Viking Feeders Going Up

Hog producers have a devil of time getting permitted near Devils Lake, N.D.

It took them three years, but Viking Feeders is pouring cement for a 5,000-sow iso-wean swine facility near Edmore, N.D.

Though the site is nearly 25 miles from Devils Lake as the crow flies (nearly 50 highway miles), people convinced that it poses a threat to the county's fishing-based tourism industry had effectively blocked the project for three years.

But the 26 residents in rural Prospect Township where the barns are located fought back. This summer they passed their own zoning ordinance and awarded a permit to Viking Feeders.

The township's zoning ordinance matches the state's model zoning ordinance developed to help counties and township site livestock facility.

In North Dakota, township zoning supersedes county zoning.

Craig Jarolimek, managing partner for Viking Feeders, says the company hope to have the sides up and roofs on the barns by Thanksgiving. They are scheduled to get their first pigs in March.

Viking Feeders is owned by North Dakota farmers and independent northwest Iowa hog producers – with large and small operations -- who have pooled resources to buy the iso-wean pigs. The partnership also includes non-farm investors.

The company plans to build three more barns in different parts of the state, if it can raise $12.5 million from investors. It has a site permitted in Bottineau, N.D., and is looking for sites for the third and fourth barns.

Craig Jarolimek, managing partner for Viking Feeders.

Iso-wean pigs are in demand because North Dakota has so few swine operations in the first place, Jarolimek says. There is no disease. The barns are extremely isolated.

The climate works North Dakota's favor, too. The Remsen, Iowa farmers were getting their pigs from North Carolina, but as the pigs rode the trucks from a warm climate to a cold climate, they would get sick.

Canada is another popular source for iso-wean pigs. But buying pigs from farmers in North Dakota is less risky, Jarolimek says. There is no international border to cross – a border than can be closed due to things like mad cow disease and 9/11 bombings.

For once, shipping isn't even a problem for North Dakota. The 14-pound iso-wean pigs are so small you can get a lot of them in a semi trailer.

Hog producers used to move baby pigs "out the back door" of their nursery into pens on their farm or their neighbors farms, Jarolimek says.

Interstate trucking and other transportation improvements just expanded a farmer's neighborhood.

"Now, Remsen, Iowa, is out our back door," he says.

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