Working to farm – a day in the life update from Drew Kuhn
Up until November 2019, Drew Kuhn worked as a production manager for Sturtevant Hog Farms (learn about that role here). Last fall, he, his wife and his brother had an opportunity to raise pigs a little closer to home. The new farm is in Sycamore (one of the 96% of all Illinois farms that are family owned), and together the Kuhn family is raising pigs from the time they’re weaned – about 3 weeks of age – to when they’ll go to market. Here’s a day in the life in his new role.
5:00 a.m.: I get on the road, taking the 15 minute drive from my house in Genoa to the Farm in Sycamore. This is much nicer than the drive time I used to log when I was managing multiple farms in different areas.
This morning is an early start because we are transporting out a load of market-ready pigs.
5:15 a.m.: As I am pulling up to the farm I’m always checking to make sure that my barns are operating properly on these cooler fall nights and the occasional hot day. My barns are natural ventilation barns, with curtains on each side that use natural airflow to help control temperatures inside. With the cooler overnight temperatures, I’m looking to make sure the curtains are up to help keep the barns a little warmer.
As I get into the barn office, I put on coveralls and get ready for the semi to show up to load pigs. Yesterday I marked pigs that were ready for market, and today they’ll be sorted and loaded onto the trailer.
The sorting takes lots of teamwork on our farm, so usually on mornings that we load out I have extra help. My dad, mom, brother and another family member usually help with loading/sorting pigs.
6:00 a.m.: The semi arrives and we start to sort and load. Our process has improved over the last couple of months, as we are now marketing our third group of pigs out of the farm. Each person picks a task of sorting or moving pigs down the hallways to where the semi is waiting. We move from pen to pen getting the biggest market-ready pigs out and off to market.
7:30 a.m.: We are done loading pigs – so now it’s time for talking about what else we have planned for the day.
8:00 a.m.: Everyone has left from loading and I am now onto my normal tasks for the day, which begins with checking the rest of my pigs.
I start out by doing nursery chores. These are the barns that the baby pigs come into and stay for 8 weeks before they are moved out to our finishing barns (where they grow to market weight).
I take my time walking through each of the nursery pens, checking each and every pig in the pen making sure there are no health-challenged pigs in the groups. I am also making sure the temperature and environment is set up properly for the pigs.
It’s a slow, deliberate process so that every animal can be monitored. Health can change quickly, even from one day to the next, and can impact an entire barn. It’s critical to determine if a pig needs on-the-spot treatment or should be moved to the sick pen to recover.
After checking nurseries, I move onto my pigs that are in the finishing barns and walk the groups, again checking pigs and temperatures in the barns.
9:30-2:00 p.m.: After finishing chores, I move on to making feed for the pigs. While some farmers have feed companies mix the rations for them, we order in all the ingredients and make the feed on site for the pigs. Most days this is the longest part of my day. Today I had six batches of feed to make, that way our pigs had plenty of food in their feeders to keep growing. Our pigs are fed mostly a corn and soybean meal ration that has some other added ingredients like vitamins and minerals as well. On our farm we have a feed room that we use to mix each batch of feed. That feed is then loaded into a feed truck, which is driven to each bin and unloaded.
2:00-4:00 p.m.: I check on my pigs again, similar to morning chores where I’m walking pens to make sure there were no changes throughout the day. Then I head home to Genoa to spend some family time with my wife and our newborn daughter. All to get up and head back to the farm tomorrow.