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Schieck new swine regional extension educator at Morris

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 08/21/2013 7:50 AM

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MORRIS, Minn. — When Sarah Schieck's father told her she needed to help move pigs on their farrow-to-finish farm near Sunburg, she always responded with a resounding, "Yes!"

Her reaction probably wasn't typical of many youth. Working on the farm and with hogs was something Schieck enjoyed.

She brings that same enthusiasm to her new position as swine Extension educator in the regional offices at the Morris-based West Central Research and Outreach Center.

Schieck started the position June 3 and joins fellow swine Extension educator Mark Whitney. Whitney works out of the Mankato Extension office. Together they provide swine producers with resources and the latest in swine research. Schieck plans to use social media as a means of communicating with producers.

Schieck brings a wealth of personal hog production knowledge to the position as well as technical training that she received at Ridgewater College in Willmar and the University of Minnesota.

Schieck's parents, Richard and Mary, renovated a dairy barn into a hog finishing unit and built a farrowing barn. It was a small crossbred operation with 60 sows. Her father used Yorkshire and Landrace in the maternal lines and rotated purebred Hampshire and purebred Duroc boars. The crossbreds offered good carcass traits.

Schieck's father also taught high school biology at Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg. When he was laid off because of budget cuts, the hog operation provided the income, she said. He later taught at what is now Renville County West school district before returning to KMS.

He sold the herd in 1996 when he had an opportunity to return to teaching full-time. Schieck was devastated by the news, she said.

Schieck and her brother, Adam, were 4-H members and had shown hogs at the Kandiyohi County Fair. Once the hogs were sold, it was difficult finding other animals to show, she said.

In 1998 when hog prices hit an all-time low, Schieck had an opportunity to get into the hog business herself. A neighbor who sold livestock feed had received eight bred sows as payment for a feed bill but lacked resources to take care of the sows who were due to deliver in a few weeks.

Schieck and her brother bought them. It was a good fit because the farm had all the equipment needed.

They continued to build their herd and added some Yorkshire and Landrace.

The swine became her Supervised Agriculture Experience project through FFA. In 1999, she was runner-up for the state FFA swine proficiency. She won it a year later. In 2002, she was named a Minnesota Pork Ambassador.

She also has earned her American degree through FFA.

After one year at Ridgewater, she transferred to the U of M's Twin Cities campus. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in animal science with a swine emphasis. When her last group was ready to be marketed in 2007, she sold the herd and focused on getting a master's degree in swine nutrition. She received the degree in 2009.

She returned to the ag department at Ridgewater to teach livestock production and animal science.

Schieck is working with producers involved in both conventional and niche markets.

Schieck said she's getting acquainted with the area and hog producers. She traveled to the World Pork Expo and met with Iowa researchers and swine specialists.

Schieck has taken both the Pork Quality Assurance and Transportation Quality Assurance training and is also a trainer for both programs.

She looks forward to meeting and working with swine producers throughout the state.