• In 1954, Cargill hires Richard Baldwin. His vision for a sprawling research farm leads the company to 840 acres of land near Elk River, Minnesota.
  • As head of Cargill’s research department, Baldwin helps launch the Cargill Research Farm, a space devoted to groundbreaking research and innovation in animal nutrition.
  • Cargill uses “on-the-farm” conditions to develop systems its customers can use. Here, Dr. Carl Alexander uses a prescription calculator to adjust feed volume.
  • Poultry nutritionist Manfred Lawatsch (right) studies light-rationing hens, which are shown to produce almost 11% more eggs while consuming less feed.
  • During an experiment connecting egg-laying habits to food, scientists discover that the hen consuming Cargill’s special feed produces the most eggs.
  • To test the nutritional and digestive traits of Cargill Liquid Supplement, Dr. Alexander (right) and Larry McNeff inject it into the stomach of a cow.
  • Dr. Francis Wingert watches piglets beneath Cargill’s Nutrena brooder, an innovation proven more efficient than earlier heat lamps and gas heaters.
  • The farm is about more than results. It welcomes people who want to visit and learn from the scientists behind the nutrition field’s most innovative developments.

Innovating with a new research farm

After acquiring Nutrena Mills, Cargill opens a state-of-the-art nutrition research center in rural Minnesota to help drive innovation in animal feed.

In 1945, Cargill purchased Nutrena Mills, a leading feed producer that used a farm in Missouri as a proving ground for its feeds. When Richard Baldwin became the head of Cargill’s research department in 1954, his vision to expand the work of this farm led to more than half a century of innovation and success for the company.

Soon after Baldwin was hired, he set out to establish a sprawling research facility where Cargill could continue to learn about animal nutrition, study feed performance and develop new methods of animal husbandry. After a year-long search spent examining 50 to 75 possible locations for the farm, he found the ideal spot on 840 acres of land near Elk River, Minnesota, not far from Cargill’s headquarters in Minneapolis. In 1958, the new Cargill Research Farm opened.

Cargill made smart use of the new, abundant acreage. It used “on-the-farm” conditions to mimic approaches farmers might employ when raising livestock. The facility allowed space for cattle and dairy testing, and advanced poultry, hog, calf and dog feeding research. With many of its studies occurring in a central location, Cargill research teams and scientists could better collaborate for faster, more accurate results.

“Visitors to Elk River leave convinced that we know the business of feed and livestock production, and are gaining new knowledge every day.”— Jim North, Head of Feed Division, Cargill

One of Cargill’s earliest and most important innovations from its research farm was the Pigloo, a specialized birthing unit for pigs. Spaced eight feet apart, the Pigloos provided the housing and isolation necessary to protect newborn pigs from disease, allowing them time to build antibodies and preventing them from being trampled by their mother. The company then adapted the successful system for cattle, naming it the Calfloo system.

In its early years, the facility, known today as the Cargill Animal Nutrition Innovation Center, was home to significant achievements in animal immunization, anemia prevention in pigs and liquid cattle feed. Later, the farm became one of the first to use computers to study animals and agriculture, and helped launch Cargill into the aquaculture industry.

But the center was about more than innovation. It also placed a strong emphasis on education. Cargill opened the farm for guided tours, offering a unique opportunity for people to learn about animal research from the experts—and witness it firsthand.

Though the Cargill Animal Nutrition Innovation Center has expanded in both size and study since it opened in 1958, it continues to be a source for significant exploration and development in animal nutrition research.