Nathan Schroeder works with his family on their Putnam County farm to contract raise hogs for Hord Livestock.

Soybean meal powers swine diets to produce nutritious pork

By Matt Reese

While he enjoys most aspects of the farrow-to-finish and crop farm his family operates in Putnam County, Nathan Schroeder particularly loves the chance to work with baby pigs. 

“My favorite part is the nurseries. I enjoy getting a new group of weaned pigs in. I enjoy spending the extra time in there getting them going when they’re small,” Schroeder said. “We are contract growers for Hord Livestock, and we have 4,800 finishing spaces, so that’s two double-wide barns. We also have two nurseries, each holding 5,200 head. We are celebrating our tenth year with hogs. We are just the first generation with the hog farm and the fourth generation of the overall farm.”

Schroeder and his family had been renting their farm ground to a neighbor but decided to get back into crop production several years ago and expand with the contract hog operation.

“We decided we wanted to expand. Our goal was to work to bring families back to the farm and livestock was one avenue we wanted to go down,” Schroeder said. “We visited a lot of different farms and figured out what we wanted. We decided we wanted to raise hogs. That’s how we got into it. Now, in the finishing barns, we’re finishing around 14,000 head per year. In the nurseries, we can turn about six groups a year, so that’s about 62,000 head a year moving in and out. With the pigs from our nurseries, we’ll fill our finishing barns and other barns all over northern Ohio.”

All of those pigs require daily care to keep them happy and healthy.

“We’ve got chores split up amongst us all. The first thing we do is we head to our certain barns and walk through to check the computers and make sure everything’s working right. You walk into each room to make sure the environment feels good. If it feels good for you, it feels good for the animals. You go through and check the health of every single head in that barn and make sure your feed and water are good. It takes around an hour and a half and you repeat the process in the afternoon. Sometimes we have countless hours in the barns tending to anything additional that’s needed, whether it’s mechanical, feed or the well-being of the animals,” he said. “We follow the We Care principles from the National Pork Board. We care deeply about our food safety, our animal care, our environment, the health of our herd, and our community. Caring for our animals is definitely at the forefront of what we do. We spend a lot of time and a lot of effort taking care of our livestock in the barns and giving them whatever they need.” 

Starting with those newly weaned baby pigs, quality feed is an essential part of proper care.

“Hord Livestock has some great people as nutritionists developing our animal feed. They adjust diets as the pigs grow. Whether it’s a nursery pig, to the first stages of finishing barn, to the end stages in the finishing barn, the diet changes as the animal grows to meet its needs. The nutritionists are very good at creating the formulas so the pigs get what they need and one part of that feed is definitely from soybeans,” Schroeder said. “For example, the nursery pigs, they’re on a 30% soybean meal and as you go into the finishers, they’ll drop down to 25% and a little bit further after that. From those baby pigs on, though, soybean meal is one of the go-to protein sources to maximize growth in swine. And from there, it’s kind of humbling when you step back and think about how many families we feed with our pork products. They may end up in the store like Meijer here close to home or in Michigan, Pennsylvania and beyond. Wherever it ends up, you know you’re feeding a lot of families. We’re very appreciative that we’ve had this opportunity to grow like we have. We’ve created a lot of good relationships and we are very happy we can feed the families that we do.”

Livestock is the most important market for soybean producers. The Ohio Soybean Council is highlighting Ohio’s livestock industry in 2023 to showcase this vital partnership facilitating global food production.

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