March 20, 2012

Gary Allee Symposium explores the future of swine research

By Madeline McCurry-Schmidt

On March 19, the American Society of Animal Science recognized swine nutritionist Gary Allee with a symposium in his honor. Allee, a retired professor of swine nutrition at the University of Missouri, devoted his career to mentoring graduate students and improving nutrition and management in the swine industry.

In an invited presentation titled “Science shaping an industry: Past, present, and future,” Allee shared the lessons he learned in over 40 years in academia and research.

Allee framed his advice for educators with examples from his own life. He said his experience on the board of a New York Stock Exchange company showed him how business experience can help educators navigate university bureaucracy. He also encouraged researchers to be more critical of the peer review process, citing several studies where he found published results misleading.

Allee focused on the need for researchers in academia to partner more with private industry. He said funding to support commercial-sized research herds helps students learn to apply research in production settings.

“That’s where your students can get excellent training,” said Allee.       

As an example, Allee talked about the partnership between the University of Missouri and a company called Innovative Swine Solutions (ISS) LLC. He said industry support for ISS funds a “commercial nursery” that grows 21,000 pigs per year. ISS also has a wean to finish barn that houses 2,400 pigs at a time. University of Missouri students work closely with ISS and are able to collect more data than they could with a smaller university herd.

“It gives super training for the next generation of applied researchers,” Allee said.

Like many veteran animal scientists, Allee worries that students are drifting away from agricultural animal science, especially swine research. In his presentation, Allee showed the results of a student survey at the University of Missouri. Of the students studying animal science, only six percent said they were interested in swine, dairy or poultry science. He said he is also worried that as universities hire more basic life sciences faculty, students interested in animal production will dwindle.

“Who is going to excite young people about opportunities in animal agriculture?” Allee said.

Allee said he hopes future swine researchers will expand understanding of feed intake during lactation, weight changes during lactation, variations in birth weight, amino acid needs and carcass value.

Allee did not just give science-related advice. He also talked about the ups and downs in his career, and took a few minutes to address animal science students.

“There will be some rough spots in the road. There will be some disappointments,” said Allee. “You reach a point where you have to decide what you are going to do.”

Allee may be retired now, but his days as a teacher are far from over. He said he plans to spend more time with his grandchildren. He showed the symposium audience a picture of his granddaughter who wants to “see where pandas and tigers live.”

“And we will,” Allee said.

This symposia was chaired by Joel Spencer, a consultant for JBS United Inc. and former student of Allee. The Gary L. Allee Appreciation Club is run by the ASAS Foundation. So far, the club has been funded by Aaron Gaines, Ajinomoto Heartland LLC., APC Inc., Archer Daniels Midland Company, Cargill Animal Nutrition, Chia Tai Animal Husbandry Investment, Diamond V, Donald Orr, Elanco Animal Health, International Ingredients Corporation, JBS United Inc., Jeff Cohen, Joel Spencer, Kevin Touchette, Meghan Wulster Radcliffe and Scott Radcliffe, Micronutrients, Novus International, PIC North America, Pfizer Animal Health, Pioneer, A Dupont Business, and The Maschhoffs LLC.

To donate or learn more about the ASAS Foundation, go to: ­­­­ http://www.asas.org/foundation.asp.