Life as a producer doesn't come without its fair share of hardships. If you've been in the industry long enough, it's almost guaranteed that you've experienced difficult times in one form or another. We spoke to Chet Mogler (Pig Hill, Alvord, IA) about the best tactics for handling difficult circumstances as a barn owner. He details what to do and what not to do to keep your business afloat and most importantly, to care for your animals.
Facing Economic Downturns as a Barn Owner
When finances are tight, efficiency is key.
If you're facing economic downturn as a barn owner, put a pause on growth, and simply focus on maintenance. Watch your spending, make sure the money you are spending counts, and find any way you can to cut waste.
It's also important to remember that analyzing your spending is best practice at all times, not only when you're in periods of financial downturn. If you're always keeping a close eye on your budget and spending patterns, tightening up during downturns won't be as dramatic. This is where it becomes vital to have a good accounting process.
WHAT NOT TO DO: "Avoid knee-jerk reactions to the flavor of the day," says Mogler. You must have a long-term outlook when it comes to economic downturn. The U.S. pork industry is one of the most efficient pork production industries in the world, we’ll be able to compete in the long term.
"It may be tight now, but our future is bright," says Mogler.
Managing Disease Both Locally and Globally
In this industry, health is always the main challenge.
To stay ahead of disease, it's vital to have a Plan A, B, and C, and maintain good relationships with qualified veterinarians, who also have good relationships with diagnostic laboratories.
"Biosecurity is always the number one priority," says Mogler. "You have to look back at what has happened in the past, and see what you can do to get better in the future."
Time of year is also a challenge. When crops come out, manure is being hauled, and that opens potential for biosecurity issues like improper ventilation.
When it comes to more global issues, like the spread of African Swine Fever, it's important to have different strategies. Be proactive in communication with national and industry representatives like the National Pork Board and Pork Checkoff. Encourage your industry advocates to be in communication with the federal government with concerns.
When we’re hearing about countries we might import products from, proactivity is key. You have to look at all the different ways that those diseases could be getting in, and collaborate as an industry to make sure nothing slips through the cracks. Not everyone has the resources, but be willing to help wherever you can, no matter how big or small your operation.
WHAT NOT TO DO: Do not overreact or throw up your hands in frustration.
"Providing quality animal care is not something you can compromise on," says Mogler. "You simply have to do it."
African Swine Fever is sweeping China and Eastern Europe, but panicking isn't productive for anyone. Click to read more about overcoming your fear of ASF.
Maintaining Culture and Quality in Spite of Understaffing
"We’re never willing to compromise our core values, no matter what the staffing situation is," says Mogler.
It’s important to protect everybody, and maintain a good culture where people enjoy coming to work. Even if you’re facing understaffing, there's no excuse for letting things slip. For example, if an employee is guilty of wrongdoing you still have to terminate them, no matter the staffing situation. Maintain culture before maintaining staff.
Eventually, that standard becomes a selling point for attracting good employees.
"People respect us because of our strong leadership in that area," says Mogler. "We encourage an atmosphere of teamwork, trust, attitude and results - those are our four core values."
But how do you handle the workload when you can't find quality staff? Mogler suggests bringing on part-time labor where possible, offering more hours to those who want them, and ensure that the essentials are being taken care of before anything else.
WHAT NOT TO DO: Never let your culture slip. Do not lower your standards because people respect standards. It makes them feel good about what they do.
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