Wiechman shows off new Delphi pig farm

By Emma Ambrose, Gannett Writer
From the Lafayette Journal & Courier
Leo D. Hanson, President of Wiechman Pig Company, talks Wednesday, March 30, 2016, about moving pigs through the new facility at 6976 Samuel Milroy Road in Delphi. Hanson said pigs will only be at the Delphi location for about 24 hours before they are shipped to packing houses.


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Wiechman Pig Company's new facility at 6976 Samuel Milroy Road in Delphi.

Carroll County boasts the largest number of pig farms in Indiana, so the arrival of a new hog facility might not seem like news.

Wiechman Pig Co. is not a typical hog facility, however, and it does things a little differently than neighboring hog farmers. Furthermore, historically controversial issues of odor and waste disposal are not a factor.

This is Nebraska-based Wiechman's 17th facility in the Midwest. The company does not raise pigs to maturity at its facilities; instead it buys underweight mature pigs from farmers who otherwise would not be able to sell the animals.

"Nothing wrong with them in terms of quality of meat," said Jeff Petree, manager of the Delphi location. "We’re the recyclers of the pork-production business."

Major nearby meat-packing houses, like Indiana Packers Corp. and Tyson Foods Inc., don't accept hogs less than 200 pounds. The facilities are destinations for many hog farmers in the area, and Wiechman hopes to acquire its underweight animals from farmers already supplying Packers and Tyson.

A semi-truck can hold about 170 specimens, Petree said. Of those 170, maybe 150 will fit the specifications of major meat-packing houses. The other 20 will be delivered to Wiechmen, situated halfway between Packers and Tyson, right off the Hoosier Heartland highway.

According to Leo Hanson, Wiechman's president, the hogs will spend no more than a day or two on company property.

"We're more of a transfer facility," Hanson said.

The hogs then will be transported to packing facilities that accept smaller animals. There is a network of packing houses outside Chicago that Wiechman will supply. Although some animals may travel as far as Georgia or North Carolina, the cluster of regional packing houses was a central reason Wiechman built in Delphi, Petree said.

Brad Farrer, assistant manager, said the facility initially will hold between 200 and 300 animals. The building can accommodate up to 1,400 hogs, but Farrer doesn't think it frequently will house that many hogs.

"You eventually end up having too many pigs in a pen so you get too crowded and that’s not humane, that’s not appropriate for handling the animal and they don’t react well to that," Farrer said.

Because of the small number of pigs Wiechman plans to hold, it is not subject to regulations from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. IDEM's regulations apply only to larger facilities that house animals for 45 days or more, said Barry Sneed, an IDEM public information officer. According to Sneed, Wiechman's manure and living conditions are subject to regulation by the state chemist office and Board of Animal Health, respectively.

The Carroll County Economic Development Corp. worked closely with Wiechman to find an optimal location, away from residential areas, so any odor would not be offensive.

Wiechman also is using an unconventional method of waste disposal. Most hog facilities have a slatted floor that leads to a waste collection pit underneath. The drainage of such a pit often prompts odor complaints, said Laura Walls, executive director of the Carroll County Economic Development Corp.

Instead of the lagoon, Wiechman will use a dry method of waste disposal. Petree said workers will lay sawdust in the stalls to absorb dry and wet waste. This sawdust, once collected from the pens, will be used by a local farmer as manure.

Albert Heber is an agricultural and biological engineering professor at Purdue University. His research centers on design and ventilation systems in livestock buildings.

According to Heber, Wiechman's unconventional waste management method is "a valid way to handle the waste. It's a great way to absorb the liquid from the manure and then the application to the land is a great way to recycle."

Hanson said because of its size and rural location, the community welcomed Wiechman.

"I’m encouraged that they’re already reaching out to the community and elected officials," Walls said. "They want to be a part of this community. I’m really excited about them as corporate citizens."