Why Build a Hog Barn?

Landrace pig eating from plastic hog feeder on modern plastic flooring on ranch

Over the past few years, many communities have seen large swine finishing barns constructed by their neighbors.  Some of these barns were for the neighbor to raise their own pigs in, and some for growing the pigs for another swine producer on a contract basis.  The reasons that farmers build a barn vary by individual, but the major reasons are;

  • To diversify the farming operation – In recent years, grain farming has seen reduced income/acre from the heyday of the $8.00/bu corn period. Farmers are realizing that livestock production, be it private or contract production, offers a hedge against erratic grain prices and allows them to utilize labor year-round.
  • To bring young family members back to the farm operation – It is a challenge for many young people wanting to become part of the family farming operation, to get started. Constructing a swine finishing facility is looked at by most lending institutions as one of the lower risk loans in agriculture today.  If a contract for the term of the loan is offered by a pig owner, financing is usually available.   Managing a 2,500-head hog barn usually averages 2-3 hours per day, which leaves significant time for working on other aspects of the family operation.  Once a finishing barn is paid off, it will generate enough income to support a young family’s living expenses.
  • To replace commercial fertilizer expense with manure nutrients – Ask a farmer using hog manure as fertilizer on a piece of land, and he can usually show you exactly where the manure ran out and he switched to commercial fertilizer.  Hog manure is an excellent source of crop nutrients.  The value of the manure varies according to the prices of commercial fertilizer, but recent years have shown it to be $4-$6/head through the barn on most wean-to-finish barns.  A rule of thumb is that for every 1,000-head capacity a barn has, there is usually manure produced to fertilize 80 acres, so a 2,500-head barn usually will do 200 acres.

The industry has learned a lot about how to build a hog barn over the past few decades. It is realistic to anticipate that a hog barn can now last 30-40 years.  Regular maintenance is a key to managing any investment, and a hog barn is no different.  Keeping moisture and rodents out of a barn, and keeping the ventilation system is good repair are key to a barn’s longevity, and years of profitable production.

Barn construction cost has risen over the past few years, and building a barn today will probably run $300-$310/pig space.  A 2,500-head facility will run $750,000-$800,000, turnkey.  While that is no small investment for any operation, most construction loans run 10-15 years, depending on how the loan is structured.  Most contract situations allow a payment schedule that meets the loan obligations and allows some return for labor, but the payoff truly is at the end of the loan.

Many people that have built facilities have had little to no previous experience with swine production. One good way to launch into livestock production is to work with livestock integrators. They will teach you to raise hogs with the management practices that fit their situations.  Their major concern is that they look for people with a solid work ethic, and a good eye for details.  For producers wishing to raise their own pigs, there are a lot of sources of coaching available, starting with the veterinarians, builders, and feed suppliers they associate themselves with.

If you would like more information on building a swine facility, contact any of your local CVA locations, and they can get you in touch with the people that can get you the information you need.