Four Pillars of Success for America's Pig Farmer of the Year


Paul Nolan

For Keith Schoettmer, the success of any pig-farming operation is based on four specific pillars of support. Herd health. Genetics. Buildings and Environment. People and Pig Care.

“It’s like a four-legged stool,” explains America’s Pig Farmer of the Year for 2015. “All four legs are very important to success, be it on our farm, or any other farm.”

When the 57-year-old first-generation farmer discusses Schoettmer Prime Pork it’s clear he is an exceptional business manager who cares deeply about his employees, and who understands their importance.

“We think all four areas have to be strong, and have to be in balance. But we do put a lot of emphasis on the ‘people’ side of it.”

“If you don’t have the people in place – if you don’t have the right people in the right seats on the bus – the other three legs won’t hold up the stool. You can have the best genetics, the best buildings or environment, you can have good health, but without the right people, you won’t achieve optimum success.”

" You Can Have The Best Genetics, The Best Buildings Or Environment, You Can Have Good Health, but Without The Right People, You Won't Achieve Optimum Success."

Schoettmer has approximately 1,050 sows and they produce 22,000 to 23,000 finished pigs a year on 87 acres in Tipton, Indiana.

He explains that those four pillars also serve as a focus for analytics “when productivity is not where it should be. We look at those four areas and try to determine where the leak is.” And he points out that PigCHAMP Knowledge Software helps him manage and analyze in any or all of those four key performance and productivity indicators.

“There are production numbers that PigCHAMP can reveal, for example, preweaning mortality. If those numbers creep up on us, the software will expose that.”

“Another example is farrowing rate loss. We use the software to first open our eyes – and then will ask, ‘do we need to look at our management on this?’”

“And certainly PigCHAMP will reveal some genetic challenges, or successes. If our number of total born begins to decrease, we will then look at the genetic side.”

Keith Schoettmer

Schoettmer says the software “helps us get the right sows back into the herd. This is a closed herd. So it’s important that with all the tools offered, we can identify our most productive lines. We can identify the top-producing sows and breed them to maternal semen to produce replacement gilts.”

“This is important because we are not just talking about culling decisions, but we are talking about internal genetic multiplication for the next generation sow herd.”

“It allows us to dig into the next layer of data. Not just the total pigs born, but we can also see the correlation between all the different pieces of the puzzle. For example, how weaning age can affect return to estrus time and how that affects subsequent litter size in a genetic line.”

“It helps us see the intercorrelation (I might have just made up a new word there). But it takes us to the next level. We can even identify our best AI technicians, what days are our strongest, and that goes back to getting the right people in the right seat on the bus.”

Shoettmer says another advantage is that the software gives their veterinarian full access to the farm’s records at any time. “It’s good that he can analyze our data before he comes for a visit. There is value in that.”

Schoettmer was announced by the National Pork Board as the Pig Farmer of the Year last October, and he is the first-ever recipient of the award. The program identifies a top producer who excels at raising pigs using the We Care ethical principles and connects with consumers about how pork is produced.

“We consider ourselves a very traditional farm,” he says. “Not old-fashioned. But traditional. I always like to draw that distinction. We are essentially a single-site farm, and a traditional farrow-to-finish operation, which includes a feed mill on-site.”


The company employee eight people full-time. Six in production, plus a full-time feed mill person and a full-time maintenance person.

“A lot of folks have been with us for quite a few years. Employee retention is important to us, as we truly believe it’s a group effort. We just recently celebrated one employee being here for 20 years, and a couple more are coming up to 20 years.”

The Schoettmers raised their four children on the farm. “They all worked here growing up, and while none are living back here, they still love coming back to visit. The all have the fondest memories of growing up on a pig farm.”

And that pride in their business and life on the farm is something the Purdue alumnus takes very seriously in his role as the nation’s Pig Farmer of the Year.

“There are a tremendous number of great producers. We were incredibly honoured and humbled that our peers saw fit to recognize us in this way.”

“We try to do the best we can do to portray the pig industry in the light that it deserves. It is a very noble industry. We need to tell people that.”

“We get to be on our soapbox here for a year. So we need to let people know what the pig industry is all about. We are throwing open our doors and letting people see what our story is, and how things really are in this industry.”


- Paul Nolan
Paul Nolan is Senior Manager for Farms.com. 36 37