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AGRICULTURE & BUSINESS

Swine

Pigs

Montana produced 150,000 hogs in 1999, making Montana 28th in the nation for hog production. Most of these hogs are raised in the north-central part of the state. They are later shipped to the West Coast.

Montana provides an ideal environment for hog production. Wheat and barley are raised here, which are both used for swine feed. These grains are mixed with protein and other nutrients to provide proper nutrition. Hogs have a "true" or glandular stomach similar to humans. This means they are not ruminants and cannot easily digest grass. Therefore they are fed wheat, corn or barley.

Hogs also require a lot of water. A full grown boar or sow will drink 6-8 gallons per day. A piglet will drink at least one gallon each day.

Swine is a general term for hogs, or pigs. A sow is is a female pig, which has had a litter of piglets (baby pigs). Sows usually have eight pigs in a litter, although it is not uncommon for them to have 10 to 12. A sow has two litters each year. A gilt is a female that has not yet produced a litter. A boar is a male hog.

Hogs produce meat, called pork, as well as providing many other valuable by-products. Human heart valve replacements come from pigs, as well as insulin, which is used for people with diabetes. Also produced are paint brushes, leather and soap.

Most hogs raised for market remain inside. Special buildings called farrowing houses are for the sows to give birth. A sow is pregnant for three months, three weeks, and three days. She then gives birth, or farrows, in a farrowing crate. This is so she still has room to move but cannot lay on the piglets. When they are born, they weigh only 2.5 lbs. The piglets sharp teeth must be removed so they do not bite each other or their mother. Also, their tails are clipped so they do not chew on them.

When the piglets are one month old, they are moved to another building called the weaning barn. They are taken off their mother at this time and begin to eat creep feed, a high protein meal. They remain here until they are about six months old. At this time they weigh about 220 pounds. Imagine if humans grew that fast! The sow at full growth usually weighs 300 pounds while the boar will weigh 400 pounds.

The words hog and pig are often used to mean stupid or dirty. However, this is far from the truth. Pigs are actually very smart animals, as well as being very clean. They roll in the mud, not to get dirty, but to cool themselves off. The term "sweating like a pig" is not accurate. Pigs do not actually sweat at all. They pant to cool off, just like dogs. And pigs are said to have one of the highest animal IQs. The most popular breeds of swine raised in Montana are Hampshire, Duroc, Yorkshire, Landrace, Spotted and Poland, China White and Berkshire. These breeds are often intermixed or crossbred to provide the best traits from each.

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