New farm, abundance of new opportunities.
“Working with pigs has always been one of my goals in life,” said Max Klepper, the new manager at Sandy Hill Sow Farm near Early, Iowa. “This is exciting for all of us.”
Max and his family and friends came to the open house on Thursday, full of pride and excitement for a new chapter in Max’s life—leading the start-up and managing a team of 18 employees at this 7,500 head sow farm.
Max previously was the farm manager at Kielsmeier Sow Farm near Hubbard. He left his team a few months ago to take on this new opportunity, but not before helping the farm make some serious waves, helping the employees gel as a team and move their farm’s performance up the SelectPride charts.
“Max is a ball of energy,” said Dan Dean, Director of Sow Production. “He'll do whatever it takes to get his team motivated and excited about the day.”
In high school Max worked with animals at Mayo Clinic. He worked in the cardiovascular research lab where he worked with rodents, performing echocardiograms and electrocardiograms to find better ways to help humans with heart disease and prevention.
His love for animals continued, as he worked with pigs, cows, sheep, goats, dogs, and cats at vet clinics and research labs during summer breaks and throughout college. He also participated in several food animal research studies through the dept of Laboratory Animal Resources at Iowa State University.
While Max was finishing his pre-vet animal science major at Iowa State University, he took a class with Iowa Select Farms intern Logan Sweers, who encouraged him to check out Iowa Select Farms to see if he might enjoy a career in swine production. Max applied and was accepted. He started working at Kielsmeier after graduation.
“I was hooked,” said Max. “I recognized I wanted to keep working with animals, but also work with people someday have the opportunity to manage a farm. I really liked the crew there,” said Max. “They were friendly and accepting of new employees and it felt right to me.”
Max started in breeding and enjoyed learning the reproductive/breeding side of the farm. When Kielsmeier went through a depop/repop, he moved to Cyclone GDU for 3-4 months to experience a breeding project. When he returned to the farm, he joined the farrowing team and worked his way up to farrowing department head. Soon he co-managed the farm, with Tim Lamb at the helm of the breeding team.
“We could tell early on that Max was open to learning, so we put plans in place to cross train him,” said Dan. “He is always open to taking on new challenges with ‘open eyes and ears.’”
When an opportunity for Tim opened up at Primrose Sow Farm in Mitchell County, Max took the lead as manager at Kielsmeier. He and his team kept pushing the farm up into the top ten of SelectPride, much of which can be attributed to the Max’s positive attitude and the amount of comradery and “try” the team felt.
When Sandy Hill Sow Farm began construction, Dan spoke with Max about the opportunity to move west and manage the new farm. “Max is a great person, and he wants the people around him to follow and work towards the same goal,” said Dan. “He’s a very happy-go-lucky guy, he doesn’t see obstacles.”
Max moved to the town of Alta this fall, where he jumped in to get the farm set up and take part in recruiting and hiring. With the farm operational later this week, his team will welcome the gilts and work to get them settled in. Because the gilts will be bred on the farm, they’ll farrow in May—giving him time to get fully staffed, train his breeding and farrowing teams and prepare to welcome their first litter of baby pigs.
The Sandy Hill Sow Farm team will consist of Alex Umbaugh, Heat Check/AI Specialist; Jacob Stratton, Newborn Pig Specialist; Miguel Alcantara, Animal Caretaker; Gregory Conner, Animal Caretaker; Johnie Harlen, Animal Caretaker; Charles Lopez, Animal Caretaker; Samara Neubauer, Animal Caretaker; Megan Renze; Animal Caretaker; Jose Rodriguez Valle, Animal Caretaker and William Sindt Jr., Animal Caretaker. Recruiting and filling out the farrowing team will happen early 2019. #HomegrownIowa