Covid–19, swine fever, Ukraine war: the pig sector has had an unparalleled rollercoaster ride which has driven Claude Loutsch to the brink of ruin. About a farmer who wants to get out.
Claude Loutsch hands out plastic shoe covers to his visitors. Then he walks up the path to an old, converted fattening pen and opens the curtains that protect against the wind. Curious noses peek over the gate. In this outdoor climate barn, the farmer keeps mated gilts that have not yet farrowed separated from the rest of the herd. The animals get their feed at a call station. The animal is individually identified by a chip in the ear and thus receives its daily ration. Here in the straw, the animals can let off steam, he says.
The farmer takes customers to this barn who want to buy the meat directly from him and learn more about how the pigs are kept and reared. Of course, most of the production takes place in conventional, closed stables.
Like almost all farms in the country, the farm in Hovelingen, a village of 400 inhabitants, specialised in the second half of the 20th century. The decision was made at the end of the 1970s. The ten or so cows disappeared, and the ten or so sows became 350 over the years. Fierkelshaff is now one of the largest breeding farms in the country, says Loutsch, seeming almost surprised himself.
Pig production is highly clocked. "We have 800 piglets a month", he explains. Every four weeks, one of five groups of about 70 sows farrows. "As a family farm, we decided on a larger group system so that we could have some free time." The price for this is stressful weeks like these, when one group farrows and another is mated . Eight hours is not enough during these phases, he says. He manages the daily routine together with a co-worker and is also serving as a alderman. 60– or 70-hour weeks are not uncommon for him.
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