It’s happened to all of us at some point. You’ll be going through your day and then you’ll realize that you have a song stuck in your head. Is it that song that was on the radio this morning that you haven’t heard in a while? Nope. Is it that new song you’ve played over and over on Spotify the past few days? Nope. Surely it’s your all-time favorite song. Yeah, it’s not. Chances are, it’s a Taylor Swift song (unless of course a Taylor Swift song does fit into any of the three categories I just listed, then you definitely have one of her songs in your head).
Taylor released her first song when I was in junior high, and she was instantly one of my favorite artists. As I got older, she started to get more and more haters (and more inspiration for her songs, apparently), and I pretty much became a closet Swiftie. But now I don’t care. I like Taylor Swift. I have almost all of her CDs. And I want to be her friend.
You know what is cool about Taylor? She eats food. Who grows that food? American farmers do, and American farmers and ranchers are pretty cool too. You may be wondering at this point what Taylor Swift has to do with advocating for agriculture (also known as agvocating), and the honest answer is not a whole lot.
I recently attended the AgChat Collegiate Congress in Indianapolis, Indiana and learned that in order to connect with consumers, you can’t lead off with promoting agriculture and shove it down their throats. You have to make a connection first. Talk about something you have in common and get to know the other person you are talking to. Try talking about where they grew up, their favorite sports team, or even what the weather is like. And if all else fails, you can always talk about Taylor Swift.
|In this picture, members of the #RealPigFarming student social forces pose for a picture at the AgChat Collegiate Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Photo by Lexi Marek
This past summer, the National Pork Board launched a new social movement called #RealPigFarming. This social movement is a great opportunity to connect pork producers directly to the consumer. The popularity of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram has helped to decrease the distance between the people who grow food and the people who eat it. #RealPigFarming allows people with a special interest in where their ham, pork chop, or bacon comes from to interact and ask questions. It also lets pig farmers see what concerns people who buy their products may have.
All of the #RealPigFarming social pages have useful and interesting content. Facebook and Twitter are a mixture of links to websites such as porkcares.org, as well as photos and videos from people who take care of pigs on a daily basis. This social movement has gained interest over the past few months and will continue to grow.
If you have any questions of your own or any pictures you would like to share, feel free to use #RealPigFarming on your social media platform. You can also go to any of the social media channels and check them out for yourself.
National Pork Board
Breeds of Swine: Berkshire
By Abigail Wehrbein
There is one last breed I want everyone to know about because it affects consumers the most. The Berkshire breed hasn’t been around for as long as the others but with it’s muscle characteristics, it’s sure to be a very popular breed in the future.
The Berkshire pig is all black with white tips on their feet, tail and snout. It’s known to be a medium framed pig with shorter legs and snout with erect ears. The most outstanding feature of the Berkshire pig is it’s high quality of meat. In the swine industry, Berkshire breed is the only genetic source that has a value-based premium. This means that there is a high demand for this meat product for a good price. Berkshire pork has been scientifically proven to have better color, texture, marbling, ultimate pH, and water holding capacity which contribute to better eating quality.
When comparing this breed to the Yorkshire, it would not be a good production breed. Sows cannot possess large amounts of muscle. They will have difficulty farrowing resulting in lost piglets, more work for the producer and potentially a lost sow. If bred to a Berkshire, the chance of passing on a greater amount of muscle is very high depending on the sow. This will result in this breed having some of the lowest maternal traits. They have a medium frame size, which doesn’t allow them to carry large, heavier litters. Numbers have shown that they have the lowest number of litters and litter size at birth. However, Berkshires do carry a heavier birth weight than Yorkshire and are known for giving a high milk production.
Like stated above, the Berkshire breed is often known by the amount of high quality meat. They are not known as the production breed like the Yorkshire and Duroc with having lower numbers from the farrowing perspective. They do advocate this breed more to the smaller-scale producers because of the high meat quality, contributing to higher market prices.
Food Versus Fuel
By Abigail Wehrbein
Over the last century biofuels progressively have had more of an impact on the way Americans live everyday, to fuel our cars and the U.S economy. Although we have been more fortunate lately with gas prices, there are constant concerns about global warming caused by carbon dioxide emissions; so biofuels have been regaining acceptance. Lately they have been taken on by an attack regarding the use of food for fuel. So the question is, can we grow crops for converting into fuel, without upsetting the world’s food supply? My position is yes.
Biofuels are renewable resources because they come from plants that we grow today. They generally use chemical reactions, fermentation, and heat to break down the starches, sugars, and other molecules in the plants. The leftover products are then refined to produce a fuel for transportation. I believe we must use food crops for fuel production. Reducing the need for foreign energy and moving the U.S closer to energy-independence has very important political and social effects.
