Proper animal care is in everyone's best interests and livestock farmers have the same high expectations you do when it comes to the care of their animals. From sunrise to sunset and beyond, today's responsible farmers embrace generations of animal know-how and work closely with veterinarians and food safety experts to make sure their animals are healthy and receive compassionate care. Iowa livestock farmers will tell you it's their personal responsibility to care for their animals and they expect nothing less from their fellow farmers.
In fact, many farmers use long-established standards of care, which have been developed with generations of veterinary guidance and the latest scientific research. One example for Iowa farmers who raise cattle is the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program. The BQA is a nationally coordinated, Iowa implemented program that includes best practices around protecting herd health and keeping proper records of each animal.
Responsible Iowa cattle farmers believe and follow the fundamental principles of BQA certification. Learn more about BQA.
Doing things right is important to Iowa hog farmers too, since Iowa leads the nation in pork production, raising approximately 30 percent of the nation's hogs (USDA). The latest advances in feed, housing and veterinary medicine guide the care of their animals. Farmers are also subject to long-established laws and regulations, which set standards of care on the farm. Regular supervision, ongoing research and these certification programs make sure the animals raised in Iowa are kept safe, well-fed and pain-free.
Iowa pig farmers' certification program, better known as PQA+, was designed to show livestock farmers how to best care for their animals and make sure they are kept safe, pain free and minimize their exposure to health risks. These PQA standards guide the care of animals whether they are raised indoors in a ventilated barn, in hoop barns or on pasture. Learn more about PQA certification and standards of care in Iowa.
You should know that in Iowa, more than 14,500 hog farmers are certified in PQA Plus and more than 7,400 people are certified as pig handlers and transporters, (Transport Quality Assurance program) T-QA-certified. Learn more about TQA-certification in Iowa.
Methods of Care
This traditional method of raising hogs is another example of the diversity of hog farming in Iowa. Iowa farmers who raise their pigs this way often farrow pigs on pasture, but then finish them to market weight in hoop buildings. There are obvious challenges to raising pigs in Iowa this way and a greater number of young pigs are lost to extreme weather conditions, illness or predators. Since pigs constantly and aggressively turn over the soil and forage, a large area of rotating pasture space is required to ensure growing pigs have plenty to eat. Pasture grasses don't provide all of a pig's nutritional needs, and supplemental feed has to be provided to keep pigs well-fed and thriving through all of Iowa's seasons. Approximately one to two percent of Iowa hogs are raised on pasture.
These are a popular, lower-cost method for feeding hogs until they are heavy enough to take to market. Hoop barns use straw or corn stalks as deep bedding to absorb manure. A farmer can house upwards of 100 pigs or more in a hoop building. According to Iowa State University and the Leopold Center for sustainability, four to five percent of Iowa farmers raise their hogs in hoop barns. Hoop barns may have to be moved around on a certain tract of farmland to ensure the ground integrity is maintained.
This is the modern hog barn, which can be naturally or mechanically ventilated. This method grew in popularity in Iowa and across the nation because the environment and health of the animals are easier for the farmer to control and monitor. More than 90% of Iowa farmers today raise their animals this way. An animal's diet, weight gain and health are constantly monitored by the farmer and guided by veterinarians. Animal scientists say a pig's natural 'bullying' behavior against smaller animals in the litter can be prevented. Farmers who raise pigs indoors are better able to keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Manure is separated from the pig and held, keeping them safer from disease and preventing environmental run-off in the event of a rainstorm. Manure held from pigs in these barns is an organic, natural fertilizer, and with Iowa farmers also growing more corn than any other state in the nation, it's quite valuable!
For More Information
Learn About Pork Quality Assurance Certification Standards (PQA+)
See inside modern hog barns
Learn about Beef Quality Assurance certification
For more information specific to dairy, chicken, turkey and sheep visit the Animal Ag Alliance
See how the Iowa Pork Industry Center is helping producers adapt and thrive