Pork caregivers receive exceptional honors

Three Iowa pork producers and one from Minnesota are among five to receive the Honoring Caregivers Award from Zoetis.

Recipients of the 2014 Honoring Caregivers Award were honored at a luncheon and reception at the Zoetis Global Headquarters in Florham Park, N.J. on Oct. 9. Pictured, from left, Gloria Basse, vice president, U.S. Pork Business Unit, Zoetis; Amy Fogarty, Reicks View Farms, Lawler, Iowa; Erin McCoy, Pipestone Systems, Pipestone, Minn.; Lance Dunbar, professional swine management, Carthage, Ill.; Brenda Riemenschneider, Iowa Select Farms, Afton, Iowa; Robin Franzen, Riceville, Iowa; Julie Baker, group marketing director, U.S. Pork Business Unit, Zoetis.

Three Iowa pork producers and one from Minnesota are among five to receive the Honoring Caregivers Award from Zoetis.

Amy Fogarty, Robin Franzen and Brenda Riemenschneider of Iowa, Erin McCoy of Minnesota and Lance Dunbar of Illinois were recently honored at a special reception at the Zoetis headquarters in New Jersey.

It was an all-expenses-paid trip and honorees also received a $1,000 cash prize. This is the second time the award was given out. The five honorees were selected from a pool of more than 130 nominations.

"We received many outstanding nominations for this year's awards and we are inspired by the tireless, dedicated work of pig caregivers," said Gloria Basse, vice president of the Zoetis U.S. Pork Business Unit, in a press release.

An independent panel of people with knowledge within the pork industry evaluated the nominees based on their demonstration of commitment to the following three pillars of pig care:


• Proper treatment: Commitment to the responsible use of antibiotics to protect both animal and human health.

• Proper disease prevention: Commitment to maintaining proper biosecurity, hygiene and vaccination protocols to prevent disease.

• Proper pig handling: Commitment to proper pig handling techniques to ensure pig well-being.

Wonderful experience

The honorees said the experience of being honored has been wonderful.

Fogarty found out she received the Honoring Caregivers Award on her ninth year anniversary with Reicks View Farms in Lawler, Iowa. It was quite emotional and really unexpected, she said.

Fogarty wasn't the only one who was surprised.

"Never in my wildest dreams would something like this happen to me," said Franzen, of Riceville. She works for Brian Duncan and Keith Poole, farmers from Illinois, who own the hogs she cares for.


McCoy learned she was an award winner at a surprise party at Pipestone Veterinary Services.

"I didn't even know I was nominated," she said.

McCoy isn't normally in the office for lunch, but she was to be in that day for a mandatory meeting. But instead of walking into a meeting, she was greeted by cries of surprise. Some of the producers she works with even drove an hour to be part of the celebration.

In was her second trip to New York this year. The first was a bridal shower for her cousin who grew up in Minnesota and met a guy from New York in college.

"It's quite the experience going to New York," she said.

McCoy met a lot of different people and had a very nice lunch at Zoetis headquarters. She enjoyed meeting all the other award winners.

"It was quite the honor to be standing up next to all of them," McCoy said.

They did a lot of fun things, but Zoetis impressed Franzen the most.


"Zoetis was fabulous," Franzen said.

The Zoetis employees she met truly cared about what she is doing in the barn. They asked questions, trying to discover how they can work better with pork producers as part of their team, she said.

They saw some pretty impressive sights, but "by far and away, team Zoetis really was my No. 1," Franzen said.

The people at Zoetis had a lot of interest in what they did, Fogarty agreed. It was her first visit to New York City.

"It was amazing, truly amazing," she said. They went on an eight-hour tour of the city and saw the Empire State Building, Freedom Tower, the Statue of Liberty and Rockefeller Center.

"I just felt pretty honored to have that opportunity. It was pretty special, it really was," Fogarty said.

Prior to raising hogs, Fogarty worked as a certified nursing assistant. She considered nursing school, but a sister who worked in the pork industry encouraged her to apply for a job at Reicks. It paid well and she likened the job to being a pig nurse.

Many who knew her thought she'd made a mistake pursuing a pork industry career.


"They didn't think I'd last three days," Fogarty said.

Nine years later, she supervises 45 people at the hog operation and leads the farm's animal welfare policy. She is a Pork Quality Assurance adviser and trains employees on PQA care. She does sow farm audits, and trains employees on proper animal handling and injection procedures. She reviews the We Care program with employees. They have monthly sessions on animal care for all employees who care for animals and office personnel also attend.

Growing in industry

McCoy grew up in the hog industry — her parents had a farrow-to-finish operation near Tracy — and she's worked for Pipestone System since 2002, joining the company full time in 2008 after she graduated from South Dakota State University with an animal science degree.

McCoy is a field supervisor with Pipestone System. She offers management advice to producers in the Pipestone System. On a typical day, she'll travel to buildings in the tri-state area to make sure ventilation is set right and get piglets started correctly. She also helps producers with marketing hogs. The good prices of late are welcome by producers.

"It's really nice to see some guys who really went through a tough time in 2008, 2009 to catch a break," she said.

McCoy is cognizant of biosecurity protocols as she is a high risk, visiting several farms in a day. She puts on a new shoe cover as she gets out of her truck and dons clean coveralls and gloves. She wears new barn boots whenever she enters a barn and producers must wear a different pair of boots in the barn than on the rest of their farm.

In addition to working with producers, McCoy shares information about pork production with consumers at a variety of venues, including the Lincoln County Fair and Pipestone County Fair where Pipestone System has a sow that farrows. After the fair, the sow and litter are donated to a 4-H family and become a 4-H project.


At the Sioux Empire Fair in Sioux Falls, Pipestone System sponsors a Discovery Barn similar to the Miracle of Birth Center at the Minnesota State Fair. McCoy helps with the sows farrowing there and has great discussions with consumers. Many people walk up to the farrowing crate with a negative impression, but once it's explained, they walk away content, she said. They also have questions about runt pig care, assuming all runt pigs are euthanized. The discussions are eye-opening, McCoy said.

The sows and piglets from the Sioux Empire Fair go to a 4-H farm for kids who don't live on farms and have livestock.

McCoy said she enjoyed trading information with the other award winners on the trip to New York City, especially the woman who feeds sweet potatoes to her piglets to get them started.

That's Franzen, who gets pigs at anywhere from eight pounds to 12 pounds. It's her job to get them started on feed and she tries just about everything. In addition to the sweet potatoes, which are high in Vitamin B, she cans extra apples, buys organic baby food and slices potatoes for her "babies."

It doesn't matter if the pigs are ankle high or hip high, Franzen refers to them as her babies.

"It's all about the babies from start to finish," she said.

Jello and Kool-Aid also work to entice piglets to feed, Franzen said. She's always looking for new ideas to get pigs off to a good start.

"We want to keep them healthy . . . we want to keep them happy," she said.


Franzen didn't intend to work in the pork industry. When she was little, she got chased by one of her grandfather's sows, which left her utterly terrified of pigs. But after her husband, Keith, took over the barn and she saw the piglets she was hooked.

She knows the animals by their personality: Which one is the biter, which one needs to be scratched behind the right ear, the one who needs its back rubbed and the one who will chase her around the pen.

They barn holds 2,500 pigs and turns two times a year. It takes two semis to fill the barn and 12 or 13 to empty.

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