Wubbena earns honor

FAIRMONT – David Wubbena was honored to receive the Minnesota Pork Board’s 2012 swine manager of the year award, but the publicity came as a surprise.

When his picture showed up on the January cover of Minnesota Pork Congress, the trade magazine for Minnesota Pork Producers Association, he was taken aback.

“I am proud of what they are giving me,” he said, then trailing off as he considered what he might say if asked to give a speech at an award banquet later this month.

Wubbena’s humble demeanor is not a reflection of his skill as manager of six nursery barns for Riverdale, Inc. in Fairmont, according to those who nominated him for the award.

Dr. Paul Ruen, a veterinarian who works with Wubbena, eagerly described his talents in a letter recommending him for the honor.

“Animal husbandry is the first area where David shines,” he wrote. “With the normal production cycle of a 3,000-sow farm, the flow of pigs becomes steady and routine. The obvious temptation is to operate like a machine – allowing habits to form and people to tune out. However, David continues to see all the pigs and investigates the environment and daily chores with fresh attitude, spotting facility and individual pig problems timely and accurately.”

Wubbena has been managing the Riverdale site since it opened, working with 1,400 newly weaned pigs each week, teaching them to eat solid rations and growing them for just over five weeks before sending them off to be finished.

Growing up on a feeder pig farm, Wubbena has spent his life learning how to work with them.

After graduating from high school, he was hired as assistant manager of a 500-sow, farrow-to-finish co-op.

He continued to work in farrow-to-finish operations until 2000, when he was hired at Riverdale, a farrow-to-feeder operation.

It is here he finds himself content.

“I specialize in the nursery,” he said. “It is what I like to do.”

In addition to managing pigs, Wubbena is responsible for the several part-time employees, often agriculturally minded high school students, who return to work with him during breaks from college. All three of his children have taken turns as his employees.

“David is highly valued as a manager for his attention to detail as well as being a good pig person,” said Barry Hilgendorf, CEO of Preferred Capital Management, the company that initially hired Wubbena for Riverdale, Inc.

Wubbena has been a member of the Martin County Pork Producers for 10 years, and can be found grilling pork chops at the Martin County Fair and other events.