The Indiana Department of Environmental Management will allow up to 8,800 baby pigs at Gelfius Farms, located off East County Road 200N in Clifty Township.

In late 2013, rural Hartsville farmer Bill Gelfius sparked controversy when he first stated he want to raise having that many hogs to maturity at his proposed concentrated animal feeding operation.

Only half that number were allowed in Gelfius’ revised proposal, approved by the Bartholomew County Board of Zoning Appeals in June 2014.

Issued in late March, the IDEM permit will allow Gelfius to have 8,800 baby pigs, each weighing about 12 pounds, as they are being raised from the weaned-to-feeder stage, Gelfius said.

“It takes little six little ones to equal the amount of manure produced by one full-size hog,” said Kristen Whittington, a local agribusiness consultant working on behalf of Gelfius Farms.

Half of the hogs will be shipped away after six to eight weeks when they each weigh the feeder stage of 30 to 60 pounds, Whittington said. No more than 4,400 hogs will remain for the entire production cycle, during which their weight will grow to about 280 pounds, she said.

By adding what Whittington described as a nursery-to-kindergarten stage, she said the turnover of hogs would go up to eight or nine months, instead of the six months Gelfius outlined during a February 22 open house.

Gelfius said he sees no reason why this proposed change should spark a new round of controversy, based on manure output.

During the two-year CAFO controversy that ended when new restrictions were adopted last spring, it was always excessive manure that sparked opposition, Bartholomew County commissioner Rick Flohr said.

As long as adding the new stage doesn’t result in a noticeable increase in manure, “it sounds to me like it’s no big deal,” said Flohr, a farmer who served on the 12-member Bartholomew County CFO/CAFO Regulation Study Committee.

Nancy Banta said the smell from concentrated animal feeding operations has worsened since the arrival of spring.

“I will have no relief from this until November,” said Banta, who lives off County Road 575E, near a different concentrated animal feeding operation. “Instant headache, closure of the sinuses, taking away of the breath, and the constant fear the smell is on me when I arrive at work.”

County review

While the size of the animals is a consideration in IDEM’s decision, it was not a factor in June 2014 when the BZA approved a variance that allows no more than 4,400 animals, city-county planner Jeff Bergman said.

Gelfius Farms won’t exceed that limit without approval at the local level, Whittington said. County planning and zoning officials are being notified of the proposed change this week, and individual BZA members will be invited to tour the operations, she said.

But since the change will have little to no impact on manure output — and the number of animals remaining for the full production cycle won’t change — Whittington said she will let planning and zoning officials determine if new public hearings are necessary.

Whittington already has made initial contact with planning and zoning officials to schedule a final inspection of Gelfius’ $1.3 million facility, Bergman said.

“That (inspection) will provide us an opportunity to talk about any changes they’ve made,” Bergman said. “When we find out what they have planned, we’ll do whatever is appropriate.”

Business plan

Gelfius Farms is operating on a business model known as vertical integration. In microeconomics and management, each member of a supply chain produces a different product or market-specific service, and the products combine to satisfy a common need.

Agreeing to be just one member of a supply chain was likely one reason IDEM approved the permit that allowed more animals, Gelfius said.

During the CAFO operation’s February open house, Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch said these types of state-of-the-art, large-scale hog operations provide young Hoosiers incentives to stay with the family farm.

Family farms can also generate a larger and more dependable income that protects homesteads by raising both crops and livestock, said state agriculture department director Ted McKinney, who also attended the event.

Ten CAFOs have been approved in Bartholomew County, nearly all of them in the Hope area. Most had long been operating before permits were issued for Gelfius and Hope farmer Jeff Shoaf during the summer of 2014. Shoaf received permission to operate a 2,000-hog operation near Old St. Louis.

Gelfius CAFO timeline

2014

Jan. 27: The first public hearing on a proposal by Bill Gelfius to build an 8,800-hog concentrated animal feeding operation on his 378-acre farm along East County Road 200N attracts 135 people to a meeting of the Bartholomew County Board of Zoning Appeals.

Feb. 24: After a grassroots organization called the Anderson Falls CAFO Fighters is formed, the second hearing before the board of zoning appeals is canceled after Gelfius withdraws his proposal.

May 28: Gelfius submits a second application to the board to build a 4,400-hog concentrated feeding operation.

June 30: Gelfius’ second application for a CAFO is approved by the Bartholomew County Board of Zoning Appeals.

2017

Feb. 22: More than 200 people attend a 90-minute reception to kick off an day-long open house of the newly completed Gelfius CAFO.

Feb. 24: The first batch of 4,400 baby hogs arrive to be raised at the Gelfius facility over the next six months.

Late March: Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) approves permit allowing Gelfius Farms to house up to 8,800 weaner pigs only until they reach feeder stage (about 50 pounds).

WHAT’S NEXT

Columbus-Bartholomew County Planning Director Jeff Bergman says the IDEM-approved change will be discussed with Gelfius during a final inspection of the new CAFO to determine if additional variances or hearings are necessary.

Overview: Gelfius Farms

Address: North side of 378-acre farm at 20565 E. County Road 200N in Clifty Township.

Maximum capacity of concentrated animal feeding operation: 4,440 animals (weaner to adult stage).

Features:

  • Three feeding bins with a total 65-ton capacity with sensor-activated vibration mechanisms.
  • Tubes running from bins directly into troughs within two finishing barns. Each barn is separated into two rooms with multiple pens.
  • Multiple monitoring devices to control water, air and nutrient management.
  • 10-foot concrete manure pit designed to minimize odor and potential health problems,
  • Computerized system for each barn that automatically controls temperature, moisture and ventilation.
  • Bio-security measures include a concrete hall separating the barns, a Room-Alert system that can remotely notify operators of malfunctions, and several doors that can quickly confine areas of concern.
  • Smaller, underground pens installed in regular pens that uses sunlamps to keep baby hogs warm.
Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.