When Howard and Jane Krikke started planning for a potential finishing site back in 2005, they wanted it to feature state-of-the-art technology to maximize pig performance. They also wanted the new operation to get the most fertilizer value from the manure nutrients, and they wanted the barn location to fit naturally with their crop enterprise and have the least impact on neighbors.

Construction started on this north-central Ohio hog farm the next year, when Krikke Pork found an ideal spot in Huron County to build its futuristic farm. “We settled on a location at the edge of 30 acres of woods,” Howard Krikke says. “The naturally wooded area to the south and west protects the barns from prevailing winds. That maximizes fan efficiency and reduces heat loss in colder weather, and helps reduce the spread of any odor to surrounding neighbors.”

The two, 2,400-head, wean-to-finish barns are tunnel-ventilated, and are oriented so the exhaust fans are discharged into the surrounding wooded area, using the natural vegetation cover as a filter. A wooded strip between the buildings also assists in filtering any airborne pathogens.

Howard worked for a number of years as an engineer in the automotive industry, so it’s no surprise that the finishers sport the latest in technology. They’re set up with large pens and an auto-sort system, as well as tunnel ventilation, drop curtains, self-contained pits, flip-to-clean feeders and a computerized system to monitor bulk feed bins. “We also have developed a low-stress training program to acclimate the young pigs to the auto-sort technology,” Howard adds. “We have learned that pigs from the auto-sort system load onto trucks much easier and with a lower stress level. The loading process requires only two people.”

Capturing nutrients

Howard and Jane started their corn and soybean farming operation in 1988, and now grow about 1,000 acres of crops. Using manure to replace expensive fertilizer nutrients was a high priority when they planned their new hog operation.

“We wanted to make sure we were located on a piece of property where we could have at least two years of manure application on a rotational basis,” Howard points out. “We have a two-year rotation on the 400 acres that is adjacent to the buildings. We apply manure on half the acreage one year, and the other half receives manure the next year.”

Deep pits under the barns are sized to hold a year’s worth of manure, about a million gallons per barn, allowing the Krikkes to apply manure each spring. “A spring application allows us to get the maximum use from the nitrogen in the manure,” Howard says. “Manure is applied to corn ground, and then we rotate to soybeans.”

The manure provides 80% of the nitrogen, 50% of the phosphorus and all of the potash required by the corn and soybean crops. The Krikkes say that using manure as a source of nutrients results in a 50% reduction in fertilizer costs inclusive of application costs, over the course of their two-year, corn-soybean rotation.

Krikke Pork follows a detailed comprehensive nutrient management plan (CNMP) for manure application. Soil grid sampling is done once every three years. Pits are agitated prior to application, as the Krikkes open up the four pump-out stations in each building to circulate and stir the pit for about three hours per opening, prior to manure application.

Manure samples are then collected for nutrient evaluation. “Since we are using it as fertilizer, we want the pits to be as homogeneous as possible from top to bottom,” Howard says.

A custom applicator uses a drag-hose system guided by GPS technology and flow meters to dial in the right amount of nutrients for the crop. An Aerway applicator creates slots that allow the manure to be absorbed quickly into the soil.

The land that receives the manure is pattern-tiled on 40-ft. centers, allowing the soil to dry out quickly in the spring so that manure can be applied in a timely fashion. The Krikkes have installed shutoff valves and pump-out features in all of their tile mains, and groundwater is monitored during and immediately following manure application.

If additional phosphorus is required, the Krikkes use a variable-rate application ahead of corn planting, and incorporate it into the soil along with preplant herbicides. If any additional nitrogen is needed, it is applied at planting using 28% liquid fertilizer.

“This allows us to complete our corn planting in just these two passes over the field, in an effort to minimize traffic soil compaction,” Howard says. “Soybeans are planted no-till in an effort to maximize soil conservation and minimize equipment, labor and energy use. Any fertilizer needed for a soybean crop is applied prior to the preceding corn crop, and incorporated with the tillage operation prior to corn planting to minimize phosphorus runoff.”

Yield boost

Manure is more than just a source of nutrients, Howard says. “It has really boosted our soil health. Coupled with our consistent liming program to maintain pH along with our patterned tiling, we’re really starting to see some bumper yields.”

Corn has consistently hit 200 bushels per acre after manure application. “Soybeans have been the real surprise for us,” he adds. “We’re seeing 60- to 70-bushel yields. We’re very happy with what the manure does for us.”

Manure nutrients fit a natural cycle on the farm. “We have observed that things in nature work in cycles,” Howard says. “With hog and crop production, there is a cycle that occurs. Hogs produce manure, manure goes onto the land, and we raise corn and soybeans on the land. The corn and soybeans are used to produce feed for the hogs, then hogs produce manure that goes back on the land, and the cycle continues.”

Water-wise

Krikke Pork takes extra steps to protect water resources. All runoff from barn roofs and driveways is directed aboveground through grassed waterways, or below ground through a 15-in. tile line to an adjoining wetland, which serves as a natural freshwater recharge facility.

“Under normal Ohio precipitation, 160% of the water used to supply the two hog facilities is put back into this natural system,” Howard says. “The wells supplying the barns are tapped into this natural feature. And 80% of the water used in the buildings is reapplied to the surrounding farmland as manure.”

Krikke Pork uses water meters to monitor and record daily water use in the barns. “In addition to conservation, recording water use provides a benchmark,” Howard says. “If water use starts to fluctuate, we can watch the pigs even more closely, and identify and address any potential health or equipment problems.”

The barns use a combination of cup and swing waterers. “Our goal is to be efficient with water usage, in an effort to provide adequate water to the pigs and minimize effluent application to the fields,” he adds. “We have gone through several iterations of trial and error to achieve the current settings utilized in the barns.”

Neighbor-friendly

Maintaining good neighbor relations has been a priority for Krikke Pork from the beginning. “Prior to building the hog barns, we contacted the immediately adjacent neighbors to let them know of our plans,” says Jane Krikke. “Some had reservations. They were worried about potential odor as well as the truck traffic from the feed trucks and pig haulers.”

In fact, the new unit’s closest neighbor, Bonnie Morris, was apprehensive at first. “We had been here many years and didn’t have any close neighbors, and we enjoyed the privacy,” she says. “After the Krikke family built their pig barns and started their new operation, our concerns soon faded. I got to know the Krikke family better and we became good neighbors.”

“We appreciate that our neighbors have offered very positive comments on low odor emissions,” Jane adds. “Several neighbors who were skeptical now enjoy watching the vehicle traffic to and from the buildings, and have become a ‘security team’ for the facilities.”

Neatly mowed grass and wide limestone driveways surround the barns. The Krikkes keep a minimum of 30 feet of limestone all the way around their barns, helping with rodent control as well as reducing maintenance of the facilities.

“We are always promoting the pork industry to people we know and meet,” Jane continues. “Neighbors and visitors can see for themselves that the place looks nice. We hope that if they see that the outside of the swine facility is well-kept, they know that we are taking care of the livestock inside the barns as well.”

Each year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Krikkes offer a gift package of pork to the neighbors. “This has been very well-received,” Howard says. “It gives us a chance to make yearly contact to discuss any issues or concerns. And we get as much enjoyment giving the pork as the neighbors do in receiving it.   

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