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Executive Talk

October 31, 2013

Amlan: Boosting livestock productivity, enhancing scarce feed supplies
 
An eFeedLink Exclusive
 
 
A subsidiary of Oil-Dri Corporation, Amlan International is dedicated to providing targeted animal health solutions. Vice president and general manager Dr. Ron Cravens discusses Amlan's opportunities, challenges, and how its products augment animal health while giving farmers more feed supply options.
 
by Eric J. BROOKS
 
 
How does your relationship to parent company Oil-Dri Corporation boost your products competitiveness?
 
Oil-Dri is a family owned, publicly traded (ODC: NYSE) sorbent mineral company that has been in business for nearly 75 years.  The company sells diverse products worldwide into many specialized markets.  
 
Dr. Ron Cravens, Vice President and
General Manager, Amlan International
 
 
Has Amlan been expanding its overseas distributor networks or manufacturing facilities?
Our distributor network has grown 30% since 2008.  We had a major expansion last year in China, as well as in several Middle Eastern countries.  We cover Asia, Eastern Europe, North Africa, Latin America, Canada and the United States.  We manufacture all of our products within the United States.  
 
The company mines and processes the sorbent mineral that goes into our products and provides the technical support for our research and development efforts.
 
 
What do you consider Amlan's strengths and weaknesses?
 
We have a strong commitment to scientific research of our products and technical support for our customers worldwide.  This strength has provided many benefits in establishing our brands among the top mycotoxin binders. 
 
On the other hand, the small size our team makes it challenging.  Even so, because of our small size, we are able to make decisions quickly and take advantage of Oil Dri's size, scale and marketing network.
 
How is marketing Amlan products in South America or Asia different from how it is done in North America?
 
The biggest overseas marketing challenge we face is the vastly different regulatory environment.
 
For instance, China is a very challenging country to register products. Not only is it a large, diverse country, but also the regulations differ greatly from other countries.
 
There is also varying degrees of knowledge related to mycotoxicosis and other toxins and the need for broad-spectrum toxin control.
 
 
So do you conduct studies in new markets to demonstrate your product's relevance?
 
Yes we do.  We conduct field research, laboratory work and other scientific studies to document the effects and negative impact of different mycotoxins on various livestock species and the benefits of using our products under a mycotoxin challenge.
 
We have worked with several international laboratories and universities; Shandong Agricultural University, Dankook University, Kasetart University, LAMIC, University of Florida, University of Missouri, Purdue University, North Carolina State and Ohio State University.  Additionally we contract with third party institutions to conduct studies; Colorado Quality Research, Southern Poultry Research and USDA. 
 
We also help our customers determine what types of mycotoxins are in their feed by sending their feed samples to third party labs in Taiwan and Mexico. This is a valuable service that our customers use to help manage their operations.
 
 
How has the persistent rise in feed grain costs impacted your business?
 
When feed prices go up, producers may choose to purchase low quality feed grain to maintain profitability.  When this happens, you will see more cases of mycotoxin exposure. But in this era of high feed grain costs and scarce supplies, livestock producers do not always have the option of saying 'I won't buy that.' 
 
As a producer tries to reduce feed grain costs, the risk of mycotoxin contamination increases.  But if producers manage mycotoxins in the animal, a larger proportion of available feed grain supplies become usable without lowering animal performance, thereby helping keep costs low.
 
Our products manage the toxin challenge within the animal.  This helps maintain profitability even when poorer quality grains are used to reduced overall costs associated with high grain prices. 
 
We find that our supplements help reduce unit costs while maintaining profitability.
 
 
Are non-traditional feed grains or low inventories creating new opportunities for Amlan?
 
Typically mycotoxin levels are higher in non-traditional feed grains than traditional feed grains. For example, in the case of DDGS, any concentration of mycotoxins in the grain will be three times higher in the DDGS derived from it.
 
You also tend to see more mycotoxins in alternative feed materials, such as corn gluten meal, wheat bran, DDGS or rice bran. All non-traditional feed grain sources present the risk of mycotoxins and increase the need for our products.
 
 
Which new products are you developing?
 
We are developing products that enhance gut development and provide broad based toxin control.  Specifically we want to provide products that help normalize gut micro biota through non-antibiotic natural feed additives. 
 
Most recently we introduced MD-09 moisture manager, a feed additive that alleviates wet droppings in poultry. 
 
 
Does that make MD-09 a departure from your standard business model?
 
MD-09 is in line with our current business model and appeals to the same customer base.  It is a unique product that works efficiently and quickly to reduce the occurrence of wet droppings. 
 
 
Which markets are the most aware and least aware of damage mycotoxins do?
 
I think the United States has the least awareness. It has a fairly dry crop growing season and good grain handling practices that lower the incidence of fungi and mycotoxin contamination.
 
In addition, there is no public advertising of mycotoxin binders to consumers in the United States because the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] does not recognize any product for toxin binding attributes. 
 
On the other hand, countries in Latin America and Asia have a high awareness of these products.
 
 
Do large markets have regional differences in mycotoxin problems?
 
The type and amount of toxin present in feedstuffs is more closely related to environmental conditions.  For example, Aflatoxin tends to be high in tropical and subtropical environments while Zearalenone and Fumonisin tend to predominate in the more temperate climates. 
 
However, given the way grains are transported globally, it is common for all of the typically mentioned mycotoxins as well as many of the other 400 known mycotoxins to be found in any geography where grains are feed to livestock.
 
One of the mines owned by Amlan's parent company,
Oil-Dri Corporation. They supply Amlan the raw materials for its mycotoxin binders
 
Amlan's International's Innovation Centre at Vernon, Illinois is where most R&D is carried out
 
A researcher at Amlan's R&D centre in Vernon Hills, Illinois
 

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