Bring the outside up

By Matt Reese

We knew going into this basketball season that it was going to be a tough year for my daughter’s 7th grade team. They were stepping up in the level of competition in their league and the wins were not going to come as easily as they had the previous season, if they came at all. 

There were a handful of wins, but also some losses by substantive margins. As a former coach and dad watching from the stands, I couldn’t help but notice a trend develop as the season of tough losses played out. Our girls would play well for a quarter or so, then start to make a few mistakes. A few errant passes in a row would lead to sudden panic, which would lead to more mistakes, a run from the opposition and, within a few moments, the whole team would collectively lose hope and fall far behind. This would happen until a couple of things would go right, then they’d re-group and play fine after that, usually too late to have a shot at winning the game. 

With just a couple of games left, in my infinite basketball wisdom, I had a dad-daughter-sports talk with my daughter. As an individual player, you cannot control all of the outside factors of a basketball game. I pointed out the importance of playing with heart from the inside out to help elevate the rest of the team, rather join in the collective panic. 

Then, just before the game I sent her a text along the lines of: play from the inside out to bring the outside up. I could almost hear the digital 13-year-old eyeroll in her lack of reply, but wouldn’t you know it! They won the game! 

As it turned out, a few days after that game I had the chance to sit down for an interview with Todd Price, DVM, who is featured in the cover story for this issue. For his extensive contributions to Ohio’s hog industry, Price is the recipient of this year’s Ohio Pork Council Service Award.

In discussing how the industry can best address the broad and lengthy list of challenges currently facing animal agriculture, Price offered some excellent advice that sounded familiar. He emphasized the importance of starting from the inside out.

“I am a firm believer that we need to have our house in order first before we reach outside of that house and start working on those other things we have to do. The one way to have our house in order is to keep our pigs healthy. It is a whole lot easier to run a system full of healthy pigs than sick pigs,” Price said. “That is why pig health is our top priority. We need to stay in our wheelhouse doing what we do best. As a veterinarian I am trained in immunology, testing, and preventing diseases. Things like ventilation and nutrition affect diseases. We have a pretty broad spectrum when we look at things, but we start with the basis of the health of the pig. Pigs are extremely intelligent. Usually their actions will tell you the problem. They are smart enough that if you watch them you can figure out what is wrong.”

Starting with pig health is vital in every component of the hog industry from the largest commercial operations to a first-time 4-H project. 

“Commercially, pig health affects productivity in finisher and sow farms and even with show pigs, health is an issue,” Price said. “There is nothing more demoralizing than watching a 9-year-old child with a pig that gets sick a week before the fair. That is tough on the child and tough on the family. We work hard to try to keep everything healthy because the last thing we want is for a health issue to limit that pig.” 

If the health fundamentals are firmly in place from the inside, it becomes less overwhelming to focus on addressing the long list of challenges for animal agriculture from the outside.

“If health is in order, we have the time to focus on manure management, water quality and other issues,” Price said. “If we have a healthy pig, we have fewer issues in the barn. From a food safety standpoint we are using fewer antibiotics and vaccines than ever before. With a healthier pig we can spend more time and resources on all of those other important things.”

The agricultural implications of Price’s point go well beyond hog farming. With a growing focus on improving soil health, a recent emphasis on taking a deeper look at mental health and a vital need for financial health for Ohio’s farms, agriculture is broadly addressing health from the inside out, which is the best way to bring the outside up.

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