Submitted by Sask Pork

Sask Pork was pleased to present the awards this year to two Saskatchewan individuals well-known in the pork industry. Nearly 300 people were on hand November 14that the annual Pork Industry Symposium banquet.  

The first award of the evening, was given to Dr. Mark Jacobson of Warman Veterinary Services in Saskatoon. Jay McGrath of Sinnett Pork Farms presented the award, noting that Mark was nominated by the many producers, clients, industry supplier and colleagues who have appreciated and benefited from nearly 25 years of valued service, counsel, dedication and friendship over the many years he has served Saskatchewan hog producers. He added that Mark’s contributions have had a positive impact on the success of many of the individual hog operations that supported the award.

Pictured left to right:  Jay McGrath, Marilyn Jacobson, Dr. Mark Jacobson, DVM

Mark was born and raised on a mixed farm in north central Saskatchewan and attended the University of Saskatchewan College of Agriculture and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, graduating with distinction from the WCVM in 1975.

Moving to Brandon, Manitoba in 1978, Mark joined Brandon Hills Veterinary Clinic as a veterinarian and partner, working there for 11 years. It was during this time he developed an interest in swine practice, monitoring the health and production of pigs. In 1989, he moved back to Saskatchewan accepting a position with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in Regina and Saskatoon where he remained for four years. 

Mark missed the challenges of private practice and the relationships he developed working closely with livestock producers. As a result, he joined Dr. Neil Shantz at Warman Veterinary Services in 1994, later becoming a partner in 1996 and has worked closely with his swine clients providing health, biosecurity and production advice. He also brought his passion for the pork industry to his role.

A special presentation was made to Dr. Jacobson by Mark Wipf of Sovereign Colony, on behalf of the pork-producing Colonies, industry suppliers, and independent pork producers Dr. Jacobson served over the years. He was acknowledged by farms and individuals not only for his veterinary service, but also his friendship and genuine compassion for the people who work in the pork industry. He was presented with a hand-made commemorative clock crafted by Kyle Colony with the engraving by Goldenview Colony.

The second award of the evening was presented to Lee Whittington, past CEO of the Prairie Swine Centre (PSC). The award was co-presented by Dr. Harold Fast, Fast Genetics and Dr. John Patience, Iowa State University. Lee was nominated for his visionary leadership and contributions to the Saskatchewan Pork Industry.  

Pictured left to right:  Dr. John Patience, Lee Whittington, Grace Whittington, Harold Fast

Lee retired earlier this year after a 25-year career with the Prairie Swine Centre. Dr. Fast reflected on the many years he’s known Lee and spoke of the excellent qualities he possesses that contributed to his successful and rewarding career with the Prairie Swine Centre.

Lee joined the Centre in 1992 as director of technology transfer. His reach was local, national and international and he was driven by a passion to help producers be profitable. Above all, Lee always did his homework on new initiatives and research opportunities and was always prepared. This is in large part why he was so successful in gaining national support for PSC. 

He became president/CEO of the Prairie Swine Centre 2008, managing the operations, and maintaining an international brand for applied research in pork production. He has been an untiring spokesperson for the pork industry, the University of Saskatchewan, and the world.  He followed the standard set by Dr. John Patience that a leader needs to be present, listen and be relevant and that brand recognition begins with, and is synonymous with, the institution’s name.

Photo courtesy of Sask Pork

Lee also helped to create a culture at PSC that focused on measurable results and the $/pig impact making changes had on net income. This was an objective that brought credibility and accountability to the organization. The Centre has started a new research project every 10 days while still achieving 30+ PSY. They have also achieved in most years to maintain a positive cash flow despite some of the most challenging times in the last 50 years.

His imagination, personal credibility and tenacity resulted in the recent establishment of the NSERC research chair on Swine Welfare at the WCVM and the selection of Yolande Seddon who appointed Chair earlier this year. He was also responsible for the design, development and management of the Pork Interpretive Gallery at Elstow which for many years offered the general public, students and stakeholders a birds-eye view of modern pork production.

He has contributed as a member of Prairie Diagnostics Services board of directors, Sask Pork’s Research Committee, AgWest Bio and others. He has also received numerous industry leadership, stewardship and marketing awards throughout his career. In the local community, he has been part of the Raj Manek Business Mentorship Program and has mentored 12 small business owners since 2008.

Pictured:  Keynote opening speaker Trent Loos, of Loos Tales from the Farm in Nebraska
Photo courtesy of Sask Pork
Photo courtesy of Sask Pork
Photo courtesy of Sask Pork
Photo courtesy of Sask Pork