Jim Smith wears two hats when supporting pork producers: Resource and Consultant. The first has him answering questions about Kent products from customers and dealers, as well as formulating customized feed programs. The second hat requires his expertise in improving profitability by optimizing nutrition programs – whether it be changing feed ingredients or assisting with efficiencies of feed mills.
“Anything that has to do with putting food in the pig’s mouth,” he says.
As Senior Technical Swine Nutritionist, Smith is a key link between Kent Nutrition Group’s research development efforts and pork producers. Growing up, he owned and showed pigs from his grandparents’ farm in Northeast Indiana where he still lives. He maintains close relationships in that territory every day with producers, some of which are managing upwards of 12,000 sows at a time. And while his traditional role as “nutritionist” still applies, Smith says it’s evolved into much more.
“I want to be a partner in their success,” he says. “To be successful, our customers need to have access to information and products, and my role is to find them those answers. It used to be that our role as nutritionists was, ‘Here is the product.’ Now it’s, ‘I have a solution for you.’”
One of Smith’s primary objectives is finding the best mix of feed costs to provide customers with optimum return. With so much uncertainty in the market lately, including trade wars, Smith’s challenge is to take a long-term approach with producers. In January, for example, Smith said he was telling people that 2019 would be a year to remember – a year they’d be telling their grandchildren about – and that was only when the Swine Flu in China was top of mind.
“We had no idea the trade war was coming after that,” Smith says. “There have been so many unforeseen things affecting producers this year. It requires us to really have an understanding of the markets and make the best decisions for what’s coming down the road.”
To that end, Smith studies corn and soybean markets and analyzes ingredients for individual pork producers’ needs. There may be set nutrient specifications that a pig needs to consume, depending on housing style (confined or pasture setting) – but Smith’s job is to put algorithms to work and come up with the best feed solution. Different combinations, coupled with prices of varied ingredients, give him a best-value solution.
And that’s when Smith’s Doctorate degree in swine nutrition comes into play: either he believes the solution or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t, he goes back to work again.
“It’s a balance,” Smith says. “In reality, we want the nutrient profile to be right – corn, soybean fat. But if the pig isn’t going to grow, we have to adjust it. It’s my job to be on top of all this.”
Kent’s flexibility allows him to customize ingredients to do just that.
“We have the capability to give producers what they need, whether it’s an 800-pound inclusion supplement or a two-pound vitamin trace mineral,” Smith says. “That’s definitely something we do best.”
Jim Smith lives with his wife, Kimberly, a small animal veterinarian, in Grabill, Indiana. Two of their three children are studying animal science in college; their youngest is in the 5th grade. Outside of work, Jim enjoys serving as a 4-H and Cub Scout leader, hunting, camping and fishing with his family.