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Schmitts collaborate in Rockford-area swine operation

Schmitts collaborate in Rockford-area swine operation

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Tony Schmitt and his uncle Norman Schmitt are now collaborating in their swine enterprises to farrow and finish several thousand head of hogs each year.

The Schmitts are independent producers owning their own operations in the Rockford area, and marketing their own hogs.

Norman, who had a farrow to finish operation decided he wanted to cut back on labor, so his nephew Tony has stepped in to take on the farrowing part of the operation. Norman now finishes out the 3- to 4-week-old pigs that Tony will supply. While the two families will work together, the operation are financially separated.

Living north of Rockford, Tony and wife Josie bought the breeding herd that his uncle and aunt owned. Tony says he took over the farrowing operation because he had always helped family in the fields and he wanted to farm full time. He said Josie is a very active part of the farrowing operation.

Tony and Josie are in the initial stages of their hog venture, while Norman and Brenda’s operation has been in place for several decades.

The Schmitt operation has been using Genesis Breeding for some time.

“I will use some of my own boars, but I also do my own AI breeding. I buy a lot of SGI semen, and will use a lot of AI cross breeding. We use a hybrid cross in our breeding program,” said Tony.

Tony feeds a ration provided by a local elevator and farrows in crates. He pays close attention to his sow’s reproductive tracks, which is vital in a farrowing operation. After the piglets are a couple of weeks old, Tony puts rolled oats on the floor so piglets begin to chew on the feed. Slowly, pigs are transitioned to eating a more solid ration. The pigs are eating creep feed when they are weaned and shipped at about four weeks of age.

The pigs are transported to Norman and Brenda Schmitt’s farm. Norman said the young piglets, who are conditioned to eating rolled oats and pallets, are placed in a climate controlled pig nursery.

“The pigs come here around 15 to 17 pounds. The first day we give them a little rolled oats and pallets to get them eating," Norman said. "We put fresh feed in front of them two to three times a day, which is essential to get them eating. These pigs are kept in the nursery until they are 40 to 50 pounds, then they are moved to a finishing house.”

In the finishing house, the hogs eat from feeders that provide both dry and wet feed. Dry feed comes down and water runs underneath so each hog has the option of either eating the dry ration on top or going for the wet feed on the bottom. When the piglets first arrive on the farm he feeds them an 18 percent starter ration and reduces protein as hogs mature. His final ration runs around 14 percent protein. His hogs are marketed at Prestige Plant in Eagle Grove weighting from 270 to 300 pounds.

Being an independent operator provides some challenges with marketing.

“We have a contract to supply so many pigs each year, and if I have an oversupply, I can market them with Prestige or elsewhere. Prestige has treated us real well,” said Norman.

Norman said that markets have been less than exciting over the last couple of years, then when Covid hit the market got into the low 20s

"During that time, one went cash flow backwards, and people had to adjust. Still, it wasn’t as bad as 1998 which was a long drawn out situation," he said.

Norman said things have changed some in the industry.

“I have raised hogs in a lot of different settings over the years, and the confinement units of today are a lot better for the pigs and for me," he said. "We do everything to reduce stress on the hogs because that is what makes them thrive.”

As the hog market rebounds from the Covid plant closings Norman says, “I am semi-optimistic about the hog market if we can get export markets going. I think there is a future for pork not only in China but world-wide.”

Though the Schmitts’ operations are separate, their collaboration has great benefits in protecting against diseases, provides steady outlet for feeder pigs, provides for healthy transitioning of piglets, joint working on genetics, all while building family relationships.

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