Concentrated/Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)

The first of three installments.

Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,
I say, trouble right here in River City.

Trouble with a capital “T”
And that rhymes with “P” and that stands for PIG!

No, it isn’t pool as the original song from The Music Man states. The “P” stands for PIG, and if Mitch Daniels and his minions have their way, Indiana will double its pork production by the year 2009. That may sound great to those who slavishly follow the Governor’s all out effort to “modernize” Indiana and turn it into a successful experiment upon which he can build his future after he leaves Indiana. But Confined (or concentrated) Animal Feeding Operations are a major issue involving environmental and health threats.

A little history for those who aren’t familiar with CAFOs. In the old days, farm animals were raised in a fairly free-roaming state. If you took a drive through the countryside, you were greeted by cows, sheep, pigs, etc. in fields along the road. Confinement was accomplished by fences which enclosed large pastures. Animals were generally free to roam in and out of covered barns and buildings. That was then – this is now.

Today’s farming operations are not your good, old home-grown operations. The trend in the livestock industry has been toward fewer but larger operations – not your Mom and Pop family farms. These large animal feeding operations are called CAFOs – industrial farms that congregate animals, feed, manure and urine, dead animals, and production operations into a small area of land. In CAFOs, animals by the thousands are usually kept in pens within larger buildings and do not see the light of day unless it is through a window in the building. The waste generated falls through narrow slat floors into manure pits and is stored until it can be hauled away to be sprayed on fields. CAFOs can house sheep, dairy cows, chickens, sheep, and turkeys; however, the primary focus is on hogs.

Hogs are broken down into categories:

  • Nursery pigs – pigs newly weaned from the sow
  • Growing pigs – pigs weighing 40 – 125 pounds
  • Finishers – pigs weighing from 125 pounds to market weight of approximately 230 pounds

The idea is to take nursery pigs and feed them out to market weight of approximately 230 pounds. The more pigs you can cram into a building, the more profit the operation can make. As the pigs grow, they excrete larger and larger quantities of manure and urine. For example, a hog approaching market weight of 230 pounds excretes up to 17.5 pounds of manure and urine each day. Confine 1,000 hogs together, and that equals six million pounds of waste each year. A factory farm containing 35,000 hogs will produce over four million pounds of waste each week and over 200 million pounds each year.

This brings us back to Governor Daniels and his desire to turn Indiana into one big hog farm. In 2005, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor rolled out their strategic agricultural plan called “Possibilities Unbound: The Plan for 2005.” The Plan contained seven (7) strategies: Hardwoods, Bioenergy, Regulatory Coordination (or how to have as little regulation as possible), Pork, Diversity of Production, Food Processing, and Federal Farm and Trade Policy.

Governor Daniels impudently stated his goal to “double pork production by adopting breakthrough technologies in environmental and animal welfare management.” Although he has tried to “doctor” the terminology, the real strategy is to cram as many hogs into confined spaces as possible, feed them on hormone enhanced grains, and inject them with frequent antibiotics to prevent infections that are a result of closely confining animals. Breakthrough technologies? I think not!

The next post installment will address the issue of the environmental and health hazards of waste products and their regulation by IDEM and the EPA under the mandates of the Clean Water Act.


About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
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