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Extension is expanding its online education and resources to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions.

What to do if your pork packing plant is closed

Quick facts

  • Pig wellbeing should be your number one priority when considering how best to manage a pork packing plant closure.
  • When facing a plant closure, contact your buyer to learn about how you will be affected.
  • It may be best to slow pig growth rate.
  • You may need to consider decreasing pen space, alternative markets and euthanasia. 

Has your pork packing plant closed due to an unprecedented event while you have pigs scheduled to ship in the near future?

The strategies outlined below are temporary for emergency situations. The wellbeing of the pigs should be your number one priority when considering how best to manage a pork packing plant closure. Additional pig observation is recommended when implementing any of these options.

Communicate with your buyer

When facing a plant closure, contact your buyer to learn about how you will be affected.  

  • Pork packers with other plant locations may re-route some pigs to other plants. 
  • Plants may expand harvesting hours to include Saturday and Sunday.  
  • Ask your buyer the maximum weight of pig your packer will accept.  
  • Re-routing won't accommodate all pigs scheduled to be received by closed plants, so you will still need a contingency plan.

Slowing animal growth rate

Typically it is the goal of producers to optimize growth rate of grow-finish pigs to maximize pig performance and profitability. However, sometimes situations may arise where it is best to slow growth rate. These situations might include when the movement of animals to market is delayed or impaired due to an animal standstill that could occur during a foreign animal disease outbreak or when access to pork packing plants is temporarily suspended or delayed.

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Other items to consider

Pen space

Check with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to see if there is regulatory flexibility to exceed livestock permit numbers or exceed 1,000 animal units without obtaining NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) or SDS (State Disposal System) permits in total confinement facilities. In certain circumstances, they may offer approval to exceed permit numbers and stocking density of livestock on farms.

Alternative markets

There are many small scale meat processors in Minnesota. Contact the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for help in identifying opportunities for livestock owners who need meat processing because of plant closure and lost markets. 

Depopulation

  • As a last resort, some pigs may need to be euthanized.
  • Be sure to use methods that comply with the current American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) guidelines for euthanasia in the On-Farm Euthanasia of Swine. If you need to depopulate large numbers of pigs, be sure methods comply with the AASV Recommendations for Depopulation of Swine.
  • Consult with your herd veterinarian prior to euthanizing any pigs.

Carcass disposal

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health has information on carcass disposal questions such as:

  • How to source carbon sources if you plan to compost.
  • How to choose a site for composting on your farm and how to form a compost pile correctly.
  • What you need to know about rendering and what steps you should take to work with a rendering company.

Visit the composting livestock and poultry carcasses page for more information on constructing a carcass compost pile.

Farmer stress resources

First and foremost farmers need to take care of themselves and their families. Extension’s farm and rural stress task force offers resources for those dealing with farming’s challenges and struggles. 

Call the Minnesota farm and rural helpline anytime at 1-833-600-2670 to speak to someone. Visit the Minnesota Farm and Rural Helpline website for more information and resources.

 

How to butcher a pig

With few Extension resources available on butchering, Sarah Schieck Boelke, Ryan Cox, Dallas Dornink and Lee Johnston created a video on how to butcher a pig for home use. The video discusses human safety, pig welfare and food safety.

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Sarah Schieck Boelke, UMN Extension swine educator

Reviewed in 2020

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