Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Barn Called CAFO **Part Three**

So, how do CAFOs work? More importantly, why do we even have them?

To answer these questions you need to consider practicality along with functionality. Because of the increasing demand for pork, the most widely eaten meat in the world, swine farming has had to evolve to a faster, more economic way of production. Despite the deceasing amount of rural property available, hogs are still pasture-raised. However, to keep up with the high demand for pork, another more productive method is being used in the U.S., Canada, and around the world--CAFOs.

One misconception is that these large operations are putting small farmers out of business, quite the contrary. Some companies actually contract small farmers to raise company-owned hogs in farm-owned buildings on farm-owned land. That means small farmers are able to maintain their land, expand their business, and have financial security in an economically insecure time. These buildings not only supply farmers with a steady paycheck, they also supply the farmer with a natural, renewable fertilizer that works toward rebuilding topsoil instead of just injecting more and more petroleum-based chemicals year after year like anhydrous ammonia.

These buildings are also fully automated and climate controlled. That doesn’t mean it’s like your slow cooker, you can’t just set it and forget it. Hogs are a 24-hour a day, 7 days a week occupation. The automation just makes the job somewhat less difficult. The temperature, humidity, lighting, feed, and water are all monitored and automated to maintain the ideal condition for optimal health and comfort of the pigs. CAFOs have automated heating, cooling, and ventilation systems; there is also a security feature in the computer system. If the computer senses a problem with any of the automated functions, an alarm will go off notifying the farmer of the problem via cell phone. The barns even have generators in case of power outages.

There are a few different types of swineherd operations and they range in size from 1,200 head to more than 10,000 head. One type is farrow-to-finish; these operations handle it all from the gestating sows to raising the piglets to market weight. A farrow-to-feeder operation only handles sows and piglets and a feeder-to-finish handles the weaned piglets and raises them to market weight hogs. Once piglets reach feeder size and are weaned they go to an open barn with large pins called group housing. This allows plenty of movement and socialization but that’s not where the concern lies, it’s the farrowing stalls that ruffle feathers.

What does the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) have to say about these stalls?

You'll have to come back tomorrow to find out...

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