Advancing Swine Sustainability: Key Takeaways from the Iowa Pork Industry Center’s Sow Summit, By Dr. Casey Bradley

The swine industry is constantly evolving, driven by the need for sustainability in animal welfare, environmental responsibility, financial stability, and the wellbeing of those who work within it. The Iowa Pork Industry Center’s Sow Summit, held on November 1, 2023, stood as a testament to this commitment. Under the leadership of Dr. Laura Greiner, Director of the Iowa Pork Industry Center, this year’s summit brought together experts, thought leaders, and industry enthusiasts to explore the multifaceted facets of sustainability within the swine industry.

Distinguished Speakers and Their Insights:

The summit opened with a plenary session that set the stage for a day filled with insights and discussions. Dr. Rob Knox, a Professor with the University of Illinois, kicked off the morning by delving into advancements in swine reproduction and future opportunities. His presentation emphasized the significance of efficient breeding practices in shaping the industry’s sustainable future.

Following Dr. Knox, Dr. Bradley Wolter, President of Windy Hill Insights, addressed the critical economic consequences of sow mortality and the escalating costs associated with gilt replacement. His insights provided attendees with a clearer understanding of the financial implications of these challenges.

PJ Corns, Director of Sow Production with JBS Live Pork, brought a unique perspective to the summit by delivering an entertaining and enlightening presentation on Proposition 12. This discussion offered a retrospective on what went right and wrong with the proposition, providing valuable lessons for the swine industry.

The summit also featured a Labor Panel comprising Chet Mogler, Partner with Pig Hill Co.; Victor Ochoa, Director with Swineworks LLC; and Silvia Castaneda, Director of Human Resources with Eichelberger Farms. This diverse panel explored innovative strategies to address the industry’s labor challenges, recognizing the importance of a skilled and stable workforce.


During the Applied Session, Alexander Umbaugh, Sow Retention Specialist Supervisor, and Cesar Amorim Moura, Research Manager, both from Iowa Select Farms, shared practical strategies and tools to reduce sow mortality, enhance reproduction, and implement precision agriculture techniques. Their insights offered actionable takeaways for industry professionals.

Adding depth to the discussions were Dr. Mark Wilson, Technical Services Consultant at Feedworks USA; Dr. Tami Brown-Brandl, Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; and Dr. Tom Petznick, a Veterinarian at ArkCare. These experts covered a wide range of topics, from gilt development to sow management, providing attendees with a comprehensive understanding of critical industry issues.

Sustainability from Multiple Perspectives:

The summit’s overarching theme revolved around sustainability, examined from various angles. Dr. Greiner’s opening remarks set the stage by emphasizing that sustainability encompasses animal welfare, environmental stewardship, financial stability, and the people who drive the industry forward.

Advancements in swine reproduction were at the forefront of discussions, highlighting the importance of innovation in ensuring a sustainable future. Dr. Knox’s presentation underscored the significance of efficient breeding practices to meet the industry’s evolving needs.

The economic impact of sow mortality and gilt replacement costs was a topic of concern and exploration. Dr. Wolter’s insights shed light on the financial implications of these challenges, urging industry professionals to take strategic management approaches.

PJ Corns’ engaging presentation on Proposition 12 offered valuable insights into the successes and challenges of legislative journeys. This discussion reminded attendees that sustainability also encompasses the ability to navigate and adapt to changing regulations and consumer demands.

Amidst labor shortages, the summit brought a breath of fresh air by presenting innovative strategies to retain employees. These discussions recognized the importance of a skilled and stable workforce in sustaining the industry’s growth and development.

A significant emphasis this year was placed on gilt development, underscoring the importance of nurturing and preparing gilts for improved livability, longevity, and milk production. Dr. Wolter also discussed the rising cost of replacement gilts and the downstream implications of high gilt populations.

PJ Korns’ presentation emphasized the significance of measuring, optimizing, and managing sows with different body condition scores. Integrating gilts into the herd was a key component, connecting with Dr. David Rosero’s presentation on sow feeding programs to maximize sow lifetime performance.

Applied Sustainability Strategies:

From an applied perspective, the discussions revolved around practical strategies and tools to reduce sow mortality, enhance reproduction, and implement precision agriculture techniques. Addressing issues like handling scours on sow farms was also a priority. These practical insights offered attendees actionable steps to enhance sustainability in their operations.

Networking and Collaboration:

Beyond the rich insights and discussions, the Iowa Pork Industry Center’s Sow Summit provided an excellent opportunity for networking and collaboration. Attendees had the chance to connect with different components of the swine industry, including researchers, professors, nutritionists, industry representatives, and production managers. This collaborative spirit is vital for driving the industry forward and fostering innovation.

Access to Conference Recordings:

For those who wish to delve deeper into the insights shared at the summit, conference recordings will be available for access at This resource provides an opportunity for a broader audience to benefit from the knowledge and expertise shared by the esteemed speakers, furthering the cause of sustainability in the swine industry.

In conclusion, the Iowa Pork Industry Center’s Sow Summit served as a vital platform for advancing swine sustainability. The multifaceted discussions, guided by science, compassion, and a commitment to the industry’s betterment, underscored the importance of collaborative efforts in ensuring a sustainable future for swine production. As the industry continues to evolve, these insights will serve as a valuable guidepost for all those dedicated to the welfare of animals, the environment, financial stability, and the people within the swine industry.