Swine Training graduates say they liked what they learned
More opportunities are planned
By Carol Stender
WASECA, Minn. -- Instead of caps and gowns, the first "graduates" of the Swine Training Program wore coveralls and boots.
Their graduation site was the Southern Research and Outreach Center's swine facility, where the group finished its final training session.
The students were all hog producers or swine farm workers attending the pilot program's course on breeding and gestation management. The group had attended four classroom sessions in July where topics of mating systems, successful gilt introduction, breeding practices, pregnancy management and troubleshooting reproductive failure were discussed. In August, the class of 21 was split so smaller units could have a hands-on opportunity at the SROC for artificial insemination, estrus detection and pregnancy detection.
"Our plan was to keep the class size small at 20 but we did let 21 in," said Gene Tinker of the SROC. "We wanted to have a lot of interaction and discussion."
Students said that, while they already knew some of the material, they learned from hearing the information again and liked talking to others. They also were interested in the SROC facility and its research on breeding and gestation programs.
The curriculum was developed by the National Pork Board and has been offered in other states. This is Minnesota's first offering of the program, which is sponsored by the Minnesota Pork Producers Association, the Extension Service and University of Minnesota Swine Center. The program is implemented through a committee that will evaluate the first session and plan other courses. The group hopes to add more topics and expand it statewide.
Curriculum is geared toward all types of hog production .
The group attending the first course was diverse. Byron Anderson of Hugo is a veteran hog producer who left the industry in the 1980s when hog markets dropped. He's been out of the business for 15 years, but has started raising hogs again mainly to provide swine for 4-H members, including his own grandchildren. Anderson appreciated the hands-on training in artificial insemination. Anderson plans to use AI for the bulk of his breeding operation.
Andy Reichel works for Lake Country Farms, a 2,500-sow facility near Vernon Center. He grew up in Mankato with no production experience but sought a job at Lake Country after his mother-in-law talked about the swine industry. He's worked with Lake Country for almost three years in the breeding and gestation area.
"This session helped me with the selection of the animals and the conditioning of them," he said. "It was what I wanted to get out of it."
Steve Ward of St. Peter raised hogs for 25 years but quit in 1995. He enjoys working with swine and sought a job with a local 600-sow unit operation. Like others, Ward said he would like to attend more sessions in the future.