Two area agricultural businesses are working together with a new swine research barn in rural Tracy

Photo by Deb Gau Jeff Knott (center, in cap), owner of Ideal Animal Nutrition, spoke with guests at an open house for a new swine research barn Thursday. Knott will be working with Boerboom Ag Resources, who will be providing pigs for the research.

TRACY — The pens were ready and waiting for the first group of pigs. But they would stay empty for a few days yet, Jeff Knott said. All the better for human visitors to take a look at the special features and equipment in the new Ideal Animal Nutrition research barn in rural Tracy.

Guests including area residents toured the research barn during an open house on Thursday evening. The research barn is bringing together two Lyon County-based agricultural businesses. Knott’s business, Ideal Animal Nutrition, will be conducting research at the facility. Boerboom Ag Resources will be providing the pigs for the research.

“It’s a really good relationship,” Knott said of the partnership. “What we learn here, they can apply to pigs every day.”

Knott said the private research barn will be a valuable tool. Different types of swine research could be done there, he said.

“My passion is nutrition,” Knott said. Other examples of possible uses for the barn include research in swine genetics, or pharmaceutical research, he said.

While groups like the University of Minnesota Extension do a good job of basic agricultural research, Knott said, the Ideal research barn would be geared more toward validating research results and putting them to commercial use.

The research barn will hold 1,250 head of swine, Knott said. Construction on the barn started this summer, but the planning process went back a year.

“It takes good planning,” to make the project work, Knott said.

Mike Boerboom of Boerboom Ag Resources said in some ways, the research barn was similar to a regular swine finishing barn. However, it also has specialized equipment that allows researchers to run nutritional and other trials, and check what effect they have on the pigs.

Some of the special features of the research barn can be seen from the outside of the building. There are eight feed bins outside the barn, where normally there would only be two or four, Boerboom said. The extra bins allow for research using different types and mixes of feed. Boerboom also showed open house guests the barn’s “kitchen,” where specialized equipment could mix and measure out the feed.

“We want to measure everything down to the pen level,” Boerboom said. The feeding system connects to feeders in each pig pen in the barn, so researchers can control and monitor what the animals eat. The feeding system and other systems in the barn are controlled by computer, he said.

Boerboom said the pigs will also be weighed more often than they would in a normal finishing barn.

“Here, the pigs will be weighed every two weeks,” he said.

Boerboom said working with Ideal’s research would be a good opportunity.

“This gives us a chance to maximize our performance,” he said.

And the research would start soon, Knott and Boerboom said.

“The pigs are coming in on Monday,” Boerboom said.