By Charlyn Fargo
That pork chop in your grocery store is likely to be from an Illinois producers. That’s because hog numbers are expanding, especially in central Illinois.
Farm families near Meredosia , in Morgan County, and Dietrich, in Effingham County, recently built and opened new wean-to-market hog barns.
In September, the Illinois Pork Producers Association hosted open house and ribbon cutting events at each farm to celebrate the opening of the new facilities, and educate neighbors and the general public about modern pork production.
“A lot of people in the state are putting up new buildings trying to bring back the younger generation and provide additional (farm) income,” said Curt Zehr, IPPA president and a hog farmer from Tazewell County. “We see that as a real positive.”
The inventory of all hogs and pigs in Illinois through the first half of 2015 totaled 4.6 million head, up 7 percent from the previous year. The inventory as of Sept. 1 totaled 4.75 million head, up 2 percent from a year ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The boost in swine numbers ws due to expansion, along with improved efficiency. The average number of pigs saved per litter in the state during the secn9od quarter, 10.5, improved form 9.9 the previous year when pork producers battled the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus in many herds.
Higher numbers typically mean lower pork prices for farmers, but most hog farmers still should be able to make money, despite the possible buildup of pork supplies, according to Steve Meyer, vice president of pork analysis at EMI Analytics.
“We’ve seen a nice rally,” Meyer said at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa. “We had an average loss of about $6 per head back in March, but now we’re looking at a profit of about $10 per head.”
And, combined with low feed prices, Meyer believes pork returns will remain profitable through much of this year despite a buildup of supplies.
“We see robust growth in this herd,” Meyer said.
Two new pork processing facilities are scheduled to come online until 2017.
IPPA’s Zehr said pork producers are currently making money, thanks in part to the value of hog manure.
In Morgan County, the new facility is owned by the Six family, and is part of the family’s 4,600 head operation. The Six family contracts with Maschhoffs, another Illinois-based operation, to raise small pigs to market size.
“The Six family has raised livestock, cared for the soil and invested in our community for six generations,” said Ginny Six. “We decided to build the new 4,600-head barn as an expansion of our existing farm.
In Effingham County, Mitch and Christine Niemerg recently opened a new 2,400 head wean-to-market hog barn .The Niemerg’s are a third generation family farm and contract with the Borgics, also of Illinois, to raise the pigs for market.
Zehr is hopeful the trend will continue as farmers optimize available feed and transportation advantages to expand livestock herds in the state.