"STEM in Hog Production"
By Tiffany Ioder, 7th grade, Victor FFA.
Since as far back as I can remember, I've been working on our family farm. I've helped with haying season, raising livestock, fixing fence, and all that is required to maintain a farm. I personally know the struggles you have to endure to take care of a family business. But I also know the rewards that come along with it. In order to achieve these rewards, our family drew on various fields of knowledge and experience in order to improve our farming practices. These include engineering, technology, math, and science. These subjects are extensive but I will talk about how they relate lo our family farm and how we use them to better our production and efficiency.
I am going to use my own hog production as a model where I have incorporated all four of the categories. For example, I designed and engineered my hog pen to have an exercise area for the pigs to be able to increase their muscle capacity as they grow by giving them a large area to run and play.
Additionally, I engineered their feeding facility so that as the hogs grow, they have to stretch their necks and legs to reach the food, which I have found greatly increases their overall muscling. I have learned over the past several years that clean, cold, fresh water is absolutely critical for the steady growth of my hogs. For this reason, I have adapted a pig nipple to a frost-free faucet. This attachment is adjustable which allows the neck muscle to increase as they grow. To ensure the hogs best growth potential, I needed to create a cool, dry environment. I spent a lot of time engineering a facility that provides the best environment for my hogs. I chose a house made of stone with a dirt floor. It stays remarkably cool in hot temperatures! I often find my pigs resting in their house during the hottest parts of the day.
To stay current with the latest technology, I use a scale on a regular basis to track my hogs' weight. This helps me calculate their daily gain, as well as predict their final weight before sale. Using the scale, I can watch for changes and adjust the type of feed to maximize weight gain and muscling.
Math is an important tool for successful hog production. I incorporate math in my program in many ways. I keep detailed records tracking my costs, which include feed, vaccinations, and other needed supplies. I use the information I learn from weighing my hogs to adjust the protein and mineral content in their food. If I do this, it keeps my pigs well balanced and growing steadily. I also must use math when determining the proper doses of vaccinations for each hog according to its weight.
While raising my pigs, I have realized that science plays a very important role. For example, I have researched more nutritional feeds, and I've learned that quality feed is critical for the growth potential of my hogs. I have also found that while my choice in feed initially seems more expensive, in the long run, my feed expenses are cheaper than they used to be. This is because the feed has a higher protein content which makes the pigs' muscle and weight improve even though they consume less feed overall.
I have learned so much the past five years while running my own hog operation. Until I stopped to think about these four categories of engineering, technology, math, and science, I had not truly understood the roles that each aspect played to make a successful swine production.