2018/10/01: The hog industry is losing sows—pigs that are raised solely for the purpose of breeding other pigs—at an increasing rate. Reports vary, but the number shared last year at an annual gathering of pork producers showed a rise in sow deaths from 5.8 percent to 10.2 percent in just the last three years.
As hog farms have consolidated, and the number of pigs each animal gives birth to has also gone up, sows have born the brunt of the changes. Removing the large, up-to-800-pound animals has also become such a challenge on hog barns that a $7,000 motorized removal machine—called the Hercules Arm—went on the market in 2017, promising to “a unique and revolutionary way to effortlessly remove … heavy dead pigs from stalls.”
These animals have been dying for a range of reasons, ranging from accidents, to disease and heart problems, for years. But the recent rise in numbers may be caused by a troubling rise in prolapse—or the collapse of the animal’s rectums, vaginas, and uteruses. And while the industry is scrambling for data and solutions, some experts wonder whether this is just the latest result of the larger trend toward engineering farm animals for profit—regardless of their suffering and early mortality.
“We’ve bred a contradiction into these animals,” says Garces. “Over the last few decades, sows have been bred to have less back fat—because people don’t want to eat as much fat—but we also want them to produce more and more babies. And that’s not biologically possible; their bones are weak and they don’t have enough fat to support the reproductive process. We’ve bred them to their limit and the animals are telling us that,” she added.
ways in which highly focused breeding across the livestock industry has led to unintended consequences.
Take lameness for example, another factor that can lead to early mortality in sows. “Lameness has been a problem for quite a long time,” says Grandin. “What happens is when you select an animal just for production traits, there are going to be some problems with leg conformation [which can lead to lameness]. And people didn’t notice it at first, because it got worse slowly.”
In the late 1980s, Grandin adds, pigs were bred with three traits in mind: rapid weight gain, thin back fat, and a big, huge loin. Now, she notes, “they’re breeding the sows to produce a lot of babies. Well, there’s a point where you’ve gone too far.”
Grandin hasn’t looked into sow mortality as it relates to prolapse, and she says if it is a breeding issue, it’s probably something that can be fixed. But it might not allow for the kind of rapid growth in productivity the hog industry has come to expect.
eating plants isn't going to save us from global warming or other environmental disasters.
Much has been made of the methane emissions of livestock, but these are lower in biodiverse pasture systems that ... may reduce emissions of methane by 70%.
In the vegan equation, by contrast, the carbon cost of ploughing is rarely considered. But since the industrial revolution up to 70% of the carbon in our cultivated soils has been lost to the atmosphere.
So, unless you’re sourcing your vegan products specifically from organic, "no-dig" systems, you are actively participating in the destruction of soil biota
Janez Potocnik was unable to convince his fellow commissioners to publish a strategy for a sustainable food system.
Please note: the author of this article is Australian, and much of the information in the following article applies specifically to that area of the world.
A new study finds that rising temperatures have downsized mountain goats by 25 percent in just 30 years. Cute, but not good.
This journalist is embarking on a project that will use unmanned drones to fly over and document large factory animal farms.
Calculating the chaos and the changed climate.
When I heard that Asia, and particularly China, started to show interest in cheese, I automatically assumed that the French would be leading the race of cheese exports to the region. How wrong I was. Australian
This article has been corrected.
Protein is a shrinking part of the diets of humans and animals. The deficiency is spreading rapidly across the world, but is particularly pronounced in Africa, even though many sources of protein can be
A report from the CDC reveals the grave dangers of antibiotic resistance and says factory-farmed animals are a big contributor. What would our healthcare system look like if we couldn't perform surgeries, administer chemotherapy, replace joints, treat diabetes? It would be the end of modern medicine as we know it. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control warns we could be headed toward that very future.
In my Google Earth-enabled virtual travels around Saudi Arabia looking for oil wells and such, I have come upon many strange sights. Some of these are of natural origin yet can only be appreciated from a satellite's perspective, as is the case for this tidal pool located near a gas oil separation plant for the Safaniya oil field:
You might as well face it.
Can insects feed a growing global population? - CC, click on image for license and information.
Fly larvae-chomping Austrian designer Katharina Unger unveils a conceptual at-home tabletop bug-breeding machine dubbed Farm 432.
How does pasture-raised meat get from the ranch to the plate? We found out on a recent tour of Marin Sun Farms.
India is famous for its native cattle. But, thanks to cross-breeding with non-native dairy cattle breeds, India risks losing its genetic heritage for good.
Jeremy Grantham, a well-known presence in the financial world, recently published a World View column in the journal Nature in which he concludes that, "simply, we are running out'' of almost all commodities whose consumption sustains modern civilization. There is nothing new about such claims, and since the emergence of a vocal global peak oil movement during the late 1990s, many other minerals have been added to the endangered list. Indeed, there is now a book called Peak Everything. What makes Grantham's column - published under the alarmist headline "Be Persuasive. Be Brave. Be Arrested (If Necessary)" - worth noticing, and deconstructing, is that he puts his claims in terms more suitable for tabloids than for one of the world's oldest and most prestigious scientific weekly magazines.
Mitigation or adaptation? It's usually an either/or choice: either we work on ways to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere or we find ways to adapt to new conditions created by climate change, including reducing society's vulnerabilities and raising its resilience. Fighting to close a coal plant or developing green energy alternatives,
Anyone who has struggled to protect a community from the damage caused by an industrial livestock operation can attest that the task is exceptionally difficult, requiring courage, fortitude, and substantial investment of time, money, energy and effort. It's an uphill battle, a lopsided fight in which all odds are stacked in favor of industrial livestock proponents