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Pride in pigs drives independent Illinois producer

Source: Illinois Farmer Today

Thomas Titus is all in on pigs.

He takes pride in his profession and it shows in his interactions with fellow producers. That is among reasons he was recently named president of the Illinois Pork Producers Association after serving on the board for several years.

“I feel pretty fortunate to have the opportunity to serve pork producers across the state for the next year,” said Titus, who farms in Logan County.

Along with his in-laws — Dave and Lisa Conrady — he maintains a 600-sow farrow to finish operation that produces 12,000 pigs annually. The families also grow corn and soybeans and have a few cattle.

“We always say the most important thing we raise on our farm are kids,” Titus said.

To that end, he and his wife, Breann, also keep busy raising their two girls – Reagan, 10, and Lakin, 7. Titus and his father-in-law focus on the pork side while his brother-in-law manages the grain component.

It is an independent pork farm, something that is becoming increasingly rare in the era of contracted pork management operations. Titus embraces the challenges as well as the opportunities.

“It’s a personal choice,” he said. “There is definitely more risk involved. If you end up on the wrong side, it makes paying for things difficult. Contract finishing continues to become more popular.

“Everyone on our farm is very proud of what we do. There’s a little bit more skin in the game. You’re vested in that animal to make sure they’re healthy so that we’re able to provide that additional protein source to families across the globe.”

Pork has increasingly become a global product, although IPPA and other organizations are always looking to increase domestic demand.

“Exports play a role in what we do, but the lion’s share is consumed by people within the United States,” he said. “We continue to look at different ways we market pork products and meet demand. Especially with ground pork, which is versatile.”

Along with a global market, the world plays a role in negative aspects of animal production. Disease is always near the top of the list of concerns, especially incidents of things such as African swine fever, which has been a problem for years in China and some other nations.

“If it breached the borders of the United States, we’d be having a much different conversation,” Titus said. “It’s not that far away. It was found in the Dominican Republic last year. That’s as far from the country as Illinois is from Florida.”

Still, Titus is cognizant of the importance of exports.

“A quarter of every pig we raise could be going to other countries,” he said. “It’s a global business. That’s what continues to drive this industry.”

Labor is another major concern that is not limited to pork.

“Labor is a challenge,” he said. “We understand that. Sometimes it feels like you’re barely making it. Other times there are so many people around us we don’t know how to keep them busy. We feel fortunate that we’re in a good position right now.”

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