r Smithfield Premium Genetics e d e ht e r Robert Peffley - Miami, Texas B tlig Spo
n 1936, the Luter family began a small packing plant in Smithfield, Virginia, that grew to become Smithfield Foods, allowing the town of Smithfield to come to be known as the Ham Capital of the World. Smithfield founders knew that to have future success they needed to provide high quality, affordable products. Step by step, Smithfield Foods expanded and developed. During the 1980s, the company began differentiating itself by managing its supply of hogs from conception to processing. By the end of 1998, Smithfield Foods was the number one pork producer in the United States and growing internationally. Today, Smithfield Foods is the largest pork producer and processor in the United States and has a global presence in 12 countries. Murphy-Brown LLC, the livestock subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, is the world’s largest pork producer in the United States. MurphyBrown owns approximately 850,000 sows and marketed 16 million hogs in the 2013 fiscal year. Operations include 460 companyowned farms and contractual business relationships with 2,040 family farms across 12 states. Murphy-Brown is committed to producing high quality products while protecting the environment and preserving family farms. Smithfield Premium Genetics unit, based in Rose Hill, North Carolina, is responsible for improving swine genetics across the company’s production herd. Current TPPA Board member Robert Peffley is tasked with running the genetic nucleus in Texas, which is located just outside of Pampa. Robert is the Operations Manager of Smithfield Premium Genetics-Texas and has been with the company for 17 years. Robert, along with his wife Cyndie, are proud to have raised their children Leah, Laura Beth, Landon, Logan, Kyle and Shannon, on the farm. Spanning over 1,500 acres and employing 54 people, this facility has 3,600 sows farrow to finish and a 230 head boar stud. The farm is split up into 11 different sites; the sow farm, boar stud, two nursery sites, three finisher sites, isolation, an internal truck wash, a transfer station, and an administration office. Robert grew up in Las Cruces, New Mexico on a farm, but never had swine. Peffley worked in the onion fields, since his mom was an onion researcher, while she taught at Texas Tech University. Robert told us about his experience in the onion fields, “It was hard work, but it made me appreciate the dedication that farmers and ranchers give to feed the world.” Robert then moved to Lubbock, and spent the next ten years calling Lubbock home. He attended Texas Tech University but then graduated from West Texas A&M University with a degree in business. While at Tech, Robert worked for the Plant and Soil Science Department; one of his job duties was to place cattle and sheep on and off test plots of alfalfa and corn at the Tech research farm in New Deal. “I loved it! At times, we too went to where the pigs were at and I got to mess around with them some.” After graduation an opportunity arose to work with Dekalb and Robert gave it a shot and appreciated it. Once Dekalb’s business started declining, Peffley started the job hunt and choose to work for Smithfield, which at the time was National Pig Development. After 7 years in North Carolina he decided to work for Prestage Farms in Mississippi, but after 2 years there, went back to Smithfield. “I felt like job security there was better. A vertically integrated company can weather the highs and lows of the pork market,” Peffley explained. In addition to serving as the Smithfield Premium Genetics safety core team leader, Robert is a member of the Miami Booster Club and the Pork Leadership Institute; he serves as a leader on the TPPA Finance Advisory and Public Policy Committees and is the alternate on the Pork Act delegation. Robert has worked in the swine industry for over 25 years and has built many relationships and a wealth of knowledge. Peffley is most proud of his family at home and his family of employees on the farm. Whether being named Farm of the Year, sending major exports of gilts to Mexico, or doing daily projects at the farm, these accomplishments his employees do together is what makes Robert proud.
How does Smithfield Premium Genetics select its genetics? “I view Smithfield Premium Genetics not much different than show pig genetic breeders. Show pig breeders try to give you the best pig on what the show judge wants to see. We select and produce a pig that will have the highest performance and at the same time have the best quality on the dinner plate,” said Peffley. “We have to keep both our production and our consumer customers happy.” Currently, Smithfield Premium Genetics-Texas is maintaining five pure breed lines, with having had up to eight at any one time. Breeds include Large White, Landrace, Duroc, a composite Duroc/Hampshire, and a Pietran/Hampshire solely for their clientele in Mexico. Some of the biggest traits on the production side include born alive, number weaned, average daily gain, and feed conversion; although there are over a dozen traits they look at in the selection process. Each piglet is weighed at birth, weaning, and at 170 days of age. At 170 days of age, pigs are ultra-sounded to measure back fat and loin size. Limitless Opportunities The opportunities are endless with a vertically integrated company; positions are available in production, processing plants and support services. Support services include: transportation, IT, finance and human resources. A typical entry level position would include herd technicians and manager trainees. Other employee positions include production manager, site supervisors, maintenance, sanitation, CDL drivers, herd technicians and office staff. Robert explains, “Finding and keeping good employees is our biggest challenge as we face a big competitor in the oil, gas and wind industries here in the panhandle. With the world population growing and the amount of people involved in agriculture declining, the opportunity for individuals in a pork production company is endless. We need more youth to work in agriculture and be willing to spread the message of the importance of agriculture in America, to anyone willing to listen.” Anyone can go to smithfieldfoods.com or murphybrownllc.com and click the career link to see what opportunities are available. Young people can have the opportunity to work with Smithfield Premium Genetics-Texas through an internship program anytime throughout the year. Many internships have led to positions within the company, whether at the Texas location or another location throughout the United States. “Internships are the perfect way to get your foot in the door and lead to a career in production agriculture. We actually have an individual now that is a nutrition major and once she graduates, will hopefully get involved with our nutrition and feeds group.” Life on the farm is also fun! Logan cruising on the tractor; Leah and Laura show the dress code is not always coveralls and boots.
