By DOUG GRAVES
HICKSVILLE, Ohio — The economy in Hicksville just got a little better this past month, as a new sow farm operation set up shop.
Cooper Farms’ latest addition, Fox Tail Sow Farm, opened its new doors to 2,500 sows at this Defiance County facility, located on Jericho Road in Hicksville. This means the birth of 1,300 baby pigs each week. The new structure is a boon to the area, as it will create at least 11 new full-time jobs and use approximately 90,000 bushels of corn purchased from local farmers each year.
The new farm rests on 25 acres and will be able to provide natural fertilizer for 165 acres of cropland. “Building a farm in this area is something we have wanted for many years, so we’re excited to finally become part of it and gain team members from this area,” said Eric Ludwig, Cooper Farms director of corporate development.
Defiance County hasn’t seen such a modern facility within its borders like this will offer. The sows are placed in the Breeding Gestation Barn (BGB) in what is the first of its kind: A group pen with an innovative electronic feeding system. Each sow will have a tagged ID. Feeding times are programmed into the computer and the sow will be able to walk right into the feeding station.
The feeding system will also be able to read the sow’s ID number and tell the operation if it’s ready to give birth, as well as how much each sow is eating and drinking, allowing the team to still tend to each animal’s individual needs.
“Each sow will visit the feeding station once a day and it only takes about 15 minutes,” said Bruce Schroeder, who services the electronic feeding system for Automated Productions. “There will be 18 feeders altogether and roughly 1,000 stalls in the barn.”
When the sows start out in the breeding stalls, they are there long enough for the embryos to be implanted, which takes about 35 days. Then the workers will perform a sonogram to see if they are pregnant. After breeding, the sows go to the open pen gestation for 2-5 days until they head to a farrowing room. There are 40 sows in each of the 12 farrowing rooms, which are 24-by-60-feet.
Residents around the new facility had concerns about the use of well water in the area, as more than 12,000 gallons of water will be used daily at the farm. The well casing penetrates through sand and gravel and is sealed through brown shale, which is solid. By doing this, owners say the farm is actually getting its water from below the sand and gravel line, leaving water above for area homeowners.
“That’s a unique way to manage our water supply,” said Bud Koenig, director of facilities and maintenance at he farm. “The purpose of our system is not to steal water from the residents. Our well pumps into our pond, but we graded things so we could catch surface water from the fields and funnel it into our pond, so we won’t have to use the well as much.”
Residents around the new farm need not worry about the abundance of fertilizer or runoff, according to farm owners. A massive lagoon is located behind the barn. Manure dumped there is broken down by anaerobic bacteria. From there, it will be put on the fields for growing crops.
Cooper Farms worked mainly with local businesses and contractors for the construction of this farm. More than 40 contractors took part in the building, doing everything from pouring concrete to electrical work.