By: Kevin Wendt
Describe your operation. (size, scope, breeds)
We have a small family farm. Normally, we have 8-10 Hampshires, a Duroc, and three Crossbred sows in production. Typically, we buy interest in a top Hampshire boar, each year, and use AI from the best boars available. We also have used some frozen semen and old-line genetics to experiment and try to increase genetic diversity in today’s Hampshire lines and use proven sires we like or admire for productivity. We have 30 acres of cropland that is farmed by our neighbor using organic production practices and a few cows we own in partnership to raise show calves.
What is your goal at Wendt Livestock when raising showpigs?
Our primary goal is to raise a high-quality, purebred gilt or boar that can have a positive influence on the breed and make significant change. Simple traits like soundness, productivity, ease of reproduction and herd health are always priorities. Our secondary goal is to raise a quality purebred or crossbred market hog that can compete at any level for our children to show at the county or state fair and provide quality pigs for families with similar goals.
What makes Wendt Livestock unique?
In breeding our Hampshires, I do not follow trends, fads or short-term solutions. I guess, I am a bit hard-headed in that regard. For more than 30 years, I have had the best seat in the house announcing at shows, judging shows and auctioneering pig sales. I get a firsthand look at what everyone else is doing or trying to accomplish, including judges and breeders, both young and old, along with buyers, both seasoned and new. I try to learn something from everyone I cross paths with, every day and at every show, that I can apply in my life, our herd or our operation. This has allowed us to truly have Hampshire sows and females that are productive and do what God intended them to do – be a meat hog and a whole lot more.
What does it feel like to raise Type Conference or State Fair Champion Boar or Gilt?
We have been blessed to have several in the last five years, and it is a great sense of pride knowing that the hard work, matings and decisions paid off, when you’re selected as a champion by your peers. Then in later years, you see those genetics still in pedigrees that are working for others. One of our first Champion Boars was at the Ohio State Fair, in 2013. Terry Shaffer bought Power Point that day for $17,000 with Jim McCoy as the contending bidder. Four years later, we were able to see Mike Watson sell the high-selling $72,000 Prime Time boar at Louisville, and his dam was by Power Point. It makes you feel good knowing your efforts made an impact, and high-caliber people trusted your animal husbandry skills and ability.
How do you know when you’ve raised “the one?”
This might be the easiest question to answer because about 98 percent of them are not “the one,” so the great ones make it look so easy. In 2014, when Haymaker, our Winter Type Conference Champion that sold to Premium Blend Genetics, was born I just had a great feeling. On the sow, through the nursery and in the grower, Haymaker got better every day of his life. We raised his mother and his grandmother, and they had that same look. When people like Aaron Cobb and Mark Hoge tell you how impressed they are with a Hampshire boar, you take note and know you have truly raised “the one.” When breeders coast-to-coast use the boar with success and Ted Laird tells you he is booked all the time, you know you raised “the one.” The great ones have a different look and a presence about them. It’s a gut feeling you see early on and watch them grow. I struggle more with the 98% that have a flaw or an issue, and you know it before you ever go to the show.
Describe your most rewarding moment in the industry.
Wow; I have had so many it’s hard to select just one. I have been blessed to sell record-selling boars of multiple breeds for many breeders and honored to judge at the Indiana State Fair, Oklahoma Youth Expo, LSU Stock Show, just to name a few, not to mention sorting Hampshires at the Indiana State Fair, Belton and Duncan. However, it was a true honor for me to be asked to judge Hampshire and Duroc gilts at the 2017 National Junior Summer Spectacular (NJSS), in Louisville. As a family, we decided not to show another breed or barrows at NJSS and for my children to take the year off from NJSA shows. In the spring of 2017, we had an online auction selling our Hampshire prospects. One of my longtime friends Kelley Kimley called me and asked what barrow I liked the best and thought Lea needed to drive that summer. I told him about a greener Hampshire barrow that I thought could be a major player if everything fell into place. I thought to myself, Kimley wants a Hampshire barrow, so they must want a challenge. As a family they bought this barrow and had a great summer winning 10 times on the OHPIGS Circuit and Open Show Champion at the Ohio State Fair. My greatest reward was the day that same barrow was named Champion Hampshire and Fifth Overall at the NJSS, the night before I judged the most prestigious show of my judging career knowing the sacrifice my wife and family made for me and the ultimate effort the Kimley Family made to drive this barrow to the winner’s circle. The next day, Megan, Riley and Ethan surprised me and came to the show to watch the final drive and selection of Supreme Champion. Those times and memories will last with me forever.
