Jessica and Tyler Kannegieter

Jessica and Tyler Kannegieter manage a nursery operation in Cherokee County, Iowa. They were named Master Pork Producers by the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

CHEROKEE, Iowa — Tyler and Jessica Kannegieter both work full-time jobs and are busy raising a young family. Throw in managing a hog nursery, and spare time is a rare commodity for this northwest Iowa couple.

“We stay pretty busy,” Jessica says.

The couple were named Master Pork Producers by the Iowa Pork Producers Association earlier this year.

Tyler works as a regional production manager for Hanor, while Jessica owns the Mud on Main coffee shops in Aurelia and Cherokee. The couple has four children, Aubrey, 12; Leah, 9; Liv, 4; and Beau, 3.

Hanor owns the pigs the couple manages. Pigs weigh about 15 pounds when they are shipped to the Cherokee County site and stay until they reach around 55 pounds and are shipped to the finisher.

“We provide the care and management,” Tyler says.

Jessica grew up on a farm and helped raise hogs, and Tyler worked for Sleezer Fertility Center’s boar stud while in high school. He worked for another local pork producer after college, then went to work as a service technician for Hanor.

“I didn’t grow up on a farm, but I enjoyed working with pigs,” Tyler says.

He is involved in nursery-to-finish production for Hanor, managing about 400,000 pig spaces and eight service technicians.

Over the past two years, Tyler has helped convert production from wean-to-finish to nursery-to-finish flows to help pigs get a better start and ensure health throughout the finishing stage.

“I think it’s better for the pigs to get started in a nursery environment after weaning, when many are just sent to a finishing environment,” he says. “When the pigs leave our site, they are very healthy and do well in the finisher.”

Tyler and Jessica are planning the construction of a 2,400 head nursery.

“We’re hoping to get it started this fall yet,” he says. “We’re really looking forward to having our own building.”

The couple also invest their time in numerous organizations. Jessica serves on the county Extension council and the Little League and economic development boards in Aurelia.

They are also active with the Cherokee County Pork Producers and help with functions as their schedule allows.

The family recently moved to an acreage not far from their nursery site.

Tyler says despite the busy schedule, he enjoys being a part of the pork industry.

“To me, it’s just very rewarding to take that 15-pound pig and watch it grow in the nursery and leave here a healthy pig who is ready for the finisher,” he says. “I enjoy that process. It’s a great feeling.”

Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.