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Son picks up where father left off

Staff writer

Dennis Klenda of Pilsen has raised hogs since 1970. The 70-year-old is preparing to leave the business by the end of the year.

“I cried when I moved the last batch of weaning pigs from the little concrete floor to the finishing floor,” he said.

His farrow-to-finish operation has been reduced from a 40-sow operation to about 80 head of feeders that will be sold as they reach about 300 pounds.

Klenda said his operation has been profitable this past year, with prices for fat hogs as high as $1.30 a pound in July before dropping. The price has been going down the past couple of weeks, but now, at $.88 a pound, with cheaper feed, “there’s some money in it yet.”

“It’s kind of sad to quit,” he said, “but it’s something you have to do. I want to do something else instead of taking care of pigs all the time. I want to goof off more and go where I want to.”

Klenda has turned over a dozen of his best sows to his son Dale, and his wife, Andrea. They live on a farm west of Pilsen with three sons — Elijah, 6, Evan, 4, and Silas, 2.

Dale said the operation is a trial run for them, made possible only when his father decided to quit.

“Setting up an operation takes a lot of investment,” he said, “but my dad getting out made it the perfect time to try it.”

They have been able to keep their investment low by using some of his father’s equipment. They also purchased some used hog panels for fencing, as well as a couple of used farrowing houses.

“I think it’s a crazy idea,” Andrea said. “It’s a ‘let’s give it a shot’ kind of thing. Staying at home is hard anymore. Even though we are doing well on Dale’s job, we hope this might give us a little for extra things like vacations.”

Dale is the elevator manager at Agri Producers in Lincolnville.

Andrea oversees the operation while Dale is at work. She has learned how to clip teeth and give iron shots to newborn piglets. She also helps feed and water the pigs every day. She looks in on sows that are farrowing to make sure they are doing ok.

She said the hog operation would help the children be more involved on the farm. They already have learned how to feed chickens and gather eggs.

“It teaches them a lot about responsibility and work,” she said.

Six sows have farrowed so far, with an average of nine pigs per litter. Dale took the first 22 piglets over to his father’s facilities to fatten them. He plans to sell the others as eight-week-old weaning pigs weighing 50 or 60 pounds.

“If this works, we will invest more into it,” he said.

Dennis’s wife, Terri, shares her husband’s feelings at seeing their lifelong operation coming to an end. She worked side-by-side with him ever since they were married in 1972. She often got up early in the morning to help move, sort, or load pigs for transport to market before going to a job. Evenings and weekends, she often did the same.

“It’s kind of sad,” she said. “It’s quiet out at the farm. The little ones made more noise. But it’s hard work, and Dennis has had to do it by himself. It will be nice to go and see the grandchildren when we want to.”

Dennis has plenty to keep him busy for now. He has a 28-head cow/calf operation. He hand-feeds the cattle “to stay in shape.” He also will have time to fix fences.

“It’ll probably hit him in spring,” Terri said. “It’ll take some time to get used to.”

“I’m learning a lot, that’s for sure,” daughter-in-law Andrea said. “I think Dennis is getting tired of me asking questions, but he’s been in it for almost 50 years, so who better to ask.”

Last modified Nov. 5, 2014

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