Home   News

Nancy Lidster: The Pig Whisperer

Jun 05, 2012

Source: DNL farms ltd

This past week I met with an entire barn staff and their production manager for a pig handling workshop. While we were waiting for everyone to assemble I was told that one of the fellows is a Pig Whisperer: that if anyone has problems getting pigs to move, the Pig Whisperer can just step in and pigs do whatever he wants. The person telling me about the Pig Whisperer said she wished she could move pigs as easily as he does.

The thing is, she can. If she does exactly what he does, she’ll get the same results.

Our workshops include video of a lot of different handlers moving pigs in a variety of situations. The video helps handlers recognize patterns in the way pigs respond and helps them see what they need to do to get pigs to do what they want. Part way through the workshop I asked the Pig Whisperer what he does differently than other handlers. His response: “I give the pigs more space.”

There were discussions about problems moving sows and clips comparing sow movement when you give them space vs. the resistance you get when you try to nag sows to hurry up.  Then the frustrated question of how to get sows moved and all the rest of your work done if you don’t keep urging them along.

The idea that backing off can speed pigs up goes so strongly against our instincts, especially if we’re in the habit of crowding sows or using repetitive contact when we move them. If this much hard work takes so long, how could less energy and effort possibly speed things up?

And yet the Pig Whisperer says, “I give them more space.”

He didn’t say he stands around and lets pigs take their sweet time or that he lets pigs do whatever they want. His co-worker says the pigs do what the Pig Whisperer wants them to do, willingly and easily.

How does he do it? “I give them more space.”

He doesn’t let the pigs do what they want. He lets them do what he wants; he lets them want to do what he wants - by giving them more space.

The production manager and I talked about the shift in attitudes towards moving pigs that has occurred over the past 10 -15 years. We could both remember a time when someone moving pigs without breaking a sweat would be deemed lazy or lacking commitment. How wrong we were.

As one trucker said, “If you’re breaking a sweat moving pigs, you’re working way too hard.”

And the Pig Whisperer said, “I give them more space.”

I’ll be at World Pork Expo this coming week: Booth 902 in the Varied Industries Building. Stop by and introduce yourself and have a visit. I look forward to meeting you.

That’s it for this week.
Take care
Nancy Lidster