Minnesota Pork Congress – prop 12

When I attended the Minnesota Pork Congress earlier this week, I sat in on a breakout session about Prop 12.

*** Just as a reminder – Prop 12 was a ballot initiative passed by the state of California which requires specific housing space requirements for sows (as well as other livestock). If farms don’t meet the requirements, we are unable to sell pork in California. To say it is creating chaos in the pork industry is an understatement.

The changes required will cost thousands of dollars—all at the expense of pig farmers. A farmer may receive a small premium if barns meet the new standards, but all building costs are on the farmer’s backs.

Can we just ignore California?

California is a big pork market. Approximately 13% of pork is sold to California. So we can’t just ignore them, even though many of us would like to do so.

But I want to share some charts that were presented at the Minnesota Pork Congress. These charts reflect research done at the Pipestone System. Granted, Pipestone Systems is a very large pig farm with multiple sites, but the charts are eye-opening even if it is only one farm system.

The charts show the differences between stalls, pens and Prop 12. Stalls would be gestation stalls where sows are housed during pregnancy. Pens are open pens where sows are housed but don’t meet Prop 12 housing requirements. 

Let’s take a look:

Lameness

Lameness means sows who have a hard time moving and walking. What causes this? One of the most common causes in this scenario is sows who fight each other or injury. Sows have a social hierarchy where they have to determine “king sow.” This is done by fighting. You can see the differences between the different housing methods. Treating (usually drugs) sows for lameness and showing the difference is significant in my opinion. 3.5% in stalls and 10.2% in Prop 12.

Let’s look at the next chart:

Injections

This chart shows the number of injections per week. Remember, all drugs administered are approved by veterinarians. As farmers, we need prescriptions for our animals just like humans. But again, a major difference between stalls, pens and Prop 12.

And the last chart:

Death Loss

And the last one is death loss. More sow deaths in a Prop 12 environment.

And this is about animal welfare?

Obviously, it is not.

Now, I must say this is one farm system. There are certain things that can be done to improve this situation such as gating changes, dry flooring and genetic changes. I am sure it can improve, but not without significant costs.

It’s just so hard to look at this and feel like people who know nothing about raising pigs can dictate to pig farmers how they should raise their pigs. And look what happened.

Reminds me a lot of our government.

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