23 September 2020

Sustainability Is Everything in Animal Nutrition.

By Anna Heslop By Anna Heslop

Animal nutrition is crucial to the livestock production system. That’s because feeding has a direct impact on the growth rate, production capacity and health status of animals.

For decades feeding has been designed for maximum yield to provide economic benefits, with sustainability down the priority pecking order. However, with the prices of grain, energy and protein on the rise, this approach no longer reaps the financial rewards it used to.

Animal feed is now responsible for up to 70% of the cost of animal production. To get this figure down, the animal market has shifted to sustainable alternatives like additives and different feed sources.

More sustainable solutions are financially advantageous, but also bring environmental benefits too. They avoid degradation (deforestation, chemical contamination, decreased biodiversity, water shortage and air pollution) and global warming through the emission of methane and nitrous oxide.

Advantageous Feed Additives

Feed additives help agricultural producers work efficiently to deliver a marketable product, while maintaining costs. These additives supplement an animal’s feed for growth acceleration, increased feed efficiency, increased production of animal products, or health maintenance improvement.

Feed additives are not usually considered a nutrient source. The two major categories of feed additives are growth regulators and antibiotics. Growth regulators are hormones that increase growth rates and feed efficiency.

Antibiotics are used as a feed additive for the prevention and treatment of diseases and infections such as scours, coccidiosis and foot rot. However, we are seeing a move away from this solution throughout the industry due to an EU Parliament legislation ruling prophylactic use of antibiotics in farming to be banned from 2022 onwards.

DSM are a pioneer in feed additives and are one of the world's leading suppliers of vitamins, carotenoids, eubiotics and feed enzymes to the global feed industry.

In August, DSM announced their We Make it Possible initiative that will see the company re-model their portfolio to focus on six sustainability platforms, helping make their solutions more cost-effective and environmentally friendly:

  • Improve the lifetime performance of farm animals
  • Improving food quality, while reducing loss and waste
  • Reducing emissions of livestock
  • Making efficient use of natural resources
  • Reducing the reliance on marine resources
  • Helping tackle antimicrobial resistance

DSM are often at the cutting edge of innovation in the sustainability of animal nutrition. This includes their revolutionary take on the microbiome (a system that helps control digestion and supports the immune system).

A Major Breakthrough

The company’s latest breakthrough reveals that the poultry gut microbiome is more than a collection of bugs. It’s an organ with remarkable properties that we’re only beginning to understand.

This provides an untapped opportunity to harness the microbiome organ to improve the nutritional health, welfare and environmental impact in the global poultry production. This includes possibilities like modulating pathways to utilize nitrogen or carbon more effectively, reducing emissions, enhancing immune homeostasis, modulating animal metabolism and behaviour, or nurturing epithelial development, beyond what is possible with the current gut health technologies.

This finding comes at an important time for the industry, with restriction on antibiotic additives. Gut performance management solutions, like optimising the microbiome, could be crucial to helping agricultural producers adapt to an antibiotic-free industry.

Like DSM, BIOMIN are also a major player providing sustainable feed additives.

Their feed additives are designed to improve feed conversion and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in livestock production.

Comparative studies have shown that one tonne of CO2 emitted in the manufacture of a BIOMIN product yields an equivalent reduction in CO2 emissions by up to 128 tonnes in broiler production.

Trials have also proven that the inclusion of a matrix-encapsulated phytogenic feed additive (available as Biomin P.E.P. MGE) contributes to a significant reduction in ammonia emissions in swine production. That’s because it reduces the levels of fermentation products and increases protein digestibility.

Insects are on the Menu

While BIOMIN and DSM’s additives are advantageous and sustainable solutions, alternative feed sources also provide economic and environmental benefits. For these feed sources, many companies are using insects because they require less water, space, energy and time to grow.

Alfa Laval and Bühler Insect Technology Solutions (BITS) share a strategic partnership to provide full-scale insect processing solutions – from specific units to a complete plant for insect rearing and processing. At the core is the Alfa Laval Centriflow continuous wet rendering system to extract valuable proteins and lipids.

The partners grow the insects on organic residues and then process their product into protein meals with balanced amino acid profiles and insect lipids high in lauric acid. Their nutrient-rich insect feedstock provides a valuable source of protein and fat for fish, poultry and livestock.

This combined expertise in industrial insect processing plants has led to higher protein recovery, more energy savings and greater flexibility to ramp up production to meet growing demand.

Roslin Technologies have also entered this space with an investment in Singapore-based, insect specialists Protenga.

Together they farm black soldier flies to produce animal feed and fertiliser. As part of the investment, a bespoke genetic nucleus facility will be built near Roslin Technology’s Midlothian headquarters to breed technologies that develop improved insect lines for the global market.

The partnership has also received investment from SEEDS Capital, who are the investment arm of Enterprise Singapore.

Insect technology and products have received sizeable investment in the animal nutrition and feed industry. This includes Campden BRI who’ve been awarded a £250,000 grant from the Innovate UK Transforming Food Production programme. Their research will work to reduce the carbon footprint of the feed industry via efficient insect production methodologies and insect nutrition.

Sustainability brings many advantages to the animal nutrition industry and with investment growing in the space, it’s clear that everyone is waking up to this. As a recruiter working in this space, I’m excited to see what advances come from DSM’s work on the microbiome and am hoping to see even more exciting products come to market in the near future. Sustainability is the future, it’s everything in animal nutrition.

If you have something to say on this topic or would like to talk about your recruitment needs, please get in touch and email Anna.Heslop@lifesci-cm.com. I’d be really interested in what you have to say.

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Anna Heslop

Anna is a specialist recruiter working globally in the Animal Health & Nutrition industry. She carries out business with a calm and considered approach, striking up excellent long-lasting relationships with both her clients and candidates. Anna is particularly passionate about identifying industry trends and likes to share these insights with her engaged global network. 

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