Meet the team: Shaun Sweiger is helping cattle producers tap into transformative data insights
Ask most people what their hobbies are, and they might mention playing sports, crafting or spending time outdoors. But when it comes to TELUS Agriculture & Consumer Goods’ Shaun Sweiger, DVM, MS, his pastimes are on a whole different level. "I have a farm and ranch on the side with my wife, Mollyann, and our two kids, Betsy and Billy, and I started a BVD- and pregnancy-testing facility for cattle in Oklahoma City that’s been in operation since 2005,” shares Shaun, who has spent the majority of his career as a veterinarian in beef-production medicine, consulting, teaching and research. “Our primary business on the ranch is raising purebred Angus and Polled Herefords, and Akaushi as well as selling replacement heifers and bulls.” It’s his way, Shaun explains, of staying connected to the animal-production industry that has been part of his family for four generations – one he’s passionate about helping transform in his new role with TELUS. “A big struggle that most cattle operations have is keeping track of information,” he points out. “In the past, it would have been in a pocket notebook, or on the top of a box that their medicine showed up in, or on the back of an envelope. A key factor on how to improve a business is to know your information, your data, and analyze it to make good, timely decisions. This has been a struggle with our industry for many years – we have a lot of information, but we don’t necessarily do much with it, except collect it.” Now, he says, the technologies at TELUS Agriculture & Consumer Goods are enabling producers to connect and unlock the value behind all that data being collected. “Having tools to help us use our information will enable us to make significant improvements in the industry. We have a great opportunity to follow and link this information from the time the calf is born through its lifecycle and beyond.” That information can help uncover inefficiencies along the supply chain, but also meet the demand from consumers for more transparency, he adds. “The end consumers are more and more interested in, ‘Where does my meat come from? Who raised and cared for my beef?’ These are opportunities that we can take advantage of and help our customers provide. I think TELUS can provide a lot to help producers not only survive, but thrive.”
Five things to know about Shaun Sweiger
On supporting future farmers
I like investing time in the next generation of people getting into agriculture. I help out with some of our local Future Farmers of America (FFA) Ag chapters. Our family also raises goats, so between goats and cattle, we try to provide livestock project opportunities for the local 4-H and FFA kids to feed, care for, work with and show at livestock exhibitions and fairs. We also participate with local universities in providing internships for animal science and ag business students. With our proximity to a city, we also engage in educational opportunities with people wanting to learn about the country life – farming and ranching – and try to help “bring them along” on their journey as they raise and care for their animals.
On what he loves most about the cattle industry
I love not only working with the animals, but also the people. I consider ranchers and farmers the salt of the earth, and I really enjoy working with them.
On the big challenge facing the beef industry
Resource management. Whether we’re dealing with labour shortages or weather-related issues, like drought, which affect grazing and feed prices, it’s becoming more and more important to know and understand your business, rather than use the old traditional model of, ‘We’ve always done it this way, because that’s how my grandpa and my dad did it.’ You’ve got to be able to adapt to the situation and become better managers of your resources. Having tools to make those timely decisions will be key going forward.
On the TELUS values
The value that resonates the most with me is, “We passionately put our clients and community first.” The term I like to use a lot is servant leadership. How I tend to lead and teach is by serving and helping others to succeed.
On the most rewarding part of his role
The most rewarding part is being able to serve others – seeing how the solutions we’ve provided have helped change things for the better and helped operations take it to the next level.