Scott Reeder: Disheartening time to raise hogs


Scott Reeder, Opinion, The McDonough County Voice (IL)

May 19, 2020


Its a tough time to be a hog farmer.


The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected a variety of businesses, but perhaps none more than the swine industry.


Having grown up on a hog farm, I can tell you it has never been an easy business. But now is different; for the first time in more than 90 years farmers are killing healthy livestock rather than shipping them to market.


This already is taking place in northwest Iowa, as well as Minnesota, Wisconsin and South Dakota. If it is to happen in Illinois, it will likely begin this week or next contends Joe Connor, a Carthage swine veterinarian whose practice cares for more than 500,000 sows.


The virus has swept through packing plants across the Midwest, forcing many to shut down. Those that have reopened are not butchering as many animals because social distancing requirements for workers have reduced the number of carcasses that can be handled.


What this means is that there is less meat heading to grocery stores, which has bumped up prices and created less selection for customers.


But, it has created desperate times on the farm. Already, many farmers are marketing livestock at a loss. And the prospect of destroying animals is heart breaking for any farmer.


Beyond the financial loss, farmers take pride in producing quality food. To see animals destined to go to a landfill rather than a meat counter is disillusioning.


The Illinois Pork Producers are building a trailer to be used for mass depopulation of herds, said Jennifer Tirey, executive director.


We hope we never have to use this trailer, she said. Its so wasteful. But we need to have a contingency plan in case there are no other alternatives. And this is our Plan B.


Tirey declined to discuss the specifics of how the animals would be killed. But in Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas the most common method...