Emmalee Haege is no stranger to pigs.
The southern Illinois native grew up showing pigs in 4-H. She then spent some time judging shows. Now she spends each day at a different pork operation.
As a senior production manager with The Maschhoffs, Haege’s territory spans a state and a half, west to east, from central Missouri to the eastern edge of Illinois. She supervises four employees, who in turn oversee contract farmers called production partners by the company.
“I haven’t sat down,” Haege said.
The five-person team travels daily to monitor pigs at 220 wean-to-market spaces across the two states. It’s work she never imagined she’d be doing.
“I thought the commercial industry was not for me,” she said. “I was always in the show-pig side of things. It’s interesting how they are really different, yet working toward the same goal.”
Haege’s career track has been a literal loop. She grew up on a farm just across from the headquarters of The Maschhoffs, in the Clinton County community of Carlyle. She had a small show-pig operation of Berkshires. She hit the show circuit at county and state fairs, and also in national competition.
“I fell in love with livestock, especially pigs,” she said.
Following high school graduation she attended community college in Mattoon, then transferred to Western Illinois University, where she majored in agricultural science and business. She went directly from college to The Maschhoffs, and was posted in central Illinois.
“I wanted to come back to southern Illinois. After a couple of years in the field I decided that I didn’t want to be in the pig barn anymore; I wanted to be in the office,” she said. “After four years doing logistics, marketing and feed, I decided that my talents are in the barn. Now I’m back in the field.”
After transferring back to southern Illinois she married her husband, Daniel Haege. He is a self-employed mechanic who works on tractors and other agricultural equipment. In addition, he sells seed, and the couple have a herd of Red Angus cattle.
“In the past year or so, both of us focused on our careers,” she said.
Haege and her team perform a variety of duties for The Maschhoffs, including monitoring feed, water, air and general care of animals. They focus on health checks and help production partners with marketing plans, nurseries and movement of pigs.
“We never see the same things all the time,” she said. “We’re challenged the most with health problems. You never know what’s going to happen to that group of pigs.”