Triple Bottom Line: Addressing food needs of the future requires a balance between people, profits & the planet

Dairy needs a financial ‘bounce back’ year, as well as in the court of public opinion.

By Dave Natzke

The 2009 dairy economy took a significant financial toll on the industry. A full-court press by climate change and anti-livestock ag extremists put all of agriculture on the defensive. To rebound, food producers must implement a balanced, proactive offense, according to Alltech president Pearse Lyons, addressing Alltech’s 26th International Animal Health and Nutrition Symposium, May 16-19, in Lexington, Ky.

Alltech’s 26th International Animal Health and Nutrition Symposium

“In today’s world, profits are more critical than ever,” Lyons told 1,542 symposium participants from 63 countries. “Companies cannot forget, however, that their people and customers, and the sustainability of the environment in which they operate, have become critical to long-term survival.”

Specific to dairy, Lyons said the industry must “brand” its products, avoiding the negative branding (rbST-free) frequently used. “Messages must be positive,” he said. “Negativity will get you nowhere.”

Jim Pettigrew, University of Illinois nutritionist and Alltech’s 2010 Medal of Excellence, said food sufficiency and food security will play a role in feeding the world. He said food production has been a success story over the past 30 years. However, as land, water, fossil fuel and fertilizer resource availability declines, Pettigrew outlined four key elements to match future food production with a growing population:

• recognition of the challenge.

• innovation in production technologies and a marketing system that rewards risks.

• investments in research and education.

• converting developing nation’s subsistence farmers into commercial farmers.

Food producers must also take back the “green agenda” hijacked by environmental and anti-animal agriculture extremists, panelists in the symposium’s annual “Great Debate” said.

Trent Loos, popular agribusiness commentator, called global warming “the largest man-made hoax the world has ever seen.” Patrick Wall, former chair of the European Food & Safety Association, Ireland, said obesity is a “BSE” (blame somebody else) issue, and that the food industry should not shoulder all the blame. Additionally, world hunger cannot be eliminated by aid, but rather by addressing poverty through education, according to Gordon Butland, director, G&S Agri Consultants, Thailand. Osler Desouzart, managing director for OD Consulting, Brazil, said food safety standards were necessary, and “buying local” should be promoted to support local producers, but both are being used as means to restrict trade.


■ For more information on Alltech’s 26th International Animal Health and Nutrition Industry Symposium, visit

Alltech’s annual Global Dairy 500, will be held Nov. 1-4, in Lexington, Ky. For information, visit

Alltech Symposium Research Updates

Summaries of dairy-related presentations at Alltech’s 26th Animal Health and Nutrition Symposium

Communicating value-added to farmers in tough economic times, by Theo Lam, DD-Animal Health Service, Netherlands. Most dairy farm advisors have the technical skills; it’s the personal and communications skills that need work.

• The rumen: The challenge of producing microbial protein, by Juan Tricarico, Alltech, USA. Don’t chase the last pound of milk, maximize metabolizable protein efficiency. Feed the microbes that feed the cows.

• Manipulating escape microbial protein – The latest technology in the nutritionist’s toolbox, by Jay Johnston, Ritchie Feed and Seed, Inc., Canada.

Conversion efficiency of dietary protein to milk protein is about 30%. A method to lower dietary crude protein is needed to maximize efficiency and lower nitrogen excretions.

• Getting the most from distillers dried grains, by Mary Beth de Ondarza, Paradox Nutrition, USA. Distillers grains’ nutrient profiles vary widely, and many contain higher mycotoxin concentrations. Cows require specific amounts of each amino acid. Demand more information from suppliers.

• Scaling the mycotoxicosis learning curve, by Simon Timmermans, Horizon Beef, Iowa, USA. Molds and mycotoxins affect rumen microbes differently. Purine derivatives can be use to measure rumen output and determine mycotoxin effects.

• Detection breakthrough: Penicillium mold ‘signature’ in dairy cows, by Johanna Fink-Gremmels, Netherlands. Rumen microflora are a primary target for penicillium toxins most common in silage or big bales.

• More milk from more fertile cows: Solutions to the dairy paradox, by Finbar Mulligan, Ireland. The nutrition component of fertility is a balancing act. Maximize milk production efficiency without overfeeding protein, and fill the energy gap needed for cow health and reproduction.

• A calf never gets over a good or a bad start – Practical applications of nucleotides, by Sylvia Kehoe, University of Wisconsin-River Falls, USA. About 50% of all calf mortalities are due to scours, and those that survive are negatively impacted the rest of their productive lives. Signs of dehydration mean the damage is already done.

• Using organic minerals to differentiate a business – Pioneering opportunities for the feed compounder, by David Wilde, Massey Bros. Feeds, United Kingdom. Three main reasons to supplement with organic minerals are fertility, mastitis and hoof quality.