FRANKLIN, Ill. — For Jarrad and Kara Colwell of Franklin, the new year will bring some firsts — and a fifth.
The first is in the form of their first load of weaned pigs that are set to arrive around Jan. 8.
Those little pigs will be housed in the Colwells’ new wean-to-finish barn, their first confinement barn.
“We built it to diversify our farm operation. In our area, it’s just so hard to buy land and make it cash flow, with where land prices are at today,” Jarrad Colwell said.
That next generation includes son Dylan, 15, and daughters, Alyvia, 12, Makinsey, 8, and Kelsie, 2, as well as the youngest member of the family and the Colwells’ fifth child, a boy, due in March. Kara works as a secretary in the physical therapy department at Passavant Area Hospital in Jacksonville.
For Jarrad, working with pigs isn’t anything new. He and his brother, Brian, farm together, raising corn and soybeans. They are the third generation of their family to farm in the area. All three generations have had pigs on the farm.
“I’ve had little pigs on dirt, sows and pigs, my whole life off and on,” Jarrad Colwell said.
He decided to make the jump into contract finishing after working with The Maschhoffs delivering pigs for the pork production company, headquartered in Carlyle.
“I’ve always loved being around pigs. I was hauling pigs for The Maschhoffs, using their trailer and my semi. I talked to a lot of farmers. I thought it was interesting and neat and the more farmers I talked to, the more farms I went to over the years, the more I wanted to do that, so I decided to go ahead with it,” he said.
It wasn’t until the 2019 Illinois Pork Expo in Springfield and a conversation he had there with Matt Henry, business development senior manager for The Maschhoffs, that Colwell decided to go ahead.
“I decided that now was the time,” he said.
In between then and the start of construction on the barn, which began in early August 2020, COVID-19 struck and packing plants slowed and stopped, causing a crisis in the U.S. pork industry as pigs backed up on farms.
Colwell said he was worried, with the process for the new barn well underway.
“I was worried. I talked to Ryan Maschhoff and he told me it was nothing to worry about. I have a lot of faith in them. They are a really nice bunch of people and you couldn’t ask for a better group. They have been right here with me for the whole building process. They told me not to worry, that it would not affect their farmers and they were very confident,” Colwell said.
The new barn is 102-by-193 feet and will hold 2,400 pigs. The barn is built over an 8-foot-deep concrete manure pit designed for 14 months of manure storage.
The barn features tunnel ventilation, which doesn’t use side curtains, but instead has 10 54-inch fans at one end of the barn and a curtain at the other end. The fans pull air continuously through the barn. Eight windows on each side of the building let light into the barn.
“The barn is all mine. They furnish the hogs and the feed and the medication, everything that pertains to the pigs. I take care of the utilities, the barn and the labor,” Colwell said.
Helping with that labor and taking care of pigs will be his older children.
“They have been around pigs, we’ve had sows and little pigs, so they know the process,” Colwell said.
It’s for that next generation that Colwell is optimistic about the new addition to his farm operation.
“Once it’s paid for, it’s a good way for the next generation to get their start back on the farm,” he said.