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Propane Users Hopeful For Warmer Weather

February 17, 2014, 10:00 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Propane Users Hopeful For Warmer Weather
HECLA, SD -

Warmer weather could bring some much-needed relief to those who use propane for heat.

Involved with hog operations from Hecla down to Vermillion, Mitch Truebenbach is thankful to finally see warmer days.

"It would sure be nice to stay at 30 degrees and then get better," Truebenbach said.

Depending the age of the pigs inside, Truebenbach needs to keep his barns at anywhere from 65 to 85 degrees. With the cold winter, he's burned through a lot of propane to keep them at those temperatures.

Before winter is finished, Truebenbach expects to spend 60 percent more on propane this year than he normally would. That's even with buying quite a bit in advance at a lower rate.

"On a normal year, we'll book in about two-thirds of our needs. And this year because it was so cold, we ran out quite a bit early. I think we were done with our propane contract by the middle of January," Truebenbach said.

He expected that contracted propane to last through February. Truebenbach paid $1.48 per gallon for propane he purchased in advance. When he ran out, he paid more than $3 per gallon.

"And then you heard rumors of it going as high as $5. We were fortunate we didn't have to pay anything at $5 but it was still quite high," Truebenbach said.

Even though it's dropped from its peak, propane is still expensive, which is why Truebenbach is hopeful the weather will start helping, rather than hurting, his profits.

Truebenbach says hog prices are helping make up for the expensive propane. But there are some operators in South Dakota facing other challenges such as illness in herds that take away from profits as well.

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