Nolan Kooiker has been raising swine for nearly 30 years, and owns and manages a wean-to-finish operation. He markets 13,000 hogs annually, with a contract for a portion of them going to JBS. Some pigs are now being sent to WholeStone Farms in Fremont, Neb., where he has purchased shares, and the remainder go through Premier Pork Marketing in Sioux Center.

Nolan owns shares in a Pipestone unit, and he gets about 2,400 pigs every nine weeks from the sow farm in South Dakota, northeast of Huron. The pigs spend about eight weeks in the nursery before being distributed to two finishing sites.

Nolan Kooiker was 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, Kooiker, and the 2020 Iowa Pork Producers Association President Mike Paustian.

Nolan has been around pigs ever since he can remember, as his dad, now 74, raised pigs. In high school, he recalls an FFA “sophomore gilt project”—the FFA provided him with a bred gilt, and he got started from there. He kept all the gilts from that first litter and eventually grew to about 200 sows. He sold weaned pigs from his then-farrow-to-wean operation before changing over in the late ‘90s.

Producing affordable, safe and nutritious food feels good, Nolan says. During a trip to Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, he witnessed pigs rooting around in garbage that was being pushed into a river. Assuming those animals would eventually be slaughtered for food, Nolan appreciates even more the high standards of pig production in the United States. He strives to raise his pigs to the best of his ability, keeping meticulous records and always looking for ways to improve.

Nolan Kooiker, right, with his brother and dad

With the exception of hauling pigs to market, Nolan and his family handle everything else pertaining to hog production, including milling their own feed. He and his brother farm just less than 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans on family owned and rented land. About two-thirds of that is corn, which usually accommodates their feed needs.

In addition to farming, Nolan is active in his community. He is a member of the Lyon County Pork Producers; a member of First Baptist Church in rural George, where he serves as the financial secretary and does volunteer work; and on the board of directors for the Lyon Rural Electric Cooperative.