Thursday, March 09, 2006

Jasper County Hog Farm Open House

Although we were one of the few neighborhood families who DID NOT receive an invitation to the Belstra Milling Hog Farm Open House, we were one of the few close neighbors to attend.

To be fair ...they answered all our questions thoroughly and seriously.

In fact, they went to great limits to make sure we felt welcome and to forge a bond of friendship -- if at all possible.

Many of my fears were confirmed, and only a few of them have been addressed. They made a promise to us that they planned to operate this facility responsibly ...and that we should barely even notice they are there.

I told them we plan to hold them to their promise.

The answers to my question regarding manure treatment using one of the newer digester systems was fair, in that they claim they will not be producing enough manure at this facility to be able to feed such a digester unit. I'm no expert on these digesters, so I can't say if this is an honest answer -- but it was a fair answer.

I'm still upset by the lack of pathogen testing prior to knifing the manure into the ground. I'm still not satisfied by the possible impact on water tables in our area. And I'm not entirely happy with their comments regarding air quality ...and told them they will be hearing from us if their promises of us "not even noticing them" do not hold true.

At least they gave us the opportunity to see their side of the operation and the issues. And to be fair, at least we gave them the opportunity to show it to us.

BUT, as I expressed near the end of our tour, had they come into this area in an honest and open manner, instead of sliding in through the back door hoping no one would notice them until it was a "done deal" ...maybe -- just maybe -- we wouldn't be so defensive about the whole thing. It didn't speak well for "responsible" business ethics ...and Jon, the fellow in charge of us for this tour, agreed.

Interesting points we discovered on this tour.

A HUGE amount of their operation will be automated and carefully controlled/monitored by computer (with regards to feed). Each sow will receive their own portions of feed, delivered automatically through a computer controlled feeding system.

Special enzymes (called "green moss") will be added to their feed to ensure proper digestion, and hopefully eliminate and/or reduce a large amount of pathogens from their waste. Again, the amount of additive will be scientifically controlled and delivered via the automatic feeding system.

Even the "teaser bores" will be walked up and down the aisles in front of the confined sows (to get them "excited" and ready for insemination) will be done using a robotic leading system.

The building temperatures are also carefully monitored, section by section, to reveal any hidden "hot pockets" and ensure proper airflow ...with automatic controls in place should ventilation be required.

They'll be trucking out approximately 1,200 weaned piglets per week -- three "bus loads" per week to be exact. The piglets will be headed to a finishing operation they run in Illinois, where they plan to have 18,000 finishing hogs, where they fatten them for slaughter. Wow! I feel sorry for the people living there!!

Even more interesting... the exhaust fans for the building blow directly at the forested Game Reserve land, pointing directly at the Jasper/Pulaski F&W target range (and one hunter's deer stand). I have a feeling there might be a few Reserve visitors a little upset by this.

The sows show up next week. We'll keep you posted!

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