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Fine-Tuning Feed Additive Management

by 5m Editor
1 July 2009, at 12:00am

Marnie van Barneveld, Product Application Manager for Biomin Australia Pty Ltd, explains that farmers should focus on efficiency indifficult economicconditions, not just cost-cutting.

Each day, we hear about the global financial crisis, oversupply of pork in some countries, and the high cost of traditional feed inputs. Unfortunately, for some pork producers, they are trying to cope with all of these and maintain an income.

There have been many articles and papers written which provide useful and practical information about the main drivers of efficiency and profit in pork production. However, in difficult times, we often forget about these and focus on just reducing the cost of production in any way possible, such as buying cheaper, alternative raw materials and reducing feed additive inclusions. In fact, this type of 'knee-jerk' reaction can have long-term negative consequences.

In any production system, efficiency can be optimised by:

  • Enhancing reproductive performance, resulting in:
    • Reduced herd FCR
    • Maximised pigs sold/sow/year
  • Optimising health through promotion of inherent immunity and improved gut health, resulting in:
    • Reduced medication costs
    • Full expression of genetic potential
    • Improved feed conversion efficiency

Long-term reproductive performance can be negatively impacted by poor quality raw materials, or by lack of focus on feed intake and health of gilts and sows. Careful gilt management is extremely important to ensure that the investment in these replacement animals is paid back in the ensuing years. Gilts should receive diets with higher specifications than sows, and attention should be given to ensuring nutrient intake is maximised during their lactation. The aim for both gilts and sows is to maintain body condition as much as possible through lactation, so that they are in a good position to breed again. Feed additives that promote feed intake during lactation and stabilize gut microflora during times of stress can be money well spent, as these animals are the foundation for the future. In tough times it may be tempting to save a few dollars per tonne of feed and remove them, but you need to ask "What is the long term impact of this action on reproductive performance?"

One group of feed additives that are receiving a lot of interest for the improvement of sow and piglet performance is the phytogenics. Essential oils, in a well-balanced combination and supported by fructooligosaccharides, have proven to be effective in enhancing feed palatability and improving voluntary feed intakes as well as stimulating enzyme secretions and stabilizing gut microflora. In addition, the antimicrobial properties of several plant extracts can help prevent enteric imbalances in the young piglet and subsequently improve growth performance during the period of weaning stress.

With feed costs contributing significantly to total production costs, the quality of feed raw materials is obviously important. During tough times, it is easy to compromise on the quality of grains, DDGS and other feedstuffs. However, we must remember that pigs are very sensitive to mycotoxins, and while these are regularly found in good quality feedstuffs they are more probable in poorer quality materials. Zearalenone can significantly affect reproductive performance in sows, with other mycotoxins such as aflatoxin, deoxynivalenol, fumonisin and ochratoxin affecting feed intakes, growth performance and immune status of all classes of swine.

Over the past three years, surveys have been conducted by Biomin, which provide useful insights into the prevalence of mycotoxins in different parts of the world (Chin et al., 2006; Binder et al., 2007; Rodrigues, 2008). Extracts from the data collected is presented in Figure 1 and Table 1 below. This comprehensive approach allows feed suppliers and animal producers to assess the risk they face from mycotoxins and make informed decisions about the management program they should put in place. As a result of this information, products that provide insurance against mycotoxins have become the normal practice, rather than the exception.


Figure 1. Prevalence of mycotoxins in different geographic regions


Table 1. Prevalence of mycotoxins in different commodities
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Corn FUM
(71%)
DON
(59%)
AfB1
(40%)
ZON
(37%)
OTA
(15%)
Soybean meal ZON
(28%)
DON
(19%)
OTA
(13%)
FUM
(5%)
AfB1
(4%)
Wheat/bran DON
(61%)
ZON
(29%)
FUM
(21%)
OTA
(16%)
AfB1
(4%)
Corn gluten meal ZON
(88%)
FUM
(88%)
DON
(59%)
AfB1
(53%)
OTA
(40%)
Rice/bran ZON
(34%)
AfB1
(23%)
FUM
(10%)
DON
(3%)
NA
DDGS ZON
(90%)
FUM
(85%)
DON
(76%)
OTA
(13%)
AfB1
(8%)
Other feed ingredients DON
(29%)
ZON
(24%)
OTA
(22%)
AfB1
(18%)
FUM
(8%)
Finished feed FUM
(67%)
DON
(58%)
ZON
(54%)
AfB1
(46%)
OTA
(26%)
Straw/silage DON
(57%)
FUM
(10%)
ZON
(7%)
AfB1
(4%)
OTA
(4%)

For efficient pork production, promotion of inherent immunity is also a critical area, and it is closely linked with gut health. Gut health in swine is becoming increasingly important as understanding grows about the role that the gastrointestinal tract and the resident microflora play in absorption and metabolism of nutrients, and the impact on the immune system. In the past, it was difficult and laborious to examine microbial communities but newer technologies (PCR, DGGE, FISH) can now be used that gives more detailed and accurate representations of gut populations, intestinal morphology and the factors influencing them. The move away from antibiotic growth promoters and the requirement for more natural alternatives has advanced such technologies and the subsequent development of products (probiotics, prebiotics, acidifiers, enzymes, immune stimulants), and the science supporting their use, can no longer be ignored. One area that is experiencing significant development focus is the organic acids.

While the acidification of feeds has long been recognised as beneficial due to the impact of a lower pH on nutrient digestion, and the effect specific acids can have against gram-negative bacteria, a new generation of products are now available that capitalize on the energy component of certain acids as well as the ability for some to influence the adsorptive surface of the intestine. Capric and caprylic acids are the main constituents of medium chain triglycerides (MCT) and these are easily absorbed in the gut, supplying the animal with an immediate boost of energy. Butryic acid, on the other hand, is known as an excellent growth promoter as it increases the density and length of the villi in the intestine, leading to a larger absorptive surface. When these acids are provided in the protected glyceride form, it allows them to act as antibacterials in the intestine and secondly, it masks the unpleasant persistent odor of butyric acid, making the handling of the product easier. Organic acid combinations such as these can contribute very positively towards overall gut health.

With many pork producers under pressure in a tough financial environment, focusing on the main drivers of efficiency and profit remains vital. The question should not be "How can I cut cost" but instead "How can I fine-tune my feed additive management to provide sustainable benefits?"

Remember, the most profitable producers are always challenging their systems and exploring new ways to improve.

June 2009

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