SelectPride- Congratulations to Sow 20

posted on Wednesday, April 5, 2017

“These are some of the most caring individuals I’ve ever met,” said Melissa Houseman, Sow 20 farm manager and long-time Iowa Select Farms employee. “They care immensely about the pigs on this farm, the employees that they work with and the communities that they live in. Hard working, fun and compassionate. I’d say that sums us up pretty well.”

Congratulations to Sow 20 on an excellent week 11 that earned them the fourth place spot in company SelectPride rankings. Most notably, the farm achieved a 15.3 total born—which is actually higher than the company target of 14.4 total born, and 13.5 born alive—which is also slightly higher than the company target of 13.2! Currently in the year-to-date rankings, Sow 20 is in the 8th place spot and working every day to get better.

“This is a competitive group who wants to do well,” said Don Hunt, Senior Supervisor for Sow 20. “They have consistently been one of the top farms in total born and born alive and this quarter has proven no different. They’re a very hard-working, dedicated bunch and it shows in their production numbers.”

Overseeing animal care at this 5,000 head sow farm located near Murray, Iowa, is farrowing department head Mike Barrett, day one lead Jamie Woollums-Giles, farrowing technicians Danielle Chenoweth, Lacy Johnson, Luis Otero and Sandy Seaton, breeding department head Raymond Araujo, breeding technicians Justin Coughlin, Matt Hobbs and part-timer Dillon Hightshoe. At the helm of the farm is manager Melissa Houseman, who joined Iowa Select Farms in 2008. She was promoted several times, serving as assistant manager of Sow 29 before moving over to lead the Ponderosa farm.

“We really are like a family here. We care about each other so much,” said Jamie. “When you can have as much fun at work as we do but still get the job done, it makes a world of a difference.”

And it certainly has made a huge difference in the past couple of weeks as Sow 20 has struggled with scours, a common illness in young piglets that results in diarrhea and higher pre-wean mortality rates.

“It can be tough, but our spirits haven’t changed one bit,” said Mike. “Our main concern is sending as many healthy pigs out the door as possible and my team knows what we need to do. Right now, it’s just a matter of staying consistent and committed to our plan.”

To overcome the scours that the farm is experiencing, they are focusing their efforts on keeping the farrowing rooms dry and adjusting heat lamps to ensure piglets are provided a warm, comfortable environment. The team uses extra drying agent on the piglets and in the stalls to keep the environment dry, and the farm’s veterinarian, Dr. Sham Brown, has also prescribed an antibiotic to treat the piglets.

“The other piece to getting rid of scours is to power wash, power wash and power wash,” said Missy. “Everyone has been stepping up to help out. Even on weekends we are coming in and giving extra care to the pigs. It takes more time out of our Saturday, but we all know it’s what needs to be done.”

The farm also works closely with Dr. Brown who provides additional health services support. “Everyone is doing a nice job of executing the plan we’ve outlined and at this point we’re just making minor adjustments,” said Dr. Brown. “I’m really proud of everyone’s hard work in the past couple of weeks. It’s making a difference—they’ll see a tremendous drop in pre-wean mortality and increase in weaned pig numbers in the next three weeks.”

Although the farm has been going through a relatively tough time, they still continue to perform at a high level. Currently, Sow 20 isn’t hitting their weekly weaned pig target – they’re surpassing it. “Our goal is to wean 2,588 pigs per week,” said Raymond. “If we keep working hard to hit our goals, we’re set to produce 135,000 weaned pigs in 2017. We take that very seriously because it’s a significant contribution to the company’s #billionplus goal.”

According to Don, the Sow 20 team is achieving both of these targets thru the first quarter, averaging 2,732 pigs weaned per week—that’s on pace to produce 142,000 pigs this year.

“Missy takes her job as a manager very seriously,” continued Don. “She is very compassionate, deliberate in her thoughts and places a high priority on training her employees to be the best they can possibly be. Mike and Raymond both started as technicians and Missy has prepared them well to be successful department managers.”

“Missy, Mike and Raymond do an excellent job of communicating amongst themselves and with their teams,” explained Dr. Brown. “There is a tremendous amount of support and respect on the farm, which makes it easier for everyone to rally around the same goal. They’re excellent leaders for the farm and our company.”

When it comes to rallying around a common goal, it seems as though everyone at Sow 20 is on the exact same page. “We start every day with a team meeting where we talk about company policies, any production well-being, safety or biosecurity issues that need addressed and of course, our goals,” said Danielle. “In fact, everywhere you look in this room you can see the 2017 goals sheet. We often joke that those goals follow us everywhere we go, but I think it’s actually good that they’re always in the back of our mind. We’re really looking forward to overcoming our road blocks because we know we’re capable of so much more and are excited to see all that we can accomplish this year.” #billionplus