Liquid Feed


Sept. 12-14, 2023, Hyatt Regency Louisville | Louisville, KY


Fabian Bernal


Fabian is a native of Bogota, D.C., Colombia, a farmer in KY, dairy consultant, and a sustainability expert that attended the University of La Salle. He graduated from Western Kentucky University (WKU) with a major in Agri-Business and Ag-Economics. He also graduated with a Master’s in animal science (large animal nutrition) from WKU. Furthermore, he holds a certificate from the University of Cambridge, Judge Business School, in Circular Economy and Sustainability Strategies. His special interests are Dairy Sustainability, Animal welfare, Livestock Management, Dairy Nutrition, Physiology of Lactation, and Ag Business Management. With over 20 years of experience as a leader in the dairy industry, Fabian has developed an extensive understanding of the challenges faced by agricultural companies and their stakeholders. He is well-versed in the processes, politics, and regulations influencing sustainability and worldwide agricultural business practices. Knowledge of these issues has allowed Fabian to develop action plans that tackle social, economic, and environmental challenges within commercial settings. Fabian has a significant understanding of the dairy industry, including milk markets and dairy industry support programs as well as animal welfare, animal health, dairy nutrition, and milk quality.

Randy Blach


Randy Blach has been with CattleFax since 1981, originally serving as director of market analysis for 15 years until he was promoted to CEO in January of 2001, a role that he continues to serve in today. During his tenure, the company has enjoyed significant growth and has continued to lead the industry with timely market information, in-depth analysis and forecasts on cattle, protein and grain markets in the United States and globally. Blach has been a keynote speaker at thousands of cattle, beef and related business meetings, seminars and conventions. He graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in animal science. Blach received the Honor Alumni award from its College of Agricultural Sciences in 2004 and the Livestock Leader Award in 2011. In 2016, he was awarded the Industry Leadership Award through the Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame.

John Cropley


John Cropley works as a senior commodity analyst at ED&F Man Liquid Products LLC. Based in New Orleans, he directs the company’s research on NAFTA sugar, molasses and other liquid products. Prior to joining ED&F Man, Cropley worked on a range of projects in the sugar and biofuels sectors around the world for the London-based consultancy LMC International. Before that, he worked for the British Government’s Department for International Development. Cropley holds a master’s degree in agricultural development from the University of London and a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from the University of Wales. 

Ellen Dierenfeld


Ellen Dierenfeld serves as Lead Specialist, Sustainable Feed Innovations within World Wildlife Fund’s Sustainable Livestock and Feed Systems group, as part of the larger Food & Freshwater team.  Raised in rural Iowa, she received her undergraduate education in Animal Science from Iowa State University, and graduate degrees from Cornell University with a focus in Animal Nutrition.  After spending much of her career heading applied nutrition/feeding management programs, laboratory and field studies with wildlife species through the Wildlife Conservation Society (Bronx Zoo) and St. Louis zoos, she joined the R&D team at Novus International as Manager for their Africa program to evaluate product effects in livestock fed available feed ingredients in local environments.  With a focus on sustainable global ag initiatives, she continues to investigate utilization of locally available and sustainable feed ingredients for a variety of species both in the US and abroad. 

Allen Douglass


Allen is a native of Cass County, Indiana, and a 1987 graduate of Purdue University with a BS degree in Agricultural Economics. He began his career as a grain merchant, first with Continental Grain in Milwaukee, WI, and later with Archer Daniels Midland. While with ADM, he worked with the soybean processing division in Fredonia, KS and Galesburg, IL. He then worked with the Countrymark Cooperative system in Indianapolis, IN where he held a variety of origination and trading responsibilities including the company’s 250 million bushel soybean position. He was a commodity price risk manager in 1997 with Countrymark’s futures division. In 2001, he was recruited by FCStone to open their Indianapolis office. He continues in that capacity today, guiding his team of 4 brokers in providing commodity price risk management services to grain elevators, large commercial producers, food processors, and consumptive end users in the livestock industry. 

He is a past member of the board of directors of the Southeastern Grain and Feed Association, and is active with his county 4-H organization, where he has served as the sheep project leader and on the fair board. He is also a member of the NGFA board of directors, having just started his term.

Tara Vander Dussen


Tara Vander Dussen is a dynamic and passionate individual hailing from the beautiful state of New Mexico. As a fifth-generation dairy farmer, she carries on a proud family tradition rooted in the land. While her husband, Daniel, manages the day-to-day operations of his family's dairy farm, Vander Dussen has carved out her own niche as an environmental consultant, speaker, online agriculture advocate and podcaster. 

