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Farmer: Pigs can endure cold

Some worry about hogs on Sterling farm

Published: Monday, Jan. 6, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT
(Philip Marruffo/pmarruffo@saukvalley.com)
Twin sisters Brooke (left) and Molly Hendricks hold their 10-week-old Great Pyrenees pups Sandy and Casey, respectively, among the pigs on Norm Koster's farm on Polo Road in Sterling. Koster was contacted by agencies concerned over the pigs' safety in the ongoing cold snap and assured them the animals were safe.
(Philip Marruffo/pmarruffo@saukvalley.com)
Pigs bed down Friday afternoon on the free range pen off Polo Road in Sterling.
(Philip Marruffo/pmarruffo@saukvalley.com)
Pigs gather around their feed Friday afternoon off Polo Road in Sterling.
(Philip Marruffo/pmarruffo@saukvalley.com)
Pigs feed Friday afternoon in a free range pen off Polo Road in Sterling.

STERLING – Some people are worried that pigs in the farm behind Applebee’s are suffering because of the cold.

Today, some of the worst of this winter’s weather is expected, with a high temperature of only minus-12 in Sterling and wind chills that could hit 50 below zero.

Farmer Norm Koster has heard about the fears for his pigs from a couple of agencies that were contacted by concerned residents, but the agencies, he said, understand that the hogs are safe.

The 120-acre farm along Polo Road, on Sterling’s east end, includes a shelter and a windbreak for the pigs. The animals have straw as bedding in the shelter, said Koster, who planned to add bedding and windbreaks ahead of today’s cold weather.

Pigs, he said, also have an inch of fat on their backs, which protects them from the cold. That layer typically used to be 2 inches, but hogs are leaner these days, because of changes in American diets.

Hogs sense the coming of cold weather and double their feed intake a couple of days in preparation, Koster said.

The animals also stick close together when it’s cold. 

“They cuddle a lot,” he said. “They do that at night.”

In late July, Koster moved in pigs to the 120 acres, where he had raised corn and soybeans for more than 30 years. Some people complained about the smell, given that the farm is just north of East Lincolnway, Sterling’s main retail district.

But the land is zoned for agriculture, so Koster is allowed to run hogs on the land. That area now has 2,400 pigs, he said.

The hogs get no antibiotics, Koster said, which means they are much leaner than those raised in confinement facilities. Koster plans to target Chicago as a market for the meat. 

“There is a growing number of people who want to know where their food comes from,” he said, “and what goes in it.”

For more information

Call Norm Koster at 815-973-6929 for details on the pig farm and Julie Hendricks at 815-677-0767 for purchasing the meat. 

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