Reicks View Farms – Brady Reicks and Kaylie Reicks
The internet in the barns and a new communication system are essential modern touches enabling farm employees to better communicate and share data and information on operations on the 65,000-sow farm in Lawler, Iowa, a small town about 80 miles west of the Mississippi River.
Nor is internet the only technology that aids in farming, raising pigs and running the business. GPS is used in farming equipment and vehicles, and ventilation controllers that can be monitored remotely were recently added to regulate barn temperatures. There’s also an onsite research facility with a consulting nutritionist who helps ensure healthy herds and quality products.
So, while the Reicks are continuing a five-generation family tradition of farming as co-owners of the farm their parents founded in 1979, they’re embracing the future as much as honoring the past.
“My dad could just drive around and get a sense of how things were going,” Brady Reicks recalls. “But the more we have grown, the more we have to find other ways to monitor progress. Our challenge as a medium to large farm is how to maintain our quality and farm sustainably and compassionately.”
Taking on the tradition
Brady’s and Kaylie’s parents, Dale and Laura Reicks, founded Reicks View Farm on 240 acres where they grew corn and raised 200 sows. Brady Reicks moved back to start his full-time position with the family business in 2014 and his parents continue to help operate the expanded farm.
Before that, Brady, who has a bachelor’s degree in marketing management from Iowa State University, had been managing risk profiles for livestock producers at Kerns and Associates. When he returned to the farm, Kaylie Reicks was studying for her bachelor’s degree in public service and administration at Iowa State University. She graduated in 2016 and joined the family business in 2018.
The past decade has brought even more expansion to Reicks View Farms, which currently employs 400 people. The corn grown on the farm’s 14,000 acres provides about 25 percent of what’s needed to feed the pigs—the remainder is bought from local farmers.
Reicks View Farms is a farrow-to-finish operation with sow barns for breeding and birthing litters, a nursery for raising piglets after they’ve been weaned, and a finishing site. The finishing site, where pigs are raised until they reach market weight, is managed in conjunction with more than 130 contracted finishing partners.
Reicks View Farms also has its own transportation division to haul pigs and feed, complemented by a selection of farm service trucks and farming machinery.
Sustainable and secure
Sustainable farming at Reicks View Farms begins with crops that are fertilized by manure from the pigs, a perpetual cycle that’s organic and cost effective.
The manure is injected into the soil to prevent runoff and nutrient loss. Corn and grains grown there, as well as bought from other farms to feed the pigs, are processed in an on-site feed mill that makes 11,000 tons of feed per week. That’s enough to feed 80 percent of the herd, Brady says.
Reicks View Farms is also powered by sunlight with more than 660 panels that were installed on three sites in 2018. Solar power has enabled the farm to reduce carbon emissions by 300 tons. The electricity produced is shared on the local power grid, according to the company website.
For about 20 years, Reicks View Farms has used air filters in the sow barns, Brady says. He compares the HEPA filters for incoming air to what’s used in hospitals and health care facilities to block airborne contaminants and viruses. The Reicks have also worked with Iowa State University to filter outgoing air from barns and remove odors.
The sustainability efforts also help enhance biosecurity. The nutrient cycling ensures feed is safe and its quality is good. Reicks View Farms also has its own internal and external truck wash facilities. The station’s wash bays slope 4 feet down to ensure bedding and waste in the trucks are easily washed away and the waste and water are separated by a scraping system.
“We can do the washing here for a lower cost and control the safety of the pigs with our own biosecurity protocols,” Brady Reicks says.
Technology is here
At Reicks View Farms’ research facility, staff, including the nutritionist, collect and analyze data in areas such as how many pounds of feed are converted into a pound of meat as pigs grow. Feed supplements can be fed to control groups to see if they’ll work for the entire population. The Reicks also host an annual summer internship where interns have worked on various trials such as sow longevity, gilt selection, biosecurity, forced air versus zone heating and mortality rates.
“We need to do the necessary research around feeding protocols and stocking density to ensure our animals have the appropriate diet and living environment to remain healthy,” Brady Reicks says. “That helps ensure the best product possible.”
Kaylie says using technology to communicate between barns and the main campus adds efficiency. The technology is also needed as the company is adapting to different workstyles, including some employees working remotely.
That’s a must, she adds, because Reicks View Farms is in a remote area that doesn’t get many new people moving in. She and her brother may also add more technology to collect real-time data on feed and water consumption, and video to manage operations remotely as the capabilities develop in the industry.
“Our business has grown rapidly, and we are still continuing to adjust to that growth,” Brady Reicks says. “There’s a constant challenge of feeding people with limited resources. The world’s population continues to grow and food production needs to grow with it. That requires innovation and improving efficiently.”
View this feature in the Terra Firma Vol. II 2023 Edition here.
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