Dr Mike Bedford discusses how a better understanding of poultry feed ingredients can increase profitability and help producers face the challenges of a changing industry.
Delivering broiler and layer nutrient requirements with unfailing accuracy, without over or under supplying, is key to maintaining production efficiency. However, knowing how to do this means getting to know a lot more about the ingredients being used in diet formulations, including corn, soy and indeed all raw materials.
Nutrient excess must be avoided as much as nutrient deficiency, as disturbances to digestive efficiency or severe nutrient imbalances can result in undigested nutrients reaching a bird’s large intestine, where fermentation patterns may change. This can lead to an environment more favorable to pathogenic bacteria and disease outbreaks. Understanding the value of additives in improving digestive efficiency is important to ensure full advantage is taken of their effects.
Know your materials
A key area for development in terms of tackling the multi-factorial challenges set to affect the poultry feed sector is likely to be real-time ingredient analysis, which enables nutritionists to ensure that the diets being manufactured deliver the nutrients required. Recent developments in near-infrared spectroscopy (NIR) technology mean that a more in-depth analysis of raw materials is now possible - in turn helping to improve enzyme application and poultry feed formulation.
With levels of the anti-nutrient phytate varying not just between feedstuffs but within a single raw material, NIR gives nutritionists confidence that there is sufficient substrate on which a phytase enzyme can act.
Where higher levels of phytate are detected, producers can use higher doses of phytases to increase phosphate availability and reduce the antinutritive effect of phytate more effectively. This allows producers to tap into opportunities for incremental gain that may otherwise have not have been realized.
Better and more rapid identification of key anti-nutrients, ranging from mycotoxins and non-starch polysaccharides (NSPs) to phytate, is set to play a key part in the future of the poultry industry - and a good example of this is the way in which companies have changed with regards to applying feed enzymes such as phytase.
Growing understanding of phytase
While phytases were originally used to release phosphorus, feed manufacturers are becoming much more aware of the extra-phosphoric effects that can be exploited by using products to target the complete breakdown of the phytate level of the diet.
The process is being used to particular effect in the ongoing effort to tackle woody breast. Research has demonstrated that high doses of phytase, combined with nutrients that support the antioxidant status of the animal, can play a role in reducing the severity of the condition.
Within the enzyme sector as a whole, secondary effects will become of equal importance as the primary effects – inositol release being one example. Understanding that there are marked differences between products, and the way they attack the substrate, is important, hence the need for evaluation.
Poultry nutrition has seen significant advances in the past 50 years, with the introduction of ingredient analysis, least cost formulation and the advent of a multitude of additives including vitamins, amino acids, antibiotics, coccidiostats and enzymes.
The next ten years look set to bring further developments with changes in industry practices, increased competition and mounting pressure from consumers.
Feed companies are expected to reduce their reliance on antibiotics whilst maintaining production efficiency, necessitating an ever greater degree of precision in nutrient delivery with minimal anti-nutrient contamination.
Concurrently, the availability of raw materials, with staple ingredients such as corn and soy likely to be limited as a result of production pressures, prohibition of GMOs, and climate change, will become an increasing issue. Shortages may be a particularly apparent in the Middle East, where water-intensive crops tend to be imported from the US, Canada and Europe, rather than grown locally.
With these changes in global markets, companies are increasingly looking at ways that incremental gains can be achieved to ensure a competitive edge, ongoing profitability.
As a result, companies are spending increasing amounts of time and effort evaluating products, suppliers and different applications, with nutritionists and scientists focused on identifying ways to make incremental improvements to feed.
Formulating diets to meet precise nutritional requirements means fewer resources are wasted, fewer problems are created in the gut and broilers can be fed with fewer problems. While it is tempting to focus on the next big thing to deliver a major step change, the role of small initiatives to advance energy and nutrition efficiency should not be underestimated.
Read more about how advancements in NIR technology can help optimise phytase dosing
Watch: Utilising advancements in NIR to optimise the feed production process