The 2017 South Dakota Master Pork Producers include: Dan Rodas, Spencer; Lenny Wipf, Lakeview Colony, Lake Andes and Bruce Burkhart, Dell Rapids. The Honorary Master Pork Producer is Jeri Westra, Smithfield, Lennox.
Bruce Burkhart, Dell Rapids, originally started with a farrow-to-finish operation, and in 1998 built a 2,000-head, naturally ventilated finishing barn.
It took seven meetings with Minnehaha County officials before being approved, but Burkhart approached the situation as a teaching opportunity to educate local officials on modern pork production. His efforts proved successful, because when he applied for a permit in 2008 to build a second 2,000-head mechanically ventilated finishing barn, it was approved the first meeting.
Burkhart later switched to strictly finishing pigs so he could to do a better job managing pigs and other enterprises. In 2012 he joined the Pipestone System.
Today, he markets 8,000 pigs annually. The feed comes from the Edgerton feed mill. Burkhart utilizes split-sex feeding and hot water heat from a wood-burning furnace to keep his pigs warm.
He believes that continual preventative maintenance and paying attention to details EVERY day is what makes them successful. In 2017, the pigs in his barns had a 1.58 pound average daily gain, a 2.53 feed efficiency, and a 4.79 percent wean-to-finish mortality.
Along with sons Jase (full time) and Brandon (part time), long time employee, Lenny Stahl, helps make a successful team. Kim Morgan and Mike Vanden Bosch from Pipestone System are Burkhart's main resources.
Burkhart is also an environmental steward. He applies all the manure from the finishing barns on his own crop ground. When soil phosphorus levels were getting high on his ground close to the place, he trucked the manure 5 miles away to another set of fields to make sure they were utilizing the manure in an environmentally sustainable way. He also plants trees for odor control.
Not only is Burkhart an excellent pork producer, but in 2016 he was recognized by Ag United for South Dakota with the AgVocate of the Year award for his work on educating policy makers and the general public on what a modern family farm looks like through the Adopt A Farmer program and testifying at local hearings.
For more information regarding pork production in South Dakota, please contact Bob Thaler, Professor and SDSU Extension Swine Specialist or Ryan Samuel, Assistant Professor and SDSU Extension Swine Specialist.
Courtesy of iGrow. Bruce Burkhart, Dell Rapids, was named a 2017 South Dakota Master Pork Producer and is one of three South Dakota pork producers recognized during the S.D. Master Pork Producer banquet held this January in Sioux Falls.He is pictured here (third from left) with with (left to right) Tom Grady, Boehringer Ingelheim; Ryan Samuel, Assistant Professor & SDSU Extension Swine Specialist; and Joe Miller, The First National Bank in Sioux Falls.
Dan Rodas, Spencer, grew up on a dairy farm in northeast Iowa, but Rodas is a natural pig person and leader.
He started with Pipestone Systems in 2002 and has moved up rapidly, holding supervisory positions at multiple barns. He managed the first barn in the Pipestone System to wean 12 pigs per litter, and now has the best producing barn in their system weaning 35.78 pigs per sow per year.
Rodas leads by example and has high standards for himself and his 18 employees. He believes this projects a "Will Do" attitude to his crew, and strives to develop a team mentality. Also, Dan believes that you have to make the difficult, but right decisions.
His philosophy appears to working because the farm also has a 92 percent farrowing rate, 15.7 pigs born live per litter, and has weaned 14-plus pigs per litter for 54 straight weeks.
Currently they wean at 19 days of age, but plan to build more farrowing rooms and wean at 24 days of age to help the pigs get off to a stronger start at weaning.
The feed for the farm comes from Central Farmers in Montrose.
Thunder Ridge utilizes DNA Genetics, and is also the highest producing farm in the DNA system. To protect the health of the animals, they follow a strict biosecurity plan, and replacement gilts are brought to the farm at weaning. Rodas believes that great protocols are essential to their success, and he also gives a lot of credit to Dr. Luke Minion, Dr. Scott VanderPoel, Dr. Emily McDowell and Jared Hemelstrand as excellent mentors and resources.
Courtesy of iGrow. Dan Rodas, Spencer, was named a 2017 South Dakota Master Pork Producer and is one of three South Dakota pork producers recognized during the S.D. Master Pork Producer banquet held this January in Sioux Falls. He is pictured here (third from left) with with (left to right) Tom Grady, Boehringer Ingelheim; Ryan Samuel, Assistant Professor & SDSU Extension Swine Specialist; and Joe Miller, The First National Bank in Sioux Falls.
