The business of nutritional supplements, or feed
additives as they are widely known, remains a lucarative market for both their
manufacturers and distributors. As a result most marketing and research efforts
today are focused so heavily on additives that worldwide information transfer
and scientific progress lag behind.
The business of nutritional supplements, or feed additives as they are widely
known, remains a lucrative market for both their manufacturers and distributors
because this is a low-volume, high-margin business.
As a result, most marketing and research efforts today are focused so heavily
on additives that worldwide information transfer and scientific progress lag
With such a plethora of products and marketing material, pig producers are
faced with a tough decision regarding which products to incorporate into their
nutrition program. The answer is not so easy. When such additives are required
to solve a crisis, for example a specific mycotoxin contamination in a batch of
cereals, then the most efficacious product must be selected.
Under such conditions, price of product is secondary to its performance as
results are quite obvious to the end user. However, most additives today are
marketed with claims of improving animal performance - that is, growth rate and
feed efficiency; something that is not always easy to validate. Such products
should be selected based on the principle of return-on-investment, and never
without first conducting several on-farm trials.
In my experience, products with documented claims of enhancing performance
around 10% are usually worth considering. Otherwise, biological "noise" in most
experimental designs is often too high to be able to validate lower claims on
In addition, there are several principles that must be met before an additive
is incorporated in a nutrition program. These include (1) biological relevance -
that is, claims must make sense from a biological point of view, (2) well
documented research that proves the concept - which must include controls and
sufficient replications, and (3) ample evidence of practical application - that
is, a product must work under diverse farm conditions.
In my experience, only a handful of additives meet these criteria today. Even
so, the majority of available products offer such a small return on investment
that their use is questionable at best. Without doubt, pig producers and their
on-farm consultants rarely have the time to investigate all additives presented
to them in an almost daily basis (hence, the heavy marketing in this segment of
the business). In my (biased) opinion, this is an area where the feed and premix
industries can offer a tremendous service to their clients. With their in-house
technical personnel and research facilities, most major nutrition companies can
easily screen and test the vast array of additives that exists today in the
market offering only those that can markedly increase profitability under their
client's farm-specific conditions.
In closing, when dealing with additives, it is imperative to keep in mind
that not everything that shines is made of gold!