Even before she began at Extension, Sally Noll began making connections with the turkey industry.
Her mentor, Paul Waibel, a professor in turkey nutrition at the time, insisted on it for his employees including Sally, who was working in his lab before she even began graduate school.
"He was good about making sure we interacted with industry, and I liked that contact," said Sally, Extension specialist.
After starting her Extension position, she worked with and was mentored in Extension programing by David Halvorson (Extension avian veterinarian) who provided her with a strong foundation in working with producers and areas of turkey production other than nutrition.
These connections, and her mentors' focus on the producer, have influenced Sally over the course of her nearly three-decade long career in Extension. Today, Sally continues to ensure her research and programming is applicable and useful to producers.
Many times, Sally's research findings, which are generally focused on nutrition and feeding, can be put to work by producers almost immediately. Starting in 2001 she began studying distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS), a byproduct of ethanol production. At that time distrust prevailed among producers about feeding it to their livestock. Even making it 10 percent of the feed seemed like a stretch. But it was becoming increasingly available and questions abounded.
Sally worked with her advisory group of nutritionists. Sally developed trials to determine how much DDGS could be added to the feed. The results were surprising: she found that depending on the age of the bird, they could easily have 20 percent or more of their feed in DDGS. This information was particularly invaluable in 2008, when feed prices shot up and there was not enough corn to go around.
"Here we are 13 years later, and now everyone knows about distillers grains," said Sally.
It's safe to say the Extension turkey program, led by Sally, is one of the reasons Minnesota is the number one turkey producing state in the country.
"It would be nice to take all the credit," joked Sally. "But there are a lot of reasons including teamwork with other U of M units, the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and the industry itself."
The entrepreneurial turkey Extension program includes Turkey Health School, which is an intensive two-day workshop held in conjunction with Rob Porter of the Diagnostic Lab in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Because this top-rated workshop is so hands-on, they limit the number of attendees to around 50 producers. In addition to her general speaking circuit, Sally leads the poultry portion of the Minnesota Nutrition Conference (the conference is now in its 75th year).
This spring, a producer commented that "[the industry] felt I knew them, and they trusted me to know their perspectives and communicate that in the University system," said Sally.
That's what Extension can do.