TRACY, Iowa — “It makes me emotional just thinking about if someone would have stepped in the building,” said Hog Farmer Carroll Hoksbergen. Hoksbergen knows what happened could have been a lot worse, and he is thankful that his wife and brothers-in-law didn’t die. “Other farmers have lost a hog or a few hogs here or there with this kind of event, but ours was just to a much greater magnitude. So, we certainly want this to be a wake up for all farmers that are working with this right now, all across the state of Iowa, how dangerous this really is, and what a disaster it can be,” said Hoksbergen.
Nearly 1100 hogs died, being overcome by hydrogen sulfide gas. Only 99 hogs survived. “It’s hydrogen sulfide gas, a gas that municipal workers deal with in city sewer lines and that type of thing. Most hog farmers are aware that it’s there and that you have to work with it,” said Hoksbergen. “In the manure hauling process , as we pump it out of there, out of the pits, that gas is created and usually it`s vented off and with ventilation with the fans,” said Hoksbergen. “We certainly try to follow all protocols, keeping all fans running, and ventilation take care of it and things to prevent this, but it can still sneak up on you,” said Hoksbergen.
In fact, so many hogs died that Hoksbergen had to take them to the South Central Iowa Solid Waste Agency landfill to be buried. “We took our equipment and we and we dug a trench about 12 foot deep, 10 feet wide and 150 feet long. We lined it with 2 – 2 1/2 feet of wood fiber that we got from a local producer and then we layered the hogs in there, and then put trash on top of it and then soil on top of that to cover everything,” said South Central Iowa Solid Waste Agency Director Rick Hurt.
It took about three days for the folks at the landfill to bury the hogs and they are buried well. Meanwhile, Carroll Hoksbergen doesn’t want what happened to him to happen to other farmers and he has some advice. “You just gotta keep checking. You gotta keep the ventilation running full blast, regardless of how cold it is. You may be afraid that the cold will cause the hogs to get sick, but I would advise you to keep the ventilation going to the max,” said Hoksbergen.