by Carrie Webster

While pigs are a top priority for producers, so are the people who take care of them. Attracting and retaining good employees are key components of successful pork operations across the country, with salaries and benefits offered playing a big part.

To get a handle on current pay and benefit trends in the pork industry, last fall the Pork Checkoff commissioned AgCareers.com to conduct the Compensation and HR Practices in Pork Production survey.

“The results provide a benchmarking tool that allows producers to better understand how their farm compares with national averages,” said Karen Hoare, producer learning and development director for the Pork Checkoff.

“The findings show that jobs in the pork industry are competitive with those in other industries,” Hoare said. “We encourage students and others looking for new opportunities to consider a career in pork production.”

The producers who were surveyed represented 281 pork operations. Of the respondents, 41 percent were independent growers, 35 percent were integrators and 24 percent were contract growers.

average annual salary wage compensation
employee insurance coverage

For the survey, large operations represented farms with 25,000 or more sows. Mid-size operations had fewer than 25,000 sows in production or over 1,000 head in finishing. Small to mid-sized farms were defined as being of significant size to employ full-time employees other than family members.

Producers who participated were asked about compensation, benefits, HR management, recruitment, part-time staff and safety. Key findings include:

Hourly wages – When asked about compensation, the survey showed that 57 percent of pork operations pay between $9.51 to $12.50 per hour for starting animal caretakers with no swine experience. For caretakers with at least five years experience, 47 percent were more likely to earn $12.50 to $15.50 per hour.

Manager wages – The survey showed that 35 percent of assistant managers receive $30,000 to $40,000 annually, and 45 percent of farm managers earn $40,000 to $60,000.

Bonuses – Offering a bonus program is a part of the employee benefit package of 50 percent of the operations surveyed, with 32 percent of the farms basing the incentives on pigs weaned/sow/year. Also, 55 percent of the farms surveyed conduct annual performance appraisals.

Bonuses were the most popular tool used to keep employees motivated and challenged in their roles, with 58 percent of farms offering this benefit. This was followed by flexible hours, and training and development opportunities.

Vacation – Of the pork operations surveyed that offer a traditional paid vacation/sick program, employees with five plus years of service receive an average of 10 to 14 days of paid vacation and one to three days of sick leave per year.

Additional benefits

Along with many other competitive benefits, 53 percent of the farms surveyed offer employees training and development opportunities.

Insurance – As a top priority for employees, 57 percent receive medical coverage, 28 percent have dental and 21 percent are offered vision insurance.

Weekly hours – Thirty-eight percent of full-time caretakers work 41-45 hours per workweek while 26 percent work 46-50 hours. Of the respondents, 55 percent of employees receive two weekends off per month and an additional 16 percent receive three weekends off per month.

Safety – As an important part of working in pork production, safety rated as a high priority among those surveyed. The two most popular items used to improve worker safety were dust masks and ear protection, with 80 percent of farms providing these protections, followed by eye protection at 65 percent.

“Providing a safe work environment is one of the six We CareSM ethical principles that producers follow every day on their farms,” Hoare said. “This survey underscores that producers value their employees and that the pork industry offers competitive, rewarding career opportunities.”

resources to improve worker safety
tools to motivate employees
Click to enlarge tables.
performance measurements