Meet A Pig Farmer – Neil Rhonemus

#RealPigFarming unites pig farmers, academics, youth, veterinarians and allied industry members to talk about pig farming. There are many different ways to raise pigs and #RealPigFarming celebrates all farmers and how they choose to raise their pigs. The most important things are that the pigs are well cared for, measures on the farm ensure food safety and the practices are environmentally sustainable.

Neil Rhonemus, also known as Uncle Squeal, is a pig farmer from Ohio. Uncle Squeals Pig Farm has a Facebook and YouTube page, and can also be found on Twitter at @Rhonfarm. Neil shared his story with #RealPigFarming.

RPF: Tell me about yourself‐ what’s your background in the agriculture industry?

Neil: I have been raising livestock all of my life. I started showing breeding beef animals in 4‐H and am really a cowman at heart. I got into pork production because where I live; pasture land is limited.  My mom taught me how to care for livestock after my father passed away when I was 10 years old.  Growing up, I worked for farmers and gained experience with feedlots and soybean farms. Around 1985, I started to raise purebred Berkshire hogs. Soon after, I began raising pigs in modern barns.  Farmers can hit rough times, and in 1998 the markets were extremely low and the buildings that I was renting was sold.

In 1990, I married Diane, and we both worked part time while farming. Diane is a registered nurse. Our son Lucas was born in the fall of 1990 and our daughter Lisa was born in 1992. I worked for Airborne Express as freight handler and trainer while also farming.

RPF: Tell me about your farm

Neil: In 2001, I built a 2,000 head wean to finish barn, where we received baby pigs and care for them until they were market weight. In 2005, we built another barn, and I was able to work on the farm fulltime.  Today, we raise over 10,000 pigs a year. On our farm, we raise gilts, who are girl pigs that have not had babies yet. We raise the gilts to become mothers (or sows) on other farms. I have two part‐time helpers, Butch Walters and Brock Allen. They help receiving pigs and tagging and loading the gilts. Our pigs have gone all over the country, and even to China and Mexico. It’s neat to think we are providing pigs for the world because my dad shipped pigs to Venezuela in the 1950’s.

Neil Rhonemus's dad raising pigs to be sent to Venezuela in the 1950's.

RPF: What’s the biggest challenge you face with pig farming?

Neil: Our biggest challenge in pork production is ourselves. Producers seem to have to apologize for doing what we do. All farms, big and small, are needed to meet the demand of our customers. It’s hard to share everything, but it’s important for us to continue to share our stories.

RPF: Why do you enjoy raising pigs?

Neil: I enjoy raising pigs because it’s fun. When I was farrowing the babies, I liked to pick out the dad and mom and see what they produced. Now, I enjoy watching pigs grow.

RPF: What are you goals for the future?

Neil: My goals would include finding a young person that has the guts and desire to take over and grow my farm. My children aren’t interested in taking over the farm, and I don’t expect them to want to do it, they have their career interests to pursue. I made my own path and so will they.

RPF: In your opinion, what’s the most exciting thing about being in the pork industry?

Neil: New technology and modern improvements amaze me. I have had pigs born outside, in pens, and in stalls. Pork production is always improving to make things better for the pigs.