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A young couple's South Dakota custom hog finishing barn is part of a livestock 'uptick' in Clark County

Samantha and Taylon LaMont of Carpenter, South Dakota, are pork producers in a boom for confined animal feeding operation permits in Clark County. Samantha, 31, manages the barn and cares for 2,400 pigs in a weanling-to-finish operation.

A young woman in a farm hat is flanked by her husband, outside their modern farm building and pig barn complex, with its fans, and bottom-loading feed bins.
Samantha “Sam” LaMont, 31, and her husband, Taylon, 35, at the TSL Inc., hog barn in Carpenter, South Dakota. An Iowa-based family owns the pigs. Sam manages the farm a mile from their farmstead, adding equity and manure nutrients for crops.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek
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CARPENTER, S.D. — Samantha “Sam” LaMont, 31, and her husband, Taylon, 35, of Carpenter, South Dakota, are newbies in the hog business, but the couple is emblematic of a strong “uptick” in livestock in Clark County.

Sam and her husband, Taylon, built a 2,400-head finishing barn for about $850,000, less than a mile from home, and with support of their in-laws, Doug and Shawn LaMont, and lenders. Sam tends to her two young children in the morning and then spends an average of about two hours a day in the barns.

A young woman at the base of a feed bin checks augers that feed a red, modern confinement hog barn.
Taylon and Samantha “Sam” LaMont paid about $850,000 to build a 2,400-head wean-to-finish pig barn at Carpenter, South Dakota. They filled for the first time in September 2020. They would build another, but building costs have gone up too far, too fast. Photo taken Oct. 26, 2022, Carpenter, South Dakota.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

The enterprise is called TSL Inc., (for Taylon and Samantha LaMont).

The LaMonts started construction in March 2020 and placed their first pigs in September 2020. They raise the pigs on a 10-year contract with Windy Oak Farms LLC, based in Iowa.

Concentric connections

A young woman, surrounded by pigs,  checks feeders in a hog pen in a confined animal feeding operation.
Samantha “Sam” LaMont, 31, grew up on a farm and has always liked animals, but she trained as a dental hygienist. She now manages a wean-to-finish barn that holds up to 2,400 hogs that are contract-fed for Windy Oak Farms of Iowa. Photo taken Oct. 26, 2022, in Carpenter, South Dakota.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Sam is the lead person in raising the pigs, but the first job every day is caring for her daughters and husband. Blakely, 7, hops on the school bus at 7:30 a.m. Chace, 4, goes a mile to the in-laws, and then carpools to preschool. Sam appreciates the flexibility to fit some tasks around her other family responsibilities.

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A young mother helps her daughter check her backpack before taking a morning ride on a rural school bus.
Before she goes to work at TSL Inc., pig barns, Samantha “Sam” LaMont, prepares daughter Blakely, 7, for the 7:30 a.m., school bus. Their other daughter Chace, 4, goes a mile to the in-laws, and then carpools to preschool. Photo taken Oct. 26, 2022, Carpenter, South Dakota.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Taylon goes to work on the family farm, headed by his parents, Doug and Shawn. The LaMonts have been here since the 1800s and today raise corn, soybeans and some small grains on some 4,000 acres. They run a substantial beef cow herd and in 2008 added a 2,400-head cattle feedlot.

A young woman in a farmer cap in an open office checks paperwork for a pig feeding operation. Above her on the wall is an artist's rendering of pigs.
Samantha “Sam” LaMont of Carpenter, South Dakota, works in her family’s wean-to-finish hog barn for many hours in the early weeks after a new load of 2,400 pigs come in. That averages out to about two to three hours a day, later in the cycle. Photo taken Oct. 26, 2022, Carpenter, South Dakota.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Taylon and Samantha graduated from Willow Lake High School, in 2006 and 2009, respectively. They started dating in 2008. Taylon went to Lake Area Technical in diesel mechanics. Sam also went to Lake Area, to become a dental assistant. Sam graduated from tech school in 2010 and worked for two years before they started a family.

A young woman fills in data and notes from caring for weanling-to-finish pigs she manages for an Iowa company that owns them.
Pig barn co-owner/manager Samantha “Sam” LaMont of Carpenter, South Dakota, jots data into a blue binder that includes instructions and records needed by Windy Oak Farms, an Iowa hog owner. Photo taken Oct. 26, 2022, Carpenter, South Dakota.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Getting into pork production meant the couple committed to buying a $850,000 barn complex, in a 10-year contract from Windy Oak Farms of Iowa. They financed the operation on a 10-year deal through a bank in Huron and a lease-to-own arrangement through Farm Credit Services of America in Watertown, South Dakota.

Doing the chores

Sam describes herself as an animal lover, but caring for this kind of operation has been a giant leap. She’s guided by a “blue book” of protocols, provided by Windy Oak, as well as visits from supervisors and veterinary oversight from Pipestone System of Pipestone, Minnesota.

