Steven Doeden has been around pigs his whole life, but didn’t get heavily interested until his sixth-grade summer. His dad was managing a co-op when a local farmer stopped in and asked if Doeden needed a job.
Doeden started work the next day for the man’s 120-sow, farrow-to-finish operation. For the next three or four years, he was exposed to everything from breeding and picking out boars, to grinding feed and loading out fat hogs.
“I loved every minute,” he recalled. “I don’t think he even would have had to pay me to be there.”
Doeden eventually transitioned to helping his dad, who had built several hog barns and started pumping his own manure. Today, the two still work together and share employees, but have separate hog sites. Doeden built a 2,400-head barn in 2006, followed by two more—in 2008 and 2012.
He is now a contract grower with RC Family Farms in Orange City. As part of its risk-share program, he owns about 25% of the pigs raised in his barns and markets 14,000 per year. Doeden, 37, takes pride in excellent performance. Of the 48 wean-to-finish sites RC has on feed, Doeden’s 2,400-head site is rated No. 1, while his 4,800-head site is No. 5. That’s based on mortality, feed conversion, and daily rate of gain.
He and his dad have continued their custom manure hauling business, which has more than quadrupled since Doeden graduated from high school. They run two 10,500-gallon tanks nearly nonstop from the time beans are harvested to when the ground freezes. They pump 25 to 28 million gallons each year, covering about 7,000 acres with mostly liquid hog manure and some cattle. A minimum-till applicator with disk closers ensures maximum coverage. The father-son duo also finish about 6,000 head of fat cattle annually.
Off the farm, Doeden is a member of the Cherokee County Pork Producers. He helps around the Cherokee County Fair, often in the livestock area or during tractor pulls and rodeos. He spent more than six years as a volunteer with the Meriden Community Fire & Rescue Department, serving as a training officer for part of that time. Doeden attends Trinity Lutheran Church in Cherokee.
Doeden and his wife Rachel have six children: DeLani, 18, Deidra, 14, Tate, 12, Dru, 9, Ellie, 1, and Hank, born in early December.