Episode 17-2

Highlights from Midwest ASAS with Jim Smith – Kent Nutrition

This episode is part 2 of 3 featuring Kent Nutrition’s Dr. Jim Smith. this episode Dr. Smith will discuss the information from Midwest ASAS and how to apply it to the farm level. “So I’m always trying to balance the good statistical science with practicality.” You will definitely better understand how nutritionists determine if P < 0.05 versus $2/pig wins and what drives our decisions.

Hello, there, this is Dr. Casey Bradley and you’re listening to the Real P3 podcast.  A podcast dedicated to the real pork producers around the world.  I hope you enjoy.

Hi, everyone.  Welcome back to part 2 of 3, covering Midwest ASAS Highlights.  For this episode, we’re going to visit with Jim Smith with Kent Nutrition Group.  Jim has a little bit different approach or perspective on research and how that applies to the producers as he works with them on a regular basis.  So, stay tuned.


Casey: Well, Hello, Jim, how are you doing today?

Jim: I’m doing great, Casey.

Casey: Would you mind introducing yourself for the audience?

Jim: Well, sure.  My name’s Jim Smith.  I’m a senior technical swine nutritionist for Kent Nutrition Group, and in that role I serve as a liaison between our research marketing and product and development and the dealers and customers that feed Kent and Blue Seal feeds from Maine to South Dakota.  I live in NE Indiana.  I received my undergrad at Purdue and my Masters and PhD from Kansas State, and I’ve been in the industry since May of 1998.

Casey: Wow. That’s awesome.  This week was probably, to us, the biggest swine nutrition meeting of the year for the US Swine industry.  Kind of walk us through your thoughts of what you heard this week and what benefits in the research and stuff that would help producers today.

Jim: It’s interesting that it kind of marks the one-year anniversary of the week the industry kind of being shut down.  The last main event I went to was Midwest Animal Science a year ago.  I don’t think any of us thought when we left Omaha – on what was that March 5th of last year – that we were going to endure what we endured.

Casey: Welcome to the new normal as everybody wants to call it.

Jim: Totally.  You described it right.  Midwest Animal Science is the world pork expo to the pig science world.  It’s really a nice place to get latest research and reacquaint yourselves with friends and colleagues in the swine industry.  With it being virtual, I actually got to watch more presentations because I could watch them at my leisure.

Casey: I was gonna say, I think I watched the most presentations ever at a Midwest Animal Science.

Jim: Yeah, cause it was really nice to click on the 12 minute presentation and you knew it was going to be 12 minutes and you didn’t have to hike all the way around to the other side, so I agree with you, I probably watched MORE, and I could probably pay attention more; although I also had more distractions at my desk, too, but it was nice you could stop those presentations and [03:00] look at the slides, so maybe we got more out of some of the presentations.

Casey: Yeah, and download the slides if you didn’t know that.

Jim: Yeah!

Casey: Yeah, so I was pretty excited about that cause a lot of times I can’t even take really good notes, and from that standpoint I can go back anytime now.

Jim: What I liked and which I can apply to some producers was the live sessions.  You could concentrate on the live sessions and not miss an abstract you wanted to see. In fact yesterday, I went back and looked at some abstract presentations.  To start, the 3 highlights for me: First was the Gary Allee symposium and the review of his research and his life in Animal Science.  Next one was the Statistical Symposium from yesterday.  And then the discussion around the microbiome.  The Gary Allee was just that review and it was kind of a nice review of where we’ve been over the last 40-50 years in animal science and pig feeding.  The statistical symposia, I think, raised a lot of good questions.  One of the things that I am challenged with and I’ve talked about this with consulting nutritionists and consulting agronomists, is we would gladly implement technology to a customer that would work half the time and know that we’re going to get a specific or an expected return.  So say, we introduce a new enzyme, it’s gonna work half the time and you’re gonna get $2/pig.  Ok, on average we’re gonna get $1/pig back, makes sense I think we should implement that.  But if we put that to an academic situation and test it, well it’s going to fail, because it doesn’t pass the P value of .05.  So, I’m always trying to balance the good statistical science with practicality.  That’s where I look at a lot of these presentations with the mind of “Ok, it wasn’t statistical, but is it practical?”  It’s a tough place for us to be in because on the one hand we’re taught to be scientists and the statistics say this, and on the other hand I know what it would do in the field.