Curious, excitable pigs crowd each other when a visitor comes by their barn enclosure.
Weanling pigs, produced at Bobcat Farms near Elkton, South Dakota, come into TSL Inc., at Carpenter, South Dakota, at 16 to 17 pounds and are fed for four and a half months until they are about 280 pounds. Photo taken Oct. 26, 2022.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Windy Oak delivers animals at 16 to 17 pounds. Sam spreads feed on mats to help the young pigs find it. In the first week she also mixes feed with water in “gruel pans.” The work takes three to four hours, twice a day, seven days a week. Eventually, the process cuts back to an hour and a half a day, seven days a week.

A glove in an orange rubber glove holds the grain-based feed ration that pigs will eat while gaining about 260 pounds in 4.5 months.
Pigs cared for by the Samantha “Sam” Lamont at TSL Inc., at Carpenter, South Dakota, are owned by Windy Oak Farms of Mechanicsville, Iowa. The pigs eat feed mixes milled at Howard Farmers Co-op of Howard, South Dakota. Photo taken Oct. 26, 2022, Carpenter, South Dakota.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

When the pigs are 25 pounds, she shifts to “finish” rations. She monitors the animals for lameness or behaviors that indicates sickness. She treats matters when needed. She decides when to order feed, which these days comes from Howard, South Dakota, Farmers Co-op Association, about 50 miles to the south.

Sam is responsible for “marketing,” which means visually estimating market weight of each pig to determine if a bunch is ready to sell. The day before trucks arrive, she walks through the pens and marks animals that have reached the target weight.

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A woman walks among growing pigs, keeping an eye out for any health or other issues.
Samantha “Sam” LaMont at TSL Inc., at Carpenter, South Dakota, walks among growing hogs, checking feeders and watching for health concerns and later sorting them for market. Photo taken Oct. 26, 2022.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

When trucks arrive, other LaMont family members help load them — about 175 animals in a semi-trailer. A second truck is usually just arriving when the first one takes off.

The LaMonts hire a professional cleaning company to pressure-wash and sanitize the emptied barn. In about two weeks, the process starts over again.

Manure nutrients are a welcome byproduct. The manure pits under the barn hold about 18 months of “poop,” Sam said. The LaMonts hire a Minnesota company to pump it out. A tractor pulls a “drag line” through an adjoining field and knifes it into the soil on a quarter-section of land, owned by Doug LaMont’s farm.

A farmer smiles as he's flanked by a cattle buildings.
Farmer Doug LaMont’s family has been involved in livestock enterprises in the Willow Lake, South Dakota, area for decades. He encouraged his son, Taylon and daughter-in-law Sam to own and manage a contract hog barn that will supply manure nutrients to surrounding land. Photo taken Oct. 26, 2022, at Carpenter, South Dakota.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Doug, who has long experience using hog manure fertilizer from an earlier family hog deal, purchases the manure from TSL. A single pumping fertilizes about 80 to 100 acres. Doug estimates the manure cost is about half to two-thirds what it costs to use synthetic fertilizer and adds several bushels of yield per acre.

A John Deere combine comes through rows of corn on a bright, blue-sky day in late October.
Manure-fed corn yields are only one part of the economy helped by a strong “uptick” in hog, dairy and beef production in Clark County, South Dakota, officials say. Photo taken Oct. 26, 2022, at Carpenter, South Dakota.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Ag is our choice

The couple doesn’t get away from the farm much but feel fortunate to have neighbors, relatives and other friends to help when that’s necessary.

Sam said she enjoys the fact that several neighbors in the area have pigs — including others with Windy Oak.

“When we get together, we talk about pigs,” she said. It’s especially helpful to learn how to size and sort them.

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A combine at left fills a large grain cart, pulled by a large John Deere tractor with triple tires.
Taylon LaMont augers corn from the combine into a grain cart on Oct. 26, 2022, in the Carpenter/Willow Lake area in South Dakota. Manure from his family’s hog production is strengthening yields at half- to two-thirds the cost of synthetic fertilizer. Photo taken Oct. 26, 2022.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Technology in the barns send phone alarms to Sam, Taylon and three others if something is out of tolerance.

“It’ll just keep calling until somebody picks up and enters a code,” Sam said.

The LaMonts have a diesel-powered, backup electrical generator.

After their first building was built, Windy Oak asked the couple about whether they’d care to put in a second, 2,400-capacity barn. Sam said they thought about it but prices of building materials skyrocketed, so they’re in a holding pattern.

Sam sees the hog business is a future for her family, she said.

A smiling young blonde woman is flanked by pigs in pens she tends to daily in TSL, Inc., a barn she built with her husband.
Samantha “Sam” LaMont manages a contract-feeding wean-to-finish hog barn a mile from her country home near Carpenter, South Dakota. Photo taken Oct. 26, 2022.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

The girls are young but interact with alpacas, llamas, goats and chickens back at the farmstead. Sometimes they go to the hog barn with her.

"Blakely is already talking about 4-H,” she said. “I don’t know what she wants to show yet, but I’m sure a cow will be in there. And, hopefully … a pig.”

Mikkel Pates is an agricultural journalist, creating print, online and television stories for Agweek magazine and Agweek TV.
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