Good times are had at SPG’s Annual Family Day.
All smiles doing what you love. Robert says “SPG’s success is from having a dedicated and sharp group to work with.” Picured is the SPG Texas Management Team
As part of the Pork Leadership Institute, Peffley works with legislators, here he is pictured with Congressman Gallego on a recent DC trip. I’m sure supplying genetics across the country calls for strict Biosecurity. Can you explain what you do? “Biosecurity helps to keep our pigs and employees healthy and is a must at any operation,” Robert describes. “But here at Smithfield Premium Genetics, we have a detailed and sophisticated set of biosecurity protocols that we all follow to the letter.” No outside trucks are allowed to enter the farm, so transfer stations have been built for transferring pigs that are leaving the facilities from an internal truck to the external truck. Once an internal trailer is loaded with pigs, it will unload at the transfer station on the internal side of the building. The pigs will then walk through the building to the external side where they will be loaded onto a different trailer to be transported to harvest. Once a truck and trailer is unloaded, it goes through the truck wash for washing and disinfecting; this truck will not be used again until the next day to allow for at least an overnight downtime. To accomplish this and keep pigs moving daily, SPG has a fleet of two external trucks, two internal feed tractors and trailers. On the live haul side they have three external tractors and trailers, while internal has four. As for feed, it comes in a belly hopper bottom truck that is unloaded at the feed depot and then augured into several holding bins. When feed is needed it will be augured into the internal feed trucks, for delivery to each site.
Biosecurity doesn’t stop with pigs and feed; each employee has to park in one designated area before they go through a boot room where they leave their personal shoes and put on a pair of farm issued rubber boots. The company then provides transportation to their workplace, where then they must shower in and wear farm issued clothing, before entering into the barn. After the day of work, the employees then shower out to leave their workplace and travel back to their vehicles. All supplies go through a fogging process with disinfectant and sit for 24 hours; they then go out to the sites once a week where they are spray disinfected before being brought into the offices. Who has influenced you the most? “I would say it was my first manager and his boss at Dekalb Swine Breeders. Ken Armes and Rick Snider not only taught me the best husbandry practices possible, but really showed me how to work hard to gain employees respect and to treat your employees with respect so that in turn they will respect you,” Peffley told us. Robert says the best advice he can give to those wanting to raise hogs is based on work ethic and respect. Raising hogs is easy; learning how to deal with people is the hard part. Work hard and show your employees you are willing and able to do anything that you ask of them and you will gain their respect.
Robert’s goal every day is to have his employees go home in the same condition as they came to work. “Worker safety is our number one priority. Our employees are always ready to lend a helping hand, stay late and do whatever it takes to get the job done. Whether it is 18” of snow on the ground or 90 mph winds that have torn up some barns, they employees understand that these pigs depend on us to provide them with clean fresh feed, water and environment on a daily basis.” Other goals include uninterrupted supply of high health, high merit genetic inputs, creation of visible commercial level genetics gain, culture of innovation and execution, focus on their partners’ success and to be the best cost provider available. What does the future hold for Smithfield Premium Genetics-Texas? “Smithfield’s future is bright! Our recent merger with WH Group, which is based in China, only further strengthened our global presence. I believe we are industry leaders in giving the consumer what they want not only today, but five years from now,” said Peffley.
SPG feed depot (above) & truck wash (below)
What are challenges you see facing the pork industry? “Consumer perception on how pigs are raised is huge! Animal welfare, the environment and food safety will continue to be hot topics as well. The pork industry as a whole is headed in the right direction and needs to continue to be proactive in our message and keep the export markets open. As I get more involved I see a side that not many people do. There are many of us out there giving up our work and family time to send a message to the public. I have gotten more involved in both the state and national levels and it has given me a new perspective on what others in the industry face. I think others see the benefits as well and we need more of us out there.” Smithfield Premium Genetics-Texas is committed to the community in which they live and work. They are a member of the Pampa Chamber of Commerce and donate pork products and thousands of dollars a year to various community groups and activities, including Robert County and Top of Texas Livestock shows, PAWS, White Deer basketball tournament, Pampa softball team, Lions Club, Kiwanis, Rotary, Miami booster club, and project graduations. They also contribute to scholarship funds for Texas youth through the purchase of “Symbol” each year at the TPPA annual Pork Industry Conference. “One of my favorite events to attend each year is the Texas Pork Producers Industry Conference. Here I get to meet so many new people and get to know them better, along with listening to industry related topics to grow my knowledge.” Aside from raising hogs, Robert enjoys coaching youth basketball and baseball, playing golf, and traveling.
The use of available technology allows SPG to be more efficient and progressive.
Left: Maternity pens allows for individualized care and a safe environment for each female. Right: Employees keep detailed records of performance on offspring to help continually improve genetics.