Becker Explores How Essential Fatty Acids Can Improve Sow Longevity

( Provided by Spenser Becker )

Meet Spenser Becker, our latest addition to Farm Journal's PORK's Up & Coming Leaders feature. We are showcasing some of the fresh, new voices of the pork industry who combine innovative thought and work ethic with scientific savvy and a passion to make a difference. 

Age: 25
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Oklahoma State University; master’s degree, Iowa State University; currently pursuing Ph.D. at Iowa State University
Hometown: Keota, Iowa

Q. What led you to a career in the swine industry?
Growing up in an Iowa farming community, I was heavily engaged in 4-H and FFA, where I showed pigs for 12 years. In addition, my family ran a small swine operation where I gained skills, knowledge and a strong understanding of swine production practices. My upbringing instilled a love for the swine industry, which served as the foundation for my decision to study animal science.

Q. Describe any internship experiences you’ve had. 
I interned for Cargill Animal Nutrition in retail sales during my undergraduate studies. I traveled the country to interact and learn within various company segments, including sales and consulting, administrative and manufacturing. My interactions with Cargill nutritionists during this time played a major role in my decision to continue my education in swine nutrition. 

Q. Describe your undergraduate research experiences.
I was an undergraduate research scholar at Oklahoma State, where I aided in multiple trials studying various nutritional aspects of nursery and finishing swine. 

Q. How did you gain swine experience?
I helped establish the first student swine interest group at Oklahoma State, which continues to serve students interested in pursuing a career in the swine industry today. At Iowa State, I was an advisor for the undergraduate Block and Bridle Swine Interest Group. I also currently serve as an executive director for the Iowa Swine Jackpot Series. This allows me to stay involved with the show livestock industry and work with youth to help educate and cultivate their interests in the future swine careers. There is no greater reward than sharing my passion for the swine industry with others and watching them grow on their own.

Q. Tell us about your current research.
My dissertation work focuses on investigating the role of essential fatty acids from commonly available fat sources and differing ratios of essential fatty acids in grow-finish swine diets. Specifically, my research evaluates how these essential fatty acids affect inflammation, joint health and fatty acid metabolism. The long-term goal of this research is to apply it in commercial gilt development units to potentially improve sow longevity.

Q. What is your generation’s greatest challenge?
The swine industry currently faces various challenges that will continue for years to come and will no doubt encounter new problems as we move forward. My generation’s greatest challenge will be pushing the limits of innovation and utilizing our creativity and the technology at our disposal to solve these problems and provide solutions moving forward. Finding the right people to fill roles across all aspects of pork production will also present a major challenge, as it currently does today. Our end goal will always be to produce safe, wholesome and nutritious pork to feed the world; however, how we accomplish this goal, or how we are allowed to accomplish it, may change. It is crucial we adapt, think critically and make the best decisions in every situation handed our way. This is especially important in today’s consumer-driven market and as the global population, and the demand for pork, continues to rise. 

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