What is a swine-industry consultant anyway?

Welcome to the Pig Pen! For my very first entry in this new forum, I thought I would start with a little background story. For those whom I haven’t yet met, my name is Darin R Kuhlow (the “R” stands for Richard, in honor of my father). It may seem like a small thing, but I always try to make a point of including my middle initial when writing or signing my name to honor the man whom I admire the most. I own a company called Cerdos, LLC. Cerdos is “pigs” in Spanish. At some point in the future, I may get to explaining how that name was chosen for my company. At Cerdos, LLC we provide innovative products and services for the swine industry as well as for other livestock species. I am also a partner with my daughters in Kuhlow Girls, Inc, which is a 100-sow showpig farm breeding Durocs, Yorkshires, Spots and Crossbreds.

 

I often struggle to explain exactly what it is that I do for a living. My kids have often asked me, because their teachers and classmates ask them. Other kids can say their dad is a farmer, banker, fireman, factory-worker, etc. When asked, my kids say their dad is a consultant. This is usually met with the follow-up question, “What is that?” to which my kids reply, “I really don’t know. I think he tells people what to do a lot.” My daughter once told her friends I am “kind of like a traveling salesman”.

 

As a kid growing up on the family farm, I always wanted to be a farmer, just like my dad. Although I had many interests, didn’t have much trouble with school, and had many teachers trying to sway me this way or that way, the only thing I really wanted to do was farm. I never imagined at the time how an ignorant, stubborn, redneck farm kid could start out on the family farm and end up traveling the world. I also never realized how valuable that family farm was in giving me the experience in a practical setting to take my skills on to new opportunities in the future. Those 16-hour days of hard work and little sleep have paid countless dividends over the years. While the 80’s farm crisis and record low hog prices in the 90’s eventually caught up to our family farm, the experience I gained there will last me a lifetime. I could never thank my parents and grandparents enough for that opportunity.

 

After moving on from the family farm, I found my skills in demand in the commercial swine industry. I spent a few years managing production for a small commercial genetics company before going back into business for myself, starting a consulting and management service for small and medium-sized producers. I was able to secure contracts with enough clients to avoid starvation. Eventually I began to secure contracts with swine-industry affiliates such as feed, genetics and equipment suppliers. Many know me from my work with Continental Plastic, with whom my company had a contract for several years to manage their swine product line for reproductive supplies.

 

 

While it’s hard to describe exactly what it is that a consultant does, I guess the best description is “problem-solver”. I try to find solutions to make our clients’ businesses more efficient, whether it’s providing labor, knowledge, technology or an innovative new product. At the same time, I try to squeeze out a living in an industry for which I have a very strong passion.

 

A few years ago I discovered the Breeders World and Showpig.com online forums. I was stunned. Here was an entire online community of people who shared my passion for the world of pigs! In the commercial swine industry, I run across people every day who work in the industry, but don’t have any passion for it. To them, it’s just a job. Just a paycheck. Not everyone is that way, but many of them are. However in the world of small breeders and show pig enthusiasts, I find people who have a genuine passion for the animals. Many of them are doing it only because they love it, despite the fact that it costs them money. Reading through the forums, I could tell I found a group of people with whom I shared something special. However I also discovered so much misinformation. Many people with a love and desire to raise pigs and to do things the right way were genuinely seeking answers to help with issues they were facing. I decided I could help as well as learn from others by participating in these online discussions.

 

Darin’s Pig Pen is where I’d like to carry on those discussions going forward. After each column I will post questions selected from my inbox along with my response. There is a comments section where all are free to participate as well. PLEASE keep the language clean and the conversation polite. We will try to moderate the comments section and delete anything inappropriate. There is no cost to participate here and all are welcome. I encourage you to subscribe via email to receive frequent updates and to come here often!

 

I invite you to check out our full website and see if there are any products or services we can help you with. Please check our online store frequently as we will be continually adding more products. If there is something you need that you do not see listed, don’t be afraid to ask! We are here to help. Thank you for visiting the Pig Pen!

 

Today’s questions:

 

Scott from Burlington, WI

Should I use square or round semen bottles for bottling my boar semen?

Hi Scott,

The square bottles are promoted as space-savers (easier to stack) and that they provide more surface area for the sperm cells to settle when laid on their side. However, the surface area difference is very minimal as compared with the round bottles. Additionally, another important consideration in semen

storage is getting air movement between the bottles. Round bottles naturally provide a space for air movement between the bottles even when the sides are touching. Square bottles do not. Another problem with square bottles is they can sometimes be resting with the corner down between the wire in the gaps in the rack of the storage unit. This causes the sperm cells to all settle in the corners of the bottle rather than dispersing along the side surface which in turn can reduce shelf-life. The round bottles are pretty fool-proof. My advice? Use the round bottles.

 

Rodger from LaCrosse, WI

I’m starting to collect my own boars and I need to measure the water for mixing extender. What should I use?

Hi Rodger,

A good lab scale is a must! I know several people use the line on a pitcher or a gallon jug, but the correct way to measure the water is to weigh it! A good lab scale is not too expensive and we sell them (shameless plug). Set the scale to weigh in grams. One gram = one ml. If you have a 1-liter packet of extender, take a pitcher with a disposable bag inside, zero the scale and weigh 1000 grams of water. Heat the water and add the packet of extender to it.

 

It’s important to be accurate with the water measurement because having the correct amount of water and powder will determine the osmolarity of the extender. If the osmolarity is too high or too low, it will negatively impact the sperm cells' ability to survive . This isn’t something where you can afford to be “close enough”. Get a scale.

Have a question for me? Feel free to fill out the form below and it could be featured in my next post. 

 

-Darin

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