NATIONAL PIG DAY
The state of Iowa is the nation's number one pork producer, supplying about
25 percent of US production. New York ranks far down the list but the smaller-scale
producers can make raising swine profitable by keeping expenses down and paying close
attention to the health of the herd. Bob Ridley's farm utilizes five boars- or males and
36 sows- the females, counting on litter sizes of nine or ten. It takes eight weeks for
the babies to reach 50 pounds. Then they're sent off to a finishing farm, where the pigs
will grow to over 200 pounds before slaughter.
RIDLEY: We spend a lot of money on our boars. We buy boars that are all tested for litter
size, weight gain, feed conversions, back fat and loin eye. Your loin is like a piece of
prime rib, just prime pork. Now, today with the new lean meat situation, we're trying for
the very least amount of back fat on a pig that we can get.
It's vital to be aware of the pig's breeding schedule, preparing for a new crop of
piglets every five weeks. The sow crates need to be washed down and sterilized. All pigs
need vaccinations against disease, worms and parasites. Historically, the hog market has
followed a four year price cycle. One year brings quite low profits, followed by high
returns, then two years of moderate profits.
RIDLEY: Out in the midwest, in the hog belt, the prices are a lot better out there.
They'll follow more of a trend. Here, in New York state, it's a small pork producing
state. Weather conditions, feed quality- everything has an effect on our markets somewhat.
Our pork production nationwide, has been going up consumption-wise by at least ten to 12
percent each year. And the forecast for this coming year is the same.
The pig is actually one of the animal kingdom's smartest animals. It won't roll around
in its own filth and uses a mud hole to keep cool, not because it enjoys getting dirty.
Ridley says pigs are a generally calm. He's never been bit or knocked over. He also notes
that pigs won't overeat. Even the marketing weight is cautiously kept from topping the
RIDLEY: When you get over that 240 or 260 mark, then you're putting on a lot of fat. So
actually when that pig is growing out, you want him to eat all he can eat. But he won't
eat any more than he can utilize and turn into tissue. A finished pig is 220 to 240
pounds- and that keeps the fat off 'em..it's mostly what we call muscle, it's meat itself.
To the animal rights groups and those against the slaughterof animals, swine farmers
respond that they're just trying to make a living. And they're meeting the rising demand
of consumers for pork and pig product. It's noisiest around feeding times. But a quiet
barn means animals are not under stress, in their air conditioned or heated environments.
Ridley says he looks at his animals as his pets. And he and his wife do have a pig,
Penny, as a housemate.
RIDLEY: We give him his shots twice a year for disease control and for parasites. No
problems at all. It has its litter box. It has the run of the kitchen and dining room.
And oinks and squeeks his nose under the refrigerator when he wants his carrot at noon,
and we feed him morning and night. It can be the most comical thing: sometimes he'll
hase the dog and sometimes the dog chases him. He'll rout the dog out of its bed so
that the pig can take it over.
Bergen, New York swine farmer Bob Ridley. Bill Flynn, WXXI 1370.