"Pulling Pigs" at Age Five Triggered a Lifelong Commitment to Animal Care for Cassandra Jass

posted on Monday, July 15, 2019

"Pulling Pigs" at Age Five Triggered a Lifelong Commitment to Animal Care—

​"I remember I had a gilt farrowing one evening, and my hand was too big to sleeve her,” said Don Roe. “I went in the house to see if Cassandra would help pull the pigs. She was five.”

That experience on a small farm outside of Williams, Iowa, was Cassandra’s first introduction to livestock, one that triggered a lifelong passion for animal care.

“After that day, Cassandra was by my side when I was in the farrowing house, helping me ‘catch pigs’ and chore the barns,” said Don. “By six, she had a two gallon pail she used to fill the nursery feeders. Her favorite boars were routinely treated to the M&M’s she dutifully carried in her pocket. She wanted to be out working with the animals.”

Dianne, Cassandra’s mom, jokes that her true calling was helping with the lambing, “which requires a lot more patience and perseverance.”

Cassandra Jass, DVM, Recognized as Master Pork Partner—

Now fully grown with family of her own, Cassandra—now Dr. Cassandra Jass, DVM and Iowa Select Farms’ Director of Production Well-Being—was just recognized as a Master Pork Partner by the Iowa Pork Producers Association for her work and dedication to livestock care and health.

Cassandra Jass

She started with Iowa Select Farms her freshman year of college, testing blood samples in the PRRS diagnostic lab near the office in Iowa Falls. The following summer she joined the sow production internship program, which pointed her right back to her first love—farrowing.

A biotechnology degree at Ellsworth Community College led to pursuing animal science at Iowa State University, followed by the ISU College of Veterinary Medicine where she specialized in large animal medicine.

After graduation, she joined the Iowa Select Farms veterinary team in 2012, working with farm managers and growers to help them improve pig health.

Dr. Jass Widely Respected by Peers, Industry—

“Dr. Jass has always held the respect of our farm teams, our growers and her peers,” said Tim Hermsen, senior finishing supervisor. “She is patient, and takes the time to train people and answer their questions, always making sure they feel comfortable and understand the protocols before she leaves their farm.”


In 2016, she took over the development, implementation and monitoring of the Production Well-Being Program, overseeing a team of eight people. Dr. Jass, with the help of her team, implement a a robust program that includes annually conducting--

760 Production Well-Being Farm Assessments
92 Transportation Handling Assessments
72 Load Crew Observations
360 Biosecurity Farm Assessments
28 Regional Caretaker Training Sessions
Video Reviews of 340 On-farm Surveillance Cameras

Dr. Jass and her team work with a five-member expert Animal Well-Being Advisory Committee that provides guidance on animal well-being, housing and transportation practices.

“I have always been impressed with her initiative to develop new protocols, bring forth new technologies and work together with her team to solve problems,” said Lynn Pavlovic, DVM and member of the health services team. “Always while emphasizing to everyone the importance of putting pigs first.”

“Numerous times I’ve heard her say, ‘we have to do what is right for the animal, every day,’” said Jeff DeWeese, a member of her team. “It’s a quality that makes her exceptional to work with.”

Dr. Jass serves on the National Pork Board’s Animal Welfare Committee and Common Swine Industry Audit Task Force and is the American Association of Swine Veterinarian’s representative on the Professional Animal Auditors Certification Organization board of directors.

Animal Care is a Family Affair

She and her husband, Philip, have three children—Alexandra (6), Caxton (4) and Levi (3). They live on a farm outside of Alden where they have sheep, goats and chickens. Or, as she puts it, enough animals give her children the same experience she had growing up.