Lenny Wipf, Lakeview Colony, Lake Andes, started working with pigs in 2002 and has been the swine manager at Lakeview Colony since 2012. He was actively involved in the building of the original barn.
The operation is a 1,000 sow, farrow-to-finish operation using Genesus genetics. There are 1,000 sows, 3,500 nursery pigs and 3,000 finishing pigs on-site.
Offsite they have three, 1,000 head finishing barns and one, 2,400 head wean-to-finish barn. Sows are bred in crates, but then put in gestation pens two days after breeding.
Wipf and his crew sort females based on weight and backfat so they can manage the sows better with less competition, and gilts are placed into their own pens.
They also use hot water radiant heat to keep the pigs warm. Wipf has four other people working with him on-site, and there's an additional person who oversees the offsite barns and the feed mill.
Pork production is done differently at Lakeview Colony.
They are part of an "Antibiotic Free Program" with Natural Foods in Sioux Center, Iowa.
Not only are all diets free of antibiotics and animal-based feed ingredients, but they also utilize pen gestation, and farrowing crates that are turned into farrowing pens three days after farrowing.
With these unique circumstances, Wipf and his crew of four are producing an impressive 29 pigs/sow/year, which takes a lot of extra management and skill. However, Wipf credits their success to the guys doing the work, saying they all work together in a team effort.
Also, Wipf utilizes Dr. Rob Fisher & Dr. Jon Ertl from Sioux Nation for nutrition and herd health advice.
Courtesy of iGrow. Lenny Wipf, Lakeview Colony, Lake Andes, was named a 2017 South Dakota Master Pork Producer and one of three South Dakota pork producers recognized during the S.D. Master Pork Producer banquet held this January in Sioux Falls. He is pictured here (third from left) with (left to right) Tom Grady, Boehringer Ingelheim; Ryan Samuel, Assistant Professor & SDSU Extension Swine Specialist; and Joe Miller, The First National Bank in Sioux Falls.
2017 South Dakota Honorary Master Pork Producer, Jeri Westra
Jeri Westra, Lennox, was named the 2017 South Dakota Honorary Master Pork Producer, and was recognized along with the three South Dakota Master Pork Producers during the 2018 S.D. Master Pork Producer banquet.
The Honorary Master Pork Producer award is given to an individual who, while not involved in day-to-day pork production, has made a significant contribution to the South Dakota swine industry and the farm families that make it up.
Westra grew up on diversified livestock operation in southeast South Dakota. He is a graduate of South Dakota State University. Following graduation, Westra started in the packing industry first working with IBP in the late 1970's.
He then went to worked for Cloughtery Pack, Los Angles Ca. where he covered terminal markets, as well as buying out of stations in Nebraska, Missouri and Colorado. Interestingly, back then, the hogs were still loaded on rail cars and shipped to Los Angles.
Wanting to return home, Westra then took a position with Steele Siman Commission Company in the Sioux Falls Stockyards. In 1984, Westra made the move across the street and started with John Morrell & Co as area Hog Buyer covering southeastern South Dakota. Since then, he has held a variety of positions within the company. Westra currently serves as the Director of Procurement for Sioux Falls Smithfield plant.
Since the plant harvests approximately 19,500 pigs per day and more than 5.5 million pigs each year, Westra and his crew are kept very busy. However, Westra still maintains a very close relationship with the pork producers of South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska. He views them more as family than clients.
Westra serves the South Dakota pork industry in many ways outside the plant. He has serve as the Lincoln County 4-H swine superintendent, and has served for many years on multiple committees of the Sioux Empire Farm Show. Westra was instrumental in purchasing the current State Fair 4-H Swine Show hogs - the show means a lot of work for Westra and his team because they individually tattoo and weigh more than 500 4-H pigs, as well as write checks to the 4-H youth that are showing them.
Westra is a supporter of the South Dakota Master Pork Producers by having Smithfield Foods donate the pork served to the 250-plus attendees of the annual banquet. Also, he is a very proud Jackrabbit alumni and supports his alma mater by having Smithfield Foods donate all the pork used at the SDSU Pork Classic basketball games, as well as the 20 pork bundles auctioned off. That support alone provides at least $4,000 additional of scholarship money to SDSU students pursuing a career in some facet of pork production.
Westra is very active in the Delaware Reformed Church, and currently serves as a church elder. Also, he has served on the Board of Center of Hope Outreach Ministry, which does Christian mission work in downtown Sioux Falls.