Cheers: The New Gene Transfer Center

posted on Monday, February 4, 2019

“We’re a family here,” said Andrew Riniker, manager of Hastings, and now Cheers Gene Transfer Center. “We take care of each other, cover workloads and find a lot of purpose and passion for what we do every day.”

Cheers Team

Up until now, the gene transfer center team included the farms and staff at Qualley, Hastings and Hefner, plus three semen couriers. They care for and collect the boars, then test, extend and package the semen. Orders flow in from sow farm and GDU managers, and couriers execute daily delivery routes out to the farms.

“We have a saying around here, that ‘semen doesn’t grow on trees,’” joked Andrew. “There is no simplicity in the process and we can’t have inventory on a shelf somewhere—we do a ton of planning, preparation and oversee extensive quality processes to get the farms their orders, and we have a lot of pride in our jobs.”

With 183 combined years of experience, the former team at Hastings Boar Stud is now starting up a bigger, brand new, state-of-the-art gene transfer center in southern Iowa.

Cheers team

Andrew and his team will supply the semen demand for all southern Iowa sow farms, plus a courier will deliver orders up to northern Iowa three days a week.

“We’ve worked together to design a stud that is functional, state-of-the-art and a great work environment,” said Andrew. Cheers is a positively-filtered farm with a full HVAC system, a feature that will help the team reduce the semen fallout associated with the summer heat. The team will be able to maintaining difference air flows and pressures the barn, the lab and the isolation room.

Cheers can house 600 boars in the collection barn, plus the facility includes a separate boar isolation room that can house 100 boars.

Now with two boar isolations (Hefner and Cheers), the Gene Transfer Center team can make more deliveries of smaller groups of boars—every five weeks to be exact—allowing the gene transfer team to get higher indexing boars into the studs, and make genetic improvements in feed efficiency and carcass yields, faster.

“The science and technology piece to our job is fascinating,” said Laura Faux, a longtime employee who will run the lab inside Cheers. “We’re part of the genetic improvement story. What we do here sets in motion the downstream performance of our pigs in both sows and finishing, and impacts the eating experience for consumers.”

Cheers, Laura Faux

When stocked, the gene transfer team will be able to provide enough semen for all 48 sow farms and 15 breeding gilt developers. And the entire gene transfer team has looked out to the future, now capable of supporting 300,000 sows.

The crew will be moving the boars from Hastings to Cheers in the coming weeks after which Hastings will be shut down.

You’ll get to know the employees in future stories. Congrats to Dr. Sham Brown and Brian Qualley and the team at Cheers--Andrew, Laura, Doug Heaberlin, Ron Shillington, Andreas Nelson, Dearl King, Radonna Gregg, Casey Still, Christine Jones, Lucas Wurster, Sheila Munyon and Jamie Zellweger (boar isolation) on the new farm! #HomegrownIowa