For the first time, a woman earns the title America’s Pig Farmer of Year. Leslie McCuiston, raised on an Oklahoma cattle farm, never saw her gender as a factor in achieving her career aspirations, especially in the pig world.
As a senior production manager with The Maschhoffs, McCuiston is responsible for 10 breed-to-wean farms in Nebraska and South Dakota of which six of nine leaders are women.
McCuiston’s career thrived with pigs, due to the open opportunities. She says, “In my experience, the pork industry has been very accepting and welcoming of women, who are a natural fit in livestock production.”
Here are three reasons a career in pigs is the right fit for women.
Smaller animals: In comparison to beef, pigs are a little easier to handle due to the size of scale.
Caretaker gene: Women are born with the natural caretaking gene. Today, in barns it is not unusual to find women in charge of the farrowing unit, young pigs, training gilts or the entire barn. The ability to be more caring is inherited. According to research, women are strong at nurture competencies such as developing others, inspiring and motivating others, relationship building, collaboration and teamwork. “I think at our hearts women are caretakers and nurturers not only of the pigs but the people we work with as well. Both of those pieces are very important. So, we set high priorities on taking on both those within our farms every day.”
Strength in leadership: Research shows women do excel at nurturing competencies but also strive at taking the initiative, displaying integrity and honesty, and driving for results. At the farm, McCuiston can confirm how strong leaders women can be. “The strength women show in leadership is really important. My teams alone, six out of nine are women. They are the strongest there are,” she states.
More and more women are choosing pig farming as a profession, something that has changed over the past 10 years. Immediate past president of the National Pork Board, Jan Archer, says historically women became pig farmers because they married a farmer. Today that is not the case. Many women are intentionally selecting the world of agriculture and pig farming.