Bill and Joan Tentinger have been in pork production for 50 years. As young newlyweds, they farrowed just 20 sows at a time and finished out the pigs. Today, the wean-to-nursery operation gets weaned pigs from sow units in Canada and the United States. They market 45,000 to 50,000 head annually using contract growers and facilities they own.

Bill and Joan Tentinger were named a Master Pork Producer during Iowa Pork Congress on Jan. 22, 2020. From left are Jason Ross of Iowa State University’s Iowa Pork Industry Center, the Tentingers, and the 2020 Iowa Pork Producers Association President Mike Paustian.

The Tentingers have experienced a half-century of changes. In the early days, sows farrowed on pasture during the summertime, and the couple carried out feed buckets by hand—no matter the weather. But despite being a small-scale operation, they pushed to evolve with the industry. In 1973, they built a confinement finishing barn at the farm where Bill was raised. They increased their sow herd and continued as a farrow-to-finish operation.

Joan recalls asking Bill for his plan B during the 1980s farm recession. A farmer through and through, Bill didn’t have one. In 1986, they remodeled an old horse barn on their property, installing 27 raised farrowing crates. In 1993, they built a gestation barn, updated their farrowing facilities, and increased farrowing to 72 sow batches every five weeks. That update brought all gestation, breeding and farrowing under one roof. The following year, they added gestation stalls, and they moved from natural mating to artificial insemination.

At that time, they decided to concentrate on farrowing and sold weaned pigs, and later changed to using contract growers for nursery and finish needs. They increased their finished numbers by purchasing additional weaned pigs to put on feed in separate facilities. They stopped farrowing in 2018.

The Tentingers grow the corn and soybeans that feed their pigs.

Bill and Joan Tentinger, center, with their children Mandy and Nathan.

Bill serves on the National Pork Board. He has been on the Iowa Pork Producers Association Board of Directors for the past 15 years and was president in 2012. He also is a member of the Plymouth County Pork Producers, and is involved with advisory boards for county government and local committees. At their church, Bill is on the finance board, while Joan is part of the parish council and past treasurer of the guild. Both are past 4-H leaders. Bill is a member of Knights of Columbus, and Joan volunteers at the local hospital.

The Tentingers have two grown children—Mandy, 43, and Nathan, 40—who also are active on the farm.