Hog Wild About Pigs
She may have grown up in suburban Chicago, but Dr. Melissa Hensch sure loves her pigs.
“My friends and family ask me a lot of questions,” Hensch says. “I love helping explain what I actually do.
“Sometimes even my closest relatives I have to explain the whole process. It’s been an eye-opening experience to me. I’m surprised at how little people know about modern pig production.”
Hensch has a lot of experience in swine production. After graduating from Iowa State, she spent almost three years at Innovative Agriculture Solutions, a small private consulting practice in suburban Des Moines.
The practice was swine-exclusive and provided her with a broad range of hands-on experiences. Since leaving Innovative Agriculture Solutions, Hensch has spent the vast majority of her professional career with The Maschhoffs, the largest family-owned pork production network in North America, in a variety of positions.
Now the director of health and animal care at The Maschhoffs, Hensch leads a team of seven herd veterinarians in addition to the company’s animal care and veterinary technicians. She has ultimate responsibility for 175,000 sows at over 60 farms across seven states.
“I was able to find something I was truly passionate about,” Hensch says. “I love teaching and working with people and that’s what I’m doing every day.
“I get my rewards by seeing others be successful and developing people. That’s the core of what I do.”
One of the ways Hensch teaches and works with people is getting out of the office and working directly with pigs. She doesn’t want to be known as strictly an office veterinarian.
“It’s important to me to get out into the field and into the barn at least one or two days a week,” she said. “I love those days. It’s fun. It’s easy. It’s what I’m trained to do.”
But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t enjoy the other aspects of her job. The Maschhoffs is a broad operation, with everything from feed mills to truck washes and other support areas included on the farms.
It’s that broader operational scale Hensch enjoys about her job and the opportunity to make a difference in the world.
“We’re providing food for the world here,” she said, “safe and affordable food.”