As science yields more information on the potential of enzymes and other bio-based, feed enhancing ingredients, hog producers have greater knowledge than ever to support new “precision feeding” approaches.

“We have learned a lot, particularly over the past decade, about the composition of feed ingredients and how to maximize the feed value,” says Dr. Bogdan Slominski, a leading feed technology researcher at the University of Manitoba. “We are now seeing greater adoption of tools and strategies based on this knowledge. The end result is more opportunity for hog operations to get more value from each bite of feed.”

The power of multiples

One of the leading areas of advancement is the rising use of “Multi-Carbohydrase” enzyme technology, says Slominski. This technology utilizes multiple unique enzyme strains that express multiple activities, as opposed to blending single-source enzymes together. These enzyme activities are painstakingly identified, researched and developed to ensure they complement one another seamlessly and delivery a high level of both individual and synergistic benefits.

“Understanding the value of Multi-Carbohydrase depends on understanding the nature of the hard-to-digest feed components in a typical diet,” says Slominski. “We now understand this at a deeper level. Multi-Carbohydrase formulations, with their multiple activities, are able to address a much higher proportion of the hard-to-digest components.

“So a lot of the advantage is simple math. More activities mean more breakdown, resulting in more energy and nutrients utilized by the animals.”

Solving the fibre puzzle

Research has uncovered that the nature of non-starch polysaccharides (NSPs) (i.e. the fibre component) in a given diet is more complex that previously understood, says Slominski. Understanding this is a key to the multi-carbohydrase approach.

“There’s a feeling out there that all fibre is basically the same,” says Slominski. “But that’s not the case. Understanding this is critical to properly match enzyme activities to specific types of NSPs.”

The reality is that each feed source has a different fibre profile with different implications. And each source contains not just one, but several different types of fibre. While conventional enzyme supplements may target one or two types of fibre, multi-carbohydrase blends can be precision formulated to target several types at once.

The best Multi-Carbohydrase formulations for a given operation are targeted to livestock species and diet, based on taking stock of all the indigestible or hard-to-digest components in the diet and using a formulation that targets not just one or two but rather all of these.

To illustrate, consider the indigestible fibre component of a typical corn-soy diet for monogastrics. In a given sample, NSPs may comprise about 6 percent of the diet. Of this 6 percent of NSPs, xylan would comprise the greatest portion at 43 percent, followed by cellulose and beta-glucans at 35 percent, pectins at 8 percent, mannans at 4 percent and various other NSP components making up the remaining 10 percent.

If the approach is to use a single enzyme, a formulation with xylanase is the obvious choice for this type of diet. But even if the product used is the best of its kind and addresses this 43 percent of NSPs, there is still 57 percent not addressed. Total breakdown for this type of diet would require a Multi-Carbohydrase formulation that contains several activities that address all of the NSP components.

Even if some of the specific fibre types not addressed seem relatively small, with today’s tight margins and pressures to maximize production, it doesn’t take much for any untapped nutrients and energy to quickly add up to substantial dollars not captured.

Do your homework

Here are some tips to follow:

1. Use a lock and key approach. Different enzymes do different jobs. The trick is to match them in a lock and key fashion with the specific hard-to-digest components (substrates) that are targets.

2. Keep current and update regularly. What are the substrates you’re dealing with and what are the options to break them down? Talk to knowledgeable people and trusted suppliers to find the best fit for your needs. Do it each year, as the pace of change is accelerating with new knowledge from science and new product innovations. Keep in mind that even small changes to diets based on feed prices and other factors can affect your strategy.

3. Understand quality differences. For example, while the concept of Multi-Carbohydrase enzyme blends is gaining momentum, it’s important to remember not allblends are created equal. Different enzymes do different jobs and work together in different ways, so it’s critical to have the right formulations based on the right science.