Keeping pigs healthy

Ray Rankin, Eastern Allamakee Agriculture/Industrial Technology teacher, is interning for six weeks at Gruber Ridge Ag located outside of Lansing, Iowa which is a 2,500 head sow farm managed by Waukon Feed Ranch.  When asked why he wanted to work at a pig farm Mr. Rankin said, "I have zero experience with swine, and since Iowa is the nation's leader in swine production I wanted to learn some things about it that I could take back to my classroom to share with my students.  What better way than hands on!" 

This week I had the opportunity to administer weaning shots.  We make sure the piglets' healthcare needs are met before they are moved via semi to a nursery barn.  These help prevent the piglets from getting sick in the first couple days after being weaned which is done at around 21 days of age.  Wean shots are usually given every Friday and Wednesday since they wean piglets every Monday and Thursday.

I also had the opportunity to attend one of the Waukon Feed Ranch's monthly safety meetings that they do at each of the sites.  The swine division management team came  to the farm and held the meeting during our lunch break.  With the summer months upon us they discussed things like heat.  Not only the heat stress that could affect the sows and the piglets but also the heat that could affect the employees working with the animals.  If temperatures get to hot we might come in earlier in the mornings so it is cooler for the pigs that we are working with, but so far the heat hasn't been so bad.  They also talked about making sure the employees stay safe with the heat and make sure they stay hydrated.  I know personally I sweat easily and have to make sure I drink enough fluids and stay hydrated. 

I also helped do the yearly vaccination of the breeding herd. Once a year they have to vaccinate sows and boars.  Everyone helped with this process.  I helped Jeff vaccinate the sows in the farrowing part of the barn and everyone else vaccinated the sows in the gestation barn.  I followed Jeff into each farrowing room and when he put a scoop of feed in the sows feed trough I squirted the prescribed amount of the vaccine onto the feed.  We closely monitor and record withdrawal times on all medicines used in the barn to make sure residue isn't found in pigs that go to market.


Pictured Above: Ray holding pigs that are about the age to be weaned and put into a nursery (21 days old).