Concrete or Dirt?
Now that you have chosen to raise a show hog, one of the important factors to consider is your pen and barn arrangements. There are many pros and cons as to whether it is better to raise a show hog on concrete or on dirt. For ages advocates of both sides saying their way is better, but I would like to give you both sides and then let you make the informed decision of which is better for you.
One of the main reasons for raising show hogs on concrete is because your hogs will stay cleaner. Concrete pens are by far, much easier to clean because water and expellants will not seep into the dirt. Many people say that raising hogs on concrete causes more expense, because you must bed them in shavings. Quite honestly, whether they are on concrete or dirt, it is recommended that you put shavings in their pen. Having hogs lay on shavings instead of dirt allows them to stay cleaner which in return gives your show hog a more appealing skin appearance. While show hogs may not necessarily be judged on their skin appearance, a shiny bright hue to your show hog’s skin will help in the ring on show day.
Keeping your pens clean is essential to the development of your show hog. Long gone are the days when you gave a show hog all they would eat and let them lay in the mud. Contrary to what people believe, hogs are typically clean animals. Most hogs will soil the same spot of the pen over and over again. The stigma of a mud hole and hogs comes from the fact that swine do not sweat. They create mud holes to cool their internal body temperature. Whether you are raising them on concrete or dirt they will in all likelihood create some type of wet area around their self waterer. If they are doing this on concrete, it is easily cleaned. If you are raising them on dirt, you will need to fill in the mud daily in order to keep their pen clean.
One of the drawbacks to raising show hogs on concrete is that it can be hard on their feet and their ability to move properly. Show hogs gain weight and grow at such a rapid pace, that it is critical to make sure that they keep the agility to move. In order to make sure that your show hog does not get complacent, it is important to exercise the hog in a dirt walk pen at least an hour a day. In addition, if you are raising them on concrete they will lose their natural ability to root. Walking them in dirt will allow them to take part in this instinct as well as help keeping them sound.
While raising show hogs on dirt may seem like it is the easiest, let me remind you that regardless of what the bottom of your pen is, you still need to bed them on shavings. Cleaning a soiled pen actually becomes more difficult with dirt, as it is for all apparent reasons, bottomless. As water and urine hit the dirt, they soak into not only the shavings, but also the ground. Most barrows will urinate while they are eating, which will make the ground in front of their feeder, for lack of a better word, disgusting. Even though you are changing the shavings daily, it is very hard to get the urine out of the dirt. If a hog does not want to go to the feeder to eat, then you will not net the average rate of daily gain that is needed for proper growth and development.
So, as you make your choice, it is really a personal preference. Remembering that keeping your pen clean is essential to the overall health of you show hog is the most important factor. Whether you choose concrete or dirt, there is work involved. Which pen is easier for you and your feeding program is your choice, but remember that choosing the right kind of pen will help you in reaching the winner's circle and continue your success for years to come.