Following the implementation of new rules regarding the use of antimicrobials and continued advancement of key sustainability initiatives, new advances in animal feed and nutrition technology are ushering in a new era of progress for poultry, swine and ruminant industries.
For example, medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) technology pioneered and advanced by Nuscience — part of the Royal Agrifirm Group — has shown increased interest and adoption across the Canadian market, Nuscience said in an announcement.
Transitioning to a new era
Among numerous benefits, Nuscience said recent results from leading universities and research institutions are expanding the knowledge of specific MCFA advantages that support animal health and performance, providing an in-feed safeguard against viral contamination, protecting animals against a variety of wellness and stress challenges and supporting control strategies against major pathogens.
"The global animal feed and nutrition sector, along with animal agriculture, is rapidly transitioning to the future," says Dr. Rob Goedegebuure, global lead of Health4U Feed Additives at Nuscience. "There are rising challenges but also tremendous opportunities. Advances such as MCFA technology are helping to lead the way and push the pace by providing new solutions for safe, nutritious and high-quality animal food that offers enhanced benefits for animals, the producers and their industries and, ultimately, for consumers."
The MCFA technology offers a science-driven platform that fits today's marketplace expectations for sustainable, bio-based solutions, Nuscience says.
Sharing the latest knowledge
Nuscience is touring Canada to share the latest knowledge and opportunities about MCFA with producers, companies, industry, veterinarians and nutritionists. Nuscience, along with Canadian Bio-Systems Inc., its strategic marketing partner for Nuscience technology in the Canadian market, is seeing further strong uptake of MCFA by a range of companies and operations, including many that have now utilized this technology with excellent results over multiple production cycles, the company said.
According to Nuscience, MCFA are molecules consisting of 6- to 12-carbon length chains that — under the right formulations and strategies — have shown functional activities beneficial to all phases of livestock production and value chain movement. This includes particular advantages during critical periods of transition and vulnerability over the course of production cycles, the company says.
Nuscience says its MCFA technology has also been shown to help optimize intrinsic health and immunity across livestock species by positively supporting gut morphology.
Safeguarding feed and animals
In swine, along with broad animal performance benefits, among the specific pathogen control advantages with MCFA are supporting strategies to safeguard feed and animals against a number of top concerns. This includes the potential shown against enveloped viruses, such as porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, porcine reproductive and respiratory virus and African swine fever (ASF), Nuscience says.
MCFA also shows unique advantages to reduce vertical transmission of disease between sows and piglets and to address persistent bacterial pathogen threats such as Streptococcus suis, the company adds.
"The more we have learned about the advantages of MCFA for swine production, the more the opportunities and application strategies have expanded," Nuscience account manager Dr. Fokko Aldershoff says. "Today in particular, there is a lot of focus on the benefits for helping to address threats such as ASF that are changing the global pig production landscape.
“We have seen early positive research results related to the ASF potential, and we will be conducting further research," Aldershoff adds.
Tailored advantages for gut health
In poultry, Nuscience said the core benefits also extend to advantages tailored for supporting gut health and providing safeguards for poultry reared under high infection pressures. This includes supporting pathogen control against a number of major threats. Overall, MCFA has been shown to enhance strategies for improved growth rate and feed efficiency, higher breast meat yield, better digestion and litter quality and stronger overall health status.
"Poultry production in North America is shifting rapidly to antimicrobial use reduction, aligning with other key world production regions," Jan Vervloesem, poultry category manager with Nuscience, says. "MCFA is proven as a unique and highly effective tool to support this transition and contribute in a number of critical ways to enhanced productivity by supporting bird health, including gut health and morphology, which allows for optimal performance."
The company notes that for ruminants, MCFA benefits extend to specific advantages for both dairy and beef cattle, primarily related to improved rumen function and enhanced immune status. For dairy cows, these advantages support milk yield and quality, along with an improved plane of immunity. With calves, using MCFA in milk replacers and starter diets supports improved daily gain, feed conversion ratio and health status. In beef cattle, additional potential has been shown related to growth rate.
