Bitterroot woman buys Midwestern hogs to sell to Montana families
by Kevin Maki, NBC Montana
May 17th 2020
FLORENCE, Mont. — The closure of major pork processing plants due to COVID-19 has left desperate hog farmers scrambling to find ways to market and process their pigs.
The crisis has left farmers in dire financial and emotional straits.
In a worst case scenario, thousands of market hogs are at risk of being euthanized.
But Katelynn Rennaker White is doing everything she can to help Midwestern farmers find markets in Montana.
Katelynn bought a truck load of hogs from a farmer in Minnesota.
That's 180 hogs for about as many families.
She sells the pigs on Facebook.
"One semi-load sold in a day-and-a-half," she said.
Katelynn was born and raised into one of the Bitterroot's oldest ranch families.
Her grandfather is a well- known licensed and bonded livestock dealer.
The family runs Rennaker Cattle Buyers Livestock in Darby.
"We've shipped cattle to the Midwest to the feedlots," said Katelynn. "I've been involved with that for about ten-years. So this was a natural step."
Katelynn's family friend, Minnesota livestock hauler and pig producer, Kelly Leuthold contacted her.
Kelly told Katelynn he had a neighbor who was in need of finding a place for his pigs.
He was happy to sell them to the Montana livestock agent.
" There's no market for them and obviously he doesn't want to turn to euthanizing," said Kelly.
"Even if I get something, a little bit," the neighbor told Kelly, " at least people can have food and everybody gets something."
"The farmer over there is losing money on his pigs," said Katelynn. "We're paying to have them trucked 1,000 miles out here."
"We're doing this to help USA hog producers," she said, " and we're doing it to help Montana families."
She said she's "making a little bit of money" on the deals.
But money, she said, isn't the issue.
She has raised, cared for and loved animals her entire life.
When she talks about the pigs and the farmers who face such terrible options, it's difficult for her to keep her emotions in check.
"The thought that they (the pigs) would be killed and not even used," she said, "was sickening to me. It's a travesty."
From birth to processing, pork production has a tight window.
Plant closures have disrupted that cycle, producing a massive glut.
There just isn't room for all these pigs.
"We have pigs that are ready for market, and they've got to be gone by a certain date, " said Kelly," because you've got new babies that have already been born waiting to come into our facility."
And that's just part of the cycle...