Nutritionist, Geneticist and Geek
FeedXL is owned and operated by 3 Aussies (two proper Aussies and one Canadian Aussie who now resides in New Zealand). Dr Nerida Richards (Equine Nutritionist), Dr Susan Meszaros (Geneticist) and Rod Vagg (uber geek!) all studied at the University of New England, Armidale, Australia around the same time. They knew one another well enough to say hi but that was about all.
It was through a happy coincidence that Equilize Horse Nutrition Pty Ltd (Nerida's company) and X'Prime Pty Ltd (Susan and Rod's company) were both awarded an Australian Government scholarship. During a business studies course that was part of this, Nerida and Susan reacquainted and realized that there was potentially awesome synergy between what the two companies did.
And so it was that FeedXL was born...
Dr Nerida Richards PhD - Resident Equine Nutritionist
Nerida is FeedXL's resident equine nutrition specialist and horse nut. With a degree in Rural Science, a doctorate degree in equine nutrition and going on 13 years of full time, on the ground experience in feeding all types of horses Nerida is here to help you solve any problem you may come up against with feeding your horse.
Nerida's 'day job' is as Managing Director and Principal Consultant of Equilize Horse Nutrition Pty Ltd, a company that specializes in providing independent, professional advice in all areas of equine nutrition. Within her role, Nerida provides high-level technical support to numerous national and international feed and supplement companies, as well as on the ground advice and technical support to breeding and training establishments. Nerida designed, developed and commercialized the Equilize Feeding Management Software (which has now been replaced by FeedXL).
Within FeedXL Nerida keeps up with scientific 'goings on' in the horse world and keeps FeedXL's nutrient recommendations up to date with the latest science has to offer. You will also find Nerida on the FeedXL members forums where she will assist you in working out problems you may be having with your horse. Nerida reckons she learns an awful lot working with all of the funny little problems individual horses have and loves the interaction she has with the FeedXL members.
Outside of FeedXL, Nerida is a wife and mum, avid 'veggie patch' gardener, animal lover (just put a cute puppy near her you will see what we mean) as well as a keen horsewoman and a passionate scientist. Nerida grew up on a beef cattle property south of Tamworth NSW, Australia. This rural upbringing gave Nerida a strong practical grounding in livestock production, livestock health and horsemanship. It also sparked a keen interest in Australia's Agricultural Industries. In 1999, Nerida completed a Bachelors Degree in Rural Science with first class Honours through the University of New England, during which time she was awarded the John Nivison Epworth prize for excellence in animal nutrition. Nerida followed this Degree with a Doctorates Degree in Equine Nutrition. Her PhD focused on the digestion and fermentation of cereal grains in the gastrointestinal tract of horses. In 2003, Dr Richards founded Equilize Horse Nutrition Pty Ltd when she identified a need for professional, scientific and independent advice in the area of equine nutrition in Australia.
Nerida is currently scientific editor for the Recent Advances in Animal Nutrition in Australia Conference and is called upon to referee equine nutrition papers submitted to the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, the Australian Veterinary Journal and the New Zealand Veterinary Journal. She is a published author, has been an invited speaker at national and international symposiums and is currently a contributing writer to several websites and equine magazines. For those of you who receive help with feeding your horse from Nerida, you will agree she has a unique ability to combine what science says is right with good practical knowledge to help you find a solution that works for you and your horse.
Dr Richards Publications
Here is some of the work Nerida has been doing in the last 10 years or so.
Richards, N. (2003) Enhancing starch digestion in the equine small intestine. PhD Thesis, UNE.
Richards, N, Choct, M., Hinch, G.N., and Rowe, J.B. (2003) Equine alpha-amylase: does it limit starch digestion in the small intestine of the horse? Recent Advances in Animal Nutrition in Australia 14, 191 - 196.
Richards, N, Choct, M., Hinch, G.N., and Rowe, J.B. (2003) Starch digestion in the equine small intestine: is there a role for supplemental enzymes? Science and Technology in the Feed Industry, Alltech Biotechnology 19th International Symposium, 461 - 472.
Richards, N, Choct, M., Hinch, G.N., and Rowe, J.B. (2004) Examination of the use of exogenous alpha-amylase and amyloglucosidase to enhance starch digestion in the small intestine of the horse. Animal Feed Science and Technology 114, 295 - 305.
