Waconia, Minn. – Sandy Karstens has a knack for waiting patiently through life’s trials.

As president of RK Marketing Enterprises, Karstens produces and promotes Alfamin¨ brand feed supplements for animal health. The company says Alfamin’s trace minerals, such as zinc, copper and manganese, foster good health and improved fertility in cattle, horses, hogs and poultry.

While Karstens has been selling the alfalfa-based feed additives successfully for several years – even as far away as South Korea – she needs some independent research results before making a stronger push.

“We’ve been waiting for documentation to back up our claims,” Karstens says. “We’ve had interest from people, but until we get the results back, some are holding off.”

Trials hit the mark

“We’ve had positive results from some on-farm trials,” says Jim Thompson, an animal scientist and consultant working on behalf of RK Marketing. “One particular dairy farm had problems with high somatic cell count (often caused by infections in the udder). After two weeks of supplying the Alfamin zinc, we cut the count in half without changing any management practices.”

The trace ingredients in the Alfamin products promote animal health from the inside out. “If you create an intestinal tract that is working optimally, the gut will absorb nutrients better and the animal will use them properly,” Thompson contends. “What we’re doing and how we’re doing it is different than anyone else.”

Recently completed tests are providing RK Marketing with much of the research to validate their claims.

AURI technical services specialist Alan Doering helped connect the company with dairy researcher Hugh Chester-Jones at the Southern Research and Outreach Center in Waseca, Minn. He conducted tests on cows at the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.

Since the supplement’s trace minerals need to be available for the body to absorb, rather than simply pass through the digestive system, tests included placing small feed bags containing Alfamin directly into cows’ rumens. After a period of time, the bags were removed and their contents tested to determine what was absorbed by the animals and how much. The research determined the minerals in Alfamin were readily absorbed.

Taking care of details

RK Marketing founder Ron Karstens first came to AURI in the fall of 2001 with some technical challenges. Karstens was having difficulty mixing Alfamin thoroughly and lowering its moisture far enough for a stable shelf life. Doering helped RK Marketing troubleshoot the process to best manufacture the product.

Then, in February of 2002, Ron died suddenly. His wife Sandy, a retired Cargill employee, took over the company and is working to raise it to the next level.

“There is large market potential for the Alfamin products because the nutrients they deliver are critical, especially to beef and dairy cattle,” Doering says. “Plus, it’s a Minnesota company using Minnesota-grown alfalfa to help deliver the minerals to the animal.”

Armed with new research data supporting nutritional claims, Karstens expects the market for the Alfamin products to grow, but she is taking the same cautious approach espoused by her late husband.

“Ron always said it was worth being patient in order to get the research you need. With the results we have, we plan to move carefully and see where it goes.”

For more information on the Alfamin products, visit the RK Marketing Web site at www.rkmarketing.com