Pat Hord, Hord Family Farms, discussing variable rate manure injection on their farm.

Sustainability and soybean’s top customer

By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Ohio Field Leader, a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and soybean checkoff

Over a century ago, in 1905, Hoard Farms got it’s start in the fields of Wyandot County. Shortly after World War II, Pat Hord’s Grandfather, Bud, sold 82 pigs that came from 10 gilts he raised in a wooded lot. “That is an 8.2 average which is very good for pigs in the woods,” said Pat Hord, President of Hord Farms. “At the same time the ceiling on hog prices was lifted after the war, (a ceiling had been imposed due to the need for lard for munitions during the war) and when the ceiling was lifted the price jumped from $.16 to $.32 and with that return, Bud was able to purchase his first farm.”

Hord Farms has a foundation of core values that they project to their entire team.

“Our mission is to be agricultural stewards,” Hord said. “We want to use Christian values and treat people the way that they want to be treated. Our vision is to feed families through sustainable food production. We do that in multiple ways and do it sustainably. We have been looking at ourselves through a sustainability lens for the last 10-15 years. Our core values include: trust, care, courage, and innovation.”

Sustainability is the key to making a multi-generational farm successful. Hord Farms takes a wholistic approach to sustainability. Hord Farms has participated in work done by the National Pork Board through the “We Care” program, which encourages farmers to proactively pursue better technology and methods to improve the safety and quality of pork while reducing the environmental impact. Hord Farms has also created their own “Hords Cares” program that focuses on the four key areas of caring for the environment, people, animals, and the community.  

Through the We Care program; a field level sustainability analysis is conducted. The program builds a database that looks at the number of animals, amount of land, and agronomic practices such as no-till, cover crops, manure application records, and commercial fertilizer rates.

“The good news is that at the field level we come out carbon neutral to carbon negative. There is still the production side with the buildings as well as the upstream side with other things, but it is encouraging that we are in the carbon neutral space,” Hord said. “The pork board is leading the other species organizations in building a database with this data and is gaining the interest of larger companies that are interested in this area and their own environmental footprint.”

Hord Farms uses variable rate technology for fertilizer and manure application. They are using a new technology from John Deere called Manure Sense that provides a real-time analysis of the liquid manure being applied so the rate can be varied based on a prescription. They have installed filter strips in erosion and run-off areas, and have also installed solar panels that power a majority of two of their hog farms.

Like many farms in the area, Hord Farms was a diversified livestock and grain farm in the 1950’s and 60’s. In the late 1980’s Pat joined the operation and expanded the sow enterprise. Currently Hord Farms manages approximately 30,000 sows. Hord Farms has a network of partner farms that feed out the pigs which are marketed to Clemens Food Group. In 2008 cattle were added.

“We have cattle both in a feedlot system finishing about 2,000 head per year and also with a small cow calf herd of Lowline cattle that we raise for direct market sales,” Hord said. “We farm about 8,500 acres of corn, soybeans, barley, wheat, forages, all which interact with our livestock side. We have a good interplay between the livestock and cropping operations. We can utilize the livestock manure as a fertilizer source for the crops, and then use crops for feed for the livestock.”

Consumers need reminded of the interplay between crops and livestock and their food.

“In today’s social media world of what had been 140 character tweets, the conversation and education does not always occur to help people understand,” Hord said. “Livestock is the number one customer of soybeans, and all the sustainability factors that our livestock bring is a good story for soybeans because it means that their number one customer has a future. Sometimes people don’t understand all the things that corn and soybeans are used for. People tend to fear things that they do not understand, and that also applies to their food production. We need to work to help people understand how their food is sustainably produced and how all of agriculture is inter-connected.”  

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