Casey: I love hearing that perspective because I’ve been pushing that for a long time on both sides of the fence.  [05:30] You know, great response, but it doesn’t pay. Right?  It didn’t get the P value.  I can design the trial and get you the P value.  Give me enough pigs, give me enough budget, I’ll get you enough trials that show significance.  On the other hand, there’s a lot of cool stuff coming out, like you said, that may not have the right P value, but it’s worth a lot of money, and I’m glad we’re open to talking about that today.

Jim: Yes, and the other theme around the microbiome… I think it was the immunologist from Iowa State.

Casey: The USDA? Maxwell’s Lectureship?

Jim: Yeah, that was a good session.  I remember back to when we were first doing the antibiotics resistor, antibiotics-free replacement.  I think we failed as an industry, because we would put product A against Mecadox (aka Carbadox), and then it would fail, and “well, we can’t use Product A, cause Mecadox worked.”  Especially if you had pigs that had dysentery.

Casey: That’s why it‘s labeled for dysentery.

Jim: Yeah.  Well, we’re not looking at it from a holistic approach.  I liked her presentation where she talked about how it’s not going to be a one-size fits all – it’s going to be this product with this product with this product, and oh, it’s going to work together, it’s a system to replace the response we get from antibiotics because of the cool stuff that antibiotics do.  And I think we’ve lost a lot of potential products because we’ve designed the trials poorly to look against antibiotics in this case, and then we put it up against the P value of .05.

Casey: I agree, and I think she made a good point.  The problem with the microbiome is the cost and the time to analyze that and even our understanding of it.  I really liked how she talked about if we can narrow the scope of these analytical tests, we can get results faster and cheaper by just [07:30] looking at certain bacteria and the certain genes that we’re after.  I thought that was really cool, because if we can do that, I think we will make great headway on what I’m going to call manipulating the microbiome for a better big.

Jim: Can you imagine walking through a barn of gilts and doing an Eliza test on their stool and using that as the selection measure?

Casey: Well, I gotta be cautious Jim.  I can imagine it.  I think we were considering developing some of that in my past career lifetime.  But ultimately, yeah, that’s what we need to do.  The pregnancy test for poop.  [laughter] We made the pregnancy test at ABVista for feed for phytase and xylanase and I think eventually maybe we can get there for the microbiome.

Jim: There ya go. Yeah. MmHmm. Like you said, from her presentation, can we bring that down to certain markers and do a test for that and we’re doing it flat level instead of theoretical.  We have to do it with an HPLC or a gastro-chromatograph.

Casey: And bar graphs that I don’t even understand; that you can’t even read when they present it? Yeah.

Jim: I’m just a pig farmer…[laughter] [08:55] [09:11]

Casey: I think some of the notes either in that symposium or in other talks I listened to around microbiome and the opportunity… as I’ve always said, it starts with the sow.  So many people forget that.  Maybe to advance that antibiotics replacement – like you said, a lot of things fail, but I think she made a great point – is we need to try on the sow’s microbiome and not the piglets.

Jim: How many trials have we seen where we tried to transfer the microbiome from a different sow to a piglet and it doesn’t work?

Casey: Nope, yeah, the best pigs do the best if they’re raised on their own mom.  That’s pretty evident by some of that work. And I’ve spent a lot of time in labs looking at immune system and passive immunity. It’s not just easy to say yeah, just do it this way.

Jim: Oh yeah.  The other presentation that I liked, and this might sound simple, but I enjoyed George Fahey’s fiber discussion yesterday.  Just because it was a review of fiber and put it in a pig nutritionist perspective.  We’re still talking crude fiber with my customers, so I appreciated it just kind of as a refresher course of how to think about non-structural polysaccharides and ADF and NDF and how that all works together.  So, I joked with my beef nutritionist that I’m out for his job.

Casey: [laughter] Well, it’s just a backwards cow – the pig as we call it. The biggest thing… I sent some of the questions on there is if crude fiber is not right, why do we still analyze it. Here’s the problem out there and the regulatory group needs to get on board is that we have to legally label our feeds on crude fiber.  [11:00] That’s a state/federal requirement. That’s because back in the day, to make cheaper diets, people would add really cheaper high fiber feed stuffs to diet, and reduce costs, the animals would perform bad, and alter the tags.  That was the historical reason why we look at crude fiber, and a lot of people on the science side forget practicality that I have to have crude fiber on my feed tag for regulations. Ultimately, I think that’s one hurdle we need to overcome is, “alright, regulatory body, we need to move beyond crude fiber and maybe have adf, ndf, like the ruminants do on their tags.”

Jim: One would think that would be a simple thing to change.

Casey: Really, Jim? Support politics?

