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A Human resources.


Of all the resources in a pig production unit, the human resources are the most valuable. People will either make a unit fly or they will send it down the tubes. Fully automated pig production units with no human workers are unlikely to ever be achieved and are certainly not desirable. Efforts are underway to automate the more mundane tasks on a pig unit, but these efforts are very far from being implemented.

The difference between a successful pig production unit and an unsuccessful one is in the labor. Problems arise from the following categories:

1. Finding motivated workers

2. Training workers to have consistently high productivity

3. Retaining skilled workers

Two types of employees are sought by commercial pig units: those with experience and those without experience. Those new employees who have pig industry experience must be retrained to follow the procedures required by the new employer. Sometimes it is easier to train naive workers than to retrain people who have learned skills that are inappropriate to the new unit.

Workers can be further divided by level of education. New recruits may not have finished high school or may be high school graduates, 2-year college graduates, or 4-year graduates. They may have graduate or professional degrees. Workers with various degrees may or may not have pig experience.

Workers can be found in local communities, in the region, from nearby and distant universities, and even from overseas (Europe, in particular). Two common philosophies in pig production units are: (1) to hire the best people and move them to the region, especially for middle and upper management, or (2) to hire local people and train them starting with lower-level positions and move them up to middle and upper management positions. At this time, each philosophy has variable success rates.

Training workers is a critical component of both herd productivity and worker retention. When workers are trained properly, they feel the company is looking out for their continued development and giving them opportunities to be productive. Workers who feel the company cares about their needs in the workplace (and at home) are more likely to have a positive attitude about their job. Workers tend to be in either an improving or a declining productive phase. To keep workers improving or maintaining a high level of productivity requires both initial training and continued education and retraining.

Retention of workers has become a major problem, especially in large-scale pork production. Annual turnover rates over 50% are common. The first step in retaining workers is to keep them motivated. Once workers lose their motivation for the job, productivity slips and their attitude spirals down.

The following pointers may help keep motivation high for pig industry workers:

* Employees like the management to know them on a personal basis. The management should know the worker's name, family members, and a few interests of the employee.

* Although managers know parts of the worker's personal life, the employees need to have a private life that company doesn't see. Personal problems should be left for the employee to bring up in conversation. The management can then take an interest in the problem without prying.

* Off times, recreation, and family times are important for today's workers. Family time should be quality time. If workers stay at the farm for many hours and are tired or even exhausted when they get home, they cannot get enough quality family time. This leads to worker burnout.

* Families should know where the workers spend their time. Tyler suggests holding an open house so family members can see where their relative works.

* Managers should ask prospective employees about hobbies and special interests during the interview. People who have regular hobbies often enjoy talking about them.

* Employees should be trained in the history and development of the company. This builds loyalty and mutual respect.

* Employees and employers need to look at the relationships from the other side of the fence. They should explore ways to make it a better work experience and a more profitable enterprise.


The restructuring of American pig production has resulted in an improvement in labor efficiency--fewer people are required to run a pig production unit. This trend results in the supervision of more and more animals per worker.

On a modern farrow-to-finish unit, the number of full-time workers is in the range of one worker per 200 to 300 sows. For very small units (1 to 200 sows), more than one person might be needed, at least for some task and to cover all 365 d/yr. The basic unit of production in modern pig units is the 1,200-sow unit or multiples of this size. A 1,200-sow unit (breeding and farrowing only) will wean and market about 1,000 pigs/wk with five on-farm employees. A 2,400-sow unit should wean and market about 1,000 males and 1,000 females/wk using 9 or 10 on-farm employees. A 4,800-sow complex might use 18 to 20 on-farm employees. The larger the farm, the more specialized (and presumably proficient) labor can become.

This appendix lists the jobs needed in a large-scaled pig unit. In smaller units, all of these job responsibilities may be held by one person. By looking at the large number of jobs and the specialized skills required, one can see that few individual people would be qualified for each and every job on the unit.

Following the list of job titles and responsibilities is a study of areas in the broad category of human resources that people should be familiar with if they are to be effective workers and leaders.


A list of job titles and responsibilities for a modern farm spans over 20 jobs descriptions (see organizational charts, Figures A-1 to A-5). These jobs could be held by one person per job or several people. The days of one person being skilled in all jobs are long gone. If one person runs a smaller farm, he or she will need to hire part-time consultants or specialists to handle some of the specialized tasks such as engineering, buildings and waste handling, veterinary medicine, accounting, and others.






A fully self-contained pig unit is probably impossible. Outside consultation is usually necessary and certainly is desirable for maximum efficiency.

