A lifelong commitment to the pork industry

Monday, February 10, 2020
(Photo Contributed) Joan and Bill Tentinger of Le Mars (center), were one of eight recipients of the Iowa Master Pork Producer Award presented Jan. 22 at the Iowa Pork Congress in Des Moines. Pictured with them are, Jason Ross, director of ISU’s Iowa Pork Industry Center (left), and IPPA president Mike Paustian of Walcott (right). The couple has been in the pork production business for nearly 50 years.

LE MARS — Le Mars pork producers Bill and Joan Tentinger, Le Mars, were honored as 2019 Iowa Master Pork Producers during the Iowa Pork Congress held in Des Moines.

The couple was nominated for the award by the Plymouth County Pork Producers.

A Master Pork Producer award denotes an individual’s or family’s excellence in pork production, as measured by their pork production statistics, their commitment to We Care® principles, and their contribution to their community. There are six We Care principles that outline a pig farmer’s responsibilities to uphold high standards for animal well-being, food safety, the environment, as well as support their local community.

Eight Master Pork Producer recipients for 2019 were recognized during the ceremony.

Bill Tentinger said it’s an honor to receive the award.

“It points out you do stand out a little bit from others. It does mean a lot,” he said.

At the presentation, the following was read to describe the Tentingers:

“As newlyweds in the early 1970s, they farrowed just 20 sows at a time and finished out the pigs.

“Through their ongoing commitment to improving their production practices, they now provide nursery pigs to several other growers. The work they do through their wean-to-nursery operation helps 13 other families also build their own dreams on the farm.

“The Tentingers have experienced a half-century of changes. In the early days, sows farrowed on pasture during the summertime, and the couple carried out feed buckets by hand — no matter what the weather conditions were. They pushed to improve their facilities; in 1973, they built a confinement finishing barn at the farm where Bill was raised. They increased their sow herd and continued as a farrow-to-finish operation.

“Joan recalls asking Bill for his Plan B during the 1980s farm recession. A farmer through-and-through, Bill’s focus stayed on raising and caring for his animals. Through the years they made building and production improvements and additions. Their most recent change in production was in 2018 when they decided to focus on raising weaned pigs.”

“We know that production is important, as is producing a safe, quality product for consumers. We take every chance to promote our product and to represent pork production positively. We are not only representing something we sell, but also our way of life and that of our growers and their families,” Bill said.

The Tentingers also grow the corn and soybeans that feed their pigs.

“Bill serves on the National Pork Board, which helps guide the pork promotion and education efforts nationally. He has been on the Iowa Pork Producers Association Board of Directors for the past 15 years and was IPPA president in 2012.

“They are members of the Plymouth County Pork Producers, and serve as volunteer leaders at their church and in various community groups. Both Bill and Joan are past 4-H leaders.

“The Tentingers’ two grown children — Mandy and Nathan — also are active on the family farm,” the reading concluded.

Later, Tentinger said after listening to the presentation speech, “You don’t really think about what you’ve accomplished, until you read what someone else wrote. It made me step back and think about what an accomplishment and honor this is.”

Raising hogs on farms has been a tradition for generations in Plymouth County. Tentinger said he has reviewed Plymouth County plat books from the early 1900s, in which comments were made including on a what a particular farmer or family did.

“It’s unbelievable as to how many of them were raising swine breeding stock,” he said. “We all grew up on farms that had pigs of some sort. Our area has really deep roots in the pork industry.”

One thing Tentinger said that is important is the ability to adapt to change.

The Tentingers now operate a wean-to-nursery operation.

“We purchased those weaned pigs from Saskatchewan, Canada,” he said. “The pigs come here about 21-22 days old, and they were weaned about 24 hours prior to getting here.”

The Tentingers basically nurse the pigs, getting them eating and drinking, and work with any health conditions.

“We just get them growing and ready to go,” he said. They keep the pigs for six weeks, before loading them up to go to a finishing barn.

“Those people work for us and care for our pigs until they are ready to go to market,” he continued.

One of the reasons they purchase pigs from Canada is biosecurity.

“We have other groups of pigs, with different sources. It’s hard to have a sow farm in this area because the pigs are so concentrated. We like the Canada farms for their healthy pigs,” he said.

Tentinger said the pork industry keeps a lot of people employed, from the trucker, those who care for the pigs, the veterinarian services, and more.

“Joan is very involved. She does all the bookkeeping,” he said. “Our son owns a percentage of the pigs, and is growing in his involvement.”

He said there is a lot of paperwork involved in a pork operation.

From feed budgets, to medications to line up, marketing to, it’s an everyday job. “There’s more work done today in the office than ever before,” he said.

New regulations most always mean more paperwork and documentation.

“Yes, the industry has changed a lot, but it’s more concentrated. We just happen to own all our stock, call us an independent producer,” Tentinger said. “There are less and less of those, but there are still some in Plymouth County. They are all still a very important part of our community. The industry supports local communities a lot more than people realize.”

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