Going Whole Hog

You would think with Michael Mardesen’s background he would be confident around pigs.

And to many extents he is. Growing up on a farm in Griswold, Iowa, Mardesen’s family raised pigs and other livestock. For the past several summers he has raised feeder pigs to help pay for college and now veterinary school.

Yet when it came to the veterinary medicine aspect to pigs, Mardesen was somewhat of a novice.

“I’ve had a lot of experience with cattle and small animals, but not pigs,” the third year veterinary student said. “I know how to raise pigs but with PED and the other scary diseases around I thought it was time to learn a little more about the vet side of pigs.

“I’ve never really seen how a veterinarian treats a pig.”

So this past summer Mardesen decided to go “whole hog” and participated in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Swine Veterinary Internship Program (SVIP). The program allows students such as Mardensen to collaborate with veterinarians in both practices and production systems while they design and execute field trials with guidance from mentors.

Mardesen’s internship was sponsored by Zoetis and he spent the summer working at Carthage Veterinary Services. He traveled to 14 different Carthage swine farms where he job shadowed veterinarians and attended the annual Pork Expo.

But the bulk of his summer internship was spent looking at the biosecurity protocols at the company’s swine farms. The third-year student would go to the farms and conduct surveys with employees about the protocols.

What did he find out?

“All the employees knew that biosecurity was extremely important,” Mardesen said. “Their goal is to keep everything that is in the farm, in the farm as well as keep everything out of the farm that is out of the farm.

“That was very encouraging to me.”   

Mardesen knows what he is talking about. He admits that he dislikes the measures he has to do on his family’s farm to maintain a high level of biosecurity. He brought back home the difference he saw in his family’s operation and a major swine company.   

“Veterinary medicine has changed so much in recent years,” he said. “It was great to see how a company of that size functions.   

“I learned a lot about swine medicine, but also how to interact with individuals in the industry and how to communicate. It was a great experience.”