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Will a pig grow on NO feed? Take two

Michigan farmer Jerry Macha "one-upped" me. He wrote to tell me his experience with pigs that grow on air alone.

Dear Mr. Johnston,

I read your story about raising hogs without feed. I have proof it can be done.

When I was in hogs a few years ago (I sold about 100 a month) I took a load to the weigh station of Thorn Apple Valley. They weighed the load and gave me a scale ticket. I said sell them "grade and yield." Four hours later they arrived at the plant and had gained eight pounds per head. That's two pounds an hour.

I took the numbers to the banker and asked him to let me buy an 18-wheeler. I would load the 40-pounders out of the nursery, and four days (96 hours) later, I would have the driver pull into the plant with a load of market-ready hogs. Just think, no feed, no barns, easy loading, the list could go on and on. It is easy to find someone who likes to drive truck.

I had the numbers to prove it would work. Unfortunately, the banker wouldn't buy it. If he would have, maybe I could have survived the 15-cent hogs of the 1990s. On further reflection, I would now be battling the $5 a gallon diesel, so maybe the result would have been the same only a few years later.

This is a true story.

Now I am raising beef. The neighbors like the new aroma much better.

Jerry Macha

A few days ago, I wrote a story that asked the question, Can pigs gain weight on nothing but air? I had gone to the World Pork Expo, and visited several exhibitors which claimed they could save on the feed bill. I combined all of their feed efficiency improvements to see if we could get all the way to zero pounds of feed per pound of gain. Now, since air is still free (at least in most states), that would put pigs back in their intended role as mortgage lifters.

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