Technology changes are a fact of life. Ever since man has been around, new technology has been developed to facilitate and improve our daily activities. The swine industry has seen quite a few game-changing technologies over the years, including production of specific-pathogen-free (SPF) pigs, indoor housing for all stages of production, three-site systems, all-in, all-out, early weaning, and use of oral fluids just to name a few. All of these new technologies were game changers in helping improve the overall health and welfare of pigs. What technology will be the next game changer for our industry?
Some may say today’s consumer does not like technology and expects us to go backward in the way we raise pigs. I will challenge everyone that that is not the case. Today’s adults and youth love technology. One just has to see how smart phones play a major role in the daily lives of everyone, including us as veterinarians. One could argue whether this is good or bad, but that does not really matter. That is what today’s consumer wants and likes. Remember the discussions occurring when the first large farrow-to-wean sow farms were being built? Several, including some veterinarians, wanted to keep the old traditional way of raising pigs, maybe because it required change and we all know that change is not something we look forward to. Change makes us uneasy, as many times the outcome is unknown. Change is what keeps us moving forward. Change is inevitable. Change can make you take a few steps back, but as long as we are focused on making change for the right reasons, change will be good. In basketball, one cannot make a basket without shooting at the hoop. Yes, it is true that sometimes we will miss the target. For some of us this happens quite often. But more importantly, one cannot win a basketball game simply by playing defense.
What new technology can revolutionize our indoor housing? I truly believe we have dramatically helped pigs by moving them indoors, yet there still is room for improvement. I am not talking about gestation stalls versus pen housing. I am looking at our modern indoor facilities overall. Besides the addition of air filtration, what technology has been a game changer in pig housing? We basically continue to use the same ventilation system and controls. Yes, there have been some slight changes, but in my opinion, absolutely no game changers. I don’t believe our housing is bad or creating a welfare concern. I am just concerned that we have stopped innovating and are simply satisfied with the status quo. Ask any teenager about technology and status quo. Technologies that maintain status quo and quit innovating become extinct.
I love technology. I believe swine veterinarians are some of the best at adapting technology. What new technology can continue to improve the health and wellbeing of the pigs we love to care for? Even more challenging, what new technology can help us better connect with today’s consumer? I look forward to what the future can bring to pork production.
Alex Ramirez, DVM