Gut health critical to achieving ongoing production efficiencies
by Roger Gilbert, Publisher, Milling and Grain
Where animal agriculture is concerned, one ill pig, chicken or cow can have catastrophic results on a producer's bottom line, particularly now when more countries are requiring low or antibiotic-free production environments.
This on-going concern has led scientists at US-based Novus International, Inc.to focus on two areas of research to achieve production efficiencies: address emerging intestinal and structural health challenges through nutrition and promote the development of the progeny by optimising the nutrition of the mother.
Producers and researchers can agree that managing gut health is a multifaceted process that requires a holistic approach. Dr Mercedes Vázquez-Añon, a senior fellow and Director of Novus Animal Nutrition Research and Facilities, says that in trying to understand the etiology of gut health problems, Novus researchers were forced to compartmentalise the problems into several areas. That resulted in three specific avenues of focus to develop a programme for managing gut health.
First there's the ingredients themselves. Improving the quality and reducing the variation of main feed ingredients -- especially protein sources like soybean meal- via the use of proteases and monitoring the content of anti-nutritional factors such as trypsin inhibitors, is an ongoing process for producers but a worthwhile one.
'Spending time understanding the quality of the ingredients we feed can only improve our chances to reduce enteric health problems,' DrVázquez-Añonsays.
For example, studies show that excessive indigestible protein arriving at the cecum (the beginning of the large intestine) leads to enteric problems and overgrowth of clostridium. DrVázquez-Añonsays feeding an enzyme additive like Novus's CIBENZA® DP100 has been shown to reduce excessive indigestible protein in the cecum and improve gut health.
Second is being proactive. In poultry, necrotic enteritis can be devastating to a flock, but there are ways to boost immunity. Studies have shown that reducing dysbacteriosis and overgrowth of pathogens in the small intestine that could lead to necrotic enteritis can be achieved through compounds that act at the site of the problem, Dr Vázquez-Añonsays.
'We have found this to be the case with protected blends of organic acids that can deliver the organic acid to the small intestine where the problem is active. In addition, essential oils have been shown to modulate the microbial population and support the host immune system to fight coccidia.'
The final piece? Ensuring an animal's immune system and gut barrier function is optimised by feeding appropriate amounts of high-quality trace minerals and antioxidants.
'More is not always better,' DrVázquez-Añonsays. 'Simply adding more minerals and other organic materials to the diet is not a simple answer.'
She says a Novus programme called 'Reduce and Replace' features its MINTREX® organic trace minerals in a two-pronged approach wherein producers are able to reduce the levels of trace minerals they are currently using in ruminant and monogastric diets while optimising production efficiency and, as an added bonus, protecting the environment as the animal excretes less wasted mineral.
'The bioavailability of trace minerals in MINTREX® helps animals to cope with immune challenges, addresses emerging structural challenges such as breast myopathy (woody breast in broilers) or lameness in sows and dairy cows, and ensures livestock performance is unaffected,' she adds. 'Ultimately, it provides a cost saving solution for producers looking to reduce their feed expenses and the impact their animals are having on the environment.'
Having quality feed and reducing the total amount of additives used aren't the only way that producers can reduce costs.
Maternal nutrition through epigenetics is being able to modulate gene expression without alteration of the genetic code itself. This process has transformed the way Novus researchers think about genomes and its application in how to feed livestock in breeding programmes.
DrVázquez-Añonsays the maternal nutrition approach to promote offspring viability and health has been adopted in her company's programmes for cows, sows and broilers breeders.
'Development of an embryo is similar across the species. For example, in studies we've seen that feeding MINTREX® trace minerals to the mother can have an impact in the development of the offspring, especially the immune system of the gut and muscle fibres. We saw that feeding MINTREX®zinc to broiler breeders modulated the intestine inflammatory cascade of the offspring resulting in a more developed gut immune system.'
In this way feeding goes beyond simply addressing trace mineral nutrition to optimise the mineral status of the mother and the progeny. DrVázquez-Añonsays that feeding trace minerals can modulate gene expression in the embryo and has a significant impact on the lifecycle of the resulting animal. 'In sows, we see increase in weight and less variation of litter weight and piglet mortality.'
Recently, Novus researchers have been studying gilt skeleton development to identify biomarkers that can help assess the animal's structural development with the view of maintaining the resulting sow in the peak of structural health and improve retention andoptimise productivity.
This effect starts early in the genetic stage and, by getting it right, Dr Vázquez-Añonsays the change can extend the life cycle of the sows on a farm.
'We have found that farmers can reduce their renewal rate in sow herds from P2 and P3 to P4 and beyond,' she says. 'That reduces production costs significantly.'
DrVázquez-Añonsaid that researchers at Novus are excited to continue studying the company's products and how they can promote the health and development of progeny through maternal feeding.