Carthage Veterinary Conference, full recap and awards announcement

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Carthage Veterinary Service hosted its 31st Annual Swine Conference on August 24, 2021 in Quincy, IL. This conference provided producers with quick fire sessions that contained cutting edge information that producers could implement into their farms right away. The conference provided speakers that focused on Breed-to-Wean, Wean-to-Market, and CEO/Management sessions in order for attendees to hone in on their interests. With over 550 attendees, this conference continues to provide a great networking opportunity, and has made this meeting a must attend for the industry.

A major focus of the conference is the Carthage Veterinary Service, LTD Swine Awards of
Excellence. The Carthage group had a record number of nominations from managers and owners of multiple operations. This program is designed to highlight the year and provide shared enjoyment of the outstanding people in swine production business. Anyone wishing to bring recognition to the attention of the farms and managers are encouraged to make nominations.

Dale Weitekamp was selected as this year’s Good Neighbor Award Winner. He was selected  because he has been a tremendous leader and neighbor to his local community and the swine  industry throughout his career. Dale’s devotion to his family, pig farming, and his community  shows that he is a “Good Neighbor”. He and his brother, Allan, are fifth generation farmers in  central Illinois – Montgomery County. They run a row crop operation and contract finish 22,000  head for Borgic Farms. Dale was a Peace Corp volunteer after college before returning home to  farm with the family. He has also served as President of the Illinois Pork Producers, and has been  President of the Cedarcrest Board of Managers for over 16 years, a 6,400 head breed to wean  farm. Dale is also a local EMT volunteer with the Raymond-Harvel ambulance service. During  the early outbreak of COVID, Dale used his own masks and white Tyvek coveralls from his farm in order to continue to serve his community as an EMT.

Craig Huelskamp was selected as this year’s Outstanding Finisher Award Winner. Craig  started helping on the hog farm when he was 8 years old on his family’s farrow to finish farm.  He helped in the farrowing houses, nurseries, and also marking, sorting, and loading market  hogs. Eventually, the Huelskamp’s stopped farrowing sows and decided to take more focus on  finishing hogs. For the Huelskamp’s, farming has always been a family affair. Now, Craig takes  care of the family’s 2,400 head finisher with the help of his brother Scott, his uncle Mike, and his  nieces and nephews: Grace, Addison, Andrew and Hugh. Craig’s favorite part about raising pigs  is watching the herd grow and perform from start to finish. He takes great pride in the work and  care they put towards the pigs. Craig ensures good biosecurity to influence herd health and  safety, implements good individual pig care with sorting fallouts and performing treatments,  achieves proper feed management to enhance feed conversion, and also practices strategic  marketing planning with the help of his PSM Production Manager, Samantha Cisco. Craig also  likes to challenge himself in trying to get the tightest sort on each marketing cut. There were  numerous times where Craig excelled in sorting market hogs and achieved a live weight 15 lb  standard deviation. He will never shy away from doing what is best for the pig, even if that  means adding extra work to their already busy days.

Grand View Farms, LLC was selected as this year’s Outstanding Sow Farm Winner. Grand  View Farms, LLC is lead by Farm Manager Ben Stajkowski. This farm is a repeat award winner  in this category. Grand View Farms continues to excel, leading all Carthage System Farms in  every quarter over the past year. Grand View Farms is a 6,000 head breed to wean herd located  in western Illinois in the Carthage System. This farm was one of the very first large positive  pressure filtered farms in the world, built in 2015. All other farms are compared to Grand View,  making them the farm to beat. They have performed at this extremely high level with very little  turnover. This is more impressive in 2020, where we know staffing was difficult. This past  year, the farm has weaned 13.1 pigs/sow farrow, that is 3,500 weaned pigs/week off of 267  farrowings. They have had 91.3% farrow rate, 16.2 total born, and had a 31.5 PSY. The team has  the ability to bend but not break, keeping consistent performance for the long term.

Tom Wilkey with Strawn Pork was selected as this year’s Outstanding Swine Manager. Tom  is the longtime manager at Strawn Pork, a 3,200-sow farm where he manages 9 employees. This  farm previously was Lehmann Brothers sow farm, operated by Art and Ken Lehmann. It was  recently transitioned to Clint and Ray Steidinger. Tom has 30 years of experience working in the  swine industry, mostly all in sow herd production. Tom is a farm owners’ ideal manager. He  takes ownership of the farm with key skills in maintenance and renovation projects. Strawn Pork  has some barns that are 35 years old. He also just gets it done – managing off site gilt  development and 3 breeding projects over the past 5 years with minimal oversight. He also  oversees the production of 3 small breed to wean herds that make up the pig flow for the system.  Tom has achieved high levels of production for many years, especially with some older facilities. The sow farm is currently weaning 12.6 pigs per litter and averaging 31.3 p/s/y. Tom also serves  on the Illinois Pork Producers Association Board of Directors.

Joe Valdez with LaMoine Valley Farms, LLC was selected as this year’s Outstanding Swine  Technician. Joe is the Breeding Department Head at LaMoine Valley Farms and just celebrated  his 7th year of working for Carthage System. He started with the company as a technician and  worked his way to a Breeding Manager position. He has been the Head of the breeding  department at LaMoine Valley Farms since 2017. He has been recognized for his incredible  work ethic, as he is always striving for greatness in his department and does not accept anything  less. Joe is never in the farm office, he is always knee deep in work with his crew. As a result of  his excellent leadership and motivation to succeed, LaMoine Valley maintains a 92% farrowing  rate. The Carthage System awards an annual King breeder competition which his farm won in  2020. Joe is quick to credit his hard-working team. Joe doesn’t shy away from challenges  including managing difficult flows through both maintenance and health challenges on the farm.

SisBro Farms was selected as this year’s Outstanding Teamwork Award Winner. This team  was formed in 2015 as the farm was constructed as a 2,600 head breed to wean herd. 4 years  later, in 2019, the farm was doubled to 6200 sows, with everyone except one person from the  original team. What outstanding retention! That is driven by the farm manager and leads who  create a great workplace for the team. This teamwork award recognized their work during a farm  expansion. Farm construction projects come with a lot of long nights, constraints to overcome,  breed projects, and plans changing daily. However, this team strapped on their boots and dealt  with juggling these headaches to drive a successful project. With so much excitement,  anticipation and hard work, they put out their first load of wean pigs from that expansion in May  of 2020. The comradery of the team is second to none. They are always helping each other,  practicing excellent communication, and carrying passion for what they do. The farrowing team  is very detail oriented, focusing on fallouts, day 1 care, and the feed intake of the lactating sows.
The breeding crew excels in barn organization and body condition of the sows. They lead the  industry with a sow mortality rate that is under 6%. The startup averaged 28 PSY for the year. Passion, punctuality, and willingness to learn are characteristics the manager looks for and she  has been successful in building a great team based on those qualities.