Propane shortage posing a problem for livestock farmers

Propane shortage (WISH Photo/ Jeff Wagner)
Propane shortage (WISH Photo/ Jeff Wagner)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – It’s not just homeowners feeling the pinch on propane, livestock farmers are doing their best to conserve during what they call one of the worst winters for the industry.

The farmers at Legan Livestock and Grain in Coatesville have been lucky so far this season.

Their propane provider isn’t running low. But with several weeks still left in winter, budgeting what gas they do have is a top priority.

For an expecting mother, a small room might not seem like the most comfortable spot to give birth.

“This pig was just born minutes ago,” said farmer Beth Tharp as she held a newborn pig.

But in this balmy 73 degree nursery, it’s the perfect place for these piglets to enter the world, which happens pretty often.

“During the day we’ll have pigs born at least every hour. We’ll take these rags and dry it off because we want to get it as warm as quick as we can,” she demonstrated.

And that warming process starts with propane.

Two tanks heat the entire 25,000 square foot facility. The newly pregnant pigs only need 65 degrees to stay warm, especially with so much body heat to go around.

But the newborns need a few more notches on the thermostat, and then some.

“We have a moral obligation to make sure that our animals are well taken care of,” she said.

Which is why instead of only using propane, heated mats and lamps give the piglets the warmth they need.

“Whenever they lay under it, it’s like a 90 degree environment. We’re trying to be as efficient as we can and still meet the needs,” she said.

That’s exactly what Governor Mike Pence called for Wednesday when he addressed the Midwest propane shortage.

“If you don’t need that propane, let your supplier know so that they might be able to come out and get that back into the marketplace for some of those in our livestock sector might truly need it,” Gov. Pence said.

It’s an idea not lost on farmers like Tharp.

“I really appreciate the support; appreciate the recognition that the livestock sector of our state does need this propane to make sure that our animals are well taken care of,” she said.

Even though Tharp is glad her family farm has been well supplied with propane, that doesn’t mean the winter hasn’t hurt their bottom line.

They say in a normal year, they’ll use around 4,000 gallons of propane

But their afraid this winter could force them to buy at least 50 percent more, if not double to keep their whole facility warm.

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