Collin Hirl is a finishing supervisor and a past participant in Iowa Select Farms’ Production Leadership Program, recently working is way from a junior finishing supervisor to a full-fledged finishing supervisor earlier this year.
Collin was raised on a poultry farm near Olin, Iowa and after high school graduation pursued an animal science degree with an ag business minor at Iowa State University. While in college, Collin worked hard to gain experience in broader areas of agriculture, including cattle, feed manufacturing and working on trials at the ISU Poultry Research Farm. After helping his neighbor’s chore hog barns growing up, Collin took an internship with AMVC in the summer of 2013 to experience breed-to-wean production, and then joined Iowa Select Farms in the summer of 2014 as a finishing intern.
Working with Senior Finishing Supervisor Ron Rush, Collin was exposed to many areas of finishing while also leading a research study assessing the rate and cause of lameness in finishing pigs. Lameness in swine prohibits normal movement and causes discomfort for the animal and economic losses for the producer. Unfortunately pinpointing the cause, risk factors and treatment has become quite difficult for producers and veterinarians to understand.
Every week Collin visited several sites and assessed the number of pigs with incidences of lameness along with the pen layouts, starting weight of the pigs, the floor condition, the mortality due to lameness, and the source of the pigs. He recorded all of the variables into an excel spreadsheet and calculated the total lames and percent lame from week to week. At the end of the summer all of the findings were combined and incidences of lameness were calculated overall and by each variable.
“The project taught me how to assess body condition, identify potential root causes and opened my eyes to the impact genetics, nutrition, handling, barn environment and pen layout all make on the health and productivity of the pig,” says Collin.
After successfully completing his internship, Collin received a full-time offer for a Junior Finishing Supervisor from Iowa Select Farms. This position is part of the Production Leadership Program and provides experience and training to help develop a finishing farm manager or an intern such as Collin to become a full-fledged finishing supervisor.
“Collin started out managing 35,000 pig spaces and took on more and more every day,” said Tim Hermsen, Finishing Supervisor and Collin’s primary trainer. Tim, along with several members of the finishing team, help Collin by providing technical training on operating ventilation controls and feed systems, following herd health protocols, identifying pigs in need of treatment, marketing pigs, submitting site work orders and utilizing the Tools system for real-time production data at all of his sites.
“Tim is also helping me understand my role as a leader and how to bring out the strengths in myself and hold myself and others accountable,” said Collin.
“The Production Leadership Program took away the fear of feeling ‘over my head’ and managing 70,000 spaces right out of the gate,” adds Collin. “Now that I am a finishing supervisor I feel prepared and it’s been a great experience. I owe a lot to the managers and other finishing supervisors for always being there for my questions or when I need a hand.”
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