Compiled by Farm Journal's PORK
Farmers are exhausting all options to move animals as the backlog of market-ready hogs continues to grow.
“Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we're facing animal care and marketing challenges – the likes of which we have never seen before and I hope we never see again,” says Dave Pyburn, DVM, chief veterinarian for the National Pork Board.
Pig farmers are doing what they can to slow down growth, find extra space in their barns, move pigs outdoors and more, in order to delay marketing for as long as they can.
Here are five thoughts from pig farmers as they grapple with the impact of COVID-19.
“Our ace in the hole is as these pigs get too heavy for marketing, we have the option that we can change the rations and pretty much stall the pigs out on gains. We think we can do that humanely, but it is costly because we will continue to feed the pig and they will not gain. Obviously, our cost of gain is going to go up, but at some point, the pigs are going to get too big.” -Pat Duncanson, Mapleton, Minn.
“As a mom, not being able to feed your family is very scary. In this situation where we are worried about how we will pay our bills, thankfully I have freezers full of pork. Going hungry is not at the top of our list. It's everything else. We have a little bit of flexibility right now, but that will run out sooner rather than later.” -Heather Hill, Greenfield, Ind.
“The hog production system is kind of like a water hose. You can turn the water off, but it doesn’t immediately turn off. The pigs will keep coming. We are backed up about 60 loads, but if that continues another two or three weeks, it will become a very serious situation. I don’t know how well ever catch up without euthanasia. We’ve had a supply shock, now we’re having a processing shock.” Jimmy Tosh, Henry, Tenn.
“As farmers, we are often the ‘rocks’ in our community. We carry a lot on our shoulders. I’ve been seeing so many farmers watch everything they’ve worked for disappear before their eyes. It’s devastating. When that happens, we have to pay extra attention and make sure we are constantly checking in on each other and helping each other through it.” -Chris Hoffman, McAlisterville, Pa.
“The decision of what pigs are going to be marketed right now was made six to 10 months ago when that sow was bred and when that pig was put on feed. There’s very little fluctuation of when that’s going to market. I’m extremely concerned but I don’t know if there’s anything we can do differently besides just hope and pray.” – Mike Haag, Emington, Ill.