FOR livestock producers, feed determinations can be complex and difficult. For more than 25 years, Cargill has offered a suite of software-based decision-making tools designed to help customers make those decisions. These tools allow producers to provide proper animal nutrition while managing risks and volatility.
More than 100 years of global research and development (R&D) are at the cornerstone of Cargill Animal Nutrition's formulation and management tools.
"Our customers face a more complex, volatile environment than ever before — volatility in ingredient markets, government regulations and output markets," Scott Ainslie, director of strategic marketing and technology, told Feedstuffs. "Our goal is to help our customers make better, faster and more informed decisions to turn this volatility into a competitive advantage and help them grow their businesses. Using our decision-making tools and global R&D and applications centers, our customers can tap into a bigger resource than they would have on their own."
In addition to millions of dollars spent on R&D accumulating nutrient knowledge and animal requirement information, Cargill has invested more than $15 million in the last four years upgrading these formulation tools into a more sophisticated software package.
"Driving the software decision-making tools is the nutrient knowledge and the animal requirement engines that come out of our global R&D and technology capabilities," Ainslie said.
These software tools utilize Cargill's global nutrition database, or the Cargill Nutrition System, developed from years of research that is deeply rooted in a disciplined, scientific and customer-focused approach from two R&D centers and 13 application centers located in various regions across the world.
Dave Cook, global research and development director for Cargill Animal Nutrition, estimated that approximately 2.5 million scans per year are completed, and a majority of those are incorporated into the database.
"The Cargill Nutrition System is the industry's most accurate and consistent resource for nutrient information and analysis. It offers business partners access to Cargill's global network of information, which is updated on a daily basis," Ainslie said.
While based on the same industry-leading R&D, Cargill has a variety of software tools designed for different customer segments. For example, the MAX and AAMPS systems are decision-making tools for livestock producers and nutrition consultants, while the Pennent system, available through its Feed Management Systems Inc. subsidiary, is designed for mill owners.
"One way to think about it, in its simplest form, is we are helping customers decide which product to use and, in the most extreme cases, designing from the ground up the complete feed the customer will offer to their animals for the best possible performance," Cook explained.
Through its network of consultants and feed distributors around the world, Cargill's decision-making software tools assist livestock producers with beef, dairy, swine and poultry operations to customize the right feed for the particular animal group's stage of development and environment.
Formulating a unique animal feed can be simplified when users combine the animal requirement model with the nutrition model of the software programs.
Regarding the animal requirements, Cargill consultants or customers may model and predict an animal's needs under a wide variety of product systems, environments, genetics and economics.
In addition, on the nutrition side, the models allow users to better characterize the value of ingredients.
"The real value is the proprietary, customizable nature of the animal requirement model and proprietary nutrient inflows from ingredients that come from our global database," Ainslie explained.
Since some customers do not desire customized feed formulation, these same decision-making tools can be used to help Cargill design a product line.
The work of the Cargill global research team at the R&D centers or directly working with customers is being coordinated in a way that constantly updates the available software systems with the latest scientific data.
At the end of the day, Cargill wants to bring its global expertise to each operation it serves.
"Customers are facing incredible dynamic situations. It allows us to provide decision-making tools that are as dynamic as the environment that, increasingly, our customers are in," Ainslie concluded. "If it is a competitive advantage for our customers, then it is a competitive advantage for us."
The purpose of the MAX and AAMPS systems is to give livestock producers the ability to feed their animals the optimal blend of nutrition while properly managing pricing risks associated with volatile commodity markets.
For livestock producers, the systems can tailor a personalized diet formulation to an operation that can be frequently modified for factors such as the environment or equal substitution for lower-cost ingredients.
Real-time information from the global nutrition database is included in both the MAX and AAMPS systems. The database leverages near-infrared technology, allowing producers to test and profile the nutrient content of feed ingredients in an instant. Therefore, producers can quickly compare the price of equivalent ingredients.
Other features of the programs include feed inventory tracking, custom reports summarizing feed economics by diet or operation and predicting animal performance.