Ward & Van Scoy held a customer appreciation luncheon on Feb. 6 at the Owego Treadway Inn. The annual event is both educational and to show appreciation for the long-time Owego business's customers, according to Ward & Van Scoy's Nutritionist Jim Simmons.

"We've been putting together producer meetings for 30 years annually," owner Mike Ward said. He's the third generation of his family to run the business that was established in 1925. Ward & Van Scoy offers many farming products, but is primarily a feed manufacturer, according to Ward. They serve many customers in a 50 mile radius from Owego.

"Most of what we do is custom formulas based on the dietary needs of different farms," Ward said. Ward & Van Scoy sells in excess of 20,000 tons of feed per year primarily to dairy farms, he added. He characterized Ward & Van Scoy as a "pretty good reference source," advising and recommending feeds for farmers along with cropping and agronomic information and supplies.

The annual luncheon is a chance to bring their "customers together for a decent lunch," said Ward, and also a chance to talk a little shop. This year's after lunch speaker was Dr. Mike Van Amburgh from Cornell University who spoke about new concepts in nutrition related to nitrogen released into the environment. Van Amburgh said nitrogen pollution is becoming more of a concern for the Environmental Protection Agency, with a foreseeable day coming when farmers might be regulated for nitrogen released into the environment.

Pig and chicken farmers are already regulated as to how much nitrogen, typically in the form of ammonia, they release into the environment, according to Van Amburgh. He discussed at length feeding strategies and studies that tracked the amount of nitrogen passed into the environment by cows. A herd of 1,000 cows releases an equivalent amount of nitrogen into the environment as 30,000 humans, Van Amburgh said.

In the future, farmers will work closely with nutritionists like Simmons to regulate how much nitrogen is released onto the environment, while maximizing the output of milk. The key to that, according to Van Amburgh, will be how much energy is contained in the feed given to cows, not how much nitrogen or protein is in their diet. Ward & Van Scoy may soon find itself on the cutting edge of the green movement, helping to protect the environment while making sure livestock is healthy and producing profits for farmers.