Jeff DeWeese: High Standards and a Tremendous Attention to Detail

posted on Wednesday, January 3, 2018

“He’s the Dick Tracy of Iowa Select Farms,” said Allen Whiley, Director of Finishing. “He has the uncanny ability to identify issues before they occur. He brings such talent in what he is able to see when he assesses a farm. He helps make our farm managers better, and helps make this company better every day.”

Allen is talking about Jeff DeWeese, one of ten members of the production well-being team, all in place to train caretakers and ensure on-farm compliance of our pig care standards. Jeff spends most of his days looking at pigs and assessing biosecurity and animal well-being practices.

“I like the fact that when Jeff comes to my farm, it isn’t always a matter of him trying to find things wrong, he sees it as an opportunity to help us get better,” said Mary Kraft, manager of Sow 23 located near Riceville. “It’s the best ‘second set’ of eyes we could ask for, and I appreciate how he does training while he’s still with us. He’s very personable with the crew when he is here, which makes everyone even more receptive to him.”

Most days Jeff is on the road before dawn headed to one of our 800 farms. Nobody knows he’s coming. He showers in, greets the farm manager then spends at least half a day meticulously walking through every barn and every pen with a clipboard, jotting notes and taking photos from time to time, recording things like a cracked shutter, ripped curtain or a broken feed line—anything that could put animal care or biosecurity at risk.

“He sets very high standards for his own quality of work and others too. He has a tremendous focus and attention to detail when he gets on-farm,” said Whiley. “He not only helps everyone by seeing things that can potentially lead to a problem later on, but he takes it one step further—he makes sure it gets fixed immediately. He’s our biggest protector.”

Jeff has been with Iowa Select Farms for nine years, first working in production overseeing vaccine compliance. Because of his animal science background, attention to detail and training ability, he was the first person invited to join the production well-being team when it was formed in 2011.

“This department would not be what it is today without Jeff,” said Cassandra Jass, DVM and director of production well-being. “He has all of the history of where we started and how far we have come. What I most appreciate about him is how he continues to stay focused on finding ways to improve the farms and develop the teams. He challenges us all to do our best.”

Jeff and his counterparts make it to every single farm for an annual animal well-being assessment, and then return to sow farms and gilt developers quarterly to review biosecurity compliance. They also drop by the wash facilities monthly to assess the cleanliness of the trailers.

After the assessments, Jeff and his peers review the results with the farm managers, and take any opportunities to train the team. “I like to invite the manager or a department head to shadow me throughout the assessment so they can see exactly what I’m seeing—anyone is welcome.”

Sometimes the farm being assessed may also have unexpected training opportunities, unbeknownst to the assessors on their way in. “Thursday I showed up at a farm and the manager (Ryan Reinke) had invited over the new manager at F027 Kulow 1 for training,” said Jeff. “It worked out great, because he could see what the assessment was about, and what practices and protocols lead to good animal care,” said Jeff. “Together we put his mind at ease, and had a good discussion about the assessment and why it’s important.”

Lots of paperwork follows each day on the farm, and Jeff takes the time to share the assessment observations and scores with each farm’s supervisor and senior supervisor. “He’s professional and respectful to everyone he works with, and stays consistent in his processes and approach,” said Kailey. “He does a lot of work ‘behind the scenes’ to communicate and make all of the assessments, paperwork and overall compliance aspects go smoothly.”

Jeff has seen positive changes over the six years the production well-being team has been assessing farms for animal care and biosecurity. “We have a good team, we have great managers and everyone is focused on doing the right thing,” said Jeff. “The level of cooperation amongst the farms and throughout the support departments is at a level that is beyond anything I could have imagined,” said Jeff.

Some might observe Jeff and say he as an extreme ownership of his responsibilities, however he says he fits right in with the culture at Iowa Select Farms. “When I walk into a farm, I might as well manage the place or have my name on the contract, as I feel as responsible for it as the manager or barn owner,” said Jeff. “If we had a windstorm, I’ll pick up the trash from the perimeter, if I am walking the hospital pen and an animal is not recovering, I’ll euthanize it myself. I’m here to protect the company and eliminate any risks that are preventable.”

Kailey, who has been in her production well-being role for over a year now, said he helps everyone find his or her inner sleuthing abilities. “You use all of your senses when it comes to animal care—obviously what you see and the temperature of the barn, but also humidity levels, air flow, how equipment is running. He cares enough to not just do the assessment, but take the time to share what he knows so everyone can learn,” she said.

“I find it extremely rewarding to work through a farm and, at the end of the day, have helped made a caretaker better and a farm stronger,” said Jeff.

Jeff and his wife, Andrea, live in Iowa Falls and have three children—Emmalyn, Amelia and Wyatt.