Raising hogs for 150 years
For more than 150 years, the Frazers have raised hogs in central Iowa. The how and for whom they raise those hogs has changed, but the family’s commitment to each other and to raising healthy, high-quality animal protein has not.
Dean Frazer has run the farm since 1987, taking over for his dad. Now Dean and Linda Frazer’s youngest son, Grant, and his wife, Josie, are back on the farm and doing their part to maintain and grow the family business.
“One of my goals throughout my career was having an operation large enough that the next generation could come back into it,” Dean said last week. “I was lucky enough to have a son and daughter-in-law that came back to the farm.”
Grant said, “When I think back on the things that people before me have done that allowed me to be here now, I’m really grateful. We’re really fortunate. My dad and I don’t agree on everything, but usually if we take a couple of minutes, think through it, we’ll end up at the same conclusion.”
The chores for the wean-to-finish hog operation, along with their row crop acres, are split among Dean, Grant, Josie and their employees.
Dean is grateful for several long-term employees and custom feeders who have been around the operation for over 15 years. Last week, the team was hard at work pulling corn and beans out of the field ahead of late-week rains.
“You stay busy with the hogs year-round,” Grant said. “But then you get into spring and fall, and you get really busy.”
The Frazers are independent hog producers. They own the hogs they feed out and sell the hogs to processors themselves.
They have also invested in technological upgrades for their building, which they say has been a big help in recent years.
“We still wanted to be independent and still wanted to raise our own pigs. This allows us to keep doing that,” Dean said.
Labor was a big reason for the change. Dean said it was a lot of hard work, day in and day. He has longtime farmhands that help, and even now after that changeover, he has kept them on.
The Frazers used to farrow pigs. But as Dean aged and Grant worked his way back into the operation, they felt getting out of the piglet business this summer was best for everyone. “This has lessened the management and labor stress on our operation tremendously,” Dean said.
Adding a BarnTalk system, which tracks temperature, humidity and other hog health and comfort metrics, has been a big help, Dean said. They also added wireless monitors to the feed storage that alerts them when the supply is getting low, or if there is a blockage or other issue in the system.
“Used to be I’d wake up in the middle of the night and drive over to the barns just to check everything. I still wake up at night, but now all the information is on my phone. It’s helping us tremendously.”
And, he noted, it’s a lot easier to manage finishers when the pigs are all the same age.
“Feed, temperature everything is easier now. Marketing the hogs is easier,” Dean said.
Now, the family receives about 2,500 weaned pigs every five weeks from a Pipestone sow operation, which they bought into earlier this year. Finished hogs are sold to regional processors, which can be challenging at times but has worked out well for them over the years, Dean said.
A Family Business
Grant said another asset he and Josie brought with them back to the farm is diversity of expertise. Josie was an ag business major at Iowa State University, while Grant was in ag studies. This gives her a lot of knowledge of the business management aspects of the farm, allowing Grant to focus on the operations side.
“I think we’ve helped take a lot of the accounting and harder farm work off Dad’s shoulders,” Grant said.
This freedom has also allowed Dean to pursue his work with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, where he serves on the Board of Directors as vice president for market development. He is also active in local ag and community groups in Grundy County.
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