Pork production in Illinois is making a comeback.
Illinois ranks No. 4 in the country, with nearly 3,0000 hog farmers in the state, according to Tim Maiers, director of public relations with the Illinois Pork Producers Association. .
“We’ve seen growth and expansion the last two years,” he said. “The trend is for livestock coming back to the Midwest, fueled by high grain prices.”
Higher grain prices (to feed hogs) has meant livestock facilities concentrated in the Carolinas and Oklahoma have been looking to bring hog production back to the Midwest where most of the processing plants are located.
The renewed interested in hog production has come from traditional grain farmers who want to have access to cheaper fertilizer costs (from the manure) and looking for an additional income source to bring another generation onto the farm,
“Hog production is a great way to do that,” said Maiers. “We’ve had several instances where farmers have a son or daughter coming back to the operation. This is how they are expanding the farm.”
The IPPA has worked closely with the Illinois Livestock Development Group to help farmers and producers with expansion and site selection. In addition, there have been few recent changes to the Livestock Management Facilities Act, which governs construction and where a facility can be located.
“That means most farmers know what they’re getting into – the rules aren’t changing on them,” said Maiers. “So farmers are more willing to go ahead with expansion or a new facility. Folks know what they are dealing with and that helps.”
Hog production used to be a farrow-to-finish operation in Illinois. Then farmers began specializing in one aspect – farrowing, then selling the pigs to another farmer to feed and finish.
“That specialization has continued,” said Maiers. “But in Illinois we still have a lot more farrow-to-finish that other states.”
The other trend he’s seen is contract production, where a company owns the pigs and a farmer is simply hired to raise them.
“Contract production continues to grow because it offers minimum risks to a farmer,” he said. “We’re also seeing farmers contracting with other farmers in sow cooperatives. That’s where five to six farmers go together and then get a percentage of the pigs back to finish on their farms. That’s worked very well.”
Raising pigs for showing at fairs gives other producers an option at pork production.
“We have a very good and active show pig industry,” said Maiers.
And finally, niche marketing offers another aspect of pork production – raising antibiotic free and locally produced meat.
“There’s an opportunity for just about anything you want to do in the industry,” said Maiers.