“We won by three points,” said Caleb, manager of Thorsen Sow Farm. “It goes to show you every little thing that you do on your farm is meaningful, and matters.”
Caleb and his team took home top honors this past year, earning the number one spot and bragging rights as the top performing sow farm in the entire company.
But Caleb quickly shrugs off the attention. “We’ve been at the middle of that list, at the bottom, and everywhere in between over my 12 years here, I know what it all feels like.”
At Iowa Select Farms, competition, comradery, and a family atmosphere run strong, and farm managers like Caleb keep their eyes on the weekly Select Pride results. He said at the beginning of the year he had his eye on Rogelio’s team at Wright Sow Farm, and Travis’s farm, Sow 115. And of course, Adam and his Sow 118 team were a super close second behind Thorsen.
Caleb says their herd has stayed healthy. “There are really good farms with great teams and they either had setbacks or broke with PRRS early on in the year, and we all felt that pain because we’ve been through it.”
But having a healthy herd certainly doesn’t guarantee a top ten finishing in the Select Pride ranking. And the impact on the pandemic certainly threw a wrench into staffing and schedules.
Farrowing department head, Dominique, says they rallied together to help each other out through the tough year. “We had to be flexible and just get the work done in different ways at different times.”
She says they always hit their production targets and their special secret was to make sure they were still having fun at their jobs, despite the extra stress brought on by COVID.
Flor, the farm’s assistant farrowing department head, said the culture at the farm drove performance forward. “The team here is open-minded and has a willingness to teach everything they know. Everyone helps each other.”
Dominique says the trust they have built and attitude around improving the little things shines every day throughout the farm. She says they are trying different strategies that are successfully reducing stillborns and improving newborn piglet care. They are also better measuring body condition score and focused on P1 retention, all efforts that have helped drive animal care forward.
Mark, the farm’s supervisor, has high praise for the Thorsen team and said they are very deserving of the recognition. “This is a farm with good execution by the entire staff and a great leadership. They are always getting after it and finding ways to get better.”
Jake, the breeding department head, says like the farrowing crew, his team also pays attention to the details. They also have a commitment to consistency, which he believes makes a big difference at the farm.
“We’re maximizing feed intake for our weaned sows, providing consistent boar exposure, organizing uniform pens after mating and providing all-around excellent animal husbandry,” said Jake.
He says the whole farm keeps following biosecurity practices and processes precisely as the foundation of their work.
Randy, whose worked at Thorsen for three years, says the breeding team gets along great. “We try to have fun, help each other out as much as we can.”
Eddie, who’s been working with Caleb since the beginning, says they are always trying to do the best they can by staying consistent and just “keeping after it.”
“Anyone in agriculture will tell you great animal care and husbandry and the health status of the animals drive performance and productivity,” said Caleb. “This team does a great job at all of those things.”
The gilts at Thorsen come from Jensen gilt developer and the weaned pigs go to nearby finishers supervised by Chawn—and all three earned top honors for 2020.
Other members of the team have contributed to the farm’s success. Their veterinarian, Dr. Katie, maintenance technicians Mike and Jeff, and sow supervisor, Mark, play the role of both support teams and cheerleaders for Thorsen.
Congrats again to Caleb, Dominique, Jake, Flor, Edward, Justin, Deb, Zuleyka, Randy, Cristobal, Jamie and Liliana on earning the highest honor possible—top sow farm for 2020!