As swine producers strive toward fresh opportunities to enhance performance, efficiency and profitability, one of the most promising areas of innovation is animal nutrition.
But while having the right nutrition consulting relationships is essential to ensure the most optimized approaches, it’s also increasingly critical that the strategies developed are custom tailored for each operation and are directed not from behind a desk miles away from the farm but rather from an in-the-barn level.
It’s this precision, on-farm ‘slat-level solutions’ focus that has powered the steady progression and expanding customer base of Tracy, Minnesota, based IDEAL Animal Nutrition. The company recently passed the milestone of four years in business and announced a significant expansion in capacity with the addition of swine nutritionist Simon Kern to its growing team led by owner and founder Dr. Jeff Knott.
“Swine production is at an important time of evolution where animal nutrition is becoming an even greater factor in all aspects of the success of an operation,” says Knott. “There is a huge and growing need not just for general animal nutrition support but specifically for top-level applied animal nutritionists who get in the barn and design slat-level solutions. Simon shares our philosophy of getting on the farm and dealing with pigs at the slat-level to improve productivity and, ultimately, profitability for the producer. We are pleased to welcome him to the IDEAL Animal Nutrition team.”
Swine nutritionist Knott founded IDEAL in 2014 following 10 years of industry experience as a specialist providing technical nutritional support to swine producers around the world. Knott has a B.S. in Animal Science from North Dakota State University, along with a M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in Animal Science (Swine Nutrition).
Kern brings over five years industry experience in providing technical nutrition and production support to livestock producers and feed manufacturers. He has a B.S. and M.S. in Animal Science from South Dakota State University. After completing his formal education, Kern worked with a regional animal nutrition company where he served in multiple roles from feed formulation and technical service to product and customer solutions development.
“This new opportunity at IDEAL is an excellent fit for me,” says Kern. “I enjoy being on farm and working directly with producers. I like being in the barn to make sure the solutions we develop are implemented right and we’re getting the results we’re looking for. Every farm is different and I enjoy helping producers with hands-on, practical approaches that meet evolving everyday production challenges and also fit their overall objectives for success in the marketplace.”
The focus on serving and working directly with producers is part of the IDEAL Animal Nutrition DNA, says Knott. “It’s pretty simple. Our main goal is to serve you and make your operation more efficient and profitable.”
While the swine industry has become more integrated, animal nutrition represents one of the best tools that operations of all types and sizes can utilize to keep competitive, he adds. “With all the trends and advancements we have seen over the past decade, animal nutrition has emerged as an even bigger factor. The knowledge and options today have expanded greatly and this is where the major focus is for many producers . . . . it’s an area that is in the producers’ control where advances in science and innovation have created a lot of opportunity for improvement. Animal nutrition is a great equalizer in an environment of economies of scale.”
Bringing Kern to the team is the latest in a series of key developments for IDEAL. Among these, IDEAL has also established a research barn with numerous activities anchored by research manager Molly Renken, another South Dakota State University alumni who graduated in 2017 with a B.S. in Animal Science.
“Just like producers we always need to be focused on the present while also looking ahead and planning for the future,” says Knott. “We plan to be in this business for a long-time. We want to establish our team the right way and build our business the right way. By enhancing our capacity we can ensure a continued strong focus on the customers who have got us here. We can also make sure we have strong capacity – and more important the right people who share our philosophy – across the core areas of our business.”
In addition to a customer-focused, research-based, slat-level solutions approach, the IDEAL methodology includes a major emphasis on keeping at the leading-edge of nutritional technologies and products. The company offers expert nutritional advice and consulting, tailored nutrition programs, optimized feeding management and a variety of swine nutrition products to fit customer needs and milling capabilities.
At a time when the big picture of swine production involves increasingly complex challenges and expectations, the importance of getting details right at an in-the-barn level have arguably never been more important, says Kern. “Having the flexibility to adapt quickly is key. Keeping light on your feet and dialed in at the slat-level in my opinion is going to be an essential combination for many producers heading into the future.”