A Conversation With Cassie Burrows– Manager of Cal Poly’s Swine Unit

Cassie holding a Nursery Pig

Cassie Holding a Nursery Pig

Recently, I had a chance to sit down with Cassie Burrows (Cal Poly’s student manager of the Swine Unit). She gave me an inside look at how the Unit is run and here is the conversation we had:

Q: Tell me what living at the Swine Unit is like…

A: Well, I have a roommate which is nice, and we split the responsibilities. A typical day here is, whichever of us has the day, we feed and we have a few different silos we go to which have the different rations for whichever age. Whether it’s our sows and boars which get one type of feed, or the nursery pigs which get another type of feed. And then we have to hose out the pens and check the pigs to make sure there aren’t any problems with them. There’s always something to do!

Cassie with Her Favorite Sow, "Big Mamma"

Cassie with Her Favorite Sow, "Big Mamma"

Q: How does the raising of pigs process work?

A: Well here we do AI (artificial insemination), and we bring one of the two boars that we have out to use for that. And then we check the sows often to see when they’re in estrus, and then when they are in standing heat we breed them, obviously. If they come into heat in the morning, we breed them at night. And their gestation period is three months, three weeks and three days. We bring them into the farrowing barn a week before they’re due, and then they have their piglets. It’s a really quick turnaround, the piglets are in the farrowing barn for three weeks and then they go into our nursery barn. The time that they’re in the nursery barn depends on the litter and the size. After that they go into our finishing barn because we don’t have a growing barn at the moment. And once they get big enough we sell them to local consumers.

Q: Are the pigs here usually going for consumption?

A: Yeah, we have a lot of clients that like to do roaster pigs. We also had about four or five pigs that were at the Mid-State Fair this year, so that’s cool. But our pigs aren’t really show quality, so for the most part they’re just going for consumption.

"Rudy", One of Cal Poly's Boars

"Rudy", One of Cal Poly's Boars

Q: About how many pigs do you have right now?

A: Well, we just sold two sows. But we have six sows, two boars, about 40 pigs in the finisher barn, and about 30 in the nursery. So we have about 80 pigs right now.

Q: How do you feel about the dispute on CAFO (confined animal feeding operations)?

A: Being around the pigs and seeing their behavior, keep in mind that I raised pigs in high school that were outside, I think I honestly feel like it’s not a big deal at all. We don’t have our pens filled to capacity like commercial programs might, but I don’t know. The animals don’t seem like they’re unhappy whether they get to roll in the mud or whether we just hose their pens down and they get to cool themselves off that way. I think they care more about being in groups. I think in the way of keeping the animals healthy it’s actually easier to maintain them in a confined area.

Cassie Letting "Rudy" Drink from the Hose

Cassie Letting "Rudy" Drink from the Hose

Q: What’s your favorite part about living at the Swine Unit?

A: I definitely think seeing the sows interact with their piglets because it’s interesting to see how their demeanor changes.

Q: Do you have to stay up all night when they farrow?

A: No, I mean once they start we try to stay, but until then we try to check them every hour or two.

Nursery Pigs

Nursery Pigs

Q: What’s your favorite type of pork product?

A: I’m going to have to say pork chops because growing up my mom always made pork chops and apple sauce and it was delicious.

Nursery Pig

Nursery Pig


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by maggie on May 15, 2011 at 12:45 am

    haha sorry to be creeping but i know cassie too! such a small world


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