Coronavirus in Oklahoma: A fifth-generation livestock company is shutting down its pig producing operations as the pandemic continues to impact food supplies


By Jack Money, The Oklahoman

June 28, 2020


GUYMON — COVID-19 continues to drag Oklahoma’s economy through the mud.


On Friday, Hitch Enterprises, a fifth-generation ranching, feeding and livestock operation, notified Oklahoma authorities it would be letting about 150 workers go.


The company is shutting down its pork production activities overseen by Hitch Pork Producers Inc., sources confirmed.


Hitch Pork Producers, established in 1995 when Seaboard announced the opening of a pork processing plant in Guymon, had been delivering 325,000 hogs per year to the plant from a 15,000 sow farrow to finish operation, Hitch Enterprises’ website states.


Roy Lee Lindsey, Jr., the Oklahoma Pork Council’s executive director, confirmed Hitch’s decision to shutter its farrowing, nursery and finishing facilities for the animals.


He said Hitch operated about a half-dozen farrowing farms where sows birth piglets. It also operated nurseries, where infant pigs are raised until they reach about 50 pounds.


From there, the pigs are sent to finishers that Hitch also operated, where they are fed out to reach an optimum market weight of about 280 pounds.


“A lot of what we are sending to market now is a lot bigger,” Lindsey said, noting the nation’s meat processors for pigs periodically have been operating at reduced levels or closed altogether because of pandemic-related illnesses.


Lindsey said the Seaboard plant in Guymon takes hogs from northwestern Oklahoma, the Panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas, southwestern Kansas and parts of New Mexico.


He said that while the Seaboard plant has experienced some service reductions because of the pandemic, it actually has been operating more reliably than many plants in other parts of the nation.


The nation’s hog and poultry industries in particular are geared toward meeting specific customer needs using a “just in time” method that requires programmed animal throughputs that take months to fulfill.


And since earlier this year, more pigs have been readied for harvest than could be handled, requiring euthanizations of animals in many parts of the nation and reduced prices for those that are kept alive and sold to processors to be harvested...