Meet Morgan Thayer, 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.
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Purdue University; master’s degree, Kansas State University; currently pursuing Ph.D. in swine nutrition, Purdue University
Hometown: Hope, IN
Q. How did you become interested in a career in the swine industry?
A. I became interested in pursuing a career in the swine industry through showing livestock. I enjoyed showing pigs at the Decatur County Fair and Indiana State Fair as well as through the Indiana Junior Swine Circuit and the National Junior Swine Association.
Q. Tell us about your internship experiences.
A. As an undergraduate, I interned with ADM Animal Nutrition as a feed sales intern. My next internship was with Pipestone System as a swine production intern where I learned about commercial swine production through hands-on experiences in a sow farm as well as in nursery and grow-finish facilities. After graduation, I worked for The Maschhoffs as a research and innovation intern. This opened my eyes to the value of internal research in a commercial setting. Undergraduate research taught me how research experiments are supposed to flow, but large-scale research excited me even more. It was enlightening to observe how research results, practicality of implementation and economics guided decisionmaking within their system. After the first year in my Ph.D. program, I was offered another internship with ADM Animal Nutrition as a non-ruminant animal nutrition research intern. While traveling with swine salesmen and technical consultants, I was able to share data from nutrition research trials. This helped me realize that my career goals need to highlight the value of customer interaction and critical thinking.
Q. Describe any undergraduate research experiences you’ve had.
A. I was blessed to have the opportunity to work in Dr. Brian Richert and Dr. Scott Radcliffe’s swine nutrition lab at Purdue University as an undergraduate. I learned how to subsample and grind feed samples to be analyzed in the lab for nitrogen, calcium and phosphorous. While at the farm, I learned how to properly handle and move pigs as well as how to collect blood, feces, and colostrum/milk samples for various research projects.
Q. What other learning opportunities have you been involved in?
A. Through the show pig industry, I have learned a lot about leadership. I served as an at-large director on the National Junior Swine Association Junior (NJSA) Board. One of my favorite roles was helping organize our national leadership conferences where we we hosted leadership development workshops, industry panels and educational seminars to help youth grow and become advocates of agriculture. I also enjoyed our mentorship program where senior NJSA members serve as role models to younger members.
Q. Tell us about your current research.
A. I am studying sow nutrition and how the dam’s diet in gestation and lactation affects her reproductive performance and progeny growth performance. One aspect of my research focuses on how feed additives affect the immune system by priming it to fight off pathogenic stressors typically present in commercial production. The outcomes of this research could help the producers of the swine industry raise healthier females to farrow a larger number of healthier pigs. Healthier pigs transitioning into the nursery may grow faster and more efficiently with less antibiotic usage later in life.
Q. What do you think will be the greatest challenge for your generation going into the swine industry today?
A. As a future leader in the swine industry, I believe it is important for consumers to trust that hog farmers care for their animals in the best way possible in order to provide safe protein for us all to enjoy. Therefore, the greatest challenge for my generation going into the swine industry will be forming a trusting producer-consumer relationship regarding the way hog farmers produce pork. Consumer concern for animal health and wellbeing has already influenced how we raise pigs, including elimination of ractopamine in finisher diets, antibiotics used for growth promotion and alternative sow housing designs. It is critical that my generation maintains full transparency and effective communication about how we raise pork, so consumers understand current management practices.
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