As a Co-Founder of Elevate Ag, an online course that empowers farmers and ranchers with the tools they need to effectively share their agricultural stories and grow their businesses, Vander Dussen helps cultivate a network of informed and engaged individuals who understand the importance of a thriving agricultural industry. In addition to her entrepreneurial endeavors, Tara co-hosts the popular Discover Ag docuseries and podcast. Through captivating conversations, this platform delves into the intricacies of the food system, fostering a deeper connection between consumers and the hands that feed us.

Courtney Dyer


Courtney Dyer joined the Priefert team in the fall of 2008.  She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science from Southern Arkansas University and a Masters of Reproductive Physiology from the University of Missouri.  Today, she applies her analytical approach and critical thinking skills to curating the Priefert brand in her current role as their Director of Marketing.  At its core, her job is to protect and promote the Priefert brand name while also educating consumers about their product offerings. Equal parts strategist and motivator, Courtney strives to be a servant leader who develops a positive culture and creates a shared vision among her team and her customers.  She has a passion for communicating and a strong love of the agricultural industry, making her a frequent contributor of articles to a variety of ag publications.  She firmly believes there is no greater network of people to work with or rely on than those you meet in agriculture.  She and her husband Wes are the proud parents of two children, Addison and Bowen.

Francine Henry


Francine Henry, Ph.D., is an assistant professor and beef extension specialist in the department of animal and dairy science at the University of Georgia, Tifton campus. She is originally from Brazil where she received a bachelor’s degree in animal science from the Sao Paulo State University. Henry obtained her masters and doctorate degrees from the University of Florida, both in beef cattle nutrition and also performed a post-doctoral program at Texas Tech University before joining UGA in 2021. Henry’s appointment at UGA is split at 80% extension and 20% research work. Part of her duties in the extension role involves supervising the Tifton Bull and Heifer Evaluation and Reproductive Development programs. Her applied research program involves investigating supplementation strategies, use of byproducts and technologies to improve forage digestibility and decrease the carbon footprint of beef cattle production systems. The research conducted during Henry’s academic career, with collaborations with other universities, have generated over 30 peer-reviewed publications and 70 abstracts presented at scientific meetings. She is married to Dr. Darren Henry and they have a four-year-old daughter, Marianna Louise, and an 11-month old son, Hewey Amos.

Ashley Hughes


Growing up on a ranch in Central Florida, Ashley Hughes fell in love with the cattle industry as a child. After attending University of Florida, she has spent her adult life learning and developing skills around the beef and cattle worlds.  What started as an interest became a career of passion for cattle people, their operations, and their growth. Ashley Hughes Consulting was born from the desire to help people and organizations become better versions of themselves.  AHC is a full-service marketing, leadership development, and business strategy company.  She works with farmers and ranchers across the country to build and grow their brands, grow as leaders, and ultimately, make themselves and their operations more successful.  

Kristen Ireland


“The success of a business depends on the success of its employees.” – Kristen Ireland

As a consultant and coach, Kristen focuses on understanding the business and ensuring it achieves its goals by aligning the culture, leadership, people, and processes with business strategies. A thoughtful, innovative, and strategic problem solver, she specializes in compassionately influencing behaviors and providing simple solutions tailored to your needs. Kristen has more than 20 years of experience consulting and coaching executives, leaders and managers. In addition to her work experience, she earned both a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and an MBA from the University of St. Thomas. Kristen received her Change Practitioner certification from PROSCI in 2017.

Gene Lollis


Gene Lollis has served tirelessly as Buck Island Ranch's manager since 1996. His passion for sustainable agriculture drives the ranch and research on the property to be practical and applicable to the everyday cattle producer. Gene is a sixth generation Floridian who has spent his life in ranching and agriculture. In addition to managing the ranch, Gene ensures that the Agro-Ecology research conducted on the property is conducted with sustainability and real-world applicability. Gene stays active in several associations outside of Archbold including the US Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, Florida Cattlemen's Association (Past President 2020-2021), US Animal Health Association, Florida Cattle Ranchers, and the Florida Farm Bureau.

Bachelors of Science in Agriculture from the University of Florida, 1993. Master of Business Administration from Capella University, 2018, Beef Quality Assurance Certified.

