Over the last 25+ years, the market weight of pigs grown in the U.S. has increased over 30 lbs (13.6kg). Why is this? The short answer is ‘more profit.’ Improvements in genetics, nutrition, health, and equipment/installations over this time allowed the 21st century pig farmer to improve production efficiencies in order to produce more pounds of pork in the same barn that was built almost three decades ago.
So, does ‘bigger’ mean ‘better’ in pork production? Over the last few years, several studies indicate that bigger, indeed, may be better when talking pork meat. This is not only because of production efficiencies but also for giving the consumer a better product in terms of meat quality. In study after study, heavier pigs allowed for a tender and juicier pork loin that had a better flavor than lighter weight pigs and was evaluated by consumers as better tasting. We see those trends not only in the U.S but in other markets as the pork industry seeks to always meet the increasing demand of consumers.
So you might be wondering why this is relevant for us at Crystal Spring. Well, for us, it’s not all about bending and welding a piece of stainless steel and calling it a “hog feeder”. We are constantly challenging ourselves to improve what we do and the feeders we make. Our feeders have changed significantly over the last 25 years as we have made innovative improvements to meet the demand of the modern pig farmer, including increasing market weights.
Our original feeders had a 12” (30,5cm) feeder space, but when market weights began to increase beyond 250 lbs (113kg), the pigs’ shoulders became too wide to allow for them to reach the feeder drinker nipples. In the early 90’s, we increased our standard width of each feeder space to approximately 15” (38.1cm) – depending on overall feeder length/number of spaces. This allows pigs over 300 lbs (135kgs) to be able to reach the drinker nipple without obstruction or contorting its body.
If market weights continue the same trajectory as they have in the last 25 years, by the year 2050 they will reach 350 lbs (159 kgs). How will this affect our feeder design? Well, we have been thinking about that… during the initial PEDv outbreak in the U.S., we observed that many producers held pigs in their finisher barns longer with many market weights reaching 325+ lbs (145kgs). We found that the current feeder design not only held up well under the stress of such large pigs—a testament to our durability—but that the pigs continued to grow and perform satisfactorily.
However, we won’t settle just knowing this, but will challenge ourselves to make certain that the feeder design will be able to meet the demands of the future in our global industry no matter how market weights change.
Afterall we are more than a feeder company, we are here to help the industry reach its next milestone and to bring solutions that will help pork producers around the world grow heavier and healthier pigs.