Meet Lily Hernandez, 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.
Hometown: Sugar Land, Texas
Educational background: Bachelor’s degree in animal science, Texas A&M University; currently pursuing a master’s degree at South Dakota State University.
Q. What sparked your interest in the swine industry?
A. My experience with swine began in middle school when I started showing them in FFA. I enjoyed being around the species and knew I wanted to do something that revolved around pigs for a career. During my undergraduate years, I became involved with the swine nutrition department at Texas A&M as a research assistant. By participating in the studies, not only did I learn about the swine industry, but discovered I had a passion for nutrition.
Q. Did you take part in undergraduate research?
A. During my junior year at Texas A&M, I worked as an undergrad research assistant in the swine nutrition department. I participated in a study that looked at the possible impact that the inclusion of liquid lactose and molasses had on growth performance in both nursery and grow-finish pigs. I also helped in a study aimed to develop a model of human environmental enteropathy by a pathogen challenge in weaned pigs. I assisted with daily chores, weigh days, assessing the Pellet Durability Index of feed and collecting biological samples.
Q. How did you develop swine experience?
A. I showed pigs at local fairs and major shows around Texas throughout my middle and high school years. This played a pivotal role in building my character and establishing the ethics that I would use in the future.
Q. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing swine producers?
A. It is hard to identify just one challenge as the biggest. However, if I have to choose one, it has to be the public’s perception of the industry. Although producers are being more transparent about what happens on the farm and educating those that may not know much about the swine industry, we still are experiencing a push back from the public.
Q. How could your research impact the swine industry?
A. I am studying the effects that supplementing yeast cell components, vitamins, and phytochemical oils in gestation and lactation diets have on sow antioxidant status and piglet performance during the suckling and post-wean period. Average litter size has increased over the years due to the demand of a more prolific sow. This increased size places more stress on the female as she has to provide a sufficient amount of milk to meet the piglets’ demands. With body reserves being continuously mobilized to ensure enough milk is produced, the incidence of oxidative stress increases. Being in this state of stress reduces sow performance and impacts piglet performance. Identifying feed additives that could mitigate the negative effects of oxidative stress could ensure that performance of both the sow and piglets are not impaired. Hopefully, by preventing pigs from falling behind in growth, producers can cut both the time and cost that would have been put in to making these fallbacks reach market weight.
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Up & Coming Leader Zoe Kiefer Tackles Sow Mortality