Sustainable Practices in an Evolving Supply Chain
How do you build a sustainable supply chain that’s constantly evolving? Very carefully. It requires continuous attention, adaptability and a willingness to view processes from many perspectives – the customer’s, distributor’s, transportation partner's and Novus’s.
Cutting out 50 miles of travel might save Novus on fuel costs, but if that change makes it more expensive for the customer, it’s not sustainable. Novus’s goal is to search for win-win opportunities.
“We consider where our customers’ supply chains are now and where they are going to be in a few years, so we can be prepared to adapt to the changing market,” said Brittany Pham, Logistics Senior Manager at Novus International. “We build a map of the most efficient path for each product to follow, keeping in mind increased supply chain costs and biosecurity concerns as the two key factors that continue to drive change in supply chain management.”
Biosecurity Is at the Forefront for Everyone
When it comes to biosecurity, everyone has their own gauge of what it means and how to handle it. Keeping track of customer protocols and balancing customer requests are critical to success.
“If we plan a delivery to customer A and then customer B, but customer B wants to be the first delivery, then we need to balance those biosecurity requirements because we can't ask a customer to change their protocol,” Pham said. “Our goal is to comply with customer protocols while taking a sensible but sustainable approach that helps ensure the product's safety and security upon arrival.”
Novus has built strong partnerships within the supply chain, including with Bulk Transport Company, the dedicated carrier of ALIMET® for more than 20 years. The drivers work hand-in-hand with the Novus team, documenting specific delivery procedures in a reference manual.
For products sold on pallets like bagged or dry formulations, it’s a much more complex supply chain challenge because they typically deliver via common carrier. This product may change trucks and drivers two or three times before delivery.
“Unfortunately, customers bear the burden of biosecurity in this scenario,” Pham said. “If customers want to control how product is coming onto their property, they’ll likely need to invest in onsite equipment to sanitize trucks and provide drivers on their property with items like boot covers.”
AIMS® – Sustainability at Work Every Day
A sustainable supply chain platform Novus developed is called AIMS® - Automated Inventory Management System. The simplicity of the program has made it easy to set-up, use and see success.
ALIMET, Novus’s liquid HMTBa, is stored in bulk tanks at the customer location. Pressure sensors are installed on the bottom of customer tanks. The sensor is connected to a remote telemetry unit that reads individual tank pressure. Once a day, Novus receives a reading from the tank, letting Novus know how much inventory is in the tank. A specified drop in pressure is converted to a usable measurement of pounds of ALIMET used.
“After a few weeks of readings, we can identify usage rates and predict how quickly more product will be needed,” Pham said. “It also helps us identify and alert customers if we see anything out of the ordinary like an equipment malfunction or incorrect formulation.”
Novus’s dedicated fleet drives about 3.3 million miles a year, making about 9,000 ALIMET deliveries to 430 customer tanks in the U.S. and Canada, but not all customers take full truckloads of product. AIMS’ forecast algorithm calculates inventory, and based off historical usage patterns and set parameters, it uses predictive analytics to identify when more product will be needed. AIMS allows Novus to bundle deliveries together to build a full truckload and make more efficient routes.
“Because we don't haul anything but ALIMET in these trucks, you would expect only a 50 percent loaded mile metric because the trucks would be loaded on the way to a customer and empty coming back,” she said. “But with AIMS’ ability to bundle deliveries and identify clusters of customers who need product, we run about 58 percent loaded miles. This equates to about 280,000 fewer miles and 35,750 fewer gallons of diesel fuel each year.”
Cutting down on miles also means less wear and tear on vehicles and less maintenance. Fewer trips to customers also reduces biosecurity risks. All of which help create a cleaner, more sustainable supply chain.
“The ultimate compliment is when our customer says ‘we don't even think about ALIMET because we know you are taking care of it,’” said Pham. “It's one less burden for them to think about every day, and it’s great to know customers appreciate how mindful we are trying to be.”
Biosecurity Tips to Reduce Disease Risk
Limiting disease risk is critical to every dairy, so biosecurity should be on every employee's mind, every day.
Tamara Loeffler, DVM, Technical Services Manager at Novus International, recommends reviewing biosecurity protocols on a regular basis, not just when there’s a problem. The following are practical biosecurity recommendations every dairy should follow to reduce risk.
