An Inside Look at the New Gilt Developer at Saratoga

posted on Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"It’s exciting for sure and is a different approach to how we’ve been managing the gilt development system,” said Nick Pickar, the Kiss GDU manager who will soon be on the brand new Saratoga GDU team along with several other area managers.

Today the farm is all put together, sanitized and fully biosecure, with employees on-site ready to welcome the semi-trucks hauling gilts from growers in southern Iowa—Macksburg and Glenview, to be exact.

But last week was a different story (when these photos were taken) as the farm was a flurry of activity as construction supervisors and subcontractors put the final touches on the filter banks, compost building, equipment installation and electrical work. The ventilation and engineering team was also at the farm testing out the farm’s high tech controllers to make sure everyone was working properly.

We caught Nick on one of his trips hauling supplies into the farm, this time bringing in extra plastics drop feed containers and a vacuum to clean up remnants from the insulation install. “Everyone’s pitching in to get this farm ready, it all has to be done,” said Nick.

Nick started with Iowa Select Farms in 2005 at Sow 27, then moved into the manager position at Kiss GDU. “At that time I headed up the breeding project for Sow 24,” remembered Nick.

“And now here we are, 12 years later, back to teaming up on breeding projects, but this time in a filtered barns with a different layout, stronger biosecurity protocols and a much larger team. It’s exciting to think about the impact we’ll be able to make on the billionplus journey.”

That different approach is the introduction of gilt developers like Saratoga—larger farms with positive pressure filtration systems that can supply the gilt needs for six or seven sow farms. “In the past we’ve had one dedicated gilt development farm for each sow farm, but Saratoga will allow us to eventually organize the tremendous talent we have under one, much larger, roof,” said Jeremiah Hall, GDU supervisor.

Within the next 12 months, the existing northern Iowa gilt developers—Kiss, Miles and Hemann East—will be transitioned to finishing farms, leaving Saratoga to eventually fulfill the gilt needs of Sow 23 (Erickson), 24 (Thorsen), 27 (Gieger), 33 (Jamestown), 35 (Elmand) and 37 (Primrose)—all farms located in the Howard and Mitchell County areas.

Located near Lime Springs, Iowa, the Saratoga team will be led by Craig Whalen and will eventually include Nick, Linda Schuman, Desarae Schwab, Amanda Tix, Dave Hemann and Virginia Garcia, all managers and employees of smaller GDUs scattered around the Howard and Mitchell County area.

“Everyone is really excited about it,” said Craig. “When we started talking about the idea of this new gilt developer and reorganizing the team, I wanted to take on the challenge of managing the farm.”

Before Saratoga enters into what is considered normal operations, Craig and a separate crew will first be overseeing a breeding project at the farm to care for the gilts that will eventually fill Sow 34 (Derby) and Sow 35 (Elmand), and even help stock Sow 37 (Primrose) located near Little Cedar. He’ll also continue to supervisor Kiss, Hemann East and Miles until the full transition is made, which will be empty the last week in December.

“The entire gilt development system has absolutely hung in there and these managers and their teams have done such a great job—they’ve been flexible, organized themselves for these breeding projects and never let anything drop back at their own farms,” said Hall. “And the fact that we get to have so many seasoned and experienced managers together at Saratoga—I can’t want to see what they can accomplish.” #billionplus