By LORETTA SORENSEN
Chris Wevik had a hunch her love for animals was a solid foundation for learning to operate a 2,400-head pork facility. After 11 years of managing day-to-day pork chores on her family’s Beresford, S.D., farm, she now knows her hunch was right on.
“I started doing pig chores in a much smaller facility,” Chris says. “My husband, Doug, was sometimes too busy with grain crops and other chores to tend to pigs needing extra attention. In helping, I found I enjoyed learning about pigs, how to keep them healthy and caring for them every day.”
The Weviks’ new facility, built when Chris took over the job, greatly aided her. Temperature controls, fully automated feeders, waterers and side curtains made the work more efficient, too.
“I was there every day — sometimes for an hour, sometimes for five hours — making sure everybody, every pig, was healthy,” Chris says. “After a while, I learned to recognize unusual behavior and spot injuries or illness.”
Automatic sorting pens helped Chris keep heavies singled out and ready for market. If an animal was injured or needed treatment, sorting pens made it easier to single it out.
“If the pig was mobile and could run, it was still a challenge sometimes,” she says. “I usually put all the pigs in that particular pen out in the alley. Then I moved healthy ones back into a pen and singled out the one I wanted to isolate without too much trouble.
“If a pig was dead or not ambulatory, I used either a sled or carcass cart to load and move it out of the facility,” she adds.
Doug left daily chores to Chris, but assisted when new pigs came in and finished pigs were loaded out. He also managed the finances.
“We’re a good team,” Chris says. “We look at pork production differently. When I first gave pigs shots, they’d squeal, and I’d say, ‘I’m sorry! I’m sorry!’ I hated to think of causing them more pain.
“Women look at things more from an emotional perspective. I became attached to some pigs I thought were rather special. If I had to treat them for something and then send them to market, that was hard. But I got over it.”
The computerized alarm system that dialed programmed phone numbers when there was a facility problem was a great aid. It helped keep pigs consistently fed, watered and at correct temperatures.
Chris and her husband recently sold the hog barn so that Chris could pursue another dream: writing.
“I could probably do pork chores for another 10 years,” she says, “but I want to pursue the writing now.”
Sorensen writes from Yankton, S.D.
This article published in the October, 2011 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.
All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.