Bill Owen of Riceville and his oldest son, Bob, of Saratoga, in Howard County, operate North Iowa Boar Semen, located a mile west of Riceville. They have genetically impacted swine herds nationwide.
Bill’s dad, Robert, was a purebred Duroc breeder in Wisconsin and had a passion for showing hogs at state fairs and the National Barrow Show. When Bill and his wife, Karen, were looking to follow in his footsteps, Robert recommended they relocate in Iowa or Illinois, closer to other registered breeders. The Owens purchased a farm near Riceville.
Bill primarily bred and sold Durocs and Hampshires, gaining notoriety as the herd performed well in Iowa test stations, which he participated in from 1968 to their closing in the 1990s. When his sons were in high school, he added Yorkshires and Poland Chinas to give them experience working with other breeds. Bill had many top-indexing pens, with several boars going on to produce high-performing results for buyers and artificial-insemination stud farms. In 1983, he had a record-setting boar at the Lisbon test station. Bill has been raising swine and producing purebred seedstock for over 60 years.
Then in the early 1990s, purebred producers saw a decline in demand for breeding stock. Friends encouraged Bill to start collecting boar semen that could be shipped to pork producers, who were then becoming acquainted with artificial insemination as an economical way to improve their herd’s genetics. NIBS started in 1995 with 20 purebred boars. That number grew to 70 boars, and today, they have roughly 50 purebred and crossbred boars. At times, Bill distributed up to 50,000 vials of semen a year.
After working as a landscaper and high school custodian, Bob, 50, returned to the hog business in 2009. He now collects most of the samples, about 90% of which are sold for meat-quality butcher hogs to family owned commercial customers, many with Niman Ranch. They have sent semen to every state and rely mostly on word-of-mouth advertising or their website.
The Owens attend New Covenant Fellowship church in Osage, where Bill is an elder, and are members of their county pork producers group. Bill also has past involvement in Extension Council and has been a township trustee for 10 years.
Bill and Karen have four other grown children: Monica (55), Connie (54), Lynette (51) and Jim (49).