Educating through TikTok

Looks like Dr. Cara Dykhuis Haden (DVM 2014) has found her calling.

Or at least a following.

A year ago, Haden was searching for a new way to attract followers to her Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. One of her responsibilities at Pipestone Veterinary Services in Independence, Iowa, where she is an associate veterinarian, is getting the word out on swine production through social media outlets.

“As a true millennial, I focused on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube,” she said, “but I only had around 5,000 followers and I wanted a bigger reach.”

Her husband, who is a high school teacher, suggested TikTok.

“I had to look to see what TikTok was,” Haden said. “I wasn’t at all familiar with the platform.”

TikTok is a video sharing platform that hosts a variety of short-form user videos. The mobile app allows users to create short videos and recommends a feed of videos to users based on their activity on the app.  

Haden decided to give it a whirl.

Today she has 255,000 followers on TikTok under “Cara Haden Pig Vet.”

“Because TikTok sends your video to other people you can grow your following much quicker than Facebook or Instagram,” Haden said. “The app basically pushes videos out to a more random audience.”

In the year since starting on TikTok, Haden has used the platform to educate the general public about swine production. She posts two to three times a week and all of her videos are less than a minute. Some are as short as 15 seconds including video clips she has produced on farrowing, biosecurity, a vasectomized boar, and filtered air in swine facilities.

“When I first started doing TikTok videos, I underestimated how little people understood where their food comes from,” Haden said. “So I started doing videos on really simple things including what a boar is and what a sow is.

“I’ve had to educate people that we have different locations for processing pigs. I don’t see an end to the number of videos I can do to further educate people.”

Haden is the star of her TikTok videos. She films them herself with her phone, usually in a swine facility. She produces the videos herself.

Typically one of Haden’s TikTok videos will get several thousand likes and she says the videos will garner around 2,000 comments per week. She responds to many of the comments, attempting to educate people on misconceptions of the swine industry.

“I get a wide range of responses to my videos,” she said. “A vast majority say they didn’t know about that and thank me for informing them.

“I do get a fair number of comments from individuals who are anti-animal agriculture. If they are attempting to learn more about what our swine producers are doing, then I will engage them. Otherwise I won’t.”

A few of Haden’s TikTok videos are more popular than others. A video she filmed of her assisting the birth of several piglets had 5 million views. Many of her recent posts have contrasted her own pregnancy with that of a sow, highlighting how many piglets a sow can have and the length of the pregnancy.

Regardless of the subject, Haden’s ultimate goal is to emphasize how the swine industry is benefitting the world.

“The farmers we at Pipestone work for are doing really good work in feeding the world and I hope I’m helping tell their story,” Haden said. “I’m not trying to convince people to eat more pork.

“I’m just trying to educate people.”

November 2021