College of ACES
College News

Nickols-Richardson named Interim Associate Dean and Director of Extension

Published January 31, 2018

URBANA, Ill.  – Shelly Nickols-Richardson has been named Interim Associate Dean and Director of Extension within the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) at the University of Illinois.

“Dr. Nickols-Richardson brings a tremendous amount of administrative leadership experience to this role, which will serve well as she works closely with all of us to evolve the Extension enterprise to the next level of excellence,” says Kim Kidwell, dean of the College of ACES.

In addition to serving as the head of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN) for the past five years, Dr. Nickols-Richardson served as a member of the Extension 3.0 Task Force, which familiarized her with many of the opportunities and challenges Extension is facing. As the head of FSHN, she also had the opportunity to work with Extension faculty and staff on a regular basis.

“I consider Dr. Nickols-Richardson to be the ideal person to facilitate the implementation of the recommendations from the Extension 3.0 Task Force, and to create cohesion between Extension and the College of ACES based on the experience, perspective, and wisdom she brings to the position,” Kidwell says. “We will partner closely with college and Extension personnel to achieve this goal. It is imperative for our long-term success and sustainability that we frame an exciting vision that will allow us as a collective to manifest the land-grant mission that means so much to so many.”

While Nickols-Richardson is serving in this interim role, Nicki Engeseth, a professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, has agreed to serve as the acting department head of FSHN. Having served in the interim head role several years ago, Engeseth brings experience and a deep understanding of the department to this role. Nickols-Richardson and Engeseth will assume their new duties and responsibilities on March 1.

Nickols-Richardson will succeed George Czapar, who will be retiring on March 1 as Associate Dean and Director of Illinois Extension. Czapar has served in this role for the past five years, activating the reorganization of Extension in an extremely challenging budget climate.

“Czapar’s dedication, compassion, and commitment to Extension and 4-H are unwavering,” Kidwell says. “The persistence and resiliency with which he has fought for the cause and has supported his personnel is truly impressive.”

News Source:

Kim Kidwell, 217-333-0460

Is it time to sell new crop soybeans?

Published January 30, 2018

URBANA, Ill. - Soybean prices rallied over the last week on increased uncertainty in South American soybean production and a weaker dollar. According to University of Illinois agricultural economist Todd Hubbs, soybean prices in the 2017-18 marketing year are following a very similar pattern to last marketing year, bringing 2018 soybean sales prospects to the forefront. 

New crop cash bid prices for harvest in central Illinois recently ranged between $9.70 and $9.80. “A prudent marketing plan for soybeans this year may possess some selling of new crop soybeans in this price rally,” Hubbs says.

Last year, the November 2017 soybean futures price saw an early December rally that weakened over the holiday period and then moved higher in late January on potential weather issues in South America and strong soybean exports. The November 2018 soybean futures price is following a similar pattern with prices 20 to 30 cents lower than last year. The 2017 November soybean contract stayed well above $10 until the beginning of March and then declined substantially until a strong weather rally in July. Despite the similarities in South American production, soybean export levels are not as strong this year and an increase in soybean acreage in 2018 sets up another large production year.

Currently, U.S. soybean production estimates for 2017-18 sit at 4.392 billion bushels, down 0.7 percent from the November forecast on lower national yield. Dec. 1 soybean stocks of 3.157 billion bushels came in 23 million bushels below trade expectations. “The stocks estimate for the first quarter of the marketing year indicates disappearance of 1.54 billion bushels,” Hubbs says.  First quarter 2017-18 marketing year estimates of exports and crush came in at 849.3 million bushels and 494.6 million bushels respectively. The soybean crush level during the first quarter indicated a 2 percent increase from last marketing year, while exports lagged last year’s pace by 83 million bushels.

“At this time last year, expectations for an increase in the number of acres planted in soybeans during 2017 and a potential record South American crop set up a scenario of significant downside risk for prices through the marketing year,” Hubbs says. “Both of these factors materialized during 2017 with soybean planted acres increasing 6.8 million acres and Brazilian and Argentinian production both exceeding the January projection.” The Brazilian crop ended up surpassing the January forecast by 371 million bushels.

