r e c u d Pro ight Spotl
here livestock greatly outnumber people and beautiful sunsets are an everyday occurrence, Cargill Pork manages its largest sow operation. The man that makes one of America’s largest swine facilities run like clock work is Mike Gruber, General Manager for Cargill, Dalhart. Mike, and the 330 employees he supervises, rise and shine early and go to bed late, caring for their hogs and producing wholesome pork every minute of the day. This farrow-to-wean hog farm is located on 22,000 acres that are divided into three farms, with multiple sites. Between the farms: Stateline, Longview and Panhandle, the Dalhart farm houses a total of 65,000 sows. The target is for each sow to wean 27 pigs per year, which results in this one operation producing approximately 1.7 million pigs annually. When baby pigs are between 19 and 21 days of age, they are weaned and transported to Cargill Pork’s contract farmers, whose farms are typically located within a 100-mile radius of Cargill’s two processing facilities in Beardstown, Ill., and Ottumwa, Iowa. Ultimately, these hogs end up providing protein to consumers across the country. So what genetics are in that delicious pork chop you are having for dinner? Cargill’s geneticists continuously study various genotypes, to maximize the performance potential of these pigs long before they are even farrowed. To fully understand the genetic profile of these hogs, there are a few points to keep in mind. First, there are no purebreds; all of the hogs are composites. These crosses are built upon a maternal sow line primarily consisting of Landrace and Large White genetics. This cross results in the most maternal female possible, to give each piglet
born the greatest opportunity possible to start off strong and healthy. Cargill uses terminal sires, but the targeted end point always dictates that final mating decision. For example, for pork that will be marketed under a premium brand, a higher percentage of Duroc genetics are found in those sires, due to their increased marbling and tenderness qualities. For higher yielding carcasses, a greater percentage of Pietran genetics are utilized. You might be wondering how a farm of this magnitude runs. Well the answer is quite simple. “The bottom line is that we care,” said Mike. “We are really just like any other hog operation. Our team comes to work everyday excited to care for these animals and produce a good product.” The Dalhart crew works like a well-oiled machine, utilizing modern farm technology. All sow houses are climate controlled, keeping pigs cool in the extreme summer heat and warm in the bitter winter. The climatecontrolled barns also provide fresh, clean air for the hogs to breath 24/7. These pigs are also fed using an automatic feeding system, ensuring that every pig gets the proper nutrition necessary. All these technological practices guarantee healthy hogs, and in return, healthy pork. With a farm of this size, biosecurity is of the utmost importance. Due to this, Cargill does a great deal of their work in-house. On the Dalhart farm there is a feed mill and boar stud. This farm doesn’t grow their feedstuffs due to the amount of water it requires, but the majority of feedstuffs are bought locally and feed mill employees keep two weeks of feed on hand at all times. Cargill purchases boars from a genetics company and currently has 300 boars on hand. Additionally, Cargill retains around 40,000 gilts each year as replacements, never bringing in outside females. The Dalhart team isn’t just running the leading hog farm in the country; they are also involved in the farming and beef industries. On the 22,000 acres, team members also grow out around 6,000 head of stocker cattle annually and farm triticale, wheat, forage sorghum and Bermuda grass, making this agriculture operation highly diversified.
Meet the Manager | Mike Gruber Family: Wife Danita and daughter, Marissa Background: Growing up on a ranch in Abilene gave him his love for animals. Previous Work: Extension Agent, nine years; Geneticist, 20 years Cargill: May 2011- Present Main Job Responsibilities: Resource management: people, time, water and finances. I am responsible for all operations, personnel, and business functions related to our company-owned business enterprise, including pig production, cattle and crops. Who has influenced you in your career? Ollie and Eul Liner. Ollie was a CEA in Plainview; Eul formed DeKalb with Roy Poage, and are the source of modern swine production. They renewed my interest in pork production. Industry Involvement: TPPA Swine Health committee and Public Policy committee, 2013-Present; Illinois Pork Producers Association, 1992-2002; 21st Century Pork Club; 21st Century Crops Club; National Pork Producers Council; Texas and Illinois Farm Bureaus; American Meat Institute; North Plains Groundwater Conservation District; Dalhart Chamber of Commerce; Local 4-H and FFA chapters and the National FFA Organization Favorite Part of Your Job: Having presented at hundreds of industry-related meetings (local, regional, national) over my career and worked with small and large producers from coast to coast, I would say that I have been privileged to see our industry at all levels and appreciate the diversity and work ethic of producers across the country. I have often worked all day on a farm, driven all afternoon to speak at a meeting, and then driven into the night to be at my next farm in the morning; and I enjoyed every minute of it. My goal in all my professional endeavors is to make those who I serve and work with, better and more effective in their roles.
