AFC’s New Animal Nutritionist Introduces Himself
"What reason and endeavor cannot bring about, often time will." – Thomas Fuller
These words are very true and represent much of my philosophy of vocation and life in general. As I begin this new opportunity to work with the fine people at Alabama Farmers Cooperative, I hope that time will bring us to understand the best ways we can reach a certain goal. Time is the one commodity that is decreasing, never to be replenished. Yet time has also taught us lessons we can use to help reach our goals. It’s time I hope I can use to help each producer using AFC feeds to reach their goal.
I was born in Birmingham, and, at the age of 7, my family moved to a small farm in Cullman. Originally, we were a diversified farm with cattle, hogs, grain and produce. Over time, our operation evolved into one that consisted of commercial layers and beef cattle. The many experiences I had during this evolution have given me some knowledge I hope can be applied to each of your situations to help reach your production goals.
My love for production-animal agriculture grew through experiences showing hogs, sheep and cattle. The daily responsibilities associated with each of these projects and the competition at the shows forces one to dig for knowledge to gain every possible advantage. During this time, our family expanded more into animal agriculture by building commercial layer houses and starting a cattle back-grounding operation. These labor intense endeavors further built my love for production animal agriculture and carried on through my years in high school.
There was no question that my next step would be to attend Auburn University and major in Animal Science. The department was chock full of excellent professors and their wisdom imparted to students was invaluable. We were taught about different production systems from across the United States. Production systems that could be adapted to our state and regions. The diverse experiences of these professors further heightened my interest to learn all I could about animal nutrition.
After graduating from Auburn University, I attended the University of Georgia and received a M.S. degree in Animal Science with emphasis in Ruminant Nutrition. While there, I also had the opportunity to work with many fine professors. My committee consisted of gentlemen from Kentucky and Texas and included one of the finest forage specialists in the country. My research centered on improving performance of steers grazing wheat pasture by supplementing their diet with ingredients containing high levels of rumen escape protein.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System would be the next stop in my time journey. I was the livestock specialist in Limestone County for a brief period of time. While there, I enjoyed trouble-shooting problems with producers. There are a wide range of challenges for production agriculturists and they must be quick on their feet to seize opportunities or avert disasters. My time was cut short in this enjoyable job as circumstances dictated that I return home.
After moving home, my first job was to help my brother Tim build the facilities that would house the North Alabama Bull Evaluation Center. My family has developed bulls for the Alabama BCIA since 1991. We are responsible for the daily care and nutrition of the bulls tested at the center.
Our current operation consists of 125-head cow-calf operation, a 2,400 sow operation and a small feed mill manufacturing swine and poultry feed. My mother, brother and I are all partners in our farming operation. Our families are integral parts of the operation and each member shares with unique responsibilities. In our opinion, family is the ingredient that makes each part of our operation work. The support of my wife Jackie has been the spark keeping the fire going and helping to make all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.
I have struggled writing this article to introduce myself to you. I feel it is unimportant where I have been and the experiences that I have encountered. The important factor we need to remember is that time feeds knowledge and it’s the way we apply that knowledge that affects the outcomes of each of our own production programs. I hope the time I have spent in this industry and the diverse production programs I have been associated with can offer each of you some advice that will make each of your operations extremely fulfilling and successful. I look forward to the time we spend together to overcome the challenges facing us daily in our farming operations.
Stephen Donaldson is AFC’s animal nutritionist.