60 Second Interview: Ruminant nutrition focus and expansion

© CBS

In an ongoing series taking a closer look a feed industry careers, we caught up with Sabrina Zettell, nutrition and technical service manager at Canadian Bio-Systems.

FeedNavigator: Tell us about your current role

Sabrina Zettell: I am the nutrition and technical service manager with CBS. It has a great portfolio of monogastric products, many of which have applications in ruminant nutrition. Up until now though, it hasn't had the expertise to apply the products to ruminant operations and gain valuable data to support the work. That'll be my job in the immediate future.

FeedNavigator: What's your background?

Sabrina Zettell: Ironically, I don't come from a farm background, but I wanted to be a veterinarian working with large animals. After I started at the University of Guelph, it became apparent I wasn't going to be able to go down that path. I met Dr. Brian McBride and began my focus on livestock nutrition, with a particular interest in dairy. I finished my graduate degree with him. 

FeedNavigator: How did you get into the industry? And what has kept you involved with it?

Sabrina Zettell: Once I completed my degree, a former classmate called me [with an offer of] an opportunity in the feed manufacturing industry.  I worked as a dairy nutritionist before moving on to [work in a] few feed mills during a 13-year span.

As nutritionist, I was able to work with producers and animals first hand, manipulating diets to affect production, health and ultimately cost of production. Being able to impact animal health and welfare through feeding not only with properly balanced diets but novel and unique feed ingredients was fascinating for me.

Human nutrition interests me as well, and providing healthy nutritious feed to livestock directly impacts human nutrition. The fields are more closely related than many people believe. Moving to CBS gives me the opportunity to work more closely with ingredients I find interesting, and hopefully [will] provide me with the opportunity to impact human and animal nutrition even more deeply.

FeedNavigator: What do you like most about your job?

Sabrina Zettell: The people in this industry are some of the most passionate people you'll find. They live and breathe everything agriculture. Being on the supplier end now gives me an opportunity to meet even more of these people directly and hopefully impact their businesses. 

FeedNavigator: What's the hardest thing about your job?

Sabrina Zettell: In agriculture, there are a lot of misconceptions around raising and feeding of livestock. I try to help educate where I can. 

FeedNavigator: Is there such thing as a typical day for you? If so, what does it look like?

Sabrina Zettell: I spend much of my day hunting down current and old research related to our new and upcoming products; I am currently building a proposal for evaluating an enzyme in vivo and possibly in situ so I'm looking for related trials and their results. There are industry shows I have the opportunity to attend when they come up. I also spend time looking at new ideas to incorporate into our existing technology, new technologies and how to apply them in our market, and giving support for existing technology and products to our field staff both in Western and Eastern Canada.

FeedNavigator: What advice would you give people interested in a job in your field?

Sabrina Zettell: There are so many opportunities in agriculture, take what you're interested in and make it work for you. I love the feed/food aspect of it, creating health and nutrition. Some may love the science and genetics behind improving forage digestibility, some may want to work with housing design for animal welfare. Talk to people in the industry and find your niche.

FeedNavigator: If there is anything you could do over in your career, what would that be?

Sabrina Zettell: I would travel to other countries to see different agriculture methods and applications. I've had the opportunity to see a few feed mills, farms and herds in Europe and the US but nothing more. I'd love to see dairies in Asia and India. Their challenges are unique, and the ingredients they use are far different.

FeedNavigator: What is the biggest challenge for the feed industry today? 

Unfortunately, the biggest challenge is maintaining a good rapport with the public.  Producers feed people, in the most efficient and safest way possible, and many people are misguided into believing agriculture is a system designed to poison the world. It's sad.

I have lived in this industry for over a decade and I know the dedication and love for the industry these producers have. They love what they do, and I hope in time the public will be more accepting.

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