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Iditarod champion visits corporate sponsor ADF

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

Jeff King left California in 1975 and kept mushing until he hit Alaska.

King, three-time Iditarod champion, sled-dog racer and breeder of racing sled dogs, was in Springfield April 21 to visit American Dehydrated Foods. The Springfield company, which develops ingredients for the pet food industry, sponsors King in his sled-dog races, said Dennis Darr, director of customer service for ADF.

ADF supplies King with its SDX Sled Dog Supplement, a nutrient-packed supplement designed to help mushing sled dogs perform at their peak during races. King was in town to discuss the supplement with its founders, and to give suggestions about how to improve it. When asked how the supplement performed this year, King said, "I won."

King completed this year's Iditarod in the third-fastest time in the event's history. He and his dogs completed the 1,151-mile race from Anchorage to Nome in nine days, five hours and 52 minutes.

King said that mushing is more a way of life than a sport. He owns between 75 and 80 Alaskan huskies, a breed of dog that is native to Alaska and is not recognized by the American Kennel Club.

"We don't ever want AKC recognition. This breed is not one that is bred for its looks. These dogs are bred for performance," King said.

The huskies often do not have the health problems that are common in pure-bred dogs. Sled dogs begin racing at age 3 and retire from intense competition, such as the Iditarod, at age 7. They typically live 15 years, and once they pass 7, they are placed with amateur racers or in less-strenuous mushing activities, King said.

King is a professional musher in that he makes his living racing. About 30 percent of his income is prize money from events, about 30 percent is from the sale of dogs, and about 40 percent is from endorsements and research and development contracts, he said.

The endorsement ADF offers is paid mainly in the form of SDX supplements for the dogs, Darr said. The company does not support other racers, though.

"Our support of Jeff has been kind of a new thing, but it's been a great partnership for us," Darr said.

ADF typically does not produce finished retail products like SDX at its plants; ingredients to be sold to pet food companies such as Iams and Hill's are the company's mainstay. ADF developed the SDX supplement in its Verona plant. It is comprised mainly of chicken liver and egg.

"We had conversations with mushers who needed something portable to feed their dogs. Often, they will carry frozen meat for the dogs. This product is easier to carry and it does not have the bacteria issues that meat does. It is also more consistent than meat, which is variable depending on what type it is and how it was cured," Darr said.

ADF sells SDX, its only retail product, to Alaskan distributors and markets it through Cabela's, a retail and catalog company in Nebraska that is "similar to Bass Pro, except on the hunting side," Darr said. Cabela's has two retail stores in Nebraska.

The supplement is also used for hunting dogs. ADF is working on a water bait for dogs, a substance that would prompt dogs to drink enough water after exercise, Darr said. SDX has been used effectively as a water bait, but the company would like to develop an exclusive water bait.

INSET CAPTION:

'Our support of

Jeff has been kind of

a new thing, but it's been a great partnership for us.'

Dennis Darr

ADF

PHOTO CAPTION:

Jeff King uses the SDX Supplement for his sled dogs, who have helped him win the Iditarod three times.[[In-content Ad]]

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