Lancaster farming. (Lancaster, Pa., etc.) 1955-current, October 13, 1984, Image 20

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NEW TRIPOLI - It’s been a long
market hog show. The best part of
three hours. Inside the showrmg a
handful of nervous sweaty-palmed
4-H’ers prod their class winners in
anticipation of the announcement.
Wading amid the sea of pork is a
bull of a man who -selects his
champion and reserve with the
practiced eye bom of years spent
in showrmgs throughout the East
and Midwest.
Following a few comments on
the importance of a strong youth
livestock program, the judge goes
public with his decision, adding,
“In my opinion this is the kind of a
pig the industry’s looking for.”
And after spending a few
minutes with Henry Gruber at the
show’s conclusion, it becomes
obvious that this is the kind of man
that the industry is looking for. In
fact, Gruber’s commitment to the
livestock industry is as capacious
as the man himself.
Gruber cultivated a love for the
swine business early in life,
growing up on the family potato
and beef farm six miles from New
Tripoli in Lehigh County. “When
I was six years old my grandfather
bought me a Poland China gilt, and
that was my first endeavor in the
hog business,” he recalls.
Evidently Henry’s first pig made
quite an impression.
In 1957 Gruber graduated from
Penn State, and with animal
husbandry degree m hand, went to
Purebred hoar goal
With the help of his 60-sow herd, Gruber plans to supply
the industry with high quality purebred boars. Hampshire
sow named Betsy was top-selling gilt at Ohio’s Andrews and
Baughn sale. York seedstock comes from Daryl Sheiss and
Penn State boar.
(*eitthermal climate coutntl system
A total of six underground tubes (like the three shown) provide geothermal heating in
winter and cooling in summer. Installed at a depth of seven feet, the six 166-foot tubes
deliver 50° air in winter, and 70° air in summer to the new farrowing and nursery
building in the background. Gas provides supplemental heating in winter.
work for A&B Packing of Allen
town the following year. Starting
as a buyer, Henry rose through the
company become head
buyer as well as chief of the
livestock services and farm
divisions. But a happy ending was
not to come to pass.
A&B first began running mto
financial problems during the mid
-1970’s as a result of the so-called
Prompt Payment Law that
required farmers selling their
livestock to be paid by the close of
the next business day.
“There’s nothing at all wrong
with that,” emphasizes Gruber,
“but the problem was that the
packer couldn’t require the same
thing from the chain stores.” With
money going out faster than it was
coming in, packing houses were
forced to increase their credit
lines, a strategy that only com
pounded their problems.
Adding to A&B’s financial
headaches was the company’s
inability to keep pace with wage
hike demands in a traditionally low
profit margin industry. The
Prompt Payment Law, when
combined with escalating wages
and a lack of capital needed for
updating equipment, created a
financial burden too heavy for
many packing houses to bear. And
on May 3, of this year, A&B
packing became one of those
But even if one of the state’s
largest packing firms had taken a
one-two punch, it wasn’t down for
the count. It wasn’t long before
PACMA, the marketing wing of the
Pa. Farmers Association, ap
proached Gruber about a restart
and the wheels were in motion.
At this point, an offer has been
submitted to A&B’s owners from
the newly formed producer co-op,
and according to Gruber, a spring,
1985 start-up is a possibility. He
does admit, though, that forming a
corporation may be necessary,
since it seems unlikely that enough
farmer support will be enlisted to
preserve co-op status.
“We do feel that there has to be
some employee incentive, so we’ll
use a profit sharing structure,”
says Henry, vowing to give all
employees a stake in their com
“My concern is for the in
dustry,” Gruber emphasizes, “and
right now the industry is in need of
all the buying power it can get. Not
only Pennsylvania, but the entire
East is in real trouble as a result of
the reduction in packing
One of the reasons that Gruber is
working so hard to revitalize the
derailed plant is the availability of
water and sewage in Allentown.
“Water to the packing plant is
like gasoline to an engine,” Gruber
asserts, adding that tighter en
vironmental controls have made it
virtually impossible to build new
packing facilities in many parts of
the East where the need may be
And with the restart of A&B on
the horizon, Gruber hopes that his
purebred Hampshire and
Yorkshire operation, located 13
miles northwest of Allentown in the
wavy Lehigh County hill country,
will help to meet the demand for
more pork products.
“The purebred industry has hurt
itself in the last four or five years
with a trend toward growthiness
and production that has resulted in
a slip in quality for the consumer,”
Henry says. Though Gruber feels
that the ideal reproductive unit is
the crossbred sow, he is confident
that her value is greatly enhanced
through crossing with a purebred
“I think there’s a great need for
quality purebred boars in the in
dustry,” Gruber says.
If that be the case, then the
Gruber’s new farrowing and
nursery facility may be just what
the industry needs.
Designed with input from Penn
State extension engineer Dan
Myers, and swine consultant Matt
Parsons, the new building in-
Henry Gruber , Pork
corporates plenty of state-of-the- wide-trough manure gutters, and a
art innovations including roofed manure pit designed to
geothermal heating and cooling, reduce odor and promote bacterial
Pork production at the Gruber farm is a family affair in
volving Henry, his wife Marsha, and 16-year-old son Seth.
With good coaching from home, Seth is off to a running
start on the swine show circuit.
Snout coolers keep sows cool and content during summer
months. Comfortable sows have better appetites, produce
more milk and faster gaining pigs, says Gruber.
Pork a family affair
Seth in trophy room
Snout coolers installed
* i