It's about these animals and how we can make a difference
I think the biggest thing is that our team is very positive and we’ve created a culture where it’s expected of all us to care about our job and the responsibility we have to our animals,” said Dave, the Breeding Department Head at Sow 23 located near Riceville. “This job isn’t for everyone, it’s hard work and for some not a great fit. But we’ve welcomed some new team members and worked to create an atmosphere of accountability, and everyone who is at this farm today truly wants to be here. It’s not just about a paycheck and benefits to us, it’s about these animals and how we can make a difference.”
Dave, who like his manager, Mary, started as a breeding technician and became the breeding department head in 2005. Today he leads the breeding team which is rounded out by Lindsay and Chad.
“I have a tremendous breeding team, and love that we work together really well and have no problems keeping busy,” laughs Dave. “There’s no standing around, if we are done with our work we are helping out elsewhere on the farm, and that creates good teamwork.”
Dave’s contribution to the billion pound journey? “We have to hit our breeding targets,” said Dave, whose team is responsible for 205 breeds a week, a 97% positive at pregnancy check and a 94% farrow rate. They also push their targets higher than the system targets, aiming for a 14.6 total born, 23 non-productive days and five days from wean to first service.
“We have fun with our goals, and we keep the targets front and center so we know what we are aiming for. And when we meet a goal, we raise it again because we are continuously improving,” said Dave. “My co-workers make fun of me because I like to leave little notes everywhere, and always write ‘#billionpounds’ at the end, because getting better every day is how we are going to get there, and we know every farm has a huge impact on making this goal.”
“Dave and I have worked together for 14 years and he’s the hardest worker I have ever had on my team,” said Mary, the farm’s manager. “He’s very dedicated and he’s the first one at the farm every morning and is in the barns working before anyone else even gets there, and most generally also the last to leave. He has a tremendous work ethic and he’s earned free rein of managing and overseeing the breeding department because he knows what he is doing and I trust him.”
But Dave is quick to pass along the recognition. “We’ve all worked hard to get this farm running efficiently and flowing the way it should, which isn’t as easy as it sounds,” said Dave in reference to a recent remodel and a transition to pen gestation, paired with the sheer volume of breeding, farrowing, animal handling, sanitation and recordkeeping responsibilities the crew oversees in a day. “But we have a well-run farm, and everyone’s hard work has paid off.”
A full farm remodel along with a transition to pen gestation are two moves that can put stress and strain on any farm crew, says Mary, eluding to the 10-plus months of construction crews, animal movements and general coordination it takes to execute a major upgrade. “Dave did an awesome job during this time period and oversaw the flow of the animals, and he continues to do a great job with pen gestation,” said Mary. “It’s been fun and rewarding to watch him develop into one of the best breeding department head’s I have every worked alongside.” #billionpounds