Bill Owen, Riceville, and his son, Bob Owen, Saratoga, were named the 2019 Master Seedstock Award winners by the Iowa Purebred Swine Council. The award was presented during the Iowa Pork Congress held recently in Des Moines.
The award recognizes outstanding seedstock producers who exemplify integrity, leadership and success in the production and promotion of the purebred swine industry. The Owens' business, North Iowa Boar Semen, has genetically impacted swine herds nationwide, IPSC says.
Bill Owen has been raising swine and producing purebred seedstock for over 60 years. His interest in swine genetics was formed early on. His father, Robert Owen was a purebred Duroc breeder in Wisconsin who had success at the National Barrow Show. As Bill and his wife Karen looked at joining the business, Robert recommended they look at relocating to either Iowa or Illinois to be close to other registered breeders.
The Owens purchased a farm near Riceville, where they primarily bred and sold Durocs and Hampshires, gaining accolades as their pigs performed well in Iowa test stations. In the mid- 1980s, when their sons were in high school, the Owens added Yorkshires and Poland Chinas to increase their experience in working with other breeds.
Bill had many top-indexing pens through the years, with several boars going on to produce high-performing results for buyers and artificial-insemination stud farms. In 1983, he had a record-setting boar at the Lisbon test station.
Then in the early 1990s, purebred producers saw a decline in demand for breeding stock. Friends encouraged Bill to start collecting boar semen that could be shipped to pork producers, who were then becoming acquainted with artificial insemination as an economical way to improve their herds.
NIBS started in 1995 with 20 purebred boars. That number grew to 70 boars, and today, they have roughly 50 purebred and crossbred boars. Bob joined the business in 2009. Ninety percent of their business today is focused on family-owned commercial customers - many with Niman Ranch. The rest of their business is with show pig customers.
Their business has sent boar semen to every state and relies mostly on word-of-mouth advertising or their website.
The Iowa Purebred Swine Council has sponsored the Master Seedstock Award since 1958 and has selected one Master Seedstock Award recipient each year since then. Its purpose is to recognize significant contributions to the Iowa and national purebred industries and for evidence of genetic improvements within their selected breeds for the benefit of Iowa, the nation and, in many cases, internationally.