by Darcy Maulsby
Few people who meet Kyle Coble forget him. After all, how many people introduce themselves as a personal dietitian for pigs?
“I look for outreach possibilities every day,” said Coble, senior manager of production strategies and swine nutritionist for New Fashion Pork, Inc. in Jackson, Minnesota. “I travel quite a bit and striking up a conversation at airports or on a hotel shuttle can be quite effective.”
Turning his job description into a conversation starter fits Coble’s new role as one of the Pork Checkoff’s 2017 Pig Farmers of Tomorrow. This award recognizes three future farm leaders, ages 18-29, who intend to make pig farming their life’s work and who are committed to raising pigs using the We CareSM ethical principles.
Joining Coble are Idaho’s Logan Thornton and Minnesota’s Maddie Schafer. The winners will speak at Pork Checkoff events and provide content on #RealPigFarming, which is the pork industry’s social media program.
“A key Checkoff responsibility is to train and motivate future pork industry leaders,” said National Pork Board President Jan Archer, Goldsboro, North Carolina. “This award recognizes and inspires young people who are investing time and energy into responsible pig farming.”
Coble Shares Science
Coble has studied the nutritional and management needs of pigs for more than 10 years.
“I tell consumers how science and innovation keep America’s pork industry firing on all cylinders, from the nutritional needs of pigs to better ways to protect their health,” Coble said.
“Trust but verify” is part of this, he said. Auditors visit each New Fashion Pork grow/finish site, as well as sow farms, once each quarter to assess the implementation of the company’s standard operating procedures and protocols.
“We trust that our producers and employees are doing the right thing, but we verify that the process is done correctly,” Coble said.
While Coble shares these stories through scientific publications, such as the Journal of Animal Science and ag media, he looks forward to connecting with consumers as a Pig Farmer of Tomorrow.
“I’m excited to introduce the public to different types of pig farmers,” said Coble. “For instance, I use math and statistics every day to help our team decide which production practices help us provide safe, wholesome and affordable protein.”
Schafer Finds Common Ground with Consumers
How can pig farmers connect with non-farm audiences? Schafer, who is the seventh generation of her family to farm near Goodhue, Minnesota, takes every opportunity to start conversations about farming and food, including posting on social media, visiting elementary school classrooms or conversing one-on-one.
“These connections help dispel misconceptions about our farming practices,” said Schafer, who is excited to make new connections as a Pig Farmer of Tomorrow. “I want to show how much my family cares about raising healthy pigs and supplying healthy food so consumers can raise healthy families.”
The Schafers operate a 1,600-sow unit, a 600-sow unit and seven replacement gilt development barns. Animal care is the We Care ethical principle that means the most to Schafer.
“It doesn’t matter how well we do all of the other things if we don’t first take care of the animals,” said Schafer, whose family works closely with veterinarians to ensure proper animal care. “We must begin with good people and train them to make sound decisions about animal care.”
She added, “As farmers, we aren’t working for the weekend, because the pigs still need to be taken care of when the weekend comes around. We never stop looking for ways to continuously improve our farm and animal care.”
Thornton Raises Next Generation on the Farm
The ever-evolving nature of pig farming appeals to Thornton, who runs a farrow-to-finish farm near Kuna, Idaho.
“Raising pigs is all I have ever thought about doing,” said Thornton, who markets 3,000 pigs per year. “Growing up on the farm molded me into who I am, and I’m thankful every day for the opportunity to raise my kids the same way.”
The Thorntons have a farrowing/nursery barn and use hoop barns to finish pigs and for sow gestation. Showing daily life on the farm via Facebook and Twitter helps Thornton build trust with consumers.
“My family and I care for each pig individually,” Thornton said. “Raising healthy pigs is important to us.”
Through social media, Thornton talks about various aspects of the farm, including show pigs, Berkshires, commercial crossbreds, feed sales and breeding stock. He also shares about the family’s feed mill, including how grain is procured and how custom batches are mixed for pigs’ needs.
“It’s important to show consumers that we take pride in providing safe, high-quality food,” Thornton said. “It’s exciting to team with the other winners to show the dedicated, young presence that will keep the pork industry strong for years to come.”