By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

Nic Anderson of the IL Livestock Development Group and IPPA Executive Director Jen Tirey are pictured at the 2017 Illinois Pork Expo, where grain farm diversification into livestock was a priority topic. (Tim Alexander photo)

With farm diversification a popular topic in Illinois ag circles these days, two new swine barns opened this month in Hancock and Effingham counties. We will look at what other sectors of Illinois ag are benefitting from these and other recent farm expansions. Also this week, according to the USDA’s annual cattle report, the cattle industry is still in expansion mode, at least for now. In addition, WILL-AG FM has announced the date and guest speakers for its popular All Day Ag Outlook; we have details. Please read on …

Farm diversification benefits soybean growers

SPRINGFIELD — A major topic of the 2017 Illinois Pork Expo, held Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 at the Prairie Capital Convention Center, was farm diversification. More and more Illinois grain producers are branching out into livestock — specifically swine production — as grain prices continue to tumble and younger generations look to return to farming or stay in business.

In 2016, Illinois farmers and integrators, or companies that provide livestock on a contract growing basis to farmers, filed plans to build or expand 127 livestock barns, Illinois Department of Agriculture records show. The additional livestock and poultry in those barns have the potential to consume more than 53,000 tons of soybean meal per year, and provide valuable growth for Illinois agriculture and the economy, according to the Illinois Soybean Association. ISA was a major supporter of the 2017 Illinois Pork Expo, which was sponsored by the Illinois Pork Producers Association.

New wean-to-finish barns open for business

SPRINGFIELD — The days following the 2017 Illinois Pork Expo were not restful for Illinois Pork Producers Assoc. (IPPA) officials and other livestock industry experts — rather, they were days of busy celebration. On Feb. 2, the Illinois Livestock Development Group (ILDG) hosted an open house for a new, 2,400-head wean-to-market hog barn in Effingham County. Clark McWhorter and his wife, Rachael, wanted to celebrate the diversification of their grain farm and the steady income it will provide with an open house before the pigs arrived.

“This will provide an opportunity for the next generation to be involved in our family farm,” said Clark McWhorter, who with Rachael have a 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter. The McWhorters will partner with another Illinois farm family, Borgic Pork Partners of Nokomis, to raise pigs to market size, according to Tim Maiers of Maiers Ag Consulting.

Nic Anderson of the ILDG joined IPPA members and leaders on Feb. 10 to host another open house for two, 2,500-head wean-to-finish hog barns near LaHarpe in Hancock County. “The barns are owned by Justin and Whitney McKeown, who are excited to get into pig farming,” said Morgan Booth, director of communications for the IPPA, in a news release. “A common goal of IPPA and ILDG is to positively promote livestock in Illinois. Having open houses is just one way to do that by inviting friends, family and community members into a barn and allowing them to explore the barn and ask questions before the pigs move in.”

As with most ILDG-IPPA open houses, a a delicious pork chop sandwich lunch was served to those in attendance, Booth added.

Report: cattle herd still expanding

URBANA — The comprehensive annual USDA Cattle Report indicates that like the swine industry in Illinois and the Midwest, the U.S. cattle industry is still in expansion mode, reported James Mintert in a Feb. 6 University of Illinois farmdocDAILY report. The report includes survey based estimates of all cattle and calves inventory, the 2016 calf crop, beef and dairy cow inventories, in addition to a variety of other inventory estimates that analysts use to project future cattle and beef supplies.

“This year’s report, released on Jan. 31, was of particular interest because of the collapse in both fed and feeder cattle prices that took place during 2016,” Mintert said. “The dramatic price decline, and resulting falloff in profitability by cow-calf producers, led to questions about possible impacts on industry expansion. (USDA’s) report leaves little doubt that the industry is still in expansion mode, at least for now.”

Mintert’s entire article, “Cattle Industry Still in Expansion Mode, For Now,” can be accessed through the U of I farmdocDAILY website.

Illinois Farm Fact:

Of Illinois’ 146,000 miles of roads, more than 70 percent of the roads are rural. (Illinois Dept. of Transportation)

WILL sponsoring 2017 ‘All Day Ag Outlook’

URBANA — Illinois Public Media WILL-AG FM’s popular “All Day Ag Outlook” is returning Tuesday, March 7 to the Beef House in Covington, Ind. Doors open at 8 a.m. before emcee Todd Gleason’s opening remarks at 8:25. Gleason will be followed by Eric Snodgrass of Agrible in Champaign, who will offer a weather outlook for the growing season. The rest of the event, which concludes at 1:15 p.m., will consist of cash grain, soybean and corn panels, and a “Farm Policy, Trade and the Farm Bill” roundtable comprised of U of I ag experts Jonathan Coppess, Gary Schnitkey and Nick Paulson.

Todd Hubbs, U of I agricultural economist, is the special guest of the day. The event will include a Beef House Lunch and trade show. For more information and registration, visit www.willag.org.

ISB seeking at-large directors

BLOOMINGTON — It seems that with every new administration the need for political input from agriculture sources increases, and this election cycle is no exception. With two current terms set to expire July 31, 2017, the Illinois Soybean Board (ISB) is seeking available farmers interested in filling at-large director positions. Soybeans are the top agricultural export from Illinois, and the directors will help represent the interests of more than 43,000 soybean growers in the state. Two of the nominated candidates will be elected by a majority of soybean farmers during the annual ISB meeting on July 27 in Champaign.

For more information, contact the ISB or visit the website www.ilsoy.org.