Kansas couple held open house at the Henry Pork farrow to finish operation
for The Fence Post
The small community of Longford, Kan., just east of central Kansas, is the home of a long-time local hog farm’s new technologically advanced hog operation, which can accommodate 2,500 sows.
Several Kansas legislators, as well as interested neighbors, were invited to an open house at Henry Pork’s new location on July 9. The new facilities replace the former farrow to finish operation that was built to handle 2,000 sows. The public reveal of the facility came just 90 days after the project began on April 10.
“We had the open house because neighbors were very curious,” said Marc Henry, who co-owns Henry Pork with his wife Kate, and Marc’s parents, Roy and Linda Henry. “Also, we had lots of Sunday afternoon drive-bys.”
The family was pleased to open up the new facilities and show friends and neighbors what they do for a living and how they care for the pigs.
Marc, a third generation hog farmer, said the gestation component is already operating with its new occupants. They’ve been breeding 900 head, with 1,300 more females on the way.
“It’s been over a year in the planning, and it’s something we’re very excited about because the existing facility was in need of upgrades,” Marc said. “This is a big commitment to be a part of the pork industry in the future.”
The Henry family are well aware that the pigs they produce are valued by consumers, who are the center of it all.
“Pork is the No. 1 protein consumed in the world and it is very versatile and used in many different ways. Pork fills the protein demand for all three meals of the day,” Marc said. “Loins and hams were cuts which were popular in the past, and now bacon and pulled pork are in great demand.”
One neighbor called the new facility “amazing.”
Marc’s father Roy Henry gave credit to his son for designing the new facilities.
“Marc worked with people who had built facilities similar to this and the decisions he made will impact him in the years to come,” Roy Henry said. “There is a time in life when the older generation needs to step aside and help when asked.”
The new 2,500 sow unit includes a 120×400-foot gestation barn, two nurseries for weaned pigs that are 30×60 feet and 40×80 feet, and a 200×200-foot farrowing barn.
Another technology advancement are the radio-frequency indentification tags attached to each sow, enabling them to be fed individually in a loose sow housing using the Gestal feeding system, which reduces their anxiety level. “When they enter one of the three feeding stations in each pen, the feeding system will dispense the amount of feed that is programmed for her,” Marc said.
Here’s how the gestation works. “We breed every animal in a crate. All breeding is done artificially. Once she has been confirmed pregnant — usually four weeks post breeding — we will group up animals in pens of 50, that are of similar age, size and breed date,” said Marc, who has been working with his dad for 19 years. These pregnant hogs then spend the last 12 weeks of gestation in the open pens with the automated feeding.
The pigs that are three weeks old to 300 pounds have different rations in an auger blending system. The auger blends those rations for that specific pig’s needs.
“The GDU (Gilt Development Unit) is where the auger blending is, handling feed from a 50 pound pig to breeding age, which is 220 days old. Every gilt is a young female, and we raise females from the time they’re removed from their mother through our gilt development user. When they’re old enough, we’ll replace them. We have the ability to mix two rations to match the animal’s growth curve. This system is more accurate and efficient, and allows us to match the gilt natural growth curve,” said Marc.
After the pigs are bred, and (currently) in the gestation process, then they will transition into the farrowing side into a building which will be ready in another month.
Despite that many local locker plants are booked solid through 2021 and even halfway into 2022, that does not affect how Henry Pork markets their hogs.
“Market hogs go to a slaughter plant, and we send ours to Triumph Foods in St. Joe, Mo., Marc said. “Our main concern is that the packing plants just have the ability to process them.”
Reflecting on this new facility and new process, Marc compared it to the way they used to produce hogs and grow the business.
“The process is similar in many ways, but built to comply with the coming new trends in pork production such as loose sow housing,” he said. He said they have evolved from dirt lots and small farrowing barns. to what they are building today.
Hogs have been the family’s longtime business through three generations. “Some people decide to raise cattle, grow crops but we decided there were bigger opportunities in hogs.”
Both Marc and Roy appreciate help from their wives. Marc’s wife Kate is a busy mother of three with all their activities, and she helps out with the bookkeeping and running errands for the hog farm. Roy’s wife Linda handles bookkeeping for several entities, as well as mowing, runs errands, is a choir director, and enjoys volunteer work.
The hog facilities would not be complete without an eye toward biosecurity, which is a common hog production practice for virus control.
“Employees are required to shower in, but we do not require them to shower out,” Marc said. “All items that enter the farm are sprayed with a disinfectant then sent through a UV room before they are allowed to enter the facility.”
In addition to their hog operation, the Henry family also runs 130 head of fall cows and farms 1,200 acres of wheat, soybeans and milo.
“I enjoy being busy and not knowing exactly what I have to do when I get up in the morning,” said Roy, adding, “I am fortunate to have a flexible schedule to attend activities and also have been able to serve in the community on boards and projects.”
For Marc and Roy, the entire massive hog operation is a team effort that allows the high-tech farm to help feed America, and the world. ❖
— Hadachek is a freelance writer who lives on a farm with her husband in north central Kansas and is also a meteorologist and storm chaser. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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