The National Pork Board has named four U.S. pork production operations to be honored as the 2010 Pork Industry Environmental Stewards. The award, now in its 16th year, recognizes producers who demonstrate a firm commitment to safeguarding the environment and their local communities.
This year's award recipients are:
- Pembroke Oaks Farm, Wheatfield, Ind.
- Ranch Creek Farm, Carroll, Iowa
- Pleasant Hill Farm, Barnett, Mo.
- L&M Daughtry Farm, Clinton, N.C.
The Environmental Steward award winners were selected by judges represented by pork producers and environmental organizations. The judges reviewed applications from pork producers who are committed to upholding the ideal relationship between pork production and the environment.
Their winning operations were evaluated on their manure management systems, water and soil conservation practices, odor-control strategies, farm aesthetics and neighbor relations, wildlife habitat promotion, innovative ideas used to protect the environment and an essay on the meaning of environmental stewardship.
"This year's winners of the prestigious award are yet another great group of pork producers," said Randy Brown, chair of the Environmental Stewards selection subcommittee and past Environmental Steward award recipient. "The 2010 stewards are real-world examples of how producers live the 'We Care' principles every day as natural protectors of the environment and as good neighbors in their communities."
The award recipients will receive the recognition of their peers at the 2011 National Pork Industry Forum next March in Phoenix.
Pembroke Oaks Farm
Pembroke Oaks Farm is a modern 2,470-sow site in a unique setting near Wheatfield, Ind. The farm, adjacent to 8,000 acres of wilderness known as the Jasper-Pulaski State Fish and Wildlife Area, is part of the responsibilities of Malcolm DeKryger, vice president of Belstra Milling in DeMotte, Ind., who oversees all pork production.
The farm's protected location away from other livestock and neighbors offers a good setting for producing replacement breeding-herd gilts. DeKryger works closely with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to make sure that the symbiotic relationship the farm has with the nature area continues to flourish.
Completed in 2006, the farm was designed to meet or exceed state and federal standards. Manure is stored in a deep pit under the gestation barn, with the concrete storage designed to prevent any tank defects and seepage. Perimeter tiles not only prevent exterior hydraulic pressure, but the drainage lines have been fitted with a water quality monitoring sump.
Ranch Creek Farm
The Ranch Creek farm is owned and operated by Peter and Aaron Juergens of rural Carroll, Iowa, and was built in 2001 as part of the Juergens family pork operation. Peter and Aaron's parents, Ron and Elizabeth, have been raising hogs in west-central Iowa for more than 35 years. The family operation has 5,500 sows and finishes about 150,000 pigs each year.
Ranch Creek features two 48-pen, naturally ventilated confinement buildings that house 1,200 pigs each, growing them from 55 pounds to market weight. The Juergens brothers are dedicated to producing quality pork, as shown by both being certified in Pork Quality Assurance Plus and a PQA Plus Site Assessment completed for the Ranch Creek finishers.
Managing manure nutrients to get maximum value has been a priority from the start. Manure collects in 8-foot-deep pits beneath concrete slatted floors. As certified manure applicators, the Juergens haul the manure in tankers and inject nutrients at precise rates to meet the needs of their 120 acres of corn and soybeans. Any remaining manure nutrients are delivered to neighbors through agreements outlined in the operation's nutrient management plan.
Pleasant Hill Farm
Pleasant Hill Farm, located in the rolling hills near Barnett, Mo., is owned and operated by Charlie and Nancy Long. The diversified farm features four nursery buildings that house about 6,500 pigs, along with cropland, pasture and a cow-calf herd.
Since they bought the farm in 2003, the Longs have improved the operation and made the natural environment and wildlife priorities. Deer, turkeys, rabbits and many species of birds call Pleasant Hill Farm home, facilitated by the Longs emphasis on keeping some land fallow and in woodlots.
On the production side, pigs arrive on the site at about 17 to 19 days of age. The Longs raise them to about 50 pounds, and the pigs are shipped to finishing facilities away from Pleasant Hill. Although small pigs don't create much manure, it's handled as a valuable resource, with much the nutrient-rich effluent applied to surrounding crop and pasture acreage on the 360-acre farm.
L&M Daughtry Farm
In 1989, Mark and Lynn Daughtry started raising pigs at L&M Daughtry Farm near Clinton, N.C. Today, the farm has an 800-sow, farrow-to-wean setup along with nine finishing barns that hold more than 6,000 pigs.
Since the farm has a combination of wetlands, high ground and crop ground, the Daughtrys have worked with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to establish coastal Bermuda grass pastures and hay fields. They also grow a variety of summer and winter annual crops such as millet, sudan, rye and oats, to help stop wind erosion as well as any potential water erosion.
Manure from the sow unit and finishers is flushed from barns and treated in an anaerobic lagoon system. Effluent is applied through reels or solid-set systems, with nutrients feeding the various crops according to a certified nutrient management plan that is incorporated into the swine operation's state regulatory permit. Lagoon samples are tested every 60 days to determine the nitrogen content, with the results used to calculate the rate at which effluent is applied to crops. Another source of nutrients for the land comes from a forced-air composter that the family added in 2008 with design help from NRCS.