A list of common jobs, by title and responsibility, follows. An organizational chart is included to show how the chain of command might work.

General Manager

The General Manager oversees both the business and biological components of the enterprise and is ultimately responsible for the unit's internal and external operations. The General Manager is usually either the owner or the person that the owner considers ultimately responsible for the production unit.

Communications Director

A pig unit needs to communicate effectively with the local community and other people external to the organization. The company should have a positive image in the community and this can only be established by the purposeful efforts of a skilled communications specialist. If the farm does not have specialists in communication, people should obtain training in effective communication techniques. Good relations with the local community will assure continued success of the pig unit. Alternatively, poor communication with the public will certainly cause the company financial hardships.

Business Manager

The Business Manager is responsible for the accounting, bookkeeping, office administration, human resources, benefits administration, worker's compensation, vacation and sick leave management, and any other nonpig, nonequipment function of the unit. This manager oversees all business and accounting affairs of the company.

Production Manager

The Production Manager is responsible for all of the people and activities related to live-pig production. Animal transport and effluent management may come under the Production Manager's control. All Unit Managers, Farrowing Managers, Breeding Managers, Nursery Managers, and Growing-Finishing Managers report to the Production Manager.

Special Services Manager

The job responsibilities of the Special Services Manager could be split between the Business and Production Managers, but for this illustration they are separate. Examples of departments that might fall under the Special Services Manager include Transport, Waste Management, Safety, Training, Veterinary Care, Feed Milling, Facility Maintenance, and perhaps others. On mid-sized farms, the jobs of the Special Services Manager are split among workers holding the other job titles.

Research and Technical Director

This job and the workers under this leader might be in-house or they might be parttime consultants. The pig unit must be very large in scale to be able to afford full-time professionals in these jobs. Most of the workers in this division will have professional degrees up to the Ph.D. degree for many slots. With such professionals in this division, the Research and Technical Director often has a veterinary, engineering, or animal science advanced degree.


These jobs are the core workers that make the farm run. Workers in this division must have an understanding of pig biology, management skills, and interpersonal and organizational skills. These job descriptions apply to large farms and a three-site production layout (breeding-farrowing, nursery, and growing-finishing). As such, there must be at least three production staffs--one for each site. To have this layout, with clear advantages for biosecurity and labor specialization, requires at least 1, 200 sows for efficient operation.

Breeding and Farrowing Supervisor

This individual would oversee the sow herds for the entire production system. If the unit has 10 sow units, each with its own breeding and farrowing unit managers, the Breeding and Farrowing Supervisor would oversee these 10 people.

Breeding Specialist

As an assistant to the person in charge of all sow production, this person specializes in breeding techniques that assure the highest possible farrowing rates. In a large unit, the Breeding Specialist could have advanced training in reproductive biology. This individual is responsible for on-going training and tracking pig performance in the breeding barns across all the units.

Farrowing Specialist

The Farrowing Specialist keeps current on techniques and procedures to maximize the number of pigs weaned/sow. Expertise in causes of pigs born alive, stillbirths, and preweaning mortality is especially critical. This individual is responsible for on-going training and tracking pig performance in the farrowing barns across all the units.

Breeding and Farrowing Farm Managers

The sow unit is the core of the farrow-to-finish production unit and the Breeding and Farrowing Unit Manager is the leader of the core production unit. A typical production unit has five workers/1,200 to 1,400 sows. A 2,400-sow unit may have 10 workers under one Unit Manager. The Unit Managers in these systems oversee the generation of 20,000 to 50,000 pigs/yr. On smaller units, the Unit Manager may have responsibilities for nursery and growing-finishing and, as such, is more like a Production Manager.

Breeding Managers

The Breeding Manager is responsible for heat detection, breeding, and pregnancy checking of the sows in a given unit. Daily care of the sows and boars is also under the direction of the Breeding Manager.

Breeding Worker

This person assists the Breeding Manager in breeding and animal care tasks.

Farrowing Managers

The Farrowing Manager is responsible for sound farrowing barn practices that result in the highest numbers of pigs born alive and weaned and the lowest numbers of stillbirths and preweaning deaths. Daily care of the farrowing sows is under the direction of the person in this position.

Farrowing Worker

This person assists the Farrowing Manager in all farrowing and animal care tasks.

Utility Worker

On some farms, the farrowing and breeding assistants are the same as the Utility Workers. In this model, the Utility Worker takes care of routine cleaning, equipment set-up, and animal movements. The Utility Worker has the responsibility to power-wash the farrowing crates in indoor units. This job title is considered the starting point on many farms and, as such, has a high turnover rate due to people being promoted or terminated, or quitting due to not liking the work.

