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Q&A with Brian Fieser, Beef Field Nutritionist

 

Brian G. Fieser, Ph.D., Animal Nutrition – ADM Nutrition – Archer Daniels Midland Company

Brian specializes in seedstock production and cow calf operations. He has been with ADM since 2007 as a field nutritionist. Brian is a fifth-generation farmer and raises cattle on his family’s farming operation in south-central Kansas.

  • BS in Agriculture (Animal Science and Industry) from Kansas State.
  • MS (Ruminant Nutrition) from University of Kentucky
  • PhD (Animal Nutrition) from Oklahoma State

 

  • What are the advantages of working with a nutritionist?

Working with a nutritionist gives you an opportunity to work with a specialist: someone who does this job day in and day out. A nutritionist knows the right questions to ask to ensure your operation has what it needs to succeed. The industry is trending towards feedlots and large ranch operations to work with nutritionists.  These customers understand the value these experts will provide in improving performance and managing resources on their operation.

  • What is the difference between a private and company nutritionist?

Sometimes there is a perception that nutritionists who work for a feed company may not be as objective as a private nutritionist. The nutritionist’s job is to work for the customer whether they are privately or company employed.  In fact, nutritionists who are affiliated with feed companies often have access to resources that private consultants do not. For example, at ADM we have a large research farm and a team of R&D experts that we work closely with to test feed and ensure we are providing our customers with the best formulation for their operation.

The advantage of a larger feed company such as ADM is the ability to perform application research that has been mostly eliminated from university program and funding.

Whatever you decide, the most important thing is that you work with someone who makes an effort to build a relationship with you and gets to know you and your needs.

  • Will a nutritionist want to physically visit the operation?

I don’t always have an opportunity to visit every operation, but I prefer to.

When you visit an operation, you get a chance to see the equipment, the facilities and the cattle. For example, we don’t want to recommend an ingredient or program that the owners aren’t able to store or manage properly.  But being able to see the operation is not only important for understanding the physical layout, it also helps you build a relationship with the owner. There is no substitute for developing that relationship and really understanding the owner’s goals and expectations.

  • What information will a nutritionist want from me?

Every operation is different. My job is to figure out the requirements for the level of production, what the forage base is and what the expectations are for production. In order to do that, it’s important for the owner to know what their resources are (what kind of storage system do they have, what kind of ingredients do they have on hand) and what their expectations are (desired spend and desired outcome). My job is to take that information and come up with a nutritional plan that aligns resource inputs with desired performance for our customers.

  • Do nutritionists specialize in different types of operations?

Absolutely. There is a difference in how you approach the nutritional plan depending on the operation. Most nutritionists work in feedyards. Others specialize in cow/calf and stocker operations.

  • What should I expect from my nutritionist?

A nutritionist should provide a clear plan to enhance the utilization of your available feed resources to meet cattle performance goals.  This may include rations, mixing sheets, supplement program, forage management plan, and more.

That being said, your nutritionist is only as good as the information he or she is given. Your nutritionist should also know to be flexible and ask the appropriate questions so that they have a good understanding of your resources and expectations. A nutritionist’s top priority is to do what’s right for their customer and find the most affordable way to meet their goals without cutting any corners.

  • How should a nutritionist and vet work together?

Communication between your vet and your nutritionist is key to preventing problems from occurring.  Nutrition and health are very closely tied.  Health of the cattle will be enhanced by provide the nutrients they require.  Likewise, implementing proactive health and vaccination programs with improve cattle performance.   Including both your vet and nutritionist in an operational management plan will delivered dividends.

  • What are some challenges that you typically see when you visit producers?

When you are engrossed in your own operation you may not see the subtle changes that take place in your herd over time. However, the reality is we’re not producing the same animals today that we were five, or ten years ago. Today’s cattle have different needs and stressors, and often, would benefit from a different feeding program. Be open to that change and don’t let old habits get in the way.

  • What if we are limited on feedstuffs other than mediocre grass and hay, and what if we don’t have access to options like DDGs and other supplemental feeds?

I’ve seen this a lot in the last month and have done quite a few rations using ADM supplements and soybean meal and cracked corn from the operator’s co-op. Cows do a phenomenal job of utilizing feedstuffs so there was only a subtle cost difference.

Listen to your neighbors and know what’s available locally to you. Many are putting out cover crops and forage crops so this fall and winter there should be a lot of forages and feedstuffs available. Work with a nutritionist to get those ingredients tested and learn how the animal can best utilize it.

  • How does stress impact breedback or other performance factors?

Cattle are programed to perform – to eat and to grow – so the goal of owners and caretakers is to help alleviate any stressors that might hinder that performance. We have come a long way in understanding how nutrition programs may help mitigate stress symptoms.  For example, making a change to a nutrition program by adding supplements in the winter, or finding more ways to keep cattle cool in the summer. Nutritional management plays a fundamental role in coping strategies for any stress event. Understanding the nutritional hierarchy (the prioritization of nutrients needed by the animal) is the first step in utilizing nutrition as a proactive strategy to lessen the negative impact of stress.

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