No Farm Is an Island

posted on Saturday, February 20, 2016

Right now we have 1.95 million finishing pigs in our care. That’s a tremendous responsibility with thousands of moving parts and hundreds of people working in unison to provide great care to our animals. And every job is critical to our billion pound journey.

The word technician means someone who is skilled in a specialized trade, and our finishing technicians, like Angie, are specialized in animal care. Some technicians work only in the nursery phase (12-50 lbs.), others in the grower phase (50-280 lbs.) and some provide care during both.

Our technicians are on the front lines moving pigs, walking pens, observing animals and adjusting feeders and waterers as they go. They monitor for health, provide vaccinations and keep records.

“I’m a caregiver, and I know how to assess comfort and health based on how they eat, how they behave and how they look, and I know my attention to detail is what makes an impact on the performance of the pigs,” said Angie, whom we met earlier in our billion pound journey.

Finishing managers oversee all operations at the farm, ultimately responsible for animal care and handling, coordinating feed and supplies, training and leading the technician crew, recording data into Tools, doing preventative maintenance and ensuring biosecurity and compliance of the site. One of their biggest responsibilities is to be accountable for the site’s goals around average daily gain and mortality.

“My team knows what our goals are for each site,” said Dustin, a finishing manager in our western Iowa region. “Our goal is only six mortalities a day at our sites, which is a 2.8% death loss. I like to be under .75% culls and about 1% lights. We know we won’t meet those goals on every turn, but we keep our head down and we keep trying and fighting for our pigs.”

Finishing supervisors oversee anywhere from 20-24 farms, or 70,000 pig spaces. Responsible for all aspects of finishing production, each supervisor conducts daily site visits and is experienced and trained in barn management, ventilation principles, nutrition principles, animal handling, herd health strategies and personnel training and development. Supervisors like Loren, Mark, Carl and Kevin (whom you met earlier this week) support their farm managers by helping them assess pig health and comfort, schedule loads and take care of the marketing, which you’ll learn more about that in our final post.

A junior finishing supervisor is a term we use for an employee who is being developed into a finishing supervisor, such as a well-performing finishing manager who wants to take on more responsibility. “I started out with half the pig spaces and many mentors who were helping to train me on all of the technical pieces I needed to know, plus developing my leadership and communication skills," said Collin, a former finishing intern who joined Iowa Select Farms after graduating from Iowa State University. "As I progressed I took on more spaces and ultimately grew into a full-fledged finishing supervisor.”

Our three senior finishing supervisors, Ron, Tim and Bob cover the western, central and eastern finishing team and work with the director of finishing, Allen, to support their teams on the day to day operations, but also lead the overall strategy. Much of which revolves around pig flows, health, talent development and marketing.

Some sites utilize load crews, vaccination crews and sanitation crews, which are also critical to the billion pound journey as they take on very specialized work that is typically a significant undertaking within a short window.

And last but not least, our service teams are along for the journey every step of the way. Our transportation team covers the animal movements and our production well-being team provides training, PQA and TQA certification and audits the farms for biosecurity and animal care. Our feed and nutrition team works to flow the right feed formulation into each site and our maintenance team keeps the sites repaired and working properly. Our nutrient management team covers environmental compliance and manure management at the site and our human resources team supports many of the “people” aspects like staffing, benefits and leadership development. Like Loren and Mark said on Thursday, “no farm is an island.” Everyone works together to make it all happen, every day. ‪#‎billionpounds‬