Industry changes have prompted the need for ongoing work to best address challenges like mixing rations, personnel management and the move toward consolidated farms, he said.
Lane was recently inducted into the University of Kentucky’s Department of Animal and Food Science Hall of Fame. He was recognized for his decades-long support of animal agriculture, his involvement with state and national agriculture activities and his foundational role with the creation of the Kentucky Dairy Development Council, said university officials.
Lane said he was excited and honored to receive the award.
Challenges to address
Feeds have moved from a focus on ingredients to the use of total mixed rations, Lane told FeedNavigator. However, it’s an area where more research is needed.
“There have been so many more bi-product feeds or ingredients that weren’t considered 30-40 years ago, like hominy, distillers’ by-products, and by-products of the nut industry,” he said. “Some of those things we don’t know enough about – so there will be research on how to use those and how they interact with each other and cows’ digestive systems.”
Work needs to be done to better understand how cattle use some of the newer ingredients and what effects they may have on the rumen, he added.
Balancing dairy rations is a practice that Lane has worked with since leaving academia for industry in 1986, when he started with Burkman Feeds, he said.
His work with the company covered the early days in the production of mixed rations, as Burkmann was one of the first in the area to offer the service. “It was a personalized feeding program, where we fit in whatever what we needed to balance what they [the farmers] had to feed – now every feed company does that,” Lane added.
At the time, one of the most unusual substances that needed to be balanced were “distillers’ slops,” he said. The ingredient was a by-product of whiskey distilling.
Moving forward, Lane said, he expects that the trend toward larger dairy farms will continue and that there will be an increase in the mechanization used within the industry.
The larger dairy farms also mean that a facility manager now needs to be a personnel manager, he said.
“When herds were small, and cows weren’t in a barn and in close confinement, there weren’t as many issues,” he said. “So we have to learn how to manage cows in confinement, but it’s getting better every day.”
Work in the field
Lane started his career as a professor of animal nutrition, dairy science and production at Texas A&M University before being dairy section leader and extension leader with the University of Kentucky’s Department of Animal and Food Science, said university officials.
He was among the founding members of the Kentucky Dairy Development Council in 2005. The group includes representation from different parts of the dairy sector in Kentucky, he said.
“The need arose for someone to speak to the industry as things were changing and we didn’t have good leadership that represented all segments of the industry,” he added.