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Lessons Learned :: Kirk Swanson

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Breeder Central

Kirk Swanson is known for having a gift when it comes to breeding a selecting livestock. His talents created the legendary sire, Hillbilly Bone. If you ask Kirk about his industry success, he will be quick to tell you it’s due to many lessons he learned from mentors along the way. Kirk shared one such lesson with the team.

The summer of 1991, I was asked to judge the Market Derby Swine Show at the Story County Fair. The Swine Superintendent was my mentor and good friend Dr. Lauren Christian.

Gene Roush’s boys had Grand and Reserve Champion Live Market Hogs. After the show as I walked toward the announcer’s table, Lauren handed me the Derby results with the top two barrows in the same order and said, “Good job, kid.”

My reply was something to the effect, “Those two were good enough Ray Charles could have found them.”

That warm, glowing signature smile came to Lauren’s face, which I had come to understand meant pay attention this could be something special. Lauren had been the chair of the NPPC Task Force to redesign the modern market, which had just been completed with an article to showcase the new model, ‘Symbol’ in the many of the national swine publications.

He asked, “Kirk what do you think of Symbol our new model?” 

My response was, “I really like the skeletal design and productive build. I believe that type of pig will be much more adaptable to confinement, and much more forgiving to raise. But, there is one thing I liked better about Jasper (the old model).”

Lauren with a puzzled look asked, “What?”

I said, “He had more muscle.”

Lauren’s warm glow turned to one of a much hotter temperament, as he pointed his finger my direction and exclaimed, “No, he had more MUSCLE EXPRESSION!” 

Then the lesson that took me many years to fully understand and appreciate.

Lauren, always a teacher, explained, “Start at their snout. Put a big brim on their nose, big nostrils, make ’em wide between their eyes, and wide between their ears. Put a large immature blade and pull it up to the top of their body cavity. Connect a flexible spine to a hip that is opened with good width. Then, place the feet and legs in true alignment. Now you have created the ability for the skeleton to be naturally open and sprung in its natural muscle thickness for it to be comfortable and have the expansion in the center rib for production and durability.” 

Even though the Champion and Reserve were very nice barrows and Symbol was an improved model, it took me many years to fully envision and build the model Lauren, who identified the Hal stress gene, had pictured in his mind. 

That very model was the mental foundation that led to Hillbilly Bone, Red Bone, Black Powder, Hillbilly Hilton, Justified, and a few of our females that have built our herd.