Area hog facility will aid area School District

RANDOLPH — Valuation of a new hog facility will give a big boast to the Randolph School District. Construction of a close to ten-million dollar three-barn hog facility is underway and expected to be completed by April 1 of next year.
The 5,200 head breed-and-wean hog operation named the “Sholes Piggery” is located approximately seven miles south of Randolph and about seven miles west of Carroll.
Permits that were needed to start construction had been secured and construction is underway according to investor Dave Hansen, who lives north of Coleridge.
“We want to have the gilts in the barn by April 1. There are three barns: one for breeding and gestation, a farrowing building and a gilt-developer barn,” said Hansen. “The gestation building has open pens with 250 sows in each pen.”
Each week 2,400 to 2,500 weaned pigs that are 21 days old will be shipped out of the facility by a local trucking company to a Co-op in Northwest Iowa to meet the demand in that area.
The Co-op was looking to expand their business and they have the farmers Hansen said.
The Sholes Piggery is not only large it is also a “smart” facility,
Each sow is going to have a computer chip in her ear tag,” Hansen said. “The sow will go through a feeding station that will read her chip and drop as much feed as she needs that day.”
A computer will compile a list of sows whose chips haven’t been read at the feeding station and employees will sort those pigs out from the rest of the group and run them through the feeding station. Every sow will be fed to condition in her specific stage of pregnancy.
The sows will be able to eat peacefully without the interruption of another sow stealing food or causing fights as the station is separated from the rest of the pen. The computer chip system ensures optimum nutrition for the sows as they gestate. The sows are also able to be comfortable during the gestation period as the gestation barn will be kept at a lower temperature and will have air movement. The farrowing barn will be kept warmer with less air movement in order to keep the piglets warm.
“A happy, healthy pig is more productive,” Hansen said. “It is like people, when people are comfortable they do better.”
The computer chip system is also involved in moving the gestating sows to the farrowing barn. When the sow goes through the feeding station at 114 days, a different gate swings open to separate the sow so she can be moved to the farrowing barn to deliver and wean her litter.When 21 days are up, the sow heads back to the breeding and gestation barn while her litter moves into the gilt-developer barn to await travel.
Coleridge Grain has been contracted to haul all the pigs to the Co-Op twice a week in order to keep the health of the pigs safe according to Hansen.
If the pigs are kept longer, diseases like pneumonias and streps can set in.
“If pigs are added to a barn during the three-week period before the others are shipped, the barn isn’t as clean as those first pigs had it. The newest pigs are at a disadvantage. That is when outbreaks occur,” Hansen said.
Sows are bred five to six times before being sold off. This prevents the sow’s health from deteriorating and becoming an issue during the birthing process.
Hansen estimated each sow would ideally produce 55-60 pigs in her production time with the facility, with an average of 11-12 pigs in each of her litters.
The cost of the open pen gestation does mean more employees will be needed to help keep fighting to a minimum and ensure the safety and well being of all sows in each pen.
When the facility is up and running, 18 employees will be needed.
The labor pool, driving distance, proximity to communities and neighboring farms were among the reasons the location for the Sholes Piggery was selected
Of course, there will be manure at the facility – although that is still a few months away. That is why it was so important to have farmers in the surrounding area who could utilize manure on their farm ground.
If the weather continues to be good, the facility should be completed by next spring..
“Mature gilts will be brought to the facility when the building is ready. Five to six months later the first piglets will be sold,” Hansen said.
Hansen, who has over 40 years’ experience in the hog industry, is looking forward to having the new facility up and running.
“I am excited. It will be good for the animals,” he said. “This will be a great facility.”