Production begins at Auburn’s new Poultry and Animal Nutrition Center

November 29, 2012
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By Jamie Creamer - Special to Poultry Times

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn University’s new $7.1 million Poultry and Animal Nutrition Center, a state-of-the-art academic and research feed production facility located on a 50-acre site north of the main campus, officially opened Nov. 16, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony led by university administrators and representatives of the poultry and feed mill industries.

“The new Poultry and Animal Nutrition Center at Auburn is the result of a great partnership between the university and agribusiness,” Auburn President Jay Gogue said. The feed mill has had strong industry support since plans began taking shape in early 2008, when a technical advisory committee that included poultry nutritionists and feed mill personnel was formed to provide input on the facility’s design and equipment. Thus far, more than 40 corporations have donated to the facility, including $750,000 in equipment.

Housed inside a 12,500-square-foot steel building, the new feed mill is comprised of nine prefabricated modules, each 40 feet long by 8 feet wide by 9 feet and 6 inches high, that were manufactured in Minnesota, trucked 1,100-plus miles to Auburn on nine flatbed trailers and then assembled on site in stacks of three.

The modular design is “a small-scale adaptation of a commercial mega-facility” and is ideal for teaching, said Don Conner, head of the Department of Poultry Science at Auburn and the driving force in moving the feed mill from an idea to reality.

“Students can come in here and stand in one place and see every step of the milling process and how all the pieces work together,” Conner said. “Students want and need hands-on, real-world experience, and they’re going to get that here.

“One of our department’s key missions is to serve the industry, and producing outstanding employees is one of the ways we do that,” Conner said. “The experience students get working and learning at the feed mill will equip them with the knowledge and skills the industry is demanding.”

The feed mill, in fact, will be operated primarily by students, as part of the poultry science curriculum.

“We’re in the process of putting together an introduction-to-feed-milling course, and we’re going to move labs in some of our existing courses out here as well,” Conner said. “We also are going to develop more aggressive courses that eventually will be part of a degree program in feed mill management.”

Research is where the new facility’s scalability is especially crucial. Patterned after California Polytechnic State University’s Animal Nutrition Center, which Hopkins, Minn.-based T.E. Ibberson Co. designed and built in 2008, Auburn’s Poultry and Animal Nutrition Center is built to scale and is scalable by factors of five, 10, 12 and 15. That will allow research conducted at the feed mill to be translated for any size commercial feed mill.

Auburn research will focus on getting as much nutritional value out of feed as possible, not only for poultry but other agriculturally important animals. And feed produced at the facility will be used as food for the university’s 20,000-bird research flock and livestock research animals. In addition to Auburn scientists, researchers from private corporations will be allowed to contract use of the feed mill for some projects.

Conner said the feed mill also will be used to host continuing education workshops and short courses for people in the industry.

Jamie Creamer is a communications and marketing specialist with the College of Agriculture at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala.

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