With increasing agriculture technology, yields have been continuing to rise within the last 40 years. But even if 100% of the corn grown in the U.S were converted to fuel ethanol, this would reduce our gasoline requirement by less than 20%. Now what if we look at other plants for biofuels. By a Minnesota field study, growing inedible crops on an unproductive farmland resulted in the best energy yields. They actually came from the native prairie grasses and not corn or soybeans. Carbon is being stored in these soils and this can improve our CO2 emission by removing them from the atmosphere. Since plants absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, crops grown for biofuels should suck up about as much carbon dioxide as comes out of the tailpipes of cars that burn these fuels.
It has become more essential than ever to start putting a much greater importance on alternative fuels and energy by weaning ourselves off of our heavy dependence on oil and fossil fuels in order to make sure that we will have fuel to use in the future ahead. This is why biofuel energy has become so vitally important to make sure that we have a backup to our current energy shortage.
Photo by Nuffield Council on Bioethics
Breeds of Swine: Yorkshire
By Abigail Wehrbein
The next breed to talk about is the Yorkshire swine. According to Oklahoma State, this breed dates back to the mid 1800s when they were first called, the Large White Breed. This breed caught big attention at the great National Show called the Royal in Yorkshire where the name switched and was forever linked to Yorkshire.
Yorkshires are all white in color and have erect ears. They are larger framed, mainly in length. This allows them to be marketed at heavier weights without loss of efficiency. In recent years the Yorkshire breed shows to be more muscular, with a high proportion of lean meat and low back fat. In addition to this, Yorkshires are extremely sound when they walk and are known to have greater durable mothers.
This is why the Yorkshire breed is often known as “the mother breed”. Maternal traits have shown strong throughout years that Yorkshires possess mothering abilities like larger, longer frames and scale to hold larger litters. Maternal traits are part of genetics that can be passed down through sires, or the father, which are measured depending on how the sow will farrow (birth of piglets) and nurture the litter. Traits include number of piglet born alive, number weaned, and 21-day litter weight. Weaning piglets can be done around 3-4 weeks of age after they are born.
One important fact that will strive with Yorkshire boars is the stable mothering lines in genetics that will add to longevity. Statistics have shown that Yorkshire boars compared to Duroc and Berkshire has highest number of litters, litter size at birth, and litter sized and weight at weaning time. Yorkshires take over the swine industry with the largest breed in the United States and Canada. This breed has had the most impact on the swine industry because of everything it contributes including its productivity and performance.
Pictures are from the National Swine Registry.
Breeds of Swine: Duroc
By Abigail Wehrbein
There are around 73 different breeds of swine according to The Pig Site. Each breed varies in special characteristics that make that breed more valuable over others when selecting for certain traits. For instance, Berkshire is one of the best for meat quality while the Yorkshire breed is one of the best for maternal traits. Throughout the next few blogs, I’ll explain a few different breeds and their special characteristics, starting with the Duroc.
Genetics are most important when it comes to swine. These would include how the pig looks, like muscling, body characteristics and how it performs on feed efficiency, maternal traits and disposition. In the swine industry, both commercial (for market) and competition (show pigs), genetics are the basics for growing successful animals. Without knowledge of genetics in swine, producers would have more lost opportunities than a prosperous herd.
Purebred Duroc swine present a yellowish red to dark red color hair and skin. This color makes them, in my opinion the cutest piglet of all the breeds because they look similar to chocolate lab puppies. One distinguishing feature is their drooping ears that often cover their eyes. Duroc’s durable skeletal structure, combined with natural leanness, produces a fast growing, efficient pig. When breeding with purebred Duroc boars in commercial operations, producers can maximize the heterosis that is generated by crossbreeding pure genetic lines. Heterosis means to increase in growth, size, yield, or other characters in hybrids over those of the parents.
The Duroc breed does carry some maternal traits. Duroc sows fall second in passed on traits including the number of litters and litter size at birth. However, they do have the highest birth weight of piglets. These traits happen more frequently when Duroc boars are crossed with sows of other breeds, meaning crossbred. Duroc swine are very popular for crossbreeding and improving other breeds of swine. The sows are also known for taking very good care of their young.
Duroc swine are one of the most popular breeds within the United States and other countries. They are known for having advantages in muscle quality. This combined with their high ability to grow fast with an excellent feed efficiency has placed the Duroc breed as an outstanding terminal sire choice. The purebred Duroc is recognized for breed strength in the future of swine improvement, usefulness and value.