Passion for Livestock Evolves Into Full-time Career
“My dad had a passion for livestock, and he passed it onto me,” said Alex Umbaugh, breeding lead at Sandy Hill Sow Farm. Sandy Hill Sow Farm recently opened south of Storm Lake, and since the open house, Alex has been helping welcome 7,500 gilts into the farm--1,200 to date to be exact.
With more gilts on their way, the team is heat checking and getting the animals in line to begin breeding in the next coming weeks. That's when it will feel like a normal day for Alex and the breeding team.
Alex grew up in the small community of Adair, Iowa. His father grew up on a small family farm where they raised pigs, cattle, chickens and other various animals. While Alex grew up in town, he stayed involved in livestock through FFA and 4-H. He pursued an ag studies degree at Iowa State University with aspirations to become an ag teacher.
Alex sought an internship with Iowa Select Farms two summers ago, with the intent of learning as much as he could about swine production. He joined the breeding project team at ISOPork, were a team of people were caring for and breeding gilts ultimately headed to new sow farms—Jamestown and Derby.
“I really enjoyed working there, and especially enjoyed working for Chris (Bessman) and Monica (Dodge),” said Alex. “It was a great bunch of people and we all got along. It was fun all coming together as both interns and longtime GDU managers to do this work and help get these new farms ready.”
Alex received a full-time offer soon after his internship. “I never thought I would end up on this career path, but I found that I really enjoyed the work, and could see a lot of opportunity.”
After graduating, Alex joined Arends Sow Farm, working for then manager Adam Swalla. “Adam taught me a lot about managing tasks, how to be understanding and ‘go with the flow’, and overall how things work. I was able to watch how he developed and promoted people, and how adaptable you have to be when you are in a production leadership position. I owe him a lot.”
While at Arends, Alex was a breed lead and member of the Production Leadership Program, an initiative at Iowa Select Farms that helps provide training and development for employees interested in specialized or management positions.
When Sandy Hill was under construction, Dan Dean approached Alex about being a part of the farm management team, which meant a relocation paired with a lot of hard work and effort to start up a new and bigger farm. “It was something I was excited about, and an opportunity of a lifetime.”
Alex is grateful for his time at Arends. “I am thankful for everything the whole crew taught me,” said Alex. “They helped me prepare for where I am now.”