Gilt Selection Officer and Production Leadership Program Participant
Eric Hensley is the Gilt Selection Officer for Iowa Select Farms and is a member of the Production Leadership Program, an effort put in place to help production employees receive training and development in order to advance within the company and take on bigger challenges.
Eric joined Iowa Select Farms in 2014 as a spring intern, fulfilling an eight week work experience course required to obtain his agribusiness degree at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC). Though he had no previous swine experience, he had exposure to livestock production through his father who is a large animal veterinarian with Tri-County Vet Services in his hometown of Lenox.
After a positive internship experience working at the Gravity Gilt Development Unit (GDU) with Jay Cox, Eric opted to stay on for the entire summer and gain even more experience learning the gilt development and breeding side of commercial swine production.
During his internship experience, Eric was selected to be a part of the Breeding Project Crew, a team of GDU and breeding specialists who came together in the summer of 2014 to breed nearly 5,000 gilts for Sow 31, Iowa Select Farms’ newest sow farm located north of Holstein, Iowa. “It was a monumental effort on the part of many, and Eric was a reliable and dependable member of the team,” said Dan Dean, Senior Sow Supervisor and leader of the Breeding Project effort. “Eric is friendly and easy-going, but at the same time he was highly-driven to reach the goals and milestones we knew we had to accomplish in order for the project to be a success. We could see his potential.”
After returning to DMACC to complete his last two semesters, Eric stayed connected to Iowa Select Farms by pitching in on weekends back at Gravity GDU, helping out the staff with the daily chores while continuing to learn the GDU system. In spring 2015 Eric accepted a full-time offer with Iowa Select Farms and joined the Production Leadership Program which allowed Eric to receive the training and development needed to be promoted from a GDU technician to a GDU manager.
After eight months in the Production Leadership Program, Eric relocated to Iowa Falls to manage Payne GDU near Hampton. “Even in Eric’s short time with us, it was evident how much he had learned from the Breeding Project experience, his Gravity GDU manager J Cox and Dan Dean, and others around him who took the time to help him understand the criteria for gilt selection,” said Craig Whalen, GDU Supervisor for north central and northern Iowa.
Now, Eric will be moving back to the Lenox area, growing once again within the organization as the Gilt Selection Officer for the multiplication system, taking on the incredible responsibility of identifying the gilts for Sow 29 and Sow 118, Iowa Select Farms’ multiplication sites.
“Gilt section takes a tremendous attention to detail,” said Tysen Abell, Gilt Selection Supervisor, and Eric’s new trainer. Pre-selection of the gilts can be completed in the nursery where gilts that have structural defects, hernias or ruptures, and inadequate growth rate can be eliminated from consideration. Eric will make final selections at approximately 140 days of age by visually evaluating their body condition, structure and underline, all in an effort to provide prolific and quality sows to the farms. “I’m looking forward to the new challenge and want to continue to grow,” said Eric. “I am appreciative to the company for giving me not only a training plan with great trainers, but also the encouragement and confidence to continue to move upward, it’s a little overwhelming at times but very exciting.”
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