“Getting into livestock allowed us to add cash flow and we’re helping out the grain side with labor by being here and with the resources. We built one hog building in 2005 and another in 2006 for my brother to operate. Then, we decided to start another venture with chickens to allow room for my cousin to be a part of the farm,” Harting said.
They also knew the poultry litter from the chicken barns would be a valuable resource, significantly cutting down the fertilizer cost in the grain operation. But, ultimately, the decision to produce free-range eggs over conventional came down to what made the most sense for their operation and the environment at the time.
“We looked at the choices and a cage house was a bigger investment than the free-range building,” he said. “They were trying to push Issue Two in Ohio right when this barn was being built and that is when we geared more for the free-range. With all of the regulations they are making, it opens up the door to this new era. We looked into it and we were able to get a contract. We liked what we saw with the free-range with the smaller bird numbers too.”
They ended up contracting with Egg Innovations in Indiana that provides the organic feed and the birds and markets the eggs. There are significant requirements for documentation and record keeping through the program, but ultimately, Harting said is pays off in the end because of the higher premium he receives.
He built two Big Dutchman barns with the Colony 2+ Alternative Layer System that are specifically designed for the free-range application.
Colony 2+ from Big Dutchman on Vimeo.
I think it is notable that while many guys have looked to Indiana as the place to go with livestock after Ohio cut a deal with the HSUS, it is actually an Indiana company behind the free-range egg project. Smart folks don't fight the demands of the market, they adapt. This kid looks to be adapting pretty well. We'll see if folks like Jim Buchy learn from them.