Wallaces Farmer

The Maschhoffs leader says he's learned a lot through COVID-19 pandemic.

Janet Kubat Willette, E-Content Editor

May 26, 2020

2 Min Read

Risk is a constant in the hog production industry and this year is no exception, a self-described southern Illinois farm boy said during a May 22 Farm Doc Daily webinar on the impact of the coronavirus on pork production.

Bradley Wolter, CEO & president, The Maschhoffs, said when he became aware of COVID-19 and saw other businesses, particularly those in urban areas, setting up COVID-19 task forces, The Maschhoffs assembled a response task force.

"We tried to design the company to anticipate risk . . .  wide geographic footprint, locating our breeding herds outside of the growing-dense areas of the Midwest," Wolter said. "We've taken the approach of multiple customers, multiple products that we're selling from weaned pigs to genetic animals to obviously commodity marketing pigs."  

The Maschhoffs is headquartered in. Carlyle, Illinois. Its operations span seven states and include about 195,000 sows and 1,100 employees. In addition, they have about 590 production sites and more than 400 farm partners. Annually, the company markets 4 million pigs to four customers: Smithfield, JBS, Hormel and through the Maschhoff Family Farms brand.

Wolter said the company instituted a multi-faceted approach to manage COVID-19, including the potential for an entire team or pod to go down at once. Fortunately, he said, while they have had positive cases among employees, they haven’t had to enact their contingency plans to a great extent.

Related:United States hog inventory up 4%

He anticipated managing the growth of hogs, but he didn't see the entire U.S. slaughter plant system failing at basically the same time. At one time, plant capacity in the U.S. was less than 50% capacity, Wolter said, and once you lose that capacity it doesn't come back quickly.

When you lose the opportunity to slaughter hogs there are limited options. At The Maschhoffs, they've been selecting hogs for lean growth rate for years, now they are implementing diet and management techniques to control the growth. They've also geared up to euthanize hogs, which is emotional and tough, he said.

Wolter is moving forward with optimism and said he's learned a lot through this pandemic and tested systems he didn't think they would ever need.

Longer term, he's concerned about the availability of workforce as the pork industry relies on immigrant labor and access to capital.

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