What’s the first thing you look at when viewing sales on Showpig.com? Why?
I like to study the different sires used, and more importantly, the sows they are out of and boars that made those sows. I try to learn and see what is popular, and then, when I can see pigs at live events or shows out of those same sires, I study them for quality and pattern. I do this across all breeds. I have a passion for all purebred breeds and crosses to be better than the previous generation. Normally, after I study the picture, if I want more information I will text or call the breeder and get the inside scoop.
One word that best describes how you work:
Smart, and my wife would say, “tirelessly.”
What is your most important gadget or electronic device? Why?
My phone. It has my contacts, my pictures, my calendar, my to-do lists, and it’s all in the palm of my hand. My first cell phone was a bag phone that was the size of a mini suitcase.
What websites, apps or tools can’t you live without? Why?
I am a big believer in Gesdate; it’s a game changer. Yes, it takes time to upload everything to start, but lots of great things take time. Truly an industry Game Changer Gesdate. No, I do not own Gesdate, and they do not pay me to promote their product. Trust me; it’s the real deal. Ben Moyer and Travis Platt roped me into Snap Chat a few years ago, and it’s fun to connect with Moyer, Platt, Blaine and Scott Evans, Nathan Day, Mauck, Korb, Adam Beck, etc. It’s just a fun app.
What do you listen to while you work?
At the farm, Trevor has QFM 96 Classic Rock going all the time. That station started when I was in college at Ohio State in the ‘80s, so it makes me feel young and invincible again. I drive a bunch, so normally I listened to Sports Talk Radio, when I am not on the phone in the truck traveling.
What is the secret to your success? (or at least one you would share)
Start and focus on your sow herd, and the rest will happen. Start with a foundation sow from a breeder with a reputation of what you need. Keep daughters from that sow and granddaughters sired by boars that have great mothers. If you’re raising Hampshires, exercise patience. Great females make a difference.
How do you keep from getting burned out with the day-to-day?
I surround myself with great people, starting with my wife and working down all the way to every aspect of our business ventures. They keep the light burning for me to succeed and to stay focused. Diversity has also been a key to my success, and a network of people that have been willing to help me achieve my goals, so I have a desire to not let them down or fail. Some days are hard and that happens to everyone in every business or farm, but you must have faith, family and friends that can pick you up from time to time or tell you to focus. Sometimes, they tell you what you don’t really want to hear, but likely need to hear. In later years, I have tried to have a better work, family and life balance. It’s not as easy as it seems sometimes, but at the end of the day, if you know you work hard, you’re honest and did your best, that’s all anyone can expect
What is your favorite and least-favorite chore?
My favorite chore would be planning out the matings for the sows and studying what genetics to use now and in the future. My least favorite would be pulling pigs or assisting a gilt that has trouble or needs a C section. I’m not a fan at all, so we try to breed for minimal issues.
How long does it take you to picture, sort and write a description for ONLY one pig in an online sale?
Way too long! That’s why I surround myself with great people, and why we have upgraded online auction software after using the same program for 15 plus years.
Describe your ideal customer.
One that can start with you at an entry-level price, ask questions and get better every year. Ask questions and have a passion for making livestock better.
What do you find most satisfying after a long day in the barn?
If at a fair or show the best part is some good food, maybe a swim with the kids and hanging out at the hotel or campground digesting the show. If after a hard day’s work at home, wind down with a sports ballgame on TV and a good sleep.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Respect is not given or free, it’s earned.
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see ____________________ answer these same questions.
I’d love to see Aaron Cobb answer these same questions.