Sixth-generation hog farmer describes her journey and why keeping on top of biosecurity is a must.
By Acacia Hagan | Photos courtesy of Two Mile Pork, LLC
“I grew up on our family’s farm in Northeast Missouri. After college I married my husband, Jared. He and his family are row crop farmers, and together we teach our children, Stella, Morgan, and Carter how to care for our animals and land to the best of our ability.”
Two Mile Pork, LLC (aka TMP) is in the Monroe City area of Missouri, and was started in 1994 by my father, Scott, and mother, Riss Hays, and her father and mother, Larry and Dorothy Abell, who were already in a row crop partnership with A & H Farms.
Other founders of Two Mile Pork also include Scott’s parents, Nick and Henri, and two pairs of his uncles and aunts - Pat and Margie Hays, and Tony and Jeanne Hays - who were fourth generation row crop and hog farmers as Hays Brothers LLC.
Since then, another great uncle and aunt, Joe and Marie Purol, have become part of the Two Mile Pork ownership group.
All in all, six couples - all related to me - own TMP with my father Scott acting as manager.
As a sixth-generation hog farmer, raising pigs has always been a passion. I was four when the original sow unit was completed, though there have been several additions to get it to the 4,000 head site it is today. I like to tell people “I was not born in a barn, but I was raised in one” and most of my five siblings would agree with me that growing up in the sow unit was great. It probably helped that as young kids the people we worked with spoiled us with snacks.
The summer after my second year of college, I took a production internship in Iowa. In the evenings we had meetings with people from all areas of pork production. One of them, a veterinarian, stopped me after a meeting and asked, “What do you plan to do after college?” I thought for a minute and said, “I am not sure because the only thing I know how to do is raise pigs.”
Luckily, my father persuaded me to get my degree in Agriculture Business, which provided me with several options. The next summer, I became involved in another production internship - this time in Illinois. By the end of that summer, I had agreed to come back full time after graduation as a farrowing house lead.
A lot of people have asked why I was not working for my family at Two Mile Pork. The simple answer: family rules.
My grandad Nick had a rule that his children needed to work off the farm for someone else for a while, so they understood how to be better leaders. My father passed this rule down to his children. So after one year off the farm, I came home to TMP to do data entry, logistics, oversee contract finisher production, and fill in as needed elsewhere. That same month was when I married my high school sweetheart, Jared, and we now have three children of our own: Stella (6); Morgan (2); and Carter (9 months as of April 2022).
Eight years ago, when I joined the TMP team, we had one sow farm, located two miles north of Monroe City, and a handful of finishing facilities.
We also had several contract finishing facilities, where we partner with a farmer who has a barn and wants the manure for his row crop operation, and we provide the pigs, vet care, feed, and sometimes labor.
Since then, Jared and I have built our own contract finisher, and my sister and brother-in-law, Dahrea and Kody, also bought a contract sow farm. Dahrea and my brother, Laine, also work full time at Two Mile Pork. We are blessed to have been shown a great example of how to work alongside siblings from the generations before us.
TMP has undergone a lot of change in the past year.
In the summer of 2021, we depopulated the original sow farm. It had never been completely emptied in its previous 26 years of operation, so the disease load was high.
We used a couple of offsite finishers to bring in new gilts and breed them to ensure we would not have too much nonproductive time.
After studying multiple options and talking to several people, we decided to repopulate our farm with Acuity genetics. Unfortunately, halfway through depopulating that farm the second sow herd broke with PRRS, so we made a quick decision to depopulate it as well.
After the piglets leave our sow farm most of them go to a nursery farm where the barns are designed to take piglets from 12-15 pounds up to 50-60 pounds. At that weight, we move them into a finisher that will raise them up to 280-300 pounds where we sell them as market pigs.
Especially after putting a whole new breeding stock into both sow farms, biosecurity is one of our top priorities. It’s outranked only by animal well-being and employee safety.
Some biosecurity measures we take are:
- Adequate downtime between farms. This applies internally to ourselves and our coworkers and externally to our veterinarian and other visitors;
- Shower in/ shower out where possible. When not available, change of boots and coveralls and wash hands;
- Site Cleanliness. This includes washing between groups and keeping rodent bait stations filled.
Until I came back to work full time at Two Mile Pork, I had not realized how lucky I was to be raised on the farm.
I am excited to go to work every day because most of our coworkers are more like family than coworkers. A couple of them have been there for over 20 years, so they were around while I was growing up, and now get to watch my children grow up.
I am happy that I work at a place where faith and family has always been valued, and we will use those values to continue to do our best to feed the world.