What it Means to be a Team at Patel Nursery

posted on Thursday, February 8, 2018

“It’s all about attitude,” said Lasea Weeda, Manager at Patel Nursery. “We are caring, kind and attentive to one another. Of course we hold each other accountable when we’re talking about goals, but at the end of the day it’s about working hard, having fun and leaving the farm knowing you did the best you possibly can. That’s worthy of a high-five in my book.”

Located in the “deep south” near Mount Ayr, Iowa, Patel Nursery embodies what it means to be a team. With Manager Lasea Weeda at the helm, the crew works hard to play off of each other’s strengths and opportunities, in both good times and bad.

“Each of us brings something unique and different to the farm,” explained Lasea, in reference to caretakers Levi Martin and James Ross. “We’ve worked together long enough now to know each other’s strengths and how to best support one another.”

Together, the team at Patel has more than 15 years of combined pig care experience. Four of those years come from Levi, who joined Iowa Select Farms full-time after graduating high school in Mount Ayr, and two years from James, who was looking for a job with good pay and benefits in the area. Lasea adds an additional 11 years of experience to the team.

“I was at Parker and Jernquist sow farms prior to coming to Patel,” recalled Lasea. “I learned a ton and had a lot of fun, but I’m always up for a challenge. I took the chance to transfer to this farm in 2010 and haven’t looked back since. It was like I fell in love with my job all over again.”

“The amount of responsibility, awareness and pride that this team has for their farm is astounding,” explained Dr. Shamus Brown, Director of Multiplication. “They want nothing but the best for their animals and performance numbers, and do a great job of working together as a team toward their goals.”

At Patel, which is a multiplication nursery that exclusively cares for young gilt (female) pigs, Lasea, Levi and James work together to provide a consistent flow of quality pigs for grower farms, which will eventually transfer to GDUs and then as bred animals to a sow farm.

“Our multiplication nurseries could arguably be the most important farms in our system,” explained Multiplication Supervisor, Tysen Abell. “Every pig at Iowa Select, whether a sow farm, GDU or finisher, will be thanks to the work we’re doing at multiplication nurseries to produce excellent gilts for the system.”

Most recently, the team at Patel has been dealing with a series of health setbacks, which have impacted goals and quarterly bonus opportunities. “Our farm is all-in, all-out and with every new group of pigs we’ve seen different health challenges,” explained Levi. “Right now we’re working on consistency and taking things one day at a time. You can’t let yourself get too overwhelmed or it’s easy to get frustrated with each other.”

Current health setbacks aside, the team at Patel is rocking it in the grand scheme of things. In fact, from Quarter 2 to Quarter 3 in 2017, Lasea, Levi and James have brought the farm’s mortality down from 6% to 2.6% -- a tremendous accomplishment in just three months’ time.

“This farm was definitely on track to set some production goals. Unfortunately, there have just been some things out of the farm’s control that have created a bit of a challenge,” said Brown, in reference to recent health struggles. “But through it all, this team has never put their heads down. They have taken it all in stride and continue to do the right thing every day. They are sending as many healthy pigs out the door as they can.”

In 2018 alone, Patel is expected to send out 62,000 feeder pig gilts.

“Lasea leads a great team!” Exclaimed Production Well-Being Specialist, Jessica Rosener. “I recently completed a production well-being audit at their farm and was very impressed with their organization, record keeping and daily animal observations. Pigs in need of additional care are being identified in a timely manner. It’s obvious that taking care of their pigs is Lasea, Levi and James’ top priority!”

“It definitely can be a very stressful job,” chuckled Lasea. “We have to make sure that these babies are adjusting well without their Mamas. We want them to be as healthy and happy as possible when they leave our farm and enter the next stage of production.”