David Rudolph of Lincolnville has raised pigs since he was in high school.
The 43-year-old farmer has 15 sows, down from a high of 75 about 10 years ago.
“Grain prices were high, hogs were cheap, and I was getting older,” he said to explain the downsizing.
Rudolph, a 1992 graduate of Centre High School, works full-time for Donahue Corp. at Durham.
“I graduated Sunday, started working Monday, and I’ve been welding ever since,” he said.
He gets up at 5 a.m. to feed pigs before going to his job and does more chores after he gets home at 4 p.m.
In winter, he uses straw to keep animals warm. Newborn piglets are kept under heat lamps.
Sows give birth in small huts or farrowing barns. Two of Rudolph’s sows farrowed a day before the first cold spell in December.
“I lucked out there,” he said.
He remembers times when he got up in the middle of the night in winter and drove to the farm to close farrowing hut doors to keep warmth in during a blizzard.
So why does he put up with the challenges that come with producing pork?
“I love doing it, and I enjoy watching the little pigs grow,” he said.
He raises his own milo for feed.
Rudolph grows the pigs for 5½ months to 250 pounds. He and other area producers haul their fat hogs to Salina or Dillon, where they are loaded on semi-trailers and delivered to a packing plant in Nebraska.
“Some years I make money and some years I don’t,” he said. “That’s just the way it goes.”
Rudolph lived in Lincolnville for many years and raised pigs in a rented barnyard west of Lincolnville on Quail Creek Rd.
Eight years ago, he bought his grandfather Clarence Winter’s 120-acre farm northwest of Lincolnville from an uncle.
Now, all of his pigs are at his home place.
Rudolph has been building a cowherd. He has about 30 head now and may buy more. He said he may retain fewer gilts (young female pigs) this year and may get out of the pig business in a year or two.
Rudolph’s oldest daughter, Genesis, 21, is a beautician in Herington. Twins Daniel and Haley are seniors at Centre. Rudolph and his fiance, Julie Schmidt, also have an 18-month-old daughter, Ava, and he has a 2-year-old grandson, Logan.
“I am happy to be raising my family on my grandpa’s farm,” he said. “I wanted to keep it in the family.”