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Jeff Kayser, director of management services for Suidae Health and Production, gives a tour of the new Ransom Multiplier, which will raise replacement gilts for the Nelson County Pigs Cooperative. The Oct. 12, 2017, tour was a rare look inside the facility, which will be closed to visitors once sows arrive around Nov. 1. (Jenny Schlecht/Agweek)

Ransom Multiplier prepares to receive sows

ENGLEVALE, N.D. — The Ransom Multiplier, a gilt development facility owned by the Nelson County Pigs Cooperative, plans to move in late-gestation sows by Nov. 1 and begin farrowing by Nov. 15.

Once the pigs are in the facility, outside people will not be allowed in. To give the public a look at the state-of-the-art barns, Suidae Health and Production, which will manage the barn, and the North Dakota Livestock Alliance invited media to tour the facility on Thursday, Oct. 12. The barn also plans a tour for neighbors on Saturday, Oct. 14.

The tour included a walk through the under-construction facility, which consists of a breeding and gestation building, farrowing building, gilt growing building, compost and equipment storage building and water storage cistern.

The Nelson County Pigs Cooperative is made up of hog producers from Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa, said cooperative consultant Bruce Froslee. The Ransom Multiplier will produce replacement gilts for the cooperative's 5,000-sow facility in Nelson County, as well as for other producers. Suidae Health and Production, a swine-exclusive veterinary and management company, will provide day-to-day management of the Ransom County facility.

Jeff Kayser, director of management services for Suidae Health and Production, explained the facility has the latest in biosecurity measures to protect animal health. Breeding females will be given extra space in gestation and farrowing housing, evaporative cooling systems will keep animals more comfortable during warm weather, and farm personnel will be trained in Pork Quality Assurance and Transport Quality Assurance standards.

"We intend to be an industry leader in how we care for our animals," Kayser said.

The facility will be cleaned and sanitized before pigs begin arriving. The facility also will be cleaned regularly after the sows arrive, and power washer spigots are located throughout the barns. Everyone and everything coming in will be cleaned and sanitized before entry. Pits beneath the barns will hold manure until spreading.

Kayser said the facility's $6 million first phase will have space for 2,500 sows. A later phase will add another 2,500 sows.

Sows will be artificially inseminated at the facility. Piglets will be weaned three weeks after farrowing. Gilts will be developed as replacements both for the barn itself as well as for the cooperative's needs, while barrows will be shipped to facilities to be raised to market. The facility will have a "closed herd," Kayser explained.

"No live animals will come in after we stock it in a couple weeks," he says.

Kayser said the multiplier will enable the cooperative "to be under complete control of their replacement animals." Replacement gilts for the cooperative previously have come from Wisconsin, Froslee explained. The Ransom County barn will reduce the vulnerability to disease and the stress of traveling, he said.

"We're trying to control our own destiny," Froslee said.

Amos Baer, a Minnesota chicken and hog producer who is a member of the Nelson County Pigs Cooperative, said he will get grandchildren of the sows from Ransom County at his farm.

"The quality of the pigs should be improved," he said, adding that Ransom County is an ideal spot for the barn, with readily available corn and soybean meal for feed.

Ransom Multiplier will employ 10 people. The facility, in its initial phase, will require 88,000 bushels of corn and 740 tons of soybean meal. While Henning Construction of Iowa is completing the construction, area electricians, plumbers and excavators have worked on the project, and local suppliers have been used for many components.

It's those local impacts that interest the North Dakota Livestock Alliance.

The alliance, a newly formed effort consisting of representatives from pork, dairy, soybean, corn, soybean and ethanol groups and advisors from North Dakota State University and the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, plans to promote animal agriculture and abate some of the fear and misinformation that can crop up about livestock facilities, said Craig Jarolimek, chair of the North Dakota Livestock Alliance.

Jarolimek said the Ransom Multiplier illustrates that importance of livestock agriculture for North Dakota. Suidae has hired three people from the area to work in the barn and more employees will move into the local communities. That means more people for schools, churches and tax base. The feed the barn will use provides an additional market for farmers in the area, reducing their basis and helping them find profitability. And manure from the barn will go to enrich local fields and will be applied in a manner to reduce odor.

"We feel animal agriculture is needed to expand in North Dakota," he said.

While other swine facilities proposed in North Dakota have run into strong opposition, the Englevale barn has found mostly support, Kayser said. He said they've held meetings to explain the project and invited the North Dakota Department of Health to explain the permitting process. They've answered questions and addressed concerns, and they worked with the township to make sure roads are maintained and repaired.

"We pledge to be good neighbors so if there are questions or concerns that come up, we'll obviously work with our neighbors and do our best to make sure it's a good asset for the community," Kayser said.

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