Generations of the Sturtevant family have raised crops and livestock on the same land in northwestern Illinois since the 1850s. While the size and scope of the farm that Mark Sturtevant owns and operates with his father, brother and cousins, has changed over the years, their focus on continuous improvement, animal health and productivity has been consistent. Mark, along with his father, Dennis, and brother, Brian, work together with employees and contractors to finish about 70,000 pigs each year. They also raise corn, soybeans and wheat on about 3,000 acres in partnership with cousins Steve Sturtevant and Scott Sturtevant.
In the mid-1990s, Dennis and Mark were farming together and each had a sow barn with 200 sows, and raised pigs from farrow to finish. When Brian finished school and came back to the farm in 1996, they began looking for options to improve and expand the operation. “At the time, Bethany Swine Services (now Pipestone Veterinary Services) was in the planning stages for their first sow barn. It looked like it might be a good fit for us, and we became one of the first shareowners when the barn opened in 1998,” said Mark. “It has worked well. Over the years, we increased our shares and bought shares in two other sow barns.”
In 1998, the Sturtevants were finishing about 2,000 pigs each year. With additional shares in Bethany sow barns, they were able to grow each year, reaching their current 70,000 head per year size in 2005. “Back when we were farrow-to-finish, we thought we were doing a pretty good job, but we were only spending part of our time in the sow barn, in addition to raising crops and finishing pigs.” “With Pipestone Veterinary Services, we know that they are completely focused on the health of the sows and piglets and are doing an excellent job of providing high-quality pigs for our nurseries and finishers.”
When pigs are three weeks old, they leave sow barns and go to one of the nursery barns managed by the Sturtevants. At about 7 weeks, they move to a finishing barn. Pigs are finished in a combination of barns owned by the family, barns rented by the family and cared for by employees, or in a contracting arrangement with barn owners. Mark notes that the three-site system has been an important part of maintaining healthy and productive pigs. “We are able to be ‘all-in, all-out’ at each of the sites to manage health issues, and we try to do a better job each time,” he said.
The Sturtevants load, sort, and market all their pigs themselves. The family also works with Pipestone Veterinary Services for veterinary care and consulting. Dr. Steve Feuerbach meets with the Sturtevant team once a month to review reports and data and provide recommendations for the operation. “Dr. Feuerbach provides a layer of oversight and management advice that is valuable to our operations,” said Mark.
The Sturtevants have also relied on benchmarking data from Bethany Swine Services over the years to evaluate their farm on both a production and financial level, and use that information to make improvements. All of the corn raised by the family is used for feed, and they work closely with Eastland Feed & Grain in Shannon, Illinois, to provide feed needed for their nurseries and finishing barns. Mark and his wife Susan have one son, Paul, 13. Brian and his wife Jennifer, have two sons: Bryson, 15, and Jaxson, 13. His parents, Dennis and Martha, also have three daughters Anne, Amy, and Treasea.