A Much-Deserved Retirement
“Take care of the people and the people will take care of you.”
Those are the wise words of sow farm manager Bill Nave, who is embarking on a much-deserved retirement after nearly 50 years in the swine industry.
“I graduated from Colorado State in 1972 with a degree in animal science and have worked in pork production ever since,” said Bill. “My first job took me to Lubbock Swine Breeders in Texas, which isn’t the first place that comes to mind for most people when they think of swine production. But I enjoyed my time there and transferred with the company to Plaines, Kansas. That’s where I tried my hand at managing a sow farm for the first time and was there for about seven years.”
After Kansas, Bill and his wife, Susie, followed his career to New York, then North Carolina and Indiana.
“If there’s one thing that’s been a constant in my life all these years — it’s Susie. She has been an absolute gem,” he continued. “She’s followed me all of these places and lived out in the boondocks so I could pursue my passion of pork production. She’s my rock.”
It was in 2014 when the Nave’s headed north to Iowa and Bill began his career as a sow farm manager at Iowa Select.
“Bill came in with a lot of experience, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t still plenty to learn,” said sow supervisor, Chris Nydegger. “But, Bill was able to adapt, learn, overcome and lead a successful team. Not only did he have to learn our day-to-day expectations, but there was also a lot of new technology he had to become acquainted with.”
But, Bill knew exactly what he was getting into and was up for the challenge. “I remember touring a sow farm and seeing the production goals on the board. They had 14.2 for total born and I caught myself laughing out loud because I thought, ‘Surely those numbers can’t be right.’ I was boggled.”
Those numbers were right and under the leadership of Bill, alongside his team, their farm near Goldfield reached those goals! Other things that have really surprised Bill over the years have been the changes and improvements made in artificial insemination, technology, equipment, ventilation, biosecurity and herd health.
“Bill was the first manager I hired at Iowa Select,” recalled HR Specialist Dana Spree. “We basically started our careers here at the same time and had a lot of “firsts” together, so it’s definitely bittersweet to see him go. He supported me just as much, if not more, than I supported him. He truly wants nothing but the best for everyone.”
And Spree isn’t just talking about Bill’s friends and family.
“Bill cares so much about his team and the support departments he works with,” continued Spree. “I know they all respect him deeply and appreciate the relationships they’ve built over the years. He is a true representation of our culture at Iowa Select. He is kind, generous, hard-working, selfless and at the end of the day will do whatever it takes to provide the best care for the animals and employees.”
In fact, after 46 years in the business it’s not the pigs that Bill is going to miss most. It’s the people.
“I’ve been fortunate that at every farm I’ve managed I’ve had a really good crew,” said Bill. “I enjoyed training and interacting with people. Leaving the crew is always the hardest part for me.”
And what would a goodbye to Bill be if we failed to mention Susie, Bill’s wife of 39 years, and her world-famous desserts?
“Let me just say for the record that this woman needs to open a bakery,” exclaimed Spree, who has enjoyed her fair share of Susie’s world-famous Molasses cookies. “They are like Christmas in your mouth and she is always thinking of others when she’s baking them. Whether it’s us at the office or Bill’s farm team, Susie took just as good care of us as Bill did. They, and those cookies, will be missed.”
So what exactly does the future hold for Bill and Susie? “Not a whole lot,” joked Bill. “We’re excited to visit our family and friends across the country and might even make a move to Colorado. Susie and I are hoping to just take things slow for a while, enjoy our added time together and of course, spend some more time with our dogs, Goose and Gus.”
And the future of Sow 9? Well, luckily it’s been left in pretty good hands.
“In true Bill form he made sure that everyone and everything was taken care of before he left,” chuckled Nydegger. “He is a great leader and really brought this team closer together. Most importantly, he developed and trained them extremely well. We all have great confidence in this team to continue on after his retirement. Bill’s legacy will last long into the future at Iowa Select and we’re so grateful for all he’s done for our system.”