Once the piglets are old enough to be weaned from their mothers, they are moved to finishing barns where they are grown until they are ready for market. That is where our contract growers come in. They build the finishing barns, which they own, on their land. We provide the pigs, the feed, and any medicine the pigs might need if they get sick. The grower provides the facilities and the labor to care for them every day. We also provide fieldmen that will stop in on a regular basis to make sure everything is going okay and to answer any questions or concerns the grower might have. When the pigs are ready for market, we will deliver them to the processing facility.
All of our caretakers are PQA Plus certified. PQA Plus, or Pork Quality Assurance Plus, is an education and certification program that was developed by the National Pork Board. Caretakers are required to be re-certified every three years in this program, which covers a range of topics related to animal well-being and food safety. Throughout the years, new features have been added such as on-farm site assessments, environmental protection, worker safety, and detailed animal care components. In order to help our growers maintain their PQA Plus certification, we provide training seminars every two years. At these bi-annual meetings, a certified instructor provides the training, in addition to covering some other topics such as recent company changes.
The vast majority of the finishing barns are located in the southeast quadrant of Iowa. They are paid a fixed amount each month based on building capacity. This provides an excellent way for beginning farmers to get started in agriculture, as they receive a fixed monthly payment regardless of current corn or pig prices, thereby removing the risk involved with market volatility.
Another benefit of having a hog barn, and in fact the reason many farmers build one, is that it creates a valuable source of fertilizer. Not only does the manure offset the cost of commercial fertilizer, it provides additional benefits to the soil.