How has your swine farm changed over the years and what is involved in keeping pigs healthy?

Posted: May 2, 2024

My father started raising hogs out of college in 1978. He built his first finishing building. It housed 300 head of hogs.

He farrowed sows in two old farrowing houses off farm, which meant traveling offsite to care for sows and piglets two times a day in summer or winter, sometimes even in blizzards. My parents have stories of the winter of 1979 when they purchased a snowmobile just to get to farms to care for animals.

As the years went on we built a farrowing house, nursery, gestation house and more finishing houses. We continued to rent several farrowing houses off-site. This required a huge labor force and daily traveling back and forth between farms.

We made the decision in 1996 to switch from a farrow-to-finish farm to a wean-to-finish operation. We purchased shares in a breed-to-wean unit that was managed by a veterinarian. This decreased our labor requirements and performance was better all around because of increased specialization.

Our current wean-to-finish operation purchases weaned piglets weighing approximately 16 pounds each from a farm in Indiana. These piglets are shipped to us every nine weeks and a lot of work goes into preparing for their arrival.

The building has to be thoroughly pressure-washed, sanitized and heated. The day the piglets arrive they are unloaded and vaccinated.

Piglets are checked and treated for any illnesses or injuries at this time.

This is one of the finishing buildings on our Hinckley farm. Hogs the age of 3 weeks old live in here until they are 5 months of age, when they go to market.

They are then started on a ration high in lactose to encourage piglets to start eating solid feed.

Piglets take to it quickly and are switched to a corn/soybean meal diet prepared for their weight and age that we grind here on site in our feed mill.

We use a swine nutritionist to prepare diets aimed at each stage of growth and needs. A healthy pig in a healthy environment can grow very quickly!

Rooms are set to a certain temperature and humidity level and are monitored by sensors which alert us when there is an issue.

Besides our daily monitoring of pigs, a veterinarian visits once a week and goes through all of our barns checking for any illness or issues with the pigs, their environment, or their diet.

There are many facets to running a livestock/grain operation and mine include manure application, crop production, building/machinery repairs and occasional operation of the feed mill.

Although our production methods have changed through the years, our goal continues to be producing high-quality protein for a nutritious diet.

Jason Ness is a 4th generation farmer. He and his wife, Stacie, and children, Adam, Mollie and Lucas, raise pigs, corn, and soybeans and have a hay baling business in rural Hinckley.