Nursery/Growing-Finishing Supervisor

This person is responsible for all pigs from weaning until market. Nursery and Growing-Finishing Supervisors report to this supervisor.

Nursery Complex Manager

This person is responsible for all nursery pigs at the various nursery sites.

Nursery Site Manager

A given nursery site may have from 1,000 to 32,000 pigs at one location. This person is the on-site manager with responsibility for the care and feeding of all the pigs at one location. The Nursery Site Manager also has local supervisory responsibilities for workers at this location and is typically a hands-on worker/manager.

Nursery Worker

The Nursery Workers do the manual tasks of the nursery. This includes moving pigs in and out, sorting pigs by size and gender and observing animal behavior for problems with the thermal environment or animal health problems.

Growing-Finishing Complex Manager

This person is responsible for all growing-finishing pigs at the various nursery sites.

Growing-Finishing Site Manager

A given growing-finishing site may have from 1,000 to 50,000 pigs at one location. This person is the on-site manager with responsibility for the care and feeding of all the pigs at one location. This manager also has local supervisory responsibilities for workers at this location. The Growing-Finishing Site Manager is typically a hands-on worker/manager.

Growing-Finishing Worker

The Growing-Finishing Workers do the manual tasks of the nursery. Tasks include moving pigs in and out, sorting pigs by size and gender, and observing animal behavior for problems with the thermal environment or animal health problems.

Special Units Manager

Some of the production units are separate from the core pig production. These are special units, including, but not limited to artificial insemination (AI) center, gilt replacement (and possibly gilt breeding) unit, and pig isolation facility. For biosecurity reasons and to develop specialized staff, these units should have staffers who are physically separate from the core production staff.

AI Manager

On modern farms, AI is used for nearly 100% of the matings. A specialized AI facility typically collects, extends, packages, and delivers semen to the breeding units. The AI manager might oversee from just a few to hundreds of boars.

Semen Collection and Semen Processing Workers

For a boar stud, the core workers feed boars, clean pens, and collect and process semen. If the boar stud has a large number of boars, specialized equipment might be used to process and package semen.

Gilt Replacement Manager

This person oversees the gilt replacement facility and process. In some cases a "gilt breeding program or project" is a part of the gilt replacement facility. A gilt breeding program delivers pregnant gilts to sow units as replacement animals. The gilt breeding program is in contrast to the traditional method of delivering peri-pubertal gilts to the sow units and allowing the sow breeders to inseminate gilts. In the gilt development area, gilts are held from a young age until either mating or until 30 d after mating when they are delivered to the units. The needs of the production unit for gilts determines the size and through-put of the gilt replacement unit.

Gilt Development/Replacement Workers

These workers care for developing and cycling gilts. In units with gilt breeding programs, workers in this area feed and care for the gilts, and possibly inseminate and assist in delivery.

Pig Isolation Manager and Workers

New breeding stock must be brought in to affect genetic improvement. New stock (gilts and boars) should be held in isolation and blood-tested to be sure they do not carry new pathogens to the farm. The manager and workers in this isolation facility must be in strict isolation from the primary pig unit to avoid unwanted contamination of in-house pigs.


Secretaries and Receptionist

The reception staff influences a visitor's first impression of a company. These individuals should be welcoming, pleasant, and personable to internal staff and visitors. The secretarial staff should support the business needs of the office and farm staff.

Human Resources Director

This job is especially critical because of the high turnover rates on U.S. farms and due to the many laws and regulations that apply to companies. Relevant laws include job discrimination laws and occupational health and safety laws and regulations. The Human Resources (HR) Director has four primary responsibilities that are performed by the Director or, if the unit is large enough, by specialized staff. The next four positions report to the HR Director.

Daily Worker Manager

This person assures each position is filled each day. If people call in sick or need to have time off for a personal reason, the Daily Worker Manager ensures positions are covered or temporarily filled. Daily, weekly, monthly, and annual work schedules and weekend and holiday workers are organized and managed by this person.

Benefits Manager

Full-time workers have several benefits that require management. These benefits include production bonuses, vacation pay, sick leave, disability, retirement, and other business perks.

Payroll Coordinator

This person assures people receive the proper pay for all work. This person combines personnel and accounting services.


This job is critical for success and competition for new employees. The Recruiter travels to local universities, high schools, job fairs, and employment agencies to find prospective employees. The Recruiter must be personable, outgoing, and have good interview skills. Job interviews could be conducted on the farm or in another town during the recruiting process.

Information Services Manager

Internal communication and information flow is critical to success in the modern operation. The following two positions report to this manager.

