Pig farmer Wiebe in ’t Hout

“The technical results are better than with castrated animals”

Wiebe in ’t Hout is 36 years old and lives in Veendam. He is married and has two children. Together with his sister, Wiebe has an arable farm, broilers and, in addition, fattening pigs at 2 locations. At one location he has 7,000 fattening pigs with the Better Life Label one star certificate. At the other location, he has 5,800 fattening pigs in a conventional system.

How did you get into pig farming?
I’ve been into pig farming all my life. My father Hein was a pig farmer and I was ‘born and bred’ in pig farming.

When did you start keeping boars?
We switched to boars a long time ago. In 1998 we supplied boars for the Welfare program from Tesco. In 2010 we made the switch to Better Life Label 1 star. This is a quality mark for improving animal welfare in pig farming.

What was the reason to switch?
For me, there were two reasons: a demand from the market, and in addition, boars have better technical results with lower feed conversion and better growth.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of keeping boars?
What I find a great advantage is that the results are better. What disappointed me was the unrest. I had to get used to that.

How often does aggressive behavior occur among the boars?
That is different between groups. I think that it also varies with the season. When the first animals are delivered from the group, the ranking order is determined again. Then it can go wrong. Sometimes you have to remove an animal from the group and keep it separate.

How can you counter these behaviors?
You have to feed very differently. The content of protein and lysine must be increased. Furthermore, I also see differences in genetics. For example, the Duroc is significantly more quiet. Preferably I would keep boars and gilts together. But in the Better Life Quality Mark this is practically not feasible.

What has changed in the stables for keeping boars?
Nothing has changed at our company. The fact that we have gone from 0.8 to 1.0 square meters has, according to me, little effect on mounting behavior. For me, raising boars has a lot to do with genetics. Furthermore, it is not easy to predict, depending on the season.

What do you think is the ideal accommodation for keeping boars?
I think the group size should not be too big. Then the risks are smaller, especially if you also have uniform couples. The smaller the groups, the better. Furthermore, I have a long trough where the animals can eat at the same time, and there is less competition for the food.

How do you look back on your decision to keep boars?
I look very realistic at it. It is motivated by the market. And the technical results are better than with castrated animals. Furthermore, I expect that genetic improvement will make it gradually easier to keep boars.