CHAPTER 22

Hogs

OVERVIEW

As with cattle, the hog-production cycle begins with the successful birth of pigs into a hog-producing operation. There are three commonly used methods of reproduction. The first entails introducing one or more boars (sexually mature males) into to a herd of sows (mature females that have already reproduced) and gilts (young females that have not reproduced). The second method places a boar together with just one sow or gilt, after which the animals are monitored to ensure that mating takes place. The final method is artificial insemination. It is by far the most labor intensive of the three methods, but it is also the easiest in terms of introducing new genetic content.

Boars are usually purchased by hog producers for reproduction purposes and have a work life of about two years. Sows are bred for two to three years before being sold for slaughter. Mating generally occurs twice a year to ensure a steady flow of new pigs for the production process.

The gestation period for a pig is approximately 110 days, and a sow has an average of 9 to 10 piglets in a litter. The piglets are weaned after three to four weeks, at which point the average litter size has declined to 8.7 piglets due to death from suffocation, disease, weather conditions, or other causes.

Young pigs are separated by sex after weaning in order to more efficiently deal with their differing nutritional requirements. The diet of young pigs is high in grains, generally a mix of corn, barley, milo, ...

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