Third-generation Nebraska farmer Paul Segner worked two jobs for years in order to keep his farm near the city of Friend going strong. The father of three knew that if he wanted to leave his farm as a career opportunity to his sons one day, something had to change.
“In 2005, I was tired of working two jobs and decided to farm full time, so we put up our first contract finishing hog barn the next year,” Segner says. “It holds 1,250 hogs. We added another barn in 2008.”
Segner and his wife, Deb, took advantage of a contract offered by The Maschhoffs, hog production networks headquartered in Carlyle, Illinois. The Segners receive the weaned pigs when they are about 3 weeks old and raise them until they reach market weight, or about 290 pounds. They get a new batch of pigs about every six months.
“We found out about The Maschhoffs offering 12-year contracts for farmers to build new hog barns,” Segner says. “With farming, there are so many high input costs. With contract hogs, you have a one-time expense to build the hog barn and then just repairs. In 12 years, you can have the building paid off.”
The contract hogs have allowed the Segners to continue farming their land, and their sons – Jared, 23, David, 19, and 16-year-old Darren – can also take advantage of the opportunity.
“We farm 1,200 acres, which would not have been even close to enough to support three families living off it,” Segner says. “We sold 20 acres of our farm to our oldest son, Jared, after he finished college. Now he owns his own 2,400 head finishing barn. He came back to farm full time in 2015.”
Middle son, David, is also entering the hog business. He bought 5 acres from his grandmother and secured contract with The Maschhoffs.
Another Nebraska farmer, Walter Traudt of Clay Center, also raises hogs on contract for The Maschhoffs.
“We farmed 1,100 acres of corn and beans, so with all row crops, we worked intensely from March through October and then had four months where we weren’t so busy,” Traudt says. “We added the hogs in July 2015 by teaming up with The Maschhoffs. It fits into our operation really well and pushes us to work year round. It will also help us generate income when we retire and keep us active.”
The contract hogs could benefit future generations for Traudt’s family, too.
“Our kids range in age from 15 to 27, so if any of them want to come back and farm later, they will have that opportunity now,” Traudt says. “We won’t have to struggle to figure out what they can do.”
An added benefit for both Nebraska farmers is the hog manure, which they use as fertilizer for crops.
“We’ve been able to cut two- thirds of our fertilizer expense,” Traudt says. “Manure is a big item for us due to the organic matter we are able to put back in our fields.”
Contracting pork production in Nebraska has helped farms diversify and create opportunities to pass the family farm along to the next generation.