For Alltech, It’s All in the Genes

2/23/2013 7:00 AM
By Chris Torres Staff Writer

LANCASTER, Pa. — Ever envision the day when a single cow can produce 72,000 pounds of milk a year?

How about getting 25 pounds more beef from a steer?

Or getting a sow to give birth to more than 35 pigs a year?

It might sound crazy. But Alltech researchers believe it’s the type of production that needs to be seen if the planet’s growing population is going to be fed.

The company made its yearly stop in Lancaster on Wednesday, as part of the its 27th North American lecture tour.

About 30 people attended the meeting, which was held at the Cork Factory Hotel.

Alex Tsappis, applications nutrition specialist for Alltech, talked about how the company has developed nutritional “solution packs” for animals, based on nutrigenomic research it has invested in.

Much of the company’s nutrigenomic research, he said, comes from using genetic microarrays, or gene chips, which analyze how certain nutrients or chemicals interact with genes of certain animal species.

Gene chips, which are not much bigger than a postage stamp, contain DNA from certain animal species, such as cows, pigs and chickens.

Using these gene chips, Tsappis said researchers can analyze the effects of nutrients and chemicals on genes and whether they inhibit some genes and turn on others.

Tsappis said it has allowed researchers to figure out, for instance, how a baby chick should be fed when it’s born to ensure it will live past seven days and what things it needs to be fed to deter certain diseases and enhance gut development.

One possibility for cows, he said, is looking at things that can promote better immune support and enable a cow to better use feed to produce more milk.

Tsappis said nutrigenomics is one way the company thinks it can answer the question of being able to feed more mouths in the future while depending on fewer natural resources.

“It comes from embracing new technologies and we are staying curious,” Tsappis said. “It’s about finding the genetic potential of an animal.”

Paulo Rezende, Alltech’s global marketing product manager, talked about brand marketing and some things agribusiness companies and producers should think about when building their images.

Creating a connection with people, he said, is one of the most important aspects of product branding. He pointed to the recent Dodge “God Made a Farmer” advertisement during the Superbowl that has been widely acclaimed for bringing a human face to farming.

Just using the term farmer instead of producer, he said, can go a long way in better relating to people who are disconnected from the business.

Building a brand, he said, brings customer loyalty and can enable a company, such as Mercedes Benz, to charge a premium because it knows its customers are willing to pay for it.

Some brands, like Coke, are so well-known that they might be preferred over a competitor, like Pepsi, even though its product might not taste that much better.

But Rezende said there are many platforms on which to build an image, whether negative or positive, through the use of the latest technology and social media.

He said defining a purpose, being different, and surprising and delighting an audience can go a long way to building a positive brand image.

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