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A farmer gently encouraging a sow to rise, so she can check her for any problems.
When eating fruit, remember who planted the tree; when drinking water, remember who dug the well. -Vietnamese Proverb  

Good Stockmanship

In commodity barns, animals are locked in their stalls, so it is hard to learn much from their behavior. In these situations, animal care is is focused on mechanical things, such as maintaining equipment, feeding animals, and administering treatments on a predefined schedule.

After Truebridge farms are remodeled, raising pigs becomes very different. Because the animals are moving around freely, a good stockman can get to know them and notice, from their behavior, when something is wrong. Truebridge farmers are animal people and typically have a remarkably sensitive understanding of pig behavior. They also have a knack for interacting with pigs in a peaceful language the pigs understand. Truebridge's model of pig farming depends on this kind of thoughtful, sharp-eyed engagement with the animals.

Even with these skills, the farmers need help keeping track of who is who, and who got what. After all, they often have several hundred sows depending on them. They recognize the pigs as individuals (and have their favorites) but it's a bit like the difference between teaching at a one room schoolhouse, and being responsible for a full slate of courses at a large university.

Walking down the aisle of a conventional barn, with pigs in stalls.
(before remodel) Observing sows in conventional gestation stalls.
Walking amongst the sows in a large gestation pen with nests.
(after remodel) Observing sows up close in a large gestation pen.
Farmer bedding farrowing pens.   Farmers bedding farrowing pens.
Young farmer working in a farrowing room.   Two generations taking care of their stock.
Farmer looking over pigs in sick pens.   Farmer examining data on a wall chart.
Stockman watching sows' appearance and behavior.   Farmer checking data recorded on wall chart.

That's why the other important part of being a good stockman, by Truebridge standards, is the ability to understand and use data. All Truebridge farms maintain computerized records that help the farmers record and remember the details for each individual animal. The farmers are then able to combine their on-the-job observations with a larger body of data, to ensure they correctly understand the pig's situation and assign the right feed, management, and environment.

It's this marriage of attention to data with time honored traditions of animal husbandry that makes the Truebridge method so successful at keeping pigs healthy and untroubled.

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