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Family hog farm adjusts amid COVID-19 pandemic

Courtesy of HG Images Photography Bart and Shana Beattie and their four children Mattison, Mekenzie, Preston and Bart Jr.,
FARM FAMILY INVOLVED: Bart and Shana Beattie are the fifth generation on the family farm near Sumner, Neb., and their four children, Mattison (left), Mekenzie, Preston and Bart Jr., represent the sixth generation to work Beattie Family Farms.
Monitoring growth diets and spreading out marketing periods helped deal with the challenges.

Editor’s note: This is the second article in a two-part series of interviews with Shana Beattie, Beattie Family Farms, Sumner, Neb., who is the new NPPA president.

Farmers are resourceful at solving their own problems, and Beattie Family Farms, Sumner, Neb., went into action when COVID-19 forced the shutdown and slowdowns of pork processing plants last year.

With the plant disruptions, many producers were forced to euthanize perfectly healthy hogs with no place for them to go. Beattie Family Farms slowed down the growth of their market hogs in the family’s wean-to-finish operation, and fortunately, they were not forced to put down hogs with no market.

Slowing down growth

“We did slow down the diets, and we had to extend our marketing over a longer period of time,” Shana Beattie, new president of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association, recalls. “Then that brought the challenge of pig weight. I think we are learning to manage this now by monitoring the weights closer, because you never know when marketing may be delayed in today’s climate,” she says.

“In the past, we’ve been on a schedule, and we would send the trucks of market-ready pigs to harvest. This schedule was put in place when the pigs entered the barn as weaners. We know how many days it takes to get hogs to market weight, and it goes by the calendar and daily gain,” she explains. “Market disruptions last year forced us to pay more attention to where these pigs are market weight-wise and leave ourselves a little flexibility.”

Recognizing that another COVID-19 flare-up, or some other event, could force processing plants to shut down again, Beattie says, “We need to think ahead and be prepared in the event that it happens. We are very blessed in the fact that our team here at Beattie Family Farms is very committed, and we really just didn’t miss a beat as far as business as usual, keeping things going, other than the fact that we had to slow down our marketing.”

Just another bump in the road

As producers learned with COVID-19, they need to be prepared for whatever may get thrown their way. Beattie Family Farms experienced that along with every other producer, but it also suffered another curveball when one of the farm’s sow barns broke with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome during the pandemic.

“So that was another little added bump in the road that you can’t plan for,” Beattie says. “That affected our numbers and our production, so maybe that was a blessing in disguise.”

Learn more about Beattie and NPPA online at nepork.org.

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