Richards, N., Hinch, G.N., and Rowe, J.B. (2006) The effect of current grain feeding practices on hindgut starch fermentation and acidosis in the Australian racing Thoroughbred. Australian Veterinary Journal 64, 402 - 407.
Richards, N. (2007) Modern pastures: are they an asset or a disaster for the equine industry? Recent Advances in Animal Nutrition in Australia 16, 93 - 100.
Richards, N. (2008) The non-structural carbohydrate content of some commercially available horse feeds in Australia. Proceedings of the Australian Equine Science Symposium 2, 25.
Richards, N. (2010) Mineral variability and heavy metal contamination of calcium carbonate and phosphate. Proceedings of the Australian Equine Science Symposium 3, 20.
Richards, N. (2010) Feeding to maintain insulin sensitivity. Proceedings of the Australian Equine Science Symposium 3, 30.
Richards, N. and Ralston, S.L (2012) The incidence of OCD in thoroughbreds in the Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia. Proceedings of the Australian Equine Science Symposium 4, 25.
Richards, N. (2012) Micronised and steam flaked grain starch digestibility: Variation between process and manufacturer. Proceedings of the Australian Equine Science Symposium 4, 40.
Dr Susan Meszaros PhD - Resident Smart Person
Susan is FeedXL dog's body (she said we could say that), doing all the things that Nerida and Rod either can't, won't or don't have time to do. With a degree in Animal Science from the University of Manitoba (graduating with the University Gold Medal ... told you she was smart!) and a doctorates degree from the University of New England in Animal Breeding and Genetics PLUS her Masters of Business Administration Susan is a very handy person to have around!
Susan handles FeedXL's customer service admirably, with frequent comments from happy FeedXL members (have a read of our Testimonials page) who are often surprised at the speed with which Susan gets back to them. Susan also manages FeedXL's business development, plays a major role in ensuring FeedXL is user friendly and when she finds time, puts her genetics training and fancy 'genetic algorithms' to work refining the FeedXL 'Fix It' feature that will enable FeedXL to actively help members balance diets (she has it working pretty well but it still has a way to go so it won't be available any time soon).
Susan is passionate about animals and animal science, currently living on a small farm in New Zealand. Susan grew up in Canada spending much of her young adult years on a sheep breeding farm, developing a strong interest not only in animal breeding, but also in feeding. It was this interest and curiosity drove her to study Animal Science.
When Susan isn't working on FeedXL she can be found out and about on the farm with her sheep, dogs, geese, chickens, pet duck, pet lambs and any manner of other animal that she may have collected that day. Numerous conference calls with Susan are interrupted by some sort of animal commotion, but it keeps life for Susan interesting (and busy). For anyone who has direct dealings with Susan you will quickly recognize however that she is the consummate professional and ridiculously dedicated to FeedXL, making sure our members have an experience they want to tell their friends about.
Rod Vagg - Resident Software Wrangler
Rod is FeedXL's resident IT junkie, amazingly gifted with computers and all things software, but at the same time surprisingly and pleasantly 'normal'. Rod, with the assistance of Susan on the 'software usability' side built FeedXL from the ground up. I guess you could say it is his baby and Rod is proud of what he has created.
As Susan's business partner in X'Prime Pty Ltd, Rod's visionary approach to the utilization of internet communications led to the development of TGRM (animal mating software), which enabled the linking of data sources, data analysis and information management. Rod has used this same creativity with FeedXL, developing one of the most advanced pieces of online software we have seen (and certainly the most advanced equine nutrition software in the world). Rod holds a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from the University of New England, but this doesn't even come close to describing his computer and general IT wizardry.
Rod's attention to detail, passion for product development and knowledge about security and systems coupled with his creativity and interest in how people use software and the internet is unsurpassed.
If you ask Rod about his experience with horses he will tell you 'he has patted a horse once', though he is a little partial to the heavy horses (and through osmosis he now knows an awful lot about feeding them). A lover of good coffee and good wine, Rod is certainly a welcome member of the FeedXL team, often making delicious coffees to keep us going during our sometimes epic 'FeedXL working bees'.
For those of you who get to experience it, Rod's dedication to FeedXL and customer service is second to none (like we said, he is quite normal despite being a geek!). From chasing people down who have accidentally paid twice so he can refund the extra payment to finding and squashing nasty software bugs that are affecting FeedXL, it is all just in a days work for Rod.
