Jude Becker, of Becker Lane Organic Farm. Jude is an Iowa State graduate, and probably the largest outdoor pig producer in the US. He supplies fresh, organic pork, year- around, to many discerning customers, including Whole Foods. Jude even has a quote from Michael Pollan, raving about his pork.
I knew I was close to the right farm when I saw farrowing huts stretching over the horizon. Jude has three full-time employees. Production is intensive and extensive. Each of these huts is individually fenced, with one sow and litter in each pen. Two sows share a water, and each is fed individually, once a day. The shelters in the right of the photo are turned on their side, and being disinfected before being used for another litter.
Sow with litter, in farrowing hut. Jude has tried cheaper huts, but finally settled on the cadillac of farrowing huts, John Booth, imported from the UK. Huts are insulated, so Jude is able to farrow in the heat of summer, and the cold of winter.
Piglet crushing is still a problem. Jude is still searching for the best genetics for outdoor pig production. His current philosophy is to have a super-maternal sow, bred to an excellent meat-quality boar. Jude uses artificial insemination to breed his sows.
Pig drinking. One well supplies water to all his pigs. Most of his equipment has been imported from Europe, as they are years ahead of the US with outdoor pig production.
Good news, bad news. I’m heartened to see pigs consistently kept in with a two-strand electric fence. I’m disheartened to see the destruction of Jude’s pastures from the pigs’ incessant rooting. Jude admits this is a major hurdle for outdoor pig production.
Going to Jude’s farm, I hoped to find a protocol which I could copy. But, like most things in life, I realize I’m still going to have to find my own way.
Thank you Jude, for being a gracious host, giving me many ideas, and hopefully saving me some troubles.