New research-driven progress
In addition to the opportunity for functional feed ingredients such as MCFA to support a stronger foundation of gut wellness and morphology, research is uncovering additional new opportunities for these ingredients to help with strategies to specifically address top threats and challenges.
Among numerous areas of progress, there is rising knowledge of the ability of MCFA to support animals during key periods of stress risk – such as periods involving diet change or long-distance transportation – or exposure to other wellness challenges.
For example, there is increasing evidence that optimized gut health supports a higher plane of overall health for swine, which helps them better maintain weight and avoid stress or wellness loss – thereby protecting, preserving and enhancing value throughout all key phases of production.
In addition, MCFA technology is among the many alternative strategies being tested to support the feed efficiency advantages of medicated feed. It is also gaining broad interest across both the scientific community and the commercial pork production industry as a means to help optimize intrinsic health and wellness at a time when this is increasingly viewed as critical to the success of profitable and sustainable operations.
What the science says: Key research insights
Research is continually shedding fresh light on the potential of MCFA. Among the latest key findings from a variety of researchers:
- Insights on anti-bacterial activity. Through multiple publications, a generally accepted mode of action of MCFAs is to diffuse through the cell membrane of bacteria, degrading the biological activity of the membranes, then dissociate within the cell causing a reduction in pH and resulting in collapse/inhibition of the bacteria.1,2,3 Published data has also shown microscopic analyses of bacteria, treated with individual MCFAs, demonstrated evidence of membrane disruption.4
- Effective in swine and poultry alike. In vivo, MCFAs have been shown to be effective in swine and poultry alike. 5Twan et al., (2010) conducted a trial using the four MCFA and evaluated its effect on Campylobacter (C. jejuni) colonization in broilers. The number of C. jejuni bacteria required to colonize 50% of inoculated broilers was estimated 200 times higher in broilers fed with supplemented feed than un-supplemented broilers. These results indicate that susceptibility of broilers for Campylobacter colonization is lower when fed feed supplemented with MCFA. Other studies have shown that caprylic acid is effective in killing different bacterial pathogens such as Salmonella enteritidis in chicken cecal contents (6Vasudevan et al., 2005)
- PEDv potential. Multiple scientists7 from Kansas State University and Iowa State University have established that MCFAs were equally as successful at mitigating PEDv in a swine diet as a commercially available formaldehyde product and as individual fatty acids.
- Promising swine findings related to weaning and digestion. An overview of MCFA in swine8 indicated that the benefits of MCFAs in weaning pigs have also been demonstrated in terms of better growth and feed conversion. It reported that this effect is particularly pronounced in times of challenge and fewer incidences of diarrhea have been reported, and that studies have also shown MCFAs can improve the digestion of protein and fiber in piglets.
- Optimizing nursery pig performance. Two trials performed and presented9 at American Association of Swine Veterinarians (February 26-29, 2017) by Dr. Dan McManus, DVM concluded that a commercial product containing patented, activated MCFAs should be considered to help optimize nursery pig performance when pigs are fed diets with or without antibiotics. Economics from the experimental period (Summer, 2016) indicated that pigs fed this product had similar weight gains and a numerical trend for improved feed efficiency when compared with an antibiotic-free diet — with savings potential of $0.45 per pig.
- Synergistic benefits. A study10 on the efficiency of a proprietary blend of MCFA and functional components, versus a yeast-based product, or their combination, on weaned pig performance concluded that the inclusion of the MCFA blend in nursery diets was the most effective option to support significant growth and performance of weaned pigs in this trial.
- Further Europe based data. Additional data from many years of research is also available related to MCFA technology investigations and developments in Europe. (Nuscience, a member of the Royal Agrifirm Group headquartered in Belgium, holds key patents around the combination and application of MCFA formulations).