We have had a very special visitor on the farm for the last two weeks! Flat Aggie, Flat Stanley’s cousin, travels all over the United States visiting farms and ranches to learn about agriculture. We had the pleasure of hosting Aggie for a few weeks during farrowing season, so he learned all about the pigs and how we help them when it’s time for them to have their piglets. I’ll let him tell you all about it.
Hi! Flat Aggie here!
For the last two weeks I’ve been staying in Walnut, Illinois. Can you find that on a map? Walnut sits right in the north-central part of the state. Illinois weather gets nice and warm in the summer, but I learned it can get very cold in the winter months.
On the farm, I met William and Gracey who raise pigs and grow corn and soybeans. It’s farrowing season on the farm, which means the sows, or mother pigs, are having babies! I had so much fun helping them take care of the piglets.
It has been extremely cold while I’ve been here. The temperature dropped to 20 below zero the first few nights I was here. I couldn’t help but wonder how the pigs stay warm, so Gracey showed me around the farm and I learned they keep their sows in small houses bedded down with straw. The houses help to block the wind (and believe me, they have a lot of wind here), and the straw keeps them clean and dry. Pigs also really like to snuggle up to keep each other warm.
When the sows are ready to farrow, or give birth, they get moved into farrowing crates in the barn. Farrowing crates are designed to keep the sow in place so that she can’t flop down and squish her babies. The sows have access to water and feed in their crates at all times. Check out the sow using her water drinker below!
William moved this sow into the crates during my visit. I helped teach her where her drinker was by pressing down on the nozzle and showing her where the water comes out. It didn’t take her long to learn that by biting down on the nozzle, she can have water to drink whenever she wants. That’s pretty neat!
I thought the farrowing crates looked a little strange at first, but it turns out they are very helpful in protecting the piglets during their first few weeks of life. The sow can lay down to nurse, but the bars on each side of her make sure she lays down slowly. The piglets have the freedom to run around behind and underneath her, and the farmers don’t want the sow to accidentally lay down on them.
Oh- and do you see that light above the piglets? That’s a heat lamp. Piglets like to be nice and warm, so not only does William keep the farrowing room temperature set around 70 degrees, but he hangs heat lamps for the piglets to lay under. I got to lay with them for a bit. I can see why they like it- it feels like laying in the warm sun in the summertime!
It was a lot of fun playing with the piglets, but we had work to do too. William has to regularly clean out the pig’s pens so they can stay clean, dry, and healthy. I helped him scoop manure. Yuck! But I learned they can save the manure to use as a fertilizer on their fields next spring. Plus I got to drive the tractor a little bit too, so I guess chores aren’t all that bad.
After cleaning pens, we went back outside to feed the sows. Can you guess what pigs eat? I’ll give you a hint- Illinois is a top producer of the crops that go into pig feed. If you guessed corn and soybeans, you’re correct! William can use the manure from the pigs to fertilize his fields, and after growing the crops, he feeds the corn and soybeans to the pigs and the cycle can start all over again. That’s just one of the ways William and other pig farmers are working to be resourceful and sustainable.
I thought it was funny how the sows knew it was time to eat when we turned on the Ranger. They came running right away. Corn and soybeans must be pretty tasty!
Raising pigs is tough work, so on the final night of my visit, William and Gracey took me out to have some fun. Their county Farm Bureau held their Annual Meeting, followed by a Foundation Trivia Night! The Foundation helps raise money for their Ag in the Classroom program, which teaches students in the county all about farming and agriculture. I thought it was a great cause, so I helped them out by selling raffle tickets. I think I did a pretty good job!
Well, it’s time for me to go. I had a great time at William and Gracey’s pig farm. I learned so much and even got to have a little fun after my chores were done. I can’t wait to come back and visit, but until then, it’s off to my next Agmazing Adventure! Bye!