Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Piggery: Western Australia Style

Loyal Aus to Oz readers,

First of all, this is Hyatt. Brandi decided that you all needed a break from her discussion so I'm back to change things up a bit. Also, she didn't come with me today so her blog would mostly be about looking at the computer in the hotel room and having a caramel cookie McFlurry at McDonald's (excellent by the way but not worth $4.00).

Two quick remarks before I get to the 'meat' of the story. Referring to Brandi's last blog, I agree that she must be the only person who appreciates the American airline security system. It is retarded, takes too long, and flying in Australia is much quicker, easier and less annoying.
Second, I don't know if she told you all that we went to a famous beach outside of Perth on Saturday, Cottesloe Beach, but we just heard on the radio tonight that a 65-year old man is believed to have been eaten by a shark at the same spot today!

Moving on. This morning I went with Dr. Bruce Mullan to visit the biggest piggery in Western Australia, known as Westpork. After about a 90 minute drive into BFE, we arrived at a very modern grower-finisher site with a weekly production of about 3,000 market hogs. We visited with one of the managers, a Zimbabwean fellow named Paul Rigeul. The facilities were in the process of switching over from hoop-barn eco-shelters with straw bedding to brand-new tunnel ventilated systems with pen sorting systems.

I was intrigued to find out that when the new barns had been built, they had concrete floor slats custom-made by an Australian company, rather than pay to import slats from another country. This seemed sensible, but the Aussie company failed to produce them to specifications, and they ended up with wider gaps and rougher surfaces, which caused alot of lameness issues. As such, they've had to rip out the old slats and import new, high-quality slats from Germany to replace them.

After finishing the tour of the new facilities, we also went up to see the newly-weaned pigs which were still housed in the hoop-barns with straw bedding. The pig operation was shifting away from these production systems because of the cost of providing such large quantities of straw and the lack of environmental control which can cause problems during stretches of cold, wet or extremely hot weather. The pigs came up to me right away, certainly because they were used to being fed a milk-slurry by the workers.

All in all, it was a great day trip to a really well-run piggery in Australia, and the weather was awesome. We even got to see a wild emu and her young in the paddock on the way out!




  1. Hyatt, that was probably a rooster and his young. With emus they do everything the opposite of most other ground birds. Start laying in the late fall/early winter, roosters set the nest, hatch the eggs and for the most part rear the young, and the hens set up territory. So that was probably dad who was out with the young'uns. Emus march to their own drum (so to speak). ;-)

  2. That's so interesting - I had no idea that the fathers do a lot of the child rearing!

  3. Yup. I had one rooster here, he was one of the original ones, named Spot. Spot was a sweet bird. Every year he would set a nest. His mate Sheila would dutifully lay an egg for him every few days and he's roll it into his nest, then cover it and the rest with fresh grass to camoflage the nest. When he'd get a good clutch, he'd start setting. All winter he'd set his nest. Occasionally he'd even hatch an egg or two. Sadly, he was never able to raise any chicks. He'd either smother one that hatched or they'd run off and we'd never see them when they were a day or so old. Probably the hawks got them.

    Anyway, one year Spot was setting his nest and my gelding Rocky was in the pen with him. Rocky and Spot and Sheila got along fine until one day Rocky was out cutting up and tearing around the pen (I think he was 2 or 3 at the time) and he forgot where Spot was setting. Rocky saw Spot at the last minute and jumped him.

    Old Spot came up off that nest like a lion and commenced to chasing Rocky around and around the pen which was around 60'X60'. I had to run and get a lunging whip, then go in the pen, snap it a couple times to get Spot's attention and run him off. Rocky ran around behind me for protection. Once all of that happened and I ran Spot off, he lost interest in chasing Rocky and went back to his nest. I took Rocky and put him in another pen for a while.

    Spot died in the spring of 2010. He was almost 20 years old. Didn't have the heart to eat him, he was such a good bird. We just took him back and burried him in the animal cemetery with a few of the other special ones. I still have his mate Sheila. She'll probably go this winter or next year sometimes. They can live a long time but not forever.