Sow 3 Climbs Their Way Into The Top 10 of Select Pride

posted on Thursday, January 18, 2018

“To say we were excited is an understatement,” said Bill Bergquist, Manager of Stumme Sow Farm 3 near Blairsburg. “This is something we’ve been working so hard for and it’s amazing that it’s actually happened. We still can’t quite believe it, but I hope it’s something that becomes the norm for us in 2018.”

HUGE congratulations are in order for the crew at Sow 3 who for the first time in company history (that’s right – the first time in 26 years!) made it into the Top 10 of Select Pride, an Iowa Select Farms program that ranks farms on production results, biosecurity, safety and animal well-being assessments. Not only did Sow 3 make it into the Top 10 – at one point they made it into the number two spot AND ended the year in the ninth spot overall.

“There is no secret to our recent success,” explained Bill, who’s been managing the farm since 2016. Prior to managing, he was a breeding department head and a breed lead at the farm. “I wish there were a simple recipe for success, but it all comes down to organization, timeliness, details and communication. We trust, respect and support each other day-after-day.”

The crew Bill is referring to consists of Farrowing Department Head Tracey McPherson, Breeding Department Head Jody Carey, Juan Duque, Lorraine During, Cheyenne Gretillat, Audra Morgan, Ashley Murra, Sunashi Pulido, Braulio Ramirez, Abigail Ramirez-Teran and Shawn Reverts. Jon Schossow and Jeff Cormaney, who recently relocated to other roles within the company, have also been key players at the farm.

And there’s one more person who’s been especially instrumental in the success of Sow 3: Rick Chamberlin.

“Although he’s not here anymore, Rick is a huge part of this victory,” said Chris Nydegger, Supervisor at Sow 3. “Prior to graciously taking on the manager role at Sow 1, he poured his heart and soul into not just one, but two farm remodels at Sow 3. The most recent of which has been a big factor in herd health and production success today.”

Under Rick’s management, Sow 3 came especially close to a Top 10 spot in 2014 but the farm unfortunately broke with PRRS three weeks before the end of the quarter. “It was hard to see them so close and break with PRRS,” recalled Chris. “But we’re hoping that the newly filtered farm, paired with biosecurity procedures, will prevent that from happening again!”

With recent successes under their belt, that doesn’t mean the crew at Sow 3 hasn’t been faced with a unique series of setbacks. In addition to breaking with PRRS, the farm’s farrowing department head, Tracey, tore her Achilles tendon and was out on short-term disability. “Our farrowing department is strong, but it’s not because of me,” said Bill. “When we lost Tracey it was a void that I couldn’t fill. Audra, Ashley, Braulio, Juan and Abigail have really stepped up and taken on additional responsibilities. Thankfully Tracey is back now, but it was exciting to see them handle such a difficult situation with so much positivity.”

“Bill invests a lot of time in his team, especially in the breeding department since that’s where he’s most knowledgeable,” explained Chris. “He works side-by-side with his staff to help them get better. He also records and tracks individual performance to better know which areas need more attention and training.”

And it’s working! The breeding team achieved the number one farrowing rate in the company back in week 35 with a 96%– a tremendous accomplishment, especially when you factor in pen gestation.

In addition to strong production numbers, factors that have contributed to success at Sow 3 include low turnover, everyone’s willingness to consistently work hard, grow and develop and addressing any personnel issues immediately so that the focus can stay on improving production.

“Bill is quick to take action on priority items and implement a plan,” explained Chris. “He is organized and extremely active on the farm. It seems he always has a plan for what is coming up, which is a tremendous quality to have as a manager.”

A recent example of this is when Bill invited one the company’s production trainers, Tiffany Schnitker, to help the farrowing department out with supplemental instruction. “I knew that the farrowing team was ready and willing to step up while Tracey was gone,” recalled Bill. “And if an employee of mine wants to put in the effort, I’m going to do everything in my power to help develop them. I knew this one was a bit out of my hands so that’s why we invited Tiff in.”

Together, Tiffany and the farrowing team worked on perfecting the “Day 1” role on the farm, which is arguably the most critical time in a pig’s life and also a time when no detail can afford to be overlooked. From monitoring room temperature and ventilation, to mat and heat lamp adjustments, animal observations, treatments and colostrum management. The list is long and requires employees to multi-task, while at the same time not overlooking important details.

“I really enjoyed my time with the team at Sow 3,” recalled Tiff. “They were very eager to learn and willing to take my feedback constructively. They already had a great foundation of skills and knowledge, it was just a matter of bringing them to the next level, which I think we did. They’re an awesome group of hardworking people.”

“We have a really incredible support system at Sow 3,” explained Bill. “Chris, Tiff, Rick, our maintenance guys and everyone that has helped us out along the way are examples of that. It’s a team effort that’s gotten us to the top.”

So what does the team have planned to celebrate their successes? “We’re going to Disney!” joked a visibly excited Bill. “I’m kidding of course, but even though we’re PRRS positive at the moment, we are excited to celebrate small victories like this together. Everyone has worked so hard to get here and we finally made it. The days are long right now, but I know our consistency will eventually pay off and we’ll be PRRS negative again soon. I could not be more proud of my team. They’re an amazing group of people and the reason I love coming to work every day.”

Congratulations to everyone that has been involved in the process of getting Sow 3 into the top spot! Enjoy the moment and the excitement that it has brought to your farm, but more importantly continue pushing towards that number one spot!