From the Ground Up, Sow 32 Part 3

posted on Thursday, September 7, 2017

“I am amazed by the crew we have here, and how much they care,” said Misty Walkup, farrowing department head at Sow 32. “They get into work and are always ready to get organized and head out to the barns. We’ve come together just like a family. It’s our home away from home, and I think it’s safe to say everyone here is proud of what we have built.”

Misty has been at the helm of the farrowing department since the farm was opened in March 2017. Her first litters were welcomed in April, and she and her team haven’t looked back since. “We put a tremendous amount of responsibility on Misty, because we knew she was absolutely the right person to take on this challenge,” said Doug Bates, the Sow 32 farm manager.

The farrowing department is made up of Misty, Megan Foster, Nick Anderson, Taylor Wood, Amy Carpenter, David Lee, Jessica Alexander, Kelly Reed, Mark Houk, Brenda Kelly, Justin Prior, Chanelle Thompson and Josh Shields.

The farm’s most recent ten-week average is landing at a 14.7 total born, 13 born alive, 10.4% pre-wean mortality and a PCP rate of 93% percent—all at or above company target for a PRRS-negative, filtered farm. And, this is gilt performance. Sows in their prime parities (second and third litters) typically have the largest litters.

“Our piglets look wonderful, they are beautiful piglets,” said Misty. “This work is challenging, but we’re having a good time and it’s exciting to be a part of this farm and this team.”

Misty starts her day with a farrowing team meeting to go through the schedule, then the team hits the farrowing rooms to feed the sows and check on ventilation and water flow. “We get every single sow up from their pens and farrowing stalls so we can get a good look at their health, then complete their observation cards and do individual treatments, if necessary,” said Misty.

By mid-morning a smaller team gets their processing totes organized to do iron shots, castration and tail docking and more piglet observations, while others tend to farrowing sows and oversee day one care.

“Our day one leads are critical to keeping pre-wean mortality low—setting heat lamps, drying piglets and confirming colostrum intake,” said Misty. “They have their eyes on every single piglet.”

The crew also comes together to help with weaning, where they move the older piglets out of the farrowing rooms, down the hall and into the transition rooms to wait for their next journey. Right now Sow 32 piglets are stocking Nursery 8, located near Dows, and Nursery 11, located near Ackley.

Misty’s been with Iowa Select Farms for nearly 20 years, starting as a part-time preg-checker for Sow 15, 16 and 17. She moved to a full-time position at Sow 16 where she stayed for 15 years, working her way up to leading the breeding team and then the farrowing team. She also helped fill leadership spots and help train at Sow 28 and Sow 15 before saying yes to joining the management team at Sow 32.

“What makes Misty great is that she has a ton of experience—at different farms, with different teams, alongside different managers,” said Doug. “She’s managed to bring the best ideas from all of her experiences to start this farm, and then she passes it along to her team.”

“I had to think long and hard to convince myself I was ready for the change and ready to relocate, and then there is the challenge of leading a bigger team at a larger farm,” said Misty. “Don and Doug helped me build my confidence and have given me so much support and encouragement. Don’t get me wrong, there are tough days and setbacks, but I’ve glad I did it.”

The Sow 32 is also training a brand new team who will staff Sow 34, also located near Derby, Iowa. “I’d say the hardest thing about training is teaching people how to work with animals,” said Misty. “Pigs are very smart, very strong animals—stronger than we are. I always try to remind the new employees to stay calm and be patient, because the sows aren’t going to chase anyone or run away. It takes some time to understand where to stand when you want the animals to move and how to move them in and out of stalls and to and from the breed barns.”

The gilts that came in from the breeding projects to stock the farm have almost all had their first litters, and the farrowing staff is now welcoming round two. “We’ve been waiting anxiously for the second litters,” said Misty. “Every morning we get out the farrowing rooms in anticipation of more parity two litters, and so far they are healthy and beautiful.” #billionplus