by Darcy Maulsby
When Bill Luckey says his pigs are an extension of his family, he’s not kidding. “If the electricity goes out, we check the barns and pigs before we check the house.”
This is second nature for Luckey, who runs a wean-to-finish farm in eastern Nebraska and looks for ways to bridge the gap between farmers and urban consumers.
“Less than 2 percent of the U.S. population farms, and an even smaller percentage raises livestock for meat production,” said Luckey, who also raises corn and soybeans. He markets up to 4,000 of his own pigs and 5,000 to 6,000 pigs that he custom feeds. “Raising animals comes with a great deal of responsibility.”
This includes feeding pigs properly, working with a veterinarian and providing care to maintain each pig’s health and well-being.
These principles haven’t changed from when Luckey was growing up on the family farm. The way pigs are raised is different, though, from the 50-sow operation of Luckey’s youth. Moving pigs from dirt lots into climate-controlled buildings has offered many benefits.
“Pigs are healthier because they are cleaner, and we don’t have to worry about temperature fluctuations,” said Luckey, whose farm underwent a third-party site assessment to evaluate his production practices. “Moving pig indoors has made raising pigs more fun.”
Farming is a family affair for Luckey, whose wife Nancy and sons help out. Luckey, together with son Michael and daughter-in-law Shyla, also work with the local Extension office during its annual “Life on the Farm” school enrichment program geared toward second-grade students.
The majority of the students have never been on a farm, noted Luckey. He talks about farm safety and his experiences growing up on a farm, and Michael and Shyla explain how pigs are raised.
“Students learn where their food comes from, the care that’s given to animals and the technology that’s available in agriculture,” Luckey said.
“Positive feedback from teachers and students is why we’ve participated in this program for more than 20 years.”
The education opportunities don’t stop there.
“The kids share what they learn with their families, so not only are we teaching nearly 600 children, but we’re reaching the community, too,” said Luckey, who also has shared farm life with the public by giving more than 50 Operation Main Street presentations.
“Establishing trust is a daily activity,” Luckey said. “Showing how we care for our animals reassures consumers that we’re producing safe pork products.”