By Josh Maschhoff, The Maschhoffs
When it comes to staffing and managing a sow farm, The Maschhoffs has a standard plan in place. However, sometimes it’s necessary to think outside the box to set a farm up for success.
At The Maschhoffs, our general plan for sow farm staffing is to establish a farm manager to lead and manage the farm. This individual is responsible for the overall farm’s success from a production and people standpoint.
Recently, we’ve taken that one step further by placing the profit and loss responsibility for the farm completely in the farm manager’s hands. Like the majority of the swine industry, we have an established bonus program for our production sow farms. However, we’re different in that our sow farm teams’ bonuses are completely within their control. It’s all part of establishing greater ownership at the level where animal care is taking place.
Traditionally, the farm manager oversees two team leads—one for breeding and one for farrowing. Each team lead is responsible for a team of animal caregivers. This is our standard staffing plan for the vast majority of our sow farms. It works extremely well for farms of all sizes—so long as the work is largely conducted within a manageable area.
Applying a different structure to the home farm
This plan was not working well for our home farm—aka Maschhoff Pork Farm or MPF (as we refer to it internally). Just as the name implies, the home farm sits all around my family’s home. Grandpa and grandma (Wayne and Marlene) can walk out their back door and be at the home farm in less than 100 yards. I grew up just down the road at my parents’ (Dave and Karen) house.
While that description makes it sound quaint, in all actuality, it is the largest sow farm in our system. The current mated inventory sits right around 12,500 sows. A large farm, for sure, but not the largest in the U.S.
What makes this farm unique is its layout. Construction began in 1978. However, it’s been added on to numerous times. It consists of roughly five separate production facilities, which are spread out approximately one mile as a crow flies.
With a farm of this scope, you can see why our standard staffing plan with one farm manager became difficult to manage. In the spring of 2018, we subdivided this farm into five separate farms, each with its own manager. Our goal was to allow each manager to focus on his or her set of production metrics in order to be successful. Rather than one person overseeing a farm that was a tremendous chore in simply verifying that animal care standards were being met, each manager can focus on the core execution of breeding and farrowing.
Also, by reorganizing into five separate farms, we’ve created more opportunities for team members to advance within the company. At The Maschhoffs, we work hard to ensure employees have development paths within the company. This helps foster more of those opportunities.
Another key component of the reorganization was to rename each of the five farms to provide the teams with a sense of ownership. All the barns at MPF carry names of states, based roughly on their location and distance from the Maschhoff family’s home—so, Hawaii is the most distant barn from the home. The five farms follow this same naming strategy—so the Corn Belt farm includes the Illinois, Indiana and Nebraska barns. The team was excited to come up with names that harkened back to the naming conventions that my father, uncle and grandfather established early on in the company’s history.
To restructure this farm, we performed a large number of sow movements to set up each individual farm with a predetermined number of bred sows so we could launch with a uniform set of metrics on Oct. 1, the start of our fiscal year. Throughout the process, it’s been rewarding to see the five smaller teams begin to gel and come together. There’s both a cooperative and competitive spirit that continues to evolve. It’s been extremely rewarding to see that come together.
As we move into FY 19, I’m excited to see the high level of camaraderie among the team. This is a unique situation where I believe a higher degree of management will lead to more ownership, teamwork and, ultimately, improved results.