Pastoral lifestyle: Land OLakes feeding a new niche

Updated: Feb 26 2005, 05:30am hrs
Farmers who belong to the Land OLakes cooperative have launched a new product line of lifestyle animal feeds to meet the demands of the growing numbers of hobby farmers.

In doing so, Land OLakes Inc., based in Arden Hills, Minn., is filling a niche created by the thousands of farmettes that are popping up as commuters move beyond the suburbs into rural areas in search of the pastoral lifestyle.

People really want to connect to the land, and the way they do it is through owning animalschickens, rabbits, goats, horses, a few grass cattle, said Mark Chenoweth, director of marketing for the cooperatives specialty feeds. Weve seen the trend accelerating.

Land OLakes feeds now extend beyond the traditional livestock, horses and poultry formulas to mixes for cats, emus and monkeys.

Theres even deer chow to help bucks grow big antlers.

Land OLakes also is the world leader in developing and marketing animal-milk replacers for calves, goat kids and baby pigs, many of which are raised by young 4-H members.

The cooperative has pulled together its array of specialised feeds for songbirds, exotic poultry, pets and other companion animals under the new Lake Country product line, launched in January.

Sales of such lifestyle feeds jumped 10% in 2004, Land OLakes President and CEO Jack Gherty told about 1800 farmer-members of the cooperative at its annual meeting in Minneapolis. In feed alone, we have more than 80 patents on proprietary products and processes, he said.

The strategy is the latest example in which Land OLakes, which has annual revenue of more than $7 billion, is seeking to use its well-known brands including Purina, Croplan Genetics and the classic Land OLakes dairy label to increase sales. Overall, net sales for Land OLakes hit $7.7 billion in 2004, up $1.4 billion, or 22% from a year ago. Net earnings, however, fell to $21 million, down from $82 million in 2003.

As with dairy foods geared to consumers convenience, the Lake Country products make it easy for hobby farmers to give animals proper nutrition and get husbandry tips.

JOY POWELL / NY TIMES