The USDA forecasted ending stocks of U.S. soybeans at 420 million bushels on Jan. 12, 2017.  U.S. exports were forecast at 2.05 billion bushels while crush was projected to be 1.93 billion bushels. U.S. soybean crush and exports ended the 2016-17 marketing year at 1.89 and 2.174 billion bushels respectively. Ending stocks came in at 302 million bushels. Soybean cash prices reflected the large South American crop and U.S. acreage expansion as the monthly average price for central Illinois decreased from $9.86 in the first seven months of the marketing year to $9.50 in the last five months.

The recent WASDE report forecasts soybean crush and exports for the U.S. in 2017-18 at 1.95 and 2.16 billion bushels respectively. At 470 million bushels, the ending stocks forecast is the largest since the 2006-07 marketing year. “In 2018, many market observers place current projections of planted acreage of soybeans near 91 million acres, up 0.9 million acres over 2017,” Hubbs says. “At a projected yield of 48.5 bushels per acre and harvested acreage at 90.3 during 2018, soybean production would be at 4.38 billion bushels. If the current projection by USDA for exports and crush materialize, total supply in the U.S. for the 2018-19 marketing year comes in near 4.87 billion bushels. At this point, the USDA ending stocks projections appear reasonable due to slower than expected export levels.” 

Forecasts by the USDA of Argentine soybean production currently sit at 2.06 billion bushels for the 2018 crop year. “Numerous reports out of Argentina indicate substantial dryness with sub-soil moisture issues in many regions may reduce production by 140 to 150 million bushels,” Hubbs explains. “The USDA lowered Argentinian soybean production 36 million bushels in January. Current weather conditions in Brazil indicate strong production prospects in 2018, despite some recent issues with too much rain in many growing regions. The Brazilian soybean production forecast increased by 73.48 million bushels over the December forecast to 4.04 billion bushels. The expected increase in soybean production levels led to a 55 million bushels increase in the forecast for Brazilian soybean exports, up to 2.46 billion bushels. 

“Taken together, USDA forecasts 6.1 billion bushels of soybean production and 2.77 billion bushels of soybeans exports from Brazil and Argentina over the marketing year, down from last year but still substantial levels of production for competition in the export markets.”

Hubbs adds that the possibility of a strong downward price movement through 2018 is substantial, much like last year. “Despite the potential for production issues in Argentina and Brazil, the South American crop is weeks away from final resolution to these weather issues.  The possibility of an increase in soybean production in the U.S. and large soybean ending-stocks projections hang over the rest of this year.

“The March 29 prospective plantings report will provide the next major indication for soybean acreage for 2018. With so much production uncertainty in the U.S. and South America over the next few months, the current bids for 2018 harvest delivery provide an opportunity for locking in prices on new crop soybeans,” he says.

News Source:

Todd Hubbs, 217-300-4688

New non-thesis Master of Animal Sciences degree available at Illinois

Published January 29, 2018
Companion animal students

URBANA, Ill. – This fall, the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois will enroll students in a new project-based Master of Animal Science program. The program is intended to serve students for whom the traditional thesis-based masters’ degree is not desired.

“We expect to have applicants who currently work in industry and want to advance their career without the time and resource demands of thesis research, for example, or baccalaureate graduates that want to continue coursework to enhance their competitiveness when applying to veterinary school or entering the job market,” says Sandra Rodriguez Zas, professor and director of graduate programs in the department.

The Master of Animal Science program requires a total of 32 credit hours, which can be completed in as little as two semesters or longer, depending on the needs of the student. The program requires six hours towards a capstone project that helps students understand the scientific method and develop science communication skills. This can be a research project or internship experience, in some cases initiated during the undergraduate program, that will culminate in a graded written report.

Students can work with animal sciences faculty across the many disciplines represented in the department: nutrition, genomics, reproduction, bioinformatics, microbiology, immunology, behavior, meat sciences, and physiology.

“We think it will meet a need for certain people,” says Kelly Swanson, professor of companion animal nutrition in the department.

“For example,” he says, “the pet food industry continues to grow steadily and is in need of people adequately trained in companion animal nutrition. Some professionals in the industry might not need the research experience, but require expertise in nutrition, diet formulation and processing, regulations, and other important aspects.

“Our intensive program will not only cover these topics using didactic instruction, but also will include hands-on experiences with animals, in laboratories, and in feed processing/production plants; weekly seminars and journal clubs pertaining to companion animal nutrition; and personalized mentoring from some of the world’s leaders in pet nutrition. Having all of these training opportunities packed into a single degree program is quite unique and is the first of its kind.”

