Yes, the past is the past. And some may argue that discussing old news is obsolete; however, in my world, tracking trends, metrics and reader engagement is interesting and essential. So, every year, I like to look back and see what content – in this instance, headlines -- performed the best. One vehicle helpful in gauging these interests is, of course, our bi-weekly enewsletter, Feed eNews.

Luckily, I have reporting technology at my fingertips because the data paints an interesting picture of where the industry’s interests lie. Some topics may seem obvious, but others came as a bit of a surprise. The Top 10 most-read news items split neatly into three categories – with a fourth, more general outlier.

Data is king

As in previous years, the release of exclusive feed industry statistics sent clicks through the roof.

During the summer of 2014, the ranking results of WATT Global Media/Feed International’s Top Feed Companies report generated much interest. The article, compiled from the Top Feed Companies database, revealed the 2013 production trends of the leading global feed manufacturers. (Keep an eye out for the 2015 report in early autumn.)

In addition, the release of Alltech’s 2013 global feed survey report, which provides production estimates by region, also captured the attention of our readers. Based on the company’s findings, it estimates that 963 million metric tons of feed were produced in 2013 – up 1 percent from the year prior.

Animal health news always of interest

In the swine and feed industries, 2014 will likely be remembered for the devastating impact of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus. In a little over a year, the virus was found to be responsible for the deaths of more than 8 million piglets. As all stakeholder groups looked to identify the cause and control its spread, a Canadian report citing contaminated feed as the cause of its movement across the border took the feed industry by surprise. After porcine blood plasma tested positive for the virus, pork producers the world over began dropping the use of the ingredient in their formulations. The Canadians later backed off the claim.

Today, nearly two years after the initial outbreak, neither the pork nor feed industries have identified a “silver bullet” responsible for the spread of the disease.

Other animal health-related “hot topics” included the potential link between DDGS, necrotic enteritis and the discovery of banned antibiotics in Dutch animal feed.

Acquisitions rank high

Acquisition and merger news also garnered much attention last year. Obviously, the international feed industry has been following the eminent sale of Nutreco, specifically when SHV Holdings moved to acquire the company. The buzz surrounding Cargill’s purported interest in the Dutch feed manufacturer added a flare of excitement to the story. 

So it’s no surprise that when Cargill abandoned its bid for Nutreco in the final weeks of the year, this headline took the No. 11 “most popular” slot. As of today, Nutreco is still on the market and SHV is the only prospective buyer.

Other acquisition news in the Top 20 most read news items include ForFarmers acquires HST Feeds and Alltech acquires Leinert Australia

Tragedy and its aftermath

Domestic and international readers alike were drawn to the breaking news about the collapse of International Nutrition’s Omaha, Nebraska, feed mill. Two employees lost their lives and 10 others were seriously injured. While initially it was believed an explosion was responsible for the incident, in the year since the accident, an investigation concluded the building’s collapse was caused by “overloaded bins” set on the rooftop of a nearly 50-year-old structure that did not meet modern building codes.

Another U.S tragedy, this one involving an incident in the U.S. grain industry, finally came to a resolution in 2014. Two Illinois teenagers perished in a grain engulfment accident at a Haasbach L.L.C. grain elevator in 2010; a third boy was rescued. After years of litigation, in February 2014, an Illinois jury awarded the victim’s families and the surviving teen $16 million.  

Shifting toward unsettling geopolitical news – specifically the crisis in Crimea – last summer, reports of an armed militant occupation of a Cargill plant in Ukraine brought the realities of potential trouble in the global grain industry closer to home. After the initial story broke, no further news emerged from the company or other news outlets. (If you know something, I would be curious to know more about the outcome.)

Pelleting guide captures clicks

Beyond the traditional news, it was exciting to see that the 5th installment of Feed Pelleting Reference Guide, a six-part comprehensive pelleting primer produced and released by WATT Global Media and Kansas State University, also ranked in the Top 10. The complete guide is available for download at http://www.wattagnet.com/feedpelleting.html

In conclusion, I’d like to wish you a prosperous and safe 2015. 

If you do not currently receive Feed eNews, click here to sign up for your free subscription.