posted on Thursday, September 29, 2016 in Central Region News
Alyce Nieland grew up raising hogs, so pigs were part of the conversation about four years ago when she and her husband Aaron talked about expanding.
“One day I asked him what he thought about raising hogs, and he kind of looked at me funny,” she says. “I don’t think he thought much about it, but I thought we needed to diversify our farm.
“Then one day he says, ‘I think we should try it.’ And that’s what we did.”
The Nielands, who farm near here in Sac County, put up a 2,400-head finishing building and stocked it with pigs from the Audubon-Manning Veterinary Clinic’s (AMVC) management services.
That was in 2012. The next year, they put up another 2,400-head building, and in 2014, they put up two of them.
That gave the couple 9,600 pigs to care for.
“We grew pretty quickly,” Aaron says.
Two of the barns are located in Sac County, with the other two in Carroll County. The Nielands receive 12-pound pigs from farms in Ohio, Colorado and North Dakota.
“My parents had been feeding for AMVC for several years, and I had done an internship with them, so that seemed to be the natural place for us to go,” Alyce says.
Pigs are brought to the farm once the barn is completely empty and has been washed. Pigs are sorted while on the farm based on size.
The first group of pigs generally goes to market after about four and a half months, Aaron says.
“It’s usually five and a half months before we get the buildings completely emptied,” he says. “Then it takes a few days to get them filled up again.”
AMVC provides the feed and other items. The Nielands are responsible for labor.
“We had looked at renting more crop ground, but it was $450 per acre and was out of our range,” Aaron says.
“Land was selling for more than $10,000 per acre. This just seemed a logical way for us to grow. It’s a lot easier getting a loan for a building than expensive land.”
Alyce says the transition to pork production was simple.
“When we got the first barn, it seemed pretty normal to me,” she says.
“After we put up three more barns, I looked at Aaron one day and said, ‘what the heck are we doing.’ But we’re fortunate that things have gone very well.”
In addition to caring for the pigs, the Nielands have two children — Aisha, 3, and Will, 2. Alyce says the kids spend most days at a daycare center in Breda.
“Once they get into school, we’ll have them in the barns more with us,” she says. “They’re a little young right now.”
The Nielands are also active members of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church in Breda.
Aaron says there are no plans to expand any more at the moment, adding he and Alyce can handle the labor at this size.
The couple are considering starting a soil sampling and consulting business, putting Alyce’s agronomy degree from Iowa State to use.
In the meantime, the Nielands are happy with their setup.
“We’re pretty content here. We keep plenty busy, and we like that,” Alyce says. “We have never regretted getting into the hog business. We have a good partner, and we like how things are going.”
-Story and picture credit to Jeff DeYoung with Iowa Farmer Today, orginally printed 9/29/16.