The public will get to see a 1,164-solar panel energy system designed for a boar stud facility along the Kansas-Nebraska border.

The new system, at Zoltenko Farms, was added to a sophisticated geo-thermal heating and cooling system to keep boars at a consistently comfortable body temperature.

The open house is Saturday, April 21, from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at 2980 Cedar Road, northwest of Courtland, Kan., or southwest of Hardy, Neb. From Courtland’s turnoff at U.S. 36, go north 9 miles on County Road 3, then 2 miles west on F Road, 2 miles north on CR 1, 1 mile west on Birch, 1 mile north on CR300, and a quarter mile west to the home on the north side of the road. From the railroad crossing end of Hardy, go south 3.5 miles on CR 310 to Birch, then 1 mile west, 1 mile north and west a quarter mile to the home.

Being a bio-secure facility, Zoltenko Farms is asking the public to follow necessary precautions.

“At the open house, we’re taking precautions to keep folks away from facilities that are bio-secure. We do ask that anyone planning to attend, give us the courtesy of washing vehicles, wearing clean clothes and avoid any contact with pigs for 96 hours (four days) before coming,” said managing partner Lannin Zoltenko. “We went with a ground mount system, so it’s not on the roof. It’s in the field. No one will need to shower in.  The equipment is on the outside.” 

Bio-security is vital at the boar stud farm. “If one of our team members gets in contact with any pig, even just a pot belly pig, they cannot return into our facilities for four days,” Zoltenko said. “We wash and disinfect everything inside the building, including vehicles coming onto the premises.” 

Installing a solar energy system was necessary when Zoltenko Farms’ power usage at the all-indoor pig production and confinement facility was continually high.  Keeping air conditioning temperature pleasantly comfortable level is important, so it doesn’t stress the boar and maintains their fertility. Certain genetic breeds are easily affected by high temperatures.

“Even though we cool our barns with evaporative coolers, in summer with high humidity, the temperature can get up into the 80s and can cause the boar to go sterile,” Zoltenko said. “The geo-thermal is more efficient, but it still uses a lot of electricity. This reduces that power cost, over a 20-year period,” Zoltenko noted. “Anyone in agriculture who has a consistent electrical usage on a year-round basis, might want to consider solar energy.”

“The cost per kilowatt produced is about 8 or 9 cents. Our average purchase price is about 12½ cents per kilowatt right now, and we know that continues to go up. But, as long as the solar power system continues to produce the way it’s designed to, that solar production cost will stay fixed.” 

With the American Ag Credit leasing arrangement they have, the tax credits are handled for them.  “It’s a 10-year payoff with a 20-year expected life. The cost that we’re producing power at is below our utility power purchase price during the lease, and then, at the end of 10 years, the cost essentially goes to zero.” 

At one point, Zoltenko considered using wind energy. “To produce the amount of power that we need, there would’ve needed to be multiple wind turbines. Solar energy is highly scalable with respect to system sizing, so whether it’s a small or large installation, you can customize it to your needs, whereas with wind energy, you’re stuck with whatever size turbines are available.”

After modest beginnings 101 years ago as a traditional family farming operation in Jewell County, Kan., just south of Hardy, Zoltenko said his father had recognized an opportunity in the hog semen market for local producers within 50-100 miles. Their first hog semen was produced in June 1998. The family began conducting artificial insemination by collecting semen for their own sows.

“Back then, we were still farming all our ground and we’d get up at 3 a.m., collect semen, get it cooled, go home and sleep for a bit, and go on our 4- to 8-hour delivery route of collecting semen two days a week. The other three days we farmed.”  As the business grew, Zoltenko’s father realized the importance of focusing solely on the boar stud investment. 

Zoltenko Farms’ high-tech energy systems help support the operation’s bio-security, or maintaining the high-quality health of the hog. Zoltenko Farms produces about 25,000 doses of semen per week.  Each boar services about 200 sows, and the facility services 220,000 sows.  Zoltenko said the family farm is proud to produce a high-quality protein for neighbors and people around the globe.