As contract finishers for JBS, Mike Bravard, 58, and his son Lucas, 27, together have six barns across three wean-to-finish sites.
Mike, a third-generation pig farmer, remembers his dad raising pigs in the 1970s when farrowing crates were housed in an old barn. They transitioned to raised-deck farrowing in the early ‘90s, then built a nursery and expanded their sow numbers. Their farrow-to-finish operation continued until the late ‘90s, when they switched to custom feeding for Land O’Lakes, then, later, Cargill and JBS.
Mike built his first finisher in 1999, followed by another finisher on the same site in 2012. They expanded onto a second site in 2016, when Lucas returned after graduating from Iowa State University. At that time, they added two barns. In 2018, Lucas bought another site, located just north of the home place, from a fellow JBS producer. Along with outstanding animal care, they take pride in neatly manicured lawns and driveways.
Farming is a family affair for the Bravards. Mike and Lucas split daily choring and barn management, but other members often help with feeding, vaccinating, and loading and sorting pigs. The crew also includes Mike’s wife and their three other children, as well as valuable team members Brian Tiffany, Jaime Gonzales, and Brady Stauffer.
Along with raising pigs, Mike and Lucas raise 4,700 acres of corn and seed beans, and Lucas sells seed corn for Ellsworth-based Champion Seed. They are experimenting with cover crops and minimum tillage, and manure is applied to fields following practices that help eliminate nutrient runoff and nitrogen leeching. In 2008, the state’s first bioreactor was installed on the Bravards’ farm. The trench filled with wood chips reduces nitrates from water flowing through field tile lines.
Mike and Lucas are active with the Greene County Pork Producers, and volunteer at the Iowa Pork Tent at the Iowa State Fair. Lucas is part of the Greene County Corn Growers Association. Mike served on the Greene County Soil & Water Conservation District board for several years, and has helped coach youth sports teams.
In addition, the Bravard family attends Paton United Methodist Church in Paton, and has been involved in school activities, 4H, and FFA. They—along with numerous friends and community members—are known to lend a hand by helping organize and host scholarship fundraisers at their farm, “due to the loss of two very dear friends who were very much loved by their families, friends, and community.”