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Iowa’s Environmental Steward highlights awards night

Iowa pork producers honored the best of the best during the Iowa Pork Congress.

January 25, 2018

10 Min Read
Iowa’s Environmental Steward highlights awards night
2017 Iowa Pork Queen Clare Conley of Cherokee County crowns Jordan Travis of Altoona in Story County as the 2018 Iowa Pork Queen. National Hog Farmer/Kevin Schulz

Iowa Pork producers saluted the best of the state’s swine industry at the Iowa Pork Producers Association’s awards banquet during the Iowa Pork Congress this week in Des Moines.

Kicking off the full slate of award announcements was recognizing Rob Stout from Washington in Washington County as the 2017 Environmental Steward, earning him a trophy, a $2,500 cash award and the recognition of his peers.                            

Stout began farming nearly 40 years ago with his father, Bob. Rob receives pigs from shares in Wellman Feed Pig Inc., and finishes nearly 9,000 pigs annually. He also farms about 1,100 acres of corn and soybeans. Following Bob’s passing in 2015, Rob was joined in the farming operation by his stepson, Alex Zimmerman.

Concern for and impact on the environment are always top of mind for Stout in his operation from manure application to no-till crop farming to the installation of a sub-surface bioreactor to intercept drainage on 65 to 70 acres to energy conservation in the barns.

The Environmental Steward Award was established in 2007 by the IPPA Environmental Committee to recognize pork producers who go above and beyond in environmental stewardship. The selection committee judges the nominees on the producer’s manure management, soil and water conservation practices, air quality strategies, wildlife habitat management and environmental management innovations.

Ten pork producers were named Master Pork Producers:

Ross and Amber Kooiker from George in Lyon County
Ross and Amber Kooiker own and operate a diversified farming operation, alongside Ross’s brother, Nolan. The family produces 14,000 pigs per year while raising crops on 900 acres.

Aaron and Alyce Nieland from Breda in Sac County
The Nielands own and operate a diversified farm that consists of finishing and marketing 20,000 pigs annually and farming nearly 400 acres of corn and soybeans.

Tyler and Jessica Kannegieter from Aurelia in Cherokee County
Tyler is a regional production manager for Hanor in northwest Iowa and Jessica managed a 4,800-head nursery for several years until recently opening a coffee business in Aurelia and Cherokee.

Stephen Schroeder from Remsen in Plymouth County
The fourth-generation pork producer finishes pigs and has been involved in pig farming since he was a young boy. In 1996, Steve, his father and brother bought into a sow unit in nearby Germantown. They sold all of their sows and converted farrowing barns into nurseries. In the early 2000s, Schroeder expanded his operation by adding two hoop buildings and a 2,400-head finishing barn that he uses for custom feeding. In the last two years, two 1,200-head buildings were constructed as well as a new nursery. Pigs are sold through Premier Pork with a majority going to Smithfield Foods in Denison.

Stuart Swanson from Galt in Wright County
Swanson helped his father with his 25-sow herd growing up and after earning an agricultural business degree from Iowa State University, he returned to the family farm. In 1992, he started his own farrow-to-finish enterprise with 50 sows and now has a 60-sow herd.

Mark Dolan from Masonville in Buchanan County
Mark and his wife, Beth, finish approximately 20,000 pigs per year with a majority originating from their 600-head sow farm in Buchanan County and the remaining coming from sows in Colorado managed by Purina. Mark is responsible for 7,000 pig spaces and the remaining are overseen by a farm employee. They market their pigs to either Tyson in Waterloo or JBS in Marshalltown. The Dolans’ sow unit utilizes open pen gestation, which enables them to participate in a special JBS program.

Jeff and Nancy Lucas from New Vienna in Dubuque County
The Lucases market about 9,000 pigs a year from their diversified wean-to-finish swine farm. Jeff manages the day-to-day pig care responsibilities, while Nancy oversees the bookkeeping for their farm as well as a Pipestone-managed sow farm that they hold shares in. They handle the marketing and loading of the pigs themselves.

Jon, Becky, Adam and Tony Ries from Manchester in Delaware County
Jon and his wife, Becky, both grew up on livestock farms and began farming on their own near Manchester 44 years ago. They initially had beef and dairy cattle in addition to pigs, but recently decided to focus mainly on pigs and create opportunities for their sons to return to the operation.

Ralph and Becky Dorale from Charter Oak in Crawford County
The Dorales own and operate a diversified crop and livestock operation. Ralph notes that they always had pigs on the farm growing up, starting with a farrow-to-finish operation until the market downturn. They sold the sows and began buying feeder pigs. In 1996, Ralph and Becky built a 3,300-head feeder-to-finish facility to contract for Smithfield Hog Productions.

Danny Gent from Wellman in Washington County
Gent is a partner in his family’s diversified crop and livestock operation. Upon graduation from Iowa State University in 2008 with a degree in ag studies and agronomy, he returned to the family farm. His return allowed the Gent family to grow their sow herd from 1,100 head to today’s 5,000 sows and convert the old sow farm to a nursery. They credit nurseries as a great way to manage herd health in a pig-dense area. The Gents produce 150,000 market pigs annually.

Three individuals were also honored as Iowa Master Pork Partners.

Chad Berentschot from Inwood in Lyon County
Berentschot has more than 25 years of pork production experience and utilizes that knowledge and experience in his position as production supervisor for Pipestone System. He manages seven additional production supervisors who work with individual owners and growers within the Pipestone System. He is responsible for more than 2 million wean-to-finish pigs per year.

