‘Nucleotides’ part of next revolution in livestock feed

As the U.S. and other jurisdictions tighten rules on medicated feed use in livestock, a promising alternative has emerged as part of the next revolution in feeding technology – nucleotides.

Though relatively new to the livestock feeding sector, nucleotides are widely recognized for their importance in human infant nutrition. Now a growing body of research shows nucleotide formulations designed for livestock feed can deliver strong feed efficiency, growth promotion and health benefits, particularly for young animals.

One company pioneering the technology and riding the wave of growing interest is Canadian Bio-Systems Inc. A long-time player in the North American market that has expanded its reach globally, CBS Inc. manufacturers a wide range of products used in feed, food, industrial and environmental applications. The company recently announced a joint marketing agreement with Wilbur-Ellis Company to further enhance its distribution into the U.S. market.

With a focus on formulations with natural compounds, CBS Inc. offers a broad lineup of feed products that includes a strong emphasis on enzyme formulations. Nucleotide formulations are now fast becoming another anchor component, led by products such as Maxi-Gen Plus, now available in the U.S. and featured at this week’s Midwest Poultry Federation Convention.

Owen Jones, CBS Inc. President, and Rob Patterson, Technical Services Manager, provide insight on the rising potential of nucleotides and what they offer for livestock feeding.

Q: Why nucleotides and why now?

Owen Jones: Nucleotides represent tremendous potential to enhance the profitability of livestock operations in a way that is an excellent fit with today’s industry and regulatory environments

The science has come a long way. We have a much better understanding of what nucleotides can do for livestock. That knowledge has supported innovation in feed product development. Nucleotides give the livestock sector another tool in the toolbox, at a time when we need more options to meet the changing demands of the marketplace

Q: What is the science basis of nucleotides and what do they mean for livestock

Rob Patterson: Some of us might remember nucleotides from high school science class. They are building blocks of RNA and DNA that are critical to the development of living organisms. They are conditionally essential nutrients found in human breast milk as well as milk from livestock species.

In human nutrition, we recognize how important they are to infant development and that’s why we see nucleotides commonplace in baby formula and other infant nutrition products. They are no less important for livestock but they’re just not something the industry has yet taken full advantage of as a feed supplement. We’ve needed the right science to provide a basis for developing the right products. Now that time has come.

Q: How do they translate into profitability?

OJ: The benefit comes in three ways.

First is feed efficiency. With nucleotides, livestock simply get more out of feed. Second is productivity. You get higher feed intake and higher average daily gain. Third is health. Nucleotides help livestock stay robust and at a high level of development. The animals are less susceptible to sickness and disease.

Maxi-Gen Plus is a good example of the potential. The product stimulates intestinal development and improves immune system response. It improves average daily gain and feed intake, while enhancing nutrient absorption and gut health. It is a rich source of both nucleotides and nucleotide precursors, which help to stimulate tissue growth. They also support recovery during periods of stress

Q: Can nucleotides replace medicated feed?

RP: They offer a competitive advantage, as a new, natural way to help producers get more out of feed and more out of animal performance while supporting livestock health.

The research shows they can be used as an alternative to medicated feed or to reduce the level of medicated feed used, without any drop-off in results. In fact, with the right formulations for specific livestock, the results can be improved compared to conventional approaches. But the way to look at this is not one approach versus another. Both can have a role and more options should translate in more flexibility for producers to manage and get the best results.

Also, part of what nucleotides offer is unique and complementary to conventional approaches. They have a special role.

Q: What do they offer that is unique?

RP: Livestock species produce nucleotides on their own. However, research shows that at key times of development and the production cycle – particularly during times of stress such as weaning or transport – the supply produced by the animal is often not enough to meet the demand for optimal health and performance. Using nucleotide formulations as a feed supplement fills that gap.

Research with our products shows the benefits of nucleotide supplementation are there throughout the production cycle in terms of improved feed efficiency, feed intake and daily gain. But during the stressful periods you also get that added benefit of protecting against any negative impact.

Q: How much is needed to get the best results?

OJ: A rich source is critical. Maxi-Gen Plus, for example, offers significantly more in comparison to other commercially available products. The research we have been involved with that has shown clear benefits is specifically with this formulation. And it’s not just about the concentration, it’s about all components of the formulation and how well it is tailored to meet the needs of specific livestock.

Maxi-Gen Plus is designed for poultry and swine. But there is also potential in nucleotides for ruminants and companion animals. We are learning more from the science every year and that’s what’s driving the opportunities.

Q: What does the future hold?

OJ: All I can say is stay tuned. It’s an exciting time. The potential in nucleotides is one of the best things to come around for livestock feeding in decades, and our ability to take advantage of that is just getting started. I see livestock feeding 10 years from now being a lot different than it is today. And I see nucleotides playing a much bigger role.

Research snapshot

Canadian Bio-Systems Inc. (CBS Inc.) has partnered with University of Manitoba on studies to learn more about the potential in nucleotides.

In one recent pig trial, young pigs on a diet with CBS Inc. nucleotide formulation performed at virtually the same rate as those on a traditional medicated diet. A separate trial also showed the nucleotide diet helped the animals fight off disease. Pigs fed nucleotide supplementation had half the mortality rate and far less post-challenge incidence of scouring.

“The mode of action is that the nucleotides are absorbed in the gut, which results in better intestinal health and development, so the animal has a better chance of fighting off the infection,” says Rob Patterson, CBS Inc. Technical Director.

The results with poultry have been just as promising, he says. A 35 day feeding trial with broiler chickens showed birds supplemented with nucleotide formulation were significantly heavier than control birds, with body weight and average daily gain results statistically equivalent to birds fed a medicated diet. Nucleotide treatment was also shown to alleviate stress and improve immune status in poultry.

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