Prospective applicants can learn more about the program and apply at

Multiple spring beef meetings slated for southeastern Illinois

Published January 29, 2018

URBANA, Ill. – Cattlemen in southeastern Illinois interested in learning about the latest industry updates and university research being conducted in southern Illinois are encouraged to attend the upcoming spring beef meetings.

These free meetings are co-sponsored by University of Illinois Extension, FS Total Livestock Services (FS TLS), and Purina Animal Health LLC, and will cover industry information on vitamin and mineral availability, new Accuration hi-fat protein tubs, anaplasmosis research being conducted in southern Illinois, and beef industry updates.

Presenters include Teresa Steckler, U of I Extension, Jeremy Pruemer, FS TLS, and Bob Michaud, Purina Animal Health LLC.

Please register 24 hours prior to the start of each meeting. Entrance is free and a meal will be provided. All meetings start at noon.

Dates and locations:

  • Feb. 15 - Wabash County Farm Bureau, Mt. Carmel (register at 618-262-5865)
  • Mar. 20 – Wabash Valley Service Co., McLeansboro (register at 618-643-3819)
  • Mar. 22 - Wabash Valley FS, Fairfield (register at 618-842-4870)
  • Mar. 27 - Edwards County Farm Bureau, Albion (register at 618-445-2113)
  • Mar. 29 - Anthony’s Wild West Pizza, Flora (register at 217-690-3541)

If you have additional questions, please call Jeremy Pruemer at 217-690-3541.

News Sources:

Teresa Steckler, 618-695-4917
Jeremy Pruemer, 217-690-3541

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

Copper hydroxychloride in diets fed to weanling pigs improves performance and health

Published January 29, 2018

URBANA, Ill. – Copper is an essential element in diets for pigs, and it can be provided in a number of different forms. Copper hydroxychloride is less likely to react with other vitamins and minerals in a premix than the more commonly used copper sulfate, but research on its effects when fed to pigs is limited. Results of recent research at the University of Illinois indicate that including copper hydroxychloride in diets fed to weanling pigs improves growth performance and reduces diarrhea.

Hans H. Stein, professor in the Department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences at U of I, conducted three experiments, along with Ph. D. student Charmaine Espinosa and Scott Fry and James Usry of Micronutrients USA LLC. The copper hydroxychloride product tested in the experiments was Micronutrients' IntelliBond C. The team published their findings in a recent issue of the Journal of Animal Science.

In the first experiment, they compared weanling pigs fed diets containing 150 mg/kg copper in the form of copper hydroxychloride with pigs fed control diets containing only enough copper to meet dietary requirements. The pigs in the copper hydroxychloride group had a greater final body weight, average daily feed intake, and average daily gain over the 28-day experimental period than the control pigs. Pigs fed copper hydroxychloride also had less frequent and less severe diarrhea than control pigs.

Another experiment confirmed the results of the first. Pigs were fed a control diet as in the first experiment, or a diet containing 100 or 200 mg/kg copper hydroxychloride. Pigs fed either of the copper hydroxychloride diets had greater final body weight and less severe diarrhea compared with pigs fed the control diet.

“We know that supplementing copper above their nutritional requirement improves growth performance, but it's not clear why,” says Stein. “Our hypothesis was that the improvement in growth performance might be due to greater digestibility of gross energy and fat.”

Stein's team fed the control diet and the 100 or 200 mg/kg copper hydroxychloride diets to weanling pigs for 28 days, and calculated the digestibility of gross energy, ash, and fat. They observed no difference in energy or nutrient digestibility between pigs fed diets containing copper hydroxychloride and pigs fed the control diet.

The results didn't bear out their hypothesis, says Stein, adding that further research is needed to determine the mode of action of copper hydroxychloride in diets fed to weanling pigs.

Fry says the growth performance results are consistent with what his company has seen in more than five trials conducted in the U.S. and EU over the last few years. “When we have looked at copper sources, we see pigs fed copper hydroxychloride are, on average, over 850 g bigger than pigs fed copper sulfate. The cost to switch sources are minimal: less than five cents per pig in U.S. dollars."