John Esler from Alta in Buena Vista County
Esler joined Smithfield in 1996 as a sow farm manager and currently serves as the business improvement manager. He oversees the construction of new sites, retrofitting of older sites and any upgrades to company-owned and contract grower sites.

Esler built several barns in 2013 as a contract grower for Smithfield. He currently has a 4,200-head site in Pocahontas County and a 5,400-head site in Sac County. Between the two sites, he markets 30,000 pigs per year in a wean-to-finish flow. He leads three site managers who are responsible for the day-to-day pig care. He works with local neighbors to utilize the manure from his buildings and plans to add solar energy systems to his sites that will satisfy approximately 65% of the energy needs.

Paul Mossner from Manchester in Delaware County
The 35-plus-year veteran of the pork industry formulates rations and provides nutrition consultation for JBS United, focusing on utilizing a benchmarking program with clients. He spends time with producers poring over records teasing out additional efficiencies and exploring ways to drive down costs. Mossner has always stayed current with technology and figuring out how best to implement it within the businesses of his clients.

Mossner also is a partner in New Horizons Pork in Delaware County. The enterprise consists of two 2,500-head sow farms with wean-to-finish production taking place in the area. He provides nutrition consulting for the system and oversees the relationships with their contract growers and packers. Mossner’s wife, Bobbi, serves as the dispatcher for the system, communicating with the sow farm managers, growers and packers.

Master Seedstock Producer

Al Schminke of Van Horne in Benton County was named Master Seedstock Producer for 2017.

Schminke and his wife, Kandy, started raising market pigs together more than 45 years ago. After their children became more interested and involved in the family swine operation, they started to focus more on the show ring instead of commercial production. Both of their children were highly competitive and enjoyed spending their time exhibiting pigs at the local, state and national levels.

In their Schminke Genetics farrow-to-finish purebred business, Al and Kandy focus on raising Chester Whites and F-1 show pigs.

Ben and Janelle Johnson from Ireton in Plymouth County were named Pork All-Americans.                  

The Johnsons are part owners and operators of JB Century Farm. The farm is owned by Ben and Janelle and Ben’s parents. Ben uses the swine production experience he gained as an adolescent and in college to manage the family’s two, 4,800-head wean-to-finish buildings. Since 2009, Ben and Janelle have been contract growers for Wakefield Pork in Gaylord, Minn., and Ben has been raising pigs for 11 years.

The IPPA Pork All-American award was established in 1970 to honor young producers who have established themselves as community leaders and successful and dedicated businesspersons.


John Patience, Iowa State University animal science professor, and Iowa U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst were honored as honorary master pork producers.                                    

Using science to reduce feed costs and improve net income for pork producers has been the guiding principle for Patience over his 30 years of research. He has conducted studies on such diverse topics as ingredient evaluation, dietary energy and amino acid requirements, utilization of lower energy higher fiber ingredients and water quality. The Canadian also has investigated management issues such as feeder adjustment and allowance, water supply to sows and nursery pigs and carcass quality. He’s currently studying how diet composition can affect gut health in the newly weaned pig with a view to formulating diets in the future, which help the pig handle post-weaning illness when antibiotic use is restricted.

In November 2014, Ernst was elected as the first Iowa woman to serve in federal office and became the first female combat veteran elected to serve in the U.S. Senate. In Washington, she serves on four Senate committees of major importance to Iowans: Armed Services; Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; Environment and Public Works; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. 

Ernst is focused on growing a vibrant economy and ensuring the government runs effectively and efficiently.

The evening of awards culminated with looking to the future of the state’s pork industry as Iowa Pork Queen Clare Conley and Iowa Pork Youth Ambassadors McKenna Brinning from Washington County and Dylan Riedemann from O’Brien County gave up their titles to the youth leaders for the next year.

Jordan Travis bested nine other young women to be named the 2018 Iowa Pork Queen. She is a sophomore at Iowa State University majoring in animal science. The daughter of Sean and Darcy Travis of Altoona has an immense passion for swine and hopes to have a career in human resource management for a large swine company after graduation. She will represent Story County during her year-long reign.

The only two young men among the 12 contestants competing to serve on the 2018 Iowa Pork Youth Leadership Team were both selected as youth pork ambassadors. Spencer Cook of Winthrop in Buchanan County and Cole Spain of Castalia in Fayette County will both join Travis on the new team.

Cook is the son of Aaron and Trish Cook of Winthrop. He is a senior at East Buchanan High School and plans to study agricultural business at ISU in the fall. He looks forward to advocating for farmers and being a voice for the agricultural industry.

Spain is the son of Vince and Stephanie Spain of Castalia. He is a freshman at ISU and is pursuing a degree in agricultural education with an animal science minor. He hopes to one day return to northeast Iowa and become an agricultural education teacher, while expanding his show pig herd.

All 12 contestants participated in interviewing and communications exercises at the Iowa Pork Congress this week and were judged on their skills, poise, presentation and overall knowledge of the pork industry and Iowa agriculture.

The top female contestant is crowned pork queen and the top remaining contestants, male or female, are named youth ambassadors. Each receives a $4,000 scholarship from IPPA.

The new youth leadership team members will represent IPPA at various pork promotional and educational events throughout the year.

Source: Iowa Pork Producers Association

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