|By ANN HINCH
FRANKLIN, Tenn. — Food, while enjoyed, is often taken for granted by most people with respect to its importance in their daily lives.
But any livestock producer knows it is the foundation of healthy animals.
“Nutrition is basic to everything,” Warren Gill, professor of animal science with the University of Tennessee-Nashville, said.
“If you can get a good nutrition base, your general health is better, and your performance is better.”
Enter Gill’s idea for an educational experience devoted solely to livestock nutrition.
The second annual Tennessee Nutrition Conference is scheduled for March 2-3 in Franklin at the Williamson County Ag Expo Center.
He explained Minnesota is in its 69th year for such a conference, and Florida and Texas A&M also each sponsor one, so it’s high time the Volunteer State had one.
Gill said one of the biggest problems Tennessee producers face with their livestock is mineral deficiencies. The first nutrition conference “burrowed in” on this topic, especially copper imbalance, but he said while attendees gave great reviews, there were too few farmers in attendance, perhaps because they believed the presentation would be too technical.
This year’s theme is “pursuing performance,” a point Gill made often. Performance means something different depending on what you raise – for horse owners, it’s endurance and speed, whereas for beef farmers, it’s average daily weight gain.
“When we select them, we select them because they’re among the best in the world,” he said of the conference speakers, “and they’re not boring, to shoot right over your head.”
The 2006 conference will focus on horses, beef and dairy cattle and other small ruminants.
Last year’s cost was $145 for both days, including meals, refreshments, seminars and the trade show; to boost producer attendance, this year’s pre-registration price is dropped to $95 ($145 on day of conference).
Among this year’s speakers is Richard Sellers, vice president of feed control and nutrition for the American Feed Industry Assoc. AFIA), which he described as the principal trade association for the U.S. feed industry.
AFIA membership represents 75 percent of the finished feed manufactured in this country, and concentrates much effort on legislative lobbying and education.
Besides talking about “regulatory interests du jour” such as compliance with the Bioterrorism Act and the animal feed safety system FDA is developing – perhaps including AFIA opposition to it – Sellers will touch upon BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or Mad Cow) as it relates to regulation and future trade. He will address how to harmonize the U.S. feed rule with Canada’s, and the Japanese government’s position on American beef.
“How is that going to affect me, and when’s the government going to do it?” is the broad scope of his planned remarks on the topic.
For example, Sellers said since the last BSE rules came out in 1997, there are approximately 70 fewer meat renderers in business, owing at least in part to the then-new regulations.
Before 1997, renderers picked up the carcass and paid the farmer; after, the farmer actually had to pay a small fee instead.
Other speakers will focus on maternal nutrition, the role of forage, mineral enrichment and the role of feed in performance.
Attending this year’s conference will be extension agents whose job it is to explain the latest in nutrition to their farmers, Gill pointed out, adding since this is one of the sources of their information, producers might do well to come as well.
If a producer can only attend one day of the conference, he urged them to come on March 3, when most of the educational panels are scheduled.
For more information, call Gill at 615-32-8341 or to register online, visit www.tennesseenutritionconference.org before March.