Of course, running a 65,000 head sow operation comes with its own set of unique challenges. Mike names health, sustainable workforce, water and biosecurity as the main challenges he faces on a daily basis. “It’s simple; you have to have good health to raise good animals,” explained Mike. “Availability to a good, skilled work force is necessary. We are always looking for bright individuals to be a part of our team. Water is also a big issue for us. With the drought and so many productive farms in the area, we work to conserve as much as we can.” Without a doubt the number one priority for hog farmers is health and correspondingly, biosecurity. This farm pays very close attention to its biosecurity practices and the welfare of its animals. All visitors must check-in at the main office before entering the farm and no one is allowed on the property if they have had contact with any other hogs within 72 hours. Everyone, including employees are required to shower in and shower out before and after visiting each barn. Extra precautions are taken when transporting hogs because shipping pigs from a farm runs the risk of potentially bringing in disease from the transporting truck to those pigs remaining on the farm. “We keep a clear line of separation between our farm (considered the clean side) and outside of the farm (considered the dirty side),” explained Mike. “To send hogs out or bring hogs in, a transfer station is used. The weaned pigs we ship daily are loaded and taken to the transfer station, where transporting trucks are backed up to the station on the outside. The team member from the clean side only walks the pigs to the loading area, but never crosses the line to the transport truck, just like our haulers never come into the ‘clean’ side of the
By the Numbers Cargill Dalhart
65,000 Total number of sows at the Dalhart farms.
27 Average number of pigs weaned per sow per year.
1.7 million Average number of pigs weaned annually.
330 Total number of employees at Dalhart facilities.
1st Large-scale producer to go 100% group housing.
transfer station.” The Dalhart facility also has its own truck wash, where after being used, every truck is cleaned out, washed, disinfected and sits for the remainder of the day. Additionally, Mike works very closely with a highly respected veterinarian, Scanlon Daniels of Circle H Animal Health. Daniels consults the Dalhart team on all herd health practices and inspects all trucks off site upon their arrival in Dalhart. There too is a truck washing facility in town. There are also numerous other detailed biosecurity steps taken to keep herd health at the highest level possible. An example of another precaution is that each site has their own semen storage station where they pick up their order for the day’s breeding. This is so boar stud employees don’t travel from barn to barn dropping off semen. Another challenge, or should we say opportunity, is the ever-curious consumer. “As the general manager of one of America’s largest and most visible pork production companies, I am challenged almost daily on different production practices from an emotional or social point of view,” said Mike. “Industry stakeholders call me on a regular basis asking questions and wanting to come to the farm and see how we care for our hogs in a respectful manner. I consider this a great chance for me to educate just one more person about swine production and agriculture.” Cargill employees are also involved in Operation Main Street (OMS). This is a Pork Checkoff sponsored, educational program that focuses on speakers traveling to community events across the country, teaching people about swine production and where their pork comes from.
Cargill considers biosecurity a top priority, and follows strict guidelines to insure the health and productivity of their pigs.
After you get past the vastness of Cargill’s operation, you realize that these people are a family. They are very passionate about what they do and are always striving to go above and beyond. The farm has recognition programs to award extra deserving team members. Dalhart’s specialized PEDv team was awarded the CRISP award for diligence and promptness during the PEDv crisis. Once PEDv broke out, the virus ultimately hit every sow within Dalhart’s system, but the PEDv Intervention Team stepped up and handled the situation to the best of their abilities and now has health and production back going strong. The entire Cargill team is dedicated to helping their employees accomplish their goals, and for some, it starts out with their internships. There are currently three internships offered annually at the Dalhart farm. The internship positions are targeted for college juniors and last 12 weeks. Mike is always looking for good people to become valued team members. For most individuals hired, they are placed in a two-year training program. This program gives new employees the chance to learn about the workings of the company and decide what area they are most interested in. After the two years of training is completed, the new employee works with management to decide what area of the operation will benefit from their knowledge. The internship and employment positions provide real life experience in commercial pork production and allow these individuals a chance to learn about all facets of the system. Cargill’s care extends past the hogs that depend upon them; it reaches the community. Among the numerous philanthropic activities, this past year Dalhart’s employees raised a little over $14,000 for the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life. Employees also volunteered at the XIT Rodeo and Reunion, where they fed a delicious pork dinner to approximately 7,000 people in an astonishing two hours! The Dalhart swine farm also sponsors several local charities and are constant supporters of 4-H and FFA at the Dallam/Hartley Bi-County Stock Show. These actions are proof that Cargill cares not only for its employees, but also the community where they live. That is evident by the great deal of attention they dedicate to their environmental stewardship. To do their part in conserving the environment’s natural resources,
Above is an aerial view of the Longview farm. Below are images of a hog barn and the feed mill.
