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A new generation in pig raising

A new generation in pig raising
Trent Hatlen and his daughter, Adrian, hosted open house for their new hog barn near Rembrandt in Buena Vista County.

Trent Hatlen got the opportunity to get his start in livestock by raising pigs on his parents’ farm. Now the 42-year-old is doing the same for his daughter, Adrian.

The family cut the ribbon recently at Adrian’s Finisher Farm, a 4,800-head finishing farm near Rembrandt. The site is state-of-the-art, featuring odor-mitigation strategies and other technologies that are much different than the barns the family started with, the family  said.

The Hatlens began raising pigs on the family’s farrow-to-finish pig farm in the 1970s. In 1997, Trent bought the sow herd and sold pigs to his parents.

But tough markets forced Hatlen to cut back on livestock and eventually get out of pig raising to focus solely on crops.

But with low grain prices, Trent’s lender mentioned a contract hog grower arrangement.

“Farming has been pretty tough here the last two, three years. I just happened to mention what do you think of these hog buildings. … Everything just kind of snowballed together,” Trent said.

Contract feeding 

After much research, he found the contract grower arrangement with Iowa Select Farms was a great fit for him and 16-year-old Adrian. He contacted the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) for help in finding a location that would best fit the barns.

“He had a general idea of where he wanted to place the barn, but he wanted a second set of eyes to make sure that prevailing winds wouldn’t have an impact on neighbors,” says Kent Mowrer, senior field coordinator at the coalition.

With Mowrer’s guidance, Hatlen decided that the best fit for the barn would be on land on the family’s Century Farm.

Family tradition

Trent said his daughter served as a motivation for getting the site built. “My mom and dad have helped me out — have given me every opportunity to farm, and I’m so grateful for that. Now it’s like what can I do for Adrian. Farming is so tough to get into. She’s 16, a junior. I want her to go to college and have the opportunity to do whatever she wants. But she loves the farm. If that’s an opportunity that’s there for her. (The barns) would help her get into (farming),” Trent said.

The new site means a lot to Adrian, too, who might have a future as a pig farmer. “It means a lot to me because the farm means a lot to me,” she said.

She noted how the new technologies in the barn are a departure from the family’s past experiences in raising hogs.“It’s interesting to see how much it has changed from our other hog buildings. The controls are a big change. They’re more technologically advanced,” she said. 

A changing environment 

It’s immensely different from the pig-raising environments that Trent got his start in raising pigs, says his mom, Linda.

“Trent grew up around hogs, raising hogs. We had them in the A-frame huts in the pasture. We farrowed the old-fashioned way in the barns,” she said.

Linda says she’s proud to see her granddaughter closely tied to the farm.

“She’s grown up around hogs too. Trent put up a nursery when Adrian was little, and she just loved those little pigs and helped her dad do chores,” Linda said. “(When they built this barn) I said I’m not learning to do any hog chores. I’ve done enough of them. But I think (Adrian) will,” Linda chuckled.

Meeting with neighbors

Trent spoke to his neighbors about his plan for growth. And recently, Trent and Adrian welcomed those same neighbors to see the inside of their new hog barns.

“It looks awfully nice. It’s a state-of-the-art facility,” said Clint Henrichs, a neighbor taking a break from harvesting to check out the new barn.

Three rows of trees are just one component of odor-mitigation strategies at the site. Hatlen worked through the coalition’s Green Farmstead Partner Program and Deboer Tree Farm in Akron to plan for trees around the site.

Electrostatic fences serve as the first line in mitigating odor. Its purpose is to knock down dust particles, which often contain odor, according to John Stinn, environmental projects manager for Iowa Select Farms.

Adding pollinator habitat 

“He’s gone the extra mile to keep the aesthetics and mitigate the odor and everything. You can’t do much more than what they’re trying to do here,” said Randy Ripke, a neighbor who came to the family’s open house to see the completed site.

The barn’s layout was an important aspect in designing the site, Trent said.  “Pig movement, air quality, feeder spacing, larger pens — all of those were considerations. You can really tell that they care about the animals’ welfare, and that means a lot to me,” he said.

Generational farms

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, who also attended the open house,  said an open house like this one helps neighbors and others learn about how farmers raise livestock today.

Naig said he was impressed with the technology inside the barn as well as the strategies Trent and Adrian used through about to mitigate odors. Perhaps the most impressive piece, he said, is the generational story.

“That generational piece is one of the important aspects of animal agriculture in the state,” Naig said. “It’s one of these great opportunities for the next generation to get into the family farm business or into agriculture in general. It’s one of those important aspects of having a thriving animal agriculture industry in the state.”



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