It’s no surprise to anyone who has followed the big picture trends in food production that consumers and markets alike are increasingly demanding production systems that favor inputs considered more natural or bio-based.
This is one of the areas where advanced feed technology can have the greatest impact for swine, poultry and other livestock operations, by providing a toolbox of options to meet production needs that also supports what customers want to hear about how their food is produced.
A big priority among the demands for more natural inputs, is continued pressure for operations to minimize their use of antibiotics. There is also rising demand for “Raised Without Antibiotics” or RWA production. Again, this is an area where advances in feed technology can help.
A number of bio-based feed additive options can help support reduced antibiotics of RWA systems, including providing benefits to replace or improve upon productivity benefits. Theese types of options are now becoming increasingly referred to as ‘Natural Growth Promoters’ (NGPs) because they enhance performance in a natural way that is acceptable to end customers.
Leading examples of NGPs include multi-carbohydrase enzymes, yeast-derived nucleotides and yeast cell wall carbohydrates that support optimal health, performance and productivity.
“There is growing consensus that shifting to greatly reduced use of antimicrobials is critical to the future,” says Dr. Anna Rogiewicz, novel feed technology researcher at the University of Manitoba. “But the challenge is how to replace the productivity benefits that traditional use of antibiotics has provided. Feed additives that serve as NGPs provide an excellent option.”
Another area that is becoming a major focus is the need to protect livestock production from the growing risk of feed contaminants such as mycotoxins.
“We need to ensure the feed grains we use are safe and high quality, to uphold high standards of care and nutrition for our animals, optimize production and protect the reputation of our products in the marketplace,” says nutritionist Sabrina Zettell. “Today we face increasing threats, but the good news is our testing capability and feed additive options are also advancing to meet this challenge.”
Testing to protect against contaminants is now recommended at all key stages involving procurement and use of feed grains. It can often be tied together with broader feed quality analysis to assist with balancing feed rations and optimizing nutritional strategies.
With new convenient and fast testing options, this is simple to get done and provides livestock operations with the peace of mind of knowing what they’re dealing with. Once producers know the presence and level of any contaminants, they can take the steps needed to ensure clean feed and avoid any issues. Feed additive options that protect feed grain safety and quality have come a long way and are now widely available, offering a reliable tool that can serve as a valuable insurance policy.
Even under systems where the objective is to produce RWA products, there is growing industry consensus that animal health and welfare must not be compromised. Animals must be well cared for at all stages, and when animals are sick and need treatment with antimicrobials they should be pulled out of the RWA stream and given the care they need before being channeled toward a non-RWA market.
That being said, however, there is an increasing improvement in integrated strategies that can dramatically reduce disease risk and make the need for this relatively minimal. Some of the keys include: 1) Use of bio-based feed technology that fits RWA and supports health and vigor in the animal populations, 2) intense regular cleaning and disinfecting, 3) strict bio-security protocols, and 4) strong monitoring combined with proactive approaches when needed to quickly address potential issues.
Another “new normal” for swine industries is that feeding strategies and feed additives used are more valuable if they not only improve production but also improve the health and welfare of the animals. Again, the science-based knowledge and feed technology options have now advanced to the point where excellent options are now available to hit this ‘win-win’ target zone.
“The good news about these trends for livestock producers is that very good feed technology options are available to address all of them,” says Zettell. “The need for the industry to evolve to meet new expectations does create challenges, but in these instances a lot of the benefit is at the production level. The changes also represent new opportunities for operations and industry to achieve preferred supplier status by making the right adjustments.”