help but thinking about those wintery mornings and seeing my Grandma and aunt caring for those cows.

Like my Grandma, Aunt Vi, and my Mom before me, I have the opportunity to be a partner in our family farm. Although we do not milk cows, our farm involves growing corn and soybeans. My fall days are not spent herding cows, but rather driving a tractor or combine. After the crop is harvested, I find myself preparing annual reports for our landlords and working with my husband to secure inputs for the coming crop year. During the winter months I will attend meetings and conferences representing local corn farmers as their director to the Illinois Corn Marketing Board. Also during these months much of the corn and soybeans that we have grown will be sold and delivered to our customers, both domestically and internationally.

Each time I walk outside and pass that milk can, I think about the many women and men who have had the opportunity to grow food for our brothers and sisters around the world. It is a privilege to work on the farm today, to be a part of this effort to feed the world, and to have grown up with a love of the land in my blood, passed down from my Grandma and Aunt Vi.

For them and for all the strong farm women like them, I continue the legacy and look forward to sharing the joy I get from the farm with my children and grandchildren.

Donna Jeschke
Illinois family farmer, mom, wife &
ICMB Director

CELEBRATE THANKSGIVING WITH PORK!

Forget the gobble gobble – at my house it isn’t Thanksgiving until the ham is sliced. That’s right; our family tradition is to gather around a nice PORK dinner. Yes we have a turkey to maintain the American tradition, but the flavorful ham is the center piece. Growing up on a hog farm, I’m used to spending Thanksgiving being thankful for the fresh ham, bacon, and pork roast that were always available for our table.

pork power food pantry donationFortunately, this Thanksgiving there are quite a few more Illinoisans that can be thankful for fresh meat on their table. Through Pork Power, an effort of the Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA) to provide ground pork to food pantries across Illinois, some of the Illinois residents that must get their Thanksgiving meal from a food pantry will receive a little PORK to go with it.
In a partnership between IPPA, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, and the Illinois Soybean Association, Pork Power has donated more than 42,000 pounds of safe and nutrition ground pork to Feeding Illinois (a group committed to hunger relief and bettering the quality of life in Illinois communities) this year and more than 200,000 pounds of pork over the last three years to feed families in need.
“We are so grateful for this donation of nutritious protein,” said Tracy Smith, State Director for Feeding Illinois. “This donation comes at a critical time with reserves at food banks being very low due to the increase in demand. Food banks have seen on average a 30 percent increase in the number of people seeking food assistance in the past year,” said Smith. “Because of partners like the IL Pork Producers Association, IL Soybean Association, and IL Corn Marketing Board we will be able to put food on the table for thousands of Illinois families.”

So I guess I have yet another thing to be thankful for this year – that Illinois farmers are just as concerned about feeding those in need as they are about feeding themselves. And that in America, even those in need can look forward to a fabulous PORK dish on their Thanksgiving table!

(Check out the awesome pork recipes for your Thanksgiving here!)

Traci Pitstick

Illinois State University student

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NORTH AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL LIVESTOCK EXPO, LOUISVILLE

An upcoming event that brings quite the excitement to the city of Louisville, KY is the North American International Livestock Exposition. The event will be held from November 6th through the 19th. It is a large event where many species of animals will be exhibited. As an exhibitor at NAILE, or a visitor, it is a great way to meet many people from across the United States.

No matter what type of animal you are interested in, at some point throughout the two weeks, they will be present and shown. The best animals will be there to represent their breed. Owners of these animals work for months to get them ready for the show. After lots of special care and grooming, the animals are ready for show. There are junior and open shows, this means that youth will get to show against other youth in the junior show and then at the open show exhibitors of all ages compete. These are some of the top animals of their breed and are not only there to be shown but to also promote the high quality genetics of the breed and the farm or owner that brought that animal to NAILE.

Though the shows are a main part of the exposition, there are many other events to attract people to NAILE. The rodeo is always a hit as it is the Championship for the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association and brings in the Great Lakes Circuit Rodeo Finals. I have never been able to attend the Rodeo, but it is a main event of this Louisville exposition. If the livestock shows and rodeo are not up your alley, there is a “Country Store” to keep you busy. This store is packed with almost two hundred venders. One can buy some good food or a nice pair of boots at this attraction and I have done both. Walking through the store is fun and I normally find something that I need.

In its 35th year, the exposition is still going strong. Take a day to come enjoy the shows and the store and walk through the many livestock barns, one would not be disappointed. If it is not feasible to make the journey to Louisville to take in all the action, check out their website www.livestockexpo.org. There is a press staff, which also includes some student interns from Illinois and Kentucky, which will keep the site updated with current happenings and results, along with some stories from the barns. This site also includes pictures from past years and many schedules of shows and hours for events. So be sure to look at the visitors tab.

For those that are going to show on the green shavings, which is always exciting to see the hard work pay off, to walk through the massive country store, or just to watch and take it in, this upcoming event in agriculture is sure to be worth your time. Try to get this on your calendar and check out the website for event times. If you happen to stroll through the dairy barns be sure to come say hi! Look forward to seeing you there.

Amy Schaufelberger
University of Illinois student

ENTERTAINING AND INFORMATIVE: IS THIS THE WAY TO GO?

It seems that those milk producers are always on the cutting edge.  Here in America, we all realize the popularity of the “Got Milk” ads.  They are almost collectables!  But in Europe, there’s a new breed of dairy farmer and they are hitting television screens for the first time in their new video for Yeo Valley.

http://www.youtube.com/v/qLySx6wSSmo?fs=1&hl=en_US

Intro

The sun is up, the milk is chilled, it’s gonna be a good one, yo yo

Farmer 1
Yo I’m rolling in my Massey on a summer’s day
Chugging cold milk while I’m bailing hay
Yeo Valley’s approach is common sense
Harmony in nature takes precedence
My ride’s my pride
That’s why you’ll never see it dirty
And I love it here man
That’s why I’m never leaving early
I’m so girt
In my cap and my shirt
I’m representing for west
So hard that it hurts

Farmer 2
We make this look easy
Cause we’re proper modern with this farming believe me
Wind turbines they’re shining baby
And solar farming no buts no maybe’s
Ye, when we’re down with the soil association
And we do lots of what, conservation
Sustain, maintain it ain’t no thing
We set the bar
Real leaders by far

Chorus
Yeo Valley Yeo Valley
We change the game, it will never be the same
Yeo Valley Yeo Valley
Big up your chest and represent the West

Farmer 3
This isn’t fictional farming
Its realer than real
You wont find milk maidens
That’s no longer the deal
In my wax coat and boots
I’m proper farmer Giles
Now look
You urban folk done stole our styles
I’m not a city dweller,
Me I like to keep it country
The air is clean and
All those cars will make me jumpy
It’s different strokes
For different folk, my man
Just enjoy the results
Of what we do on the land

Farmer 4
Check out Daisy she’s a proper cow
A pedigree Friesian with know how
Her and her girls they have there own name
We treat them good
They give us the cream

Chorus
Yeo Valley Yeo Valley
We change the game, it will never be the same
Yeo Valley Yeo Valley
Big up your chest and represent the West
Big up your chest…
Represent the West…

Interesting that these European farmers are addressing exactly the same questions we’re trying to address.  They mention that they are sustainable and environmentally conscious … and that they treat their cattle well.  Also, I love the line “Different strokes for different folks, Just enjoy the results of what we do on the land.”

Are Illinois farmers ready to get out there and do something like this that is entertaining and informative?  Does this push the bar too far or just far enough?  Is this the way to get consumer attention and give them permission to get farmers farm?

What are your thoughts?

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director