Iowa is the largest pork producer in the United States with approximately 5,400 hog barns. The pork industry plays a vital role in the Iowa economy. Farmers Coop Society is a key player in this market with custom feed manufacturing facilities, Proven Swine Management services, and manure management practices. FCS takes pride in helping all our producers succeed, since October is National Pork Month, we wanted to celebrate one of our pork producers. All our producers bring unique experiences to the table, making FCS better along the way.
Michael Doran is a fifth-generation hog farmer with barns throughout central and northwest Iowa. Mike is an Iowa State alumnus and currently lives in Ames with his wife and four children, one daughter, Lilly, followed by a set of triplets. Mike comments, “My wife stays home with our triplets. I think she probably has the hardest job of all working with those guys.” As for Lilly, “Lilly is our four-year-old and she loves the cattle and hogs, so she comes along.” Through this Mike is intentional about keeping his operation rooted in family.
Relationships of every kind have proven valuable to Mike through the years. After graduating college Elanco Animal Health brought him to the Sioux Center area. During this time Mike began feeding livestock for producers in the area, “My original customers turned into friends, and then they turned into livestock feeding partners. I enjoyed feeding livestock a lot more than being on the sales side.” Mike knew he needed to make a change and wanted to grow his swine operation.
Michael started out purchasing commodity feeder hogs and weened pigs. He then took the opportunity to enter livestock brokering. These expansions provided several opportunities, which lead him to sourcing fat hogs for niche markets. With the demand of the niche markets, his brokerage business, and his custom feeding Mike, again, found another opportunity to grow his operation. He began to custom feed hogs with the genetics that provide the meat quality the markets want, he chose to do this where people understand hogs, Northwest Iowa. This led him to his current business partner, Nick Berry. Together they have been making pork more flavorful for the last several years, “We need to continue to focus on making pork flavorful, making it to where it's more forgiving to cook.” They have utilized this philosophy to enter the pork market in Japan.
Mike has a hand in several key aspects of the supply chain from start to finish, and he can proudly say that most of the process happens right here in our communities. “I love it up here as a pork producer, every banker knows about what's happening in the hog market, as well as the mechanic in the car shop. You just have people who are invested in what's happening in the country around here.”
FCS is proud to be a leader in innovation and excellence, and we are committed to partnering with our producers. Our FCS Feed division has several unique services that allow our producers to achieve their operational goals. Mike utilizes a couple of these services, the custom feed blend ability the FCS feed office provides and the Proven Swine Management Team. “I work with Cargill to do my formulations. So, they analyze all the ingredient costs and then they coordinate with the feed desk at FCS. If we need to change the mixtures of distillers and corn and soybean meal based on market conditions, those changes get made monthly.” Mike expands on this, explaining that programs like this through FCS have saved him between five and ten dollars per pig, it’s a small difference that adds up quickly.
Profitability is key in any operation, but just as import, are the relationships that get forged along the way. As his operation has grown, Mike has worked more and more closely with Galen Mars. “Our daughter Lily considers Galen, literally part of our family. I consider him one of my great friends. I mean, there’s a lot of peace of mind knowing that Galen and Brady and the team at Proven Swine Management are able to keep an eye on my pigs on a day to day, week to week basis.”
Farming has a deep, rich history of being a family business. No matter what direction agriculture goes this will not change.
“Whether you're buying pork from a big box store or you're buying half a hog from your neighbor and taking it to a local locker, the people that deal with animals every day do it because they have a passion for it. Whether they own the animal or not, they're in a spot where they're doing it because they care about the well-being of every animal. I think the other piece is, if you've had a disappointing experience with pork in the past, you need to call me because we can work on getting new product that you're going to taste and say, how is this pork? There is great tasting, wonderful, juicy pork chops that exist out there, and if you haven't found it, we can help you find it.”
As you celebrate pork month make sure you thank your local pork producer for the excellent meat!