I enjoy the challenge

posted on Thursday, March 10, 2016

“I can shower into a farm and by the time I get into their breakroom, I can field a call from the farm’s phone telling me my day has been re-prioritized,” laughs Clarke, a maintenance tech for the Galt farms. Responsible for the maintenance needs of Sow 112, 113, 114, 115, 116 and 117, Clarke does preventative maintenance work at all of the farms in addition to responding to the incoming maintenance tickets submitted by the farm managers.

“Normally we organize our day based on routine maintenance requests coming in from the farms, but when ventilation, feed and water are at risk, we have to get to those farms immediately to fix the problem,” said Clarke. Anything that puts animal care or the safety of our employees at risk becomes the first priority he said, in reference to any electrical issues that might be preventing the feeders, waterers, fans or alarms from working properly.

On Sunday evenings Clarke organizes his maintenance tickets and puts together a plan for the week, organizing his farm visits based on priority and the biosecurity matrix, a tool that documents the health status of every site in the Iowa Select Farms system and instructs the order in which the farms can be visited.

“What I appreciate about Clarke is how proactive on maintenance he is at my farm,” said Al, the farm manager at Sow 117. “He is always organized and has the right parts so he can spend as much time at the farm doing the preventative work, such as greasing bearings to make the equipment last longer and run more efficiently.”

Maintenance techs like Clarke also rotate through an on-call schedule that allows farm managers to get immediate maintenance service throughout the evenings and on weekends. “It varies greatly. Some weekends I don’t hear a thing and other weekends I can spend both days at a farm depending on the extent of the problem.”

Maintenance needs also vary seasonally, in the winter the feed lines become an issue because of the freezing temperatures, and during the summer the fans are running hard, causing more wear and tear on the equipment.

“What has helped tremendously has been the ticketing system set up through Tools—where we don’t have much paperwork anymore as it’s all tracked electronically— and also the good working relationships I have with the farm managers, we help each other out,” said Clarke.

Before joining the maintenance team, Clarke gained a good understanding of how the sow farms run, first starting as a technician at Sow 3 and then moving over Sow 13. “While working at the farms I started doing repairs and maintenance and enjoyed the troubleshooting aspect, and had some welding and repair experience already.”

“I enjoy the challenge,” said Clarke. “Our sow farms have a lot of technology and innovation to them, which means the maintenance and repair issues can get more complex, especially the electrical work. But the technology and all of those moving parts are there to keep the sows comfortable. The care they are being given is so critical to their health and success, and environment and ventilation is an important part. Making sure those are working and being there to help the farms is my contribution to our billion pound journey.” ‪#‎billionpounds‬