Bouton producers farrow in round, mid-1930s structure
By LARRY KERSHNER
BOUTON – In one of the more interesting hog facilities in Iowa, a Dallas County family farrows eight sows at a time in a round barn.
Built specifically for farrowing, the structure is about 24 feet diameter. Owners Dan and Ila Taylor bought the farm and the round facility in 2007.
They believe the former owner had strong connections with Iowa State University, thinking this structure and another on the farm were designed by ISU ag engineers.
The other structure is a shelter building with round ends.
“We think (the round ends) was designed to keep snow from swirling in,” said Dan Taylor. If that’s the case, he added, it’s a colossal failure.
But the farrowing structure is not a failure.
The Taylors insulated the roof and removed a heating stove from the center of the building. They set up a ring gate to keep any number of supplies in the center of the eight farrowing pens.
Ila Taylor said the middle structure is handy in keeping sows moving in the right direction.
She handles all of the breeding and farrowing chores of the family’s 40-head of Spotted Poland China crossed with Berkshire sows.
They keep three boars on the farm, but if the boars are too big for the gilts, Ila taylor will use artificial insemination with semen from SGI Swine Genetics International, based in Cambridge.
“Dan doesn’t have the temperament to work with the sows,” Ila said. Growing up on a farrow-to-finish operation near Davenport, her job comes almost as second nature.
Dan meanwhile, handles the feeding operations.
Their daughter, Hanna Taylor, 20, is an ag student at ISU. When she is home from Ames, she helps in any way that’s needed, typically giving the piglets inoculations.
Their son, Noah, is due to return from northwest Missouri to join the farm operation in December.
In the past, the Taylors raised feeder pigs only.
When concentrated feeding facilities were introduced in the early-1990s, they considered using them, but opted not to jump on that band wagon.
Dan Taylor said it’s not because he is anti-CAFO, “but I had no desire to make the investment.
“And then 1998 happened, and that was (basically) the end of independence.”
By 2003, the Taylors resisted contract feeding, and opted to grow antibiotic-free pigs for Niman Ranch.
“We are too stubborn to contract feed,” Dan said.
Ila agreed. “We like to do our own.”
And so they have, for 14 years, by niche marketing pigs.
Niman Ranch buys finished pigs from producers with antibiotic free herds. Niman pays a premium to get pigs that were raised in certifiably humane conditions.
Niman’s clientele includes high-end restaurants and caterers from coast-to-coast.
Dan Taylor said the round farrowing house provides them with a safe, warm environment for birthing and caring for piglets in their first days before being turned outdoors.
Outside is a hoop building that provides shelter from the elements with bedding, and food and water close by.
The Taylors said they never use antibiotics as a growth stimulant, but if a pig gets sick they will use antibiotics to treat it.
However, that pig goes “off the grid” as far as Niman is concerned, but can be sold elsewhere once the drug is completely out of the pig’s system.
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