Wathina and Chuck Luthi, both raised in Oklahoma farming families, started their business in 1979 with two sows. Today, the Luthis have a commercial operation with 4,900 sows producing 100,000 pigs annually.
Located in Ellis County, Luthi Farms remains a family-owned business that now includes the couple’s two sons and daughters-in-law. Luthi Farms, a farrow-to-wean operation, is a contract grower and production partner with the Maschhoffs, a fifth-generation family business in Illinois owned by two brothers. The partnership, Wathina Luthi says, works well for both.
“The partnership gives us the opportunity to focus on what we truly like to do and what we do best – raise pigs,” says Luthi, who is a member of the Oklahoma Pork Council and serves on the National Pork Board. “We take care of the sows while they are pregnant and then take care of the pigs until they are ready to be placed on a truck. The Maschhoffs will continue to grow them out in the Midwest where they are closer to the final processing.”
Improving Swine Care
Luthi Farms has witnessed dramatic changes in the industry over the years, including the way pigs are raised.
“All the farms used to raise the animals outside, where they were exposed to the weather and wildlife,” Luthi says. “We’ve brought them indoors and improved their health. We pay attention to them individually, provide routine veterinary care, and every person who touches one of these animals has had extensive training. The environment is safe, calm and comfortable.”
A Top Export for Oklahoma
Pork is the third-most exported product from Oklahoma. Pigs from enterprises like Luthi Farms produce meat that is shipped throughout the United States and around the world.
“Mexico is the No. 1 export market by volume in terms of pounds of product, and also for value, but just barely exceeding the export value we send to Japan,” says Roy Lee Lindsey, executive director of the Oklahoma Pork Council.
Access to the world market has created new opportunities.
“Twenty-one percent of the pork exported from the United States is from muscle cuts, and 29 percent is from pork variety products,” Luthi says. “This allows us to sell cuts we don’t traditionally use in this country, such as ears and front and hind feet. We can now export to consumers who love those types of products, and that makes our pigs more valuable.”
A Major State Industry
In 2011, pork was Oklahoma’s second-largest agricultural commodity. The state’s pork industry ranks eighth in the country in terms of total number of hogs and pigs, and fifth in terms of the sow herd. Roughly 8 million baby pigs are born in Oklahoma in any given year, and those animals will produce approximately 4.8 billion servings of pork.
“Exporting goods creates new wealth in Oklahoma,” Luthi says. And Lindsey adds that the impact on rural communities is substantial.
“We estimate there are about 15,000 people who work in the pork industry in the state,” Lindsey says. “Virtually all those jobs are in rural Oklahoma because that’s where the farms are located. Over the last 15 to 20 years, well over $1 billion has been invested in fixed assets for the state’s pork industry, primarily in rural Oklahoma. Taxes on those assets pay for local schools, roads, fire departments and other services.”
He adds that “the pork industry is a permanent part of those communities and from an economic driver, we would suggest that outside of oil and gas, there isn’t a more successful economic model than the pork industry in the last two decades.”