Last month I was honoured to be part of the conference 'Recent Advances in Animal Nutrition' in Armidale, Australia. One of the speakers was Tony Edwards from ACE Livestock Consulting who took sometime to highlight significant breakthroughs in pig nutrition science.
By Emmy Koeleman
He elucidated that growth in pigs has increased from 450 grams per day in the 1970s to 680 grams per day now. Sows have increased their litter size to 25 piglets per year, up from an average of 16 piglets a few decades ago. These increases in performance are to some extent the result of better understanding of animal nutrition. Over the years we have increased our insights into the relationship between protein, energy and growth, introduced feed enzymes and mycotoxin binders. All with a tremendous improvement in feed digestibility and animal performance. Below, I will describe shortly some of these breakthroughs.
1. The development of the ideal protein concept
This approach replaced previous methods of protein quality assessment such as the protein efficiency ratio, net protein utilisation, nitrogen retention and biological value.
2. The relationship between protein, energy and growth
Quantification of the relationship between protein and energy in pig metabolism and growth by the Werribee Group (e.g., Campbell, 1987) and others resulted in a significant change in diet formulation procedures because of the development of protein to energy ratios for various stages of development, sexes and genotypes.
3. Application of supplementary enzymes
Enzyme additives have improved the digestion of nutrients by abrogating the inhibitory effects of compounds such as arabinoxylans, ß-glucans, pectins, oligosaccharides, phytate, cellulose and protein-encapsulated starch and by supporting limited endogenous secretion of enzymes such as such as amylase, sucrase and proteases.
4. Development of mycotoxin binders
Breakthroughs have been achieved using various technologies that have resulted in effective, if not complete, detoxification. These include yeast-derived glucomannans, enhanced alumina silicates and bacterial/enzymic hydrolysis of active toxic components.
5. The use of metabolic modifiers
Exogenous porcine somatotrophin (pST) is possibly the most performance-enhancing technology that has emerged during the past 30 years (not allowed in EU). Other metabolic modifiers include the oral product Paylean®, a ß-agonist repartitions nutrients away from fat deposition to muscle deposition, and thus increasing feed efficiency.
6. The use of near infra-red reflectance technology
The application of NIR technology to stockfeed analysis evolved over many years and is now used in most quality assurance protocols to monitor a wide range of nutrients within feed ingredients and feeds.
Despite this progress, current production levels are still less than the biological potential of pigs, Edwards explained. He addressed that topics such as immunity and nutrition interactions and roles of specific amino acids in processes other than tissue accretion are some of the areas that need to be further investigated.
Future breakthroughs in these areas are to be expected in the coming years, but whether these progresses in animal nutrition will be significant enough to be classified as major breakthroughs (“a major achievement or success that permits further progress”) is hard to predict. This will depend on the overall impact of these headways on animal performance, the environment and future world food supply.