A big, new hog farm you probably never heard of is up and running in North Dakota.
It didn’t make statewide news.
There weren’t any contentious public hearings.
Nobody went on all the radio talk shows to rail against it.
After the North Dakota Department of Health granted the permit to build it, nobody sued.
“The project was very well accepted,” says Jeff Kayser, director of management services for Suidae Health and Production, the company managing the project for a cooperative of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa farmers. “We felt welcomed.”
So what did Ransom County Multiplier — a $6 million, 5,000 sow gilt development farm — do right?
1) They picked a good site, says Craig Jarolimek, chairman of the North Dakota Ag Alliance and a business development manager for Topigs Norsvin. Although the farm is in eastern North Dakota, it is pretty isolated. It is about 90 miles southwest of Fargo and four miles south of the Englevale, a town of 40 people. It’s not next to an interstate or state highway, or even a county blacktop road. You get to the farm by way of about four miles of gravel.
2) They worked closely with the neighbors. A farmer sold them the land for the site and they worked out contracts with neighbors to apply manure on nearby cropland.
3) They listened to people from the community. Developers agreed to make changes in the project to address people’s concerns. “We spent about $1 million extra on environmental and animal welfare components compared to a traditionally built farm,” Kayser says. One major expense involved increasing the size of the manure pits beneath the buildings so that they would only have to be pumped out once a year. They agreed to help maintain the road. They also beefed up biosecurity measures and aesthetics. For example, they will compost dead animals on site in a separate facility that isn’t visible to passersby.
4) They did a good job of explaining who they are. The farm is owned by South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa farm families who formed a cooperative, called Nelson County Pig Cooperative, 15 years ago. They operate several other hog farms in North Dakota. Some of the gilts will go to their other farms. The male pigs will be finished by members.
5) They explained how the unit would help local grain growers. In the first phase of the project, about 2,500 sows will be housed on the farm. There will also be piglets raised and gilts developed on the farm. Ransom County Multiplier will buy approximately 88,000 bushels of corn and 740 tons of soybeans each year to feed them. They will produce 5,883,035 gallons of manure a year, reports Nathan Pesta, project engineer, DeHaan, Grabs & Associates, Mandan, N.D. “The plant available nutrients for this manure will produce about $45,330 of nitrogen (133,321 pounds), about $44,080 of phosphorus (95,830 pounds), and about $33,970 of potassium (125,813 pounds).” Corn growers may see a yield o fas much as 10-20 bushels per acre, from the manure, Jarolimek adds.
6) They hired local contractors. Although Iowa-based Henning Construction was the general contractor (they have lots of experience building swine facilities), the farm hired local and regional electricians, plumbers, excavators, concrete suppliers and other subcontractors to help build the barns. “We kept the Super 8 (hotel) full and had so many meals at the Pizza Ranch we probably should have our own key,” Kayser says.
7) They created 10 permanent jobs. Three were filled by local residents. Other people have moved and settled in nearby communities.
8) They explained that the animals will be well cared for. Gestation, farrowing and maternity pens are oversized. Evaporative cooling systems will keep animals comfortable during the summer. Farm employees will be certified in all the latest humane management practices and will be continuously trained. "We intend to be an industry leader in animal care," Kayser says.
How Nelson Country Pig Cooperative handled the Ransom County Multiplier permit process can be a model for other livestock projects.
“This is what North Dakota needs to grow animal agriculture in our state,” Jarolimek says.