Mount Vernon family pork producers educate community members on day-to-day farming operations

Source: Mitchell Republic

The latest expansion on the horizon for the Greenways operation is largely being driven by a new California state law called Proposition 12, which put a ban on buying any pork products from operations that breed pigs in less than 24 square feet of space separating the animal from another.

The Greenway family gave a group of Mitchell area community members an in-depth look at what goes into making their large farming and hog production operation in Mount Vernon succeed.

After building one of the state’s premier hog production operations, Brad and Peggy Greenway helped the group of attendees at Wednesday’s Ag Connections event learn about the process of producing pork and the industry challenges they and other farmers face to provide food. The event was put on by the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce as a way to connect urban residents with the local and area producers who put food on their tables.

In the past decade, the Greenways have expanded their operation and taken their hog production to new heights. In the early years, the family was selling about 1,700 pigs a year. Since building new hog barns and adding an arsenal of innovative agriculture equipment, the Greenways now produce over 14,000 pigs per year.

With two immaculate wean-to-finish hog barns on their Mount Vernon farm, each equipped with automatic heating and air conditioning, the family raises enough quality hogs to feed about 64,000 pork consumers per year.

“We couldn’t make it on what we were doing before. You always hope to make $10 to $15 a pig, and we were selling 1,700 pigs. Do the math on that, and we weren’t making a heck of a lot of money,” Brad said of the operations prior to expanding.
The expansion efforts came to life when the Greenways joined a 14-person cooperative known as Bluestem Family Farms – a sow barn managed by the Pipestone Veterinary Clinic.

The family is gearing up to add another state-of-the art hog facility near their Mount Vernon farm that will feature a new group housing layout.

Brad said the latest expansion on the horizon is largely driven by a new California state law called Proposition 12, which put a ban on buying any pork products from operations that breed pigs in less than 24 square feet of space separating the animals from another.

An additional restriction in the California livestock law requires all pork purchased in the state must be raised the same way. The new facilities the family is gearing up to build on their Mount Vernon farm will make for uniform “group housing” barns.

Considering the state of California consumes 17% of all domestic pork, Brad said adjusting the swine operation is an important economic move.

“Some would say ‘Why don’t you just let them make their own pork?’ They are a huge customer of pork. You need to cater to them a bit,” Brad said.

Just how vital is pork as a source of protein? On average, U.S. pork consumers eat about 44 pounds of pork per year, Brad said.

“Domestic demand has not increased very much for the last 15 years or so,” he said.

Brad hit on the importance of raising soybeans and corn crops, which are used as feed for the pigs they raise. The soybeans are processed into soybean meal for pig feed.

“Each pig eats about 8 bushels of corn. We use about 120,000 to 150,000 bushels of corn on our farm each year. We use about 650 tons of soybean meal” Brad said.

With the new $500 million soybean processing plant that’s set to be built south of Mitchell, Brad said it will help make the Greenways hog production even more efficient. As of now, the closest soybean processing plant is about 100 miles away from the Mount Vernon farm.

“We go up and get about two semi loads of soybean meal every month,” he said.

Safety of hogs remains top priority

Prior to building the state-of-the-art hog facilities several decades ago, the Greenways were tasked with protecting their pigs in the elements with old fashioned hoop barns.

Now, their hog barns are equipped with technology that allows them to welcome three-week-old pigs into an environment adjusted to the elements.

Hogs stand inside the barn at Greenway’s facility.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

As Peggy put it, the safety of the pigs is “our top priority over everything.”

“There are fans that run on the north end of the barn that bring about a 5 mph breeze that goes across the pigs during hotter summer days. We have misters that we also use,” Peggy said, as she gave the group on the tour a rundown of the control system that runs the temperature of the barns. “In the winter time, can turn the heaters on and tweak things to make for the best temperature.”

With thousands of pigs to look after, the risk of viruses is always something the family is monitoring. Peggy said the water lines in the hog barns have the ability to pump medicine with the water to cure pigs if a sickness is evident.

“If we decide that pigs are sick, we will give them individual injections. If it doesn’t react and more pigs start getting it, then we have to move to the preventative stage. We can then run medicine through the water and it will meter the right amount so that all of the pigs in the barn are drinking the same medication,” Peggy said.