The article, “Copper hydroxychloride improves growth performance and reduces diarrhea frequency of weanling pigs fed a corn–soybean meal diet but does not change apparent total tract digestibility of energy and acid hydrolyzed ether extract,” is published in the Journal of Animal Science. Funding for this research came from Micronutrients Inc. and Agrispecialists Inc.

News Source:

Hans Stein, 217-333-0013

News Writer:

Jennifer Roth, 217-202-5105

Fat cat? Here’s how much to feed to lose weight

Published January 24, 2018

URBANA, Ill. – Does your cat lay around all day, only getting up to eat and visit the litter box? Chances are, he’s overweight. Maybe you’ve switched to the “diet” cat food or tried feeding him less, but you might have noticed it’s not easy to get that weight off. A new study from the University of Illinois explains what it takes to get kitty to slim down.

“The intent with this diet was a healthy weight loss: getting rid of fat while maintaining lean mass. The big question was how much does it take to make cats lose weight, especially lazy neutered males? It turns out you have to keep reducing their food intake because they’re not very active. It takes a long time,” says Kelly Swanson, Kraft Heinz Company Endowed Professor in Human Nutrition in the Department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences at U of I.

Swanson and his colleagues wanted to target a safe level of weight loss – enough to notice a change, but not enough to cause health problems. “The risk with rapid weight loss, especially in a cat, is hepatic lipidosis. The body releases too much fat, and the liver gets bogged down. They can’t handle that much,” Swanson says. “We targeted a 1.5 percent body weight loss per week, which falls in line with the range (0.5-2 percent per week) suggested by the American Animal Hospital Association.”

To achieve that 1.5 percent loss, the researchers had to cut food intake by 20 percent compared to a maintenance diet. But that was only the first reduction. Swanson and his colleagues found that to achieve continued weight loss, they had to keep cutting intake every week.

“That’s a key point. When we go on a diet ourselves, we might lose a lot of weight in the first few weeks and then hit a road block. Same with these animals. We had to keep going down, but it can be hard to convince a pet owner to do that. You might get owners to reduce intake from 60 to 50 grams per day, but we’re telling them they might have to go to 45 or 40 grams. We got really low, but we were monitoring them so they were healthy,” he says.

The goal was a healthy body condition score of 5 on a 9-point scale. An animal with a BCS of 1 is very emaciated, but one with a score of 9 is, as Swanson puts it, “like a little blimp.” An animal with an ideal BCS of 5 has a little layer of fat on the ribs, but has a tuck at the waist.

As hard as it may be to convince owners to reduce their cats’ food intake, it might be harder to convince them that their pets are overweight in the first place.

“We’ve done some clinical studies in dogs showing that misconception. If you have a veterinarian do a BCS assessment of a pet and then have an owner do it, the owner will almost always underestimate the BCS. Owners need to acknowledge the weight status of their pets.

“The second thing that needs to change is the owner’s behavior: getting them to reduce food intake to maintain a healthy BCS. Food companies recognize that many owners feed too much, so they’re trying to formulate their diets so it’s easier for the animals to maintain or lose weight even if an owner overfeeds,” Swanson says.

The researchers also evaluated changes in the cats’ fecal microbiota – or bacteria, fungi, and viruses that inhabit the gut – during the 18-week study. As the weight came off, some bacterial groups became more abundant, while others showed the opposite pattern. Swanson thinks the shifts may lead to positive health effects for the cats, such as lower inflammation, but he is waiting for additional results before making that call.

With the idea that they might have a little more pep in their step as they got leaner, the researchers also measured the cats’ voluntary physical activity during the experiment. The eight cats in the study, all neutered males, were housed together in a large room for 20 to 22 hours every day, only going back to their individual cages to be fed. Researchers attached activity monitors to the cats’ collars to see how often they were running, playing with toys, or climbing the cat towers around the room.

“Their activity level didn’t change much,” Swanson says. “Toward the end, they were becoming a little more active, but not statistically.” Still, he recommends owners encourage their cats to exercise as much as possible, by playing with them and placing food bowls farther away from favorite resting spots. 

The article, “Effects of weight loss while feeding a moderate-protein, high-fiber diet on body composition, voluntary physical activity, and fecal microbiota of overweight cats,” is published in the American Journal of Veterinary Research. Co-authors Marissa Pallotto, Maria de Godoy, and Hannah Holscher are from U of I. Co-author Preston Buff is from The Nutro Company. The project was supported in part by The Nutro Company.