Our 4-Legged Mates
Here at FeedXL we have some ever faithful 4 legged friends who deserve their full credit in the role they play at helping (mmm, not sure that is the right word) FeedXL run smoothly (can you use the word 'smoothly' to describe dogs chasing chickens through the house during international conference calls Sue?) Anyway, we thought you might like to meet our mates!
Nerida: "Kobbles is my gorgeous dog who has just celebrated her 10th birthday. Kobbles is a Red Cattledog, Rottweiler, German Shepherd cross (sounds scary doesn't it). She is a wonderful, faithful dog who prides herself on keeping the neighbours' cats and our horses well disciplined (you could say the 'heeler' came out in her, as a pup I found her swinging off a thoroughbred's nose just because I had roused on the horse to get its head up while I was rugging it ... oops!) She has a beautiful temperament though, despite her breeding, and thankfully loves kids! When she isn't out keeping the other animals in line, Kobbles can usually be found under my feet in the office, quietly keeping an eye on business 'things'".
Nerida: "Coa Coa is my wonderful old mare that Dad purchased for me as a weanling for the staggering price of ... $40. She is now 24 years old. She was the first horse I could ever really call my own and we spent hours (and hours and hours) together on our family farm mustering cattle, checking fences and goofing about. She is the most amazing horse I have ever ridden, smart, frighteningly fast, co-ordinated, but above all, careful! There were many times she saved my neck (quite literally - she once stopped dead from a full gallop when the saddle slipped right off and I was hanging underneath with both feet in the stirrups!). Coa Coa and I went to pony club together and competed successfully in barrel racing, campdrafting and various sporting/games events. There are photos of her when she was younger swathed in blue ribbons. Coa Coa is pretty much retired these days and back on the farm, but she does still enjoy chasing cattle and taking Tamaya for little rides."
Nerida: "Poet, now 7, is Coa Coa's only foal and is so much like his mother in many ways. Poet is a people horse and loves to be wherever you are. When he was younger we used to have to put him in a yard if we were out doing things in his paddock, otherwise he would be right in the middle of everything we were trying to do. Poet, unlike his mum, has done very little so far in life. Training for and successfully completing a 40 km endurance training ride is about all he can claim to have done. Being Coa Coa's foal (and my horse) he will just hang around until I have time again to ride. He is gorgeous to ride so I can't wait to have the time to spend with him!"
Nerida: "Quilla is my horse 'rock'. She would have to be the most dependable horse I have ever met and she could hold her own in the few little one-day event type competitions we did do. I was given Quilla as a scruffy 2 year old. She had been poddy reared and to this day I still don't fully know her breeding. Quilla is the kind of horse you can leave in the paddock for 6 months, then go and hop on for a ride and it is as if you have been riding for hours every day - she never changes, has never bucked and doesn't take advantage of situations (she is almost more like a donkey!). Quilla is now Tamaya's 'pony' and is currently raising her foal 'Popcorn' who is by the stockhorse stallion Royalle Scotch 'n' Ice."
Susan: "Cheeky, half heading dog and half Huntaway (ie a "handy dog") is my Wonder dog. When she came home at 6 weeks of age she was already interested in sheep. By 10 weeks she was "walking on" to them, and by 6 months of age she had learned her left and right's. Now at just over a year of age Cheeky is rounding sheep up and bringing them through gates, into yards and is making a huge difference around the place. And she's more than just a working dog, she's a gorgeous, playful little bundle of love and licks!"
Heidi and Cilla
Susan: "Goats are, well, goats! And Heidi is no exception with her daughter Cilla being exactly like her. We got Heidi from a goat dairy that had a few hundred goats. When we walked into the pen to choose our goat we were being stalked! How could we resist? So Heidi came home, raised another goat's kid that we also bought, raised a lamb, and provided a lot of milk for the bottle lambs. Her kid from this year, Cilla, is the spitting image of Heidi both in appearance and personality. Going for a walk in the paddocks means bringing along the dogs, cat and stalking goats."
Susan: "I can't have just sheep, as obsessed with breeding as I am, and a sheep is not just a sheep; well Suffolks are not just any old sheep! They are gorgeous and stately and their huge bodies make for huge appetites, and this means they are easy to "tame". Our registered Suffolk sheep come when you call them, when you clap your hands, rattle a gate and especially rattle a bucket. And because they keep multiplying, and Cheeky does so love to bring them to you, having a couple of hundred Suffolks barreling straight at you can be, well, interesting! Where are my steel-caps???"