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Pork genetics facility opening soon

Fayette County native Brett Bonwell will return to the county May 24 to open the DNA Genetics Indiana Gene Transfer Center on County Road 1000-N.

By DARRELL SMITH - dsmith@newsexaminer.com

A state-of-the-art swine genetics transfer center will open May 24 in Fayette County 

DNA Genetics of Columbus, Nebraska, will be opening its Indiana Gene Transfer Center. The facility will produce pork semen used in the breeding of pigs that become pork for consumers, Brett Bonwell, the company CEO, said.

The company uses genes from three breeds of pig. Yorkshires and Landrace are bred to create a hybrid female as a parent animal. She’s bred with Duroc for a commercial animal. 

It was a drive in the country that led to Fayette County being chosen for this operation.

Bonwell, a 1982 Purdue University graduate, is the son of the late Charles and Jean Bonwell.

“I grew up on a small farm a mile and a half south of this location and went to Connersville High School,” he said. “We were looking for facilities in Indiana and I just happened to ride with my dad one day and thought ‘That would be a good location for a genetic transfer center.’”

Charles Bonwell passed away about a month later.

The company chose the site over three other Indiana locations. It needed to be in this general area to service customers in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois.

The facility will house 400 boars for semen collection and processing. It will service 30-40 customers within 200 miles, Bonwell said.

When up and running, the facility will have eight full-time employees and six to 10 part-time couriers with an annual payroll of some $400,000-$500,000, he said. Four full-time positions have been filled.

“We plan to start distributing semen in September,” he said. “There are no animals there now. The boars will show up around the first of July. The facility will be HEPA-filtered and air-conditioned. We do that for disease control and boar comfort.”

At the open house, guests will see how modern swine facilities are constructed. This location is different than commercial pig sites because of the transfer of genetics. Animal care, comfort and biosecurity are state of the art. The facility has an on-site lab to evaluate, process and package semen for distribution.

“It’s a $2.5 million facility that is the most cutting edge gene transfer center in the U.S.,” Bonwell said.

The open house is from noon to 4 p.m. Thursday, May 24, at 4811 W. County Road 1000-N. A ribbon cutting by the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce is planned for 2 p.m. Because of biosecurity, this will be the only time the public is permitted on the property.

DNA Genetics is the second-largest swine genetics supplier in North America, Bonwell said. Privately owned by two Nebraska agricultural families, the company has been in business for about 15 years.

The company does business in 22 states, Canada, Mexico and Europe. It has locations in Nebraska, South Dakota, Canada, Wisconsin and Illinois.