Auburn University is taking advantage of its strategic location in the U.S. Broiler Belt by offering a program unlike any other in the region. The university held a ribbon cutting ceremony at its new Poultry and Animal Nutrition Center Nov. 16.
Poultry contributes more than $10 billion annually to Alabama’s economy and is the leading agriculture revenue segment in the state. The state ranks third nationally in broiler production and 14th in eggs. All those chickens have one thing in common — they eat…a lot.
“If you look at the cost of raising an animal and producing protein from it, 60-70 percent of the cost is really the feed that goes into that animal,” said Dr. Don Conner, Auburn’s Poultry Department head. “So, it’s imperative that we are cost effective when it comes to that feed, and a lot is achieved through quality control. If we are more efficient in feed production by using better manufacturing techniques, that makes the animal agriculture industry a lot more efficient and productive.”
The $7-million feed mill is located north of Auburn, just off Auburn Lakes Road. Ground was broken in May 2010, but the idea for the feed mill hatched two years earlier when an AU staffer saw video of an academic feed mill from California Polytechnic State University at the International Poultry Expo/International Feed Expo.
Auburn graduate Mitchell Pate, director of the AU Poultry Research Unit, returned to the university in 2006 to head up Auburn’s Poultry Research and Extension Center. One of his primary duties was to spearhead relocation of the university’s poultry farm to the north Auburn campus. That was to be accomplished in three phases: first, the feed mill; second, broiler houses; and third, a processing plant.
While phase two and three are still being planned, it’s obvious Pate is excited about what the new feed mill can bring to the future of the poultry industry and to Auburn students.
“This facility will provide hands-on training, and we hope it will be run by students,” he said. “There is no other place in the Southeast that can offer that experience.”
Alabama Farmers Federation Poultry Division Director Guy Hall said improving feed efficiency and industry profitability by training feed mill personnel and students with state-of-the-art feed mill technology will help secure the poultry industry as an economic engine for Southern agriculture.
Pate said he expects grain farmers to benefit from the new mill, too. He said by touring the facility, farmers see how what they’ve grown is converted into a complete feed.
“We are hopeful that students will start using the Poultry and Animal Nutrition Center for course work in the spring semester of 2013,” Pate said.