#7 Upgraded Farms: Maintenance, Construction and Special Projects

posted on Monday, January 2, 2017

“We’ve been in business for nearly 25 years and plan on being in business for a lot longer, and our farms need to be safe, biosecure and a good environment for our animals and employees,” said Tracy Borkowski, Director of Production Maintenance.

Any livestock farmer will tell you that farm and building structures receive a lot of wear and tear over the years, and while preventative maintenance and routine repairs help, there comes a time when farmers need to rip just about everything out and replace it.

It's been a big year for Tracy’s team of 40 repair and maintenance technicians, construction project managers, sub-contractors, and special projects team. With a lot of coordination, communication and extra biosecurity measures, they successfully remodeled ten, 4,200 head sow farms (Sow 25, 2, 4, 1, 14, 3, 24, 11, 12 and 13) with only minor hiccups, and most importantly, no disruption to production. And that’s on top of two new sow farms being built, plus the routine maintenance needs of all of the farms. This year they conducted preventative maintenance efforts to ward off bigger problems and collectively responded to over 3,000 “tickets” submitted by farm managers.

“One of the highlights for the year was fusing the maintenance and production teams closer together,” said Tracy, who for 20 years worked in the sow system, climbing his way up to Senior Sow Supervisor before taking on his current role of Director of Production Maintenance. A move that certainly helped both the production and maintenance teams understand each other’s point of view.

“There is a pretty significant level of difficulty that comes with walking into a farm and figuring out where to start and stop to bring innovation and a better environment while keeping costs in line,” said Tracy. “We’re replacing walls, ceilings and inlets, electrical, plumbing, equipment, bins, loading chutes, doors and lighting, and at the same time dormers are being built and our ag engineering team is configuring the positive filtration piece of the puzzle. Even with a background in production, oftentimes there are a lot more questions than answers, which is why we have to work so closely together.”

In addition to remodeling the farms, transitioning to pen gestation and positively filtering the farms, Tracy’s crews also collaborated with the health services team to installed several extra measures for biosecurity, like a bench entry system, UV chambers and disinfecting and drying rooms for supply entry.

“Just about every single support department plays a role in a farm remodel, even if they are not on the front lines they are behind the scenes ordering materials, moving animals, or contributing in other ways,” said Tracy.

Logan Clark oversees the current remodels at Sow 6, 8, 9 and 26, managing the day-to-day aspects of the projects, overseeing the materials, subcontractors and timelines. “The farm managers have been exceptional to work with,” said Logan. “It can take a toll on a manager because he or she is also running a farm, but they have been more than helpful along every step of the way, giving advice and helping the subcontractors and suppliers get what they need.”

“Our production is finally starting to get to where it needs to be now that our farm has been remodeled and filtered, in fact we’re finally PRRS and Myco-free,” said Lance Lawrence, manager of Sow 11, a farm that finished up an extensive remodel this year. “The crews were not a burden at all, in fact everything they did has helped us. Plus, the new environment is better and brighter, making our farm a better workplace overall.”

Over on the new construction side of things, Todd Risius, Construction Project Manager, is overseeing the new 7,200 sow farm being built near Riceville, and his counterpart, James Hagen, is leading the efforts on the new sow farm near Last Chance, Iowa.

“We fought heavy rains this summer, but the crews did a fantastic job of working through the weather delays and keeping us relatively on schedule, and now the framers are fighting the winter conditions but we continue to make good progress every day,” said Todd. “It can get hectic from day to day, but for the size and scope of the project things are running smooth, everyone’s excited to be a part of the new state-of-the-art, positively-filtered, pen gestation farm." #billionpounds