If you purchase new cows, minimize the risk to the existing herd by:
- Quarantining cows for at least 30 days in an isolated area
- Purchasing animals only from farms with a known herd health status
- Considering buying replacement heifers
- Transporting animals in cleaned and disinfected trucks
- Quarantined animals shouldn't share the same air space, feeders, water or equipment with resident cattle
- Use medicated foot baths and ensure all animals are properly vaccinated
- Monitor cows daily for any change in behavior, as this may be a sign of subclinical disease
- Test cows for bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV), Johne's disease and mastitis
Traffic On and Off the Farm
- Keep a farm visitor log
- Inform all farm visitors about your biosecurity protocols
- Limit any non-essential farm traffic
- Limit any business or personal travel with animal contact
- If carcasses are being picked up, do not allow the driver or truck to enter barns or come in contact with any of the resident cows
- Disinfect all farm equipment
General Biosecurity Best Practices
- Permanently identify all animals with ear tag or tattoo
- Limit access to young calves as they are the most susceptible to disease
- Routinely culture bulk tanks for any infectious organisms
- Keep health records on each animal including vaccination history, calving history, illness and treatments
- Everyone on the farm should wear washable coveralls (bagged up when leaving farm) or disposable coveralls (disposed of on-farm)
- Avoid disposable plastic boots; alternatively, step through a foot bath and clean boots with a brush
- Collect a sample of dead or aborted animals and submit to a diagnostic laboratory
Educate all farm employees, so they can report anything out of the ordinary. Even if they can't identify a disease, they are responsible to recognize a problem. This also includes reporting suspicious activity of people on the farm. For additional resources please see the USDA’s dairy biosecurity recommendations: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/nahms/dairy/downloads/dairy14/Dairy14_dr_PartI.pdf.
Heat Stress and Oxidative Balance Can Affect Reproduction in Your Herd
Oxidative stress, the production and build-up of free radicals, occurs when environmental, physiological or nutritive stressors develop. Normally, natural antioxidants (i.e. vitamins and minerals) within the body keep animals in a state of oxidative balance by stabilizing free radicals produced as part of normal metabolism. However, under conditions like heat stress, free radical production increases and can overwhelm this fine-tuned system and result in oxidative stress. This halts basic performance, with reproductive efficiency being one of top concerns for producers across North America. Providing antioxidant support to breeding animals can alleviate oxidative stress associated with heat stress.
A study was conducted using 384 commercial dairy cows in Okeechobee, Florida, to evaluate the effects of AGRADO® Plus on pregnancy rates during heat stress. Half of the dairy heifers were fed the farm’s standard TMR as a control diet and half were fed the same TMR with AGRADO Plus. The results indicated heifers supplemented with AGRADO Plus became pregnant at a higher frequency than control heifers at each service. Heifers receiving AGRADO Plus had more observable, frequent heat leading to more inseminations and more pregnancies overall. Ameliorating the effects of oxidative stress, AGRADO Plus allowed heifers to focus their efforts on pregnancies rather than fighting heat stress.
Novus Is With You When It Matters!
In just one week, Novus International will be at the Annual Dairy Science Association meeting in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, at booth #404! We are excited to see our partners, customers and fellow attendees there to share with you more about our products like MINTREX®, AGRADO Plus and ALIMET! Join us on Tuesday, June 27, in Hall B to hear new research on improving milk fat in commercial dairies with MINTREX (abstract T272) from our ruminant nutritionist, Dr. Heather Tucker!
Getting to Know Brittany Pham
What is your official title at Novus?
Logistics Senior Manager, NORAM
How long have you been with Novus?
8 ½ years
In your current role, what is the most interesting thing you do?
Managing resources (20+ vendors, $15M budget) to meet challenges facing Novus and our customers in the North America supply chain.
Which product of Novus’s is your favorite?
What accomplishment or moment in your career are you most proud of?
Not taking the safe route – taking roles outside my area of expertise, particularly in an industry/function that is male-dominated.
What is the oddest or hardest question a customer has ever asked you?
How to handle a mixture of ALIMET and a non-methionine liquid when another supplier inadvertently unloaded into the incorrect tank.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing the animal agriculture industry today?
From a logistics perspective, managing costs during a time in which multiple variables are making a lean supply chain more challenging (aging drivers, cross-contamination and bio-security concerns, transparency to consumers). These issues are manifesting in multiple ways such as consumer pressure to know where their food products have been and government regulatory action (FSMA).
What would be your first move if you were tasked with helping the industry overcome that challenge?
Identify what is feasible to address at the company level (ex. customized bills of lading) and what must be addressed at the industry level and engage industry groups accordingly.
When you are not promoting Novus products what do you like to do?
Read, swim, and travel (domestically and internationally)
If you could go to dinner with any three people dead or alive, who would you choose?
Abraham Lincoln (I hail from Lincoln, Illinois – the original town christened by Lincoln)
Queen Elizabeth I (She succeeded in a time where women didn’t have opportunity for success)
Emma Watson (She is leading the HeForShe movement to continue the fight for gender equality globally)
If you had to choose only one book for your library, what would it be?
Bossypants, A Game of Thrones, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Poisonwood Bible, The Lord of the Rings, Jane Eyre, Little Women
This is the most painful question I’ve ever answered.
What is your favorite beef/dairy/pork/poultry product to eat?
Cheese: it goes great on just about everything and is also a perfect food by itself.