Expert opinion

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Exploring alternative pig feed ingredients

Recently, our feed technology expert Dr Casey Bradley made a career switch. She moved from micro-ingredients to macro-ingredients, and now works for Purina Animal Nutrition. That combination of experiences continues to offer interesting insights into the future of feed formulation, she explains.

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination – Jimmy Dean

I am not sure if the news has blown through all parts of the world yet, but I have charted a different course for my career. This change allows me to get back to a complete nutritional programme perspective and is challenging me to create innovative solutions for our industry.

A transition from enzymes to complete formulation

The transition from enzymes to complete formulation has been a smooth and enjoyable change of pace. My previous experiences of farm management, swine research, and my work experience, along with my feed additive and NIR experience has given me a unique perspective in how to use nutrition to add value to producers.

One of the most interesting items of swine nutrition is the continued pressure for alternative ingredients or nutritional strategies for the newly weaned pig. This is a topic that is not new, but with the knowledge and technologies of today it is easier to execute and implement seamlessly.

Lactose and spray-dried plasma

Animal sourced ingredients, such as lactose and spray-dried plasma, are facing pressure to be removed from swine diets by nutritionists for multiple reasons, including biosecurity, flowability, and ultimately pricing.

How is this possible? I feel there are two factors that play into this:

1. We better understand the nutrient requirements of our genetics; and

2. We better understand and monitor our nutrient profiles of our ingredients. But let’s not forget the leaps and bounds being made in better understanding the areas of what we coin ‘gut health’. Furthermore, there is a push from an agronomic perspective to incorporate greater diversity in our cropping systems for niche markets in the USA, which may increase added value to grain and livestock producers.

Wealth of resources

Serving on the Feed Composition Committee for the National Animal Nutrition Program, I am discovering that there is wealth of resources available to better understand alternative macro-ingredients for swine diets. Our goal is to create an open access living database of nutrient profiles for ingredients that would be similar to the NRC tables that are infrequently published.

Growing legumes could be an alternative for soybeans. Photo: Jan Sibon
Growing legumes could be an alternative for soybeans. Photo: Jan Sibon

What does this mean for nutritionists? It gives them freedom to explore alternative ingredients even more than today. As nutritionists, we may not be tied to accepting high prices of traditional ingredients, but may have the opportunity to capture true value from what we coin ‘opportunity ingredients’. Also, it may force traditional ingredients to be priced competitively because they will now have competition within the marketplace.

Synergies between ingredients

With my background being in feed additives, I feel this may also provide further synergies between the macro- and micro-ingredients of nutritional programmes. This will hopefully give rise to innovation to fuel further efficiencies within our industry. We may encounter a rogue wave along the way, but we can adjust our sails to ride the wave forward toward new frontiers in swine nutrition.

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