Computer Systems and Information Specialist. This position is responsible for establishing and maintaining the computer system on the farm.

Production Records Entry. If production records are handled on-site, labor is needed to enter the records and generate reports. Timely reports are needed for proper management of the biological units.

Accounting Manager

This person is in charge of accounting services. This job and related activities could be out-sourced on a smaller farm, but most farms of any size perform the majority of accounting services on-site.

Accounts Payable

This person gathers and pays all bills that arrive on a defined schedule.

Accounts Receivable

This person sends out bills and collects payment. Ordinarily, the income to this farm arrives once/wk (or so), so a full-time employee should not be needed in accounts receivable.

Risk Manager

Many farmers and business people buy, sell, and trade options and futures on both inputs and outputs of the production unit. Grain and pig/pork commodities can be managed by a person on the farm who tracks these markets with an eye to minimizing risk to the farm.


The special services group handles all operations that are not related to pigs, technical matters, or the business office. This department could be spread between the production and business departments. Having a separate special services department allows the production and business staffers to specialize in their work.

Transportation Manager

This department and position could be easily out-sourced. If the farm is large enough to allow efficiency of scale, the transportation of grain and pigs will take place nearly every day.

Live Pig Transport

Pigs are moved from isolation to gilt breeding, gilt breeding to sow units, farrowing to nursery, nursery to growing-finishing, and growing-finishing to slaughter. All but the last transport occur within the farm and should be done with in-house equipment. The shipment of pigs from finishing to slaughter can be out-sourced, with proper biosecurity control measures.

Grain Transport

Even a small-scale production unit needs either complete feed or feed ingredients (grain, etc.) delivered on a regular basis. Grain transport is typically handled by outside vendors.

Safety Officer

Safety is an important part of a quality company and providing a safe workplace is not only good business, but a requirement of law.

Training Manager

The training department could be a part of special services, production, or the business office. Regardless, the Training Manager should work with the staff to train workers either in specialized training farms or on regular production units with close oversight of the training staff. The Training Manager often works with specialized technical specialists (e.g., breeding, farrowing, nursery and grow-finish) to train new staff.

Production Trainer

This person conducts the hands-on and classroom training.

Quality Assurance (QA) Trainer

QA is an important part of every operation on the farm. The QA office is a critical part of new programs using identification of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) programs.

Maintenance Manager

The physical plant of the farm is in need of repair and upkeep from the moment construction is complete. As the farm ages, the time and money spent in maintaining the farm increase proportionally. The maintenance department will include workers trained as electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and metal workers.


Nutritional Services

Most pig units are not large enough to have their own full-time Pig Nutritionist. Those that are, have the following three main functions, each with distinct job requirements.

Feed formulation. One person is needed to conduct routine ration formulations and reformulations. Ingredients change composition over time and feedstuffs vary in cost. A commercial laboratory is used to assay feedstuffs for major nutrients and this information is used to reformulate diets.

Quality control. A person needs to sample ingredients and complete fees. Changes in feedstuff composition and feed ingredient mixing completeness need to be constantly checked and adjusted.

Feedstuff procurement. Because feed represents from 50% to 80% of the cost of production, obtaining quality feed ingredients at a reasonable cost is a critical job.

Animal Health Director

Pig health is critical for optimum herd performance. A veterinarian usually heads the animal health program. This person could be a part-time consulting veterinarian.


Keeping disease out of the farm is the major function of the biosecurity officer. Incoming vehicle and people traffic should be closely monitored.

Disease Surveillance

The herd must be monitored for low-level and acute pathogen status. Only with an informed health status can the herd have its health remain at a high level.

Animal Health Product Evaluation and Quality Control

This person monitors the effectiveness of vaccines, stock isolation, and antibiotic use.

Breeding and Genetic Director

Reproductive services is critical for the continued success of the breeding herd. The following three primary workers are in this division.

Reproduction services. This breeding specialist controls boar semen collection and gilt/sow insemination.

Genetics manager. This person oversees the herd genetic improvement and herd replacement programs. The Genetics Manager directs gilt and boar selection, assuming an in-house genetic multiplication unit is in place.

Reproduction and genetics quality control. As with nutrition and animal health, a quality control person is needed to ensure semen is properly processed, matings are made appropriately, and that the general reproduction and genetics program is on line and going according to the master plan of the farm.

Effluent Manager

Pig units produce a large amount of effluent--feces, urine, spilled feed, and dead animals. The Effluent Manager directs disposal of these valuable by-products.

Sampling and Testing Manager

This person samples the effluent and croplands to determine correct application rates.

