A piglet getting squished by his dam on a Canadian farm.
I was looking at pig videos on YouTube and I found these from Ohio Pork Tour. The videos are part of a campaign to improve the image of their intensive (indoor) swine production in Ohio.
Large-scale, intensive pig farmers have a terrible reputation. As others have explained, the big farmers aren't necessarily the bad guys, and the small ones aren't necessarily the good guys. For example, big farmers can afford to spend money to reduce mortality and pollution in ways that small farmers can't.
I'd normally shy away from such an emotional issue, but the videos they have are so informative, and so hard to otherwise come by, that I though I might as well discuss them.
I'm strictly interested in how they reduce mortality. Issues like "corporate agriculture", the industrialization of animal production and so on are orthogonal to the issue of saving pig lives. The methods they use to save lives actually originated on small farms, and are regularly practiced on them (particularly in winter).
When this farmer explains in this video that when they ran pigs outdoors "they'd (sometimes) have them the next day out it in the dirt lot (in the gestation area), which is not good," he's saying that pigs used to die pointlessly, due to the difficulty of managing them in non-confinement. It is surprising he's so honest about this; a lot of people like to hide their failures. Nevertheless, it doesn't make it easier to look at his crated sows and feel good about things.
Wooly Pigs doesn't have much in common with the intensive farmers in Ohio Pork Tour, but all producers (intensive or extensive), want to produce as many piglets per sow per litter as possible. Indeed, in Spain, the new trend is to produce Iberico, a traditional lard-type hog like the Mangalitsa, indoors. As the Spanish demonstrate, modern production methods (however controversial) are compatible with producing high quality products.
This next video shows how the intensive producers go about weaning the most pigs possible. They put the sow in a crate, which restricts her mobility, making it a lot harder for her to crush and kill her piglets.
Crates look terribly unnatural (like hospitals, they are functional), yet at the very end of this video (the picture at the top is a capture from this), made on a Canadian farm, you can see a cute piglet trying to escape out from under his huge dam (aka "mom"). Without the crate, you'd have more dead piglets.
Farrowing crates (and intensive farrowing in general) save the lives of piglets, particularly in cold weather. Even if farrowing outdoors is done in such a way that piglet mortality is kept under control, it is still stressful and difficult for the humans, who have to work outdoors year-round, and under particular stress in winter, when pigs are most likely to die. It is important to consider the welfare of the human beings running the pigs too.