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Porkers packing on pounds


Sequim High junior Alex Warner resets the scale before another test pig is weighed. The school’s 15 pigs are subjects in a trial testing the quality of three locally available brands of pig feed. The results are anticipated by the end of January. Sequim Gazette photo by Mark Couhig

Agriculture students put local feeds to the test

By MARK ST.J. COUHIG

Advanced agricultural science students at Sequim High are taking the science out of the classroom and into the field.

Instead of studying the facts in books, they’re raising 15 pigs as part of a trial of pig feed from three local sources. Del’s Feed and Farm Supply, the Co-op Farm and Garden and Elenbaas are participating.

The school’s chapter of Future Farmers of America purchased the pigs in September and now FFA members take turns with the class in feeding and caring for the pigs.
 
So far, each of the porkers is putting on about a 1.5 pounds a day.

In “optimal conditions,” pigs can gain up to 3 pounds a day, said teacher Christy Short.

The results nevertheless are impressive. What were recently cute, 6-week-old piglets are now large beasts, each weighing about 200 pounds.

“Hopefully, by the end of January they will have reached market weight,” said junior Alex Warner. He defined market weight as about 250 pounds.

Then the students will take the last measurements, work the data and issue their report to the local stores.

“We’re hoping the results will prove useful to the feed companies — to help them promote their feed,” Short said.

Feed fight

Del’s team leader George Winn said the three types of feed are drawn from the same or similar sources but each company has its own formula for success — its own unique blend.

When the experiment reaches its end, so too will the test subjects.

The students will have the pigs slaughtered and then will participate in a “carcass evaluation.” Because the pigs are “custom pigs” — raised for sale to individuals — the resulting pork isn’t required to undergo the standard U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections and grading. But the students will have an opportunity to participate with a certified inspector in a process similar to a USDA meat inspection to determine the quality of the end product.

Most of the pigs have been pre-purchased, but a few may remain available. The cost is $2 a pound, hanging weight. After processing, each pig is expected to weigh approximately 150 pounds. For more information, contact Kristi Short at kshort@sequim.k12.wa.us.

Short said pigs are just one of the farm animals FFA members raise, along with steers, dairy heifers, pygmy goats and poultry.

Reach Mark Couhig at mcouhig@sequimgazette.com.




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