By Trista Gropp
Feb. 18, 2011--University of Wisconsin-River Falls student John Nelson is having a very busy February. Between school and farrowing time for the sows at the Mann Valley Laboratory Farm, the junior agricultural education student from Galesville is learning to successfully balance it all. This month, Nelson was awarded the $500 Whitmore Memorial Scholarship by the Wisconsin Pork Producers Association. The scholarship is awarded to a student that will be an influence in the hog industry.
With aspirations to become a high school agricultural education teacher and continue developing a home swine farm, Nelson’s interest in the swine industry started as his own Supervised Agricultural Experience in FFA during high school. It was during high school that Nelson first talked to a UWRF student and swine manager at the Wisconsin State Fair. Nelson then knew he wanted to have such an experience for himself during college.
Nelson worked as a student farm worker for a year and a half until he was promoted to the position of student swine manager in January 2010. Now in his second year of the job, he is caring for the 400-500 hogs that UWRF keeps at all times.
Nelson plays an integral part in decision making for the university’s swine herd making mating and replacement gilt selections, as he works to build an ideal type hog that will be highly competitive and still have strong productive capabilities. He strives to keep improving the commercial herd and achieve more births per litter with more than 60 sows. Nelson’s duties also include monitoring herd health and keeping up with vaccinations.
Nelson is able to live on-site at the lab farm and says, “It’s a convenience and an inconvenience because I can go and check on the sows at night, but when I get home from class I feel like I need to get out and work on the farm.”
The university uses the hogs at the lab farm for various educational purposes, a swine production class may run a feed trial and other experiments, the animals are involved in many judging contests and classes, used in meat processing labs, and used for breeding and other demonstrations in the animal science classes at UWRF. Nelson says they try to farrow at least ten sows a month to keep access to animals of all ages.
Piglets farrowed in January and February will be offered for sale at the Sixth Annual Show Pig Sale on March 26. Nelson is preparing to have about 150 young pigs in the sale. Some of the younger pigs will also be available for sale under private contract. Those interested or for more information can contact the hog office at 715-821-7094 or Harry Larsen, lab farm manager, at 715-821-0020.