“The progress this farm has made in such a short period of time is remarkable,” said Dan Dean, director of sow production. “Their openness to trying new things allowed them to develop leaders on the farm, implement new processes and train employees on critical production competencies. They should be very, very proud of their accomplishments.”
Congratulations to the team at Elmand—Dustin Peck, Rachael Waters, Lacy Quam, Ubaldo Mendoza, Trae Dozark, Eda Herrera, Alexandria Franzen, Jose Juarez, Michael Gehrke, Juan Hernandez, Adriana Diaz, Kiel Helfter, Scott Holthaus, Miguel Ortiz, Melanie Ondrashek, Yara Garcia, Cristobal Tobias, Alejandra Marcial, Samuel and Saul Alcala—for receiving the Most Improved Sow Farm SelectPride award not just one, but two quarters in a row!
It’s been an eventful year for Sow 35—a brand new, 7,500 head sow farm near Chester, Iowa. Three weeks after welcoming their first load of gilts, before they even had pigs farrowing, the farm was immediately faced with any producer’s biggest challenge.
“It was kind of a holy bleep moment,” chuckled Rachael Waters, breeding department head. “So many people worked hard to get this farm built and stocked with bred gilts, and then we found out that some came in PRRS positive. It felt like we had turned a corner, then hit a brick wall.”
Knowing that the PRRS elimination strategy mapped out for the farm would take at least forty weeks, the farm knew they had a long, bumpy road ahead.
“We rallied the troops to help get things organized,” recalled Dan. “But at the same time there were 18 new employees being trained on how to run a sow farm, it was still a new concept for them. Dustin and his team have been through a lot.”
The focus at Elmand quickly switched to setting realistic goals, identifying a plan that will help them reach those objectives and then executing.
Between quarter one and quarter three of 2018 the farm jumped from 43rd to 28th place. They ended quarter four in 3rd place—yes, you read that right, in the span of twelve months the farm went from 43rd place overall to 3rd.
“It’s pretty exciting to make such significant progress back-to-back,” said Elmand Sow 35 farm manager, Dustin Peck. “I’m so proud of my crew for working hard and always doing their best. This was definitely a team effort.”
Retention of exceptional employees has also been a huge factor in the success of Elmand. For half of 2018, Elmand was fully-staffed with eighteen employees, the majority of whom are cross trained in both farrowing and breeding.
“We have a rotation set up that sends breeders to the farrowing department for a month and farrowers to the breeding department for two weeks,” explained Lacy, farrowing department head. “When someone is gone it impacts the entire day, so having everyone cross-trained at the farm really improves our efficiency. Whether it’s breeding gilts or tending to a new litter of pigs—anyone can step in to help.”
More than half of the farm’s employees came from the Saratoga GDU breeding project, which was been extremely beneficial in training other employees how to properly post cervical artificially inseminate (PCAI) and breed gilts.
“We’ve really blurred the lines between two departments,” said Dustin. “Rather than farrowing and breeding, we see ourselves as one big team.”
Now considered a stable PRRS positive farm, the crew at Elmand still continues to excel at animal care, weaning nearly 140,000 pigs in 2018. They ended the year with 15.4 total born, 14.1 born alive and a 30-day pregnancy check positive (PCP) rate of 93.3%.
“The results we achieved amidst everything we’ve been and continue to go through have just amazing,” said Dustin. “We never imagined we’d actually get a top spot in SelectPride, but I think it just goes to show how far hard work and teamwork can take you. You just have to trust the process.”
Congratulations to everyone involved in the success of Elmand Sow Farm!