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Prestage Farms plays key role in Golden Triangle’s economy

West Point — Prestage Farms Inc. plays a key role in the economy of Clay County. It is the state’s largest swine producer with 33,000 sows in production. Bryan Foods, also of West Point, purchases 100% of Prestage Farms prime-market animals.

“We are pleased to be a part of the economy in the Golden Triangle area,“ said plant manager Terry Emerson. “We employ 211 personnel in our production operation and have 45 contract growers located in a 75-mile radius of West Point.”

Additionally, Prestage Farms has a local feed mill where grain is mixed from corn, soybeans and millet. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of grain are brought in weekly by truck and rail. After mixing, it is delivered to growers and production farms.

“We try to buy Mississippi grain as much as we can to help local people and to save on transportation costs,” said Richard Stubbs, director of human resources. “The price of grain and transportation is rising, so we try to get it as cheap as we can. You can’t travel on any highway in this area without seeing at least one of our fleet vehicles going to or coming from one or more of our farming sites.”

The West Point facility began in 1990 as a division of Prestage Farms of Clinton, N.C. The parent company was founded in 1983 by Bill and Marsha Prestage. Through knowledge of animal production, extensive practical experience and uncompromising personal commitment, the company has become one of the country’s leading producers of pork and poultry. Nationally, Prestage Farms produces more than 400 million pounds of turkey and 600 million pounds of pork annually. What began with only 500 sows in 1983, is now the United States’ fourth-largest producer of pork.

The Mississippi division produces approximately 10,500 baby pigs each week, according to Stubbs. He said the company could produce as much as 12,000 per week but has no plans to expand at this time.

Half of the company’s employees are breeders and the other half work as farrowing assistants, which he describes as being like midwives to sows. The birthing room has space for 48 sows at one time.

Sometimes a sow has a litter of 19 or 20 pigs. The average litter is 12 pigs, and that’s a good average for the pork industry. After three weeks, the baby pigs are ready to go to the nursery. That’s the first stage of development and goes to a weight of 60 pounds. Some contract growers run nursery operations. Others are finishing growers and have the pigs up to 260 pounds. That’s when the animals go to Bryan Foods. Any animals larger than 250 to 260 pounds are culled.

“They get first choice and can reject any of it,” Stubbs said. “There’s nothing wrong with any meat they cull. It is sold to other people and used a lot for barbecue and sausage.”

The majority of the contract growers have been with Prestage Farms since it began its Clay County operation. Stubbs said the company has no trouble getting growers.

“People are standing in line to get permits from the State Department of Environmental Quality to have swine farms.”

The growers’ farms and the company’s facilities are all high tech operated in a clean, sanitary, environmentally responsible environment. “It’s a shower in and shower out operation,” he said.

In addition to providing specially formulated feed for the pigs, Prestage Farms also provides veterinary service and supplies, diagnostic services and technical support to growers through weekly visits. Often, these family businesses involve the entire family in their daily farm management activities.

West Point Mayor Kenny Dill remembers being at the groundbreaking when Prestage Farms came to his city. He gladly welcomed them to the community. “They run a state-of-the-art operation and are very important to our area economy,” he said. “They are fine people, and their employees are community minded.”

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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