Erin Brenneman, a member of the second class of Faces of Farming & Ranching, is a pig farmer from Washington, Iowa. She is committed to answering America’s questions about where our food comes from, and she shares her perspectives here.
We are a family farm that raises 20,000 sows over three sites in Missouri and Iowa. My husband’s parents started the farm in 1981 with just a few sows outside. It has since grown to the large size we are today while still being owned and operated by family members. We market close to 700,000 pigs each year and farm around 3,000 acres of corn and soybeans.
How did you get into farming?
I was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago so, like many others, I thought food came from the grocery store. I married into this amazing farm and can’t imagine doing anything else! I’m also a mom of two boys, so it is great getting to raise my kids on a farm. I love that they are learning how to care for animals, something that I think is very important.
You have a large farm, and some people might think big is not a good thing. Are you actually able to care for all of those pigs?
I think this is one of the biggest misconceptions in agriculture today. Because we are so large, we have all the resources to do things the right way. For instance, we have really embraced the ‘specialization’ of tasks on each of our farms. I am what you’d call a ‘24 hour specialist,’ meaning I take full responsibility for the care and nurturing of newborn pigs in their first 24 hours of life, a job I absolutely love. Another example is our state-of-the-art barns with efficient air filtration systems that ensure our pigs are healthy and cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Many consumers today are concerned about antibiotic use when it comes to raising livestock. Do you use antibiotics to treat your animals? If so, why?
Using antibiotics, as part of our overall herd health program, is something that we take very seriously on our farm. We believe it is our responsibility to use antibiotics only when absolutely needed to not only treat an animal when they get sick, but also to protect the herd. We work closely with our veterinarian on all decisions regarding herd health, including when it is appropriate to use antibiotics. As a mom AND a farmer, I too want to know that the people raising our food are being responsible in every way possible.