To Alexandra Brooks, pigs are just like a big puppy.
“We raised pigs when I was growing up,” the Central City, Ky., native said. “I like pigs better than chickens. They’re an easy animal to deal with — like a gentle giant.”
Brooks is majoring in agriculture management and operations at Owensboro Community and Technical College. For the second spring, about 20 students at OCTC are raising pigs at the Mount Saint Joseph farm to get an understanding of livestock production.
“We decided to raise more hogs this year, from 10 to 17,” said Chelsea Williams, assistant professor and program director of Agricultural Studies at OCTC. “This is great for the hogs. We really appreciate being out here.”
In the fall semester of 2014, the college contracted with the Ursuline Sisters to use three acres of farmland to allow students in its sustainable agriculture program to raise a vegetable garden. In spring 2015, the program expanded into livestock with pigs and chickens. This year the chickens are being raised at the school.
Students come out to the Mount farm twice a day in pairs to care for the pigs. On April 14, 2016, Brooks was hosing out the stalls in the afternoon.
“I like it. I make sure they’ve got plenty of food and that they’re drinking,” she said. “I also check to make sure they aren’t sick. They tend to have sinus problems.”
Brooks plans to eventually transfer to Western Kentucky University to complete her degree in agronomy. She would like to eventually open a fresh produce store to serve in Hopkins and Christian counties in Kentucky.
John Robert Murphy, a student in the class who lives on nearby Cummings Road, agreed to meet Williams on April 14 to unload some feed for the pigs.
“Pigs are easier than cows, they aren’t as big,” Murphy said, who grew up on his family’s farm. Each student has a feed partner, but in Murphy’s case, since he lives down the road from the Mount, his feed partner takes care of the chickens at OCTC and he takes care of the pigs.
While some of the students grew up with farm work, there are others who are veterinary technician students who are new to the farm, Murphy said. The most surprising attribute of pigs to students is how curious they are, he said.
“They’ll bite anything and they try to get out any way they can,” Murphy said.
The pigs are being processed April 28, which coincides with the end of the semester, Williams said. They will be processed in Princeton, Ky., because that is the closest USDA plant.
“I always shoot for them to be 250 pounds by the time they are processed, these will be 270,” she said.