First pig and poultry studies are underway
Ralco’s Jon Knochenmus Center for Innovation is fully operational, with its first research studies being conducted. Ralco purchased this 13.6-acre site in fall 2020, and it includes a swine research barn, poultry research barn, ruminant lab, radio frequency gas production system, mycotoxin testing and particle size analysis services for Ralco customers.
“The Innovation Center serves as a pilot lab for us,” said Melissa VanWesten, research farm manager. “We’re able to discover new products in smaller studies before they go onto our bigger research facilities and university experiments. Now, we can better evaluate the feasibility of a study and make adjustments to avoid wasting valuable time and resources on a larger scale.”
The new swine barn is 962 square feet with 24 pens, and the poultry barn is 1,176 square feet with 2 experimental rooms. One room consists of 22 floor pens and the smaller room is for pilot studies. The first studies are underway in each barn.
“The barns give us an opportunity to take current producer challenges and develop targeted natural tools,” said Dr. Tim Broderick, poultry research and development manager. “Now we can closely study all aspects of poultry health, environment and nutrition to meet the emerging needs of the industry.”
For ruminant research, Ralco’s Ankom lab has moved to the Jon Knochenmus Center for Innovation. There, Ralco lab technicians run a Daisy incubation system where they test fiber digestibility of feeds in artificial rumens. These tests determine the acceleration of digested forage/feed and consistency of Ralco products before on-farm use.
Additionally, an Ankom radio frequency gas production system has been installed to further ruminant research on gas emissions. The system allows technicians to measure pH, volatile fatty acids and ammonia levels in artificial rumens with next steps planned to measure methane emissions. This will help Ralco better understand which products can assist producers in lowering levels of carbon emissions released into the environment.
“We’ve also added new lab services for our customers,” said VanWesten.
Mycotoxin testing is available for customers to send in samples of commodities. Ralco tracks mycotoxin levels by region and contacts customers that may be affected by high levels in their area.
Particle size analysis is also available for customers. Grain particle size is one of the core factors that influence starch digestibility in ruminants and monogastric animals like swine. For example, corn grind should be between 450-500 microns for finishing pigs.
Customers interested in using these lab services should contact their account manager to discuss how Ralco can better serve their needs.
After two years of planning, Diane Wagner, vice president of innovation, is excited about the future of the center after spearheading its development.
“2022 was our year of investment and 2023 is our year of efficiency,” said Wagner. “Now we want to conduct more studies in our barns, sharpen our knowledge and skills and start capitalizing on those investments to help our customers succeed.”