Iowa is exactly the right place to raise pigs

Gregg Hora

October is Pork Month. Consumers here in Iowa and across the U.S. should be aware that pork is a great value now with all our retail and restaurant partners. Pork is nutritious, safe and very diverse with menu and meal planning. Iowa pig farmers are doing what is right for Iowa.

You may be surprised that I have this much enthusiasm about pork production, given the weather, and market challenges that have been in the path of not only pig farmers this year, but for all farmers in Iowa. However, I’ll say it again. Not only is Iowa the exact right place to raise pigs, this is exactly the right time to be in the pig business.

Don’t misinterpret my words. I know this may not be the best of times, I am not having the best year ever on my farm. There are certainly concerns and worries that keep me up at night, like most farmers are aware of in our farm businesses.

So, why would I say this is the right place and now is the right time?

Continuous improvement.

Continuous improvement for Iowa pig farmers means we are always looking for ways to improve, even when things are going well. When we are financially challenged, we are looking even harder for ways to improve. We search for the big and the small adjustments that make us better at raising healthier pigs, producing tastier pork, and improving the safety of our families, our employees and our communities.

Iowa’s pig farmers believe in continuous improvement. If we can improve the pork products our consumers receive, or the way we raise our pigs, or the things we do to keep the environment safe for our families, our neighbors and communities, we do it.

When it comes to managing our farms, we do the right things for the right reasons. That’s where our commitment to transparency comes in. When mistakes are made, we fix them immediately.

Iowa pig farmers know that consumers, and our friends and neighbors are watching us and asking questions. That’s okay, pig farmers are willing to tell our story, show our farms and practices when available, and are good at adopting new science, technologies and methods.

Why do we raise pigs indoors in modern buildings? It provides the pigs with an environment designed especially for them, and protects them from sweltering hot summer days, chilling harsh winter weather, and the sloppy, wet weather that has been in Iowa so much this year.

These buildings also allow for total containment of manure. I know that wasn’t always the case, but remember that I talked about continuous improvement? That’s one of the things that has allowed for tremendous improvements in environmental protection. There are many crop acres in this state which is exactly where we can use the nutrients from manure to grow corn and soybeans.

Farmers are the true environmentalists. Soil health and water quality are important to all farmers. We recognize the importance of these issues to maintain productive land and preserve an environment that will allow our children and even our grandchildren to follow in our farming footsteps if they choose.

And it’s not that managing manure in Iowa is easy. Manure is highly regulated in Iowa, and Iowa pig farmers are working within those regulations. Producers must meet requirements for certification to apply manure and do so based on Manure Management plans and crop needs.

We have the right resources here. Abundant farmland with improved soil organic matter with the use of manure develops healthier living soils. And, I’m going to say it again. We have abundant farmland that produces the crops we need for feeding pigs, so it’s a relationship that provides manure to land just outside the barn door, and feed to animals who live surrounded by corn and soybean fields.

Another invaluable resource we have here is farmers who are knowledgeable about the best ways to treat animals to keep them safe and comfortable. We have more important people resources here in Iowa teaching and training the next generation of farmers at the high school, community dollege and university levels who are the future of farming. Our many important partners in transportation, animal health, veterinarians, nutritionists, technical support levels, engineers, and even lenders who understand our businesses very well.

Yes, Iowa is the right place to raise pigs.

Gregg Hora is the president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association and operates a corn, soybean and pig farm near Fort Dodge in Webster County.