Matt Makens


Matt Makens has presented thousands of weather forecasts and outlooks to dozens of industries since the 1990s. With a specific focus, Matt formed Makens Weather, LLC in 2016 and grew quickly by providing actionable weather and climate information, clearly communicated. The primary focus is on long-term seasonal forecasts and short-term weather hazards for the agricultural industry. Makens Weather serves global clients from Australia to Canada and throughout the United States - notably CattleFax and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Makens grew up outside of Castle Rock, Colorado, on a small acreage where he competed annually in the Douglas County Fair and Rodeo and was a livestock judging team member. Matt attended The University of Kansas - degreed in Atmospheric Science.

He and his wife Hillary, also serving the beef industry, live in Douglas County, Colorado, where they are raising their two children.

Erin Mies


“My interest in finding simplicity drives my work.” – Erin Mies

Erin believes that businesses do not need more complicated processes. Instead, they need help uncovering their root issues and finding ways to address them. Erin has earned a reputation for understanding a business’ needs and finding creative, practical solutions that allow them to move forward. Her approach is both straightforward and respectful, providing guidance and considerations to improve leadership effectiveness.Erin’s 15 years of experience has involved coaching and consulting executives, leaders and managers in food and agricultural industries, in both manufacturing and corporate environments. She also specializes in talent acquisition and international HR. In addition to her professional experience, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Music from Wittenberg University, and a Master of Human Resources and Industrial Relations from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Erin is certified through the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) as a Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP).

Jon Schoonmaker


Jon Schoonmaker, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the department of animal sciences at Purdue University. Schoonmaker, originally from Wisconsin, received his bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, master's and doctorate degrees in beef cattle nutrition and management from The Ohio State University and spent 3 years at Iowa State University working on a post-doctorate focusing on genetics of fatty acid composition of beef and milk. The goal of Schoonmaker’s research is to create knowledge that will improve efficiency of growth for beef cattle and animals through nutritional strategies that regulate gastrointestinal tract barrier function. Schoonmaker has led investigations to evaluate the use of feeds, nutrients and feed additives on ruminal fiber digestibility, acid-base status, nutrient availability, immune status and the translational potential for beef cattle feeding management. 

Nevil Speer


Nevil Speer, Ph.D., works as an industry consultant based in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He has experience in both academia and private industry and has worked within the livestock and food industry across multiple fronts. His career includes working with several start-ups along with various service and consultation projects spanning a wide variety of topics. In addition, he has authored several influential industry white papers and currently serves as a regular contributor to Drovers. Speer holds a doctorate degree in Animal Sciences from Colorado State University and an MBA from Western Kentucky University.

Samantha Werth


Samantha Werth, Ph.D., serves a dual role as Senior Director of Sustainability at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and Executive Director of the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB). In this role, Dr. Werth’s primary focus is on building collaborative partnerships to support both NCBA and USRSB sustainability goals and working to demonstrate the role of beef as an essential part of a sustainable food system. An animal biologist by training, Dr. Werth completed her undergraduate, masters and doctoral studies at the University of California, Davis. Her doctoral studies focused on sustainable beef production with an emphasis on nutritional studies with beef cattle to modelling various aspects of sustainable beef production.

Leah Wilkinson


Leah Wilkinson is the American Feed Industry Association’s vice president of public policy and education. Wilkinson joined AFIA in 2010. She interacts with state legislatures, feed regulatory agencies in the western U.S., the Association of American Feed Control Officials and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Wilkinson also works with the AFIA Feed Regulatory, Ingredient Approval and Definition and Aquaculture Committees and serves as the chair of the International Feed Industry Federation’s Regulatory and International Cooperation for Convergence of Technical Requirements for the Assessment of Feed Ingredients Steering Committees  Growing up on a Minnesota swine farm, and as a graduate in swine production from the University of Minnesota, Wilkinson is very familiar with animal agriculture. She has also worked for the National Pork Producers Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, both in Washington, D.C. Before joining AFIA, Wilkinson served as the director of policy and industry relations for ViaGen, Inc. in Austin, Texas.  

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Contact Us

SARAH NOVAK    (703) 558-3574     SNOVAK@AFIA.ORG

Contact Sarah, chief operating officer, for information on membership opportunities.

PAUL DAVIS, PH.D.     (703) 650-0146    PDAVIS@AFIA.ORG

Contact Paul, director of quality, animal food safety and education, for any questions regarding conference agenda and event expectations.


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