A Challenge He's Prepared For
For me, seeing the pigs weaned is a big feeling of accomplishment,” said Jacob Stratton, a newborn pig specialist for Sandy Hill Sow Farm. Even though litters won’t be arriving until May, Jacob will be cross training and preparing for what ultimately will be over 220,000 weaned pigs per year coming out of Sandy Hill.
A native of Collins, Iowa, Jacob grew up in a farming community. He graduated from Iowa State University last year with a degree in animal science, and interned with Iowa Select Farms his junior year. Jacob joined Kielsmeier Sow Farm, where Sandy Hill manager Max Klepper also worked. After his internship, he continued working part time at the farm as he finished school, accepting a full-time offer for Iowa Select Farms’ Production Leadership Program after graduation.
“My internship with Iowa Select Farms helped get me cross-trained and confident that I could ultimately be in a specialized or leadership role in swine production,” said Jacob.
Towards the end of Jacob’s time at Kielsmeier, Sow Production Director Dan Dean challenged Jacob to lead the farrowing team to learn leadership and the day-to-day management of a farrowing department. Opportunities such as this are a key part of the Production Leadership Program, which is a training and development program for employees who would like to grow into specialized positions—such as a newborn pig specialist or breeding lead—then into higher farm management or supervisory roles.
“I also had the opportunity to visit other farms, which allowed me to meet other people in the company and see how they do things in farrowing,” said Jacob. “As a newborn pig specialist, I know a lot is expected out of me, but I feel like I am ready for the challenge.”
“Hands down the biggest responsibility of a newborn pig specialist is to save baby pigs,” said Jacob. As litter sizes get bigger thanks to genetics and improved sow health, there are factors that we need to overcome, like more piglets competing for teats, and distribution of warmth to all piglets via heat lamps and mats.
“There are a lot of details that go into this specialized care, and every single one has to be done right in order for the farm to be successful,” said Jacob.
I appreciate the support I’ve received from my family,” said Jacob. “They’ve really encouraged me to follow my dreams and pursue a great career where I can stay in Iowa.”