People. Pigs. Planet.
That mantra established by the National Pork Board stresses the importance of the three “Ps” to U.S. pork producers.
People take care of the pigs, pigs take care of the people, and pigs and people take care of the planet. This circle of responsibility was on full display during the Allen D. Leman Swine Conference this week in St. Paul, Minn. The annual conference welcomes hundreds of international veterinarians and animal science experts to share everything swine-related from reproductive issues, to the labor market, to proper pig care, and of course African swine fever.
Proper pig care is the overlying theme to this conference, and it should be for every hog operation in the United States and beyond. Obviously, the producer is dependent on the health of the animals under their care, and of course the pigs are reliant on producers for providing that care. Larry Coleman, veterinarian from Broken Bow, Neb., presented “Changing Preweaning Piglet Survival Expectations,” which of course included production suggestions, but he focuses more on the people part of that equation.
Coleman uses an illustration he calls the “Circle of Caring,” which is an eternity circle with ownership on top caring for supervisors, who care for the managers, who care for the caregivers who, of course, care for the pigs. All operations need to adopt this circle and implement the concept behind Coleman’s belief that the pig care needs to start with the ownership, providing the resources that the supervisors need to assist their managers to properly provide caregivers with the tools to properly care for the pigs which will then reward the ownership with optimal performance.
This should be nothing new for producers: the entire production system needs to have buy-in to the proper care of animals, and as a result the entire system will be rewarded with healthy productive pigs.
Related to the Circle of Caring, Coleman shares a Circle of Complacency and a Circle of Urgency, which both mirror the same flow from ownership to supervisor to manager to caregiver to pigs and back to ownership. If ownership shares a complacent attitude toward the operation, it will be felt throughout the system, resulting poorer pig performance, thus harming the bottom line of the operation.
Adopting general people skills will go a long way in making for a better overall work environment, resulting in optimum performance throughout the system.
Coleman stresses that these necessary people skills are:
- Be authentic
- Admit your mistakes
- Ask questions and listen
- Use names
- Praise and encourage
- Don’t condemn or argue
This list sounds so simple, but it’s a list that often is not implemented. If you forget the people aspect of your operation, you can forget the pig portion of the equation.
During his keynote address on the final day of the Leman Conference, University of Illinois Mike Ellis echoes the importance of the people component saying that the major difference between farms with high and low pre-weaning mortality levels is hiring the proper people.
People. Pigs. Planet. Each equally important as the other, and neither can be forgotten.