For the Theis family, the secret to the success of April Valley Farms was diversification. In the beginning, though, hogs were the focus, said Mark Theis, who heads up the swine operation.
“Dad set up to market 30 hogs per week,” he said. “I was 14 years old when I learned to drive a truck of hogs to St. Joe, and we went every week. That was dad’s goal.”
Hogs, he said, provided a cushion against wildly fluctuating prices. “So you hit the highs, you hit the lows, the good, the bad, the high corn market, the low corn market—it was very unique.”
Every step of the operation is tightly managed to run on schedule, and has been since 1979. Sows are weaned on Mondays, bred on weekends, and alternated through a hot nursery to a floor-type pen for 21 days each and finished in a hoop house. “It’s like factory clockwork—boom, boom, boom,” Mark said.
The regimen, as well as carefully controlled artificial insemination and infrastructure improvements, has paid off. The farm has consistently earned premium prices on the hogs, he said.
The family has invested in facilities such as a 24-sow farrowing building with a caged nursery, a cattle handling chute equipped with electronic scales, and other infrastructure.