From the Ground Up, Sow 32

posted on Tuesday, September 5, 2017

"I’m really proud of what this team has accomplished—we’ve welcomed people from Chariton, Derby, Lucas, Russell, Allerton, Corydon, Humeston, Leon and Seymour and have built a great team of people who really care about the farm and what we do here,” said Doug Bates, manager of Sow 32.

The farm, located near Derby, Iowa, kicked off with a celebration in March, opening its doors to nearly 1,000 people curious to see the inside of the new farm. With all of the hustle and bustle leading up to the open house, the real work began the following morning, when Doug and his team fired up the powerwashers and prepared to clean, sanitize, and turn on the filtration system in preparation for their first load of gilts.

“Doug has a tremendous amount of experience and I had a lot of confidence that he could start up this farm with a brand new team,” said Don Hunt, Sow Supervisor. “Over the years I have seen him turn average farms into top farms and he has a lot of passion for this job and ownership in what he does.”

During the construction phase Doug was still dual managing Sow 16 and Sow 17, however took the initiative to make the hour drive over to visit the farm at least once a week to check on the progress. During that time he was training assistant manager Jennifer Haveman to take the lead at Sow 17, and seasoned leader Joe Becker was ready to step into the manager position at Sow 16.

By February, Doug was at the farm daily to help the construction teams finish the details and prepare for the open house and for stocking. “He jumped in and made the whole thing a lot easier and enjoyable for everyone,” said Don. “I think one of the most impressive things was how he got his brand new crew trained and working together so quickly. In a lot of ways it was amazing.”

But Doug is quick to pass the praise along, especially when it comes to the other leaders on the Sow 32 team. “Both Misty (Walkup, farrowing department head) and Adam (Houk, breeding department head) are doing a fantastic job leading their teams,” said Doug. “They both have tremendous swine experience and thankfully said ‘yes’ to the opportunity to move over and help me start up this one.”

Engineered with a positive pressure ventilation system for biosecurity, the 6,250 head, pen gestation farm has six massive filter banks to purify the incoming air and filter out airborne viruses such as PRRS. The farm also features two UV chambers for entering in employee lunches and semen, a bench entry system requiring employee’s shoes to be left at the farm entrance, surveillance cameras capturing footage of entryways and animal movements and hundreds of other features designed for biosecurity, animal care and employee safety.

And the team has taken it all in stride, learning the ins and outs of the technology while staying focused on what they know best—pig care. “The breeding team got the gilts settled in their new home, and then farrowing team began welcoming their first litters,” said Doug. “Now into September, we’re at full steam, weaning 3,600 piglets a week, and seeing the health of the sows and their born alive numbers is really rewarding.”

The Sow 32 crew has quickly made its way up the Select Pride list, entering the competition in the middle of the 2nd quarter, soon after the farm kicked off operations. The team had three straight top 10 finishes and has maintained top performances week-by-week. “The farm started seeing top ten results with their gilts right out of the gate,” said Don. “Overall, with the other factors that go into the SelectPride list, they are currently in 10th place for the year.”

“We owe a lot to the breeding project teams who did a wonderful job with the care they gave our gilts,” said Doug. “They came into the farm in great condition and got us off to an excellent start, we can’t thank or recognize those teams enough. We also have tremendous appreciation for all of the support departments—HR, transportation, health services, maintenance—everyone who’s been through this with us, giving us great support and cheering us on. It’s a part of the Iowa Select Farms culture that makes me proud to be here.” #billionplus

Stick with us, as this is the first of three stories on Sow 32 - next you'll be hearing from Adam Houk followed by Misty Walkup!