Bringing their sons into the family business. That’s the near- and long-term objective of Greg and Paula Boerboom of Marshall, MN. Part of their strategy for reaching this objective involves a new feed mill (currently under construction) and access to more baby pigs. The Pipestone System has been and will continue to be an important mentor and partner in the Boerboom’s swine enterprise.
Boerboom Family, right to left: Mike with 8-month-old son Brayden, Mike’s wife, Megan, Greg, Paula, Laurie, and Matt.
The Boerbooms live on the farm east of Marshall where Greg was born and raised. His parents moved to this farm in 1936. They retired and moved into Marshall in 1981 when Greg and Paula married and moved to the farm.
“Growing up, this was a diversified farm with hogs, crops, stock cows, feeders, dairy cattle, and laying hens,” says Greg. That’s how it was—minus the dairy cattle and laying hens—when Greg and Paula took over the operation.
The Boerboom’s involvement with Pipestone System started in 1991, when they met Dr. Gordon Spronk. Dr. Spronk helped the Boerboom’s grow their own sow herd, and in 1996 the Boerbooms bought into the Pipestone System. “We’re a little different from some System owners in that we still have our own 1,600-sow herd, and we also get pigs out of the System,” explains Greg. “We use a lot of the Pipestone System technologies and systems within our own sow herd.” The Boerbooms currently work with Dr. Barry Kerkaert, a nephew who worked summers on their farm while attending veterinary school.
The Boerbooms contract with growers to grow and finish the pigs produced by their sow herd and the pigs they get out of the System. “Right now we finish about 65,000 pigs a year,” says Greg.
What’s changing is that Greg and Paula are focused on bringing their sons, Mike and Matt, into the family business. Both sons majored in ag business at the University of Minnesota. Mike graduated in 2007 and went to work for a pig integrator. In 2009, he came back to the family farm full time. He currently manages a large part of the finishing and marketing, including risk management.
During the summer of 2009, Matt interned with the Pipestone System as part of his ag business degree. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2011 and came back to the family farm immediately. “Right now, I manage the existing feed mill, but we’re building a new one capable of grinding about 900,000 bushel of corn a year, which I will manage,” he states. “I’ll also manage the crop side of the farm.” In 2012, for the first time in 10 years, the Boerbooms will raise a crop on their land. In the past, they’ve leased the land to cousins. This year, Matt will make the day-to-day decisions and hire the cousins to custom plant and harvest the crop.
Paula will continue to pay the bills, do all the record keeping, and manage payroll. “Every day is different,” she states. “The real challenge is keeping track of corn contracts and making sure we’ve received what we paid for.” This was not as much an issue, she points out, when corn cost less. Paula appreciates having her daughter Laurie as her accounting back-up. (Laurie works full-time as a credit analyst at Granite Falls Bank.)
Greg is supervising the construction of the new feed mill and a new farm office on the same site. “Matt and I have been working on the design and construction of the feed mill for two years,” says Greg. “We got set back by last summer’s big storm, but when it’s finished we’ll produce about 200 tons of feed a day with the new mill.
Of his other responsibilities, Greg says, “I have less of a role now with the hogs, because Mike has been doing a lot of that, but I still have control over and the most knowledge of our personal sow operation.”
The Boerbooms say their near- and long-term objective is for Mike and Matt to become more involved owners. Mike is building a finishing barn by his house and will get pigs for that barn out of the Pipestone System’s Windy Plains sow unit, but getting the feed mill up and running is the family’s immediate priority. “Ultimately, we’d like to own more sows either personally or within the Pipestone System,” states Greg.
Value of the system
The Boerbooms express great appreciation for the role the Pipestone System has played and continues to play in the success of their farm.
“Dr. Spronk was instrumental in bringing us from a small sow unit to the big one we are today,” says Paula. “In the early 90s, our involvement with the Pipestone System gave our banker the confidence to work with us.”
“The fact that the Pipestone System is a “system” has helped us,” says Greg. “With a delivery schedule of consistent weaned pigs, we know exactly what we’ll get.” Prior to their involvement with the System, production on the Boerboom farm was more sporadic. “What they’ve taught us with our own sow herd is to make sure everything matches,” continues Greg. “We must have the nursery and finishing space to match the number of head coming out of the sow barn.”
“The Pipestone System brings the knowledge, research, and resources we need to fill the gaps in our farming operation,” adds Mike, noting the PRRS research Dr. Scott Dee is doing and Dr. Joel Nerem’s work in reproductive and sow health. “Having that research and specialty base within the group brings real value to our involvement in the system.”
But it’s apparent, when you talk to Greg and Paula, that the biggest value of the Pipestone System to them is the transfer of ownership it is helping make possible. “Greg and I feel really blessed to have all the kids around here again,” says Paula.