Jim: [laughter] You can’t see my tongue in cheek.

Casey: And I can’t see you on video [laughter].  This is an audio recording… [12:00]

Jim: I think the crude fiber discussion is easily illustrated when you look at the way people feed show pigs and they always talk about adding oat groats to get fiber.  You haven’t read the tag.  That’s not a fiber response.  That’s a starch response to the carbohydrate response.  But we talk about it as fiber.

Casey: Exactly. It’s not exactly fiber. I think that’s just a reminder. Since this is kind of a global conversation, you go to Europe and their diets are full of fiber in their pig diets. They do very well. They try to bring those diets into the US – I’ve fought with this in the past with European genetic companies – and we just don’t have that type of fiber. It’s not just about having fiber in the diet; it’s like what type of fiber.  And beet-pulp is just not as available in the US for swine diets, because we can’t beat out the cattle guys for it.  Different government subsidies, it’s just not as readily available as it used to be.  It’s not just fiber everybody. Put fiber in is not going to solve everything. It’s what type of fiber.

Jim: Yeah, so that was nice discussion to remind us it’s not just fiber.

Casey: And I think that even is a discussion of how to get some of these feed additives, as I talked about, more consistent. You gotta understand what your feed stuffs are, and the tag requirements for regulatory are just not adequate anymore.  It’s the debate I still have with my father on even on crude protein. I’m like, Dad, it’s not crude protein, it’s lysine.  And now we can’t even legally label total lysine, cause that’s what we have to label on our tags, too, but it’s SID lysine. And now not just SID Lysine but the ratios and all this. It’s interesting how nutrition has really evolved.

Jim: [14:00] Especially when you consider the trade area that I cover, from essentially Maine to SD, look at the difference in soybean meal between what I’m feeding in SD and what I’m feeding in Ohio. It’s not soybean meal.

Casey: I guess the takeaway on that, if I’m hearing you discuss it in my conversation in my mind, from a producer level, is really formulate your diets based on your feed stuffs.  Maybe then also explore your microbiome of your system.

Jim: Yep, so know what you’re feeding and know how the animal’s going to use what you’re feeding.

Casey: If dollars outweigh your P value, that’s ok?

Jim: Totally.

Casey: Now, I’ve always heard this conversation of what value do we have to have and what other markers are you looking at for value, because a lot of times nobody reports even mortality; we’re getting better at that, but injectable medications and things like that. Where do you pull all that value out for producers when they’re trying to evaluate different feed additives?

Jim: It partially depends on the producer. I’ll illustrate this. I’d offered an alternative feeding program to a large producer that saved him $2/pig.  His question was, well, should I do it?  My response was ‘your competitor down the road did it for a dime and you’re questioning doing it for $2.’ In his mind, that $2 was weighed against the logistics of using it in his system.  He needed a new bin, another truck to go haul to a different plant.  So in his mind, $2 was not enough whereas the [16:00] other one says, “a dime? I’ll take a dime!”  So we have to distill it out with what your producer is and how sophisticated the producer is to understand.  I think we have some colleagues that utilize discussions on the value of a product and they try and find every single dime in it.  We think about some of the veterinary proposals that we see; well, you get this much savings in morbidity and this and you’re trying to find every single dime and pretty soon you can get to your dollar, but is it all smoke and mirrors.  So, I try and distill it down as simple as I can.  Usually, it’s feed conversion and return over feed costs is the simplest.  If we do see improvements in mortality or morbidity, we kind of consider that gravy in my typical producer. More sophisticated ones that use meta-farms religiously, we can pull that out and distill that down to get the return more precisely.  But you have to read your customer.  If he’s not going to understand the nuances of an intricate analysis, then don’t waste your time.

Casey: Any other last-minute thoughts from Midwest Animal Science for my listeners?

Jim: It was a great meeting.  I hope we have some sort of hybrid in the future so we can have access to presentations like we do this year.   I think that would be good for the scientific community.

Casey: I agree, open access sharing knowledge.  That’s what the Real P3 is about. So, I appreciate your time today.  Great thoughts and some similar thoughts that we share.

Jim: it was a good conversation, Casey. Thank you. [17:52]

Thank you everyone for listening to part 2 of 3 of our highlights from Midwest Animal Science meetings this year. Before we go, please visit our website if you haven’t had a chance to and sign up for our newsletter, the Real P3.com.  Thank you to our sponsors: The Sunswine Group, NutraSign, Swine Nutrition Management and Pig Progress.  And if you get a chance, hug a pig today for me.