Crop Scheduling

A full-time crop manager may be needed if the effluent is spread on the farm's land. Crops must be selected, planted, and managed to take up as much of the nutrients from effluent as is possible.

Research Director

Too often, research is half-way done by nonspecialists. Without proper oversight, research studies can be misinterpreted or, worse, studies can even lead to wrong directions for the farm. Large production corporations may spend 1% to 5% of their gross sales on research and product improvement. For a 100,000-sow unit, the research budget should be from $2 to $10 million. Because pig production units do not spend enough ear-marked money on organized research, opportunities are lost to improve productivity. Research of this nature does not cost--it pays!

Research Technicians

Staffers are required to conduct studies so the core production staffers are not interrupted in their daily routines.

Economic Evaluation of Corporate Plans

An economist is needed to evaluate corporate research results. This person can also evaluate the constant flow of new ideas that arise from day-to-day discussions about future directions.


Laws abound that regulate human resources. Laws are enacted at city, county, state, and federal levels. In the United States, the primary federal laws refer to equal opportunity, lack of discrimination, and minimum wage limits. At the state level, the laws of most concern are worker compensation laws and regulations. Most businesses are required to carry worker compensation insurance in case of on-the-job injury.

Owners should be familiar with federal and state laws to be in compliance with laws that govern retirement and profit-sharing.


From time to time, conflicts arise in the workplace. Management's first rule in resolving conflicts is to let the affected people work out the problem on their own. Let's use the example of a worker and unit manager having a conflict and one party consults the Production Manager. The Manager's first option should be to send them home to think about the problem and develop their own solution. Then, failing that solution, the Production Manager must arbitrate the conflict. Getting the facts straight is the next order of business. This is best done with both parties present (to avoid exaggeration). After gathering the facts, the Production Manager should wait a small amount of time to offer a solution. In some cases, the two sides will resolve the conflict during that period. The wait should be less than 24 hr because the problem could be serious enough to warrant conflict resolution.

When the Production Manager makes a decision, he or she should clearly convey the outcome to both parties and give reasons for the decision to both parties. A chance for appeal should usually be granted, but only one chance should be given to avoid a long, protracted problem.


Drugs and Alcohol

Most firms today perform pre-employment drug screening and random drug testing. Because the work is potentially hazardous, the employer cannot risk having impaired employees on the work site.


Because most farms are in small communities, relatives are often employed by the business. Every attempt should be made to have relatives working on different sites and performing different tasks.

Persons Abusing Worker Compensation Insurance

People do get injured from time-to-time on the farm. Some people, however, will fake an injury or fake an extension of the injury to get more time off work with pay. These people should be treated as fairly as possible, but the company must avoid being taken advantage of.


Persons from some other companies or activist groups (environmental or animal rights) may get a job at the site to gather information to hurt the company. Checking references and even checking with other industry sources about potential employees is advised. This is becoming increasingly difficult because many companies will not give references on former employees due to past legal action.


Students or others interested in a job in the U.S. pig industry or the industry in Asia or Europe will have great opportunities for the foreseeable future. The employer's first criterion is that the potential worker is highly motivated to work in the industry. Once the worker is highly motivated, he or she can be placed in a number of jobs or training positions. In any case, new employees must be trained in the methods and policies of the company--whether family-style, corporate-style, or family corporation-style.

When in search of a job in the pig industry, prospective employees can consult a plethora of sources. Some of the sources are given here for employment in the United States or for companies with U.S. offices and production in other countries.

Personnel Search Firms


Ag Jobs USA:


Iowa Select Farms:

Newsham Hybrids (USA), Inc.:

Large U.S.Pork Producers

Smithfield Foods, Inc. corporate office:

Murphy Family Farms (owned by Smithfield):

Tyson Foods:

Premium Standard Farms:

Seaboard Farms:

National Organizations

National Pork Producers Council:

P.O. Box 10383

Des Moines, IA 50306

Phone: (515) 223-2600


1. Prepare an organizational chart and a list of job descriptions for two farms:

a. a 10,000-sow unit

b. a 1,200-sow unit

2. What human resources challenges are likely for a farm with 100,000 sows or more?

3. What are the responsibilities that might be in a job description for the owner and sole operator of a 100-sow, farrow-to-finish farm?

4. Discuss routine and more creative solutions to the following problems:

a. Finding motivated workers

b. Keeping qualified people on the job

c. Maintaining productivity on the farm
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Title Annotation:SECTION VI Appendices
Publication:Pig Production, Biological Principles and Applications
Article Type:Appendix
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2003
Previous Article:Chapter 20 Management of pig health.
Next Article:B Glossary.

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