Having the ability to adapt and know when to make changes is really key

posted on Sunday, January 3, 2016

“He drives around to all of our sites and checks and rechecks the feeder levels and to make sure feed is flowing from the bins, he obsesses over it,” laughs Sherri, wife and employee of Iowa Select Farms contractor, Jeremy.

Jeremy—whose team manages animal care and site maintenance at eight finishing farms around between Allison and Ackley—admits he feels passionately about some key details that make an impact on the performance of the pigs in his barns. “I get real particular about the feed, amongst other things,” Jeremy admits. “Growing pigs find their appetites and it can take you by surprise, if we run out of feed it sets them back, and that’s not what I want to see.”

On New Year’s Eve day we met up with Jeremy and Sherri as they welcomed a load of brand new weaned pigs into the Bently farm, this particular load coming from Arends Sow Farms near Webster City. “We get them in and get them comfortable,” said Jeremy. “We make sure the barn is warm and mats and brooder heaters are providing supplemental heat, and then watch to make sure they are up and moving around, eating and drinking.” Jeremy said that eating is really important and because they might not know how to work the feeders with their snouts quite yet, so he sets the feeders higher allowing for ample feed in the troughs, then adjusts them down day by day once they learn how it all works. “We don’t want to waste feed but there is a learning curve, and they need all the help they can get at this stage,” said Jeremy.

After day two of settling in, Jeremy does more rounds to identify which pigs are getting picked on by the bigger or more aggressive ones, all part of the natural “pecking order” behavior of animals. He removes them from their original pen and moves them to a “pull” pen where they are treated, if necessary, and also given special attention by way of mash and gruel feeding, water bars and the vigilant eyes from Jeremy and his team. “After two weeks they generally stop picking on each other, and a few weeks later I open up the pen space as they are hitting their stride.”

“Jeremy is our team leader,” said Sherri, who left her job to help Jeremy after he took on more sites with Iowa Select Farms. “He keeps us all going, keeps up on everything and takes care of all of the details, and I always admire how great his patience is when training us.” And it’s a family affair – his brother, Keith, also works for Jeremy in addition Sherri. Their two kids and Sherri's father help out from time to time, and Sherri's mom also helps by making meals for the crew, especially when things get busy.

Jeremy said he and his team feel the biggest sense of accomplishment when he gets a tough group of pigs in and gets them turned around. He knows the impact and attention he and his team have on the details of early pig care and the ability to make daily adjustments get the pigs health and growing. “We can get a tough looking group of pigs in from a sow farm that might have broken with PRRS, but you can get them back on track, and that’s what makes it all worth it.”

“Having the ability to adapt and know when to make changes is really key,” Jeremy says. “If something isn’t working, stop doing it and adapt and change. What worked one turn might not work the next turn, so you have to use judgment and call others on your team to help you.” Loren, Trevor and Ron (Jeremy’s finishing leadership team) help me out and give me great guidance, but also trust my ability to make decisions in the barn.” ‪#‎billionpounds‬

P.S. Thanks to Paul, our wean truck driver and to Jeremy and Sherri, keep up the outstanding work!