By Loretta Sorenson
Christine Wevik, Beresford, S.D., says a modern finishing barn made it possible for her to handle hog chores alone for 11 years – and more farm women might want to give it a try.
"I started doing pig chores in a much smaller facility," Christine says. "My husband Doug was sometimes too busy with grain crops and other chores to tend to pigs needing extra attention. In helping, I found I enjoyed learning about pigs, how to keep them healthy and caring for them every day."
The Weviks' new facility, built when Christine took over the job, greatly aided her. Temperature controls, fully automated feeders, waterers and side curtains made the work more efficient, too.
"I was there every day, sometimes for an hour, sometimes for five hours, making sure everybody, every pig, was healthy," Christine says. "After a while I learned to recognize unusual behavior, spot injuries or illness."
Automatic sorting pens helped Christine keep heavies singled out and ready for market. If an animal was injured or needed treatment, sorting pens made it easier to single it out.
"If the pig was mobile and could run, it was still a challenge sometimes," she says. "I usually put all the pigs in that particular pen out in the alley. Then I moved healthy ones back into a pen and singled out the one I wanted to isolate without too much trouble.
"If a pig was dead or not ambulatory, I used either a sled or carcass cart to load and move them out of the facility," she adds.
The computerized alarm system that dials programmed phone numbers when there's a facility problem was a great aid. It helped keep pigs consistently fed, watered and at correct temperatures.
Doug left daily chores to Christine, but assisted when new pigs came in and finished pigs were loaded out. He also managed the finances.
"We're a good team," Chris says. "We look at pork production differently. When I first gave pigs shots, they'd squeal and I'd say, 'I'm sorry! I'm sorry!' I hated to think of causing them more pain. Women look at things more from an emotional perspective. I became attached to some pigs I thought were rather special. If I had to treat them for something and then send them to market, that was hard. But I got over it."
Chris and her husband recently sold the hog barn so that Chris could pursue another dream: writing.
"I could probably do pork chores for another 10 years," she says, "but I want to pursue the writing now. I know a lot of women are involved in pork production behind the scenes. Now, with modern pork facilities, they can take a daily management role. This experience reaffirmed to me that farmers are conscientious and really care about their animals, their land and resources and the future of agriculture."Sorenson writes from Yankton, S.D.