A young couple's South Dakota custom hog finishing barn is part of a livestock 'uptick' in Clark County
Samantha and Taylon LaMont of Carpenter, South Dakota, are pork producers in a boom for confined animal feeding operation permits in Clark County. Samantha, 31, manages the barn and cares for 2,400 pigs in a weanling-to-finish operation.
CARPENTER, S.D. — Samantha “Sam” LaMont, 31, and her husband, Taylon, 35, of Carpenter, South Dakota, are newbies in the hog business, but the couple is emblematic of a strong “uptick” in livestock in Clark County.
Sam and her husband, Taylon, built a 2,400-head finishing barn for about $850,000, less than a mile from home, and with support of their in-laws, Doug and Shawn LaMont, and lenders. Sam tends to her two young children in the morning and then spends an average of about two hours a day in the barns.
The enterprise is called TSL Inc., (for Taylon and Samantha LaMont).
The LaMonts started construction in March 2020 and placed their first pigs in September 2020. They raise the pigs on a 10-year contract with Windy Oak Farms LLC, based in Iowa.
Sam is the lead person in raising the pigs, but the first job every day is caring for her daughters and husband. Blakely, 7, hops on the school bus at 7:30 a.m. Chace, 4, goes a mile to the in-laws, and then carpools to preschool. Sam appreciates the flexibility to fit some tasks around her other family responsibilities.
Taylon goes to work on the family farm, headed by his parents, Doug and Shawn. The LaMonts have been here since the 1800s and today raise corn, soybeans and some small grains on some 4,000 acres. They run a substantial beef cow herd and in 2008 added a 2,400-head cattle feedlot.
Taylon and Samantha graduated from Willow Lake High School, in 2006 and 2009, respectively. They started dating in 2008. Taylon went to Lake Area Technical in diesel mechanics. Sam also went to Lake Area, to become a dental assistant. Sam graduated from tech school in 2010 and worked for two years before they started a family.
Getting into pork production meant the couple committed to buying a $850,000 barn complex, in a 10-year contract from Windy Oak Farms of Iowa. They financed the operation on a 10-year deal through a bank in Huron and a lease-to-own arrangement through Farm Credit Services of America in Watertown, South Dakota.
Doing the chores
Sam describes herself as an animal lover, but caring for this kind of operation has been a giant leap. She’s guided by a “blue book” of protocols, provided by Windy Oak, as well as visits from supervisors and veterinary oversight from Pipestone System of Pipestone, Minnesota.
Windy Oak delivers animals at 16 to 17 pounds. Sam spreads feed on mats to help the young pigs find it. In the first week she also mixes feed with water in “gruel pans.” The work takes three to four hours, twice a day, seven days a week. Eventually, the process cuts back to an hour and a half a day, seven days a week.
When the pigs are 25 pounds, she shifts to “finish” rations. She monitors the animals for lameness or behaviors that indicates sickness. She treats matters when needed. She decides when to order feed, which these days comes from Howard, South Dakota, Farmers Co-op Association, about 50 miles to the south.
Sam is responsible for “marketing,” which means visually estimating market weight of each pig to determine if a bunch is ready to sell. The day before trucks arrive, she walks through the pens and marks animals that have reached the target weight.
When trucks arrive, other LaMont family members help load them — about 175 animals in a semi-trailer. A second truck is usually just arriving when the first one takes off.
The LaMonts hire a professional cleaning company to pressure-wash and sanitize the emptied barn. In about two weeks, the process starts over again.
Manure nutrients are a welcome byproduct. The manure pits under the barn hold about 18 months of “poop,” Sam said. The LaMonts hire a Minnesota company to pump it out. A tractor pulls a “drag line” through an adjoining field and knifes it into the soil on a quarter-section of land, owned by Doug LaMont’s farm.
Doug, who has long experience using hog manure fertilizer from an earlier family hog deal, purchases the manure from TSL. A single pumping fertilizes about 80 to 100 acres. Doug estimates the manure cost is about half to two-thirds what it costs to use synthetic fertilizer and adds several bushels of yield per acre.
Ag is our choice
The couple doesn’t get away from the farm much but feel fortunate to have neighbors, relatives and other friends to help when that’s necessary.
Sam said she enjoys the fact that several neighbors in the area have pigs — including others with Windy Oak.
“When we get together, we talk about pigs,” she said. It’s especially helpful to learn how to size and sort them.
Technology in the barns send phone alarms to Sam, Taylon and three others if something is out of tolerance.
“It’ll just keep calling until somebody picks up and enters a code,” Sam said.
The LaMonts have a diesel-powered, backup electrical generator.
After their first building was built, Windy Oak asked the couple about whether they’d care to put in a second, 2,400-capacity barn. Sam said they thought about it but prices of building materials skyrocketed, so they’re in a holding pattern.
Sam sees the hog business is a future for her family, she said.
The girls are young but interact with alpacas, llamas, goats and chickens back at the farmstead. Sometimes they go to the hog barn with her.
"Blakely is already talking about 4-H,” she said. “I don’t know what she wants to show yet, but I’m sure a cow will be in there. And, hopefully … a pig.”