Rebecca Gann began her own swine operation after raising a single show pig
When Rebecca Gann decided to raise a single pig for one of her sons who wanted a show pig for an upcoming fair, she had no idea she was embarking on a new career, but that is exactly the way her life as a pork producer began.
Located just outside Lebanon, Mo., in Laclede County for the past 14 years, Rebecca has been raising pigs for a decade.
“My son wanted a show pig and after that one of my neighbors asked if I’d raise a pig for them. And then there was another neighbor and a co-worker after that, and the next thing I knew I was custom raising butcher hogs. After that, I decided I’d rather be doing my own so I contracted with Niman Ranch as one of their producers three years ago.”
Niman Ranch contracts with livestock producers to produce animals following strict animal sustainable and humane agriculture practices.
Rebecca attended trainings in Iowa, the company’s home base, and home area town hall meetings in Marshfield, hosted by the company for their contract workers. She said she was usually the only single woman there.
For a number of years, Rebeca raised more than 250 head of commercial crossbred hogs annually and shipped pigs monthly. She also raised 75 finished pigs a year for private sale, and had an additional 75 feeder pigs. All females are bred via natural cover.
“I ship my hogs to Niman when they reach 290 pounds at 5 to 6 months of age. I raise 100 percent natural hogs, no antibodies, no hormones, and my pigs are never in crates; I have farrowing stalls. I raise from farrow to finish to market. I feed a pre-mix of corn and soybeans from MFA that has all of the nutrients, vitamin and minerals already mixed in.”
While she’s enjoyed her operation, Rebecca said it’s time to slow things down a little, but she plans to remain in the swine industry.
“Now I’m down to 10 (from 42) and re-configuring everything,” she said. “I work a full-time job as a substance abuse social worker so now, I’m restructuring, basically downsizing. I was just working too hard and I decided it’s time I have a life, too.”
She may also have another reason for two for her move to downsize.
“I have two sons, both grown, Tritton and Tyler, and as of June of this year, I have my first granddaughter, Rayna,” Rebecca said. “I still want to custom raise pigs and I’ve continued to do that all along, even while under contract to Niman. I was getting two litters a year per sow and I was averaging 10 pigs per litter.
“Now I have 10 sows and I’ll have the babies in December, January and February. I’ll sell them to 4-H and FFA kids, as well as selling them as feeder pigs. I’ve always had lots of fun with those but Niman has also been a good company to work with.
“I know this will be a big change but I’m looking forward to it. All the sows I have now are ones I’ve raised and that includes a purebred Duroc and a purebred Berkshire, as I have raised all of my replacement gilts. I also have a registered boar. The majority of my feeder pigs will now go for custom commercial customers for meat hogs that I deliver to the processor of their choice.”
Growing up in Arizona, horses were always her first passion. She still has 10 horses on her 40 acres which she says are “just for hugging.”
“I still ride but with the hog operation I don’t have time to ride like I would like. I have two stallions and I raise a few babies,” Rebecca said.
She is also currently backgrounding three calves, although she has backgrounded as many as a dozen in the past. Calves are grass and grain fed and finished.
Rebecca moved to Missouri primarily because her parents were originally from this part of the country. As a social worker, Rebecca has worked for the state in the Children’s Division, Great Circle (previously known as Boys’ Town/Girls Town) and now for Compass Counseling, previously known as Pathways.
Her best advice for anyone who wants to get into the business of raising hogs is to start small.
“It’s demanding work but build slowly and it’s very satisfying as well. I’m blessed to have a job that allows me plenty of flexibility where I can, for instance, come home and check on my animals. The other part is that these little ones are still always fun,” Rebecca said.
Kids Week was recently held at her church and at her pastor’s request Rebecca took some of her recently weaned bottle pigs to church and the kids and the piggies all had a great time.