“Iowa has more pigs than people.” I’ve heard this time and time again by those who don’t understand the value of livestock farming. Well, as we get ready to wrap up Pork Month—I want to let you in on a little secret… It’s always been that way, and it’s a good thing.

Iowa was established as a state at the end of 1848. The first Census was completed in 1850 with Iowa’s population totaling 192,214 people. Want to guess how many pigs there were at that time? Drumroll, please—323,247. Now, it used to be that many people had pigs because if you wanted access to affordable pork, you had raise it yourself.  While today’s pig farming looks different, improvements have been made to make this industry even better. And we can rest assured that behind every pig in Iowa, there are men and women who are proud to make a living raising them. In fact, the pork industry in Iowa contributes more than 140,000 jobs to our state!

I know some concerns about the pig population stems from the love of Iowa’s precious natural resources. I think we all, including farmers, understand that concern. And whether a pig is raised indoors or outdoors, care of the environment must be taken into consideration.

Pigs are naturally a bit destructive, so when they are raised on pasture they can sometimes tear up the land. It’s why farmers now take extra steps to protect natural resources like providing pigs with hay to bed and “play” in to deter them from rooting and rotating pens to allow forage to recover and manure to spread more evenly. Fencing is also strategically placed to reduce runoff from sloping landscapes. Manure collected from pigs raised indoors is often called “liquid gold” because it’s a rich, organic source of fertilizer for corn fields. But applying manure is strategic, and that’s why farmers today must be certified and complete a manure management plan in accordance with the law through the Iowa DNR, and many inject it 4 to 6 inches into the soil. No matter which method used, it’s proven manure is a valuable nutrient that can benefit soil health.

The beauty of farming is there are options to fit a farmer’s individual beliefs, lifestyle and what the consumer wants to buy. But it’s important to realize that management is what is critically important to help Iowa successfully and responsibly grow our livestock industry. Because Iowa is a great place to raise families and food, we can expect there will always be more pigs than people. And as long as we always have dedicated caretakers, that sounds good to me!  

By Caitlyn Lamm. Caitlyn is Iowa Farm Bureau’s public relations specialist.