Farm Horizons, September 2000

From pen to plate, Beises enjoy raising hogs

By Andrea Vargo

The twin Beise brothers, Dennis and Donald, purchased their first registered pigs to show as FFA projects in 1949. The youngsters were 15.

The pigs they bought were Durocs, and those red pigs kicked off a lifetime of winning at fairs as well as a way of life for the Beises.

Later, their brother, Duane, showed with them, but eventually he went out on his own, Dennis said.

"Then another brother, Kenneth, came along, and now he does most of the work," Dennis explained.

At first, the Beises sold a lot of registered breeding stock and some market hogs. But, as the economy and lifestyles changed, so did their market for pigs.

The market called for leaner hogs, and the Beises obliged with selective breeding to lower fat content, although they feel there is a trade-off in taste.

Then, the small breeder, who raised a few hogs to supplement farm income, disappeared.

That happened a few years ago, when the price of feeder pigs dropped to eight cents a pound, Kenneth said.

Also, as older farmers sold out, the younger ones became more specialized.

In addition, said Kenneth, people are getting lazier. It is a lot of work to raise a litter of pigs.

For the Beise operation's size, the worst things are the contract hog raisers and large corporate farms.

Contract hog raisers are paid a pre-determined amount per hog to feed and raise it to market weight.

The contract farmer checks feeders, waterers, and herd health daily and spends a week cleaning in between the arrival of groups of hogs.

The large corporate farms, such as those in Missouri, buy up cheap, depressed land, and raise up to 10,000 hogs on each piece of land.

It can be done in Texas, Missouri, Kansas, and other more southerly states, because they don't have winters like Minnesota, said Dennis.

The processors, such as Hormel, are geared to those large groups of animals, and don't really want the small numbers.

They contract for hundreds of pigs at one time from a producer, said Kenneth.

Kenneth said he raises about 1,000 breeding and butcher hogs a year, but the corporate farms may have that many come out of one lot in a month.

The buying stations for feeder pigs have also disappeared. There used to be more places, like Buffalo, where the small breeder could take his feeder pigs on a Saturday morning to sell.

Now, the only places left to sell even butcher hogs are South St. Paul, Litchfield, and Hutchinson.

Kenneth said he called Hutchinson one day when hogs were 50 cents a pound, and he was offered 45 cents. The plant had hundreds of contract hogs coming in and didn't need, or even really want, his few animals.

South St. Paul, where hogs used to be processed, is now just a holding area, said Kenneth.

Semi-trailers are lined up, and when they are full with about 300 hogs, they pull out for the processing plants.

The larger sows and hogs go to Jimmy Dean in Kentucky or to Detroit, Kenneth explained.

"I expect South St. Paul to shut down in the near future," he said.

The land is too valuable and the hog numbers are too small to maintain the operation are not there, Kenneth said.

Showing

In the show ring, the Beise brothers take a back seat to no one.

They do well consistently at the county and state level with their animals, without using some of the "tricks" used by many breeders throughout the country.

In the south and other areas of the country, showing hogs is very intense. People may pay $2,000 for a feeder pig to raise and show. Then, they do what they can to win up to $100,000 in jackpot money.

Greed becomes a problem when money is involved, said Kenneth.

There is a feed additive called Paylean that has been approved by the FDA to use on hogs. A friend told Kenneth that the additive, which is a growth hormone with the same base as steroids, has been used for six months in Oklahoma.

The Beise brothers depend on old-fashioned good breeding, feeding and health care to produce some very fine animals.

When judges look at hogs in the show ring at the state fair, they want to see a barrow (young male market hog) at about 220 pounds, with good length and width. The animal must be sound and move freely. The judge will watch how the animals walk out.

To carry so much weight on such small feet, the animal must have good feet and legs.

Muscles must be apparent, and some people even body-clip the hogs to show this off to the best advantage.

Breeding gilts (young females) must meet the same criteria, but in addition, they must have good spring of rib to make room for lots of piglets. They need to look sturdy and healthy.

Breeding boars need to have the best of everything, because they will pass on those good traits, as well as bad ones.

Hog roast for groups

Kenneth has another business connected with his hogs, and that involves quite a few large grills.

He caters to large groups with a hog roast.

All that lean pork he raises is popular for weddings, family gatherings, or business picnics, he said.

He will choose a hog, take it to be butchered, and cook it for your special occasion. It's total quality control, from pen to plate.

The recommendation from Kenneth is to have the main portions of the animal rolled into a boneless roast rather than roasting the entire animal, because it presents better and slices easier.

The rest of the animal, bacon and hams can be smoked for use at another time, he said.

Kenneth continues to look for new and better ways to keep their hog operation healthy, and the brunt of the work falls on his younger shoulders.

Kenneth and Dennis like their lifestyle, but they fear it is a fading way of living for farmers. They hope Beise Brothers will be around for a long time.

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