Ashley Dyer Head Hooper Sow Farm Farrowing Department
“I’ve worked from the bottom up, and I know I can grow here and help others grow, too,” said Ashley Dyer, the farrowing department head at Hooper Sow Farm. “I enjoy training people and caring for the animals, both of which are key to the job, especially when opening a new farm.”
The recent open house at Iowa Select Farms’ newest sow farm brought in nearly 750 interested neighbors, suppliers, community leaders, lawmakers and fellow employees, surprising Ashley.
“I didn’t realize so many people were interested in animal care and how we raise pigs. Seeing so many show up and support us was a good feeling,” said Ashley.
Ashley’s been with Iowa Select Farms for five years. Transferring from Last Chance Sow Farm to start up Hooper, she says the team is both excited and nervous.
Hooper is the first of 49 sow farms to feature positive pressure filtration, open pen gestation (second generation), free access breeding stalls and turn-around farrowing stalls. New technology, new equipment and new ways to care for the animals.
“We’ll need to learn how to use the new farrowing stalls, but so will the sows,” said Ashley, whose team will care for them and their piglets. “We’re anxious to see how they respond to the space if they are ‘pickier’ about where they choose to lay or plop down like they normally do.”
The farm will have 7,500 sows and annual wean 210,000 piglets when fully up and running. The first litters are expected in April.
As the farrowing department head, Ashley and her team of Selene, Vivian, Dolly, David, Zory, Hugo, Alonzo and Yulissa—to name a few—will receive the gestating sows within a day or two of farrowing, make them comfortable, monitor health and feed intake, and then assist with birthing.
When the piglets are born, it’s about getting them warm, dry and suckling their mother’s colostrum. And just like a maternity ward in a hospital, there’s documentation, recordkeeping, monitoring and specialized care for the newborns.
“Growing up, I always loved animals and agriculture, but it didn’t occur to me to get involved in the hog industry. “When I became pregnant with my daughter, I wanted to move closer to home, so I left my job at a veterinary clinic and applied. And here I am—in a career that brings both passions together.”
shley said they keep it light and fun as they go about their day. “We sing, dance and chat with the sows,” laughs Ashley. “We’re definitely excited for what lies ahead.”