“I take gilt selection pretty seriously”

posted on Monday, October 3, 2016

“I take gilt selection pretty seriously,” said Jay Cox, manager of Gravity GDU located near Lenox. While Jay and his team normally flow 50 gilts to Sow 22 each week, now his team has stepped up in a major way, supplying the gilts for all five of our “Ponderosa” sow farms—250 a week.

The increased workload for Jay, his fellow GDU managers and the entire GDU team can be attributed to several things—a health improvement strategy at neighboring GDU’s Davis 1 and Davis 2, multiple breeding projects needed to supply gilts for depop’ed farms (a strategy to increase the health of a farm) and populating brand new sow farms we’re soon to be welcoming to the Iowa Select Farms system. These projects are all in addition to the normal responsibilities of selecting and caring for gilts for the 40 sow farms we already have—all pushing to break records and hit their billion pound goals.

“When I approached Jay about taking on the gilt selection and development for all of the Ponderosa farms he didn’t bat an eye,” said Randy Hosfield, GDU Supervisor for the southern Iowa region. “He looked at me, said ‘let’s do this’ and right away started planning and preparing for the extra work. He’s always been up for helping and never questions what we ask.”

And the proof is always in the pudding, as the old saying goes. “We are seeing really great farrowing rate and born alive numbers at the Ponderosa, which directly correlate with gilt selection and breeding at Jay’s GDU.

Before taking on the additional gilt selection, Jay volunteered to work at his sow farm for a few days so he could see firsthand how his gilts were performing. He asked the team to “teach me like I am the new guy,” and then spent the next day observing the sows and getting feedback from employees on what they are seeing. “It helped me a lot,” said Jay. “I saw some leg problems, and how they continued to get worse throughout their parities. Now I look hard at leg soundness and body structure when I am selecting gilts,” said Jay. “As GDU managers we have to select and breed our very best and highest quality animals so they are set up for success on the sow farms.”

Jay knows all of his farms are counting on him to not only make solid gilt selections but also practice biosecurity to keep the animals PRRS negative. “We’re at the start of the biosecurity chain, so every single detail and protocol is important to us,” said Jay. And Jay and the Gravity team can back up that statement with consecutive 100% scores from their last two biosecurity audits.

“We work hard to earn those scores,” said Jay, who says he has to stay on top of everything, like getting maintenance work orders in right away, and meeting weekly with his team to cover biosecurity and production well-being updates so they understand all practices and protocols.

“I am always saying, it’s the little things – don’t walk past something that should be done now versus saying you’ll come back to it,” said Jay. Like fixing the fittings on the water hoses if water is leaking and staying disciplined on rat bait. “We are getting into the time of year when harvest is in full swing and mice and rats are moving out of the fields to find shelter, so bait needs checked once a week.”

Jay’s also passionate about leadership and supporting people outside of work, saying “yes” to the opportunity to open up a small grocery store in Redding called J & L Country Store. He’s also served 15 years as the Scout Master for Boy Scout Troop #39 in Mount Ayr. On Tuesday nights you can find Jay leading his Scout meetings and once a month they typically take a weekend to camp. Plus, he takes his troop to a week-long Scout camp once a year. Jay’s troop was recently awarded a 2015 Governor's Volunteer Award from Gov. Terry Branstad. The Scouts were honored with a group volunteer award by the Iowa Department of Transportation for their efforts at road clean-up.

“Being a scout master is not only rewarding to me, but it has helped me with my leadership and training skills at Iowa Select Farms,” said Jay. “My experience helps me remember the importance of teaching things correctly, then coaching, mentoring and motivating people to be the best they can be.”

And he’s extra proud when he sees his former Scouts taking on their own leadership roles. “We have a couple of my former Scouts who have joined Iowa Select Farms, and it’s really rewarding to see them work hard and help their teams, achieve goals and grow into leadership positions.” #billionpounds