Bath couple provides show pigs for those in 4-H and FFA

Couple is excited to see success of projects

Connie Sieh Groop
Special to the Farm Forum

Providing sought-after genetics to those in the industry, a farm near Bath concentrates on selling show pigs and swine breeding stock to 4-Hers and FFA plus breeders throughout the United States.

Jeff Wolff and Tanya Torguson started Wolff Family Genetics in 2015. The herd consists of Duroc, Hampshire, Yorkshire, Landrace, Spotted, Berkshire and Herefords and crossbreds sows.

Seven of these sows were national champions as gilts.

“Many have names and all are loved,” Torguson said. They have marketed their animals to 14 states, including 22 counties in South Dakota.

Jeff Wolff, center, and Tanya Torguson, right, are active in the ag community, participating in the SD Pork Producers, the Farm Bureau and the Aberdeen Chamber Ag Committee. They are shown getting ready to distribute hams for the 2018 Hams Across South Dakota project with Brad Greenway of Mitchell, who was the 2017 National Pig Farmer of the Year. Courtesy photo

Wolff grew up near Eureka on a purebred cattle and hog operation. His family marketed breeding stock in the 1970s and 1980s.

“I started young. My mom took me in a stroller to the hog barn,” Wolff said. “Hogs were always my passion, especially on the purebred end, having shown growing up, it gets in your blood.”

Torguson attended SDSU receiving a degree in agronomy. She joined her family's diversified farm near Andover. Her new adventure with hogs started in 2014.

“Jeff has been a great teacher," she said.

Wolff spends about 90 percent of his time raising, promoting and marketing their hogs. The rest of his time is spent selling Renk seed. About 85 percent of the animals go to 4-H and FFA youth, while about 15 percent are sold as breeding stock.

Biosecurity is a big part of daily life. They allow no outsiders in the barns. Anyone who comes in has to disinfect their shoes, plus wear booties and coveralls.

Each spring they host a live auction at their farm, where they sell between 80 to 100 prospects that weigh between 50 and 70 pounds. The pigs have sold in a range from $250 to $2,000. Sale animals are moved from the chip barn to their heated shop for the auction. Everyone attending has to walk through disinfectant and put on plastic booties.

This coming year’s sale will be April 19.

A litter of the Spots is shown at the farm at Bath. Courtesy photo

“Before the sale, we do a live Facebook preview," Torguson said. "We’ll show 15 to 20 pigs, so customers have a chance to see the animals and we hope will entice more people to come. Last year, there were 1,000 views before the sale.”

The number of winners at the local, state and national shows is impressive. Wolff and Torguson offer a rewards program for those who purchase animals from them, providing cash and credit to those who are champions at fairs or shows.

Wolff majored in Animal Science at Iowa State, where he was on the meats and livestock judging teams.

“I continue to judge several livestock shows throughout the Dakotas and Minnesota each year,” he said.

That background serves him well as he helps families with picking the right pigs.

2019 ND State Fair Grand Champion Breeding Gilt, which was purchased from Wolff Family Genetics. Courtesy photo
2019 Ak-Sar-Ben Stock Show Champion Landrace Barrow was purchased from Wolff Family Genetics. Courtesy photo

“The first thing I do is ask them, ‘What is your goal? Do you want to show just at your local or state fair? Or do you want to go beyond to something like the Aksarben Stock Show in Nebraska?’ That determines what to look for as far as raising the animal to the right size and fitting their budget," he explained. "Young families with little experience appreciate the help. It’s a learning experience for them and a lot of fun.”

Each summer, the couple offers a showmanship clinic and camp for those who have purchased animals from Wolff Family Genetics. That's held at the Brown County Fairgrounds. Last year they had about 20 kids who brought their pigs and spent the day working with clinic teachers. They learned showmanship techniques, how to clip their animals, what products are available and which of them work, plus pointers on how to present their hog.

“It gives them a chance to learn in a comfortable environment where they don’t get lost in the shuffle at a large show,” Wolff said.

They focus on customer service by being available by phone or farm visits to answer questions for their customers.

They feed a ration utilizing full-fat soybean meal from Natural Dakota Soy. Wolff believes the diet going into the hog is just as important as the genetics to develop the proper muscle.

“If you feed the animals correctly and manage them, they can be highly successful," Wolff said.

To prepare for their sale, they work with the pigs a lot.

“Instead of running away, the pigs will come up and get a treat such as a pop tart or a marshmallow," Torguson explained. "Before the sale, we’ll go in each pen and sit there to calm them down.”

It is very rewarding for Wolff and Torguson to see the success that the young people achieve with their projects. They try to attend as many of the 4-H achievement days where their pigs are being shown as possible. It has allowed them to develop many great friendships and relationships with many families throughout the state, as well as throughout the country.

Jeff Wolff in the show ring at the 2019 Exposition with one of their crossbred boars. Courtesy photo