Pratt County pork base is expanding

Ruby Howell
Pratt Tribune
Lindsey Bergner’s Hereford sow pig, Love, takes her litter of piglets on an evening stroll around the Bergner farm in Pratt County.

Pratt County is considered an agriculture-based community, with a bulk of income coming from traditional crops and cattle operations. However, an increase in county fair swine entries this year, a international pig-geneticist living in the area, and an expanded hog floor going in south of Pratt are all indications that pigs are here to stay.

Despite pandemic meat issues, the swine industry is strong and growing in the sunflower state. According to Kansas Aggrowth Statistics, in 2018, Kansas ranked 10th in the nation for hog inventory, producing about 2.7% of the nation’s hogs. There are about 1,000 hog farms in Kansas, and 150 of those farms produce 99% of the state’s pork. 

But, what about Pratt specifically? The county is home to a surprising number of pig-lovers. One of those makes an appearance at the Pratt County Fair every year: and has been instrumental in bringing swine to the forefront for county fair participation in recent years. Lindsey Bergner of Pratt has been showing pigs since she was seven years old, and is currently about to start her junior year at K-State. 

Originally, Bergner hated showing pigs, but the lifestyle quickly grew in her. There was a small problem in her mindset however, as she loved her pigs so much that for years afterward, she refused to eat any pig products. 

“As I grew up and started learning about the process, I became interested in the production side of pigs, from birth to butcher. As much as I love caring for my pigs and hate them becoming meat, I think it’s an interesting and worthwhile process. Pigs are just a huge part of my life and my heart. They help feed the world,” Bergner said. 

Bergner said that the number of pigs entered at the 2020 Pratt County Fair were up from last year’s 95 pigs to 105 this past July. She may or many not have had something to do with that.

Bergner and her family began raising Hereford pigs in 2017 with the purchase of their first sow, Love. Their operation has now grown to six sows. Meaning, Bergner expects six litters of piglets to arrive this winter. Bergner sells these piglets to 4Hers to raise and then sell at the fair. 

“The fair went really well this year,” Bergner said. “We had several new families and everyone managed to stay really involved despite the circumstances of this year’s fair.” 

Bergner has taken on a pig-loving prodigy, Hayden Riffey. Bergner said Riffey shows her Herefords at the fair and is always helpful and supportive of Bergner’s swine escapades. 

Another person whose life revolves around pigs is swine geneticist Maura Eddy, a resident of Pratt County. Eddy works for a company based out of France, with a U.S. base in Des Moine, Iowa. She is the field geneticist for North and South America. The company she works for sells swine genetics all over the world promoting gilts and boars of different lines to make breeding operations at commercial farms prosper. She went to K-State to receive her degree in animal science and went back for her masters in genetics. 

“To put what I do simply, I work with our customers to help select the animals they use in order to better their herds,” Eddy said. “In the animal industry we are always looking towards how we can feed the world, and I enjoy contributing to that. By improving the genetics of the animal, we can breed animals that can raise more babies, convert food more easily, etc, and ultimately create more food.”

While not much information was available about an expanded hog floor going in south of Pratt just off U.S. Highway 281, concrete trucks had been a steady flow several months ago as a company based in Iowa prepares to house thousands of pigs at the revamped facility. Only time will tell how many pigs may soon call Pratt County home, boosting markets, tax-base revenue and putting pork on on the menu for many.