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27th April 2021

Who is AB Neo? - Interview with the CEO

Early nutrition and the preparation of the animal for a lifetime of optimal performance is a key focus globally.  With the recent launch of AB Neo, bringing together a dedicated group of businesses with some of the industry’s most talented neonate specialists, here Dr Ian Wellock, Neo’s managing director, tells us about his views on the sector and his plans for the business. 

Why is early nutrition important?

We need healthy, productive young animals that will go on to deliver full value over their productive lifetime, whether it’s a broiler that might be expected to reach slaughter weight by 42 days or a dairy cow that we hope to keep for 5+ years.  It’s well known that how we manage and what we feed young animals impacts their lifetime performance and we only have one chance to get it right!

What are the benefits of investing in this stage?

The nutrition an animal receives in its first few weeks drives both its physical and psychological development; it’s pivotal in setting the animal up for a lifetime of success.  If it’s done correctly, the animal is not only healthier, which of course impacts positively on welfare, sustainability and less reliance on medications, but producers will also see the full lifetime value of the animal.

Why form AB Neo? 

Within our parent company, AB Agri, we had several independent businesses with very similar goals and housing a wealth of talented nutritionists and technical individuals.  Bringing those businesses together, with a very specific focus on our expertise, means we can serve our customers better with improved products, relevant added-value services and continued innovation.  

What will AB Neo offer that’s different?

We want to be the experts people turn to for any neonate feed solutions, from raw materials and additives to complete diets and milk replacers.  Our customers and their animals are at the heart of everything we do, so we’re focused on offering them the best nutritional products and services to help their business grow and succeed.  We may not be the biggest company, or expect to be visible in all countries, but where we are, we will make a positive impact.  We will care the most; our people and their passion is what makes us different.

What is AB Neo’s short and long term aims?

In the short term, it’s to continue to serve our customers with our products; DanMilk milk replacers, Adicare additives, ASN and Primary Diets starter feeds and a specialist range of raw materials.  Longer term, we will expand our growing footprint beyond what has been our core focus of piglets, to reach more customers in more countries with an expanding range of relevant products and services.

What’s your opinion on the importance of research? 

It’s more than important.  We must never stop looking for ways to improve and there’s so much still to explore.  Obviously, we must always test our ideas, refine them and demonstrate the benefit of our products, but research is more than that.  It’s also about keeping up with changing consumer and customer needs, creating healthier animals, ensuring we exactly match the animal’s nutritional requirements, coping with less antibiotics, learning how new and novel raw materials can benefit animals and their impact on performance, as well as investigating new and novel ways to manufacture feeds.  Research, and significant investment in it, will be a key focus in our business.

What is the AB Neo Innovation Farm?

As I’ve explained, we are absolutely committed to research and continue to work with numerous university partners.  However, it’s also critical that all initial development work there is tested in real-time commercial situations, so we have commissioned our own state-of-the-art innovation farm.  We’ve chosen Spain as a location to demonstrate our expertise in one of the world’s leading swine markets. Once complete, we’ll have facilities for up to 7,000 piglets in a cloud-based environmental controlled system.  The unit will have links to the maternity farm, allowing for pre-weaning nutrition evaluation, as well as to the grower/finisher farms so that we fully evaluate impacts on lifetime performance. 

It’s a very exciting time, predominantly because we’re giving our experts all the freedom, empowerment, and resources to become a leading influence in safe, sustainable food production.

What will the research priorities be?

First and foremost, it is to continue to increase our customers’ profitability by better understanding how to feed their young animals in the ever-changing environment we live in.  But, as I’ve outlined above, there are many additional areas in which to grow our knowledge so that we’re always pushing the boundaries of an animal’s performance.

Do you see changes in feeding neonates in the short/long term future?

Yes and no.  Much will stay the same, but we will continue to adapt and change with our customers.  As they develop, their needs change. For example, as they get larger their requirements and expectations from us change, being more interested in our knowledge, service, ingredients and additives rather than complete feeds. 

In the longer term, there will be a continued focus on reducing mortality and morbidity as we strive for continued improvements in animal welfare.  There is already more interest and demand for novel raw materials and a growing interest in how nutrients and treatments through water can benefit customers.  Of course, there is also the continued accountability in the environmental credentials of the ingredients used in animal feed – for example, carbon footprint, water use and deforestation, and it’s a challenge we’re actively tackling head on.

How will AB Neo rise to this challenge?

We’re in a great starting position.  By building on what we already had within the Agilia, ASN and Primary Diets businesses that we’ve now brought together and listening to our customers, we are placing our trust in our very talented people and giving them the resources to really make a difference to young animal nutrition.