Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mangalica Farm - Somewhere in Central Europe

I found some photos on Picasa of a Mangalitsa farm. The photos start here. You can click the right arrow and view all of them.

I like the photo above - you've got the man's eyes and the pigs eye's lined up - they both are looking at the photographer. That blond pig is very cute!

It looks like they farrow indoors with pens. The pens look old and hard to keep clean. That sow is standing up, ready to bite.

You can see in this next photo the pigs have a hole allowing them to get away from their dam (aka "mother") - their greatest danger. You can put particularly rich food in that extra space and only the pigs can eat it.

One thing that's clear from the photo is that the little pigs run around very quickly.

As this next photo shows, walls don't have to be high to contain pigs.

I don't know what sort of stalls they are using in this next photo. You might think it was gestation stalls, but if so, why all the straw? That will just gum up the manure system. I'm guessing they have some special feeding stations for the sows. It looks like they've got a row of 30 of them or so.

It seems clear to me, from looking at it, that they've a pretty big farm, dedicated entirely to Mangalitsa. It doesn't look anywhere near as fancy as the intensive Iberico farms, but they might be competitive if their staff is on top of things.


Tags said...

According to Temple Grandin's book "Animals Make Us Human," a recent study found that straw was the one object pigs enjoyed playing with the most, especially full-length lavender straw. And pigs that got a small portion of unchopped straw (it doesn't have to be lavender) twice a day did not bite each other's tails.

The problem is, one, it's expensive and the supply is limited, and two, it clogs liquid manure systems. She recommends that you only give them a little straw and that you train them to anticipate the arrival of the straw, which maximizes the pleasure they get from it.

Heath said...

I'm not convinced that a little straw will necessarily stop all tailbiting.

In general, that's a problem with recommendations like Dr. Grandin's: you can try the lavender straw method all you want, but what do you do after the first time it doesn't work its magic? Do you keep spending money to try doing it, likely experiencing failure (and losing more money)? Or do you take the conservative approach and solve the problem by the method that works for sure - even if it causes the pigs pain?

In general, farmers are conservative, like people in any low-margin business, because the cost of repeated failure is being forced to exit farming.

Looking at the Central Europe farm, it is hard for me to see what purpose having the straw behind gestation crates would serve. The sows in the crates can't play with it. That's what makes me think they are just in the stalls to eat.