Alumni Spotlight: Erin Brenneman
Erin Brenneman came to Iowa State University to major in animal science with the goal of working with horses in her future career; little did she know that she would work in two areas she never saw coming - pigs and people.
Brenneman found her passion for the animal industry while working in a horseback riding program near the suburbs of Chicago, where she grew up. Wanting to pursue a career to follow her passion for horses, Brenneman shared her desire to be a vet with her counselor, and she suggested she look at Iowa State University. "I toured the campus and, just like everyone else, instantly fell in love."
Brenneman recalled her first class at Iowa State University, explaining, "I walked through those doors in Kildee Hall to my first ever college class ANS 114: Survey of the Animal Industry with Dr. Kenealy and knew right away that I was in the right place." Many of her classes and labs provided Brenneman with her first agricultural experiences. "I was learning about pigs, and I was just so excited. It was all new to me!" she explained. While at Iowa State, Brenneman's goal of becoming a vet shifted to pursuing her degree in animal science. While balancing classes, Brenneman fondly reflected on working at the Iowa State ice arena during the semesters and the golf course during the summer, all while following her passion for horses and working at a local stable.
Her experience with farming started when she met her husband, Tim, while he was also studying at Iowa State University. His family owned and operated their swine and grain operation Brenneman Pork, the farm where Erin works today. "I wanted to soak it all up and learn everything," she explained. "I pulled myself in so many directions that I could do everything but wasn't great at anything." Brenneman received some advice from her father-in-law Tim Brenneman that she still sticks by today. He told her, "You don't need to do everything; you just need to pick one area where you can be better than everyone else."
Today Brenneman specializes in farrowing, focusing on the sows and piglets for a few days before birth and three days after. With this, she spends most of her time in the gestation barn, a full-scale proposition 12 compliant space complete with research capabilities, an area of which she is very proud. Brenneman Pork also has full-scale commercial finishers with research capabilities. "Research in the swine industry is usually performed on a smaller scale, but our research farm allows us to collect data in conditions that are on the same scale as our other barns. The technology and capabilities in our research barns are absolutely incredible."
Brenneman says she uses two things daily - my animal science degree and people management skills. She points out that your classes may not always be the most valuable experience you get out of your college career, but the opportunities you have to learn how to work with and manage the people around you.
Brenneman’s advice to current students:
“I want to stress something that is not obvious to a lot of people. Although my days involve working with pigs, it includes a lot of people as well. So, when you are working towards your degree, don’t forget to learn how to work with people as well as animals.”