Raised on a farm near Keota, IA, Claude met Dr. Steve Menke when the veterinarian (then practicing in Richland, IA) visited the farm and diagnosed his first case of PGE.
Claude was 16 at the time. He went on to graduate from Iowa State University and returned home intending to farm. Instead, he seized an opportunity to start a construction company with a partner. Called Precision Structures, Inc., the company specialized in hog confinement.
“I had taken a class at the university that talked about how livestock would, in the future, be raised in buildings and how manure would have to be managed rather than building on a hill and letting the waste run down,” he states.
Several years later, Claude again met Dr. Menke as he worked to grow his already successful construction business. “We were promoting complexes of 600 sows and Dr. Menke was putting together a 1,500 sow complex called Deer Run, south of Ottumwa.”
The project needed more financial participation to get it going, so Claude agreed to purchase shares. Claude had built and leased out finishers before, but this was his first experience in the managed sow business.
Over the last 10 years, Claude has constructed other sow barns and finishers in the Ottumwa area and as far south as Mexico, MO. Through his company, Rebuh Feeders, Claude has ownership in three of the sow barns and thoroughly enjoys his association with Ottumwa Veterinary Clinic.
“Early in our relationship, when Dr. Menke and I were driving around and looking at land, he would pull up to a stoplight and gun the motor until it turned green,” says Claude. “That was when I knew we had an aggressive ‘let’s go’ person in charge.”
Claude also appreciates the fact that Ottumwa Veterinary Clinic is always trying to improve and when you ask Dr. Menke or Dr. Williams a question, you get an answer. “You may not like the answer, but you get it ASAP!” he says, describing both as men of honesty and integrity.
Claude says he is cautiously hopeful about the union of Ottumwa Veterinary Clinic with the Pipestone Veterinary Clinic. “Nobody likes change, but I’m smart enough to realize that the swine industry is maturing—changing into fewer hands and larger entities,” he states.
What gives Claude hope is that Ottumwa will have stronger allies to work with. “The Pipestone and Ottumwa union brings to the table buying power, knowledge and research that we need to be top hog producers,” he states.
All three barns of the barns in which Claude has ownership will become part of the Pipestone Management on Jan. 1, 2014.
Claude says he asks only one thing of the veterinarians at Ottumwa Veterinary Clinic as they become part of the Pipestone Veterinary Clinic: Don’t forget your roots.
“I know you’ve got to grow and go forward—you can only spread yourself so thin and still do a good job,” he told Dr. Menke recently. “But don’t forget the people who helped you get to the next step.”