MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A group of Macedonians got an up close and personal tour of Mississippi State University and other parts of the state during a two-week-long visit to learn about animal feed processing.
The group of four traveled to the United States to take part in the Cochran Fellowship Program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service. The program provides U.S.-based agricultural training for senior and mid-level professionals from developing countries who are interested in agricultural trade, agribusiness development, management, policy and marketing.
“The Cochran Fellowship Program provides opportunities for Cochran Fellows to learn and see firsthand agricultural production, marketing, technology and policy in the United States,” said Bill Herndon, MSU agricultural economist and coordinator of the program. “It also allows them to adapt technology and policy to suit their country's agricultural sectors.”
MSU has participated in the program since 1984 and hosts two or three programs per year. In addition to the Macedonians studying animal feed processing, a group of six Serbian professionals was on campus in early October for seafood processing and marketing training.
The Macedonians visited the MSU chemical lab, beef nutrition lab and College of Veterinary Medicine, and the USDA's Poultry Research Lab. They were presented information by MSU faculty on cattle, swine and poultry nutrition and feed processing, poultry management practices and challenges in the United States, feed mill management and feed quality control, and agriculture and livestock grain sectors. The agenda also included tours of cattle, swine and poultry feed processing facilities, a livestock slaughter plant and a biodiesel plant.
The group from Macedonia included Sanja Mihailovska, financial manager for Pa-Lek, a distributor of pre-mixes and feed additives; Violeta Bocharova, production vice general manager for Agria Group, which owns a swine processing facility, swine farm and feed mill; Hristijan Petreski, executive manager for Agroinvest, a broiler company and feed mill; and Zajkov Mitko, manager of Farma Agripro, the largest poultry firm in Macedonia.
Bocharova, a nutritionist in charge of buying raw materials and preparing formulations for swine feed, discovered several differences between Macedonian and U.S. operations, mainly in the area of governmental legislations, environmental regulations and equipment.
“In your country, the equipment is more modern and your farmers use raw materials that are less expensive than ours, allowing them bigger profit,” Bocharova said. “Seeing this, I hope to be able to find alternatives to our expensive raw materials.”
Mihailvoska said the program broadened her working knowledge of the whole meat production industry from breeding to meat processing.
“The presentation on feed production process in practice was most useful,” she said. “It was also very interesting to find how functional and useful the Mississippi State University Extension Service is.”
While the program is geared towards training the Fellows, it also benefits MSU faculty through exchanging information and establishing working relationships, Herndon said.
Mark Crenshaw, Extension swine specialist, was one of several faculty members to provide tours and information for the Fellows.
“Although all four in the group represented different aspects of agricultural production in Macedonia, each brought a different perspective based upon their personal experiences in agriculture,” Crenshaw said. “Spending time with this group and touring a variety of agricultural businesses allowed me to view our agricultural businesses through their eyes. Certainly, there are a lot of things we have in common; however, it is interesting to see what particular items were new to them, such as pellet feed and sources of feedstuffs.”
Crenshaw said this was the first trip to the United States for each Macedonian.
“None of the four knew one another before their trip to this country,” Crenshaw said. “I felt they developed a strong bond while in the United States that probably resulted in them networking once they returned to Macedonia.”