Matt Zitelman has been raising swine for more than 18 years and has worked for the Pipestone System since October 2007. He started at the caretaker level and quickly worked his way up. He moved to manage a 1,200-sow unit north of Jesup for a year, and has now managed Prairie Gold LLC, a breed-to-wean operation with 2,800 sows northeast of Winthrop, for the past nine years.
In his current role, Matt oversees the sows and nearly 80,000 piglets annually as he strives to produce high-quality and healthy weaned pigs for the facility’s shareholders, made up of eight or nine families. He is involved in all phases of production, including gilt development units—gilts are brought in at about 10 weeks old—gestation/breeding and farrowing. He also oversees cost control, trucking and scheduling, as well as weekly production goals of 140 bred females, 126 sows in farrowing and 1,500 pigs weaned.
Matt is extremely hands-on. During a difficult outbreak of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) on his farm, he worked with his veterinarian and led his team to care for and treat sick pigs. When they decided to eliminate Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae in conjunction with PRRS, he took the extra work and additional protocols in stride, helping to successfully eliminate both pathogens.
Matt puts exceptional effort into cross-training, mentoring and developing his team of employees, including eight full-timers and one part-timer. He takes pride in fostering trust and growth to make them better caregivers and prepared for leadership positions. Several individuals have advanced within Pipestone—two went on to manage other barns, and one became a bilingual trainer for the Northeast Iowa territory of the Pipestone System.
Matt grew up on a dairy farm with around 70 cows and 40 to 60 sows. His parents still have beef cattle and about 300 acres of crop ground near Arlington.
Matt believes community involvement contributes to the industry’s success. He has been part of the Buchanan County Pork Producers for four years, and vice president for the past two years. He volunteers to grill at various events, like fair booths, Fourth of July festivals and Pipestone picnics, and he strongly encourages his team to participate, too.
Matt and his wife, Tracy, and have three children: Isabelle (9), Charlotte (5) and Noah (3).