Mike and his crew have implemented several practices to decrease the amount of resources their facilities use. Specifically they use no-till farming, are very diligent about soil sampling, use as minimal irrigation as possible and fertilize the crops with nutrients from the hog manure. Everyday manure is flushed from each hog barn and the solids are separated from the liquids. From there the solids are mixed with vegetation to make compost. Part of Cargill’s mission is to help their customers succeed through collaboration and innovation. Cargill works continuously to ensure their customers are receiving the products they desire and deserve. David MacLennan, Chief Executive Officer for Cargill stated, “Our responsibility also extends to our customers, who rely on us for quality and, increasingly, for the assurance that we can monitor the environmental and social impact of our products and services through the supply chain.” Cargill Pork listens to the questions and concerns consumers have and do their best to educate consumers on certain methods. One recent example of this type of collaboration is when the Dalhart sow farm became the first large-scale producer
to transfer to 100 percent group sow housing. “It is more labor intensive and requires more skill in management, but it fulfilled the consumers’ requests,” explained Mike. The Cargill team considers humane and respectful treatment of animals a moral obligation and do not tolerate any mistreatment. Cargill’s policies are based on the American Meat Institute (AMI) animal welfare and handling guidelines and have designed their practices to keep animals calm, resulting in tender pork. The Dalhart farms goes above and beyond to guarantee the welfare of the animals in their care. For the past two years, Cargill scored 100 percent in third-party Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO). The Dalhart farm is also PQA Plus Site Assessed, and Transport Quality Assurance (TQA) certified. Even though the Cargill Pork business unit recently sold to JBS, the Dalhart farm will continue to operate as normal and be a mainstay in pork production. Mike also gave insight to what he feels like the future will hold for the pork industry. “Consumer knowledge will only continue to grow and the public will want to know
Happy, healthy pigs result in nutritious, delicious pork!
more about their food,â€? said Mike. â€œAlso, as consumer groups have demands and preferences, producers will capitalize on it and meet those requests, resulting in more niche programs. The livestock industry, and agriculture in general, has a bright future. The demand of high quality protein will continue to grow as the population grows, as countries and different populations become more developed, and economies strengthen. As an industry we will certainly have to face some challenges, but new opportunities are waiting to be taken.â€? After visiting with Mike and his team, I realized that whether you own a small show pig operation or a run a massive commercial hog farm, the goal is the same. Both passionate groups work day in and day out, caring for animals the best way possible, being stewards of the environment and producing a quality pork product for our consumers.
Cargill team members pride themselves on running efficient operations and providing the highest quality facilities for their animals, like this cool cell (above) to keep temperatures down. To the right is the transfer station.
Cargill team members are passionate about swine production and caring for the hogs that depend on them. Here is Tag Bradley, Swine Production Manager for Dalhart.
One of the semen drop off stations.
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The Big Picture The Dalhart swine facility operates within Cargill Pork, one of the six protein business units in the Cargill system. The Cargill family founded Cargill, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn., in 1865, and is currently the largest privately owned company in the world. In its 150 years of being in business Cargill has grown to operate 1,200 facilities in 67 countries worldwide. Cargill’s 142,000 employees take great pride in being an international producer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services. Cargill Pork was established after entering the hog business in 1971 and is also headquartered in Wichita, Kan., along with the remaining protein businesses that belong to Cargill Animal Protein and Salt (CAPS). Cargill Pork owns and operates 24 facilities specializing in genetics, nutrition, production, processing, research and sales both nationally and internationally. Additionally, Cargill Pork works with their contract farmers in the wean-to-finish phase of pork production. When most people think of commercial hog farmers, the vision of employees caring for growing, healthy hogs instantly come to mind. However, in Cargill’s case you should add images of environmental and construction specialists to that visual. Aside from the production group, Cargill Pork employs highly trained individuals in their land resource, environmental waste and construction groups. All these groups work together harmoniously to insure the efficiency and quality of Cargill’s total pork chain. Cargill Pork is committed to providing wholesome pork products for their valued customers, and have been frontrunners in industry leading production and processing practices, as well as, innovative in their product and brand offerings. Cargill Pork markets their high quality products on a customer-centered platform and listens to the needs of their potential and existing customers to deliver nutritious pork to their customer’s tables. Today, Cargill Pork offers five branded and private labeled programs to stores in the U.S. and internationally. The Cargill Pork brands include Sterling Silver, Tender Choice, Good Nature, Rumba and Excel.
Thank you Cargill!