Editor's note: This is the first article in a series on the opening of Delta Gilts in southeast Missouri. Check back tomorrow for a look inside the sow multiplier unit. Then on Friday, you'll meet the shareholders who believe this region is a good place to grow the hog industry.
The sandy soils of the delta region in southeast Missouri are not the typical location for a hog facility. However, that is all about to change as Delta Gilts is set to boost hog numbers in the county sevenfold.
Bright blue-and-white barns rest in the middle of a soybean field just west of Morley in Scott County. The sow multiplier facility will house more than 5,500 females at this location. Add in the number of pigs and at any given time, there could be as many as 8,500 animals under roof.
It took just eight months to build the $17 million facility. It is part of the Pipestone System — based out of Minnesota — that manages 60 sow farms, primarily in the Midwest. In all, the company has 250,000 sows under roof, says Joey McDanolds, southern region supervisor for Pipestone. This is the seventh sow farm in Missouri, with the majority located in the northern region.
Why did the company head south? Health. McDanolds says that it is nice to have a location not surrounded by other hog facilities. "It really cuts down on the possibility of disease," he says, which is good for the health of the animals.
Famers and investors from Missouri, Illinois and Iowa own the pigs and buildings. "We work for them," McDanolds says. "We manage the facility and the employees, and we produce a product back to them."
ROOM TO GROW: This facility is a known as a multiplier unit, where female pigs are born and raised to become future production sows. This gestation barn alone has room for 4,560 sows.
The Delta Gilts facility consists of three main barns — farrowing, gestation and gilt developer unit (GDU). Crosses of Large White and Landrace base gilts arrive at the site the third week of June.
There are 17 farrowing rooms containing 60 stalls, or enough space for 1,020 sows. The mama sows stay here for roughly 23 days. The temperature in this barn is warm at 76 degrees F, along with two heat lamps per stall to provide extra heat for newborn pigs. Air in this room is exchanged through filters that rival hospital operating rooms.
McDanolds says the filtration system is critical to protect against viruses like porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS). Delta Gilts will employ a filter compliance technician whose job is the biosecurity of the farm. "They will check filters, conduct wind speed checks, check negative pressure on fan banks and make checks in the attic at least once a week," McDanolds says.
The gestation barn has enough space to house 4,560 sows. This is where gilts come for breeding and remain during their pregnancy. In this temperature-controlled barn, sows are fed individually based on body condition. Feed flows to a tube attached to the individual stall and is then released to a concrete trough below. Watering also takes place through the trough, right after feed consumption. All sows have individual cards with their complete nutrition and health history.
Six rooms make up the GDU. This is where female pigs born on-site move after weaning. They start out in the nursery rooms, and then move to the grower rooms. "This is where we grow the replacement gilts for the unit," McDanolds says.
The site, just west of the small town of Morley in southeast Missouri, will employ 16 full-time and up to four part0time workers.
New Hamburg native Evan Reischman is the farm manager.
Reischman grew up just 15 miles from the new site. He worked at a local hog farm while attending high school. A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in financial economics, he could not shake pig farming. "I enjoy working with the pigs," he says.
He spent the last four-and-a-half months training at other Pipestone System sow farms in northern Missouri and South Dakota. "I am just excited to work at this new facility," he says. "It is really a great place."
McDanolds says that the unit runs on an eight-hour shift. However, there will be a potential night shift in the maternity and farrowing rooms.
Tony Stafford, director of business development for the Missouri Soybean Association, realizes that hog production in this part of the state is nearly "nonexistent." He was part of the initial conversation about a year ago to bring Delta Gilts to the region. With no pork producers in the area, he tapped into those farmers who could benefit — soybean and corn growers.
"It is a big benefit if you look at the jobs and economic development it creates, and the amount of grain soybeans in our case and soybean meal they use, and corn," he says.
According to data from Pipestone Systems, the farm provides $6.2 million to the economy annually in taxes paid, employees, feed purchased and manure nutrients provided. The unit will use 750 tons of soybean meal — good news for local growers, says Stafford. A local row crop farmer will inject the manure from the unit into nearby fields.
Stafford says this is only the beginning.
He says the group is in expansion mode. "They would like to find more locations in this area, too — three locations," he says. Grain availability and low swine density are a draw in this business, and southeast Missouri is a prime location for both.