Legacy Pork Opens Doors to New Sow Unit

open house
(l to r) Janet, Jerry, Jordan and Kylie Epperson in their newly finished 5,000-head farrow-to-wean sow unit in Curryville, Mo. ( Jennifer Shike )

Legacy Pork welcomed guests to tour their new, 5,000-head farrow-to-wean sow unit in Curryville, Mo., on Wednesday. The new facility was built on the old Spring Lake Pork site that was destroyed by a fire 15 months ago. They plan to open in late August with their first delivery of gilts and boars.

They will partner with Biddle Farms and PIC for their farm’s genetics. One of the biggest changes they made when building the new facility was incorporating a different feeding system, says Jordan Epperson, co-owner.

“Before we had a large pen feeding system with 300 animals to a pen,” Jordan says. “It was very labor intensive and took more people to run the operation.”

The Eppersons believe the new Gestal electronic feeding system will allow their team to work more efficiently throughout the day.

They will be producing raised-without-antibiotic weanpigs for Lynch Livestock in Waucoma, Iowa. Part of Lynch Livestock’s animal welfare guidelines require gilts and sows to be moved out of pregnancy stalls into pen gestation immediately after breeding to allow sows to exhibit natural behaviors and exist in a pen environment.

Of course, like many things, it offers a few challenges. One of those challenges is finding those sows if they come back into estrus. To overcome this obstacle, they have created boar stations in the pens to help recognize if the gilts or sows are spending too much time around the boar.

The new feeding systems allow sows to be fed a precision diet according to their body condition or stage of pregnancy. Hyatt Frobose, swine nutrition specialist and U.S. territory manager at JYGA Technologies, says the system can immediately recognize if a sow isn’t eating for any reason and can alert workers to find this animal.

Some of the other unique features in the facility include turnaround farrowing pens to allow the sow to turn around and exhibit more natural behavior in the farrowing room. 

“They also have an automated lactation system that stimulates intake, reduces feed wastage and offers monitoring capability to flag sows that are not meeting targets in terms of intake so workers can quickly react to that problem,” Frobose says.

The barn also features Wi-Fi and Maximus controllers in an interactive working environment for both the animals and its employees.

“I think the future of technologies being used in farms like this help us find the outliers in the operation so we can extend the value of our workers over more sows,” Frobose says.

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