Up & Coming Leaders: Meet Austin Putz

( Austin Putz )

Meet Austin Putz, a fresh, new voice of the pork industry who combines innovative thought and work ethic with scientific savvy and a passion to make a difference. 

Age: 28
Hometown: Lacona, Iowa
Education: bachelor’s degree in animal science, Iowa State University; master’s degree in animal science with a focus on animal breeding and genetics, North Carolina State University; currently finishing doctorate in animal breeding and genetics, Iowa State University

Q. What is your background in the swine industry?
A. My passion for the swine industry started at a young age with our small, 10-sow operation. After a short break, we started raising showpigs when I was in junior high. We bought semen from Cain Super Sires in nearby Chariton. In college, Dr. Tom Baas encouraged me to pursue an advanced degree and take the upper level swine class with Dr. Ken Stalder. 

Q. Tell us about your internship experiences.
A. I interned with a 6,000-sow multiplier farm for Fast Genetics in Cando, N.D. Although I knew about raising pigs and had studied swine in college, I knew nothing about large-scale commercial production challenges and opportunities. My second internship was with Smithfield Premium Genetics in Rose Hill, N.C. I started my master’s research on a litter size project and helped with other projects. I worked in the packing plant many Fridays and helped with a growth curve study that continued into the fall. My final internship was at The Maschhoffs in Carlyle, Ill., where I learned about the management side of the swine business. 

Q. Did you take part in undergraduate research?
A. I completed an undergraduate research project with Dr. James Reecy at Iowa State. I collected data at the local beef farms with Dr. Richard Tait and assisted with lab assays. I then worked for Dr. Chris Tuggle in molecular genetics genotyping a putative causal mutation for PRRS resistance along with a mutation close by that was linked to this causal mutation. My second project was preparing samples from the residual feed intake line at ISU for RNA sequencing to find RNA transcripts associated with more feed-efficient pigs. 

Q. What other learning opportunities have you been involved in?
A. I was involved in 4-H and enjoyed going to meetings and being around other local kids who enjoyed raising animals. My job requires a lot of computer work and data analysis as a geneticist, however I always enjoy getting out to farms and helping collect data or learn from farmers. Most data analysists and geneticists get too far away from raising pigs. 

Q. Tell us about your current research. 
A. I am studying disease resistance in pigs with a group of professors and industry leaders from the main Canadian swine breeding companies who joined together to create a collaboration between industry and academia called PigGen Canada. In our disease resistance trials, barrows from a clean multiplier are sent through a highly diseased barn that naturally infects new pigs from older ones in a continuous flow system. My research focuses on the ability to quantify the level of disease resistance in each pig by using individual daily feed intake over time. I have developed novel traits to quantify disease resistance. 

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