by Darcy Maulsby
Maria Mauer and her family want to set the gold standard when it comes to sow care, and they’re sharing their story through a public Facebook page called “The Top Sow.”
“This page provides consumers with everything they could ever want to know about raising pigs and provides encouragement to other farmers who are just beginning or who want to do better,” Mauer said.
The page includes plenty of videos showing daily activities on the Mauer family’s 800-sow farm in southeast Indiana. Mauer’s six-year-old son, Marvin, even has his own ag videos on the page.
“Thanks to technology, it’s easy to ag-vocate and show people exactly what we do,” said Mauer, who connects with people all around the world online. “You can tell people anything, but showing them is golden.”
The Mauers take pigs to the local school so Marvin can help classmates learn about pig farming. They emphasize animal-well being, which starts with sow health.
“We believe that better sows make better pigs,” Mauer said.
The pork industry’s We CareSM ethical principle that’s most meaningful to Mauer is to protect and promote animal health and well-being.
“This is the precursor to all the other ethical principles,” Mauer said.
It also helps her focus her ag-vocacy efforts.
“One person in 1,000 will ask me about food safety, but the other 999 want to know sows and pigs are well cared for,” she said.
Well-cared for sows can stay in the Mauer family’s herd a long time. Their “star sow” is 10 years old and has weaned 221 piglets.
“We focus on preventive care,” she said. “Cleanliness is important, along with ventilation, proper space and top-notch feed ingredients. We observe animals daily to see how they are doing.”
The Mauers’ veterinarian visits the farm every two weeks to walk through the barns and discuss any concerns the family has about pig health. When antibiotics are necessary, Mauer doesn’t shy away from telling consumers the truth.
“I explain where the illness, injury or infection came from, what will happen if I don’t treat it, how long I’ll treat it, what type of medication I’ll use,” Mauer said.
“Transparency is key to good consumer relationships.”